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tion was no one knew, for Sir Philip was the most reticent of men. In his own county, where his territorial influence made him the foremost man, a considerable amount of political interest inevitably centred in him, and attempts were now made to induce him to enter public life. More from weariness of opposition than from any other motive he consented, and the moment it was known he was willing to be Member for Blankstone, opposition was at an end, and he was duly elected.
There was considerable speculation as to his politics. So far as he had revealed any political opinions, they were of an eclectic order; but, to the surprise of his friends, he became a staunch party man, and supported the Tory ministry on every occasion. As a matter of course so locally powerful a man, and a man who began to show no inconsiderable power of debate, was offered office. The offer was refused, but he accepted one of those exceptional embassies which are often tendered to eminent men.
It was to the Court of A-- that he was accredited, to settle a long-pending question of national importance. Sir Philip was no stranger to this Court, having formerly resided in Ronzi for some time, and this intimacy had been one of the reasons which led to his selection as ambassador, and which mainly induced him to accept the appointment. This history has nothing to do with his negotiations, but it is interested in what befell him at a ball given by the Grand Duke.
Sir Philip had arrived among the last of the guests, intending to leave among the first. It was a masqued ball, but Sir Philip was too proud to wear any disguise, and too blasé to join in the amusement. He was merely a spectator. He was walking listlessly among the brilliant crowd when a lady, