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Title: That Boy of Norcott's

Author: Charles James Lever

Illustrator: W. Cubitt Cooke

Release date: June 4, 2010 [eBook #32693]
Most recently updated: February 24, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by David Widger



By Charles James Lever

With Illustrations By W. Cubitt Cooke.







My dear Erlanger,—Through the many anxieties which beset me while I was writing this story, your name was continually recurring, and always with some act of kindness, or some proof of affection. Let me, then, in simple gratitude dedicate to you a volume of which, in a measure, you stand sponsor, and say to the world at large what I have so often said to my own,

How sincerely and heartily I am

Your friend,

CHARLES LEVER. Trieste, February 20th, 1869.





































Some years ago there was a trial in Dublin, which, partly because the parties in the cause were in a well-to-do condition of life, and partly because the case in some measure involved the interests of the two conflicting Churches, excited considerable sensation and much comment.

The contention was the right to the guardianship of a boy whose father and mother had ceased to live together. On their separation they had come to a sort of amicable arrangement that the child—then seven years old—should live alternate years with each; and though the mother's friends warmly urged her not to consent to a plan so full of danger to her child, and so certain to result in the worst effects on his character, the poor woman, whose rank in life was far inferior to her husband's, yielded, partly from habit of deference to his wishes, and more still because she believed, in refusing these terms, she might have found herself reduced to accept even worse ones. The marriage had been unfortunate in every way. Sir Roger Norcott had accompanied his regiment, the—th Dragoons, to Ireland, where some violent disturbances in the south had called for an increase of military force. When the riots had been suppressed, the troops, broken up into small detachments, were quartered through the counties, as opportunity and convenience served; Norcott s troop—for he was a captain—being stationed in that very miserable and poverty-stricken town called Macroom. Here the dashing soldier, who for years had been a Guardsman, mixing in all the gayeties of a London life, passed days and weeks of dreary despondency. His two subs, who happened to be sons of men in trade, he treated with a cold and distant politeness, but never entered into their projects, nor accepted their companionship; and though they messed together each day, no other intimacy passed between them than the courtesies of the table.

It chanced that while thus hipped, and out of sorts, sick of the place and the service that had condemned him to it, he made acquaintance with a watchmaker, when paying for some slight service, and subsequently with his daughter, a very pretty, modest-looking, gentle girl of eighteen. The utter vacuity of his life, the tiresome hours of barrack-room solitude, the want of some one to talk to him, but, still more, of some one to listen,—for he liked to talk, and talked almost well,—led him to pass more than half his days and all his evenings at their house. Nor was the fact that his visits had become a sort of town scandal without its charm for a man who actually pined for a sensation, even though painful; and there was, too, an impertinence that, while declining the society of the supposed upper classes of the neighborhood, he found congenial companionship with these humble people, had a marvellous attraction for a man who had no small share of resentfulness in his nature, and was seldom so near being happy as when flouting some prejudice or outraging some popular opinion.

It had been his passion through life to be ever doing or saying something that no one could have anticipated. For the pleasure of astonishing the world, no sacrifice was too costly; and whether he rode, or shot, or played, or yachted, his first thought was notoriety. An ample fortune lent considerable aid to this tendency; but every year's extravagance was now telling on his resources, and he was forced to draw on his ingenuity where before he needed but to draw on his banker.

There was nothing that his friends thought less likely than that he would marry, except that, if he should, his wife would not be a woman of family: to bowl over both of these beliefs together, he married the watchmaker's daughter, and Mary Owen became a baronet's bride.

Perhaps—I 'm not very sure of even that—her marriage gave her one entire day of unbroken happiness,—I do not believe it gave her a week, and I know it did not a month. Whether it was that his friends were less shocked than he had hoped for, or that the shock wore out sooner, he was frantic at the failure of his grand coup, and immediately set about revenging on his unhappy wife all the disappointment she had caused him. After a series of cruelties—some of which savored of madness—but which she bore without complaint, or even murmur, he bethought him that her religious belief offered a groundwork for torment which he had hitherto neglected. He accordingly determined to make his profession to the Church of Rome, and to call on her to follow. This she stoutly refused; and he declared that they should separate. The menace had no longer a terror for her. She accepted whatever terms he was pleased to dictate; she only stipulated as to the child, and for him but to the extent we have already seen. The first year after the separation the boy passed with his father; the second he spent with his mother. At the end of the third year, when her turn again came round, Sir Roger refused to part with him; and when reminded of his promise, coarsely replied that his boy, above all things, must be “a gentleman,” and that he was now arrived at an age when association with low and vulgar people would attach a tone to his mind and a fashion to his thoughts that all the education in the world would not eradicate; and that rather than yield to such a desecration, he would litigate the matter to the last shilling of his estate. Such was the cause before the Barons of the Exchequer: the mother pleading that her child should be restored to her; the father opposing the demand that the mother's habits and associates were not in accordance with the prospects of one who should inherit title and fortune; and, last of all, that the boy was devotedly attached to him, and bore scarcely a trace of affection for his mother.

So painful were the disclosures that came out during the trial, so subversive of every feeling that pertains to the sanctity of the family, and so certain to work injuriously on the character of the child whose interests were at stake, that the Judge, made more than one attempt to arrest the proceedings and refer the case to arbitration, but Sir Roger would not agree to this. He was once more in his element, he was before the world,—the newspapers were full of him, and, better than all, in attack and reprobation. He had demanded to be put on the table as a witness, and they who saw, it is said, never forgot the insolent defiance of public opinion that he on that day displayed; how boldly he paraded opinions in opposition to every sense of right and justice, and how openly he avowed his principle of education to be—to strip off from youth every delusion as to the existence of truth and honor in life, and to teach a child, from his earliest years, that trickery and falsehood were the daily weapons of mankind, and that he who would not consent to be the dupe of his fellow-men must be their despot and their persecutor. If he had the satisfaction of outraging the feelings of all in court, and insulting every sense of propriety and decorum, he paid heavily for the brief triumph. The judge delivered a most stern denunciation of his doctrines, and declared that no case had ever come before the court where so little hesitation existed as to the judgment to be pronounced. The sentence was that, up to the age of twelve, the child was to be confided to the mother's charge; after which period the court would, on application, deliberate and determine on the future guardianship.

“Will you leave me, Digby?” asked the father; and his lips trembled, and his cheek blanched as he uttered the words. The boy sprang into his arms, and kissed him wildly and passionately; and the two clung to each other in close embrace, and their mingled sobs echoed through the now silent court. “You see, my Lord, you see—” cried the father; but the boy's struggles were choking him, and, with his own emotions, would not suffer him to continue. His sufferings were now real, and a murmur ran through the court that showed how public feeling was trembling in the balance. The bustle of a new cause that was coming on soon closed the scene. The child was handed over to an officer of the court, while the mother's friends concerted together, and all was over.

Over as regarded the first act of a life-long drama; and ere the curtain rises, it only remains to say that the cause which that day decided was mine, and that I, who write this, was the boy “Digby Norcott.”


My mother lived in a little cottage at a place called the Green Lanes, about three miles from Dublin. The name was happily given, for on every side there were narrow roads overshadowed by leafy trees, which met above and gave only glimpses of sky and cloud through their feathery foliage. The close hedgerows of white or pink thorn limited the view on either side, and imparted a something of gloom to a spot whose silence was rarely broken, for it was not a rich man's neighborhood. They who frequented it were persons of small fortune, retired subalterns in the army, or clerks in public offices, and such like petty respectabilities who preferred to herd together, and make no contrasts of their humble means with larger, greater incomes.

Amongst the sensations I shall never forget—and which, while I write, are as fresh as the moment I first felt them—were my feelings when the car stopped opposite a low wicket, and Mr. McBride, the attorney, helped me down and said, “This is your home, Digby; your mother lives here.” The next moment a pale but very handsome young woman came rushing down the little path and clasped me in her arms. She had dropped on her knees to bring her face to mine, and she kissed me madly and wildly, so that my cap fell off. “See how my frill is all rumpled,” said I, unused as I was to such disconcerting warmth, and caring far more for my smart appearance than for demonstrations of affection. “Oh, darling, never mind it,” sobbed she. “You shall have another and a nicer. I will make it myself, for my own boy,—for you are mine, Digby. You are mine, dearest, ain't you?”

“I am papa's boy,” said I, doggedly.

“But you will love mamma too, Digby, won't you?—poor mamma, that has no one to love her, or care for her if you do not; and who will so love you in return, and do everything for you,—everything to make you happy,—happy and good, Digby.”

“Then let us go back to Earls Court. It's far prettier than this, and there are great lions over the gateway, and wide steps up to the door. I don't like this. It looks so dark and dreary,—it makes me cry.” And to prove it, I burst out into a full torrent of weeping, and my mother hung over me and sobbed too; and long after the car had driven away, we sat there on the grass weeping bitterly together, though there was no concert in our sorrow, nor any soul to our grief.

That whole afternoon was passed in attempts to comfort and caress me by my mother, and in petulant demands on my part for this or that luxury I had left behind me. I wanted my nice bed with the pink curtains, and my little tool-case. I wanted my little punt, my pony, my fishing-rod. I wanted the obsequious servants, who ran at my bidding, and whose respectful manner was a homage I loved to exact. Not one of these was forthcoming, and how could I believe her who soothingly told me that her love would replace them, and that her heart's affection would soon be dearer to roe than all my toys and all the glittering presents that littered my room? “But I want my pony,” I cried; “I want my little dog Fan, and I want to sit beside papa, and see him drive four horses, and he lets me whip them too, and you won't.” And so I cried hysterically again, and in these fretful paroxysms I passed my evening.

The first week of my life there was to me—it still is to me—like a dream,—a sad, monotonous dream. Repulsed in every form, my mother still persisted in trying to amuse or interest me, and I either sat in moody silence, refusing all attention, or went off into passionate grief, sobbing as if my heart would break. “Let him cry his fill,” said old Biddy the maid,—“let him cry his fill, and it will do him good.” And I could have killed her on the spot as she said it.

If Biddy Cassidy really opined that a hearty fit of crying would have been a good alterative for me, she ought not to have expressed the opinion in my presence, for there was that much of my father in me that quickly suggested resistance, and I at once resolved that, no matter what it might cost me, or by what other means I might find a vent for my grief, I 'd cry no more. All my poor mother's caresses, all her tenderness, and all her watchful care never acted on my character with half the force or one-tenth of the rapidity that did this old hag's attempt to thwart and oppose me. Her system was, by a continual comparison between my present life and my past, to show how much better off I was now than in my former high estate, and by a travesty of all I had been used to, to pretend that anything like complaint from me would be sheer ingratitude. “Here's the pony, darlin', waitin' for you to ride him,” she would say, as she would lay an old walking-stick beside my door; and though the blood would rush to my head at the insult, and something very nigh choking rise to my throat, I would master my passion and make no reply. This demeanor was set down to sulkiness, and Biddy warmly entreated my mother to suppress the temper it indicated, and, as she mildly suggested, “cut it out of me when I was young”—a counsel, I must own, she did not follow.

Too straitened in her means to keep a governess for me, and unwilling to send me to a school, my mother became my teacher herself; and, not having had any but the very commonest education, she was obliged to acquire in advance what she desired to impart. Many a night would she pore over the Latin Grammar, that she might be even one stage before me in the morning. Over and over did she get up the bit of geography that was to test my knowledge the next day; and in this way, while leading me on, she acquired, almost without being aware of it, a considerable amount of information. Her faculties were above the common, and her zeal could not be surpassed; so that, while I was stumbling and blundering over “Swaine's Sentences,” she had read all Sallust's “Catiline,” and most of the “Odes” of Horace; and long before I had mastered my German declensions, she was reading “Grimm's Stories” and Auerbach's “Village Sketches.” Year after year went over quietly, uneventfully. I had long ceased to remember my former life of splendor, or, if it recurred to me, it came with no more of reality than the events of a dream. One day, indeed,—I shall never forget it,—the past revealed itself before me with the vivid distinctness of a picture, and, I shame to say, rendered me unhappy and discontented for several days after. I was returning one afternoon from a favorite haunt, where I used to spend hours,—the old churchyard of Killester, a long-unused cemetery, with a ruined church beside it,—when four spanking chestnuts came to the foot of the little rise on which the ruin stood, and the servants, jumping down, undid the bearing-reins, to breathe the cattle up the ascent. It was my father was on the box; and as he skilfully brushed the flies from his horses with his whip, gently soothing the hot-mettled creatures with his voice, I bethought me of the proud time when I sat beside him, and when he talked to me of the different tempers of each horse in the team, instilling into me that interest and that love for them, as thinking sentient creatures, which gives the horse a distinct character to all who have learned thus to think of him from childhood. He never looked at me as he passed. How should he recognize the little boy in the gray linen blouse he was wont to see in black velvet with silver buttons? Perhaps I was not sorry he did not know me. Perhaps I felt it easier to fight my own shame alone than if it had been confessed and witnessed. At all events, the sight sent me home sad and depressed, no longer able to take pleasure in my usual pursuits, and turning from my toys and books with actual aversion.

Remembering how all mention of my father used to affect my mother long ago, seeing how painfully his mere name acted upon her, I forbore to speak of this incident, and buried it in my heart, to think and ruminate over when alone.

Time went on and on till I wanted but a few months of twelve, and my lessons were all but dropped, as my mother's mornings were passed either in letter-writing or in interviews with her lawyer. It was on the conclusion of one of these councils that Mr. McBride led me into the garden, and, seating me beside him on a bench, said, “I have something to say to you, Digby; and I don't know that I 'd venture to say it, if I had not seen that you are a thoughtful boy, and an affectionate son of the best mother that ever lived. You are old enough, besides, to have a right to know something about yourself and your future prospects, and it is for that I have come out to-day.” And with this brief preface he told me the whole story of my father's and mother's marriage and separation; and how it came to pass that I had been taken from one to live with the other; and how the time was now drawing nigh—it wanted but two months and ten days—when I should be once more under my father's guidance, and totally removed from the influence of that mother who loved me so dearly.

“We might fight the matter in the courts, it is true,” said he. “There are circumstances which might weigh with a judge whether he 'd remove you from a position of safety and advantage to one of danger and difficulty; but it would be the fight of a weak purse against a strong one, not to say that it would also be the struggle of a poor mother's heart against the law of the land; and I have at last persuaded her it would be wiser and safer not to embitter the relations with your father,—to submit to the inevitable; and not improbably you may be permitted to see her from time to time, and, at all events, to write to her.” It took a long time for him to go through what I have so briefly set down here; for there were many pros and cons, and he omitted none of them; and while he studiously abstained from applying to my father any expression of censure or reprobation, he could not conceal from me that he regarded him as a very cold-hearted, unfeeling man, from whom little kindness could be expected, and to whom entreaty or petition would be lost time. I will not dwell on the impression this revelation produced on me, nor will I linger on the time that followed on it,—the very saddest of my life. Our lessons were stopped,—all the occupations that once filled the day ceased,—a mournful silence fell upon us, as though there was a death in the house; and there was, indeed, the death of that peaceful existence in which we had glided along for years, and we sat grieving over a time that was to return no more. My mother tried to employ herself in setting my clothes in order, getting my books decently bound, and enabling me in every way to make a respectable appearance in that new life I was about to enter on; but her grief usually overcame her in these attempts, and she would hang in tears over the little trunk that recalled every memory she was so soon to regard as the last traces of her child. Biddy, who had long, for years back, ceased to torment or annoy me, came back with an arrear of bitterness to her mockeries and sneers. “I was going to be a lord, and I'd not know the mother that nursed me if I saw her in the street! Fine clothes and fine treatment was more to me than love and affection; signs on it, I was turning my back on my own mother, and going to live with the blackguard”—she did n't mince the word—“that left her to starve.” These neatly turned compliments met me at every moment, and by good fortune served to arm me with a sort of indignant courage that carried me well through all my perils.

To spare my poor mother the pain of parting, Mr. McBride—I cannot say how judiciously—contrived that I should be taken out for a drive and put on board the packet bound for Holyhead, under the charge of a courier, whom my father had sent to fetch me, to Brussels, where he was then living. Of how I left Ireland, and journeyed on afterwards, I know nothing; it was all confusion and turmoil. The frequent changes from place to place, the noise, the new people, the intense haste that seemed to pervade all that went on, addled me to that degree that I had few collected thoughts at the time, and no memory of them afterwards.

From certain droppings of the courier, however, and his heartily expressed joy as Brussels came in sight, I gathered that I had been a very troublesome charge, and refractory to the very limit of actual rebellion.


At the time I speak of, my father dwelt in a villa near Brussels, which had been built by or for Madame Malibran. It was a strange though somewhat incongruous edifice, and more resembled a public building than a private gentleman's residence. It stood in a vast garden, or rather park, where fruit and forest trees abounded, and patches of flowers came suddenly into view in most unexpected places. There were carriage drives, too, so ingeniously managed that the visitor could be led to believe the space ten times greater than it was in reality. The whole inside and out savored strongly of the theatre, and every device of good or bad taste—the latter largely predominating—had its inspiration in the stage.

As we drove under the arched entrance gate, over which a crowned leopard—the Norcott crest—was proudly rampant, I felt a strange throb at my heart that proved the old leaven was still alive within me, and that the feeling of being the son of a man of rank and fortune had a strong root in my heart.

From the deep reverence of the gorgeous porter, who wore an embroidered leather belt over his shoulder, to the trim propriety and order of the noiseless avenue, all bespoke an amount of state and grandeur that appealed very powerfully to me, and I can still recall how the bronze lamps that served to light the approach struck me as something wonderfully fine, as the morning's sun glanced on their crested tops.

The carriage drew up at the foot of a large flight of marble steps, which led to a terrace covered by a long veranda.

Under, the shade of this two gentlemen sat at breakfast, both unknown to me. “Whom have we here?” cried the elder, a fat, middle-aged man of coarse features and stern expression,—“whom have we here?”

The younger—conspicuous by a dressing-gown and cap that glittered with gold embroidery—looked lazily over the top of his newspaper, and said, “That boy of Norcott's, I take it; he was to arrive to-day.”

This was the first time I heard an expression that my ears were soon to be well familiar to, and I cannot tell how bitterly the words insulted me. “Who were they,” I asked myself, “who, under my father's roof, could dare so to call me! and why was I not styled Sir Roger Norcott's son, and not thus disparagingly, 'that boy of Norcott's'?”

I walked slowly up the steps among these men as defiantly as though there was a declared enmity between us, and was proceeding straight towards the door, when the elder called out, “Holloa, youngster, come here and report yourself! You 've just come, have n't you?”

“I have just come,” said I, slowly; “but when I report myself it shall be to my father, Sir Roger Norcott.”

“You got that, Hotham, and I must say you deserved it too,” said the younger in a low tone, which my quick hearing, however, caught.

“Will you have some breakfast with us?” said the elder, with a faint laugh, as though he enjoyed the encounter.

“No, I thank you, sir,” said I, stiffly, and passed on into the house.

“Master Digby,” said a smart little man in black, who for a moment or two puzzled me whether he was a guest or a servant, “may I show you to your room, sir? Sir Roger is not up; he seldom rings for his bath before one o'clock; but he said he would have it earlier to-day.”

“And what is your name, pray?”

“Nixon, sir. Mr. Nixon, Sir Roger is pleased to call me for distinction' sake; the lower servants require it.”

“Tell me then, Mr. Nixon, who are the two gentlemen I saw at breakfast outside?”

“The stoutish gentleman, sir, is Captain Hotham, of the Royal Navy; the other, with the Turkish pipe, is Mr. Cleremont, Secretary to the Legation here. Great friends of Sir Roger's, sir. Dine here three or four times a week, and have their rooms always kept for them.”

The appearance of my room, into which Nixon now ushered me, went far to restore me to a condition of satisfaction. It was the most perfect little bedroom it is possible to imagine, and Nixon never wearied in doing the honors of displaying it.

“Here's your library, sir. You've only to slide this mirror into the wall; and here are all your books. This press is your armory. Sir Roger gave the order himself for that breech-loader at Liège. This small closet has your bath,—always ready, as you see, sir,—hot and cold; and that knob yonder commands the shower-bath. It smells fresh of paint here just now, sir, for it was only finished on Saturday; and the men are coming to-day to fix a small iron staircase from your balcony down to the garden. Sir Roger said he was sure you would like it.”

I was silent for a moment,—a moment of exquisite revery,—and then I asked if there were always people visitors at the Villa.

“I may say, sir, indeed, next to always. We haven't dined alone since March last.”

“How many usually come to dinner?”

“Five or seven, sir; always an odd number. Seldom more than seven, and never above eleven, except a state dinner to some great swell going through.”

“No ladies, of course?”

“Pardon me, sir. The Countess Vander Neeve dined here yesterday; Madam Van Straaten, and Mrs. Cleremont—Excuse me, sir, there's Sir Roger's bell. I must go and tell him you've arrived.”

When Nixon left me, I sat for full twenty minutes, like one walking out of a trance, and asking myself how much was real, and how much fiction, of all around me?

My eyes wandered over the room, and from the beautiful little Gothic clock on the mantelpiece to the gilded pineapple from which my bed-curtains descended,—everything seemed of matchless beauty to me. Could I ever weary of admiring them? Would they seem to me every morning as I awoke as tasteful and as elegant as now they appeared to me? Oh, if dear mamma could but see them! If she but knew with what honor I was received, would not the thought go far to assuage the grief our separation cost her? And, last of all, came the thought, if she herself were here to live with me, to read with me, to be my companion as she used to be,—could life offer anything to compare with such happiness? And why should not this be? If papa really should love me, why might I not lead him to see to whom I owed all that made me worthy of his love?

“Breakfast is served, sir, in the small breakfast-room,” said a servant, respectfully.

“You must show me where that is,” said I, rising to follow him.

And now we walked along a spacious corridor, and descended a splendid stair of white marble, with gilded banisters, and across an octagon hall, with a pyramid of flowering plants in the centre, and into a large gallery with armor on the walls, that I wished greatly to linger over and examine, and then into a billiard-room, and at last into the small breakfast-parlor, where a little table was laid out, and another servant stood in readiness to serve me.

“Mr. Eccles, sir, will be down in a moment, if you 'll be pleased to wait for him,” said the man.

“And who is Mr. Eccles?” asked I.

“The gentleman as is to be your tutor, sir, I believe,” replied he, timidly; “and he said perhaps you 'd make the tea, sir.”

“All right,” said I, opening the caddy, and proceeding to make myself at home at once. “What is here?”

“Devilled kidneys, sir; and this is fried mackerel. Mr. Eccles takes oysters; but he won't have them opened till he's down. Here he is, sir.”

The door was now flung open, and a good-looking young man, with a glass stuck in one eye, entered, and with a cheery but somewhat affected voice, called out,—

“Glad to see you, Digby, my boy; hope I have not starved you out waiting for me?”

“I'm very hungry, sir, but not quite starved out,” said I, half amazed at the style of man selected to be my guide, and whose age at most could not be above three or four and twenty.

“You haven't seen your father yet, of course, nor won't these two hours. Yes, Gilbert, let us have the oysters. I always begin with oysters and a glass of sauterne; and, let me tell you, your father's sauterne is excellent Not that I counsel you, however, to start with wine at breakfast. I have n't told you that I 'm to be your tutor,” said he, filling his glass; “and here's to our future fellowship.”

I smiled and sipped my tea to acknowledge the toast, and he went on,—

“You mustn't be afraid that I 'll lean too heavily on you, Digby,—at least, at first. My system is, never make education a punishment. There's nothing that a gentleman—mind, I say a gentleman—ought to know that he cannot acquire as easily and as pleasantly as he does field-sports. If a man has to live by his wits, he must drudge; there's no help for it. And—But here come the oysters. Ain't they magnificent? Let me give you one piece of instruction while the occasion serves; let no one ever persuade you that Colchester oysters equal the Ostend. They have neither the plumpness nor the juiciness, and still less have they that fresh odor of the sea that gives such zest to appetite. One of these days I shall ask you what Horace says of oysters, and where. You never heard of Horace, eh?”

“Yes, sir; I was reading the 'Odes' when I came away.”

“And with whom, pray?”

“With mamma, sir.”

“And do you mean to say mamma knew Latin?”

“Yes, sir; she learned it to teach me. She worked far harder than I did, and I could never come up with her.”

“Ah, yes, I see; but all that sort of learning—that irregular study—is a thing to be grubbed up. If I were to be frank with you, Digby, I 'd say I 'd rather have you in total ignorance than with that smattering of knowledge a mamma's teaching is sure to imply. What had you read before Horace?”

“'Caesar's Commentaries,' sir, an 'Æneid' of Virgil, two plays of Terence—”

“Any Greek?—anything of Euripedes or Aristophanes, eh?” asked he, mockingly.

“No, sir; we were to begin the New Testament after the holidays; for I had just gone over the grammar twice.”

“With mamma, of course?”

“Yes, sir.”

He helped himself to a cutlet, and as he poured the Harvey's sauce over it, it was plain to see that he was not thinking of what was before him, but employed in another and different direction. After a considerable pause he turned his eyes full upon me, and with a tone of far more serious import than he had yet used, said, “We 're not very long acquainted, Digby; but I have a trick of reading people through their faces, and I feel I can trust you.” He waited for some remark from me, but I made none, and he went on: “With an ordinary boy of your age,—indeed, I might go farther, and say with any other boy—I 'd not venture on the confidence I am now about to make; but a certain instinct tells me I run no danger in trusting you.”

“Is it a secret, sir?”

“Well, in one sense it is a secret; but why do you ask?”

“Because mamma told me to avoid secrets; to have none of my own, and know as little as I could of other people's.”

“An excellent rule in general, but there are cases where it will not apply: this is one of them, for here the secret touches your own family. You are aware that papa and mamma do not live together? Don't flush up, Digby; I 'm not going to say one word that could hurt you. It is for your benefit—I might say for your absolute safety—that I speak now. Your father has one of the noblest natures a man ever possessed; he is a prince in generosity, and the very soul of honor, and, except pride, I don't believe he has a fault. This same pride, however, leads him to fancy he can never do wrong; indeed, he does not admit that he ever made a mistake in his life, and, consequently, he does not readily forgive those to whom he imputes any disasters that befall him. Your mother's family are included in this condemned list,—I can't exactly say why; and for the same reason, or no reason, your mother herself. You must, therefore, take especial care that you never speak of one of these people.”

“And mamma?”

Her name least of all. There may come a time—indeed, it is sure to come—when this difficulty can be got over; but any imprudence now—the smallest mistake—would destroy this chance. Of course it's very hard on you, my poor fellow, to be debarred from the very theme you 'd like best to dwell on; but when you know the danger—not merely danger, but the positive certainty of mischief—a chance word might bring about, I read you very ill, or you 'll profit by my warning.”

I bent my head to mean assent, but I could not speak.

“Papa will question you whether you have been to school, and what books you are reading, and your answer will be, 'Never at school; had all my lessons at home.' Not a word more, mind that, Digby. Say it now after me, that I may see if you can be exact to a syllable.”

I repeated the words correctly, and he patted me affectionately on the shoulder, and said,—

“You and I are sure to get on well together. When I meet with a boy, who, besides being intelligent, is a born gentleman, I never hesitate about treating him as my equal, save in that knowledge of life I 'm quite ready to share with him. I don't want to be a Pope with my pupil, and say, 'You are not to do this, or think that,' and give no reason why. You 'll always find me ready to discuss with you, and talk over anything that puzzles you. I was not treated in that fashion myself, and I know well what the repressive system has cost me. You follow me, don't you, in what I say?”

“Yes, sir; I think I understand it all.”

Whether I looked as if my words had more meaning than they expressed, or that some sort of misgiving was working within him that he had been hasty in his confidence, I know not; but he arose suddenly, and said, “I must go and get a cigarette.” And with that he left me.


For some hours I wandered over the house, admiring the pictures and the bronzes and the statuettes, and the hundreds of odd knick-knacks of taste or curiosity that filled the salons. The treasures of art were all new to me, and I thought I could never weary of gazing on some grand landscape by Both, or one of those little interiors of Dutch life by Ostade or Mieris. It seemed to me the very summit of luxury, that all these glorious objects should be there, awaiting as it were the eye of him who owned them, patient slaves of his pleasure, to be rewarded by, perhaps, a hurried glance as he passed. The tempered light, the noiseless footsteps, as one trod the triple-piled carpet, the odor of rich flowers everywhere, imparted a dreaminess to the sense of enjoyment that, after long, long years, I can recall and almost revive by an effort of memory.

I met no one as I loitered through the rooms, for I was in a part of the house only opened on great occasions or for large receptions; and so I strayed on, lost in wonderment at the extent and splendor of a scene which, to my untutored senses, seemed of an actually royal magnificence. Having reached what I believed to be the limit of the suite of rooms, I was about to retrace my steps, when I saw that a small octagon tower opened from an angle of the room, though no apparent doorway led into it. This puzzle interested me at once, and I set about to resolve it, if I might. I opened one of the windows to inspect the tower on the outside, and saw that no stairs led up to it, nor any apparent communication existed with the rest of the house. I bethought me of the sliding mirror which in my own room concealed the bookcase, and set to work to see if some similar contrivance had not been employed here; but I searched in vain. Defeated and disappointed, I was turning away when, passing my hand along the margin of a massive picture-frame, I touched a small button; and as I did so, with a faint sound like a wail, the picture moved slowly, like an opening door, and disclosed the interior of the tower. I entered at once, my curiosity now raised to a point of intensity to know what had been so carefully and cunningly guarded from public view. What a blank disappointment was mine! The little room, about nine or ten feet in diameter, contained but a few straw-bottomed chairs, and a painted table on which a tea-service of common blue-ware stood. A Dutch clock was on a bracket at one side of the window, and a stuffed bird—a grouse, I believe—occupied another. A straight-backed old sofa, covered with a vulgar chintz, stood against the wall; an open book, with a broken fan in the leaves, to mark the place, lay on the sofa. The book was “Paul and Virginia”. A common sheet almanac was nailed against the wall, but over the printed columns of the months a piece of white paper was pasted, on which, in large letters, was written “June 11, 18—. Dies infausta.”

I started. I had read that date once before in my mother's prayer-book, and had learned it was her marriage-day. As a ray of sunlight displays in an instant every object within its beam, I at once saw the meaning of every detail around me. These were the humble accessories of that modest home from which my dear mother was taken; these were the grim reminders of the time my father desired to perpetuate as an undying sorrow. I trembled to think what a nature I should soon be confronted with, and how terrible must be the temper of a man whose resentments asked for such aliment to maintain them! I stole away abashed at my own intrusiveness, and feeling that I was rightfully punished by the misery that overwhelmed me. How differently now did all the splendor appear to me as I retraced my steps! how defiantly I gazed on that magnificence which seemed to insult the poverty I had just quitted! What a contrast to the nurtured spitefulness of his conduct was my poor mother's careful preservation of a picture representing my father in his uniform. A badly painted thing it was; but with enough of likeness to recall him. And as such, in defiance of neglect and ill-usage and insult, she preserved it,—a memorial, not of happier days, but of a time when she dreamed of happiness to come. While I was thus thinking, seeking in my mind comparisons between them, which certainly redounded but little to his credit, Nixon came up to me, saying, “Oh, Master Digby, we 've been looking for you in every direction. Sir Roger has asked over and over why you have not been to see him; and I 'm afraid you 'll find him displeased at your delay.”

“I 'm ready now,” said I, drily, and followed him.

My father was in his study, lying on a sofa, and cutting the leaves of a new book as I entered; and he did not interrupt the operation to offer me his hand.

“So, sir,” said he, calmly and coldly, “you have taken your time to present yourself to me? Apparently you preferred making acquaintance with the house and the grounds.”

“I am very sorry, sir,” I began; “but I did not know you had risen. Nixon told me about one or two—”

“Indeed! I was not aware that you and Mr. Nixon had been discussing my habits. Come nearer; nearer still. What sort of dress is this? Is it a smock-frock you have on?”

“No, sir. It's a blouse to keep my jacket clean. I have got but one.”

“And these shoes; are they of your own making?”

“No, sir. I could n't make even as good as these.”

“You are a very poor-looking object, I must say. What was Antoine about that he did n't, at least, make you look like a gentleman, eh? Can you answer me that?”

“No, sir, I cannot”

“Nor I, either,” said he, sighing. “Have you been equally neglected inside as out? Have you learned to read?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And to write?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Write my name, then, there, on that piece of paper, and let me see it.”

I drew nigh, and wrote in a fall, bold hand, Roger Norcott.

“Why not Sir Roger Norcott, boy? Why not give me my name and title too?”

“You said your name, sir, and I thought—”

“No matter what you thought. This literalism comes of home breeding,” muttered he to himself; “they are made truthful at the price of being vulgar. What do you know besides reading and writing?”

“A little Latin, sir, and some French, and some German, and three books of Euclid, and the Greek grammar—”

“There, there, that's more than enough. It will tax your tutor's ingenuity to stub up all this rubbish, and prepare the soil for real acquirement. I was hoping I should see you a savage: a fresh, strong-natured impulsive savage! What I 'm to do with you, with your little peddling knowledge of a score of things, I can't imagine. I 'd swear you can neither ride, row, nor fence, never handled a cricket-ball or a single-stick?”

“Quite true, sir; but I 'd like to do every one of them.”

“Of course you have been taught music?”

“Yes, sir; the piano, and a little singing.”

“That completes it,” cried he, flinging his book from him. “They 've been preparing you for a travelling circus, while I wanted to make you a gentleman. Mind me now, sir, and don't expect that I ever repeat my orders to any one. What I say once I mean to be observed. Let your past life be entirely forgotten by you,—a thing that had no reality; begin from this day—from this very room—a new existence, which is to have neither link nor tie to what has gone before it. The persons you will see here, their ways, their manners, their tone, will be examples for your imitation; copy them, not servilely nor indiscriminately, but as you will find how their traits will blend with your own nature. Never tell an untruth, never accept an insult without redress, be slow about forming friendships, and where you hate, hate thoroughly. That's enough for the present. Ask Mr. Eccles to have the kindness to take you to his tailor and order some clothes. You must dine alone till you are suitably dressed. After that you shall come to my table. One thing more and you may go: don't ever approach me with tales or complaints of any one; right yourself where you can, and where you cannot, bear your grievance silently. You can change nothing, alter nothing, here; you are a guest, but a guest over whom I exercise full control. If you please me, it will be well for you; if not, you understand—it will cost me little to tell you so. Go. Go now.” He motioned me to leave him, and I went. Straight to my room I went, and sat down at once to write it all to mother. My heart swelled with indignation at the way I had been received, and a hundred times over did I say to myself that there was no poverty, no hardship I would not face rather than buy a life of splendor on such ignominious terms. Oh, if I could but get back again to the little home I had quitted, how I would bless the hour that restored me to peace of mind and self-respect! As I wrote, my indignation warmed with every line. I found that my passion was actually mastering my reason. Better to finish this, later on,—when I shall be cooler, thought I; and I walked to my window and opened it. There were voices of people speaking in the paddock below, and I leaned over the balcony and saw the two men I had seen at breakfast, seated on rustic chairs, watching a young horse being broken to the saddle. The well-worn ring in the grass showed that this spot was reserved for such purposes, nor was I displeased to know that such a source of interest lay so near to me.

“Isn't he one of your Mexicans, George?” asked Captain Hotham.

“No, sir, he's a Hungarian-bred 'un. Master calls him a Jucker, whatever that is.”

“Plenty of action, anyhow.”

“A little too much, sir; that's his fault. He's a-comin' now, and it's all they can do to keep him going over the park paling. Take this one back,” said he to the groom, who was ringing a heavy-shouldered, ungainly colt in the ring.

“You 'll not gain much credit by that animal, George,” said Cleremont, as he lighted a cigar.

“He ain't a beauty, sir; he 's low before, and he's cow-hocked behind; but Sir Roger says he's the best blood in Norfolk. Take care, take care, sir! the skittish devil never knows where he 'll send his hind-legs. Steady, Tom, don't check him: why, he's sweating as if he had been round the two-mile course.”

The animal that called for this criticism was a dark chestnut, but so bathed in sweat as to appear almost black. He was one of those cross breeds between the Arab and the western blood, that gain all the beauty of head and crest and straightly formed croup, and yet have length of body and depth of rib denied to the pure Arab. To my thinking he was the most perfect creature I had ever seen, and as he bounded and plunged, there was a supple grace and pliancy about him indescribably beautiful.

George now unloosened the long reins which were attached to the heavy surcingle, and after walking the animal two or three times round the circle, suffered him to go free. As if astonished at his liberty, the young creature stood still for a minute or two, and sniffed the air, and then gave one wild bound and headlong plunge, as though he were going straight into the earth; after which he looked timidly about him, and then walked slowly along in the track worn by the others.

“He's far quieter than the last time I saw him,” said Hotham.

“He's gettin' more sense every day, sir,” replied George; “he don't scratch his head with his hind-leg now, sir, and he don't throw hisself down neither.”

“He has n't given up biting, I see,” said Cleremont.

“No, sir; and they tell me them breed never does; but it's only play, sir.”

“I'll give you six months before you can call him fit to ride, George.”

“My name ain't Spunner, sir, if the young gent as come yesterday don't back him in six weeks' time.”

“And is it for the boy Norcott intends him?” asked Cleremont of Hotham.

“So he told me yesterday; and though I warned him that he hadn't another boy if that fellow should come to grief, he only said, 'If he's got my blood in him, he 'll keep his saddle; and if he has n't, he had better make room for another.'”

“Ain't he a-going beautiful now?” cried George, as the animal swung slowly along at a gentle trot, every step of which was as measured as clockwork.

“You 'll have to teach the youngster also, George,” said Hotham. “I 'm sure he never backed a horse in his life.”

“Nay, sir, he rode very pretty indeed when he was six years old. I didn't put him on a Shelty, or one of the hard-mouthed 'uns, but a nice little lively French mare, that reared up the moment he bore hard on her bit; so that he learned to sit on his beast without holdin' on by the bridle.”

“He's a loutish boy,” said Cleremont to the Captain. “I 'll wager what you like they'll not make a horseman of him.”

“Ecoles says he's a confounded pedant,” said the other; “that he wanted to cap Horace with him at breakfast.”

“Poor Bob! that was n't exactly his line; but he 'd hold his own in Balzac or Fred Soulié.”

“Oh, now I see what Norcott was driving at when he said, 'I wanted the stuff to make a gentleman, and they 've sent me the germ of a school-usher.' I said, 'Send him to sea with me. I shall be afloat in March, and I 'll take him.'”

“Well, what answer did he make you?”

“It was n't a civil one,” said the other, gruffly. “He said, 'You misapprehend me, Hotham. A sea-captain is only a boatswain in epaulettes. I mean the boy to be a gentleman.'”

“And you bore that?”

“Yes. Just as well as you bore his telling you at dinner on Sunday last that a Legation secretary was a cross between an old lady and a clerk in the Customs.”

“A man who scatters impertinences broadcast is only known for the merits of his cook or his cellar.”

“Both of which are excellent.”

“Shall I send him in, sir?” asked George, as he patted the young horse and caressed him.

“Well, Eccles,” cried Hotham, as the tutor lounged lazily tip, “what do you say to the mount they 're going to put your pupil on?”

“I wish they 'd wait a bit I shall not be ready for orders till next spring, and I 'd rather they 'd not break his neck before February or March.”

“Has Norcott promised you the presentation, Bob?”

“No. He can't make up his mind whether he 'll give it to me or to a Plymouth Brother, or to that fellow that was taken up at Salford for blasphemy, and who happens to be in full orders.”

“With all his enmity to the Established Church, I think he might be satisfied with you,” said Cleremont.

“Very neat, and very polite too,” said Eccles; “but that this is the Palace of Truth, I might feel nettled.”

“Is it, by Jove?” cried Hotham. “Then it must be in the summer months, when the house is shut up. Who has got a strong cigar? These Cubans of Norcott's have no flavor. It must be close on luncheon-time.”

“I can't join you, for I 've to go into town, and get my young bear trimmed, and his nails cut. 'Make him presentable,' Norcott said, and I 've had easier tasks to do.”

So saying, Eccles moved off in one direction, while Hotham and Cleremont strolled away in another; and I was left to my own reflections, which were not few.


I was made “presentable” in due time, and on the fifth day after my arrival made my appearance at the dinner-table. “Sit there, sir,” said my father, “opposite me.” And I was not sorry to perceive that an enormous vase with flowers effectually screened me from his sight. The post of honor thus accorded me was a sufficient intimation to my father's guests how he intended me to be treated by them; and as they were without an exception all hangers-on and dependants,—men who dined badly or not at all when uninvited to his table,—they were marvellously quick in understanding that I was to be accepted as his heir, and, after himself, the person of most consideration there.

Besides the three individuals I have already mentioned, our party included two foreigners,—Baron Steinmetz, an aide-de-camp of the King, and an Italian duke, San Giovanni. The Duke sat on my father's right, the Baron on mine. The conversation during dinner was in French, which I followed imperfectly, and was considerably relieved on discovering that the German spoke French with difficulty, and blundered over his genders as hopelessly as I should have done had I attempted to talk. “Ach Gott,” muttered he to himself in German, “when people were seeking for a common language, why did n't they take one that all humanity could pronounce?”

“So meine ich auch, Herr Baron,” cried I; “I quite agree with you.”

He turned towards me with a look of-positive affection, on seeing I knew German, and we both began to talk together at once with freedom.

“What's the boy saying?” cried my father, as he caught the sounds of some glib speech of mine. “Don't let him bore you with his bad French, Steinmetz.”

“He is charming me with his admirable German,” said the Baron. “I can't tell when I have met a more agreeable companion.”

This was, of course, a double flattery, for my German was very bad, and my knowledge on any subject no better; but the fact did not diminish the delight the praise afforded me.

“Do you know German, Digby?” asked my father.

“A little,—a very little, sir.”

“The fellow would say he knew Sanscrit if you asked him,” whispered Hotham to Eccles; but my sharp ears overheard him.

“Come, that's better than I looked for,” said my father. “What do you say, Eccles? Is there stuff there?”

“Plenty, Sir Roger; enough and to spare. I count on Digby to do me great credit yet.”

“What career do you mean your son to follow?” asked the Italian, while he nodded to me over his wine-glass in most civil recognition.

“I'll not make a sailor of him, like that sea-wolf yonder; nor a diplomatist, like my silent friend in the corner. Neither shall he be a soldier till British armies begin to do something better than hunt out illicit stills and protect process-servers.”

“A politician, perhaps?”

“Certainly not, sir. There 's no credit in belonging to a Parliament brought down to the meridian of soap-boilers and bankrupt bill-brokers.”

“There's the Church, Sir Roger,” chimed in Eccles.

“There's the Pope's Church, with some good prizes in the wheel; but your branch, Master Bob, is a small concern, and it is trembling, besides. No. I 'll make him none of these. It is in our vulgar passion for money-getting we throw our boys into this or that career in life, and we narrow to the stupid formula of some profession abilities that were meant for mankind. I mean Digby to deal with the world; and to fit him for the task, he shall learn as much of human nature as I can afford to teach him.”

“Ah, there's great truth in that, very great truth; very wise and very original too,” were the comments that ran round the board.

Excited by this theme, and elated by his success, my father went on:—

“If you want a boy to ride, you don't limit him to the quiet hackney that neither pulls nor shies, neither bolts nor plunges; and so, if you wish your son to know his fellow-men, you don't keep him in a charmed circle of deans and archdeacons, but you throw him fearlessly into contact with old debauchees like Hotham, or abandoned scamps of the style of Cleremont,”—and here he had to wait till the laughter subsided to add, “and, last of all, you take care to provide him with a finishing tutor like Eccles.”

“I knew your turn was coming, Bob,” whispered Hotham; but still all laughed heartily, well satisfied to stand ridicule themselves if others were only pilloried with them.

When dinner was over, we sat about a quarter of an hour, not more, and then adjourned to coffee in a small room that seemed half boudoir, half conservatory. As I loitered about, having no one to speak to, I found myself at last in a little shrubbery, through which a sort of labyrinth meandered. It was a taste of the day revived from olden times, and amazed me much by its novelty. While I was puzzling myself to find out the path that led out of the entanglement, I heard a voice I knew at once to be Hotham's, saying,—

“Look at that boy of Norcott's: he's not satisfied with the imbroglio within doors, but he must go out to mystify himself with another.”

“I don't much fancy that young gentleman,” said Cleremont.

“And I only half. Bob Eccles says we have all made a precious mistake in advising Norcott to bring him back.”

“Yet it was our only chance to prevent it. Had we opposed the plan, he was sure to have determined on it. There's nothing for it but your notion, Hotham; let him send the brat to sea with you.”

“Yes, I think that would do it.” And now they had walked out of earshot, and I heard no more.

If I was not much reassured by these droppings, I was far more moved by the way in which I came to hear them. Over and over had my dear mother cautioned me against listening to what was not meant for me; and here, simply because I found myself the topic, I could not resist the temptation to learn how men would speak of me. I remembered well the illustration by which my mother warned me as to the utter uselessness of the sort of knowledge thus gained. She told me of a theft some visitor had made at Abbotsford,—the object stolen being a signet-ring Lord Byron had given to Sir Walter. The man who stole this could never display the treasure without avowing himself a thief. He had, therefore, taken what from the very moment of the fraud became valueless. He might gaze on it in secret with such pleasure as his self-accusings would permit. He might hug himself with the thought of possession; but how could that give pleasure, or how drown the everlasting shame the mere sight of the object must revive? So would it be, my mother said, with him who unlawfully possessed himself of certain intelligence which he could not employ without being convicted of the way he gained it The lesson thus illustrated had not ceased to be remembered by me; and though I tried all my casuistry to prove that I listened without intention, almost without being aware of it, I was shocked and grieved to find how soon I was forgetting the precepts she had labored so hard to impress upon me.

She had also said, “By the same rule which would compel you to restore to its owner what you had become possessed of wrongfully, you are bound to let him you have accidentally overheard know to what extent you are aware of his thoughts.”

“This much, at least, I can do,” said I: “I can tell these gentlemen that I heard a part of their conversation.”

I walked about for nigh an hour revolving these things in my head, and at last returned to the house. As I entered the drawing-room, I was struck by the silence. My father, Cleremont, and the two foreigners were playing whist at one end of the room, Hotham and Eccles were seated at chess at another. Not a word was uttered save some brief demand of the game, or a murmured “check,” by the chess-players. Taking my place noiselessly beside these latter, I watched the board eagerly, to try and acquire the moves.

“Do you understand the game?” whispered Hotham.

“No, sir,” said I, in the same cautious tone.

“I 'll show you the moves, when this party is over.” And I muttered my thanks for the courtesy.

“This is intolerable!” cried out my father. “That confounded whispering is far more distracting than any noise. I have lost all count of my game. I say, Eccles, why is not that boy in bed?”

“I thought you said he might sup, Sir Roger.”

“If I did, it was because I thought he knew how to conduct himself. Take him away at once.”

And Eccles rose, and with more kindness than I had expected from him, said, “Come, Digby, I 'll go too, for we have both to be early risers to-morrow.”

Thus ended my first day in public, and I have no need to say what a strange conflict filled my head that night as I dropped off to sleep.


If I give one day of my life, I give, with very nearly exactness, the unbroken course of my existence. I rose very early—hours ere the rest of the household was stirring—to work at my lessons, which Mr. Eccles apportioned for me with a liberality that showed he had the highest opinion of my abilities, or—as I discovered later on to be the truth—a profound indifference about them. Thus, a hundred lines of Virgil, thirty of Xenophon, three propositions of Euclid, with a sufficient amount of history, geography, and logic, would be an ordinary day's work. It is fair I should own that when the time of examination came, I found him usually imbibing seltzer and curacoa, with a wet towel round his head; or, in his robuster moments, practising the dumbbells to develop his muscles. So that the interrogatories-were generally in this wise:—

“How goes it, Digby? What of the Homer, eh?”

“'It 's Xenophon, sir.”

“'To be sure it is. I was forgetting, as a man might who had my headache. And, by the way, Digby, why will your father give Burgundy at supper instead of Bordeaux? Some one must surely have told him accidentally it was a deadly poison, for he adheres to it with desperate fidelity.”

“I believe I know my Greek, sir,” would I say, modestly, to recall him to the theme.

“Of course you do; you'd cut a sorry figure here this morning if you did not know it. No, sir; I 'm not the man to enjoy your father's confidence, and take his money, and betray my trust His words to me were, 'Make him a gentleman, Eccles. I could find scores of fellows to cram him with Greek particles and double equations, but I want the man who can turn out the perfect article,—the gentleman.' Come now, what relations subsisted between Cyrus and Xenophon?”

“Xenophon coached him, sir.”

“So he did. Just strike a light for me. My head is splitting for want of a cigar. You may have a cigarette too. I don't object Virgil we'll keep till to-morrow. Virgil was a muff, after all. Virgil was a decentish sort of Martin Tupper, Digby. He had no wit, no repartee, no smartness; he prosed about ploughs and shepherds, like a maudlin old squire; or he told a very shady sort of anecdote about Dido, which I always doubted should be put into the hands of youth. Horace is free, too, a thought too free; but he could n't help it. Horace lived the same kind of life we do here, a species of roast-partridge and pretty woman sort of life; but then he was the gentleman always. If old Flaccus had lived now, he'd have been pretty much like Bob Eccles, and putting in his divinity lectures perhaps. By the way, I hope your father won't go and give away that small rectory in Kent. 'We who live to preach, must preach to live.' That is n't exactly the line, but it will do. Pulvis et umbra sumus, Digby; and take what care we may of ourselves, we must go back, as the judges say, to the place from whence we came. There, now, you 've had classical criticism, sound morality, worldly wisdom, and the rest of it; and, with your permission, we'll pack up the books, and stand prorogued till—let me see—Saturday next.”

Of course I moved no amendment, and went my way rejoicing.

From that hour I was free to follow my own inclinations, which usually took a horsey turn; and as the stable offered several mounts, I very often rode six hours a day. Hotham was always to be found in the pistol-gallery about four of an afternoon, and I usually joined him there, and speedily became more than his match.

“Well, youngster,” he would say, when beaten and irritable, “I can beat your head off at billiards, anyhow.”

But I was not long in robbing him of even this boast, and in less than three months I could defy the best player in the house. The fact was, I had in a remarkable degree that small talent for games of every kind which is a speciality with certain persons. I could not only learn a game quickly, but almost always attain considerable skill in it.

“So, sir,” said my father to me one day at dinner,—and nothing was more rare than for him to address a word to me, and I was startled as he did so,—“so, sir, you are going to turn out an Admirable Crichton on my hands, it seems. I hear of nothing but your billiard-playing, your horsemanship, and your cricketing, while Mr. Eccles tells me that your progress with him is equally remarkable.”

He stopped and seemed to expect me to make some rejoinder; but I could not utter a word, and felt overwhelmed at the observation and notice his speech had drawn upon me.

“It's better I should tell you at once,” resumed my father, “that I dislike prodigies. I dislike because I distrust them. The fellow who knows at fourteen what he might reasonably have known at thirty is not unlikely to stop short at fifteen and grow no more. I don't wish to be personal, but I have heard it said Cleremont was a very clever boy.”

The impertinence of this speech, and the laughter it at once excited, served to turn attention away from me; but, through the buzz and murmur around, I overheard Cleremont say to Hotham, “I shall pull him up short one of these days, and you 'll see an end of all this.”

“Now,” continued my father, “if Eccles had told me that the boy was a skilful hand at sherry-cobbler, or a rare judge of a Cuban cigar, I 'd have reposed more faith in the assurance than when he spoke of his classics.”

“He ain't bad at a gin-sling with bitters, that I must say,” said Eccles, whose self-control or good-humor, or mayhap some less worthy trait, always carried him successfully over a difficulty.

“So, sir,” said my father, turning again on me, “the range of your accomplishments is complete. You might be a tapster or a jockey. When the nobility of France came to ruin in the Revolution, the best blood of the kingdom became barbers and dancing-masters: so that when some fine morning that gay gentleman yonder will discover that he is a beggar, he 'll have no difficulty in finding a calling to suit his tastes, and square with his abilities. What's Hotham grumbling about? Will any one interpret him for me?”

“Hotham is saying that this claret is corked,” said the sea-captain, with a hoarse loud voice.

“Bottled at home!” said my father, “and, like your own education, Hotham, spoiled for a beggarly economy.”

“I 'm glad you 've got it,” muttered Cleremont, whose eyes glistened with malignant spite. “I have had enough of this; I 'm for coffee,” and he arose as he spoke.

“Has Cleremont left us?” asked my father.

“Yes; that last bottle has finished him. I told you before, Nixon knows nothing about wine. I saw that hogshead lying bung up for eight weeks before it was drawn off for bottling.”

“Why didn't you speak to him about it, then?”

“And be told that I'm not his master, eh? You don't seem to know, Norcott, that you 've got a houseful of the most insolent servants in Christendom. Cleremont's wife wanted the chestnuts yesterday in the phaeton, and George refused her: she might take the cobs, or nothing.”

“Quite true,” chimed in Eccles; “and the fellow said, 'I 'm a-taking the young horses out in the break, and if the missis wants to see the chestnuts, she'd better come with me.'**

“And as to a late breakfast now, it's quite impossible; they delay and delay till they run you into luncheon,” growled Hotham.

“They serve me my chocolate pretty regularly,” said my father, negligently, and he arose and strolled out of the room. As he went, he slipped his arm within mine, and said, in a half-whisper, “I suppose it will come to this,—I shall have to change my friends or my household. Which would you advise?”

“I 'd say the friends, sir.”

“So should I, but that they would not easily find another place. There, go and see is the billiard-room lighted. I want to see you play a game with Cleremont.”

Cleremont was evidently sulking under the sarcasm passed on him, and took up his cue to play with a bad grace.

“Who will have five francs on the party?” said my father. “I 'm going to back the boy.”

“Make it pounds, Norcott,” said Hotham.

“I'll give you six to five, in tens,” said Cleremont to my father. “Will you take it?”

I was growing white and red by turns all this time. I was terrified at the thought that money was to be staked on my play, and frightened by the mere presence of my father at the table.

“The youngster is too nervous to play. Don't let him, Norcott,” said Hotham, with a kindness I had not given him credit for.

“Give me the cue, Digby; I 'll take your place,” said my father; and Cleremont and Hotham both drew nigh, and talked to him in a low tone.

“Eight and the stroke then be it,” said my father, “and the bet in fifties.” The others nodded, and Cleremont began the game.

I could not have believed I could have suffered the amount of intense anxiety that game cost me. Had my life been on the issue, I do not think I could have gone through greater alternations of hope and fear than now succeeded in my heart Cleremont started with eight points odds, and made thirty-two off the balls before my father began to play. He now took his place, and by the first stroke displayed a perfect mastery of the game. There was a sort of languid grace, an indolent elegance about all he did, that when the stroke required vigor or power made me tremble for the result; but somehow he imparted the exact amount of force needed, and the balls moved about here and there as though obedient to some subtle instinct of which the cue gave a mere sign. He scored forty-two points in a few minutes, and then drawing himself up, said, “There 's an eight-stroke now on the table. I 'll give any one three hundred Naps to two that I do it.”

None spoke. “Or I 'll tell you what I 'll do. I 'll take fifty from each of you and draw the game!” Another as complete silence ensued. “Or here 's a third proposition, Give me fifty between you, and I 'll hand over the cue to the boy; he shall finish the game.”

“Oh, no, sir! I beg you—I entreat—” I began; but already, “Done,” had been loudly uttered by both together, and the bet was ratified.

“Don't be nervous, boy,” said my father, handing me his cue. “You see what's on the balls. You cannon and hold the white, and land the red in the middle pocket. If you can't do the brilliant thing, and finish the game with an eight stroke, do the safe one,—the cannon or the hazard. But, above all, don't lose your stroke, sir. Mind that, for I've a pot of money on the game.”

“I don't think you ought to counsel him, Norcott,” said Cleremont. “If he's a player, he's fit to devise his own game.”

“Oh, hang it, no,” broke in Hotham; “Norcott has a perfect right to tell him what's on the table.”

“If you object seriously, sir,” said my father proudly, “the party is at an end.”

“I put it to yourself,” began Cleremont.

“You shall not appeal to me against myself, sir. You either withdraw your objection, or you maintain it.”

“Of course he withdraws it,” said Hotham, whose eyes never wandered from my father's face.

Cleremont nodded a half-unwilling assent.

“You will do me the courtesy to speak, perhaps,” said my father; and every word came from him with a tremulous roll.

“Yes, yes, I agree. There was really nothing in my remark,” said Cleremont, whose self-control seemed taxed to its last limit.

“There, go on, boy, and finish this stupid affair,” said my father, and he turned to the chimney to light his cigar.

I leaned over the table, and a mist seemed to rise before me. I saw volumes of cloud rolling swiftly across, and meteors, or billiard-balls, I knew not which, shooting through them. I played and missed; I did not even strike a ball. A wild roar of laughter, a cry of joy, and a confused blending of several voices in various tones followed, and I stood there like one stunned into immobility. Meanwhile Cleremont finished the game, and, clapping me gayly on the shoulder, cried, “I 'm more grateful to you than your father is, my lad. That shaking hands of yours has made a difference of two hundred Naps to me.” I turned towards the fire; my father had left the room.


I had but reached my room when Eccles followed me to say my father wished to see me at once.

“Come, come, Digby,” said Eccles, good-naturedly, “don't be frightened. Even if he should be angry with you, his passion passes soon over; and, if uncontradicted, he is never disposed to bear a grudge long. Go immediately, however, and don't keep him waiting.”

I cannot tell with what a sense of abasement I entered my father's dressing-room; for, after all, it was the abject condition of my own mind that weighed me down.

“So, sir,” said he, as I closed the door, “this is something I was not prepared for. You might be forty things, but I certainly did not suspect that a son of mine should be a coward.”

Had my father ransacked his whole vocabulary for a term of insult, he could pot have found one to pain me like this.

“I am not a coward, sir,” said I, reddening till I felt my face in a perfect glow.

“What!” cried he, passionately; “are you going to give me a proof of courage by daring to outrage me? Is it by sending back my words in my teeth you assume to be brave?”

“I ask pardon, sir,” said I, humbly, “if I have replied rudely; but you called me by a name that made me forget myself. I hope you will forgive me.”

“Sit down, there, sir; no, there.” And he pointed to a more distant chair. “There are various sorts and shades of cowardice, and I would not have you tarnished with any one of them. The creature whose first thought, and indeed only one, in an emergency is his personal safety, and who, till that condition is secured, abstains from all action, is below contempt; him I will not even consider. But next to him—of course with a long interval—comes the fellow who is so afraid of a responsibility that the very thought of it unmans him. How did the fact of my wager come to influence you at all, sir? Why should you have had any thought but for the game you were playing, and how it behoved you to play it? How came I and these gentlemen to stand between you and your real object, if it were not that a craven dread of consequences had got the ascendancy in your mind? If men were to be beset by these calculations, if every fellow carried about him an armor of sophistry like this, he 'd have no hand free to wield a weapon, and the world would see neither men who storm a breach nor board an enemy. Till a man can so isolate and concentrate his faculties on what he has to do that all extraneous conditions cease to affect him, he will never be well served by his own powers; and he who is but half served is only half brave. There are times when the unreasoners are worth all the men of logic, remember that. And now go and sleep over it.”

He motioned me to withdraw, but I could not bear to go till he had withdrawn the slur he had cast on me in the word coward. He looked at me steadfastly, but not harshly, for a moment or two, and then said,—

“You are not to think that it is out of regret for a lost sum of money I have read you this lecture. As to the wager itself, I am as well pleased that it ended as it did. These gentlemen are not rich, either of them. I can afford the loss. What I cannot afford is the way I lost it.”

“But will you not say, sir, that I am no coward?” said I, faltering.

“I will withdraw the word,” said he, slowly, “the very first time I shall see you deal with a difficulty without a thought for what it may cost you. There; good-night; leave me now. I mean to have a ride with you in the morning.”

And he nodded twice, and smiled, and dismissed me.

There was nothing, certainly, very flattering to me in this reception. It cost me dearly while it lasted, and yet—I cannot explain why—I came away with a feeling of affection for my father, and a desire to stand well in his esteem, such as I had not experienced till that moment. It was his utter indifference up to this that had chilled and repelled me. Any show of interest, anything that might evidence that he cared what I was or what I might become, was so much better than this apathy that I welcomed the change with delight. Accustomed to the tender solicitude of a loving mother, no niggard of her praise, and more given to sympathize than blame, the stern reserve of my father's manner had been a terrible reverse, and over and over had I asked myself why he took me from where I was loved and cherished, to live this life of ceremonious observance and cold deference.

To know that he felt even such interest in me as this, was to restore me to self-esteem at once. He would not have his son a coward, he said; and as I felt in my heart that I was not a coward, as I knew I was ready then and there to confront any peril he could propose to me, all that the speech left in my memory was a sense of self-satisfaction.

In each of the letters I had received from my mother she impressed on me how important it was that I should win my father's affection, and now a hope flashed across me that I might do this. I sat down to tell her all that had passed between us; but somehow, in recounting the incident of the billiard-room, I wandered away into a description of the house, its splendors and luxury, and of the life of costly pleasure that we were living. “You will ask, dearest mamma,” I wrote, “how and when I find time to study amidst all these dissipations? and I grieve to own that I do very little. Mr. Eccles says he is satisfied with me; but I fear it is more because I obtrude little on his notice than that I am making any progress. We are still in the same scene of the Adrian that I began with you; and as to the Greek, we leave it over for Saturdays, and the Saturdays get skipped. I have become a good shot with the rifle; and George says I have the finest, lightest hand he knows on a horse, and that he 'll make me yet a regular steeple-chase horseman. I have a passion for riding, and sometimes get four mounts on a day. Indeed, papa takes no interest in the stable, and I give all the orders, and can have a team harnessed for me—which I do—when I am tired with the saddle. They have not quite given up calling me 'that boy of Norcott's;' only now, when they do so, it is to say how well he rides, and what a taste he shows for driving and shooting.

“Don't be afraid that I am neglecting my music. I play every day, and take singing lessons with an Italian: they call him the Count Guastalla; but I believe he is the tenor of the opera here, and only teaches me out of compliment to papa. He dines here nearly every day, and plays piquet with papa all the evening.

“There is a very beautiful lady comes here,—Madame Cleremont. She is the wife of the Secretary to the Legation. She is French, and has such pleasing ways, and is so gay, and so good-natured, and so fond of gratifying me in every way, that I delight in being with her; and we ride out together constantly, and I am now teaching her to drive the ponies, and she enjoys it just as I used myself. I don't think papa likes her, for he seldom speaks to her, and never takes her in to dinner if there is another lady in the room; and I suspect she feels this, for she is often very sad. I dislike Mr. Cleremont; he is always saying snappish things, and is never happy, no matter how merry we are. But papa seems to like him best of all the people here. Old Captain Hotham and I are great friends, though he's always saying, 'You ought to be at sea, youngster. This sort of life will only make a blackleg of you.' But I can't make out why, because I am very happy and have so much to interest and amuse me, I must become a scamp. Mdme. Cleremont says, too, it is not true; that papa is bringing me up exactly as he ought, that I will enter life as a gentleman, and not be passing the best years of my existence in learning the habits of the well-bred world. They fight bitterly over this every day; but she always gets the victory, and then kisses me, and says, 'Mon cher petit Digby, I 'll not have you spoiled, to please any vulgar prejudice of a tiresome old sea-captain,' This she whispers, for she would not offend him for anything. Dear mamma, how you would love her if you knew her! I believe I 'm to go to Rugby to school; but I hope not, for how I shall live like a schoolboy after all this happiness I don't know; and Mdme. Cleremont says she will never permit it; but she has no influence over papa, and how could she prevent it? Captain Hotham is always saying, 'If Norcott does not send that boy to Harrow or Rugby, or some of these places, he 'll graduate in the Marshalsea—that's a prison—before he's twenty.' I am so glad when a day passes without my being brought up for the subject of a discussion, which papa always ends with, 'After all I was neither an Etonian nor Rugbeian, and I suspect I can hold my own with most men; and if that boy doesn't belie his breeding, perhaps he may do so too.'

“Nobody likes contradicting papa, especially when he says anything in a certain tone of voice, and whenever he uses this, the conversation turns away to something else.

“I forgot to say in my last, that your letters always come regularly. They arrive with papa's, and he sends them up to me at once, by his valet, Mons. Durand, who is always so nicely dressed, and has a handsomer watch-chain than papa.

“Mdme. Cleremont said yesterday: 'I'm so sorry not to know your dear mamma, Digby: but if I dared, I'd send her so many caresses, de ma part.' I said nothing at the time, but I send them now, and am your loving son,

“Digby Norcott.”

This letter was much longer than it appears here. It filled several sides of note-paper, and occupied me till daybreak. Indeed, I heard the bell ringing for the workmen as I closed it, and shortly after a gentle tap came to my door, and George Spunner, our head groom, entered.

“I saw you at the window, Master Digby,” said he, “and I thought I'd step up and tell you not to ride in spurs this morning. Sir Roger wants to see you on May Blossom, and you know she's a hot 'un, sir, and don't want the steel. Indeed, if she feels the boot, she's as much as a man can do to sit.”

“You 're a good fellow, George, to think of this,” said I. “Do you know where we 're going?”

“That's what I was going to tell you, sir. We are going to the Bois de Cambre, and there's two of our men gone on with hurdles, to set them up in the cross alleys of the wood, and we 're to come on 'em unawares, you see.”

“Then why don't you give me Father Tom or Hunger-ford?”

“The master would n't have either. He said, 'A child of five years old could ride the Irish horse;' and as for Hungerford, he calls him a circus horse.”

“But who knows if Blossom will take a fence?”

“I'll warrant she'll go high enough; how she'll come down, and where, is another matter. Only don't you go a-pullin' at her, ride her in the snaffle, and as light as you can. Face her straight at what she's got to go over, and let her choose her own pace.”

“I declare I don't see how this is a fair trial of my riding, George. Do you?”

“Well, it is, and it isn't,” said he, scratching his head. “You might have a very tidy hand and a nice seat, and not be able to ride the mare; but then, sir, you see, if you have the judgment to manage her coolly, and not rouse her temper too far, if you can bring her to a fence, and make her take off at a proper distance, and fly it, never changing her stride nor balk, why then he'll see you can ride.”

“And if she rushes, or comes with her chest to a bank, or if—as I think she will—she refuses her fence, rears, and falls back, what then?”

“Then I think the mornin's sport will be pretty nigh over,” growled he; as though I had suggested something personally offensive to him.

“What time do we go, George?”

“Sir Roger said seven, sir, but that will be eight or half-past. He's to drive over to the wood, and the horses are to meet him there.”

“All right. I'll take a short sleep and be sharp to time.”

As he left the room, I tore open my letter, to add a few words. I thought I'd say something that, if mischance befell me, might be a comfort to my dear mother to read over and dwell on, but for the life of me I did not know how to do it, without exciting alarm or awakening her to the dread of some impending calamity. Were I to say, I 'm off for a ride with papa, it meant nothing; and if I said, I 'm going to show him how I can manage a very hot horse, it might keep her in an agony of suspense till I wrote again.

So I merely added, “I intend to write to you very soon again, and hope I may do so within the week.” These few commonplace words had a great meaning to my mind, however little they might convey to her I wrote them to; and as I read them over, I stored them with details supplied by imagination,—details so full of incident and catastrophe that they made a perfect story. After this I lay down and slept heavily.


Mr next letter to my mother was very short, and ran thus:—

“Dearest Mamma,—Don't be shocked at my bad writing, for I had a fall on Tuesday last, and hurt my arm a little; nothing broken, but bruised and sore to move, so that I lie on my bed and read novels. Madame never leaves me, but sits here to put ice on my shoulder and play chess with me. She reads out Balzac for me, and I don't know when I had such a jolly life. It was a rather big hurdle, and the mare took it sideways, and caught her hind leg,—at least they say so,—but we came down together, and she rolled over me. Papa cried out well done, for I did not lose my saddle, and he has given me a gold watch and a seal with the Norcott crest. Every one is so kind; and Captain Hotham comes up after dinner and tells me all the talk of the table, and we smoke and have our coffee very nicely.

“Papa comes every night before supper, and is very good to me. He says that Blossom is now my own, but I must teach her to come cooler to her fences. I can't write more, for my pain comes back when I stir my arm. You shall hear of me constantly, if I cannot write myself.

“Oh, dearest mamma, when papa is kind there is no one like him,—so gentle, so thoughtful, so soft in manner, and so dignified all the while. I wish you could see him as he stood here. A thousand loves from your own boy,


Madame Cleremont wrote by the same post. I did not see her letter; but when mamma's answer came I knew it must have been a serious version of my accident, and told how, besides a dislocated shoulder, I had got a broken collar-bone, and two ribs fractured. With all this, however, there was no danger to life; for the doctor said everything had gone luckily, and no internal parts were wounded.

Poor mamma had added a postscript that puzzled Madame greatly, and she came and showed it to me, and asked what I thought she could do about it. It was an entreaty that she might be permitted to come and see me. There was a touching humility in the request that almost choked me with emotion as I read it. “I could come and go unknown and unnoticed,” wrote she. “None of Sir Roger's household have ever seen me, and my visit might pass for the devotion of some old follower of the family, and I will promise not to repeat it.” She urged her plea in the most beseeching terms, and said that she would submit to any conditions if her prayer were only complied with.

“I really do not know what to do here,” said Madame to me. “Without your father's concurrence this cannot be done; and who is to ask him for permission?”

“Shall I?”

“No, no, no,” cried she, rapidly. “Such a step on your part would be ruin; a certain refusal, and ruin to yourself.”

“Could Mr. Eccles do it?”

“He has no influence whatever.”

“Has Captain Hotham?”

“Less, if less be possible.”

“Mr. Cleremont, then?”

“Ah, yes, he might, and with a better chance of success; but—” She stopped, and though I waited patiently, she did not finish her sentence.

“But what?” asked I at last.

“Gaston hates doing a hazardous thing,” said she; and I remarked that her expression changed, and her face assumed a hard, stern look as she spoke. “His theory is, do nothing without three to one in your favor. He says you 'll always gets these odds, if you only wait.”

“But you don't believe that,” cried I, eagerly.

“Sometimes—very seldom, that is, I do not whenever I can help it.” There was a long pause now, in which neither of us spoke. At last she said, “I can't aid your mother in this project. She must give it up. There is no saying how your father would resent it.”

“And how will you tell her that?” faltered I out.

“I can't tell. I'll try and show her the mischief it might bring upon you; and that now, standing high, as you do, in your father's favor, she would never forgive herself, if she were the cause of a change towards you. This consideration will have more weight with her than any that could touch herself personally.”

“But it shall not,” cried I, passionately. “Nothing in my fortune shall stand between my mother and her love for me.”

She bent down and looked at me with an intensity in her stare that I cannot describe; it was as if, by actual steadfastness, she was able to fix me, and read me in my inmost heart.

“From which of your parents, Digby,” said she, slowly, “do you derive this nature?”

“I do not know; papa always says I am very like him.”

“And do you believe that papa is capable of great self-sacrifice? I mean, would he let his affections lead him against his interests?”

“That he would! He has told me over and over the head is as often wrong as right,—the heart only errs about once in five times.” She fell on my neck and kissed me as I said this, with a sort of rapturous delight. “Your heart will be always right, dear boy,” said she; once more she bent down and kissed me, and then hurried away.

This scene must have worked more powerfully on my nerves than I felt, or was aware of, while it was passing; at all events, it brought back my fever, and before night I was in wild delirium. Of the seven long weeks that followed, with all their alternations, I know nothing. My first consciousness was to know myself, as very weak and propped by pillows, in a half-darkened room, in which an old nurse-tender sat and mingled her heavy snorings with the ticking of the clock on the chimney. Thus drowsily pondering, with a debilitated brain, I used to fancy that I had passed away into another form of existence, in which no sights or sounds should come but these dreary breathings, and that remorseless ticking that seemed to be spelling out “eternity.”

Sometimes one, sometimes two or three persons would enter the room, approach the bed, and talk together in whispers, and I would languidly lift up my eyes and look at them, and though I thought they were not altogether unknown to me, the attempt at recognition would have been an effort so full of pain that I would, rather than make it, fall back again into apathy. The first moment of perfect consciousness—when I could easily follow all that I heard, and remember it afterwards—was one evening, when a faint but delicious air came in through the open window, and the rich fragrance of the garden filled the room. Captain Hotham and the doctor were seated on the balcony smoking and chatting.

“You 're sure the tobacco won't be bad for him?” asked Hotham.

“Nothing will be bad or good now,” was the answer. “Effusion has set in.”

“Which means, that it's all over, eh?”

“About one in a thousand, perhaps, rub through. My own experience records no instance of recovery.”

“And you certainly did not take such a gloomy view of his case at first. You told me that there were no vital parts touched?”

“Neither were there; the ribs had suffered no displacement, and as for a broken clavicle, I 've known a fellow get up and finish his race after it This boy was doing famously. I don't know that I ever saw a case going on better, when some of them here—it's not easy to say whom—sent off for his mother to come and see him. Of course, without Norcott's knowledge. It was a rash thing to do, and not well done either; for when the woman arrived, there was no preparation made, either with the boy or herself, for their meeting; and the result was that when she crossed the threshold and saw him she fainted away. The youngster tried to get to her and fainted too; a great hubbub and noise followed; and Norcott himself appeared. The scene that ensued must have been, from what I heard, terrific. He either ordered the woman out of the house, or he dragged her away,—it's not easy to say which; but it is quite clear that he went absolutely mad with passion: some say that he told them to pack off the boy along with her, but, of course, this was sheer impossibility; the boy was insensible, and has been so ever since.”

“I was at Namur that day, but they told me when I came back that Cleremont's wife had behaved so well; that she had the courage to face Norcott; and though I don't believe she did much by her bravery, she drove him off the field to his own room, and when his wife did leave the house for the railroad, it was in one of Norcott's carriages, and Madame herself accompanied her.”

“Is she his wife? that's the question.”

“There's not a doubt of it. Blenkworth of the Grays was at the wedding.

“If I were to be examined before a commission of lunacy to-morrow,” said the doctor, solemnly, “I 'd call that man insane.”

“And you'd shut him up?”

“I'd shut him up!”

“Then I 'm precious glad you are not called on to give an opinion, for you 'd shut up the best house in this quarter of Europe.”

“And what security have you any moment that he won't make a clean sweep of it, and turn you all into the streets?”

“Yes; that's on the cards any day.”

“He must have got through almost everything he had; besides, I never heard his property called six thousand a year, and I 'll swear twelve wouldn't pay his way here.”

“What does he care! His father and he agreed to cut off the entail; and seeing the sort of marriage he made, he 'll not fret much at leaving the boy a beggar.”

“But he likes him; if there's anything in the world he cares for, it's that boy!”

The other must have made some gesture of doubt or dissent, for the doctor quickly added, “No, no, I 'm right about that. It was only yesterday morning he said to me with a shake in the voice there's no mistaking, 'If you can come and tell me, doctor, that he's out of danger, I 'll give you a thousand pounds.'”

“Egad, I think I 'd have done it, even though I might have made a blunder.”

“Ye 're no a doctor, sir, that's plain;” and in the emotion of the moment he spoke the words with a strong Scotch accent.

There was a silence of some minutes, and Hotham said, “That little Frenchwoman and I have no love lost between us, but I 'm glad she cut up so well.”

“They 're strange natures, there 's no denying it They 'll do less from duty and more from impulse than any people in the world, and they 're never thoroughly proud of themselves except when they 're all wrong.”

“That's a neat character for Frenchwomen,” said Hotham, laughing.

“I think Norcott will be looking out for his whist by this time,” said the other; and they both arose, and passing noiselessly through the room, moved away.

I had enough left me to think over, and I did think over it till I fell asleep.


From that day forth I received no tidings of my mother. Whether my own letters reached her or not, I could not tell; and though I entreated Madame Cleremont, who was now my confidante in everything, to aid me in learning where my mother was, she declared that the task was beyond her; and at last, as time went over, my anxieties became blunted and my affections dulled. The life I was leading grew to have such a hold upon me, and was so full of its own varied interests, that—with shame I say it—I actually forgot the very existence of her to whom I owed any trace of good or honest or truthful that was in me.

The house in which I was living was a finishing school for every sort of dissipation, and all who frequented it were people who only lived for pleasure. Play of the highest kind went on unceasingly, and large sums were bandied about from hand to hand as carelessly as if all were men of fortune and indifferent to heavy losses.

A splendid mode of living, sumptuous dinners, a great retinue, and perfect liberty to the guests, drew around us that class who, knowing well that they have no other occupation than self-indulgence, throw an air of languid elegance over vice, which your vulgar sinner, who has only intervals of wickedness, knows nothing of; and this, be it said passingly, is, of all sections of society, the most seductive and dangerous to the young: for there are no outrages to taste amongst these people, they violate no decencies, they shock no principles. If they smash the tables of the law, it is in kid-gloves, and with a delicious odor of Ess bouquet about them. The Cleremonts lived at the Villa. Cleremont managed the household, and gave the orders for everything. Madame received the company, and did the honors; my father lounging about like an unoccupied guest, and actually amused, as it seemed, by his own unimportance. Hotham had gone to sea; but Eccles remained, in name, as my tutor; but we rarely met, save at meal-times, and his manner to me was almost slavish in subserviency, and with a habit of flattery that, even young as I was, revolted me.

“Isn't that your charge, Eccles?” I once heard an old gentleman ask him; and he replied, “Yes, my Lord; but Madame Cleremont has succeeded me. It is she is finishing him.”

And they both laughed heartily at the joke. There was, however, this much of truth in the speech, that I lived almost entirely in her society. We sang together; she called me Cherubino, and taught me all the page's songs in Mozart or Rossini; and we rode out together, or read or walked in company. Nor was her influence over me such as might effeminate me. On the contrary, it was ever her aim to give me manly tastes and ambitions. She laid great stress on my being a perfect swordsman and a pistol-shot, over and over telling me that a conscious skill in arms gives a man immense coolness in every question of difference with other men; and she would add, “Don't fall into that John Bull blunder of believing that duelling is gone out because they dislike the practice in England. The world is happily larger than the British Islands.”

Little sneers like this at England, sarcasms on English prudery, English reserve, or English distrustfulness, were constantly dropping from her, and I grew up to believe that while genuine sentiment and unselfish devotion lived on one side of the Channel, a decorous hypocrisy had its home on the other.

Now she would contrast the women 'of Balzac's novels with the colder nonentities of English fiction; and now she would dwell on traits of fascination in the sex which our writers either did not know of or were afraid to touch on. “It is entirely the fault of your Englishwomen,” she would say, “that the men invariably fall victims to foreign seductions. Circe always sings with a bronchitis in the North;” and though I but dimly saw what she pointed at then, I lived to perceive her meaning more fully.

As for my father, I saw little of him, but in that little he was always kind and good-natured with me. He would quiz me about my lessons, as though I were the tutor, and Ecoles the pupil; and ask me how he got on with his Aristophanes or his Homer? He talked to me freely about the people who came to the house, and treated me almost as an equal. All this time he behaved to Madame with a reserve that was perfectly chilling, so that it was the rarest thing in the world for the three of us to be together.

“I don't think you like papa,” said I once to her, in an effusion of confidence. “I am sure you don't like him!”

“And why do you think so?” asked she, with the faintest imaginable flush on her pale cheek.

While I was puzzling myself what to answer, she said,—

“Come now, Cherubino, what you really meant to say was, I don't think papa likes you!

Though I never could have made so rude a speech, its truth and force struck me so palpably that I could not answer.

“Well,” cried she, with a little laugh, “he is very fond of Monsieur Cleremont, and that ought always to be enough for Madame Cleremont. Do you know, Cherubino, it's the rarest thing in life for a husband and wife to be liked by the same people? There is in conjugal life some beautiful little ingredient of discord that sets the two partners to the compact at opposite poles, and gives them separate followings. I must n't distract you with the theory, I only want you to see why liking my husband is sufficient reason for not caring for me.”

Now, as I liked her exceedingly, and felt something very near to hatred for Monsieur Cleremont, I accepted all she said as incontestable truth. Still I grieved over the fact that papa was not of my own mind, and did not see her and all her fascinations as I did.

There is something indescribably touching in the gentle sadness of certain buoyant bright natures. Like the low notes in a treble voice, there is that that seems to vibrate in our hearts at a most susceptible moment, and with the force of an unforeseen contrast; and it was thus that, in her graver times, she won over me an ascendancy, and inspired an interest which, had I been other than a mere boy, had certainly been love.

Perhaps I should not have been even conscious, as I was of this sentiment, if it were not for the indignation I felt at Cleremont's treatment of her. Over and over again my temper was pushed to its last limit by his brutality and coarseness. His tone was a perpetual sneer, and his wife seldom spoke before him without his directing towards her a sarcasm or an impertinence. This was especially remarkable if she uttered any sentiment at all elevated, when his banter would be ushered in with a burst of derisive laughter.

Nothing could be more perfect than the way she bore these trials. There was no assumed martyrdom, no covert appeal for sympathy, no air of suffering asking for protection. No! whether it came as ridicule or rebuke, she accepted it gently and good-humoredly; trying, when she could, to turn it off with a laugh, or when too grave for that, bearing it with quiet forbearance.

I often wondered why my father did not check these persecutions, for they were such, and very cruel ones too; but he scarcely seemed to notice them, or if he did, it would be by a smile, far more like enjoyment of Cleremont's coarse wit than reprehending or reproving it.

“I wonder how that woman stands it?” I once overheard Hotham say to Eccles; and the other replied,—

“I don't think she does stand it. I mistake her much if she is as forgiving as she looks.”

Why do I recall these things? Why do I dwell on incidents and passages which had no actual bearing on my own destiny? Only because they serve to show the terrible school in which I was brought up; the mingled dissipation, splendor, indolence, and passion in which my boyhood was passed. Surrounded by men of reckless habits, and women but a mere shade better, life presented itself to me as one series of costly pleasures, dashed only with such disappointments as loss at play inflicted, or some project of intrigue baffled or averted.

“If that boy of Norcott's isn't a scamp, he must be a most unteachable young rascal,” said an old colonel once to Eccles on the croquet ground.

“He has had great opportunities,” said Eccles, as he sent off his ball, “and, so far as I see, neglected none of them.”

“You were his tutor, I think?” said the other, with a laugh.

“Yes, till Madame Cleremont took my place.”

“I 'll not say it was the worst thing could have happened him. I wish it had been a woman had spoiled me. Eh, Eccles, possibly you may have some such misgivings yourself?”

“I was never corrupted,” said the other, with a sententious gravity whose hypocrisy was palpable.

I meditated many and many a time over these few words, and they suggested to me the first attempt I ever made to know something about myself and my own nature.

Those stories of Balzac's, those wonderful pictures of passionate life, acquired an immense hold upon me, from the very character of my own existence. That terrific game of temper against temper, mind against mind, and heart against heart, of which I read in these novels, I was daily witnessing in what went on around me, and I amused myself by giving the names of the characters in these fictions to the various persons of our society.

“It is a very naughty little world we live in at this house, Digby,” said Madame to me one day; “but you'd be surprised to find what a very vulgar thing is the life of people in general, and that if you want the sensational, or even the pictorial in existence, you 'll have to pay for it in some compromise of principle.”

“I know mamma wouldn't like to live here,” said I, half sullenly.

“Oh, mamma!” cried she, with a laugh, and then suddenly checking herself: “No, Digby, you are quite right. Mamma would be shocked at our doings; not that they are so very wicked in themselves as that, to one of her quiet ways, they would seem so.”

“Mamma is very good. I never knew any one like her,” stammered I out.

“That's quite true, my dear boy. She is all that you say, but one may be too good, just as he may be too generous or too confiding; and it is well to remember that there are a number of excellent things one would like to be if they could afford them; but the truth is, Digby, the most costly of all things are virtues.”

“Oh, do not say that!” cried I, eagerly.

“Yes, dear, I must say it. Monsieur Cleremont and I have always been very poor, and we never permitted ourselves these luxuries, any more than we kept a great house and a fine equipage, and so we economize in our morals, as in our means, doing what rich folk might call little shabbinesses; but, on the whole, managing to live, and not unhappily either.”

“And papa?”

“Papa has a fine estate, wants for nothing, and can give himself every good quality he has a fancy for.”

“By this theory, then, it is only rich people are good?”

“Not exactly. I would rather state it thus,—the rich are as good as they like to be; the poor are as good as they 're able.”

“What do you say, then, to Mr. Eccles: he 's not rich, And I 'm sure he's good?”

“Poor Mr. Eccles!” said she, with a merry laughter, in which a something scornful mingled, and she hurried away.


It was my father's pleasure to celebrate my sixteenth birthday with great splendor. The whole house was to be thrown open; and not only the house, but the conservatory and the grounds were to be illuminated. The festivities were to comprise a grand dinner and a reception afterwards, which was to become a ball, as if by an impromptu.

As the society of the Villa habitually was made up of a certain number of intimates, relieved, from time to time, by such strangers as were presented, and as my father never dined out, or went into the fashionable world of the place, it was somewhat of a bold step at once to invite a number of persons with whom we had no more than bowing acquaintance, and to ask to his table ministers, envoys, court officials, and grand chamberlains for the first time. It was said, I know not how truthfully, that Cleremont did his utmost to dissuade him from the project at first, by disparaging the people for whom he was putting himself to such cost, and, finding this line of no avail, by openly saying that what between the refusals of some, the excuses of others, and the actual absence of many whose presence he was led to expect, my father was storing up for himself an amount of disappointment and outrage that would drive him half desperate. It was not, of course, very easy to convey this to my father. It could only be done by a dropping word or a half-expressed doubt. And when the time came to make out the lists and issue the invitations, no real step had been taken to turn him from his plan.

The same rumor which ascribed to Cleremont the repute of attempting to dissuade my father from his project, attributed to Madame Cleremont a most eager and warm advocacy of the intended fête. From the marked coldness and reserve, however, which subsisted between my father and her, it was too difficult to imagine in what way her influence could be exercised.

And for my own part, though I heard the list of the company canvassed every day at luncheon, and discussed at dinner, I don't remember an occasion where Madame ever uttered a word of remark, or even a suggestion in the matter. Hotham, who had come back on a short leave, was full of the scheme. With all a sailor's love of movement and bustle, he mixed himself up with every detail of it. He wrote to Paris and London for all the delicacies of the “comestible” shops. He established “estafettes” on every side to bring in fresh flowers and fruit; with his own hands he rigged out tents and marquees for the regimental bands, which were to be stationed in different parts of the grounds; and all the devices of Bengal lights and fireworks he took into his especial charge.

Indeed, Nixon told me that his functions did not stop here, but that he had charged himself with the care of Madame Cleremont's toilette, for whom he had ordered the most splendid ball-dress Paris could produce. “Naturally, Master Digby, it is Sir Roger pays,” added he; “and perhaps one of these days he'll be surprised to find that diamond loops and diamond bouquets should figure in a milliner's bill. But as she is to receive the company, of course it's all right.”

“And why does Mr. Cleremont seem to dislike it all so much?” asked I.

“Chiefly, I believe, because she likes it.” And then, as though he had said more than he intended, he added: “Oh, it's easy to see he likes to keep this house as much his own as he can. He does n't want Sir Roger to have other people about him. He's almost the master here now; but if your father begins to mix with the world, and have strangers here, Cleremont's reign would soon be over.”

Though there was much in this speech to suggest thought and speculation, nothing in it struck me so forcibly as the impertinence of calling Mr. Cleremont Cleremont, and it was all I could do to suppress the rebuke that was on my lips.

“If your father comes through for a thousand pounds, sir,” continued he, “I 'll say he's lucky. If Sir Roger would leave it to one person to give the orders,—I don't mean myself,—though by right it is my business; instead of that, there's the Captain sending for this, and Cleremont for the other, and you 'll see there will be enough for three entertainments when it's all over. Could you just say a word to him, sir?”

“Not for the world, Nixon. Papa is very kind to me and good-natured, but I 'll not risk any liberty with him; and what's more, I 'd be right sorry to call Mr. Cleremont Cleremont before him, as you have done twice within the last five minutes.”

“Lord bless you, Master Digby! I 've known him these fifteen years. I knew him when he came out, just a boy like, to Lord Colthorpe's embassy. He and I is like pals.”

“You have known me also as a boy, Nixon,” said I, haughtily; “and yet, I promise you, I 'll not permit you to speak of me as Norcott, when I am a man.”

“No fear of that, sir, you may depend on 't,” said he, with humility; but there was a malicious twinkle in his eye, and a firm compression of the lip as he withdrew, that did not leave my mind the whole day after. Indeed, I recognized that his face had assumed the selfsame look of insolent familiarity it wore when he spoke of Cleremont.

The evening of that day was passed filling up the cards of invitation,—a process which amused me greatly, affording, as it did, a sort of current critique on the persons whose names came up for notice, and certainly, if I were to judge of their eligibility only by what I heard of their characters, I might well feel amazed why they were singled out for attentions. They were marquises and counts, however, chevaliers of various orders, grand cordons and “hautes charges,” so that their trespasses or their shortcomings had all been enacted in the world of good society, and with each other as accomplices or victims. There were a number of contingencies, too, attached to almost every name. There must be high play for the Russian envoy, flirting for the French minister's wife, iced drinks for the Americans, and scandal and Ostend oysters for everybody. There was scarcely a good word for any one, and yet the most eager anxiety was expressed that they would all come. Immense precautions had been taken to fix a day when there was nothing going on at court or in the court circle. It was difficult to believe that pleasure could be planned with such heart-burning and bitterness. There was scarcely a detail that did not come associated with something that reflected on the morals or the manners of the dear friends we were entreating to honor us; and for the life of me I did not know why such pains were taken to secure the presence of people for whom none had a good wish nor a single kindly thought.

My father took very little part in the discussion; he sat there with a sort of proud indifference, as though the matter had little interest for him, and if a doubt were expressed as to the likelihood of this or that person's acceptance, he would superciliously break in with, “He 'll come, sir: I 'll answer for that. I have never yet played to empty benches.”

This vain and haughty speech dwelt in my mind for many a day, and showed me how my father deemed that it was not his splendid style of living, his exquisite dinners, and his choice wines that drew guests around him, but his own especial qualities as host and entertainer.

“But that it involves the bore of an audience, I'd ask the king; I could give him some Château d'Yquem very unlike his own, and such as, I'll venture to say, he never tasted,” said he, affectedly.

“So you are going to bring out the purple seal?” cried Cleremont.

“I might for royalty, sir; but not for such people as I read of in that list there.”

“Why, here are two Dukes with their Duchesses, Marquises and Counts by the score, half-a-dozen ministers plenipotentiary, and a perfect cloud of chamberlains and court swells.”

“They 'd cut a great figure, I 've no doubt, Hotham, on the quarter-deck of the 'Thunder Bomb,' where you eke out the defects of a bad band with a salute from your big guns, and give your guests the national anthem when they want champagne. Oh dear, there's no snob like a sailor!”

“Well, if they 're not good enough for you, why the devil do you ask them?” cried Hotham, sturdily.

“Sir, if I were to put such a question to myself, I might shut up my house to-morrow!” And with this very uncourteous speech he arose and left the room.

We continued, however, to fill in the cards of invitation and address the envelopes, but with little inclination to converse, and none whatever to refer to what had passed.

“There,” cried Cleremont, as he checked off the list. “That makes very close on seven hundred. I take it I may order supper for six hundred.” Then turning half fiercely to me, he added: “Do you know, youngster, that all this tomfoolery is got up for you? It is by way of celebrating your birthday we're going to turn the house out of the windows!”

“I suppose my father has that right, sir.”

“Of course he has, just as he would have the right to make a ruin of the place to-morrow if he liked it; but I don't fancy his friends would be the better pleased with him for his amiable eccentricity: your father pushes our regard for him very far sometimes.”

“I 'll tell him to be more cautious, sir, in future,” said I, moving towards the door.

“Do so,” said he. “Good-night.”

I had scarcely taken my bedroom candle when I felt a hand on my shoulder: I turned and saw Madame Cleremont standing very pale and in great agitation at my side. “Oh, Digby,” said she, “don't make that man your enemy whatever you do; he is more than a match for you, poor child!” She was about to say more when we heard voices in the corridor, and she hurried away and left me.


The eventful day arrived at last, and now, as I write, I can bring up before me the whole of that morning, so full of exciting sensations and of pleasurable surprises. I wandered about from room to room, never sated with the splendors around me. Till then I had not seen the gorgeous furniture uncovered, nor had I the faintest idea of the beauty and richness of the silk hangings, or the glittering elegance of those lustres of pure Venetian glass. Perhaps nothing, however, astonished me so much as the array of gold and silver plate in the dining-room. Our every-day dinners had been laid out with what had seemed to me a most costly elegance; but what were they to this display of splendid centrepieces and massive cups and salvers large as shields! Of flowers, the richest and rarest, wagon-loads poured in; and at last I saw the horses taken out, and carts full of carnations and geraniums left unloaded in the stable-yard. Ice, too, came in the same profusion: those squarely cut blocks, bright as crystal, and hollowed out to serve as wine-coolers, and take their place amidst the costlier splendors of gold and silver.

It is rare to hear the servant class reprove profusion; but here I overheard many a comment on the reckless profligacy of outlay which had provided for this occasion enough for a dozen such. It was easy to see, they said, that Mr. Clere-mont did not pay; and this sneer sunk deep into my mind, increasing the dislike I already felt for him.

Nor was it the house alone was thus splendidly prepared for reception; but kiosks and tents were scattered through the grounds, in each of which, as if by magic, supper could be served on the instant. Upwards of thirty additional servants were engaged, all of whom were dressed in our state livery, white, with silver epaulettes, and the Norcott crest embroidered on the arm. These had been duly drilled by Mr. Cleremont, and were not, he said, to be distinguished by the most critical eye from the rest of the household.

Though there was movement everywhere, and everywhere activity, there was little or no confusion. Cleremont was an adept in organization, and already his skill and cleverness had spread discipline through the mass. He was a despot, however, would not permit the slightest interference with his functions, nor accept a suggestion from any one. “Captain Hotham gives no orders here,” I heard him say; and when standing under my window, and I am almost sure seeing me, he said, “Master Digby has nothing to do with, the arrangements any more than yourself.”

I had determined that day to let nothing irritate or vex me; that I would give myself up to unmixed enjoyment, and make this birthday a memorable spot in life, to look back on with undiluted delight. I could have been more-certain to carry out this resolve if I could only have seen and spoken with Madame Cleremont; but she did not leave her room the whole day. A distinguished hairdresser had arrived with a mysterious box early in the morning, and after passing two hours engaged with her, had returned for more toilet requirements. In fact, from the coming and going of maids and dressmakers, it was evident that the preparations of beauty were fully equal to those that were being made by cooks and confectioners.

My father, too, was invisible; his breakfast was served in his own room; and when Cleremont wished to communicate with him, he had to do so in writing: and these little notes passed unceasingly between them till late in the afternoon.

“What's up now?” I heard Hotham say, as Cleremont tore up a note in pieces and flung the fragments from him with impatience.

“Just like him. I knew exactly how it would be,” cried the other. “He sent a card of invitation to the Duc de Bredar without first making a visit; and here comes the Duc's chasseur to say that his Excellency has not the honor of knowing the gentleman who has been so gracious as to ask him to dinner.”

“Norcott will have him out for the impertinence,” said Hotham.

“And what will that do? Will the shooting him or the being shot make this dinner go off as we meant it, eh? Is that for me, Nixon? Give it here.” He took a note as he spoke, and tore it open. 'La Marquise de Carnac is engaged,' not a word more. The world is certainly progressing in politeness. Three cards came back this day with the words 'Sent by mistake' written on them. Norcott does not know it yet, nor shall he till to-morrow.”

“Is it true that the old Countess de Joievillars begged to know who was to receive the ladies invited?”

“Yes, it is true; and I told her a piece of her own early history in return, to assure her that no accident of choice should be any bar to the hope of seeing her.”

“What was the story?”

“I'd tell it if that boy of Norcott's was not listening there at that window.”

“Yes, sir,” cried I; “I have heard every word, and mean to repeat it to my father when I see him.” “Tell him at the same time, then, that his grand dinner of twenty-eight has now come down to seventeen, and I 'm not fully sure of three of these.”

I went down into the dining-room, and saw that places had been laid for twenty-eight, and as yet no alteration had been made in the table, so that it at once occurred to me this speech of Cleremont's was a mere impertinence,—one of those insolent sallies he was so fond of. Nixon, too, had placed the name of each guest on his napkin, and he, at least, had not heard of any apologies.

Given in my honor, as this dinner was, I felt a most intense interest in its success. I was standing, as it were, on the threshold of life, and regarded the mode in which I should be received as an augury of good or evil. My father's supremacy at home, the despotism he wielded, and the respect and deference he exacted, led me to infer that he exercised the same influence on the world at large; and that, as I had often heard, the only complaint against him in society was his exclusiveness. I canvassed these thoughts with myself for hours, as I sat alone in my room waiting till it was time to dress.

At last eight o'clock struck, and I went down into the drawing-room. Hotham was there, in a window recess, conversing in whispers with an Italian count,—one of our intimates, but of whom I knew nothing. They took no notice of me, so that I took up a paper and began to read. Cleremont came in soon after with a bundle of notes in his hand. “Has your father come down?” asked he, hastily; and then, without waiting for my reply, he turned and left the room. Madame next appeared. I have no words for my admiration of her, as, splendidly dressed and glittering with diamonds, she swept proudly in. That her beauty could have been so heightened by mere toilette seemed incredible, and as she read my wonderment in my face she smiled, and said:—

“Yes, Digby, I am looking my very best to fête your birthday.”

I would have liked to have told her how lovely she appeared to me, but I could only blush and gaze wonder-ingly on her.

“Button this glove, dear,” said she, handing to me her wrist all weighted and jingling with costly bracelets; and while, with trembling fingers, I was trying to obey her, my father entered and came towards us. He made her a low but very distant bow, tapped me familiarly on the shoulder, and then moved across to an arm-chair and sat down.

Cleremont now came in, and, drawing a chair beside my father's, leaned over and said something in a whisper. Not seeming to attend to what he was saying, my father snatched, rather than took, the bundle of letters he held in his hand, ran his eyes eagerly over some of them, and then, crushing the mass in his grasp, he threw it into the fire.

“It is forty minutes past eight,” said he, calmly, but with a deadly pallor in his face. “Can any one tell me if that clock be right?”

“It is eight or ten minutes slow,” said Hotham.

“Whom do we wait for, Cleremont?” asked my father again.

“Steinmetz was de service with the King, but would come if he got free; and there's Rochegude, the French Secretary, was to replace his chief. I 'm not quite sure about the Walronds, but Craydon told me positively to expect him.”

“Do me the favor to ring the bell and order dinner,” said my father; and he spoke with measured calm.

“Won't you wait a few minutes?” whispered Cleremont. “The Duke de Frialmont, I'm sure, will be here.”

“No, sir; we live in a society that understands and observes punctuality. No breach of it is accidental. Dinner, Nixon!” added he as the servant appeared.

The folding-doors were thrown wide almost at once, and dinner announced. My father gave his arm to Madame Cleremont, who actually tottered as she walked beside him, and as she sat down seemed on the verge of fainting. Just as we took our places, three young men, somewhat overdressed, entered hurriedly, and were proceeding to make their apologies for being late; but my father, with a chilling distance, assured them they were in excellent time, and motioned them to be seated.

Of the table laid for twenty-eight guests, nine places were occupied; and these, by some mischance, were scattered here and there with wide intervals. Madame Cleremont sat on my father's right, and three empty places flanked his left hand.

I sat opposite my father, with two vacant seats on either side of me; Hotham nearest to me, and one of the strangers beside him. They conversed in a very low tone, but short snatches and half sentences reached me; and I heard the stranger say, “It was too bold a step; women are sure to resent such attempts.” Madame Cleremont's name, too, came up three or four times; and the stranger said, “It's my first dinner here, and the Bredars will not forgive me for coming.”

“Well, there's none of them has such a cook as Norcott,” said Hotham.

“I quite agree with you; but I 'd put up with a worse dinner for better company.”

I looked round at this to show I had heard the remark, and from that time they conversed in a whisper.

My father never uttered a word during the dinner. I do not know if he ate, but he helped himself and affected to eat. As for Madame, how she sat out those long two hours, weak and fainting as she was, I cannot tell. I saw her once try to lift her glass to her lips, but her hand trembled so, she set it down untasted, and lay back in her chair, like one dying out of exhaustion.

A few words and a faint attempt to laugh once or twice broke the dead silence of the entertainment, which proceeded, however, in all its stately detail, course after course, till the dessert was handed round, and Tokay, in small gilt glasses, was served; then my father rose slowly, and, drawing himself up to his full height, looked haughtily around him. “May I ask my illustrious friends,” said he, “who have this day so graciously honored me with their presence, to drink the health of my son, whose birthday we celebrate. There is no happier augury on entering life than to possess the friendship and good-will of those who stand foremost in the world's honor. It is his great privilege to be surrounded this day by beauty and by distinction. The great in the arts of peace and war, and that loveliness which surpasses in its fascination all other rewards, are around me, and I call upon these to drink to the health of Digby Norcott.”

All rose and drank; Hotham lifted his glass high in air and tried a cheer, but none joined him; his voice died away, and he sat down; and for several minutes an unbroken silence prevailed.

My father at last leaned over towards Madame, and I. heard the word “coffee.” She arose and took his arm, and we all followed them to the drawing-room.

“I 'm right glad it's over,” said Hotham, as he poured his brandy over his coffee. “I've sat out a court-martial that wasn't slower than that dinner.”

“But what's the meaning of it all?” asked another. “Why and how came all these apologies?”

“You 'd better ask Cleremont, or rather his wife,” muttered Hotham, and moved away.

“You ought to get into the open air; that's the best thing for you,” I heard Cleremont say to his wife; but there was such a thorough indifference in the tone, it sounded less like a kindness than a sarcasm. She, however, drew a shawl around her, and moved down the steps into the garden. My father soon after retired to his own room, and Cleremont laughingly said, “There are no women here, and we may have a cigar;” and he threw his case across the table. The whole party were soon immersed in smoke.

I saw that my presence imposed some restraint on the conversation, and soon sought my room with a much sadder spirit and a heavier heart than I had left it two hours before.


Musing and thinking and fretting together, I had fallen asleep on my sofa, and was awakened by Mr. Nixon lighting my candles, and asking me, in a very mild voice, if I felt unwell.

“No, nothing of the kind.”

“Won't you go down, sir, then? It's past eleven now, and there 's a good many people below.”

“Who have come?” asked I, eagerly.

“Well, sir,” said he, with a certain degree of hesitation, “they 're not much to talk about There's eight or nine young gentlemen of the embassies—attachés like—and there's fifteen or twenty officers of the Guides, and there's some more that look like travellers out of the hotels; they ain't in evening-dress.”

“Are there no ladies?”

“Yes; I suppose we must call them ladies, sir. There's Madame Rigault and her two daughters.”

“The pastrycook?”

“Yes, sir; and there are the Demoiselles Janson, of the cigar-shop, and stunningly dressed they are too! Amber satin with black lace, and Spanish veils on their heads. And there's that little Swedish girl—I believe she's a Swede—that sells the iced drinks.”

“But what do you mean? These people have not been invited. How have they come here?”

“Well, sir, I must n't tell you a lie; but I hope you 'll not betray me if I speak in confidence to you. Here's how it all has happened. The swells all refused: they agreed together that they 'd not come to dinner, nor come in the evening. Mr. Cleremont knows why; but it ain't for me to say it.”

“But I don't know, and I desire to know!” cried I, haughtily.

“Well, indeed, sir, it's more than I can tell you. There 'a people here not a bit correcter than herself that won't meet her.”

“Meet whom?”

“Madame, sir,—Madame Cleremont.”

“Don't dare to say another word,” cried I, passionately. “If you utter a syllable of disrespect to that name, I 'll fling you out of the window.”

“Don't be afraid, Master Digby, I know my station, and I never forget it, sir. I was only telling you what you asked me, not a word more. The swells sent back your father's cards, and there's more than three hundred of them returned.”

“And where's papa now?' *

“In bed, sir. He told his valet he was n't to be disturbed, except the house took fire.”

“Is Madame Cleremont below?”

“No, sir; she's very ill. The doctor has been with her, and he's coming again to-night.”

“And are these people—this rabble that you talk of—received as my papa's guests?”

“Only in a sort of a way, sir,” said he, smiling. “You see that when Mr. Cleremont perceived that there was nothing but excuses and apologies pouring in, he told me to close the house, and that we 'd let all the bourgeois people into the grounds, and give them a jolly supper and plenty of champagne; and he sent word to a many of the young officers to come up and have a lark; and certainly, as the supper was there, they might as well eat it. The only puzzle is now, won't there be too many, for he sent round to all Sir Roger's tradespeople,—all at least that has good-looking daughters,—and they're pourin' in by tens and fifteens, and right well dressed and well got up too.”

“And what will papa say to all this to-morrow?”

“Don't you know, sir, that Sir Roger seldom looks back,” said he, with a cunning look; “he'll not be disturbed to-night, for the house is shut up, and the bands are playing, one at the lake, the other at the end of the long walk, and the suppers will be served here and there, where they can cheer and drink toasts without annoying any one.”

“It's a downright infamy!” cried I.

“It ain't the correct thing, sure enough, sir, there's none of us could say that, but it will be rare fun; and, as Captain Hotham said, 'the women are a precious sight better looking than the countesses.'”

“Where is Mr. Eccles?”

“I saw him waltzing, sir, or maybe it was the polka, with Madame Robineau just as I was coming up to you.”

“I'll go down and tell Mr. Cleremont to dismiss his friends,” cried I, boiling over with anger. “Papa meant this fête to celebrate my birthday. I 'll not accept such rabble congratulations. If Mr. Cleremont must have an orgie, let him seek for another place to give it in.”

“Don't go, master, don't, I entreat you,” cried he, imploringly. “You 'll only make a row, sir, and bring down Sir Roger, and then who's to say what will happen? He 'll have a dozen duels on his hands in half as many minutes. The officers won't stand being called to account, and Sir Roger is not the man to be sweet-tempered with them.”

“And am I to see my father's name insulted, and his house dishonored by such a canaille crew as this?”

“Just come down and see them, Master Digby; prettier, nicer girls you never saw in your life, and pretty behaved, too. Ask Mr. Eccles if he ever mixed with a nicer company. There, now, sir, slip on your velvet jacket,—it looks nicer than that tail-coat,—and come down. They 'll be all proud and glad to see you, and won't she hold her head high that you ask to take a turn of a waltz with you!”

“And how should I face my father to-morrow?” said I, blushing deeply.

“Might I tell you a secret, Master Digby?” said he, leaning over the table, and speaking almost in my ear.

“Go on,” said I, dryly.

“I know well, sir, you 'll never throw me over, and what I 'm going to tell you is worth gold to you.”

“Go on,” cried I, for he had ceased to speak.

“Here it is, then,” said he, with an effort “The greatest sorrow your father has, Master Digby, is that he thinks you have no spirit in you,—that you 're a mollyoot. As he said one day to Mr. Cleremont, 'You must teach him everything, he has no “go” in himself; there 's nothing in his nature but what somebody else put into it.'”

“He never said that!”

“I pledge you my oath he did.”

“Well, if he did, he meant it very differently from what you do.”

“There's no two meanings to it. There's a cheer!” cried he, running over to the window and flinging it wide. “I wonder who's come now? Oh, it's the fireworks are beginning.”

“I 'll go down,” said I; but out of what process of reasoning came that resolve I am unable to tell.

“Maybe they won't be glad to see you!” cried he, as he helped me on with my jacket and arranged the heron's feathers in my velvet cap. I was half faltering in my resolution, when I bethought me of that charge of feebleness of character Nixon had reported to me, and I determined, come what might, I would show that I had a will and could follow it. In less than five minutes after, I was standing under the trees in the garden, shaking hands with scores of people I never saw before, and receiving the very politest of compliments and good wishes from very pretty lips, aided by very expressive eyes.

“Here's Mademoiselle Pauline Delorme refuses to dance with me,” cried Eccles, “since she has seen the head of the house. Digby, let me present you.” And with this he led me up to a very beautiful girl, who, though only the daughter of a celebrated restaurateur of Brussels, might have been a princess, so far as look and breeding and elegance were concerned.

“This is to be the correct thing,” cried Cleremont “We open with a quadrille; take your partners, gentlemen, and to your places.”

Nothing could be more perfectly proper and decorous than this dance. It is possible, perhaps, that we exceeded a little on the score of reverential observances: we bowed and courtesied at every imaginable opportunity, and with an air of homage that smacked of a court; and if we did raise our eyes to each other, as we recovered from the obeisance, it was with a look of the softest and most subdued deference. I really began to think that the only hoydenish people I had ever seen were ladies and gentlemen. As for Eccles, he wore an air of almost reverential gravity, and Hotham was sternly composed. At last, however, we came to the finish, and Cleremont, clapping his hands thrice, called out “grand rond,” and, taking his partner's arm within his own, led off at a galop; the music striking up one of Strauss's wildest, quickest strains. Away he went down an alley, and we all after him, stamping and laughing like mad. The sudden revulsion from the quiet of the moment before was electric; no longer arm-in-arm, but with arms close clasped around the waist, away we went over the smooth turf with a wild delight to which the music imparted a thrilling ecstasy. Now through the dense shade we broke into a blaze of light, where a great buffet stood; and round this we all swarmed at once, and glasses were filled with champagne, and vivas shouted again and again, and I heard that my health was toasted, and a very sweet voice—the lips were on my ear—whispered I know not what, but it sounded very like wishing me joy and love, while others were deafening me about long life and happiness.

I do not remember—I do not want to remember—all the nonsense I talked, and with a volubility quite new to me; my brain felt on fire with a sort of wild ecstasy, and as homage and deference met me at every step, my every wish acceded to, and each fancy that struck me hailed at once as bright inspiration, no wonder was it if I lost myself in a perfect ocean of bliss. I told Pauline she should be the queen of the fête, and ordered a splendid wreath of flowers to be brought, which I placed upon her brow, and saluted her with her title, amidst the cheering shouts of willing toasters. Except to make a tour of a waltz or a polka with some one I knew, I would not permit her to dance with any but myself; and she, I must say, most graciously submitted to the tyranny, and seemed to delight in the extravagant expressions of my admiration for her.


If I was madly jealous of her, I felt the most overwhelming delight in the praises bestowed upon her beauty and her gracefulness. Perhaps the consciousness that I was a mere boy, and that thus a freedom might be used towards me that would have been reprehensible with one older, led her to treat me with a degree of intimacy that was positively captivating; and before our third waltz was over, I was calling her Pauline, and she calling me Digby, like old friends.

“Isn't that boy of Norcott's going it to-night?” I heard a man say as I swung past in a polka, and I turned fiercely to catch the speaker's eye, and show him I meant to call him to book.

“Eccles, your pupil is a credit to you!” cried another.

“I'm a Dutchman if that fellow does n't rival his father.”

“He 'll be far and away beyond him,” muttered another; “for he has none of Norcott's crotchets,—he's a scamp 'ur et simple.'”

“Where are you breaking away from me, Digby?” said Pauline, as I tried to shake myself free of her.

“I want to follow those men. I have a word to say to them.”

“You shall do no such thing, dearest,” muttered she. “You have just told me I am to be your little wife, and I 'm not going to see my husband rushing into a stupid quarrel.”

“And you are mine, then,” cried I, “and you will wear this ring as a betrothal? Come, let me take off your glove.”

“That will do, Digby; that's quite enough for courtesy and a little too much for deference,” whispered Eccles in my ear; for I was kissing her hand about a hundred times over, and she laughing at my raptures as an excellent joke. “I think you 'd better lead the way to supper.”

Secretly resolving that I would soon make very short work of Mr. Eccles and his admonitions, I gave him a haughty glance and moved on. I remember very little more than that I walked to the head of the table and placed Pauline on my right I know I made some absurd speech in return for their drinking my health, and spoke of us and what we—Pauline and myself—felt, and with what pleasure we should see our friends often around us, and a deal of that tawdry trash that conies into a brain addled with noise and heated with wine. I was frequently interrupted; uproarious cheers at one moment would break forth, but still louder laughter would ring out and convulse the whole assembly. Even addled and confused as I was, I could see that some were my partisans and friends, who approved of all I said, and wished me to give a free course to my feelings; and there were others—two or three—who tried to stop me; and one actually said aloud, “If that boy of Nor-cott's is not suppressed, we shall have no supper.”

Recalled to my dignity as a host by this impertinence, I believe I put some restraint on my eloquence, and I now addressed myself to do the honors of the table. Alas, my attentions seldom strayed beyond my lovely neighbor, and I firmly believed that none could remark the rapture with which I gazed on her, or as much as suspected that I had never quitted the grasp of her hand from the moment we sat down.

“I suspect you 'd better let Mademoiselle dance the cotillon with the Count Vauglas,” whispered Eccles in my ear.

“And why, sir?” rejoined I, half fiercely.

“I think you might guess,” said he, with a smile; “at least, you could if you were to get up.”

“And would she—would Pauline—I mean, would Mademoiselle Delorme—approve of this arrangement?”

“No, Monsieur Digby, not if it did not come from you. We shall sit in the shade yonder for half an hour or so, and then, when you are rested, we 'll join the cotillon.”

“Get that boy off to bed, Eccles,” said Cleremont, who did not scruple to utter the words aloud.

I started up to make an indignant rejoinder; some fierce insult was on my lips; but passion and excitement and wine mastered me, and I sank back on my seat overcome and senseless.


I could not awake on the day after the fête, I was conscious that Nixon was making a considerable noise,—that he shut and opened doors and windows, splashed the water into my bath, and threw down my boots with an unwonted energy; but through all this consciousness of disturbance I slept on, and was determined to sleep, let him make what uproar he pleased.

“It 's nigh two o'clock, sir!” whispered he in my ear, and I replied by a snort.

“I 'm very sorry to be troublesome, sir; but the master is very impatient: he was getting angry when I went in last time.”

These words served to dispel my drowsiness at once, and the mere thought of my father's displeasure acted on me like a strong stimulant.

“Does papa want me?” cried I, sitting up in bed; “did you say papa wanted me?”

“Yes, sir,” said a deep voice; and my father entered the room, dressed for the street, and with his hat on.

“You may leave us,” said he to Nixon; and as the man withdrew, my father took a chair and sat down close to my bedside.

“I have sent three messages to you this morning,” said he, gravely, “and am forced at last to come myself.”

I was beginning my apologies, when he stopped me, and said, “That will do; I have no wish to be told why you overslept yourself; indeed, I have already heard more on that score than I care for.”

He paused, and though perhaps he expected me to say something, I was too much terrified to speak.

“I perceive.” said he, “you understand me; you apprehend that I know of your doings of last night, and that any attempt at excuse is hopeless. I have not come here to reproach you for your misconduct; I reproach myself for a mistaken estimate of you; I ought to have known—and if you had been a horse I would have known—that your crossbreeding would tell on you. The bad drop was sure to betray itself. I will not dwell on this, nor have I time. Your conduct last night makes my continued residence here impossible. I cannot continue in a city where my tradespeople have become my guests, and where the honors of my house have been extended to my tailor and my butcher. I shall leave this, therefore, as soon as I can conclude my arrangements to sell this place: you must quit it at once. Eccles will be ready to start with you this evening for the Rhine, and then for the interior of Germany,—I suspect Weimar will do. He will be paymaster, and you will conform to his wishes strictly as regards expense. Whether you study or not, whether you employ your time profitably and creditably, or whether you pass it in indolence, is a matter that completely regards yourself. As for me, my conscience is acquitted when I provide you with the means of acquirement, and I no more engage you to benefit by these advantages than I do to see you eat the food that is placed before you. The compact that unites us enjoins distinct duties from each. You need not write to me till I desire you to do so; and when I think it proper we should meet, I will tell you.”

If, while he spoke these harsh words to me, the slightest touch of feeling—had one trace of even sorrow crossed his face, my whole heart would have melted at once, and I would have thrown myself at his feet for forgiveness. There was, however, a something so pitiless in his tone, and a look so full of scorn in his steadfast eye, that every sentiment of pride within me—that same pride I inherited from himself—stimulated me to answer him, and I said boldly: “If the people I saw here last night were not as well born as your habitual guests, sir, I 'll venture to say there was nothing in their manner or deportment to be ashamed of.”

“I am told that Mademoiselle Pauline Delorme was charming,” said he; and the sarcasm of his glance covered me with shame and confusion. He had no need to say more: I could not utter a word.

“This is a topic I will not discuss with you, sir,” said he, after a pause. “I intended you to be a gentleman, and to live with gentlemen. Your tastes incline differently, and I make no opposition to them. As I have told you already, I was willing to launch you into life; I 'll not engage to be your pilot. Any interest I take or could take in you must be the result of your own qualities. These have not impressed me strongly up to this; and were I to judge by what I have seen, I should send you back to those you came from.”

“Do so, then, if it will only give me back the nature I brought away with me!” cried I, passionately; and my throat swelled till I felt almost choked with emotion.

“That nature,” said he, with a sneer on the word, “was costumed, if I remember right, in a linen blouse and a pair of patched shoes; and I believe they have been preserved along with some other family relics.”

I bethought me at once of the tower and its humble furniture, and a sense of terror overcame me, that I was in presence of one who could cherish hate with such persistence.

“The fumes of your last night's debauch are some excuse for your bad manners, sir,” said he, rising. “I leave you to sleep them off; only remember that the train starts at eight this evening, and it is my desire you do not miss it.”

With this he left me. I arose at once and began to dress. It was a slow proceeding, for I would often stop, and sit down to think what course would best befit me to take at this moment. At one instant it seemed to me I ought to follow him, and declare that the splendid slavery in which I lived had no charm for me,—that the faintest glimmering of self-respect and independence was more my ambition than all the luxuries that surrounded me; and when I had resolved I would do this, a sudden dread of his presence,—his eye that I could never face without shrinking,—the tones of his voice that smote me like a lash,—so abashed me that I gave up the effort with despair.

Might he not consent to give me some pittance—enough to save her from the burden of my support—and send me back to my mother? Oh, if I could summon courage to ask this! This assistance need be continued only for a few years, for I hoped and believed I should not always have to live as a dependant What if I were to write him a few lines to this purport? I could do this even better than speak it.

I sat down at once and began:—

“Dear papa,”—he would never permit me to use a more endearing word. “Dear papa, I hope you will forgive me troubling you about myself and my future. I would like to fit myself for some career or calling by which I might become independent. I could work very hard and study very closely if I were back with my mother.”

As I reached this far, the door opened, and Eccles appeared.

“All right!” cried he; “I was afraid I should catch you in bed still, and I 'm glad you 're up and preparing for the road. Are you nearly ready?”

“Not quite; I wanted to write a letter before I go. I was just at it.”

“Write from Verviers or Bonn; you'll have lots of time on the road.”

“Ay, but my letter might save me from the journey if I sent it off now.”

He looked amazed at this, and I at once told him my plan and showed him what I had written.

“You don't mean to say you 'd have courage to send this to your father?”

“And why not?”

“Well, all I have to say is, don't do it till I 'm off the premises; for I 'd not be here when he reads it for a trifle. My dear Digby,” said he, with a changed tone, “you don't know Sir Roger; you don't know the violence of his temper if he imagines himself what he calls outraged, which sometimes means questioned. Take your hat and stick, and go seek your fortune, in Heaven's name, if you must; but don't set out on your life's journey with a curse or a kick, or possibly both. If I preach patience, my dear boy, I have had to practise it too. Put up your traps in your portmanteau; come down and take some dinner: we 'll start with the night-train; and take my word for it, we 'll have a jolly ramble and enjoy ourselves heartily. If I know anything of life, it is that there's no such mistake in the world as hunting up annoyances. Let them find us if they can, but let us never run after them.”

“My heart is too heavy for such enjoyment as you talk of.”

“It won't be so to-morrow, or, at all events, the day after. Come, stir yourself now with your packing; a thought has just struck me that you 'll be very grateful to me for, when I tell it you.”

“What is it?” asked I, half carelessly.

“You must ask with another guess-look in your eye if you expect me to tell you.”

“You could tell me nothing that would gladden me.”

“Nor propose anything that you'd like?” asked he.

“Nor that, either,” said I, despondingly.

“Oh, if that be the case, I give up my project; not that it was much of a project, after all. What I was going to suggest was that instead of dining here we should put our traps into a cab, and drive down to Delorme's and have a pleasant little dinner there, in the garden; it's quite close to the railroad, so that we could start at the last whistle.”

“That does sound pleasantly,” said I; “there's nothing more irksome in its way than hanging about a station waiting for departure.”

“So, then, you agree?” cried he, with a malicious twinkle in his eye that I affected not to understand.

“Yes,” said I, indolently; “I see little against it; and if nothing else, it saves me a leave-taking with Captain Hotham and Cleremont.”

“By the way, you are not to ask to see Madame; your father reminded me to tell you this. The doctors say she is not to be disturbed on any account. What a chance that I did not forget this!”

Whether it was that I was too much concerned for my own misfortunes to have a thought that was not selfish, or that another leave-taking that loomed in the distance was uppermost in my thoughts, certain it is, I felt this privation far less acutely than I might.

“She's a nice little woman, and deserves a better lot than she has met with.”

“What sort of dinner will Delorme give us?” said I, affecting the air of a man about town, but in reality throwing out the bait to lead the talk in that direction.

“First-rate, if we let him; that is, if we only say, 'Order dinner for us, Monsieur Pierre.' There's no man understands such a mandate more thoroughly.”

“Then that's what I shall say,” cried I, “as I cross his threshold.”

“He'll serve you Madeira with your soup, and Stein-berger with your fish, thirty francs a bottle, each of them.”

“Be it so. We shall drink to our pleasant journey,” said I; and I actually thought my voice had caught the tone and cadence of my father's as I spoke.


While I strolled into the garden to select a table for our dinner, Eccles went in search of Mr. Delorme; and though he had affected to say that the important duty of devising the feast should be confided to the host, I could plainly see that my respected tutor accepted his share in that high responsibility.

I will only say of the feast in question, that, though I was daily accustomed to the admirable dinners of my father's table, I had no conception of what exquisite devices in cookery could be produced by the skill of an accomplished restaurateur, left free to his own fancy, and without limitation as to the bill.

One thing alone detracted from the perfect enjoyment of the banquet It was the appearance of Mr. Delorme himself, white-cravated and gloved, carrying in the soup. It was an attention that he usually reserved for great personages, royalties, or high dignitaries of the court; and I was shocked that he should have selected me for the honor, not the less as it was only a few hours before he and I had been drinking champagne with much clinking of glasses together, and interchanging the most affectionate vows of eternal friendship.

I arose from my chair to salute him; but, as he deposited the tureen upon the table, he stepped back and bowed low, and retreated in this fashion, with the same humble reverence at every step, till he was lost in the distance.

“Sit down,” said Eccles, with a peculiar look, as though to warn me that I was forgetting my dignity; and then, to divert my attention, he added, “That green seal is an attention Delorme offers you,—a very rare favor, too,—a bottle of his own peculiar Johannisberg. Let us drink his health. Now, Digby, I call this something very nigh perfection.”

It was a theme my tutor understood thoroughly, and there was not a dish nor a wine that he did not criticise.

“I was always begging your father to take this cook, Digby,” said he, with half sigh. “Even with a first-rate artist you need change, otherwise your dinners become manneristic, as ours have become of late.”

He then went on to show me that the domestic cook, always appealing to the small public of the family, gets narrowed in his views and bounded in his resources. He compared them, I remember, to the writers in certain religious newspapers, who must always go on spicing higher and higher as the palates of their clients grow more jaded. How he worked out his theme afterwards I cannot tell, for I was watching the windows of the house, and stealing glances down the alleys in the garden, longing for one look, ever so fleeting, of my lovely partner of the night before.

“I see, young gentleman,” said he, evidently nettled at my inattention, “your thoughts are not with me.”

“How long have we to stay, sir?” said I, reverting to the respect I tendered him at my lessons.

“You have thirty-eight minutes,” said he, examining his watch: “which I purpose to apportion in this wise,—eight for the douceur, five for the cheese, fifteen for the dessert, five for coffee and a glass of curaçoa. The bill and our parting compliments will take the rest, giving us three minutes to walk across to the station.”

These sort of pedantries were a passion with him, and I did not interpose a word as he spoke.

“What a pineapple!” cried a young fellow from an adjoining table, as a waiter deposited a magnificent pine in the midst of the bouquet that adorned our table.

“Monsieur Delorme begs to say, sir, this has just arrived from Laeken.”

“Don't you know who that is?” said a companion, in a low voice; but my hearing, ever acute, caught the words, “He's that boy of Norcott's.” I started as if I had received a blow. It was time to resent these insolences, and make an end of them forever.

“You heard what that man yonder has called me?” said I to Eccles.

“No; I was not minding him.”

“The old impertinence,—'That boy of Norcott's.'”

I arose, and took the cane I had laid against a chair. What I was about to do I knew not. I felt I should launch some insolent provocation. As for what should follow, the event might decide that.

“I'd not mind him, Digby,” said Eccles, carelessly, as he lit his cigarette, and stretched his legs on a vacant chair. I took no notice of his words, but walked on. Before, however, I had made three steps my eyes caught the flutter of a dress at the end of the alley. It was merely the last folds of some floating muslin, but it was enough to rout all other thoughts from my head, and I flew down the walk with lightning speed. I was right; it was Pauline. In an instant I was beside her.

“Dearest, darling Pauline,” I cried, seizing her round the waist and kissing her cheek, before she well knew, “how happy it makes me to see you even for a few seconds.”

“Ah, milord, I did not expect to see you here,” said she, half distantly.

“I am not milord; I am your own Digby—Digby Nor-cott, who loves you, and will make you his wife.”

“Ma foi! children don't marry,—at least demoiselles don't marry them,” said she, with a saucy laugh.

“I am no more an 'enfant,'” said I, with a passionate stress on the word, “than I was last night, when you never left my arm except to sit at my side at supper.”

“But you are going away,” said she, pouting; “else why that travelling-dress, and that sack strapped at your side?”

“Only for a few weeks. A short tour up the Rhine, Pauline, to see the world, and complete my education; and then I will come back and marry you, and you shall be mistress of a beautiful house, and have everything you can think of.”

“Vrai?” asked she, with a little laugh.

“I swear it by this kiss.”

“Pardie, Monsieur? you are very adventurous,” said she, repulsing me; “you will make me not regret that you are going so soon.”

“Oh, Pauline! when you know that I adore you, that I only value wealth to share it with you; that all I ask of life is to devote it to you.”

“And that you have n't got full thirty seconds left for that admirable object,” broke in Eccles. “We must run for it like fury, boy, or we shall be late.”

“I'll not go.”

“Then I 'll be shot if I stay here and meet your father,” said he, turning away.

“Oh, Pauline, dearest, dearest of my heart!” I sobbed out, as I fell upon her neck; and the vile bell of the railway rang out with its infernal discord as I clasped her to my heart.

“Come along, and confound you,” cried Eccles; and with a porter on one side and Eccles on the other, I was hurried along down the garden, across a road, and along a platform, where the station-master, wild with passion, stamped and swore in a very different mood from that in which he smiled at me across the supper-table the night before.

“We're waiting for that boy of Norcott's, I vow,” said an old fellow with a gray moustache; and I marked him out for future recognition.

Unlike my first journey, where all seemed confusion, trouble, and annoyance, I now saw only pleasant faces, and people bent on enjoyment. We were on the great tourist road of Europe, and it seemed as though every one was bound on some errand of amusement. Eccles, too, was a pleasant contrast to the courier who took charge of me on my first journey. Nothing could be more genial than his manner. He treated me with a perfect equality, and by that greatest of all flatteries to one of my age, induced me to believe that I was actually companionable to himself.

I will not pretend that he was an instructive companion.

He had neither knowledge of history nor feeling for art, and rather amused himself with sneering at both, and quizzing such of our fellow-travellers as the practice was safe with. But he was always gay, always in excellent spirits, ready to make light of the passing annoyances of the road, and, as he said himself, he always carried a quart-bottle of condensed sunshine with him against a rainy day; and, of my own knowledge, I can say his supply seemed inexhaustible.

His cheery manner, his bright good looks, and his invariable good-humor won upon every one, and the sourest and least genial people thawed into some show of warmth under his contagious pleasantry.

He did not care in what direction we went, and would have left it entirely to me to decide, had I been able to determine. All he stipulated for was: “No barbarism, no Oberland or glacier humbug. No Saxon Switzerland abominations. So long as we travel in a crowd, and meet good cookery every day, you 'll find me charming.”

Into this philosophy he inducted me. “Make life pleasant, Digby; never go in search of annoyances. Duns and disagreeables will come of themselves, and it's no bad fun dodging them. It's only a fool ever keeps their company.”

A more shameless immorality might have revolted me, but this peddling sort of wickedness, this half-jesting with right and wrong,—giving to morals the aspect of a game in which a certain kind of address was practicable,—was very seductive to one of my age and temper. I fancied, too, that I was becoming a consummate man of the world, and his praises of my proficiency were unsparingly bestowed.

Attaching ourselves to this or that party of travellers, we would go off here or there, in any direction, for four or five days; and though I usually found myself growing fond of those I became more intimate with, and sorry to part from them, Eccles invariably wearied of the pleasant-est people after a day or two. Incessant change seemed essential to him, and his nature and his spirits flagged when denied it.

What I least liked about him, however, was a habit he had of “trotting” me out—his own name for it—before strangers. My knowledge of languages, my skill at games, my little musical talents, he would parade in a way that I found positively offensive. Nor was this all, for I found he represented me as the son of a man of immense wealth and of a rank commensurate with his fortune.

One must have gone through the ordeal of such a representation to understand its vexations, to know all the impertinences it can evoke from some, all the slavish attentions from others. I feel a hot flush of shame on my cheek now, after long years, as I think of the mortifications I went through, as Eccles would suggest that I should buy some princely chateau that we saw in passing, or some lordly park alongside of which our road was lying.

As to remonstrating with him on this score, or, indeed, on any other, it was utterly hopeless; not to say that it was just as likely he would amuse the first group of travellers we met by a ludicrous version of my attempt to coerce him into good behavior.

One day he pushed my patience beyond all limit, and I grew downright angry with him. I had been indulging in that harmless sort of half-flirtation with a young lady, a fellow-traveller; which, not transgressing the bounds of small attentions, does not even excite remark or rebuke.

“Don't listen to that young gentleman's blandishments,” said he, laughing; “for, young as he looks, he is already engaged. Come, come, don't look as though you'd strike me, Digby, but deny it if you can.”

We were, fortunately for me, coming into a station as he spoke. I sprang out, and travelled third-class the rest of the day to avoid him, and when we met at night, I declared that with one such liberty more I 'd part company with him forever.

The hearty good-humor with which he assured me I should not be offended again almost made me ashamed of my complaint. We shook hands over our reconciliation, and vowed we were better friends than ever.

What it cost him to abandon this habit of exalting me before strangers, how nearly it touched one of the chief pleasures of his life, I was, as I thought, soon to see in the altered tone of his manner. In fact, it totally destroyed the easy flippancy he used to wield, and a facility with strangers that once seemed like a special gift with him. I tried in vain to rally him out of this half depression; but it was clear he was not a man of many resources, and that I had already sapped a principal one.

While we thus journeyed, he said to me one day, “I find, Digby, our money is running short; we must make for Zurich: it is the nearest of the places on our letter of credit.”

I assented, of course, and we bade adieu to a pleasant family with whom we had been travelling, and who were bound for Dresden, assuring them we should meet them on the Elbe.

Eccles had grown of late more and more serious: not alone had his gayety deserted him, but he grew absent and forgetful to an absurd extent; and it was evident some great preoccupation had hold of him. During the entire of the last day before we reached Zurich he scarcely spoke a word, and as I saw that he had received some letters at Schaffhausen, I attributed his gloom to their tidings. As he had not spoken to me of bad news, I felt ashamed to obtrude myself on his confidence and kept silent, and not a word passed between us as we went. He had telegraphed to the banker, a certain Mr. Heinfetter, to order rooms for us at the hotel; and as we alighted at the door, the gentleman himself was there to meet us.

“Herr Eccles?” said he, eagerly, lifting his hat as we descended; and Eccles moved towards him, and, taking his arm, walked away to some distance, leaving me alone and unnoticed. For several minutes they appeared in closest confab, their heads bent close together, and at last I saw Eccles shake himself free from the other's arm, and throw up both his hands in the air with a gesture of wild despair. I began to suspect some disaster had befallen our remittances, that they were lost or suppressed, and that Eccles was overwhelmed by the misfortune. I own I could not participate in the full measure of the misery it seemed to cause him, and I lighted a cigar and sat down on a stone bench to wait patiently his return.

“I believe you are right; it is the best way, after all,” said Ecoles, hurriedly. “You say you'll look after the boy, and I 'll start by the ten o'clock train.”

“Yes, I'll take the boy,” said the other; “but you'll have to look sharp and lose no time. They will be sequestering the moment they hear of it, and I half suspect old Engler will be before you.”

“But my personal effects? I have things of value.”

“Hush, hush! he 'll overhear you. Come, young gentleman,” said he to me,—“come home and sup with me. The hotel is so full, they 've no quarters for you. I 'll try if I can't put you up.”

Eccles stood with his head bent down as we moved away, then lifted his eyes, waved his hand a couple of times, and said, “By-bye.”

“Isn't he coming with us?” asked I.

“Not just yet: he has some business to detain him,” said the banker; and we moved on.


Herb Heinfetter was a bachelor, and lived in a very modest fashion over his banking-house; and as he was employed from morning to night, I saw next to nothing of him. Eccles, he said, had been called away, and though I eagerly asked where, by whom, and for how long, I got no other answer than “He is called away,” in very German English, and with a stolidity of look fully as Teutonic.

The banker was not talkative: he smoked all the evening, and drank beer, and except an occasional monosyllabic comment on its excellence, said little.

“Ach, ja!” he would say, looking at me fixedly, as though assenting to some not exactly satisfactory conclusion his mind had come to about me,—“ach, ja!” And I would have given a good deal at the time to know to what peculiar feature of my fortune or my fate this half-compassionate exclamation extended.

“Is Eccles never coming back?” cried I, one day, as the post came in, and no tidings of him appeared; “is he never coming at all?”

“Never, no more.”

“Not coming back?” cried I.

“No; not come back no more.”

“Then what am I staying here for? Why do I wait for him?”

“Because you have no money to go elsewhere,” said he; and for once he gave way to something he thought was a laugh.

“I don't understand you, Herr Heinfetter,” said I; “our letter of credit, Mr. Eccles told me, was on your house here. Is it exhausted, and must I wait for a remittance?”

“It is exhaust; Mr. Eccles exhaust it.”

“So that I must write for money; is that so?”

“You may write and write, mien lieber, but it won't come.”

Herr Heinfetter drained his tall glass, and, leaning his arms on the table, said: “I will tell you in German, you know it well enough.” And forthwith he began a story, which lost nothing of the pain and misery it caused me by the unsympathizing tone and stolid look of the narrator. For my reader's sake, as for my own, I will condense it into the fewest words I can, and omit all that Herr Heinfetter inserted either as comment or censure. My father had eloped with Madame Cleremont! They had fled to Inn-spruck, from which my father returned to the neighborhood of Belgium, to offer Cleremont a meeting. Cleremont, however, possessed in his hands a reparation he liked better,—my father's check-book, with a number of signed but unfilled checks. These he at once filled up to the last shilling of his credit, and drew out the money, so that my father's first draft on London was returned dishonored. The villa and all its splendid contents were sequestrated, and an action for divorce, with ten thousand pounds laid as damages, already commenced. Of three thousand francs, which our letter assured us at Zurich, Eccles had drawn two thousand: he would have taken all, but Heinfetter, who prudently foresaw I must be got rid of some day, retained one thousand to pay my way. Eccles had gone, promising to return when he had saved his own effects, or what he called his own, from the wreck; but a few lines had come from him to say the smash was complete, the “huissiers” in possession, seals on everything, and “not even the horses watered without a gendarme present in full uniform.”

“Tell Digby, if we travel together again, he 'll not have to complain of my puffing him off for a man of fortune; and, above all, advise him to avoid Brussels in his journey-ings. He 'll find his father's creditors, I 'm afraid, far more attached to him than Mademoiselle Pauline.”

His letter wound up with a complaint over his own blighted prospects, for, of course, his chance of the presentation was now next to hopeless, and he did not know what line of life he might be driven to.

And now, shall I own that, ruined and deserted as I was, overwhelmed with sorrow and shame, there was no part of all the misery I felt more bitterly than the fate of her who had been so kindly affectionate to me,—who had nursed me so tenderly in sickness, and been the charming companion of my happiest hours? At first it seemed incredible. My father's manner to her had ever been coldness itself, and I could only lead myself to believe the story by imagining how the continued cruelty of Cleremont had actually driven the unhappy woman to entreat protection against his barbarity. It was as well I should think so, and it served to soften the grief and assuage the intensity of the sorrow the event caused me. I cried over it two entire days and part of a third; and so engrossed was I with this affliction that not a thought of myself, or of my own destitution, ever crossed me.

“Do you know where my father is?” asked I of the banker.

“Yes,” said he, dryly.

“May I have his address? I wish to write to him.”

“This is what he send for message,” said he, producing a telegram, the address of which he had carefully torn off. “It is of you he speak: 'Do what you like with him except bother me. Let him have whatever money is in your hands to my credit, and let him understand he has no more to expect from Roger Norcott.'”

“May I keep this paper, sir?” asked I, in a humble tone.

“I see no reason against it. Yes,” muttered he. “As to the moneys, Eccles have drawn eighty pound; there is forty remain to you.”

I sat down and covered my face with my hands. It was a habit with me when I wanted to apply myself fully to thought; but Herr Heinfetter suspected that I had given way to grief, and began to cheer me up. I at once undeceived him, and said, “No, I was not crying, sir; I was only thinking what I had best do. If you allow me, I will go up to my room, and think it over by myself. I shall be calmer, even if I hit on nothing profitable.”

I passed twelve hours alone, occasionally dropping off to sleep out of sheer weariness, for my brain worked hard, travelling over a wide space, and taking in every contingency and every accident I could think of. I might go back and seek out my mother; but to what end, if I should only become a dependant on her? No; far better that I should try and obtain some means of earning a livelihood, ever so humble, abroad, than spread the disgrace of my family at home. Perhaps Herr Heinfetter might accept my services in some shape; I could be anything but a servant.

When I told him I wished to earn my bread, he looked doubtingly at me in silence, shaking his head, and muttering, “Nein, niemals, nein,” in every cadence of despair.

“Could you not try me, sir?” pleaded I, earnestly; but his head moved sadly in refusal.

“I will think of it,” he said at last, and he left me.

He was as good as his word; he thought of it for two whole days, and then said that he had a correspondent on the shore of the Adriatic, in a little-visited town, where no news of my father's history was like to reach, and that he would write to him to take me into his counting-house in some capacity: a clerk, or possibly a messenger, till I should prove myself worthy of being advanced to the desk. It would be hard work, however, he said; Herr Oppovich was a Slavic, and they were people who gave themselves few indulgences, and their dependants still fewer.

He went on to tell me that the house of Hodnig and Oppovich had been a wealthy firm formerly, but that Hodnig had over-speculated, and died of a broken heart; that now, after years of patient toil and thrift, Oppovich had restored the credit of the house, and was in good repute in the world of trade. Some time back he had written to Heinfetter to send him a young fellow who knew languages and was willing to work.

“That's all,” he said; “shall I venture to tell him that I recommend you for these?”

“Let me have a trial,” said I, gravely.

“I will write your letter to-night, then, and you shall set out to-morrow for Vienna; thence you'll take the rail to Trieste, and by sea you 'll reach Fiume, where Herr Oppovich lives.”

I thanked him heartily, and went to my room.

On the morning that followed began my new life. I was no longer to be the pampered and spoiled child of fortune, surrounded with every appliance of luxury, and waited on by obsequious servants. I was now to travel modestly, to fare humbly, and to ponder over the smallest outlay, lest it should limit me in some other quarter of greater need. But of all the changes in my condition, none struck me so painfully at first as the loss of consideration from strangers that immediately followed my fallen state. People who had no concern with my well-to-do condition, who could take no possible interest in my prosperity, had been courteous to me hitherto, simply because I was prosperous, and were now become something almost the reverse for no other reason, that I could see, than that I was poor.

Where before I had met willingness to make my acquaintance, and an almost cordial acceptance, I was now to find distance and reserve. Above all, I discovered that there was a general distrust of the poor man, as though he were one more especially exposed to rash influences, and more likely to yield to them.

I got some sharp lessons in these things the first few days of my journey, but I dropped down at last into the third-class train, and found myself at ease. My fellow-travellers were not very polished or very cultivated, but in one respect their good breeding had the superiority over that of finer folk. They never questioned my right to be saving, nor seemed to think the worse of me for being poor.

Herr Heinfetter had counselled me to stay a few days at Vienna, and provide myself with clothes more suitable to my new condition than those I was wearing.

“If old Ignaz Oppovich saw a silk-lined coat, he 'd soon send you about your business,” said he; “and as to that fine watch-chain and its gay trinkets, you have only to appear with it once to get your dismissal.”

It was not easy, with my little experience of life, to see how these things should enter into an estimate of me, or why Herr Ignaz should concern him with other attributes of mine than such as touched my clerkship; but as I was entering on a world where all was new, where not only the people, but their prejudices and their likings, were all strange to me, I resolved to approach them in an honest spirit, and with a desire to conform to them as well as I was able.

Lest the name Norcott appearing in the newspapers in my father's case should connect me with his story, Hein-fetter advised me to call myself after my mother's family, which sounded, besides, less highly born; and I had my passport made out in the name of Digby Owen.

“Mind, lad,” said the banker, as he parted with me, “give yourself no airs with Ignaz Oppovich; do not turn up your nose at his homely fare, or handle his coarse napkin as if it hurt your skin, as I have seen you do here. From his door to destitution there is only a step, and bethink yourself twice before you take it. I have done all I mean to do by you, more than I shall ever be paid for. And now, goodbye.”

This sort of language grated very harshly on my ears at first; but I had resolved to bear my lot courageously, and conform, where I could, to the tone of those I had come down to.

I thanked him, then, respectfully and calmly, for his hospitality to me, and went my way.


“I saw a young fellow, so like that boy of Norcott's in a third-class carriage,” I overheard a traveller say to his companion, as we stopped to sup at Gratz.

“He 'll have scarcely come to that, I fancy,” said the other, “though Norcott must have run through nearly everything by this time.”

It was about the last time I was to hear myself called in this fashion. They who were to know me thenceforward were to know me by another name, and in a rank that had no traditions; and I own I accepted this humble fortune with a more contented spirit and with less chagrin than it cost me to hear myself spoken of in this half-contemptuous fashion.

I was now very plainly, simply dressed. I made no display of studs or watch-chain; I even gave up the ring I used to wear, and took care that my gloves—in which I once was almost puppyish—should be the commonest and the cheapest.

If there was something that at moments fell very heavily on my heart in the utter destitution of my lot, there was, on the other hand, what nerved my heart and stimulated me in the thought that there was some heroism in what I was doing. I was, so to say, about to seek my fortune; and what to a young mind could be more full of interest and anticipation than such a thought? To be entirely self-dependent; to be thrown into situations of difficulty, with nothing but one's own resources to rely on; to be obliged to trust to one's head for counsel, and one's heart for courage; to see oneself, as it were, alone against the world,—is intensely exciting.

In the days of romance there were personal perils to confront, and appalling dangers to be surmounted; but now it was a game of life, to be played, not merely with a stout heart and a ready hand, but with a cool head and a steady eye. Young as I was, I had seen a great deal. In that strange comedy of which my father's guests were the performers, there was great insight into character to be gained, and a marvellous knowledge of that skill by which they who live by their wits cultivate these same wits to live.

If I was not totally corrupted by the habits and ways of that life, I owe it wholly to those teachings of my dear mother which, through all the turmoil and confusion of this ill-regulated existence, still held a place in my heart, and led me again and again to ask myself how she would think of this, or what judgment she would pass on that; and even in this remnant of a conscience there was some safety. I tried to persuade myself that it was well for me that all this was now over, and that an honest existence was now about to open to me,—an existence in which my good mother's lessons would avail me more, stimulate me to the right and save me from the wrong, and give to the humblest cares of daily labor a halo that had never shone on my life of splendor.

It was late at night when I reached Trieste, and I left it at daybreak. The small steamer in which I had taken my passage followed the coast line, calling at even the most insignificant little towns and villages, and winding its track through that myriad of islands which lie scattered along this strange shore. The quiet, old-world look of these quaint towns, the simple articles they dealt in, the strange dress, and the stranger sounds of the language of these people, all told me into what a new life I had just set foot, and how essential it was to leave all my former habits behind me as I entered here.

The sun had just gone below the sea, as we rounded the great promontory of the north and entered the bay of Fiume. Scarcely had we passed in than the channel seemed to close behind us, and we were moving along over what looked like a magnificent lake bounded on every side by lofty mountains,—for the islands of the bay are so placed that they conceal the openings to the Adriatic. If the base of the great mountains was steeped in a blue, deep and mellow as the sea itself, their summits glowed in the carbuncle tints of the setting sun, and over these again long lines of cloud, golden and azure streaks marked the sky, almost on fire, as it were, with the last parting salute of the glorious orb that was setting. It was not merely that I had never seen, but I could not have imagined such beauty of landscape, and as we swept quietly along nearer the shore, and I could mark the villas shrouded in the deep woods of chestnut and oak, and saw the olive and the cactus, with the orange and the oleander, bending their leafy branches over the blue water, I thought to myself, would not a life there be nearer Paradise than anything wealth and fortune could buy elsewhere?

“There, yonder,” said the captain, pointing to the ornamented chimneys of a house surrounded by a deep oak-wood, and the terrace of which overhung the sea, “that's the villa of old Ignaz Oppovich. They say the Emperor tempted him with half a million of florins to sell it, but, miser as he was and is, the old fellow refused it.”

“Is that Oppovich of the firm of Hodnig and Oppovich?” asked I.

“Yes; the house is all Oppovich's now, and half Fiume too, I believe.”

“There are worse fellows than old Ignaz,” said another, gravely. “I wonder what would become of the hospital, or the poor-house, or the asylum for the orphans here, but for him.”

“He 's a Jew,” said another, spitting out with contempt.

“A Jew that could teach many a Christian the virtues of his own faith,” cried the former. “A Jew that never refused an alms to the poor, no matter of what belief, and that never spoke ill of his neighbor.”

“I never heard as much good of him before, and I have been a member of the town council with him these thirty years.”

The other touched his hat respectfully in recognition of the speaker's rank, and said no more.

I took my little portmanteau in my hand as we landed, and made for a small hotel which faced the sea. I had determined not to present myself to the Herr Oppovich till morning, and to take that evening to see the town and its-neighborhood.

As I strolled about, gazing with a stranger's curiosity at all that was new and odd to me in this quiet spot, I felt coming over me that deep depression which almost invariably falls upon him who, alone and friendless, makes first acquaintance with the scene wherein he is to live. How hard it is for him to believe that the objects he sees can ever become of interest to him; how impossible it seems that he will live to look on this as home; that he will walk that narrow street as a familiar spot; giving back the kindly greetings that he gets, and feeling that strange, mysterious sense of brotherhood that grows out of daily intercourse with the same people!

I was curious to see where the Herr Oppovich lived, and found the place after some search. The public garden of the town, a prettily planted spot, lies between two mountain streams, flanked by tall mountains, and is rather shunned by the inhabitants from its suspicion of damp. Through this deserted spot—for I saw not one being as I went—I passed on to a dark copse at the extreme end, and beyond which a small wooden bridge led over to a garden wildly overgrown with evergreens and shrubs, and so neglected that it was not easy at first to select the right path amongst the many that led through the tangled brushwood. Following one of these, I came out on a little lawn in front of a long low house of two stories. The roof was high-pitched, and the windows narrow and defended by strong iron shutters, which lay open on the outside wall, displaying many a bolt and bar, indicative of strength and resistance. No smoke issued from a chimney, not a sound broke the stillness, nor was there a trace of any living thing around,—desolation like it I had never seen. At last, a mean, half-starved dog crept coweringly across the lawn, and, drawing nigh the door, stood and whined plaintively. After a brief pause the door opened, the animal stole in; the door then closed with a bang, and all was still as before. I turned back towards the town with a heavy heart; a gloomy dread of those I was to be associated with on the morrow was over me, and I went to the inn and locked myself into my room, and fell upon my bed with a sense of desolation that found vent at last in a torrent of tears.

As I look back on the night that followed, it seems to me one of the saddest passages of my life. If I fell asleep, it was to dream of the past, with all its exciting pleasures and delights, and then, awaking suddenly, I found myself in this wretched, poverty-stricken room, where every object spoke of misery, and recalled me to the thought of a condition as ignoble and as lowly.

I remember well how I longed for day-dawn, that I might get up and wander along the shore, and taste the fresh breeze, and hear the plash of the sea, and seek in that greater, wider, and more beautiful world of nature a peace that my own despairing thoughts would not suffer me to enjoy. And, at the first gleam of light, I did steal down, and issue forth, to walk for hours along the bay in a sort of enchantment from the beauty of the scene, that filled me at last with a sense of almost happiness. I thought of Pauline, too, and wondered would she partake of the delight this lovely spot imparted to me? Would she see these leafy woods, that bold mountain, that crystal sea, with its glittering sands many a fathom deep, as I saw them? And if so, what a stimulus to labor and grow rich was in the thought.

In pleasant reveries, that dashed the future with much that had delighted me in the past, the hours rolled on till it was time to present myself at Herr Oppovich's. Armed with my letter of introduction, I soon found myself at the door of a large warehouse, over which his name stood in big letters. A narrow wooden stair ascended steeply from the entrance to a long low room, in which fully twenty clerks were busily engaged at their desks. At the end of this, in a smaller room, I was told Herr Ignaz—for he was always so called—held his private office.

Before I was well conscious of it, I was standing in this room before a short, thick-set old man, with heavy eyebrows and beard, and whose long coat of coarse cloth reached to his feet.

He sat and examined me as he read the note, pausing at times in the reading as if to compare me with the indications before him.

“Digby Owen,—is that the name?” asked he.

“Yes, sir.”

“Native of Ireland, and never before employed in commercial pursuits?”

I nodded to this interrogatory.

“Ikam not in love with Ireland, nor do I feel a great liking for ignorance, Herr Owen,” said he, slowly; and there was a deep impressiveness in his tone, though the words came with the thick accentuation of the Jew. “My old friend and correspondent should have remembered these prejudices of mine. Herr Jacob Heinfetter should not have sent you here.”

I knew not what reply to make to this, and was silent

“He should not have sent you here;” and he repeated the words with increased solemnity. “What do you want me to do with you?” said he, sharply, after a brief pause.

“Anything that will serve to let me earn my bread,” said I, calmly.

“But I can get scores like you, young man, for the wages we give servants here; and would you be content with that?”

“I must take what you are pleased to give me.”

He rang a little bell beside him, and cried out, “Send Harasch here.” And, at the word, a short, beetle-browed, ill-favored young fellow appeared at the door, pen in hand.

“Bring me your ledger,” said the old man. “Look here now,” said he to me, as he turned over the beautifully clean and neatly kept volume: “this is the work of one who earns six hundred florins a year. You began with four, Harasch?”

“Three hundred, Herr Ignaz,” said the lad, bowing.

“Can you live and wear such clothes as these,” said the old man, touching my tweed coat, “for three hundred florins a year,—paper florins, mind, which in your money would make about twenty-five pounds?”

“I will do my best with it,” said I, determined he should not deter me by mere words.

“Take him with you, Harasch; let him copy into the waste-book. We shall see in a few days what he's fit for.”

At a sign from the youth I followed him out, and soon found myself in the outer room, where a considerable number of the younger clerks were waiting to acknowledge me.

Nothing could well be less like the manners and habits I was used to than the coarse familiarity and easy impertinence of these young fellows. They questioned me about my birth, my education, my means, what circumstance had driven me to my present step, and why none of my friends had done anything to save me from it Not content with a number of very searching inquiries, they began to assure me that Herr Ignaz would not put up with my incapacity for a week. “He 'll send you into the yard,” cried one; and the sentence was chorused at once. “Ja! ja! he'll be sent into the yard.” And though I was dying to know what that might mean, my pride restrained my curiosity, and I would not condescend to ask.

“Won't he be fine in the yard!” I heard one whisper to another, and they both began laughing at the conceit; and I now sat down on a bench and lost myself in thought.

“Come; we are going to dinner, Englander,” said Harasch to me at last; and I arose and followed him.


I was soon to learn what being “sent into the yard” meant. Within a week that destiny was mine. Being so sent was the phrase for being charged to count the staves as they arrived in wagon-loads from Hungary,—oaken staves being the chief “industry” of Fiume, and the principal source of Herr Oppovich's fortune.

My companion, and, indeed, my instructor in this intellectual employment, was a strange-looking, dwarfish creature, who, whatever the season, wore a suit of dark yellow leather, the jerkin being fastened round the waist by a broad belt with a heavy brass buckle. He had been in the yard three-and-forty years, and though his assistants had been uniformly promoted to the office, he had met no advancement in life, but was still in the same walk and the same grade in which he had started.

Hans Sponer was, however, a philosopher, and went on his road uncomplainingly. He said that the open air and the freedom were better than the closeness and confinement within-doors, and if his pay was smaller, his healthier appetite made him able to relish plainer food; and this mode of reconciling things—striking the balance between good and ill—went through all he said or did, and his favorite phrase, “Es ist fast einerley,” or “It comes to about the same,” comprised his whole system of worldly knowledge.

If at first I felt the occupation assigned to me as an insult and a degradation, Hanserl's companionship soon reconciled me to submit to it with patience. It was not merely that he displayed an invariable good-humor and pleasantry, but there was a forbearance about him, and a delicacy in his dealing with me, actually gentlemanlike. Thus, he never questioned me as to my former condition, nor asked by what accident I had fallen to my present lot; and, while showing in many ways that he saw I was unused to hardship, he rather treated my inexperience as a mere fortuitous circumstance than as a thing to comment or dwell on. Han-serl, besides this, taught me how to live on my humble pay of a florin and ten kreutzers—about two shillings—daily. I had a small room that led out into the yard, and could consequently devote my modest salary to my maintenance. The straitened economy of Hans himself had enabled him to lay by about eight hundred florins, and he strongly advised me to arrange my mode of life on a plan that would admit of such a prudent saving.

Less for this purpose than to give my friend a strong proof of the full confidence I reposed in his judgment and his honor, I confided to his care all my earnings, and only begged he would provide for me as for himself; and thus Hans and I became inseparable. We took our coffee together at daybreak, our little soup and boiled beef at noon, and our potato-salad, with perhaps a sardine or such like, at night for supper; the “Viertelwein”—the fourth of a bottle—being equitably divided between us to cheer our hearts and cement good-fellowship on certainly as acrid a liquor as ever served two such excellent ends.

None of the clerks would condescend to know us. Herr Fripper, the cashier, would nod to us in the street, but the younger men never recognized us at all, save in some expansive moment of freedom by a wink or a jerk of the head. We were in a most subordinate condition, and they made us feel it.

From Hans I learned that Herr Oppovich was a widower with two children, a son and a daughter. The former was an irreclaimable scamp and vagabond, whose debts had been paid over and over again, and who had been turned out of the army with disgrace, and was now wandering about Europe, living on his father's friends, and trading for small loans on his family name. This was Adolph Oppovich. The girl—Sara she was called—was, in Hanserl's judgment, not much more to be liked than her brother. She was proud and insolent to a degree that would have been remarkable in a princess of a reigning house. From the clerks she exacted a homage that was positively absurd. It was not alone that they should always stand uncovered as she passed, but that if any had occasion to address her he should prelude what he had to say by kissing her hand, an act of vassalage that in Austria is limited to persons of the humblest kind.

“She regards me as a wild beast, and I am therefore spared this piece of servitude,” said Hans; and he laughed his noiseless uncouth laugh as he thought of his immunity.

“Is she handsome?” asked I.

“How can she be handsome when she is so overbearing?” said he. “Is not beauty gentleness, mildness, softness? How can it agree with eyes that flash disdain, and a mouth that seems to curl with insolence? The old proverb says, 'Schönheit ist Sanftheit;' and that's why Our Lady is always so lovely.”

Hanserl was a devout Catholic; and not impossibly this sentiment made his judgment of the young Jewess all the more severe. Of Herr Oppovich himself he would say little. Perhaps he deemed it was not loyal to discuss him whose bread he ate; perhaps he had not sufficient experience of me to trust me with his opinion; at all events, he went no further than an admission that he was wise and keen in business,—one who made few mistakes himself, nor forgave them easily in another.

“Never do more than he tells you to do, younker,” said Hans to me one day; “and he 'll trust you, if you do that well.” And this was not the least valuable hint he gave me.

Hans had a great deal of small worldly wisdom, the fruit rather of a long experience than of any remarkable gift of observation. As he said himself, it took him four years to learn the business of the yard; and as I acquired the knowledge in about a week, he regarded me as a perfect genius.

We soon became fast and firm friends. The way in which I had surrendered myself to his guidance—giving him up the management of my money, and actually submitting to his authority as though I were his son—had won upon the old man immensely; while I, on my side,—friendless and companionless, save with himself,—drew close to the only one who seemed to take an interest in me. At first,—I must own it,—as we wended our way at noon towards the little eating-house where we dined, and I saw the friends with whom Hans exchanged greetings, and felt the class and condition he belonged to reflected in the coarse looks and coarser ways of his associates, I was ashamed to think to what I had fallen. I had, indeed, no respect nor any liking for the young fellows of the counting-house. They were intensely, offensively vulgar; but they had the outward semblance, the dress, and the gait of their betters, and they were privileged by appearance to stroll into a café and sit down, from which I and my companion would speedily have been ejected. I confess I envied them that mere right of admission into the well-dressed world, and sorrowed over my own exclusion as though it had been inflicted on me as a punishment.

This jealous feeling met no encouragement from Hans. The old man had no rancour of any kind in his nature. He had no sense of discontent with his condition, nor any desire to change it. Counting staves seemed to him a very fitting way to occupy existence; and he knew of many occupations that were less pleasant and less wholesome. Rags, for instance, for the paper-mill, or hides, in both of which Herr Ignaz dealt, Hans would have seriously disliked; but staves were cleanly, and smelt fresh and sweetly of the oak-wood they came from; and there was something noble in their destiny—to form casks and hogsheads for the rich wines of France and Spain—which he was fond of recalling; and so would he say, “Without you and me, boy, or those like us, they 'd have no vats nor barrels for the red grape-juice.”

While he thus talked to me, trying to invest our humble calling with what might elevate it in my eyes, I struggled often with myself whether I should not tell him the story of my life,—in what rank I had lived, to what hopes of fortune I had been reared. Would this knowledge have raised me in the old man's esteem, or would it have estranged him from me? that was the question. How should I come through the ordeal of his judgment,—higher or lower? A mere chance decided for me what all my pondering could not resolve. Hans came home one night with a little book in his hand, a present for me. It was a French grammar, and, as he told me, the key to all knowledge.

“The French are the great people of the world,” said he, “and till you know their tongue, you can have no real insight into learning.” There was a “younker,” once under him in the yard, who, just because he could read and write French, was now a cashier, with six hundred florins' salary. “When you have worked hard for three months, we 'll look out for a master, Owen.”

“But I know it already, Hanserl,” said I, proudly. “I speak it even better than I speak German, and Italian too! Ay, stare at me, but it's true. I had masters for these, and for Greek and Latin; and I was taught to draw, and to sing, and to play the piano, and I learned how to ride and to dance.”

“Just like a born gentleman,” broke in Hans.

“I was, and I am, a born gentleman; don't shake your head, or wring your hands, Hanserl. I 'm not going mad! These are not ravings! I 'll soon convince you what I say is true.” And I hurried to my room, and, opening my trunk, took out my watch and some trinkets, some studs of value, and a costly chain my father gave me. “These are all mine! I used to wear them once, as commonly as I now wear these bone buttons. There were more servants in my father's house than there are clerks in Herr Oppovich's counting-house. Let me tell you who I was, and how I came to be what I am.”

I told him my whole story, the old man listening with an eagerness quite intense, but never more deeply interested than when I told of the splendors and magnificence of my father's house. He never wearied hearing of costly entertainments and great banqueta, where troops of servants waited, and every wish of the guests was at once ministered to.

“And all this,” cried he, at last, “all this, day after day, night after night, and not once a year only, as we see it here, on the Fraulein Sara's birthday!” And now the poor old man, as if to compensate himself for listening so long, broke out into a description of the festivities by which Herr Oppovich celebrated his daughter's birthday; an occasion on which he invited all in his employment to pass the day at his villa, on the side of the bay, and when, by Hanserl's account, a most unbounded hospitality held sway. “There are no portions, no measured quantities, but each is free to eat and drink as he likes,” cried Hans, who, with this praise, described a banquet of millennial magnificence. “But you will see for yourself,” added he; “for even the 'yard' is invited.”

I cautioned him strictly not to divulge what I had told him of myself; nor was it necessary, after all, for he well knew how Herr Ignaz resented the thought of any one in his service having other pretensions than such as grew out of his own favor towards them.

“You'd be sent away to-morrow, younker,” said he, “if he but knew what
you were. There's an old proverb shows how they think of people of

'Die Joden nicht dulden
Ben Herrechaft mit Schulden.'

The Jews cannot abide the great folk, with their indebtedness; and to deem these inseparable is a creed.

“On the 31st of August falls the Fraulein's birthday, lad, and you shall tell me the next morning if your father gave a grander fête than that!”


The 31st of August dawned at last, and with the promise of a lovely autumnal day. It was the one holiday of the year at Herr Oppovich's: for Sunday was only externally observed in deference to the feelings of the Christian world, and clerks sat at their desks inside, and within the barred shutters the whole work of life went on as though a week-day. As for us in the yard, it was our day of most rigorous discipline; for Iguaz himself was wont to come down on a tour of inspection, and his quick glances were sure to detect at once the slightest irregularity or neglect. He seldom noticed me on these occasions. A word addressed to Hanserl as to how the “younker” was doing, would be all the recognition vouchsafed me, or, at most, a short nod of the head would convey that he had seen me. Hanserl's reports were, however, always favorable; and I had so far good reason to believe that my master was content with me.

From Hans, who had talked of nothing but this fête for three or four weeks, I had learned that a beautiful villa which Herr Ignaz owned on the west side of the bay was always opened. It was considered much too grand a place to live in, being of princely proportions and splendidly furnished; indeed, it had come into Herr Oppovich's possession on a mortgage, and the thought of using it as a residence never occurred to him. To have kept the grounds alone in order would have cost a moderate fortune; and as there was no natural supply of water on the spot, a steam-pump was kept in constant use to direct streams in different directions. This, which its former owner freely paid for, was an outlay that Herr Oppovich regarded as most wasteful, and reduced at once to the very narrowest limits consistent with the life of the plants and shrubs around. The ornamental fountains were, of course, left unfed; jets-d'eau ceased to play; and the various tanks in which water-nymphs of white marble disported, were dried up; ivy and the wild vine draping the statues, and hiding the sculptured urns in leafy embrace.

Of the rare plants and flowers, hundreds, of course, died; indeed, none but those of hardy nature could survive this stinted aliment. Greenhouses and conservatories, too, fell into disrepair and neglect; but such was the marvellous wealth of vegetation that, fast as walls would crumble and architraves give way, foliage and blossom would spread over the rain, and the rare plants within, mingling with the stronger vegetation without, would form a tangled mass of leafy beauty of surpassing loveliness; and thus the rarest orchids were seen stretching their delicate tendrils over forest-trees, and the cactus and the mimosa mingled with common field-flowers. If I linger amongst these things, it is because they contrasted so strikingly to me with the trim propriety and fastidious neatness of the Malibran Villa, where no leaf littered a walk, nor a single tarnished blossom was suffered to remain on its stalk. Yet was the Abazzia Villa a thousand times more beautiful. In the one, the uppermost thought was the endless care and skill of the gardeners, and the wealth that had provided them. The clink of gold seemed to rise from the crushed gravel as you walked; the fountains glittered with gold; the conservatories exhaled it. Here, however, it seemed as though Nature, rich in her own unbounded resources, was showing how little she needed of man or his appliances. It was the very exuberance of growth on every side; and all this backed by a bold mountain lofty as an Alp, and washed by a sea in front, and that sea the blue Adriatic.

I had often heard of the thrift and parsimony of Herr Oppovich's household. Even in the humble eating-house I frequented, sneers at its economies were frequent. No trace of such a saving spirit displayed itself on this occasion. Not merely were guests largely and freely invited, but carriages were stationed at appointed spots to convey them to the villa, and a number of boats awaited at the mole for those who preferred to go by water. This latter mode of conveyance was adopted by the clerks and officials of the house, as savoring less of pretension; and so was it that just as the morning was ripening into warmth, I found myself one of a large company in a wide eight-oared boat, calmly skimming along towards Abazzia. By some accident I got separated from Hanserl; and when I waved my hand to him to join me, he delayed to return my salutation, for, as he said afterwards, I was gar schon,—quite fine,—and he did not recognize me.

It was true I had dressed myself in the velvet jacket and vest I had worn on the night of our own fête, and wore my velvet cap, without, however, the heron feather, any more than I put on any of my trinkets, or even my watch.

This studied simplicity on my part was not rewarded as I hoped for; since, scarcely were we under way, than my dress and “get-up” became the subject of an animated debate among my companions, who discussed me with a freedom and a candor that showed they regarded me simply as a sort of lay figure for the display of so much drapery.

“That's how they dress in the yard,” cried one; “and we who have three times the pay, can scarcely afford broadcloth. Will any one explain that to me?”

“There must be rare perquisites down there,” chimed in another; “for they say that the old dwarf Hanserl has laid by two thousand gulden.”

“They tell me five thousand,” said another.

“Two or twenty-two would make no difference. No fellow on his pay could honestly do more than keep life in his body, not to speak of wearing velvet like the younker there.”

A short digression now intervened, one of the party having suggested that in England velvet was the cheapest wear known, that all the laborers on canals and railroads wore it from economy, and that, in fact, it was the badge of a very humble condition. The assertion encountered some disbelief, and it was ultimately suggested to refer the matter to me for decision, this being the first evidence they had given of their recognition of me as a sentient being.

“What would he know?” broke in an elderly clerk; “he must have come away from England a mere child, seeing how he speaks German now.”

“Or if he did know, is it likely he'd tell?” observed another.

“At all events, let us ask him what it costs. I say, Knabe, come here and let us see your fine clothes; we are all proud of having so grand a colleague.”

“You might show your pride, then, more suitably than by insulting him,” said I, with perfect calm.

Had I discharged a loaded pistol in the midst of them, the dismay and astonishment could not have been greater.

That any one “aus dem Hof”—“out of the yard”—should presume to think he had feelings that could be outraged, seemed a degree of arrogance beyond belief, and my word “insult” was repeated from mouth to mouth with amazement.

“Come here, Knabe,” said the cashier, in a voice of blended gentleness and command,— “come here, and let us talk to you.”

I arose and made my way from the bow to the stern of the boat. Short as the distance was, it gave me time to bethink me that I must repress all anger or irritation if I desired to keep my secret; so that when I reached my place, my mind was made up.

“Silk-velvet as I live!” said one who passed his hand along my sleeve as I went.

“No one wishes to offend you, youngster,” said the cashier to me, as he placed me beside him; “nor when we talk freely to each other, as is our wont, are any of us offended.”

“But you forget, sir,” said I, “that I have no share in these freedoms, and that were I to attempt them, you'd resent the liberty pretty soon.”

“The Knabe is right,” “He says what's true,” “He speaks sensibly,” were muttered all around.

“You have been well educated, I suspect?” said the cashier, in a gentle voice; and now the thought that by a word—a mere word—I might compromise myself beyond recall flashed across me, and I answered, “I have learned some things.”

“One of which was caution,” broke in another; and a roar of laughter welcomed his joke.

Many a severer sarcasm would not have cut so deeply into me. The imputation of a reserve based on cunning was too much for my temper, and in a moment I forgot all prudence, And hotly said, “If I am such an object of interest to you, gentlemen, that you must know even the details of my education, the only way I see to satisfy this curiosity of yours is to say that, if you will question me as to what I know And what I do not, I will do my best to answer you.”

“That's a challenge,” cried one; “he thinks we are too illiterate to examine him.”

“We see that you speak German fluently,” said the cashier; “do you know French?”

I nodded assent

“And Italian and English?”

“Yes; English is my native language.”

“What about Greek and Latin, boy?”

“Very little Greek; some half-dozen Latin authors.”

“Any Hebrew?” chimed in one, with a smile of half mockery.

“Not a syllable.”

“That's a pity, for you could have chatted with Herr Ignaz in it.”

“Or the Fraulein,” muttered another. “She knows no Hebrew,” “She does; she reads it well,” “Nothing of the kind,” were quickly spoken from many quarters; and a very hot discussion ensued, in which the Fraulein Sara's accomplishments and acquirements took the place of mine in public interest.

While the debate went on with no small warmth on either side,—for it involved a personal question that stimulated each of the combatants; namely, the amount of intimacy they enjoyed in the family and household of their master: a point on which they seemed to feel the most acute sensibility,—while this, therefore, continued, the cashier patted me good-humoredly on the arm, and asked me how I liked Fiume; if I had made any pleasant acquaintances; and how I usually passed my evenings? And while thus chatting pleasantly, we glided into the little bay of the villa, and landed.

As boat after boat came alongside the jetty, numbers rushed down to meet and welcome their friends. All seemed half wild with delight; and the adventures they had had on the road, the loveliness of the villa, and the courtesy they had been met with, resounded on every side. All had friends, eager to talk or to listen,—all but myself. I alone had no companionship; for in the crowd and confusion I could not find Hanserl, and to ask after him was but to risk the danger of an impertinence.

I sat myself down on a rustic bench at last, thinking that if I remained fixed in one spot I might have the best chance to discover him. And now I could mark the strange company, which, of every age, and almost of every condition, appeared to be present. If the marked features of the Hebrew abounded, there were types of the race that I had never seen before: fair-haired and olive-eyed, with a certain softness of expression, united with great decision about the mouth and chin. The red Jew, too, was there: the fierce-eyed, dark-browed, hollow-cheeked fellow, of piercing acute-ness in expression, and an almost reckless look of purpose about him. There was greed, craft, determination, at times even violence, to be read in the faces; but never weakness, never imbecility; and so striking was this that the Christian physiognomy seemed actually vulgar when contrasted with those faces so full of vigorous meaning and concentration.

Nothing could be less like my father's guests than these people. It was not in dress and demeanor and general carriage that they differed,—in their gestures as they met, in their briefest greetings,—but the whole character of their habite, as expressed by their faces, seemed so unlike that I could not imagine any clew to their several ranks, and how this one was higher or greater than that. All the nationalities of Eastern Europe were there,—Hungarian, Styrian, Dalmatian, and Albanian. Traders all: this one bond of traffic and gain blending into a sort of family races and creeds the most discordant, and types whose forefathers had been warring with each other for centuries. Plenty of coarseness there was, unculture and roughness everywhere; but, strangely enough, little vulgarity and no weakness, no deficient energy anywhere. They were the warriors of commerce; and they brought to the battle of trade resolution and boldness and persistence and daring not a whit inferior to what their ancestors had carried into personal conflict.


If, seated on my rustic bench under a spreading ilex, I was not joining in the pleasures and amusements of those around me, I was tasting an amount of enjoyment to the full as great It was my first holiday after many months of monotonous labor. It was the first moment in which I felt myself free to look about me without the irksome thought of a teasing duty,—that everlasting song of score and tally, which Hans and I sang duet fashion, and which at last seemed to enter into my very veins and circulate with my blood.

The scene itself was of rare beauty. Seated as I was, the bay appeared a vast lake, for the outlet that led seaward was backed by an island, and thus the coast-line seemed unbroken throughout. Over this wide expanse now hundreds of fishing-boats were moving in every direction, for the wind was blowing fresh from the land, and permitted them to tack and beat as they pleased. If thus in the crisply curling waves, the flitting boats, and the fast-flying clouds above, there was motion and life, there was, in the high peaked-mountain that frowned above me, and in the dark rocks that lined the shore, a stern, impassive grandeur that became all the more striking from contrast. The plashing water, the fishermen's cries, the merry laughter of the revellers as they strayed through brake and copse, seemed all but whispering sounds in that vast amphitheatre of mountain, so solemn was the influence of those towering crags that rose towards heaven.

“Have you been sitting there ever since?” asked the cashier, as he passed me with a string of friends.

“Ever since.”

“Not had any breakfast?”


“Nor paid your compliments to Herr Ignaz and the Fraulein?”

I shook my bead in dissent.

“Worst of all,” said he, half rebukingly, and passed on. I now bethought me how remiss I had been. It is true it was through a sense of my own insignificant station that I had not presented myself to my host; but I ought to have remembered that this excuse could have no force outside the limits of my own heart; and so, as I despaired of finding Hanserl, whose advice might have aided me, I set out at once to make my respects.

A long, straight avenue, flanked by tall lime-trees, led from the sea to the house; and as I passed up this, crowded now like the chief promenade of a city, I heard many comments as I went on my dress and appearance. “What have we here?” said one. “Is this a prince or a mountebank?” “What boy, with a much-braid-bedizened velvet coat is this?” muttered an old German, as he pointed at me with his pipe-stick..

One pronounced me a fencing-master; but public reprobation found its limit at last by calling me a Frenchman. Shall I own that I heard all these with something much more akin to pride than to shame? The mere fact that they recognized me as unlike one of themselves—that they saw in me what was not “Fiumano “—was in itself a flattery; and as to the depreciation, it was pure ignorance! I am afraid that I even showed how defiantly I took this criticism,—showed it in my look, and showed it in my gait; for as I ascended the steps to the terrace of the villa, I heard more than one comment on my pretentious demeanor. Perhaps some rumor of the approach of a distinguished guest had reached Herr Oppovich where he sat, at a table with some of the magnates of Fiume, for be hastily arose and came forward to meet me. Just as I gained the last terrace, the old man stood bareheaded and bowing before me, a semicircle of wondering guests at either side of him.

“Whom have I the distinguished honor to receive?” said Herr Ignaz, with a profound show of deference.

“Don't you know me, sir? Owen,—Digby Owen.”

“What!—how?—Eh—in heaven's name—sure it can't be! Why, I protest it is,” cried he, laying his hand on my shoulder, as if to test my reality. “This passes all belief. Who ever saw the like! Come here, Knabe, come here.” And slipping his hand within my arm, he led me towards the table he had just quitted. “Sara,” cried he, “here is a guest you have not noticed; a high and wellborn stranger, who claims all your attention. Let him have the place of honor at your side. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Herr Digby Owen, the stave-counter of my timber-yard!” And he burst, with this, into a roar of laughter, that, long pent up by an effort, now seemed to threaten him with a fit Nor was the company slow in chorusing him; round after round shook the table, and it seemed as if the joke could never be exhausted.

All this time I stood with my eyes fixed on the Fraulein, whose glance was directed as steadfastly on me. It was a haughty look she bent on me, but it became her well, and I forgave all the scorn it conveyed in the pleasure her beauty gave me. My face, which at first was in a flame, became suddenly cold, and a faintish sickness was creeping over me, so that, to steady myself, I had to lay my hand on a chair. “Won't you sit down?” said she, in a voice fully as much command as invitation. She pointed to a chair a little distance from her own, and I obeyed.

The company appeared now somewhat ashamed of its rude display of merriment, and seeing how quietly and calmly I bore myself,—unresentingly too,—there seemed something like a reaction in my favor. Foreigners, it must be said, are generally sorry when betrayed into any exhibition of ill-breeding, and hastily seek to make amends for it Perhaps Herr Oppovich himself was the least ready in this movement, for he continued to look on me with a strange blending of displeasure and amusement.

The business of breakfast was now resumed, and the servants passed round with the dishes, helping me amongst the rest. While I was eating, I heard—what, of course, was not meant for my ears—an explanation given by one of the company of my singular appearance. He had lived in England, and said that the English of every condition had a passion for appearing to belong to some rank above their own; that to accomplish this there was no sacrifice they would not make, for these assumptions imposed upon those who made them fully as much as on the public they were made for. “You 'll see,” added he, “that the youth there, so long as he figures in that fine dress, will act up to it, so far as he knows how. He talked with a degree of assurance and fluency that gained conviction, and I saw that his hearers went along with him, and there soon began—very cautiously and very guardedly, indeed—a sort of examination of me and my pretensions, for which, fortunately for me, I was so far prepared.

“And do all English boys of your rank in life speak and read four languages?” asked Herr Ignaz, after listening some time to my answers.

“You are assuming to know his rank, papa,” whispered Sara, who watched me closely during the whole interrogatory.

“Let him answer my question,” rejoined the old man, roughly.

“Perhaps not all,” said I, half amused at the puzzle I was becoming to them.

“Then how came it your fortune to know them,—that is, if you do know them?”

Slipping out of his question, I replied, “Nothing can be easier than to test that point. There are gentlemen here whose acquirements go far beyond mine.”

“Your German is very good,” said Sara. “Let me hear you speak French.”

“It is too much honor for me,” said I, bowing, “to address you at all.”

“Is your Italian as neat in accent as that?” asked a lady near.

“I believe I am best in Italian,—of course, after English,—for I always talked it with my music-master, as well as with my teacher.”

“Music-master!” cried Herr Ignaz; “what phoenix have we here?”

“I don't think we are quite fair to this boy,” said a stern-featured, middle-aged man. “He has shown us that there is no imposition in his pretensions, and we have no right to question him further. If Herr Ignaz thinks you too highly gifted for his service, young man, come over to Carl Bettmeyer's counting-house to-morrow at noon.”

“I thank you, sir,” said I, “and am very grateful; but if Herr Oppovich will bear with me, I will not leave him.”

Sara's eyes met mine as I spoke, and I cannot tell what a flood of rapture her look sent into my heart.

“The boy will do well enough,” muttered Herr Ignaz. “Let us have a ramble through the grounds, and see how the skittle-players go on.”

And thus passed off the little incident of my appearance: an incident of no moment to any but myself, as I was soon to feel; for the company, descending the steps, strayed away in broken twos or threes through the grounds, as caprice or will inclined them.

If I were going to chronicle the fête itself, I might, perhaps, say there was a striking contrast between the picturesque beauty of the spot, and the pastime of those who occupied it The scene recalled nothing so much as a village fair. All the simple out-of-door amusements of popular taste were there. There were conjurors and saltimbanques and fortune-tellers, lottery-booths and ninepin alleys and restaurants, only differing from their prototypes in that there was nothing to pay. If a considerable number of the guests were well pleased with the pleasures provided for them, there were others no less amused as spectators of these enjoyments, and the result was an amount of mirth and good humor almost unbounded. There were representatives of almost every class and condition, from the prosperous merchant or rich banker down to the humblest clerk, or even the porter of the warehouse; and yet a certain tone of equality pervaded all, and I observed that they mixed with each other on terms of friendliness and familiarity that never recalled any difference of condition; and this feature alone was an ample counterpoise to any vulgarity observable in their manners. If there was any “snobbery,” it was of a species quite unlike what we have at home, and I could not detect it.

While I strolled about, amusing myself with the strange sights and scenes around me, I suddenly came upon a sort of merry-go-round, where the performers, seated on small hobby-horses, tilted with a lance at a ring as they spun round, their successes or failures being hailed with cheers or with laughter from the spectators. To my intense astonishment, I might almost say shame, Hanserl was there! Mounted on a fiery little gray, with bloodshot eyes and a flowing tail, the old fellow seemed to have caught the spirit of his steed, for he stood up in his stirrups, and leaned forward with an eagerness that showed how he enjoyed the sport. Why was it that the spectacle so shocked me? Why was it that I shrunk back into the crowd, fearful that he might recognize me? Was it not well if the poor fellow could throw off, even for a passing moment, the weary drudgery of his daily life, and play the fool just for distraction' sake? All this I could have believed and accepted a short time before, and yet now a strange revulsion of feeling had come over me and I went away, well pleased that Hans had not seen nor claimed me. “These vulgar games don't amuse you,” said a voice at my side; and I turned and saw the merchant who, at the breakfast-table, invited me to his counting-house.

“Not that,” said I; “but they seem strange and odd at a private entertainment I was scarce prepared to see them here.”

“I suspect that is not exactly the reason,” said he, laughing. “I know something of your English tone of exclusiveness, and how each class of your people has its appropriate pleasures. You scorn to be amused in low company.”

“You seem to forget my own condition, sir.”

“Come, come,” said he, with a knowing look, “I am not so easily imposed upon, as I told you awhile back. I know England. Your ways and notions are all known to me. It is not in the place you occupy here young lads are found who speak three or four languages, and have hands that show as few signs of labor as yours. Mind,” said he, quickly, “I don't want to know your secret.”

“If I had a secret, it is scarcely likely I 'd tell it to a stranger,” said I, haughtily.

“Just so; you 'd know your man before you trusted him. Well, I 'm more generous, and I 'm going to trust you, whom I never saw till half an hour ago.”

“Trust me!

“Trust you,” repeated he, slowly. “And first of all, what age would you give that young lady whose birthday we are celebrating?”

“Seventeen—eighteen—perhaps nineteen.”

“I thought you'd say so; she looks nineteen. Well, I can tell you her age to an hour. She is fifteen to-day.”


“Not a day older, and yet she is the most finished coquette in Europe. Having given Fiume to understand that there is not a man here whose pretensions she would listen to, her whole aim and object is to surround herself with admirers,—I might say worshippers. Young fellows are fools enough to believe they have a chance of winning her favor, while each sees how contemptuously she treats the other. They do not perceive it is the number of adorers she cares for.”

“But what is all this to me?”

“Simply that you 'll be enlisted in that corps to-morrow,” said he, with a malicious laugh; “and I thought I 'd do you a good turn to warn you as to what is in store for you.”

“Me? I enlisted! Why, just bethink you, sir, who and what I am: the very lowest creature in her father's employment.”

“What does that signify? There's a mystery about you. You are not—at least you were not—what you seem now. You have as good looks and better manners than the people usually about her. She can amuse herself with you, and so far harmlessly that she can dismiss you when she's tired of you, and if she can only persuade you to believe yourself in love with her, and can store up a reasonable share of misery for you in consequence, you 'll make her nearer being happy than she has felt this many a day.”

“I don't understand all this,” said I, doubtingly.

“Well, you will one of these days; that is, unless you have the good sense to take my warning in good part, and avoid her altogether.”

“It will be quite enough for me to bear in mind who she is, and what I am!” said I, calmly.

“You think so? Well, I don't agree with you. At all events, keep what I have said to yourself, even if you don't mean to profit by it” And with this he left me.

That strange education of mine, in which M. de Balzac figured as a chief instructor, made me reflect on what I had heard in a spirit little like that of an ordinary lad of sixteen years of age. Those wonderful stories, in which passion and emotion represent action, and where the great game of life is played out at a fireside or in a window recess, and where feeling and sentiment war and fight and win or lose,—these same tales supplied me with wherewithal to understand this man's warnings, and at the same time to suspect his motives; and from that moment my life became invested with new interests and new anxieties, and to my own heart I felt myself a hero of romance.

As I sauntered on, revolving very pleasant thoughts to myself, I came upon a party who were picnicking under a tree. Some of them graciously made a place for me, and I sat down and ate my dinner with them. They were very humble people, all of them, but courteous and civil to my quality of stranger in a remarkable degree. Nor was I less struck by the delicate forbearance they showed towards the host; for, while the servant pressed them to drink Bordeaux and champagne, they merely took the little wines of the country, perfectly content with simple fare and the courtesy that offered them better.

When one of them asked me if I had ever seen a fête of such magnificence in my own country, my mind went back to that costly entertainment of our villa, and Pauline came up before me, with her long dark eyelashes, and those lustrous eyes beaming with expression, and flashing with a light that dazzled while it charmed. Coquetry has no such votaries as the young. Its artifices, its studied graces, its thousand rogueries, to them seem all that is most natural and most “naïve;” and thus every toss of her dark curls, every little mock resentment of her beautiful mouth, every bend and motion of her supple figure, rose to my mind, till I pictured her image before me, and thought I saw her.

“What a hunt I have had after you, Herr Englander!” said a servant, who came up to me all flushed and heated. “I have been over the whole park in search of you.”

“In search of me? Surely you mistake.”

“No; it is no mistake. I see no one here in a velvet jacket but yourself; and Herr Ignaz told me to find you and tell you that there is a place kept for you at his table, and they are at dinner now in the large tent before the terrace.”

I took leave of my friends, who rose respectfully to make their adieux to the honored guest of the host, and I followed the servant to the house. I was not without my misgivings that the scene of the morning, with its unpleasant cross-examination of me, might be repeated, and I even canvassed myself how far I ought to submit to such liberties; but the event was not to put my dignity to the test I was received on terms of perfect equality with those about me; and though the dinner had made some progress before I arrived, it was with much difficulty I could avoid being served with soup and all the earlier delicacies of the entertainment.

I will not dwell on the day that to recall seems more to me like a page out of a fairy tale than a little incident of daily life. I was, indeed, to all intents, the enchanted prince of a story, who went about with the lovely princess on his arm, for I danced the mazurka with the Fraulein Sara, and was her partner several times during the evening, and finished the fête with her in the cotillon; she declaring, in that calm quiet voice that did not seek to be unheard around, that I alone could dance the waltz à deux temps, and that I slid gently, and did not spring like a Fiumano, or bound like a French bagman,—a praise that brought on me some very menacing looks from certain commis-voyageurs near me, and which I, confident in my “skill of fence,” as insolently returned.

“You are not to return to the Hof, Herr von Owen, tomorrow,” said she, as we parted. “You are to wait on papa at his office at eleven o'clock.” And there was a staid dignity in her words that spoke command; but in styling me “von” there was a whole world of recognition, and I kissed her hand as I said good-night with all the deference of her slave, and all the devotion of one who already felt her power and delighted in it.


Let me open this chapter with an apology, and I mean it not only to extend to errors of the past, but to whatever similar blunders I may commit hereafter. What I desire to ask pardon for is this: I find in this attempt of mine to jot down a portion of my life, that I have laid a most disproportionate stress on some passages the most insignificant and unimportant. Thus, in my last chapter I have dwelt unreasonably on the narrative of one day's pleasure, while it may be that a month, or several months, shall pass over with scarcely mention. For this fault—and I do not attempt to deny it is a fault—I have but one excuse. It is this: my desire has been to place before my reader the events, small as they might be, that influenced my life and decided my destiny. Had I not gone to this fêtey for instance,—had I taken my holiday in some quiet ramble into the hills alone, or had I passed it, as I have passed scores of happy hours, in the solitude of my own room,—how different might have been my fate!

We all of us know how small and apparently insignificant are the events by which the course of our lives is shapen. A look we catch at parting, a word spoken that might have passed unheard, a pressure of the hand that might or might not have been felt, and straightway all our sailing orders are revoked, and instead of north we go south. Bearing this in mind, my reader will perhaps forgive me, and at least bethink him that these things are not done by me through inadvertence, but of intention and with forethought.

“So we are about to part,” said Hanserl to me, as I awoke and found my old companion at my bedside. “You 're the twenty-fifth that has left me,” said he, mournfully. “But look to it, Knabe, change is not always betterment.”

“It was none of my doing, Hanserl; none of my seeking.”

“If you had worn the gray jacket you wear on Sundays, there would have been none of this, lad! I have seen double as many years in the yard as you have been in the world, and none have ever seen me at the master's table or waltzing with the master's daughter.”

I could not help smiling, in spite of myself, at the thought of such a spectacle.

“Nor is there need to laugh because I speak of dancing,” said he, quickly. “They could tell you up in Kleptowitz there are worse performers than Hans Spouer; and if he is not an Englishman, he is an honest Austrian!”

This he said with a sort of defiance, and as if he expected a reply.

“I have told you already, Hans,” said I, soothingly, “that it was none of my seeking if I am to be transferred from the yard. I was very happy there,—very happy to be with you. We were good comrades in the past, as I hope we may be good friends in the future.”

“That can scarcely be,” said he, sorrowfully. “I can have no friend in the man I must say 'sir' to. It's Herr Ignaz's order,” went he on, “he sent for me this morning, and said, 'Hanserl, when you address Herr von Owen,'—aye, he said Herr von Owen,—'never forget he is your superior; and though he once worked with you here in the yard, that was his caprice, and he will do so no more.”

“But, Hans, my dear old friend.”

“Ja, ja,” said he, waving his hand. “Jetzt ist aus! It is all over now. Here's your reckoning,” and he laid a slip of paper on the bed: “Twelve gulden for the dinners, three-fifty for wine and beer, two gulden for the wash. There were four kreutzers for the girl with the guitar; you bade me give her ten, but four was plenty,—that makes seventeen-six-and-sixty: and you've twenty-three gulden and thirty-four kreutzers in that packet, and so Lebwohl.”

And, with a short wave of his hand, he turned away; and as he left the room, I saw that the other hand had been drawn over his eyes, for Hanserl was crying; but I buried my face in the clothes, and sobbed bitterly.

My orders were to present myself at Herr Ignaz's private office by noon. Careful not to presume on what seemed at least a happy turn in my destiny, I dressed in my everyday clothes, studious only that they should be clean and well-brushed.

“I had forgotten you altogether, boy,” said Herr Ignaz, as I entered the office, and he went on closing his desk and his iron safe before leaving for dinner. “What was it I had to say to you? Can you help me to it, lad?”

“I'm afraid not, sir; I only know that you told me to be here at this hour.”

“Let me see,” said he, thoughtfully. “There was no complaint against you?”

“None, sir, that I know of.”

“Nor have you any to make against old Hanserl?”

“Far from it, sir. I have met only kindness from him.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” said he. “I believe I am coming to it. It was Sara's doing. Yes, I have it now. Sara said you should not be in the yard; that you had been well brought up and cared for. A young girl's fancy, perhaps. Your hands were white. But there is more bad than good in this. Men should be in the station they 're fit for; neither above nor below it. And you did well in the yard; ay, and you liked it?”

“I certainly was very happy there, sir.”

“And that's all one strives for,” said he, with a faint sigh; “to be at rest,—to be at rest: and why would you change, boy?”

“I am not seeking a change, sir. I am here because you bade me.”

“That's true. Come in and eat your soup with us, and we 'll see what the girl says, for I have forgotten all about it.”

He opened a small door which led by a narrow stair into a back street, and, shuffling along, with his hat drawn over his eyes, made for the little garden over the wooden bridge, and to his door. This he unlocked, and then bidding me follow, he ascended the stairs.

The room into which we entered was furnished in the most plain and simple fashion. A small table, with a coarse cloth and some common ware, stood ready for dinner, and a large loaf on a wooden platter, occupied the middle. There were but two places prepared; but the old man speedily arranged a third place, muttering to himself the while, but what I could not catch.

As he was thus engaged, the Fraulein entered. She was dressed in a sort of brown serge, which, though of the humblest tissue, showed her figure to great advantage, for it fitted to perfection, and designed the graceful lines' of her shoulders, and her taper waist to great advantage. She saluted me with the faintest possible smile, and said: “You are come to dine with us?”

“If there be enough to give him to eat,” said the old man, gruffly. “I have brought him here, however, with other thoughts. There was something said last night,—what was it, girl?—something about this lad,—do you remember it?”

“Here is the soup, father,” said she, calmly. “We'll bethink us of these things by and by.” There was a strange air of half-command in what she said, the tone of one who asserted a certain supremacy, as I was soon to see she did in the household. “Sit here, Herr von Owen,” said she, pointing to my place, and her words were uttered like an order.

In perfect silence the meal went on; a woman-servant entering to replace the soup by a dish of boiled meat, but not otherwise waiting on us, for Sara rose and removed our plates and served us with fresh ones,—an office I would gladly have taken from her, and indeed essayed to do, but at a gesture, and a look that there was no mistaking, I sat down again, and, unmindful of my presence, they soon began to talk of business matters, in which, to my astonishment, the young girl seemed thoroughly versed. Cargoes of grain for Athens consigned to one house, were now to be transferred to some other. There were large orders from France for staves, to meet which some one should be promptly despatched into Hungary. Hemp, too, was wanted for England. There was a troublesome litigation with an Insurance Company at Marseilles, which was evidently going against the House of Oppovich. So unlike was all this the tone of dinner conversation I was used to that I listened in wonderment how they could devote the hour of social enjoyment and relaxation to details so perplexing and so vulgar.

“There is that affair of the leakage, too,” cried Herr Ignaz, setting down his glass before drinking; “I had nigh forgotten it.”

“I answered the letter this morning,” said the girl, gravely. “It is better it should be settled at once, while the exchanges are in our favor.”

“And pay—pay the whole amount,” cried he, angrily.

“Pay it all,” replied she, calmly. “We must not let them call us litigious, father. You have friends here,” and she laid emphasis on the word, “that would not be grieved to see you get the name.”

“Twenty-seven thousand gulden!” exclaimed he, with a quivering lip. “And how am I to save money for your dowry, girl, with losses like these?”

“You forget, sir, we are not alone,” said she, proudly. “This young Englishman can scarcely feel interested in these details.” She arose as she spoke, and placed a few dishes of fruit on the table, and then served us with coffee; the whole done so unobtrusively and in such quiet fashion as to make her services appear a routine that could not call for remark.

“The 'Dalmat' will not take our freight,” said he, suddenly. “There is some combination against us there.”

“I will look to it,” said she, coldly. “Will you try these figs, Herr von Owen? Fiume, they say, rivals Smyrna in purple figs.”

“I will have no more to do with figs or olives either,” cried out Herr Ignaz. “The English beat you down to the lowest price, and then refuse your cargo for one damaged crate. I have had no luck with England.”

Unconsciously, I know it was, his eyes turned fully on me as he spoke, and there was a defiance in his look that seemed like a personal challenge.

“He does not mean it for you,” said the Fräulein, gently in my ear, and her voice gained a softness I did not know it possessed.

Perhaps the old man's thoughts had taken a very gloomy turn, for he leaned his head on his hand, and seemed sunk in revery. The Fräulein rose quietly, and, beckoning me to follow her, moved noiselessly into an adjoining room. This chamber, furnished a little more tastefully, had a piano, and some books and prints lay about on the tables.

“My father likes to be left alone at times,” said she, gravely; “and when you know us better, you will learn to see what these times are.” She took up some needlework she had been engaged on, and sat down on a sofa. I did not well know whether to take my leave or keep her company; and while I hesitated she appeared to read my difficulty, and said, “You are free, Herr von Owen, if you have any engagement.”

“I have none,” said I; then remembering that the speech might mean to dismiss me, I added hastily, “but it is time to go.”

“Good-bye, then,” said she, making me a slight bow; and I went.


On the following day the cashier sent for me to say it was Herr Oppovich's wish that I should be attached to some department in the office, till I had fully mastered its details, and then be transferred to another, and so on, till I had gradually acquainted myself with the whole business of the house. “It's an old caprice of Herr Ignaz's,” said he, “which repeated failures have not yet discouraged him with. You 're the fifth he has tried to make a supervisor of, and you'll follow the rest.”

“Is it so very difficult to learn?” asked I, modestly.

“Perhaps to one of your acquirements it might not,” said he, with quiet irony, “but, for a slight example: here, in this office, we correspond with five countries in their own languages; yonder, in that room, they talk modern Greek and Albanian and Servian; there's the Hungarian group, next that bow window, and that takes in the Lower Danube; and in what we call the Expeditions department there are; fellows who speak seventeen dialects, and can write ten or twelve. So much for languages. Then what do you say to mastering—since that's the word they have for it—the grain trade from Russia, rags from Transylvania, staves from Hungary, fruit from the Levant, cotton from Egypt, minerals from Lower Austria, and woollen fabrics from Bohemia? We do something in all of these, besides a fair share in oak bark and hemp.”

“Stop, for mercy's sake!” I cried out “It would take a lifetime to gain a mere current knowledge of these.”

“Then, there's the finance department,” said he; “watching the rise and fall of the exchanges, buying and selling gold. Herr Ulrich, in that office with the blue door, could tell you it's not to be picked up of an afternoon. Perhaps you might as well begin with him; his is not a bad school to take the fine edge off you.”

“I shall do whatever you advise me.”

“I'll speak to Herr Ulrich, then,” said he; and he left me, to return almost immediately, and conduct me within the precincts of the blue door.

Herr Ulrich was a tall, thin, ascetic-looking man, with his hair brushed rigidly back from the narrowest head I ever saw. His whole idea of life was the office, which he arrived at by daybreak, and never left, except to visit the Bourse, till late at night. He disliked, of all things, new faces about him; and it was a piece of malice on the cashier's part to bring me before him.

“I believed I had explained to Herr Ignaz already,” said he to the cashier, “that I am not a schoolmaster.”

“Well, well,” broke in the other, in a muffled voice, “try the lad. He may not be so incompetent. They tell me he has had some education.”

Herr Ulrich raised his spectacles, and surveyed me from head to foot for some seconds. “You have been in the yard?” said he, in question.

“Yes, sir.”

“And is counting oaken staves the first step to learning foreign exchanges, think you?”

“I should say not, sir.”

“I know whose scheme this is, well enough,” muttered he. “I see it all. That will do. You may leave us to talk together alone,” said he to the cashier. “Sit down there, lad; there 's your own famous newspaper, the 'Times.' Make me a précis of the money article as it touches Austrian securities and Austrian enterprises; contrast the report there given with what that French paper contains; and don't leave till it be finished.” He returned to his high stool as he spoke, and resumed his work. On the table before me lay a mass of newspapers in different languages; and I sat down to examine them with the very vaguest notion of what was expected of me.

Determined to do something,—whatever that something might be,—I opened the “Times” to find out the money article; but, little versed in journalism, I turned from page to page without discovering it. At last I thought I should find it by carefully scanning the columns; and so I began at the top and read the various headings, which happened to be those of the trials then going on. There was a cause of salvage on the part of the owners of the “Lively Jane;” there was a disputed ownership of certain dock warrants for indigo, a breach of promise case, and a suit for damages for injuries incurred on the rail. None of these, certainly, were financial articles. At the head of the next column I read: “Court of Probate and Divorce,—Mr. Spanks moved that the decree nisi, in the suit of Cleremont v. Cleremont, be made absolute. Motion allowed. The damages in this suit against Sir Roger Norcott have been fixed at eight thousand five hundred pounds.”

From these lines I could not turn my eyes. They revealed nothing, it is true, but what I knew well must happen; but there is that in a confirmation of a fact brought suddenly before us, that always awakens deep reflection: and now I brought up before my mind my poor mother, deserted and forsaken, and my father, ruined in character, and perhaps in fortune.

I had made repeated attempts to find out my mother's address, but all my letters had failed to reach her. Could there be any chance of discovering her through this suit? Was it possible that she might have intervened in any way in it? And, last of all, would this lawyer, whose name appeared in the proceedings, take compassion on my unhappy condition, and aid me to discover where my mother was? I meditated long over all this, and I ended by convincing myself that there are few people in the world who are not well pleased to do a kind thing which costs little in the doing; and so I resolved I would write to Mr. Spanks, and address him at the court he practised in. I could not help feeling that it was at a mere straw I was grasping; but nothing more tangible lay within my «reach. I wrote thus:—

“Sir,—I am the son and only child of Sir Roger and Lady Norcott; and seeing that you have lately conducted a suit against my father, I ask you, as a great favor, to let me know where my mother is now living, that I may write to her. I know that I am taking a great liberty in obtruding this request upon you; but I am very friendless, and very little versed in worldly knowledge. Will you let both these deficiencies plead for me? and let me sign myself

“Your grateful servant,

“Digby Norcott.

“You can address me at the house of Hodnig and Oppovich, Fiume, Austria, where I am living as a clerk, and under the name of Digby Owen,—Owen being the name of my mother's family.”

I was not very well pleased with the composition of this letter; but it had one recommendation, which I chiefly sought for,—it was short, and for this reason I hoped it might be favorably received. I read it over and over, each time seeing some new fault, or some omission to correct; and then I would turn again to the newspaper, and ponder over the few words that meant so much and yet revealed so little. How my mother's position would be affected—if at all—by this decision I could not tell. Indeed, it was the mere accident of hearing divorce discussed at my father's table that enabled me to know what the terms of the law implied. And thus I turned from my letter to the newspaper, and back again from the newspaper to my letter, so engrossed by the theme that I forgot where I was, and utterly forgot all about that difficult task Herr Ulrich had set me. Intense thought and weariness of mind, aided by the unbroken stillness of the place, made me heavy and drowsy. From poring over the paper, I gradually bent down till my head rested on it, and I fell sound asleep.

I must have passed hours thus, for it was already evening when I awoke. Herr Ulrich was about to leave the office, and had his hat on, as he aroused me.

“It is supper-time, youngster,” said he, laying his hand on my shoulder. “Yes, you may well wonder where you are. What are you looking for?”

“I thought, sir, I had written a letter Just before I fell asleep. I was writing here.” And I turned over the papers and shook them, tossing them wildly about, to discover the letter, but in vain. It was not there. Could it have been that I had merely composed it in my mind, and never have committed it to paper? But that could scarcely be, seeing how fresh in my memory were all the doubts and hesitations that had beset me.

“I am sure I wrote a letter here,” said I, trying to recall each circumstance to my mind.

“When you have finished dreaming, lad, I will lock the door,” said he, waiting to see me pass out.

“Forgive me one moment, sir, only one,” cried I, wildly, scattering the papers over the table. “It is of consequence to me—what I have written.”

“That is, if you have written anything,” said he, dryly.

The grave tone of this doubt determined the conflict in my mind.

“I suppose you are right,” said I; “it was a dream.” And I arose and followed him out.

As I reached the foot of the stairs, I came suddenly on Herr Ignaz and his daughter. It was a common thing for her to come and accompany him home at the end of the day's work; and as latterly he had become much broken and very feeble, she scarcely missed a day in this attention. “Oh, here he is!” I heard her say as I came up. What he replied I could not catch, but it was with some earnestness he rejoined,—

“Herr von Owen, my father wishes to say that they have mistaken his instructions regarding you in the office. He never expected you could at once possess yourself of all the details of a varied business; he meant that you should go about and see what branch you would like to attach yourself to, and to do this he will give you ample time. Take a week; take two; a month, if you like.” And she made a little gesture of friendly adieu with her hand, and passed on.


The morning after this brief intimation I attached myself to that department of the house whose business was to receive and reply to telegraphic messages. I took that group of countries whose languages I knew, and addressed myself to my task in right earnest. An occupation whose chief feature is emergency will always possess a certain interest, but beyond this there was not anything attractive in my present pursuit. A peremptory message to sell this or buy that, to push on vigorously with a certain enterprise or to suspend all action in another, would perhaps form the staple of a day's work. When disasters occurred, too, it was their monetary feature alone was recorded. The fire that consumed a warehouse was told with reference to the amount insured; the shipwreck was related by incidents that bore on the lost cargo, and the damage incurred. Still it was less monotonous than the work of the office, and I had a certain pride in converting the messages—sometimes partly, sometimes totally unintelligible—into language that could be understood, that imparted a fair share of ambition to my labor.

My duty was to present myself, with my book in which I had entered the despatches, each evening, at supper-time, at Herr Ignaz's house. He would be at table with his daughter when I arrived, and the interview would pass somewhat in this wise: Herr Oppovich would take the book from my hands without a word or even a look at me, and the Fraulein, with a gentle bend of the head, but without the faintest show of more intimate greeting, would acknowledge mc. She would continue to eat as I stood there, as unmindful of me as though I were a servant. Having scanned the book over, he would hand it across to his daughter, and then would ensue a few words in whisper, after which the Fräulein would write opposite each message some word of reply or of comment such as, “Already provided for,” “Further details wanted,” “Too late,” or such like, but never more than a few words, and these she would write freely, and only consulting herself. The old man—whose memory failed him more and more every day, and whose general debility grew rapidly—did no more than glance at the answers and nod an acceptance of them. In giving the book back to me, she rarely looked up, but if she did so, and if her eyes met mine, their expression was cold and almost defiant; and thus, with a slight bend of the head, I would be dismissed.

Nor was this reception the less chilling that, before I had well closed the door, they would be in full conversation again, showing that my presence it was which had inspired the constraint and reserve. These, it might be thought, were not very proud nor blissful moments to me, and yet they formed the happiest incident of my day, and I actually longed for the hour, as might a lover to meet his mistress. To gaze at will upon her pale and beautiful face, to watch the sunlight as it played upon her golden hair, which she wore—in some fashion, perhaps, peculiar to her race—in heavy masses of curls, that fell over her back and shoulders; her hand, too, a model of symmetry, and with the fingers rose-tipped, like the goddesses of Homer, affected me as a spell; and I have stood there unconsciously staring at it till warned by a second admonition to retire.


Perhaps the solitude in which I lived helped to make me dwell more thoughtfully on this daily-recurring interview; for I went nowhere, I associated with no one, I dined alone, and my one brisk walk for health and exercise I took by myself. When evening came, and the other clerks frequented the theatre, I went home to read, or as often to sit and think.

“Sara tells me,” said the old man one day, when some rare chance had brought him to my office,—“Sara tells me that you are suffering from over-confinement. She thinks you look pale and worn, and that this constant work is telling on you.”

“Far from it, sir. I am both well and happy; and if I needed to be made happier, this thoughtful kindness would make me so.”

“Yes; she is very kind, and very thoughtful too; but, as well as these, she is despotic,” said he, with a faint laugh; “and so she has decided that you are to exchange with M. Marsac, who will be here by Saturday, and who will put you up to all the details of his walk. He buys our timber for us in Hungary and Transylvania; and he, too, will enjoy a little rest from constant travel.”

“I don't speak Hungarian, sir,” began I, eager to offer an opposition to the plan.

“Sara says you are a quick learner, and will soon acquire it,—at least, enough for traffic.”

“It is a business, too, that I suspect requires much insight into the people and their ways.”

“You can't learn them younger, lad; and as all those we deal with are old clients of the house, you will not be much exposed to rogueries.”

“But if I make mistakes, sir? If I involve you in difficulty and in loss?”

“You 'll repay it by zeal, lad, and by devotion, as we have seen you do here.”

He waved his hand in adieu, and left me to my own thoughts. Very sad thoughts they were, as they told me of separation from her that gave the whole charm to my life. Sara's manner to me had been so markedly cold and distant for some time past, so unlike what it had been at first, that I could not help feeling that, by ordering me away, some evidence of displeasure was to be detected. The old man I at once exculpated, for every day showed him less and less alive to the business of “the House;” though, from habit, he persisted in coming down every morning to the office, and believed himself the guide and director of all that went on there.

I puzzled myself long to think what I could have done to forfeit her favor. I had never in the slightest degree passed that boundary of deference that I was told she liked to exact from all in the service of the house. I had neglected no duty, nor, having no intimates or associates, had I given opportunity to report of me that I had said this or that of my employers. I scrutinized every act of my daily life, and suggested every possible and impossible cause for this coldness; but without approaching a reason at all probable. While I thus doubted and disputed with myself, the evening despatches arrived, and among them a letter addressed to myself. It bore the post-mark of the town alone, with this superscription, “Digby Owen, Esq., at Messrs. Oppovich's, Fiume.” I tore it open and read,—

“The address you wish for is, 'Lady Norcott, Sunday's Well, Cork, Ireland.'”

The writing looked an English hand, and the language was English. There was no date, nor any signature. Could it have been, then, that I had folded and sealed and sent on my letter—that letter I believed I had never written—without knowing it, and that the lawyer had sent me this reply, which, though long delayed, might have been postponed till he had obtained the tidings it conveyed? At all events, I had got my dear mother's address,—at least I hoped so. This point I resolved to ascertain at once, and sat down to write to her. It was a very flurried note I composed, though I did my very best to be collected. I told her how and where I was, and by what accident of fortune I had come here; that I had reasonable hopes of advancement, and even now had a salary which was larger than I needed. I was afraid to say much of what I wished to tell her, till I was sure my letter would reach her; and I entreated her to write to me by return of post, were it but a line. I need not say how many loves I sent her, nor what longings to be again beside her, to hold her hand, and hear her voice, and call her by that dearest of all the names affection cherishes. “I am going from this in a few days into Hungary,” added I; “but address me here, and it shall be sent after me.

When I had finished my letter, I again turned my thoughts to this strange communication, so abrupt and so short. How came it to Fiume, too? Was it enclosed in some other letter, and to whom? If posted in Fiume, why not written there? Ay; but by whom? Who could know that I had wished for my mother's address? It was a secret buried in my own heart.

I suddenly determined I would ask the Fraulein Sara to aid me in unravelling this mystery, which, of course, I could do without disclosing the contents of the note. I hurried off to the house, and asked if she would permit me to speak to her.

“Yes. The Fräulein was going out; but if my business was brief, she would see me.”

She was in bonnet and shawl as I entered, and stood with one hand on a table, looking very calm but somewhat haughty.

“I beg your pardon, M. Owen,” said she, “if I say that I can only give you a few minutes, and will not ask you even to sit down. If it be a matter of the office—”

“No, Mademoiselle; it is not a matter of the office—-”

“Then, if it relate to your change of occupation—”

“No, Mademoiselle, not even to that. It is a purely personal question. I have got a letter, with a Fiume postmark on it, but without the writer's name; and I am curious to know if you could aid me to discover him. Would you look at the hand and see if it be known to you?”

“Pray excuse me, M. Owen. I am the stupidest of all people in reading riddles or solving difficulties. All the help I can give you is to say how I treat anonymous letters myself. If they be simply insults, I burn them. If they relate what appear to be matters of fact, I wait and watch for them.”

Offended by the whole tone of her manner, I bowed, and moved towards the door.

“Have you seen M. Marsac? I hear he has arrived.”

“No, Mademoiselle; not yet.”

“When you have conferred and consulted with him, your instructions are all prepared; and I suppose you are ready to start?”

“I shall be, Mademoiselle, when called upon.”

“I will say good-bye, then,” said she, advancing one step towards me, evidently intending to offer me her hand; but I replied by a low, very low bow, and retired.

I thought I should choke as I went down the stairs. My throat seemed to swell, and then to close up; and when I gained the shelter of the thick trees, I threw myself down on my face in the grass, and sobbed as if my heart was breaking. How I vowed and swore that I would tear every recollection of her from my mind, and never think more of her, and how her image ever came back clearer and brighter and more beautiful before me after each oath!


As I sat brooding over my fire that same evening, my door was suddenly opened, and a large burly man, looming even larger from an immense fur pelisse that he wore, entered. His first care was to divest himself of a tall Astracan cap, from which he flung off some snow-flakes, and then to throw off his pelisse, stamping the snow from his great boots, which reached half-way up the thigh.

“You see,” cried he, at last, with a jovial air,—“you see I come, like a good comrade, and make myself at home at once.”

“I certainly see so much,” said I, dryly; “but whom have I the honor to receive?”

“You have the honor to receive Gustave Maurice de Marsac, young man, a gentleman of Dauphiné, who now masquerades in the character of first traveller for the respectable house of Hodnig and Oppovich.”

“I am proud to make your acquaintance, M. de Marsac,” said I, offering my band.

“What age are you?” cried he, staring fixedly at me. “You can't be twenty?”

“No, I am not twenty.”

“And they purpose to send you down to replace me!” cried he; and he threw himself back in his chair, and shook with laughter.

“I see all the presumption; but I can only say it was none of my doing.”

“No, no; don't say presumption,” said he, in a half-coaxing tone. “But I may say it, without vanity, it is not every man's gift to be able to succeed Gustave de Marsac. May I ask for a cigar? Thanks. A real Cuban, I verily believe. I finished my tobacco two posts from this, and have been smoking all the samples—pepper and hemp-seed amongst them—since then.”

“May I offer you something to eat?”

“You may, if you accompany it with something to drink. Would you believe it, Oppovich and his daughter were at supper when I arrived to report myself; and neither of them as much as said, Chevalier—I mean Mon. de Marsac—won't you do us the honor to join us? No. Old Ignaz went on with his meal,—cold veal and a potato salad, I think it was; and the fair Sara examined my posting-book to see I had made no delay on the road; but neither offered me even the courtesy of a glass of wine.”

“I don't suspect it was from any want of hospitality,” I began.

“An utter want of everything, mon cher. Want of decency; want of delicacy; want of due deference to a man of birth and blood. I see you are sending your servant out. Now, I beg, don't make a stranger—don't make what we call a 'Prince Russe' of me. A little quiet supper, and something to wash it down; good fellowship will do the rest. May I give your man the orders?”

“You will confer a great favor on me,” said I.

He took my servant apart, and whispered a few minutes with him at the window. “Try Kleptomitz first,” said he aloud, as the man was leaving; “and mind you say M. Marsac sent you. Smart 'bursche' you've got there. If you don't take him with you, hand him over to me.”

“I will do so,” said I; “and am happy to have secured him a good master.”

“You'll not know him when you pass through Fiume again. I believe there's not my equal in Europe to drill a servant. Give me a Chinese, an Esquimau; give me a Hottentot, and in six months you shall see him announce a visitor, deliver a letter, wait at table, or serve coffee, with the quiet dignity and the impassive steadiness of the most accomplished lackey. The three servants of Fiume were made by me, and their fortunes also. One has now the chief restaurant at Rome, in the Piazza di Spagna; the other is manager of the 'Iron Crown Hotel,' at Zurich; he wished to have it called the 'Arms of Marsac,' but I forbade him. I said, 'No, Pierre, no. The De Marsacs are now travelling incog.' Like the Tavannes and the Rohans, we have to wait and bide our time. Louis Napoleon is not immortal. Do you think he is?”

“I have no reason to think so.”

“Well, well, you are too young to take interest in politics; not but that I did at fourteen: I conspired at fourteen! I will show you a stiletto Mazzini gave me on my birthday; and the motto on the blade was, 'Au service du. Roi.' Ah! you are surprised at what I tell you. I hear you say to yourself, 'How the devil did he come to this place? what led him to Fiume?' A long story that; a story poor old Dumas would give one of his eyes for. There's more adventure, more scrapes by villany, dangers and deathblows generally, in the last twenty-two years of my life—I am now thirty-six—than in all the Monte Cristos that ever were written. I will take the liberty to put another log on your fire. What do you say if we lay the cloth? It will expedite matters a little.”

“With all my heart. Here are all my household goods,” said I, opening a little press in the wall.

“And not to be despised, by any means. Show me what a man drinks out of, and I'll tell you what he drinks. When a man has got thin glasses like these,—à la Mousseline, as we say,—his tipple is Bordeaux.”

“I confess the weakness,” said I, laughing.

“It is my own infirmity too,” said he, sighing. “My theory is, plurality of wines is as much a mistake as plurality of wives. Coquette, if you will, with fifty, but give your affections to one. If I am anything, I am moral. What can keep your fellow so long? I gave him but two commissions.”

“Perhaps the shops were closed at this hour.”

“If they were, sir,” said he, pompously, “at the word 'Marsac' they would open. Ha! what do I see here?—a piano? Am I at liberty to open it?” And without waiting for a reply, he sat down, and ran his hands over the keys with a masterly facility. As he flew over the octaves, and struck chords of splendid harmony, I could not help feeling an amount of credit in all his boastful declarations just from this one trait of real power about him.

“I see you are a rare musician,” said I.

“And it is what I know least,” said he; “though Flotow said one day, 'If that rascal De Marsac takes to writing operas, I 'll never compose another. 'But here comes the supper;” and as he spoke my servant entered with a small basket with six bottles in it; two waiters following him, bearing a good-sized tin box, with a charcoal fire beneath.

“Well and perfectly done,” exclaimed my guest, as he aided them to place the soup on the table, and to dispose some hors d'oeuvre of anchovies, caviare, ham, and fresh butter on the board. “I am sorry we have no flowers. I love a bouquet A few camellias for color, and some violets for odor. They relieve the grossness of the material enjoyments; they poetize the meal; and if you have no women at table, mon cher, be sure to have flowers: not that I object to both together. There, now, is our little bill of fare,—a white soup, a devilled mackerel, some truffles, with butter, and a capon with stewed mushrooms. Oysters there are none, not even those native shrimps they call scampi; but the wine will compensate for much: the wine is Roediger; champagne, with a faint suspicion of dryness. And as he has brought ice, we 'll attack that Bordeaux you spoke of till the other be cool enough for drinking.”

As he rattled on thus, it was not very easy for me to assure myself whether I was host or guest; but as I saw that this consideration did not distress him, I resolved it should not weigh heavily on me.

“I ordered a compote of peaches with maraschino. Go after them and say it has been forgotten.” And now, as he dismissed my servant on this errand, he sat down and served the soup, doing the honors of the board in all form. “You are called—”

“Digby is my Christian name,” interrupted I, “and you can call me by it.”

“Digby, I drink to your health; and if the wine had been only a little warmer, I 'd say I could not wish to do so in a more generous fluid. No fellow of your age knows how to air his Bordeaux; hot flannels to the caraffe before decanting are all that is necessary, and let your glasses also be slightly warmed. To sip such claret as this, and then turn one's eyes to that champagne yonder in the ice-pail, is like the sensation of a man who in his honeymoon fancies how happy he will be one of these days, en secondes noces. Don't you feel a sense of triumphant enjoyment at this moment? Is there not something at your heart that says, 'Hodnig and Oppovich, I despise you! To the regions I soar in you cannot come! To the blue ether I have risen, your very vision cannot reach!' Eh, boy! tell me this.”

“No; I don't think you have rightly measured my feelings. On the whole, I rather suspect I bear a very good will to these same people who have enabled me to have these comforts.”

“You pretend, then, to what they call gratitude?”

“I have that weakness.”

“I could as soon believe in the heathen mythology! I like the man who is kind to me while he is doing the kindness, and I could, if occasion served, be kind to him in turn; but to say that I could retain such a memory of the service after years that it would renew in me the first pleasant sensations it created, and with these sensations the goodwill to requite them, is downright rubbish. You might as well tell me that I could get drank simply by remembering the orgie I assisted at ten years ago.”

“I protest against your sentiment and your logic too.”

“Then we won't dispute the matter. We'll talk of something we can agree upon. Let us abuse Sara.”

“If you do, you'll choose some other place to do it.”

“What, do you mean to tell me that you can stand the haughty airs and proud pretensions of the young Jewess?”

“I mean to tell you that I know nothing of the Fräulein Oppovich but what is amiable and good.”

“What do I care for amiable and good? I want a girl to be graceful, well-mannered, pleasing, lively to talk, and eager to listen. There, now, don't get purple about the cheeks, and flash at me such fiery looks. Here's the champagne, and we 'll drink a bumper to her.”

“Take some other name for your toast, or I 'll fling your bottle out of the window.”

“You will, will you!” said he, setting down his glass, and measuring me from head to foot.

“I swear it”

“I like that spirit, Digby; I'll be shot if I don't,” said he, taking my hand, which I did not give very willingly. “You are just what I was some fifteen or twenty years ago,—warm, impulsive, and headstrong. It's the world—that vile old mill, the world—grinds that generous nature out of one! I declare I don't believe that a spark of real trustfulness survives a man's first moustaches,—and yours are very faint, very faint indeed; there 's a suspicion of smut on the upper lip, and some small capillary flourishes along your cheek. That wine is too sweet. I 'll return to the Bordeaux.”

“I grieve to say I have no more than that bottle of it. It was some I bought when I was ill and threatened with ague.”

“What profanation! anything would be good enough for ague. It is in a man's days of vigorous health he merits cherishing. Let us console ourselves with Rodiger. Now, boy,” said he, as he cleared off a bumper from a large goblet, “I 'll give you some hints for your future, far more precious than this wine, good as it is. Gustave de Marsac, like Homer's hero, can give gold for brass, and instead of wine he will give you wisdom. First of all for a word of warning: don't fall in love with Sara. It's the popular error down here to do so, but it's a cruel mistake. That fellow that has the hemp-trade here,—what's his name,—the vulgar dog that wears mutton-chop whiskers, and fancies he's English because he gets his coats from London? I 'll remember his name presently,—he has all his life been proposing for Sara, and begging off—as matters go ill or well with the House of Oppovich; and as he is a shrewd fellow in business, all the young men here think they ought to 'go in' for Sara too.”

I should say here that, however distasteful to me this talk, and however willingly I would have repressed it, it was totally out of my power to arrest the flow of words which with the force of a swollen torrent came from him. He drank freely, too, large goblets of champagne as he talked, and to this, I am obliged to own, I looked as my last hope of being rid of him. I placed every bottle I possessed on the table, and, lighting my cigar, resigned myself, with what patience I could, to the result.

“Am I keeping you up, my dear Digby?” cried he, at last, after a burst of abuse on Fiume and all it contained that lasted about half an hour.

“I seldom sit up so late,” was my cautious reply; “but I must own I have seldom such a good excuse.”

“You hit it, boy; that was well and truly spoken. As a talker of the highest order of talk, I yield to no man in Europe. Do you remember Duvergier saying in the Chambre, as an apology for being late, 'I dined with DeMarsac'?”

“I cannot say I remember that.”

“How could you? You were an infant at the time.” Away he went after this into reminiscences of political life,—how deep he was in that Spanish marriage question, and how it caused a breach,—an irreparable breach between Guizot and himself, when that woman, “you know whom I mean, let out the secret to Bulwer. Of course I ought not to have confided it to her. I know all that as well as you can tell it me, but who is wise, who is guarded, who is self-possessed at all times?”

Not entirely trustful of what he was telling me, and little interested in it besides, I brought him back to Fiume, and to the business that was now about to be confided to me.

“Ah, very true; you want your instructions. You shall have them, not that you 'll need them long, mon cher. Six months—what am I saying?—three will see it all up with; Hodnig and Oppovich.”

“What do you mean?” cried I, eagerly.

“Just simply what I say.”

It was not very easy for me to follow him here, but I could gather, amidst a confused mass of self-glorification, prediction, and lamentation over warnings disregarded, and such like, that the great Jew house of “Nathanheimer” of Paris was the real head of the firm of Hodnig and Oppovich.

“The Nathanheimers own all Europe and a very considerable share of America,” burst he out “You hear of a great wine-house at Xeres, or a great corn-merchant at Odessa, or a great tallow-exporter at Riga. It's all Nathanheimer! If a man prospers and shows that he has skill in business, they 'll stand by him, even to millions. If he blunders, they sweep him away, as I brush away that cork. There must be no failures with them. That's their creed.”

He proceeded to explain how these great potentates of finance and trade had agencies in every great centre of Europe, who reported to them everything that went on, who flourished, and who foundered; how, when enterprises that promised well presented themselves, Nathanheimer would advance any sum, no matter how great, that was wanted. If a country needed a railroad, if a city required a boulevard, if a seaport wanted a dock, they were ready to furnish each and all of them. The conditions, too, were never unfair, never ungenerous, but still they bargained always for something besides money. They desired that this man would aid such a project here, or oppose that other there. Their interests were so various and widespread that they needed political power everywhere, and they had it.

One offence they never pardoned, never condoned, which was any, the slightest, insubordination amongst those they supported and maintained. Marsac ran over a catalogue of those they had ruined in London, Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfort, and Vienna, simply because they had attempted to emancipate themselves from the serfdom imposed upon them. Let one of the subordinate firms branch out into an enterprise unauthorized by the great house, and straightway their acceptances become dishonored, and their credit assailed. In one word, he made it appear that from one end of Europe to the other the whole financial system was in the bands of a few crafty men of immense wealth, who unthroned dynasties, and controlled the fate of nations, with a word.

He went on to show that Oppovich had somehow fallen into disgrace with these mighty patrons. “Some say that he is too old and too feeble for business, and hands over to Sara details that she is quite unequal to deal with; some aver that he has speculated without sanction, and is intriguing with Greek democrats; others declare that he has been merely unfortunate; at all events, his hour has struck. Mind my words, three months hence they 'll not have Nathanheimer's agency in their house, and I suspect you 'll see our friend Bettmeyer will succeed to that rich inheritance.”

Rambling on, now talking with a vagueness that savored of imbecility, now speaking with a purpose-like acuteness and power that brought conviction, he sat till daybreak, drinking freely all the time, and at last so overwhelming me with 'strange revelations that I was often at a loss to know whether it was he that was confounding me, or that I myself had lost all control of right reason and judgment.

“You're dead beat, my poor fellow,” said he at last, “and it's your own fault. You 've been drinking nothing but water these last two hours. Go off to bed now, and leave me to finish this bottle. After that I 'll have a plunge off the end of the mole, cold enough it will be, but no ice, and you 'll find me here at ten o'clock with a breakfast appetite that will astonish you.”

I took him at his word, and said “Good-night.”


My friend did not keep his self-made appointment with me at breakfast, nor did I see him for two days, when we met in the street.

“I have gone over to the enemy,” said he; “I have taken an engagement with Bettmeyer: six thousand florins and all expenses,—silver florins, mon cher; and if you're wise,” added he in a whisper, “you 'll follow my lead. Shall I say a word for you?”

I thanked him coldly, and declined the offer.

“All right; stick to gratitude, and you'll see where it will land you,” said he, gayly. “I've sent you half a dozen letters to friends of mine up yonder;” and he pointed towards the North. “You 'll find Hunyadi an excellent fellow, and the Countess charming; don't make love to her, though, for Tassilo is a regular Othello. As for the Erdödis, I only wish I was going there, instead of you;—such pheasants, such women, such Tokay, their own vintage! Once you 're down in Transylvania, write me word whom you 'd like to know. They 're all dear friends of mine. By the way, don't make any blunder about that Hunyadi contract The people here will want you to break it,—don't, on any account. It's the finest bargain ever was made; splendid timber, magnificent bark, and the cuttings alone worth all the money.”

He rattled out this with his own headlong speed, and was gone before I well knew I had seen him.

That evening I was ordered to Herr Oppovich's house to receive my last instructions. The old man was asleep on a sofa, as I entered, and Sara seated at a table by the fire, deeply engaged in accounts.

“Sit down, Herr Owen,”—she had ceased to call me Von Owen,—“and I will speak to you in a minute.”

I was not impatient at the delay, for I had time to gaze at her silken hair, and her faultless profile, and the beautiful outline of her figure, as, leaning her head on her hand, she bent over the table.

“I cannot make this come right,—are you clever at figures?” asked she.

“I cannot say it is my gift, but I will do my best to aid you.” And now we were seated side by side, poring over the same page; and as she had placed one taper finger next the column of figures, I did so likewise, thinking far less of the arithmetic than of the chance of touching her hand with mine.

“These figures are somewhat confusing,” she said. “Let us begin at the top,—fourteen hundred and six hundred, make two thousand, and twelve hundred, three thousand two hundred,—now is this a seven or a three?”

“I'd say a three.”

“I 've called it a seven, because M. Marsac usually writes his sevens in this way.”

“These are De Marsac's, then?” asked I.

“And why 'De,' may I ask?” said she, quickly; “why not Marsac, as I called him?”

“I took his name as he gave it me.”

“You know him, then? Oh, I had forgotten,—he called on you the night he came. Have you seen him since?”

“Only passingly, in the street”

“Had he time to tell you that he has been dismissed?”

“Yes; he said he was now in Mr. Bettmeyer's office.”

“Shall I tell you why?” She stopped, and her cheek became crimson, while her eyes sparkled with an angry fire that actually startled me. “But let us finish this. Where were we?” She now leaned her head down upon her hands, and seemed overcome by her emotion. When she looked up again, her face was perfectly pale, and her eyes sad and weariful. “I am afraid we shall wake him,” said she, looking towards her father; “come into this room here. So this man has been talking of us?” cried she, as soon as we had passed into the adjoining room. “Has he told you how he has requited all my father's kindness? how he has repaid his trustfulness and faith in him? Speak freely if you wish me to regard you as a friend.”

“I would that you might, Fräulein. There is no name I would do so much to win.”

“But you are a gentleman, and with noble blood. Could you stoop to be the friend of—” Here she hesitated, and, after an effort, added, “A Jew?”

“Try me, prove me,” said I, stooping till my lips touched her hand.

She did not withdraw her hand, but left it in mine, as I pressed it again and again to my lips.

“He told you, then,” said she, in a half-whisper, “that our house was on the brink of ruin; that in a few weeks, or even less, my father would not face the exchange,—did he not say this?”

“I will tell you all,” said I, “for I know you will forgive me when I repeat what will offend you to hear, but what is safer you should hear.” And, in the fewest words I could, I related what Marsac had told me of the house and its difficulties. When I came to that part which represented Oppovich as the mere agent of the great Parisian banker,—whose name I was not quite sure of,—I faltered and hesitated.

“Go on,” said she, gently. “He told you that Baron Nathanheimer was about to withdraw his protection from us?”

I slightly bent my head in affirmation.

“But did he say why?”

“Something there was of rash enterprise, of speculation unauthorized—of—”

“Of an old man with failing faculties,” said she, in the same low tone; “and of a young girl, little versed in business, but self-confident and presumptuous enough to think herself equal to supply his place. I have no doubt he was very frank on this head. He wrote to Baron Elias, who sent me his letter,—the letter he wrote of us while eating our bread. It was not handsome of him,—was it, sir?”

I can give no idea, not the faintest, of the way she said these few words, nor of the ineffable scorn of her look, while her voice remained calm and gentle as ever.

“No; it was not handsome.”

She nodded to me to proceed, and I continued,—

“I have told you nearly everything; for of himself and his boastfulness—”

“Oh! do not tell me of that I am in no laughing mood, and I would not like to hear of it What did he say of the Hunyadi affair?”

“Nothing, or next to nothing. He offered me letters of introduction to Count Hunyadi; but beyond that there was no mention of him.”

She arose as I said this, and walked slowly up and down the room. I saw she was deep in thought, and was careful not to disturb or distract her. At last she opened a writing-desk, and took out a roll of papers fastened by a tape.

“These,” said she, “you will take with you, and carefully read over. They are the records of a transaction that is now involving us in great trouble, and which may prove more than trouble. M. Marsac has been induced—how, we shall not stop to inquire—to contract for the purchase of an extensive wood belonging to Graf Hunyadi; the price, half a million of francs. We delayed to ratify an agreement of such moment, until more fully assured of the value of the timber; and while we deliberated on the choice of the person to send down to Hungary, we have received from our correspondent at Vienna certain bills for acceptance in payment of this purchase. You follow me, don't you?”

“Yes. As I understand it, the bargain was assumed to be ratified?”

“Just so.”

She paused; and, after a slight struggle with herself, went on,—

“The contract, legally drawn up and complete in every way, was signed; not, however, by my father, but by my brother. You have heard, perhaps, that I have a brother. Bad companionship and a yielding disposition have led him into evil, and for some years we have not seen him. Much misfortune has befallen him; but none greater, perhaps, than his meeting with Marsac; for, though Adolf has done many things, he would not have gone thus far without the promptings of this bad man.”

“Was it his own name he wrote?” asked I.

“No; it was my father's,” and she faltered at the word; and as she spoke it, her head fell heavily forward, and she covered her face with her hands.

She rallied, however, quickly, and went on. “We now know that the timber is not worth one-fourth of this large sum. Baron Elias himself has seen it, and declares that we have been duped or—worse. He insists that we rescind the contract, or accept all its consequences. The one is hopeless,—the other ruin. Meanwhile, the Baron suspends farther relations with us, and heavy acceptances of ours will soon press for payment. I must not go into this,” said she, hurriedly. “You are very young to charge with such a mission; but I have great faith in your loyalty. You will not wrong our trust?”

“That I will not.”

“You will go to Graf Hunyadi, and speak with him. If he be—as many of his countrymen are—a man of high and generous feeling, he will not bring ruin upon us, when our only alternative would be to denounce our own. You are very young; but you have habits of the world and society. Nay,—I am not seeking to learn a secret; but you know enough to make you companionable and acceptable, where any others in our employ would be inadmissible. At all events, you will soon see the sort of man we have to deal with, and you will report to me at once.”

“I am not to tell him how this signature has been obtained?” asked I, awaiting the reply.

“That would be to denounce the contract at once,” cried she, as though this thought had for the first time struck her. “You know the penalty of a forgery here. It is the galleys for life. He must be saved at all events. Don't you see,” cried she, eagerly, “I can give you no instructions. I have none to give. When I say I trust you,—I have told you all.”

“Has Herr Ignaz not said how he would wish me to act?”

“My father knows nothing of it all! Nothing. You have seen him, and you know how little he is able now to cope with a difficulty. The very sense that his faculties are not what they were overcomes him, even to tears.”

Up to this she had spoken with a calm firmness that had lent a touch of almost sternness to her manner, but at the mention of her poor father's condition, her courage gave way, and she turned away and hid her face, but her convulsed shoulders showed how her emotion was overcoming her. I went towards her, and took her hand in both my own. She left it to me while I kissed it again and again.

“Oh, Sara,” I whispered rather than spoke, “if you knew how devoted I am to you, if you knew how willingly I would give my very life for you, you would not think yourself friendless at this hour. Your trust in me has made me forget how lonely I am, and how humble,—to forget all that separates us, even to telling that I love you. Give me one word—only one—of hope; or if not that, let your dear hand but close on mine, and I am yours forever.”

She never spoke, however, and her cold fingers returned no pressure to mine.

“I love you; I love you!” I muttered, as I covered her hand with kisses.

“There! Do you not hear?” cried she, suddenly. “My father is calling me.”

“Sara, Sara! Where is Sara?” cried the old man, in a weak, reedy voice.

“I am coming, dear father,” said she. “Good-bye, Digby; remember that I trust you!”


She waved me a farewell, and, with a faint, sad smile, she moved away. As she reached the door, however, she turned, and, with a look of kindly meaning, said, “Trust you in all things.”

I sprang forward to clasp her to my heart; but the door closed on her, and I was alone.


I passed half the night that followed in writing to my mother. It was a very long epistle, but, in my fear lest, like so many others, it should not ever reach her, it was less expansive and candid than I could have wished. Sara's name did not occur throughout, and yet it was Sara's image was before me as I wrote, and to connect my mother in interest for Sara was my uppermost thought. Without touching on details that might awaken pain, I told how I had been driven to attempt something for my own support, and had not failed.

“I am still,” I wrote, “where I started, but in so far a different position that I am now well looked on and trusted, and at this moment about to set out on a mission of importance. If I should succeed in doing what I am charged with, it will go far to secure my future, and then, dearest mother, I will go over to fetch you, for I will no longer live without you.”

I pictured the place I was living in, and its climate, as attractively as I was able, and said, what I verily believed, that I hoped never to leave it. Of my father I did not venture to speak; but I invited her, if the course of our correspondence should prove assured, to tell me freely all about her present condition, and where and how she was.

“You will see, dear mother,” said I, in conclusion, “that I write in all the constraint of one who is not sure who may read him. Of the accident by which the address I now give this letter reached me, I will tell when I write again. Meanwhile, though I shall not be here to receive it at once, write to me, to the care of Hodnig and Oppovich, and add, 'to be forwarded.'”

I enclosed a little photograph of the town, as seen from the bay, and though ill done and out of drawing, it still conveyed some notion of the pretty spot with its mountain framework.

I had it in my head to write another letter, and, indeed, made about a dozen attempts to begin it. It was to Pauline. Nothing but very boyishness could have ever conceived such a project, but I thought—it was very simple of me!—I thought I owed it to her, and to my own loyalty, to declare that my heart had wandered from its first allegiance, and fixed its devotion on another. I believed—I was young enough to believe it—that I had won her affections, and I felt it would be dishonorable in me to deceive her as to my own. I suppose I was essaying a task that would have puzzled a more consummate tactician than myself, for certainly nothing could be more palpable than my failures; and though I tried, with all the ingenuity I possessed, to show that in my altered fortunes I could no longer presume to retain any hold on her affections, somehow it would creep out that my heart had opened to a sentiment far deeper and more enthralling than that love which began in a polka and ended at the railway.

I must own I am now grateful to my stupidity and ineptness, which saved me from committing this great blunder, though at the time I mourned over my incapacity, and bewailed the dulness that destroyed every attempt I made to express myself gracefully. I abandoned the task at length in despair, and set to work to pack up for my journey. I was to start at daybreak for Agram, where some business would detain me a couple of days. Thence I was to proceed to a small frontier town in Hungary, called Ostovich, on the Drave, where we owned a forest of oak scrub, and which I was empowered to sell, if an advantageous offer could be had. If such should not be forthcoming, my instructions were to see what water-power existed in the neighborhood to work saw-mills, and to report fully on the price of labor, and the means of conveyance to the coast. If I mention these details, even passingly, it is but to show the sort of work that was intrusted to me, and how naturally my pride was touched at feeling how great and important were the interests confided to my judgment. In my own» esteem, at least, I was somebody. This sentiment, felt in the freshness of youth, is never equalled by anything one experiences of triumph in after life, for none of our later successes come upon hearts joyous in the day-spring of existence, hopeful of all things, and, above all, hearts that have not been jarred by envy and made discordant by ungenerous rivalry.

There was an especial charm, too, in the thought that my life was no every-day common-place existence, but a strange series of ups and downs, changes and vicissitudes, calling for continual watchfulness, and no small amount of energy; in a word, I was a hero to myself, and it is wonderful what a degree of interest can be imparted to life simply by that delusion. My business at Agram was soon despatched. No news of the precarious condition of our “house” had reached this place, and I was treated with all the consideration due to the confidential agent of a great firm. I passed an evening in the society of the town, and was closely questioned whether Carl Bettmeyer had got over his passion for the Fraulein Sara; or was she showing any disposition to look more favorably on his addresses. What fortune Oppovich could give his daughter, and what sort of marriage he aspired to for her, were all discussed. There was one point, however, all were agreed upon, that nothing could be done without the consent of the “Baron,” as they distinctively called the great financier of Paris, whose sway, it appeared, extended not only to questions of trade and; money, but to every relation of domestic life.

“They say,” cried one, “that the Baron likes Bettmeyer, and has thrown some good things in his way of late.”

“He gave him a share in that new dock contract at Pola.”

“And he means to give him the directorship of the Viecovar line, if it ever be made.”

“He 'll give him Sara Oppovich for a wife,” said a third, “and that's a better speculation than them all. Two millions of florins at least.”

“She's the richest heiress in Croatia.”

“And does n't she know it!” exclaimed another. “The last time I was up at Fiume, old Ignaz apologized for not presenting me to her, by saying, 'Yesterday was her reception day; if you are here next Wednesday, I 'll introduce you.'”

“I thought it was only the nobles had the custom of reception days?”

“Wealth is nobility nowadays; and if Ignaz Oppovich was not a Jew, he might have the best blood of Austria for a son-in-law.”

The discussion soon waxed warm as to whether Jews did or did not aspire to marriage with Christians of rank, the majority opining to believe that they placed title and station above even riches, and that no people had such an intense appreciation of the value of condition as the Hebrew.

“That Frenchman who was here the other day, Marsac, told me that the man who could get the Stephen Cross for old Oppovich, and the title of Chevalier, would be sure of his daughter's hand in marriage.”

“And does old Ignaz really care for such a thing?”

“No, but the girl does; she's the haughtiest and the vainest damsel in the province.”

It may be believed that I found it very hard to listen to such words as these in silence, but it was of the last importance that I should not make what is called an éclat, or bring the name of Oppovich needlessly forward for town talk and discussion; I therefore repressed my indignation and appeared to take little interest in the conversation.

“You've seen the Fräulein, of course?” asked one of me.

“To be sure he has, and has been permitted to kneel and kiss her hand on her birthday,” broke in another.

And while some declared that this was mere exaggeration and gossip, others averred that they had been present and witnessed this act of homage themselves.

“What has this young gentleman seen of this hand-kissing?” said a lady of the party, turning to me.

“That it was always an honor conferred even more than a homage rendered, Madam,” said I, stepping forward and kissing her hand; and a pleasant laughter greeted this mode of concluding the controversy.

“I have got a wager about you,” said a young man to me, “and you alone can decide it. Are you or are you not from Upper Austria?”

“And are you a Jew?” cried another.

“If you'll promise to ask me no more questions, I'll answer both of these,—I am neither Jew nor Austrian.”

It was not, however, so easy to escape my questioners; but as their curiosity seemed curbed by no reserves of delicacy, I was left free to defend myself as best I might, and that I had not totally failed, I gathered from hearing an old fellow whisper to another,—

“You 'll get nothing out of him: if he 's not a Jew by birth, he has lived long enough with them to keep his mind to himself.”

Having finished all I had to do at Agram, I started for Ostovitz. I could find no purchaser for our wood; indeed every one had timber to sell, and forests were offered me on all sides. It was just at that period in Austria when the nation was first waking to thoughts of industrial enterprise, and schemes of money-getting were rife everywhere; but such was the ignorance of the people, so little versed were they in affairs, that they imagined wealth was to pour down upon them for the wishing, and that Fortune asked of her votaries neither industry nor thrift.

Perhaps I should not have been led into these reflections here if it were not that I had embodied them, or something very like them, in a despatch I sent off to Sara,—a despatch on which I had expended all my care to make it a masterpiece of fine writing and acute observation. I remember how I expatiated on the disabilities of race, and how I dwelt upon the vices of those lethargic temperaments of Eastern origin which seemed so wanting in all that energy and persistence which form the life of commerce.

This laborious essay took me an entire day to write; but when I had posted it at night, I felt I had done a very grand thing, not only as an intellectual effort, but as a proof to the Fräulein how well I knew how to restrict myself within the limits of my duties; for not a sentence, not a syllable, had escaped me throughout to recall thoughts of anything but business. I had asked for certain instructions about Hungary, and on the third day came the following, in Sara's hand:—

“Herr Digby,—There is no mention in your esteemed letter of the 4th November of Kraus's acceptance, nor have you explained to what part of Heydager's contract Hauser now objects. Freights are still rising here, and it would be imprudent to engage in any operations that involve exportation. Gold is also rising, and the Bank discount goes daily higher. I am obliged to you for your interesting remarks on ethnology, though I am low-minded enough to own, I could have read with more pleasure whether the floods in the Drave have interfered with the rafts, and also whether these late rains have damaged the newly sown crops.

“If you choose to see Pesth and Buda, you will have time, for Count Hunyadi will not be at his chateau till nigh Christmas; but it is important you should see him immediately on his arrival, for his intendant writes to say that the Graf has invited a large party of friends to pass the festival with him, and will not attend to any business matters while they remain. Promptitude will be therefore needful. I have nothing to add to your instructions already given. Although I have not been able to consult my father, whose weakness is daily greater, I may say that you are empowered to make a compromise, if such should seem advisable, and your drafts shall be duly honored, if, time pressing, you are not in a position to acquaint us with details.

“The weather here is fine now. I passed yesterday at Abazzia, and the place was looking well. I believe the Archduke will purchase it, and, though sorry on some accounts, I shall be glad on the whole.

“For Hodnig and Oppovich,

“Sara Oppovich.

“Of course, if Count Hunyadi will not transact business on his arrival, you will have to await his convenience. Perhaps the interval could be profitably passed in Transylvania, where, it is said, the oak-bark is both cheap and good. See to this, if opportunity serves. Bieli's book and maps are worth consulting.”

If I read this epistle once, I read it fifty times, but I will not pretend to say with what strange emotions. All the dry reference to business I could bear well enough, but the little passing sneer at what she called my ethnology piqued me painfully. Why should she have taken such pains to tell me that nothing that did not lend itself to gain could have any interest for her? or was it to say that these topics alone were what should be discussed between us? Was it to recall me to my station, to make me remember in what relation I stood to her, she wrote thus? These were not the nature I had read of in Balzac! the creatures all passion and soul and sentiment,—women whose atmosphere was positive enchantment, and whose least glance or word or gesture would inflame the heart to very madness; and yet was it net in Sara to become all this? Were those deep lustrous eyes, that looked away into space longingly, dreamfully, dazingly,—were they meant to pore over wearisome columns of dry arithmetic, or not rather to give back in recognition what they had got in rapture, and to look as they were looked into?

Was it, as a Jewess, that my speculations about race had offended her? Had I expressed myself carelessly or ill? I had often been struck by a smile she would give,—not scornful, nor slighting, but something that seemed to say, “These thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are these ways our ways!” but in her silent fashion she would make no remark, but be satisfied to shadow forth some half dissent by a mere trembling of the lip.

She had passed a day at Abazzia—of course, alone—wandering about that delicious spot, and doubtless recalling memories for any one of which I had given my life's blood. And would she not bestow a word—one word—on these? Why not say she as much as remembered me; that it was there we first met! Sure, so much might have been said, or at least hinted at, in all harmlessness! I had done nothing, written nothing, to bring rebuke upon me. I had taken no liberty; I had tried to make the dry detail of a business letter less wearisome by a little digression, not wholly out of apropos; that was all.

Was then the Hebrew heart bent sorely on gain? And yet what grand things did the love of these women inspire in olden times, and what splendid natures were theirs! How true and devoted, how self-sacrificing! Sara's beautiful face, in all its calm loveliness, rose before me as I thought these things, and I felt that I loved her more than ever.


It still wanted several weeks of Christmas, and so I hastened off to Pesth and tried to acquire some little knowledge of Hungarian, and some acquaintance with the habits and ways of Hungarian life. I am not sure that I made much progress in anything but the csardas—the national dance,—in which I soon became a proficient. Its stately solemnity suddenly changing for a lively movement; its warlike gestures and attitudes; its haughty tramp and defiant tone; and, last of all, its whirlwind impetuosity and passion,—all emblems of the people who practise it,—possessed a strange fascination for me; and I never missed a night of those public balls where it was danced.

Towards the middle of December, however, I bethought me of my mission, and set out for Gross Wardein, which lay a long distance off, near the Transylvanian frontier. I had provided myself with one of the wicker carriages of the country, and travelled post, usually having three horses harnessed abreast; or, where there was much uphill, a team of five.

I mention this, for I own that the exhilaration of speeding along at the stretching gallop of these splendid juckers, tossing their wild names madly, and ringing out their myriads of bells, was an ecstasy of delight almost maddening. Over and over, as the excited driver would urge his beasts to greater speed by a wild shrill cry, have I yelled out in concert with him, carried away by an intense excitement I could not master.

On the second day of the journey we left the region of roads, and usually directed our course by some church spire or tower in the distance, or followed the bank of a river, when not too devious. This headlong swoop across fields and prairies, dashing madly on in what seemed utter recklessness, was glorious fun; and when we came to cross the small bridges which span the streams, without rail or parapet at either side, and where the deviation of a few inches would have sent us headlong into the torrent beneath, I felt a degree of blended terror and delight such as one experiences in the mad excitement of a fox-hunt.

On the third morning I discovered, on awaking, that a heavy fall of snow had occurred during the night, and we were forced to take off our wheels and place the carriage on sledge-slides. This alone was wanting to make the enjoyment perfect, and our pace from this hour became positively steeple-chasing. Lying back in my ample fur mantle, and my hands enclosed in a fur muff, I accepted the salutations of the villagers as we swept along, or blandly raised my hand to my cap as some wearied guard would hurriedly turn out to present arms to a supposed “magnate;” for we were long out of the beat of usual travel, and rarely any but some high official of the State was seen to come “extra post,” as it is called, through these wild regions.

Up to Izarous the country had been a plain, slightly, but very slightly, undulating. Here, however, we got amongst the mountains, and the charm of scenery was now added to the delight of the pace. On the fifth day I learned, and not without sincere regret, that we were within seven German miles—something over thirty of ours—from Gross Wardein, from which the Hunyadi Schloss only lay about fifty miles.

Up to this I had been, to myself at least, a grand seigneur travelling for his pleasure, careless of cost, and denying himself nothing; splendid generosity, transmitted from each postilion to his successor, secured me the utmost speed his beasts could master, and the impetuous dash with which we spun into the arched doorways of the inns, routed the whole household, and not unfrequently summoned the guests themselves to witness the illustrious arrival. A few hours more and the grand illusion would dissolve! No more the wild stretching gallop, cutting the snowdrift; no more the clear bells, ringing through the frosty air; no more the eager landlord bustling to the carriage-side with his flagon of heated wine; no more that burning delight imparted by speed, a sense of power that actually intoxicates. Not one of these! A few hours more and I should be Herr Owen, travelling for the house of Hodnig and Oppovich, banished to the company of bagmen, and reduced to a status where whatever life has of picturesque or graceful is made matter for vulgar sarcasm and ridicule. I know well, ye gentlemen who hold a station fixed and unassailable will scarcely sympathize with me in all this; but the castle-builders of this world—and, happily, they are a large class—will lend me all their pity, well aware that so long as imagination honors the drafts upon her, the poor man is never bankrupt, and that it is only as illusions dissolve he sees his insolvency.

I reached Gross Wardein to dinner, and passed the night there, essaying, but with no remarkable success, to learn something of Count Hunyadi, his habits, age, temper, and general demeanor. As my informants were his countrymen, I could only gather that his qualities were such as Hungarians held in esteem. He was proud, brave, costly in his mode of life, splendidly hospitable, and a thorough spoilsman. As to what he might prove in matters of business, if he would even stoop to entertain such at all, none could say; the very thought seemed to provoke a laugh.

“I once attempted a deal with him,” said an old farmerlike man at the fireside. “I wanted to buy a team of juchera he drove into the yard here, and was rash enough to offer five hundred florins for what he asked eight. He did not even vouchsafe me an answer, and almost drove over me the next day as I stood at the side of the gate there.”

“That was like Tassilo,” said a Hungarian, with flashing eyes.

“He served you right,” cried another. “None but a German would have offered him such a rudeness.”

“Not but he's too ready with his heavy whip,” muttered an old soldier-like fellow. “He might chance to strike where no words would efface the welt.”

Stories of Hunyadi's extravagance and eccentricity now poured in on all sides. How he had sold an estate to pay the cost of an imperial visit that lasted a week; how he had driven a team of four across the Danube on the second day of the frost, when a heavy man could have smashed the ice by a stamp of his foot; how he had killed a boar in single combat, though it cost him three fingers of his left hand, and an awful flesh wound in the side; and numberless other feats of daring and recklessness were recorded by admiring narrators, who finished by a loud Elyen to his health.

I am not sure that I went away to my bed feeling much encouraged at the success of my mission, or very hopeful of what I should do with this magnate of Hungary.

By daybreak I was again on the road. The journey led through a wild mountain pass, and was eminently interesting and picturesque; but I was no longer so open to enjoyment as before, and serious thoughts of my mission now oppressed me, and I grew more nervous and afraid of failure. If this haughty Graf were the man they represented him, it was just as likely he would refuse to listen to me at all; nor was the fact a cheering one that my client was a Jew, since nowhere is the race less held in honor than in Hungary.

As day began to decline, we issued forth upon a vast plain into which a mountain spur projected like a bold promontory beside the sea. At the very extremity of this, a large mass, which might be rock, seemed to stand out against the sky. “There,—yonder,” said the postilion, pointing towards it with his whip; “that is Schloss Hunyadi. There's three hours' good gallop yet before us.”

A cold snowdrift borne on a wind that at times brought us to a standstill, or even drove us to seek shelter by the wayside, now set in, and I was fain to roll myself in my furs and lie snugly down on the hay in the wagen, where I soon fell asleep; and though we had a change of horses, and I must have managed somehow to settle with the postilion and hand him his trink-geld, I was conscious of nothing till awakened by the clanking sound of a great bell, when I started up and saw we had driven into a spacious courtyard in which, at an immense fire, a number of people were seated, while others bustled about, harnessing or unharnessing horses. “Here we are, Herr Graf!” cried my postilion, who called me Count in recognition of the handsome way in which I had treated his predecessor. “This is Schloss Hunyadi.”


When I had made known my rank and quality, I was assigned a room—a very comfortable one—in one wing of the castle, and no more notice taken of me than if I had been a guest at an inn. The house was filled with visitors; but the master, with some six or seven others, was away in Transylvania boar-shooting. As it was supposed he would not return for eight or ten days, I had abundant time to look about me, and learn something of the place and the people.

Schloss Hunyadi dated from the fifteenth century, although now a single square tower was all that remained of the early building. Successive additions had been made in every imaginable taste and style, till the whole presented an enormous incongruous mass, in which fortress, farmhouse, convent, and palace struggled for the mastery, size alone giving an air of dignity to what numberless faults would have condemned as an outrage on all architecture.

If there was deformity and ugliness without, there was, however, ample comfort and space within. Above two hundred persons could be accommodated beneath the roof, and half as many more had been occasionally stowed away in the out-buildings. I made many attempts, but all unsuccessfully, to find out what number of servants the household consisted of. Several wore livery, and many—especially such as waited on guests humble as myself—were dressed in blouse, with the crest of the house embroidered on the breast; while a little army of retainers in Jager costume, or in the picturesque dress of the peasantry, lounged about the courtyard, lending a hand to unharness or harness a team, to fetch a bucket of water, or “strap down” a beast, as some weary traveller would ride in, splashed and wayworn.

If there seemed no order or discipline anywhere, there was little confusion, and no ill humor whatever. All seemed ready to oblige; and the work of life, so far as I could see from my window, went on cheerfully and joyfully, if not very regularly or well.

If there was none of the trim propriety, or that neatness that rises to elegance, which I had seen in my father's household, there was a lavish profusion here, a boundless abundance, that, contrasted with our mode of life, made us seem almost mean and penurious. Guests came and went unceasingly, and, to all seeming, not known to any one. An unbounded hospitality awaited all comers, and of the party who supped and caroused to-night, none remained on the morrow, nor, perhaps, even a name was remembered.

It took me some days to learn this, and to know that there was nothing singular or strange in the position I occupied, living where none knew why or whence I came, or even so much as cared to inquire my name or country.

In the great hall, where we dined all together,—the distinguished guests at one end of the table, the lesser notabilities lower down, and the menials last of all,—there was ever a place reserved for sudden arrivals; and it was rare that the meal went over without some such. A hearty welcome and a cordial greeting were soon over, and the work of festivity went on as before.

I was soon given to understand that, not only I might dispose of my time how I pleased, but that every appliance to do so agreeably was at my disposal, and that I might ride or drive or shoot or sledge, just as I fancied. And though I was cautious to show that my personal pretension were of the very humblest, this fact seemed no barrier whatever to my enjoyment of all these courteous civilities.

“We 're always glad when any one will ride the juckers,” said a Jäger to me; “they are ruined for want of exercise, and if you like three mounts a day, you shall have them.”

It was a rare piece of good luck for me that I could both ride and shoot. No two accomplishments could have stood me in such request as these, and I rose immensely in the esteem of those amongst whom I sat at table when they saw that I could sit a back-jumper and shoot a wood-pigeon on the wing.

While I thus won such humble suffrages, there was a higher applause that my heart craved and longed for. As the company—some five-and-twenty or thirty persons—who dined at the upper table withdrew after dinner, they passed into the drawing-rooms, and we saw them no more. Of the music and dancing, in which they passed the evening, we knew nothing; and we in our own way had our revels, which certainly amply contented those who had no pretensions to higher company; but this was precisely what I could not, do what I might, divest myself of. Like one of the characters of my old favorite Balzac, I yearned to be once more in the salon, and amongst ces épaules blanches, where the whole game of life is finer, where the parries are neater, and the thrusts more deadly.

An accident gave me what all my ingenuity could not have effected. A groom of the chambers came suddenly, one evening, into the hall where we all sat, to ask if any one there could play the new csardas called the “Stephan.” It was all the rage at Pesth; but no copy of it had yet reached the far East. I had learned this while at Pesth, and had the music with me; and of course, offered my services at once. Scarcely permitted a moment to make some slight change of dress, I found myself in a handsome salon with a numerous company. In my first confusion I could mark little beyond the fact that most of the persons were in the national costume, the ladies wearing the laced bodies, covered with precious stones, and the men in velvet coats, with massive turquoise buttons, the whole effect being something like that of a splendid scene in a theatre.

“We are going to avail ourselves of your talent at the piano, sir,” said the Countess Hunyadi, approaching me with a courteous smile. “But let me first offer you some tea.”

Not knowing if fortune might ever repeat her present favor, I resolved to profit by the opportunity to the utmost; and while cautiously repressing all display, contrived to show that I was master of some three or four languages, and a person of education, generally.

“We are puzzled about your nationality, sir,” said the Countess to me. “If not too great a liberty, may I ask your country?”

When I said England, the effect produced was almost magical. A little murmur of something I might even call applause ran through the room; for I had mentioned the land of all Europe dearest to the Hungarian heart, and I heard, “An Englishman! an Englishman!” repeated from mouth to mouth, in accents of kindest meaning.

“Why had I not presented myself before? Why had I not sent my name to the Countess? Why not have made it known that I was here?” and so on, were asked eagerly of me, as though my mere nationality had invested me with some special claim to attention and regard.

I had to own that my visit was a purely business one; that I had come to see and confer with the Count, and had not the very slightest pretension to expect the courtesies I was then receiving.

My performance at the piano crowned my success. I played the csardas with such spirit as an impassioned dancer alone can give to the measure he delights in, and two enthusiastic encores rewarded my triumph. “Adolf, you must play now, for I know the Englishman is dying to have a dance,” said the gay young Countess Palfi; “and I am quite ready to be his partner.” And the next moment we were whirling along in all the mad mazes of the csardas.

There is that amount of display in the dancing of the csardas that not merely invites criticism, but actually compels an outspoken admiration whenever anything like excellence accompanies the performance. My partner was celebrated for the grace and beauty of her dancing, and for those innumerable interpolations which, fancy or caprice suggesting, she could throw into the measure. To meet and respond to these by appropriate gesture, to catch the spirit of each mood, and be ready for each change, was the task now assigned me; and I need not say with what passionate ardor I threw myself into it. At one moment she would advance in proud defiance; and as I fell back in timid homage, she would turn and fly off in the wild transport of a waltz movement Then it was mine to pursue and overtake her; and, clasping her, whirl away, till suddenly with a bound she would free herself, again to dramatize some passing emotion, some mood of deep dejection, or of mad and exuberant delight It was clear that she was bent on trying the resources of my ingenuity to the very last limit; and the loud plaudits that greeted my successes had evidently put her pride on the mettle. I saw this, and saw, as I thought, that the contest had begun to pique; so, taking the next opportunity she gave me to touch her hand, I dropped on one knee, and, kissing her fingers, declared myself vanquished.

A deafening cheer greeted this finale, and accompanied us as I led my partner to her seat.

It is a fortunate thing for young natures that there is no amount of praise, no quantity of flattery, ever palls upon them. Their moral digestion is as great as their physical; and even gluttony does not seem to hurt them. Of all the flattering speeches made me on my performance, none were more cordially uttered than by my beautiful partner, who declared that if I had but the Hungarian costume,—where the clink of the spur and the jingle of the hussar equipment blend with the time,—my csardas was perfection.

Over and over again were regrets uttered that the Empress, who had seen the dance at Pesth done by timid and un impassioned dancers, and who had, in consequence, carried away but a faint idea of its real captivation, could have witnessed our performance; and some even began to plot how such a representation could be prepared for her Majesty's next visit to Hungary. While they thus talked, supper was announced; and as the company were marshalling themselves into the order to move forward, I took the opportunity to slip away unnoticed to my room, well remembering that my presence there was the result of accident, and that nothing but a generous courtesy could regard me as a guest.

I had not been many minutes in my room when I heard a footstep in the corridor. I turned the key in my lock, and put out my light.

“Herr Engländer! Herr Engländer!” cried a servant's voice, as a sharp knocking shook the door. I made no reply, and he retreated.

It was clear to me that an invitation had been sent after me; and this thought filled the measure of my self-gratulation, and I drew nigh my fire, to sit and weave the pleasant-est fancies that had crossed my mind for many a long day.

I waited for some time, sitting by the firelight, and then relit my lamp. I had a long letter to write to Mademoiselle Sara; for up to then I had said nothing of my arrival, nor given any account of the Schloss Hunyadi.

Had my task been simply to record my life and my impressions of those around me at Hunyadi, nothing could well have been much easier. My few days there had been actually crammed with those small and pleasant incidents which tell well in gossiping correspondence. It was all, too, so strange, so novel, so picturesque, that, to make an effective tableau of such a life, was merely to draw on memory.

There was a barbaric grandeur, on the whole, in the vast building; its crowds of followers, its hordes of retainers who came and went, apparently at no bidding but their own; in the ceaseless tide of travellers who, hospited for the night, went their way on the morrow, no more impressed by the hospitality, to all seeming, than by a thing they had their own valid right to. Details there were of neglect and savagery, that even an humble household might have been ashamed of, but these were lost—submerged, as it were—in that ocean of boundless extravagance and cost, and speedily lost sight of.

It was now my task to tell Sara all this, colored by the light—a warm light, too—of my own enjoyment of it. I pictured the place as I saw it on the night I came, and told how I could not imagine for a while in what wild' region I found myself; I narrated the way in which I was assigned my place in this strange world, with Ober-jagers and Unter-jagers for my friends, who mounted me and often accompanied me in my rides; how I had seen the vast territories from hill-tops and eminences which pertained to the great Count, boundless plains that in summer would have been waving with yellow corn, and far-stretching woods of oak or pine lost in the long distance; and, last of all, coming down to the very moment I was writing, I related the incident by which I had been promoted to the society of the castle, and how I had passed my first evening.

My pen ran rapidly along as I told of the splendors and magnificence of the scene, and of a company whose brilliant costume filled up the measure of the enchantment. “They pass and repass before me, in all their gorgeous bravery, as I write; the air vibrates with the music, and unconsciously my foot keeps time with the measure of that csardas, that spins and whirls before me till my brain reels with a mad intoxication.”

It was only when I read over what I had written, that I became aware of the questionable taste of recording these things to one who, perhaps, was to read them after a day of heavy toil or a sleepless night of watching. What will she think of me, thought I, if it be thus I seem to discharge the weighty trust confided to me? Was it to mingle in such revelries I came here, or will she deem that these follies are the fitting prelude to a grave and difficult negotiation? For a moment I had half determined to throw my letter in the fire, and limit myself simply to saying that I had arrived, and was awaiting the Count's return! but my pride, or rather my vanity, carried the day; I could not repress the delight I felt to be in a society I clung to by so many interesting ties, and to show that here I was in my true element,—here breathing the air that was native to me.

“I am not to be supposed to forget,” I wrote, “that it was not for these pleasures you sent me here, for I bear well in mind why I have come, and what I have to do. Count Hunyadi is, however, absent, and will not return before the end of the week, by which time I fully hope that I shall have assured such a position here as will mainly contribute to my ability to serve you. I pray you, therefore, to read this letter by the light of the assurance I now give, and though I may seem to lend myself too easily to pleasure, to believe that no seductions of amusement, no flatteries of my self-love, shall turn me from the devotion I owe you, and from the fidelity to which I pledge my life.” With this I closed my letter and addressed it.


The morning after my csardas success, a valet in discreet black brought me a message from the Countess that she expected to see me at her table at dinner, and from him I learned the names and rank of the persons I had met the night before. They were all of that high noblesse which in Hungary assumes a sort of family prestige, and by frequent intermarriage really possesses many of the close familiar interests of the family. Austrians, or indeed Germans from any part, are rarely received in these intimate gatherings, and I learned with some surprise that the only strangers were an English “lord” and his countess—so the man styled them—who were then amongst the guests. “The Lord” was with the Count on the shooting excursion; my Lady being confined to her room by a heavy cold she had caught out sledging.

Shall I be misunderstood if I own that I was very sorry to hear that an Englishman and a man of title was amongst the company? Whatever favor foreigners might extend to any small accomplishments I could lay claim to, I well knew would not compensate in my countryman's eyes for my want of station. In my father's house I had often had occasion to remark that while Englishmen freely admitted the advances of a foreigner, and accepted his acquaintance with a courteous readiness, with each other they maintained a cold and studied reserve; as though no difference of place or circumstance was to obliterate that insular code which defines class, and limits each man to the exact rank he belongs to.

When they shall see, therefore, thought I, how my titled countryman will treat me,—the distance at which he will hold me, and the measured firmness with which he will repel, not my familiarities, for I should not dare them, but simply the ease of my manner,—these foreigners will be driven to regard me as some ignoble upstart who has no pretension whatever to be amongst them. I was very unwilling to encounter this humiliation. It was true I was not sailing under false colors. I had assumed no pretensions from which I was now to retreat. I had nothing to disown or disavow; but still I was about to be the willing guest of a society, to a place in which in my own country I could not have the faintest pretension; and it was just possible that my countryman might bring this fact before me.

He might do worse,—he might question me as to who and what I was; nor was I very sure how my tact or my temper might carry me through such an ordeal.

Would it not be wiser and better for me to avoid this peril? Should I not spare myself much mortification and much needless pain? Thus thinking, I resolved to wait on the Countess at once, and explain frankly why I felt obliged to decline the gracious courtesy she had extended to me, and refuse an honor so full of pleasure and of pride.

She was not alone as I entered,—the Countess Palfi was with her,—and I scarcely knew how to approach my theme in presence of a third person. With a bold effort, however, I told what I had come for; not very collectedly, indeed, nor perhaps very intelligibly, but in such a way as to convey that I had not courage to face what might look at least like a false position, and was almost sure to entail all the unpleasant relations of such. “In fact, Madam,” said I, “I am nobody; and in my country men of rank never associate with nobodies, even by an accident. My Lord would not forgive you for throwing him into such acquaintanceship, and I should never forgive myself for having caused you the unpleasantness. I don't imagine I have made my meaning very clear.”

“You have certainly made me very uncomfortable,” broke in Countess Hunyadi, thoughtfully. “I thought that we Hungarians had rather strict notions on these subjects, but these of your country leave them miles behind.”

“And are less reasonable, besides,” said the Palfi, “since your nobility is being continually recruited from so rich a bourgeoisie.”

“At all events,” cried the Countess, suddenly, “we are here at Schloss Hunyadi, and I am its mistress. I invite you to dine with me; it remains for you to decide how you treat my invitation.”

“Put in that way, Madam, I accept with deference;” and I bowed deeply and moved towards the door. The ladies acknowledged my salute in silence, and I fancied with coldness, and I retired.

I was evidently mistaken in attributing coldness to their manner; the ladies received me when I appeared at dinner with a marked cordiality, I sat next Madame Palfi, who talked to me like an old friend, told me who the various people at table were, and gave me great pleasure by saying that I was sure to become a favorite with Count Hunyadi, who delighted in gayety, and cherished all those that promoted it. Seeing what interest I took in the ways of Hungarian life, she explained many of the customs I saw around me, which, deriving from a great antiquity, were doubtless soon destined to give way before the advance of a higher civilization. I asked what she knew of the English guests. It was nothing, or next to nothing,—Count Hunyadi had made their acquaintance at Baden that summer, and invited them to pass their Christmas with him. Countess Palfi had herself arrived since they came, and had not seen them; for “my Lord,” as he was generally called, had left at once to join the shooting-party, and my Lady had not appeared since the day after her arrival. “I only know that she is a great beauty, and of most charming manners. The men all rave of her, so that we are half jealous already. We were expecting to see her at dinner to-day, but we hear that she is less well than yesterday.”

“Do you know their name?”

“No; I believe I heard it,—but I am not familiar with English names, and it has escaped me; but I will present you by and by to Count Greorge Szechenyi, who was at Baden when the Hunyadi met them,—he'll tell you more of them.”

I assured her that my curiosity was most amply satisfied already. It was a class, in which I could not expect to find an acquaintance, far less a friend.

“There is something almost forced in this humility of yours,” cried she. “Are we to find out some fine morning that you are a prince in disguise?” She laughed so merrily at her own conceit that Madame Hunyadi asked the cause of her mirth.

“I will tell you later on,” said she. We soon afterwards rose to go into the drawing-room, and I saw as they laughed together that she had told her what she said.

“Do you know,” said the Countess Hunyadi, approaching me, “I am half of Madame Palfi's mind, and I shall never rest till you reveal your secret to us?”

I said something laughingly about my incognito being the best coat in my wardrobe, and the matter dropped. That night I sang several times, alone, and in duet with the Palfi, and was overwhelmed with flatteries of my “fresh tenor voice” and my “admirable method.” It was something so new and strange to me to find myself the centre of polite attentions, and of those warm praises which consummate good breeding knows how to bestow without outraging taste, that I found it hard to repress the wild delight that possessed me.

If I had piqued their curiosity to find out who or what I was, I had also stimulated my own ambition to astonish them.

“He says he will ride out with me to-morrow, and does n't care if I give him a lively mount,” said one, speaking of me.

“And you mean to gratify him, George?” asked another.

“He shall have the roan that hoisted you out of the saddle with his hind quarters.”

“Come, come, gentlemen, I'll not have my protégé injured to gratify your jealousies,” said Madame Hunyadi; “he shall be my escort.”

“If he rides as he plays billiards, you need not be much alarmed about him. The fellow can do what he likes at the cannon game.”

“I 'd give fifty Naps to know his history,” cried another.

I was playing chess as he said this, and, turning my head quietly around, I said, “The secret is not worth half the money, sir; and if it really interests you, you shall have it for the asking.”

He muttered out a mass of apologies and confused excuses, to all the embarrassment of which I left him most pitilessly, and the incident ended. I saw, however, enough to perceive that if I had won the suffrages of the ladies, the men of the party had conceived an undisguised dislike of me, and openly resented the favor shown me.

“What can you do with the foils, young gentleman?” whispered Szechenyi to me, as he came near.

“Pretty much as I did with you at billiards awhile ago,” said I, insolently; for my blood was up, and I burned to fix a quarrel somewhere.

“Shall we try?” asked he, dryly.

“If you say without the buttons, I agree.”

“Of course, I mean that.”

I nodded, and he went on,—

“Come down to the riding-school by the first light tomorrow then, and I 'll have all in readiness.”

I gave another nod of assent, and moved away. I had enough on my hands now; for, besides other engagements, I had promised the Countess Palfi to arrange a little piece for private theatricals, and have it ready by the time of Count Hunyadi's return. So far from feeling oppressed or overwhelmed by the multiplicity of these cares, they stimulated me to a degree of excitement almost maddening. Failure somewhere seemed inevitable, and, for the life of me, I could not choose where it should be. As my spirits rose, I threw off all the reserve I had worn before, and talked away with an animation and boldness I felt uncontrollable. I made calembourgs, and dashed off impromptu verses at the piano; and when, culminating in some impertinence by a witty picture of the persons around me I had convulsed the whole room with laughter, I sprang up, and, saying good-night, disappeared.

The roars of their laughter followed me down the corridor, nor did they cease to ring in my ears till I had closed my door.


I could more easily record my sensations in the paroxysm of a fever than recall how I passed that night. I am aware that I wrote a long letter to my mother, and a longer to Sara, both to be despatched in case ill befell me in my encounter. What I said to either, or how I said it, I know not.

No more can I explain why I put all my papers together in such fashion that they could be thrown into the fire at once, without leaving any, the slightest, clew to trace me by. That secret, which I had affected to hold so cheaply, did in reality possess some strange fascination for me, and I desired to be a puzzle and an enigma even after I was gone.

It wanted one short hour of dawn when I had finished; but I was still too much excited to sleep. I knew how unfavorably I should come to the encounter before me with jarred nerves and the weariness of a night's watching; but it was too late now to help that; too late, besides, to speculate on what men would say of such a causeless duel, brought on, as I could not conceal from myself, by my hot temper. By the time I had taken my cold bath my nerves became more braced, and I scarcely felt a trace of fatigue or exhaustion. The gray morning was just breaking as I stole quietly downstairs and issued forth into the courtyard. A heavy fall of snow had occurred in the night, and an unbroken expanse of billowy whiteness spread ont before me, save where, from a corner of the court, some foot-tracks led towards the riding-school. I saw, therefore, that I was not the first at the tryst, and I hastened on in all speed.

Six or eight young men, closely muffled in furs, stood at the door as I came up, and gravely uncovered to me. They made way for me to pass in without speaking; and while, stamping the snow from my boots, I said something about the cold of the morning, they muttered what might mean assent or the reverse in a low half-sulky tone, that certainly little invited to further remark.

For a few seconds they talked together in whispers, and then a tall ill-favored fellow, with a deep scar from the cheek-bone to the upper lip, came abruptly up to me.

“Look here, young fellow,” said he. “I am to act as your second; and though, of course, I 'd like to know that the man I handled was a gentleman, I do not ask you to tell anything about yourself that you prefer to keep back. I would only say that, if ugly consequences come of this stupid business, the blame must fall upon you. Your temper provoked it, is that not true?”

I nodded assent, and he went on.

“So far, all right. The next point is this. We are all on honor that, whatever happens, not a word or a syllable shall ever escape us. Do you agree to this?”

“I agree,” said I, calmly.

“Give me your hand on it.”

I gave him my hand; and as he held it in his own, he said, “On the faith of a gentleman, I will never reveal to my last day what shall pass here this morning.”

I repeated the words after him, and we moved on into the school.

I had drawn my sofa in front of the fire, and, stretching myself on it, fell into a deep dreamless sleep. A night's wakefulness, and the excitement I had gone through, had so far worked upon me that I did not hear the opening of my door, nor the tread of a heavy man as he came forward and seated himself by the fire. It was only the cold touch of hi» fingers on the wrist as he felt my pulse that at last aroused me.

“Don't start, don't flurry yourself,” said he, calmly, to me. “I am the doctor. I have been to see the other, and I promised to look in on you.”

“How is he? Is it serious?”

“It will be a slow affair. It was an ugly thrust,—all the dorsal muscles pierced, but no internal mischief done.”

“He will certainly recover then?”

“There is no reason why he should not. But where is this scratch of yours? Let me see it.”

“It is a nothing, doctor,—a mere nothing. Pray take no trouble about it.”

“But I must I have pledged myself to examine your wound; and I must keep my word.”

“Surely these gentlemen are scarcely so very anxious about me,” said I, in some pique. “Not one of them vouchsafed to see me safe home, though I had lost some blood, and felt very faint!”

“I did not say it was these gentlemen sent me here,” said he, dryly.

“Then who else knew anything about this business?”

“If you must know, then,” said he, “it is the English Countess who is staying here, and whom I have been attending for the last week. How she came to hear of this affair I cannot tell you, for I know it is a secret to the rest of the house; but she made me promise to come and see you, and if there was nothing in your wound to forbid it, to bring you over to her dressing-room, and present you to her. And now let me look at the injury.”

I took off my coat, and, baring my arm, displayed a very ugly thrust, which, entering above the wrist, came out between the two bones of the arm.

“Now I call this the worst of the two,” said he, examining it “Does it give you much pain?”

“Some uneasiness; nothing more. When may I see the Countess?” asked I; for an intense curiosity to meet her had now possessed me.

“If you like, you may go at once; not that I can accompany you, for I am off for a distant visit; but her rooms are at the end of this corridor, and you enter by the conservatory. Meanwhile I must bandage this arm in somewhat better fashion than you have done.”

While he was engaged in dressing my wound, he rambled on about the reckless habits that made such rencontres possible. “We are in the middle of the seventeenth century here, with all its barbarisms,” said he. “These young fellows were vexed at seeing the notice you attracted; and that was to their thinking cause enough to send you off with a damaged lung or a maimed limb. It's all well, however, as long as Graf Hunyadi does not hear of it. But if he should, he'll turn them out, every man of them, for this treatment of an Englishman.”

“Then we must take care, sir, that he does not hear of it,” said I, half fiercely, and as though addressing my speech especially to himself.

“Not from me, certainly,” said he. “My doctor's instincts always save me from such indiscretions.”

“Is our Countess young, doctor?” asked I, half jocularly.

“Young and pretty, though one might say, too, she has been younger and prettier. If you dine below stairs today, drink no wine, and get back to your sofa as soon as you can after dinner.” With this caution he left me.

A heavy packet of letters had arrived from Fiume, containing, I surmised, some instructions for which I had written; but seeing that the address was in the cashier's handwriting, I felt no impatience to break the seal.

I dressed myself with unusual care, though the pain of my arm made the process a very slow one; and at last set out to pay my visit. I passed along the corridor, through the conservatory, and found myself at a door, at which I knocked twice. At last I turned the handle, and entered a small but handsomely furnished drawing-room, about which books and newspapers lay scattered; and a small embroidery-frame near the fire showed where she, who was engaged with that task, had lately been seated. As I bent down in some curiosity to examine a really clever copy of an altar-piece of Albert Durer, a door gently opened, and I heard the rustle of a silk dress. I had not got time to look round when, with a cry, she rushed towards me, and clasped me in her arms. It was Madame Cleremont!

“My own dear, dear Digby!” she cried, as she kissed me over face and forehead, smoothing back my hair to look at me, and then falling again on my neck. “I knew it could be no other when I heard of you, darling; and when they told me of your singing, I could have sworn it was yourself.”

I tried to disengage myself from her embrace, and summoned what I could of sternness to repel her caresses. She dropped at my feet, and, clasping my hands, implored me, in accents broken with passion, to forgive her. To see her who had once been all that a mother could have been to me in tenderness and care, who watched the long hours of the night beside my sick-bed,—to see her there before me, abject, self-accused, and yet entreating forgiveness, was more than I could bear. My nerves, besides, had been already too tensely strung; and I burst into a passion of tears that totally overcame me. She sat with her arm round me, and wept.

With a wild hysterical rapidity she poured forth a sort of excuse of her own conduct. She recalled all that I had seen her suffer of insult and shame; the daily outrages passed upon her; the slights which no woman can or ought to pardon. She spoke of her friendlessness, her misery; but, more than all, her consuming desire to be avenged on the man who had degraded her. “Your father, I knew, was the man to do me this justice,” she cried; “he did not love me, nor did I love him; but we both hated this wretch, and it seemed little to me what became of me, if I could but compass his ruin.”

I scarcely followed her. I bethought me of my poor mother, for whom none had a thought, neither of the wrongs done her, nor of the sufferings to which she was so remorselessly consigned.

“You do not listen to me. You do not hear me,” cried she, passionately; “and yet who has been your friend as I have? Who has implored your father to be just towards you as I have done? Who has hazarded her whole future in maintaining your rights,—who but I?” In a wild rhapsody of mingled passion and appeal she went on to show how Sir Roger insisted on presenting her everywhere as his wife.

Even at courts she had been so presented, though all the terrible consequences of exposure were sure to ring over the whole of Europe. The personal danger of the step was-a temptation too strong to resist; and the altercation and vindication that must follow were ecstasy to him. He was-pitting himself against the world, and he would back himself on the issue.

“And, here, where we are now,” cried I, “what is to happen if to-morrow some stranger should arrive from England who knows your story, and feels he owes it to his host to proclaim it?”

“Is it not too clear what is to happen?” shrieked she; “blood, more blood,—theirs or his, or both! Just as he struck a young prince at Baden with a glove across the face, because he stared at me too rudely, and shot him afterwards; his dearest tie to me is the peril that attaches to me. Do you not know him, Digby? Do you not know the insolent disdain with which he refuses to be bound by what other men submit to; and that when he has said, 'I am ready to stake my life on it,' he believes he has proved his conviction to be a just one?”

Of my father's means, or what remained to him of fortune, she knew nothing. They had often been reduced to almost want, and at other times money would flow freely in, to be wasted and lavished with that careless munificence that no experiences of privation could ever teach prudence. We now turned to speculate on what would happen when he came back from this shooting-party; how he would recognize me.

“I see,” cried I: “you suspect he will disown me?”

“Not that, dear Digby,” said she, in some confusion, “but he may require—that is, he may wish you to conform to some plan, some procedure of his own.”

“If this should involve the smallest infraction of what is due to my mother, I 'll refuse,” said I, firmly, “and reject as openly as he dares to make it.”

“And are you ready to face what may follow?”

“If you mean as regards myself, I am quite ready. My father threw me off years ago, and I am better able to fight the battle of life now than I was then. I ask nothing of him,—not even his name. If you speak of other consequences,—of what may ensue when his hosts shall learn the fraud he has practised on them—” It was only as the fatal word fell from me that I felt how cruelly I had spoken, and I stopped and took her hand in mine, saying, “Do not be angry with me, dear friend, that I have spoken a bitter word; bear with me for her sake, who has none to befriend her but myself.”

She made me no answer, but looked out cold and stern into vacancy, her pale features motionless, not a line or lineament betraying what was passing within her.

“Why remain here then to provoke a catastrophe?” cried she, suddenly. “If you have come for pleasure, you see enough to be aware there is little more awaiting you.”

“I have not come for pleasure. I am here to confer with Count Hunyadi on a matter of business.”

“And will some paltry success in a little peddling contract for the Count's wine or his olives or his Indian corn compensate you for the ruin you may bring on your father? Will it recompense you if his blood be shed?”

There was a tone of defiant sarcasm in the way she spoke these words that showed me, if I would not yield to her persuasions, she would not hesitate to employ other means of coercion. Perhaps she mistook the astonishment my face expressed for terror; for she went on: “It would be well that you thought twice over it ere you make your breach with your father irreparable. Remember, it is not a question of a passing sentimentality or a sympathy, it is the whole story of your life is at issue,—if you be anything, or anybody, or a nameless creature, without belongings or kindred.”

I sat for some minutes in deep thought. I was not sure whether I understood her words, and that she meant to say it lay entirely with my father to own or disown me, as he pleased. She seemed delighted at my embarrassment, and her voice rung out with its own clear triumphant cadence, as she said, “You begin at last to see how near the precipice you have been straying.”

“One moment, Madam,” cried I. “If my mother be Lady Norcott, Sir Roger cannot disown me; not to say that already, in an open court, he has maintained his right over me and declared me his son.”

“You are opening a question I will not touch, Digby,” said she, gravely,—“your mother's marriage. I will only say that the ablest lawyers your father has consulted pronounce it more than questionable.”

“And my father has then entertained the project of an attempt to break it.”

“This is not fair,” cried she, eagerly; “you lead me on from one admission to another, till I find myself revealing confidences to one who at any moment may avow himself my enemy.”

I raised my eyes to her face, and she met my glance with a look cold, stern, and impassive, as though she would say, “Choose your path now, and accept me as friend or foe.” All the winning softness of her manner, all those engaging coquetries of look and gesture, of which none was more mistress, were gone, and another and a very different nature had replaced them.

This, then, was one of those women all tenderness and softness and fascination, but who behind this mask have the fierce nature of the tigress. Could she be the same I had seen so submissive under all the insolence of her brutal husband, bearing his scoffs and his sarcasms without a word of reply? Was it that these cruelties had at last evoked this stern spirit, and that another temperament had been generated out of a nature broken down and demoralised by ill treatment?

“Shall I tell you what I think you ought to do?” asked she, calmly. I nodded assent. “Sit down there, then,” continued she, “and write these few lines to your father, and let him have them before he returns here.”

“First of all, I cannot write just now; I have had a slight accident to my right arm.”

“I know,” said she, smiling dubiously. “You hurt it in the riding-school; but it's a mere nothing, is it not?”

I made a gesture of assent, not altogether pleased the while at the little sympathy she vouchsafed me, and the insignificance she ascribed to my wound.

“Shall I write for you, then? you can sign it afterwards.''

“Let me first know what you would have me say.”

“Dear father—You always addressed him that way?”


“Dear father,—I have been here some days, awaiting Count Hunyadi's return to transact some matters of business with him, and have by a mere accident learned that you are amongst his guests. As I do not know how, to what extent, or in what capacity it may be your pleasure to recognize me, or whether it might not chime better with your convenience to ignore me altogether, I write now to submit myself entirely to your will and guidance, being in this, as in all things, your dutiful and obedient son.”

The words came from her pen as rapidly as her fingers could move across the paper; and as she finished, she pushed it towards me, saying,—

“There—put 'Digby Norcott' there, and it is all done!”

“This is a matter to think over,” said I, gravely. “I may be compromising other interests than my own by signing this.”

“Those Jews of yours have imbued you well with their cautious spirit, I see,” said she, scoffingly.

“They have taught me no lessons I am ashamed of, Madam,” said I, reddening with anger.

“I declare I don't know you as the Digby of long ago! I fancied I did, when I heard those ladies coming upstairs each night, so charmed with all your graceful gifts, and so eloquent over all your fascinations; and now, as you stand there, word-splitting and phrase-weighing, canvassing what it might cost you to do this or where it would lead you to say that, I ask myself, Is this the boy of whom his father said, 'Above all things he shall be a gentleman'?”

“To one element of that character, Madam, I will try and preserve my claim,—no provocation shall drive me to utter a rudeness to a lady.”

“This is less breeding than calculation, young gentleman. I read such natures as yours as easily as a printed book.”

“I ask nothing better, Madam; my only fear would be that you should mistake me, and imagine that any deference to my father's views would make me forget my mother's rights.”

“So then,” cried she, with a mocking laugh, “you have got your courage up so far,—you dare me! Be advised, however, and do not court such an unequal contest. I have but to choose in which of a score of ways I could crush you,—do you mark me? crush you! You will not always be as lucky as you were this morning in the riding-school.”

“Great heaven!” cried I, “was this, then, of your devising?”

“You begin to have a glimpse of whom you have to deal with? Go back to your room and reflect on that knowledge, and if it end in persuading you to quit this place at once, and never return to it, it will be a wise resolve.”

I was too much occupied with the terrible fact that she had already conspired against my life to heed her words of counsel, and I stood there stunned and confused.

In the look of scorn and hate she threw on me, she seemed to exult over my forlorn and bewildered condition.

“I scarcely think there is any need to prolong this interview,” said she, at last, with an easy smile; “each of us is by this time aware of the kindly sentiments of the other; is it not so?”

“I am going, Madam,” I stammered out; “good-bye.”

She made a slight movement, as I thought, towards me; but it was in reality the prelude to a deep courtesy, while in her sweetest of accents she whispered, “Au revoir, Monsieur Digby, au revoir.” I bowed deeply and withdrew.


Of all the revulsions of feeling that can befall the heart, I know of none to compare in poignant agony with the sudden consciousness that you are hated where once you were loved; that where once you had turned for consolation or sympathy you have now nothing to expect but coldness and distrust; that the treasure of affection on which you have counted against the day of adversity had proved bankrupt, and nothing remained of all its bright hopes and promises but bitter regrets and sorrowful repinings.

It was in the very last depth of this spirit I now locked myself in my room to determine what I should do, by what course I should shape my future. I saw the stake for which Madame Cleremont was playing. She had resolved that my mother's marriage should be broken, and she herself declared Lady Norcott. That my father might be brought to accede to such a plan was by no means improbable. Its extravagance and its enormity would have been great inducements, had he no other interest in the matter.

I began to canvass with myself how persons poor and friendless could possibly meet the legal battle which this question should originate, and how my mother, in her destitution and poverty, could contend against the force of the wealth that would be opposed to her. It had only been by the united efforts of her relatives and friends, all eager to support her in such a cause, that she had been enabled to face the expenses of the suit my father had brought on the question of my guardianship. How could she again sustain a like charge? Was it likely that her present condition would enable her to fee leaders on circuit and bar magnates, to pay the costs of witnesses, and all the endless outgoings of the law?

So long as I lived, I well knew my poor mother would compromise none of the rights that pertained to me; but if I could be got rid of,—and the event of the morning shot through my mind,—some arrangement with her might not be impossible,—at least, it was open to them to think so; and I could well imagine that they would build on such a foundation. It was not easy to imagine a woman like \ Madame Cleremont, a person of the most attractive manners, beautiful, gifted, and graceful, capable of a great crime; but she herself had shown me more than once in fiction the portraiture of an individual who, while shrinking with horror from the coarse contact of guilt, would willingly set the springs in motion which ultimately conduce to the most appalling disasters. I remember even her saying to me one day, “It is in watching the terrible explosions their schemes have ignited, that cowards learn to taste what they fancy to be the ecstasy of courage.”

While I thought what a sorry adversary I should prove against such a woman, with all the wiles of her nature, and all the seductions by which she could display them, my eyes fell upon the packet from Fiume, which still lay with its seal unbroken. I broke it open half carelessly. It contained an envelope marked “Letters,” and the following note:—

“Herr Owen,—With this you are informed that the house of Hodnig and Oppovich has failed, dockets of bankruptcy having been yesterday declared against that firm; the usual assignees will be duly appointed by the court to liquidate, on such terms as the estate permits. Present liabilities are currently stated as below eight millions of florins. Actual property will not meet half that sum.

“Further negotiations regarding the Hunyadi contract on your part are consequently unnecessary, seeing that the most favorable conditions you could obtain would in no wise avert or even lessen the blow that has fallen on the house.

“I am directed to enclose you by bill the sum of two hundred and eighteen florins twenty-seven kreutzers, which at the current exchange will pay your salary to the end of the present quarter, and also to state that, having duly acknowledged the receipt of this sum to me by letter, you are to consider yourself free of all engagement to the house. I am also instructed to say that your zeal and probity will be duly attested when any reference is addressed to the managers of this estate.

“I am, with accustomed esteem and respect,

“Your devoted servant,

“Jacob Ulrich.

“P. S. Herr Ignaz is, happily for him, in a condition that renders him unconscious of his calamity. The family has retired for the present to the small cottage near the gate of the Abazzia Villa, called 'Die Hutte,' but desires complete privacy, and declines all condolences.—J. U.

“2nd P. S. The enclosed letters have arrived here during your absence.”

So intensely imbued was my mind with suspicion and distrust, that it was not till after long and careful examination I satisfied myself that this letter was genuine, and that its contents might be taken as true. The packet it enclosed would, however, have resolved all doubt; they were three letters from my dear mother. Frequent reference was made to other letters which had never reached me, and in which it was clear the mode in which she had learned my address was explained. She also spoke of Sara as of one she knew by correspondence, and gave me to understand how she was following every little humble incident of my daily life with loving interest and affection. She enjoined me by all means to devote myself heartily and wholly to those who had befriended me so generously, and to merit the esteem of that good girl, who, caring nothing for herself, gave her heart and soul to the service of her father.

“I have told you so much,” said she, “of myself in former letters” (these I never saw) “that I shall not weary you with more. You know why I gave up the school, and through what reasonings I consented to call myself Lady Norcott, though in such poverty as mine the assumption of a title only provoked ridicule. Mr. McBride, however, persuaded me that a voluntary surrender of my position might be made terrible use of against me, should—what I cannot believe—the attempt ever be made to question the legality of my marriage with your father.

“It has been so constantly repeated, however, that Sir Roger means to marry this lady,—some say they are already married,—that I have had careful abstracts made of the registry, and every detail duly certified which can establish your legitimacy,—not that I can bring myself to believe your father would ever raise that question. Strangely enough, my allowance, left unpaid for several years, was lately resumed, and Foster and Wall received orders to acknowledge my drafts on them, for what, I concluded, were meant to cover all the arrears due. As I had already tided over these years of trial and pressure, I refused all save the sum due for the current year, and begged to learn Sir Roger's address that I might write to him. To this they replied 'that they had no information to give me on the subject; that their instructions, as regarded payments to me, came to them from the house of Rodiger, in Frankfort, and in the manner and terms already communicated to me,'—all showing me that the whole was a matter of business, into which no sentiment was to enter, or be deemed capable of entering.”

It was about this period my mother came to learn my address, and she avowed that all other thoughts and cares were speedily lost in the whirlpool of joy these tidings swept around her. Her eagerness to see me grew intense, but was tempered by the fear lest her selfish anxiety might prejudice me in that esteem I had already won from my employers, of whom, strangely enough, she spoke freely and familiarly, as though she had known them.

The whole tone of these letters—and I read them over and over—calmed and reassured me. Full of personal details, they were never selfish in its unpleasant sense. They often spoke of poverty, but rather as a thing to be baffled by good-humored contrivance or rendered endurable by habit than as matter for complaint and bewailment. Little dashes of light-heartedness would now and then break the dark sombreness of the picture, and show how her spirit was yet alive to life and its enjoyments. Above all, there was no croaking, no foreboding. She had lived through some years of trial and sorrow, and if the future had others as gloomy in store, it was time enough when they came to meet their exigencies.

What a blessing was it to me to get these at such a time! I no longer felt myself alone and isolated in the world. There was, I now knew, a bank of affection at my disposal at which I could draw at will; and what an object for my imitation was that fine courage of hers, that took defeats as mere passing shadows, and was satisfied to fight on to the end, ever hopeful and ever brave.

How I would have liked to return to Madame Cleremont, and read her some passages of these letters, and said, “And this is the woman you seek to dethrone, and whose place you would fill! This is she whose rival you aspire to be. What think you of the contest now? Which of you should prove the winner? Is it with a nature like this you would like to measure yourself?”

How I would have liked to have dared her to such a combat, and boldly declared that I would make my father himself the umpire as to the worthier. As to her hate or her vengeance, she had as much as promised me both, but I defied them; and I believed I even consulted my safety by open defiance. As I thus stimulated myself with passionate counsels, and burned with eagerness for the moment I might avow them, I flung open my window for fresh air, for my excitement had risen to actual fever.

It was very dark without Night had set in about two hours, but no stars had yet shone out, and a thick impenetrable blackness pervaded everywhere. Some peasants were shovelling the snow in the court beneath, making a track from the gate to the house-door, and here and there a dimly burning lantern attached to a pole would show where the work was being carried out. As it was about the time of the evening when travellers were wont to arrive, the labor was pressed briskly forward, and I could hear an overseer's voice urging the men to increased zeal and activity.

“There has been a snow-mountain fallen at Miklos, they say,” cried one, “and none can pass the road for many a day.”

“If they cannot come from Pesth, they can come from Hermanstadt, from Temesvar, from Klausenberg. Guests can come from any quarter,” cried the overseer.

I listened with amusement to the discussion that followed; the various sentiments they uttered as to whether this system of open hospitality raised the character of a country, or was not a heavy mulct out of the rights which the local poor possessed on the properties of their rich neighbors.

“Every flask of Tokayer drunk at the upper table,” cried one, “is an eimer of Mediasch lost to the poor man.”

“That is the true way to look at it,” cried another. “We want neither Counts nor Tokayer.”

“That was a Saxon dog barked there!” called out the overseer. “No Hungarian ever reviled what his land is most famed for.”

“Here come travellers now,” shouted one from the gate. “I hear horses at full speed on the Klausenberg road.”

“Lanterns to the gate, and stand free of the road,” cried the overseer; and now the scene became one of striking excitement, as the lights flitted rapidly from place to place; the great arch of the gate being accurately marked in outline, and the deep cleft in the snow lined on either side by lanterns suspended between posts.

“They 're coming at a furious pace,” cried one; “they 've passed the toll-bridge at full gallop.”

“Then it's the Count himself,” chimed in another, “There 's none but he could force the toll-bar.”

“It's a country wagon, with four juckers; and here it comes;” and as he spoke four sweating horses swung through the gateway, and came full speed into the court.

“Where is Kitzlach? Call Kitzlach! call the doctor!” screamed a voice from the wagon. “Tell him to come down at once.”

“Out with the juchera, and harness a fresh team,” cried the same voice. And now, as he descended from the wagon, he was surrounded with eager figures, all anxious to hear his tidings. As I could gather nothing from where I was, I hastily threw on a fur coat, and made my way down to the court. I soon learned the news. A terrible disaster had befallen the hunting-party. A she-boar, driven frantic by her wounds, had dashed suddenly into the midst of them, slightly wounded the Count and his head Jager, but dangerously one of the guests, who had sustained a single combat with her and killed her; not, however, without grievous injury to himself, for a large blood-vessel had been severed; all the efforts to stanch which had been but half successful.

“Have you your tourniquet, doctor?” cried the youth from a wagon, as the equipage was turned again to the gate.


“You 'll want any quantity of lint and bandages; and, remember, nothing can be had down yonder.”

“Make your mind easy! I've forgotten nothing. Just keep your beasts quiet till I get up.”

I drew nigh as he was about to mount, and whispered a word in his ear.

“I don't know,” said he, gruffly. “I can't see why you should ask.”

“Why don't you get up?” cried the youth, impatiently.

“There's a young fellow here importuning me to ask you for a place in the wagon. He thinks he knows this stranger.”

“Let him get in at once, then; and let's have no more delays.” And scarcely had we scrambled to our places, than the loud whip resounded with the quick, sharp report of pistol-shots, and the beasts sprung out at once, rushed through the narrow gateway, and were soon stretching along at their topmost pace through impenetrable blackness.

Crouching in the straw at the bottom of the wagon, I crept as closely as I could to where the doctor was seated beside the young man who drove. I was eager to hear what I could of the incident that had befallen; but, to my great disappointment, they spoke in Hungarian, and all I could gather, from certain dropping expressions, was that both the Count and his English friend had been engaged in some rivalry of personal daring, and that the calamity had come of this insane contest. “They'll never say 'Mad as a Hunyadi' any longer up at Lees. They 'll say 'Mad as an Englishman.'”

The young fellow spoke in wondrous admiration of the wounded man's courage and coolness, and described how he had taught them to pass a light ligature round his thigh, and tighten it further by inserting a stick to act as a screw. “Up to that,” said he, “he had been bleeding like a tapped Wein-kass; and then he made them give him large goblet» of strong Bordeaux, to sustain him.”

“He's a bold-hearted fellow then?” said the doctor.

“The Count declares he has never met his equal. They were alone together when I started, for the Englishman said he had something for the Count's own ear, and begged the others to withdraw.”

“So he thought himself in danger?”

“That he did. I saw him myself take off a large signet ring and lay it on the table beside his watch, and he pointed them out to Hunyadi as he came in, and said something in English; but the Count rejoined quickly, 'No, no. It's not come to that yet.'”

While they spoke slowly, I was able to gather at least the meaning of what passed between them, but I lost all clew so soon as they talked eagerly and rapidly, so that, confused by the unmeaning sounds, and made drowsy by the fresh night-air, I at last fell off into a heavy sleep.

I was awakened by the noise of the wheels over a paved street. I looked up, and saw, by the struggling light of a breaking dawn, that we were in a village where a number of people were awaiting us. “Have you brought the doctor?” “Where is the doctor?” cried several together; and he was scarcely permitted to descend, so eager were they to seize and carry him off.

A dense crowd was gathered before the door of a small two-storied house, into which the doctor now disappeared; and I, mixing with the mass, tried as best I might, to ask how the wounded man was doing, and what hopes there were of his life. While I thus went from one to another vainly endeavoring to make my question intelligible, I heard a loud voice cry out in German, “Where is the young fellow who says he knows him?”

“Here,” cried I, boldly. “I believe I know him,—I am almost sure I do.”

“Come to the door, then, and look in; do not utter a word,” cried a tall dark man I soon knew to be Count Hunyadi. “Mind, sir, for your life's sake, that you don't disturb him.”

I crept on tiptoe to the slightly opened door, and looked in. There, on a mattress on the floor, a tall man was lying, while the doctor knelt beside him, and seemed to press with all his weight on his thigh. The sick man slowly turned his face to the light, and it was my father! My knees trembled, my sight grew dim; strength suddenly forsook me, and I fell powerless and senseless to the ground.

They were bathing my face and temples with vinegar and water to rally me when the doctor came to say the sick man desired to see me. In a moment the blood rushed to my head, and I cried out, “I am ready.”

“Be calm, sir. A mere word, a gesture, may prove fatal to him,” whispered the doctor to me. “His life hangs on a thread.”

Count Hunyadi was kneeling beside my father, and evidently trying to catch some faint words he was saying, as I stole forward and knelt down by the bedside. My father turned his eyes slowly round till they fell upon me,—when their expression suddenly changed from the look of weary apathy to a stare of full and steadfast meaning,—intense, indeed, in significance; but I dare not say that this conveyed anything like love or affection for me.

“Come closer,” cried he, in a hoarse whisper. “It is Digby, is it not? This boy is my son, Hunyadi,” he said, with an increased effort. “Give me your hand.” He took my trembling fingers in his cold moist hand, and passed the large signet ring over my second finger. “He is my heir. Gentlemen,” he cried, in a tone at once haughty and broken by debility, “my name, my title, my fortune all pas» to him. By to-morrow you will call him Sir Digby—”

He could not finish; his lips moved without a sound. I was conscious of no more than being drawn heavily across the floor, not utterly bereft of reason, but dulled and stunned as if from the effect of a heavy blow.

When I was able, I crept back to the room. It was now the decline of day. A large white cavalry cloak covered the body. I knelt down beside it, and cried with a bursting heart till late into the night.


Of what followed that night of mourning I remember but snatches and brief glimpses. There is nothing more positively torturing to the mind in sorrow than the way in which the mere excitement of grief robs the intellect of all power of perspective, and gives to the smallest, meanest incidents the prominence and force of great events. It is as though the jar given to the nervous system had untuned us for the entire world, and all things come amiss. I am sure, indeed, I know it would have been impossible to have met more gentle and considerate kindness than I now experienced on every hand, and yet I lived in a sort of feverish irritability, as though expecting each moment to have my position questioned, and my right to be there disputed.

In obedience to the custom of the country, it was necessary that the funeral should take place within forty-eight hours after death, and though all the details had been carefully looked to by the Count's orders, certain questions still should be asked of me, and my leave obtained for certain acts.

The small church of Hunyadi-Naglos was fixed on for the last resting-place. It contained the graves of eight generations of Hunyadis, and to accord a place amongst them to a stranger, and a Protestant, was deemed a high honor. Affliction seemed to have developed in me all the pride of my race, for I can recall with what sullen hauteur I heard of this concession, and rather took it as a favor accorded than accepted. An overweening sense of all that my father himself would have thought due to his memory was on me, and I tortured my mind to think that no mark of honor he would have desired should be forgotten. As a soldier, he had a right to a soldier's funeral, and a “Honved” battalion, with their band, received orders to be present For miles around the landed gentry and nobles poured in, with hosts of followers. Next to a death in battle, there was no such noble death as in the hunting-field, and the splendid prowess of my father's achievement had won him imperishable honor.

All was conducted as if for the funeral of a magnate of Hungary. The titles and rank of the deceased were proclaimed aloud as we entered the graveyard, and each whose station entitled him to be thought a friend came forward and kissed the pall as the body was borne in.

One part of the ceremony overcame me altogether. When the third round of musketry had rung out over the grave, a solemn pause of half a minute or so was to ensue, then the band was to burst out with the first bars of “God preserve the Emperor;” and while a wild cheer arose, I was to spring into the saddle of my father's horse, which had been led close after the coffin, and to join the cheer. This soldier declaration that death was but a passing terror, revolted me to the heart, and I over and over asserted I could not do this. They would not yield, however; they regarded my reasons as childish sentimentality, and half impugned my courage besides. I do not know why I gave in, nor am I sure I ever did yield; but when the heavy smoke of the last round slowly rose over the bier, I felt myself jerked up into the saddle of a horse that plunged wildly and struck out madly in affright With a rider's instinct, I held my seat, and even managed the bounding animal with the hand of a practised rider. Four fearful bounds I sat unshaken, while the air rang with the hoarse cheer of some thousand voices, and then a sickness like death itself gathered over my heart,—a sense of horror, of where I was and why, came over me. My arms fell powerless to my sides, and I rolled from the saddle and fell senseless and stunned to the ground.

Without having received serious injury, I was too ill to be removed from the little village of Naglos, where I was confined to bed for ten days. The doctor remained with me for some days, and came again and again to visit me afterwards. The chief care of me, however, devolved on my father's valet, a smart young Swiss, whom I had difficulty in believing not to be English, so perfectly did he speak our language.

I soon saw this fellow was thoroughly conversant with all my father's history, and, whether in his confidence or not, knew everything that concerned him, and understood his temperament and nature to perfection. There was much adroitness in the way in which he showed me this, without ever shocking my pride or offending my taste by any display of a supposed influence. Of his consummate tact I need give but one,—a very slight instance, it is true, but enough to denote the man. He, in addressing me as Sir Digby, remarked how the sound of my newly acquired title seemed to recall my father to my mind at once, and ever after limited himself to saying simply “sir,” which attracted no attention from me.

Another instance of his address I must record also. I had got my writing-desk on the bed, and was writing to my mother, to whom I had already despatched two telegraphic messages, but as yet received no reply. “I beg pardon, sir,” said La Grange, entering in his usual noiseless fashion; “but I thought you would like to know that my Lady has left Schloss Hunyadi. She took her departure last night for Pesth.”

“You mean—” I faltered, not really knowing what I. would say.

“Yes, sir,” said he, thoroughly aware of what was passing in my mind. “She admitted no one, not even the doctor, and started at last with only a few words of adieu in writing for the Countess.”

“What impression has this left? How are they speaking of her?” asked I, blurting out against my will what was working within me.

“I believe, sir,” said he, with a very faint smile, “they lay it all to English ways and habits. At least I have heard no other comments than such as would apply to these.”

“Be sure that you give rise to no others,” said I, sternly.

“Of course not, sir. It would be highly unbecoming in me to do so.”

“And greatly to your disservice besides,” added I, severely.

He bowed in acquiescence, and said no more.

“How long have you served my father, La Grange?” asked I.

“About two years, sir. I succeeded Mr. Nixon, sir, who often spoke of you.”

“Ah, I remember Nixon. What became of him?”

“He set up the Hôtel Victoria at Spa, sir. You know, sir, that he married, and married very well too?”

“No, I never heard of it,” said I, carelessly.

“Yes, sir; he married Delorme's daughter, la belle Pauline they used to call her at Brussels.”

“What, Pauline Delorme?” said I, growing crimson with I know not what feeling.

“Yes, sir, the same; and she's the size of old Pierre, her father, already: not but she's handsome still,—but such a monster!”

I cannot say with what delight I heard of her disfigurement. It was a malice that warmed my heart like some good news.

“It was Sir Roger, sir, that made the match.”

“How could that be? What could he care about it?”

“Well, sir, he certainly gave Nixon five hundred pounds to go and propose for her, and promise old Pierre his patronage, if he agreed to it.”

“Are you sure of this?” asked I, eagerly.

“Nixon himself told me, sir. I remember he said, 'I haven't much time to lose about it, for the tutor, Mr. Eccles, is quite ready to take her, on the same terms, and Sir Roger doesn't care which of us it is.”

“Nor the lady either, apparently,” said I, half angrily.

“Of course not. Pauline was too well brought up for that.”

I was not going to discuss this point of ethics with Mr. La Grange, and soon fell off into a vein of reflection over early loves, and what they led to, which took me at last miles away from Pauline Delorme, and her fascinations.

I would have liked much to learn what sort of a life my father had led of late: whether he had plunged into habits of dissipation and excess; or whether any feeling of remorse had weighed with him, and that he sorrowed over the misery and the sorrow he had so recklessly shed around him; but I shrunk from questioning a servant on such matters, and merely asked as to his habitual spirits and temper.

“Sir Roger was unlike every other gentleman I ever lived with, sir,” said he. “He was never in high spirits except when he was hard up for money. Put him down in a little country inn to wait for his remittances, and live on a few francs a day till they arrived, and I never saw his equal for good humor. He 'd play with the children; he 'd work in the garden. I 've seen him harness the donkey, and go off for a load of firewood. There's nothing he would not do to oblige, and with a kind word and a smile for every one all the while; but if some morning he 'd get up with a dark frown on his face, and say, 'La Grange, get in your bills here, and pay them; we must get away from this dog-hole,' I knew well the banker's letter had come, and that whatever he might want, it would not be money.”

“And had my Lady—Madame, I mean—no influence over him?”

“None, sir, or next to none; he was all ceremony with her; took her in to dinner every day with great state, showed her every attention at table, left her at liberty to spend what money she liked. If she fancied an equipage, it was ordered at once. If she liked a bracelet, it was sent home. As to toilette, I believe there are queens have not as many dresses to change. We had two fourgons of her luggage alone, when we came to the Schloss, and she was always saying there was something she was longing for.”

“Did not this irritate my father?”

“No, sir; he would simply say, 'Don't wish, but write for it.' And I verily believe this indifference piqued her,—she saw that no sacrifice of money cost him anything, and this thought wounded her pride.”

“So that there was not much happiness between them?”

“There was none, sir! Something there was that Sir Roger would never consent to, but which she never ceased to insist on, and I often wondered how she could go on, to press a man of his dangerous temper, as she did, and at times she would do so to the very verge of a provocation. Do you know, sir,” said he, after a short silence,—“if I was to be on my oath to-morrow, I 'd not say that he was not seeking his death when he met it? I never saw a man so sick of life,—he was only puzzled how to lay it down without dishonor.”

I motioned him to leave me as he said this, and of my father I never spoke to him more.


Two telegrams came from my mother. They were little other than repetitions. She had been ill, and was impatient to see me. In the last, she added that she would shorten the distance between us by coming to Dublin to meet me. I was to inquire for her at “Elridge's Hotel.”

I was no less eager to be with her; but there were many matters of detail which still delayed me. First of all, all my father's papers and effects were at Schloss Hunyadi, and some of these were all-essential to me. On arriving at the Castle, a sealed packet addressed Sir Digby Norcott, Bart., in Madame Cleremont's hand, was given me. On opening, I found it contained a bunch of keys, without one word of any kind. It was an unspeakable relief to me to discover that she had not sent me either her condolences or her threats, and I could scarcely reassure myself that we had parted thus easily.

My father's personal luggage might have sufficed for half-a-dozen people. Not only did he carry about a quantity of clothes that no ordinary life could have required, but that he journeyed with every imaginable kind of weapon, together with saddlery and horse-gear of all fashions and shapes. Fishing-tackle and hunting-spears abounded; and lassos of Mexican make seemed to show that he had intended to have carried his experiences to the great Savannahs of the West.

From what I had seen of him, I was in no way prepared for the order and regularity in which I found his papers. All that regarded his money matters was contained in one small oak desk, in which I found a will, a copy of which, it was stated, was deposited with Norton and Temple, Solicitors, Furnival's Inn. The document ran thus:—

“I leave whatever I may die possessed of in personal or real property to the wife I have long neglected, in trust for the boy I have done much to corrupt. With time, and in the enjoyment of better fortune, they may learn to forgive me; but even if they should not, it will little trouble the rest of——-Roger Norcott.

“I desire that each of my servants in my service at the time of my death should receive a quarter's wages; but no present or gratuity of any kind. It is a class that always served me with fear and dislike, and whose services I ever accepted with distrust and repugnance.

“I also desire that my retriever, 'Spy,' be shot as soon after my death as may be, and that my other dogs be given away to persons who have never known me, and that my heirs will be particular on this head, so that none shall pretend that they inherit this or that of mine in token of friendship or affectionate remembrance.

“There are a few objects of furniture in the care of Salter, the house-agent at Brussels, of which I beg my wife's acceptance; they are intrinsically of little value, but she will know how dearly we have both paid for them. This is all.

(Signed) “Roger Norcott, Bart

“Witnesses, Joseph Granes, head groom.

“Paul Lanton, house-steward.”

This will, which bore for date only four months prior to his death, did not contain any, the slightest, allusion to Madame Cleremont. Was it that by some antecedent arrangement he had taken care to provide for her, omitting, through a sense of delicacy to my mother, all mention of her name? This I could not guess at the time, nor did I ever discover afterwards.

In a larger desk I found a mass of letters; they were tied in packets, each with a ribbon of a different color; they were all in women's handwriting. There were several miniatures on ivory, one of which was of my mother, when a girl of about eighteen. It was exceedingly beautiful, and wore an expression of girlish innocence and frankness positively charming. On the back, in my father's hand, there was,—“Why won't they keep this look? Is the fault theirs or ours?”

Of the contents of that box, I committed all to the flames except that picture. A third desk, the key of which was appended to his watch, contained a manuscript in his writing, headed “My Cleremont Episode, how it began, and how it cannot but end.” I own it pushed my curiosity sorely to throw this into the fire without reading it; but I felt it would have been a disloyalty which, had he lived, he never would have pardoned, and so I restrained myself, and burned it.

One box, strongly strapped with bands of brass, and opening by a lock of most complicated mechanism, was filled with articles of jewelry, not only such trinkets as men affect to wear in shirt-studs and watch-pendants, but the costlier objects of women's wear; there were rings and charms, bracelets of massive make, and necklaces of great value. There was a diamond cross, too, at back of which was a locket, with a braid of very beautiful fair hair. This looked as though it had been worn, and if so, how had it come back to him again? by what story of sorrow, perhaps of death?

If a sentiment of horror and loyalty had made me burn all the letters, I had found there was no restraining the exercise of my imagination as to these relics, every one of which I invested with some story. In a secret drawer of this box, was a considerable sum in gold, and a letter of credit for a large amount on Escheles, of Vienna, by which it appeared that he had won the chief prize of the Frankfort lottery, in the spring drawing; a piece of fortune, which, by a line in his handwriting, I saw he believed was to cost him dearly: “What is to be counterpoise to this luck? An infidelity, or a sudden death? I can't say that either affright me, but I think the last would be less of an insult.”

In every relic of him, the same tone of mockery prevailed, an insolent contempt for the world, a disdain from which he did not exempt himself, went through all he said or did; and it was plain to see that, no matter how events went with him, he always sufficed for his own un happiness.

What a relief it was to me to turn from this perpetual scorn to some two or three letters of my dear mother's, written after their separation indeed, but in a spirit of such thorough forgiveness, and with such an honest desire for his welfare, that I only wondered how any heart could have resisted such loving generosity. I really believe nothing so jarred upon him as her humility. Every reference to their inequality of condition seemed to affect him like an insult; and on the back of one of her letters there was written in pencil, “Does she imagine I ever forget from what I took her; or that the memory is a pleasant one?”

Mr. La Grange's curiosity to learn what amount of money my father had left behind him, and what were the dispositions of his will, pushed my patience very hard indeed. I could not, however, exactly afford to get rid of him, as he had long been intrusted with the payment of tradesmen's bills, and he was in a position to involve me in great difficulty, if so disposed.

At last we set out for England; and never shall I forget the strange effect produced upon me by the deference my new station attracted towards me. It seemed to me but yesterday that I was the companion of poor Hanserl, of the “yard;” and now I had become, as if by magic, one of the favored of the earth. The fame of being rich spreads rapidly, and my reputation on that head lost nothing through any reserve or forbearance of my valet I was an object of interest, too, as the son of that daring Englishman who had lost his life so heroically. Heaven knows how La Grange had related the tragic incident, or with what embellishment he had been pleased to adorn it. I can onsay that half my days were passed in assuring eager inquirers that I was neither present at the adventure, nor wounded in the affray; and all my efforts were directed to proving that I was a most insignificant person, and without the smallest claim to interest on my side.

Arrived in London, I was once more a “personage;” at least, to my family solicitors. My father's will had been already proved, and I was recognized in all form as the heir to his title and fortune. They were eager to know would I restore the family seat at Hexham. The Abbey was an architectural gem that all England was proud of, and I was eagerly entreated not to suffer it to drop into decay and ruin. The representation of the borough—long neglected by my family—only needed an effort to secure; and would I not like the ambition of a parliamentary life?

What glimpses of future greatness were shown me! what possible chances of this or that attained that would link me with real rank forever! And all this time I was pining to clasp my mother to my arms; to pour out my whole heart before her, and tell her that I loved a pale Jewish girl, silent and half sad-looking, but whose low soft voice still echoed within my heart, and whose cold hand had left a thrill after its touch that had never ceased to move me.

“Oh, Digby, my own, own darling,” cried she, as she hugged me in her arms, “what a great tall fellow you have grown, and how like—how like him!” and she burst into a torrent of tears, renewed every time that she raised her eyes to my face, and saw how I resembled my father. There seemed an ecstasy in this grief of which she never wearied, and day after day she would sit holding my hand, gazing wistfully at me, and only turning away as her tearful eyes grew dim with weeping. I will not dwell on the days we passed together; full of sorrow they were, but a sorrow so hallowed by affection that we felt an unspeakable calm shed over us.

My great likeness to my father, as she first saw him, made her mind revert to that period, and she never ceased to talk of that time of hope and happiness. Ever ready to ascribe anything unfavorable in his character to the evil influences of others, she maintained that though occasionally carried away by hot temper and passion, he was not only the soul of honor but had a heart of tenderness and gentleness. Curious to find out what sudden change of mind had led him after years of neglect and forgetfulness to renew his relations with her, by remitting money to her banker, we examined all that we could of his letters and papers to discover a clew to this mystery. Baffled in all our endeavors, we were driven at length to write to the Frankfort banker through whom the letter of credit had come. As we assumed to say that the money should be repaid by us, in this way hoping to trace the history of the incident, we received for answer, that, though bound strictly to secrecy at the time, events had since occurred which in a measure removed that obligation. The advance, he declared, came from the house of Hodnig and Oppovich, Fiume, who having failed since that time, there was no longer the same necessity for reserve. “It is only this morning,” he added, “that we have received news of the death of Herr Ignaz Oppovich, the last of this once opulent firm, now reduced to utter ruin.”

My mother and I gazed on each other in silence as we read these words, when at length she threw her arms around me and said, “Let us go to her, Digby; let us set out this very day.”

Two days after we were on the Rhine. I was seated with my mother on the deck of a river steamer, when I was startled to hear a voice utter my name. The speaker was a burly stout man of middle age, who walked the deck with a companion to whom he talked in a loud tone.

“I tell you, sir,” said he, “that boy of Norcott's, what between those new coal-fields and the Hexham property, can't have less than ten thousand a year.”

“And he's going to marry a rich Austrian Jewess, they say,” replied the other, “as if his own fortune was not enough for him.”

“He'll marry her, and desert her just as his father did.”

I have but to say that I accomplished one part of this prediction, and hope never to fulfil the other.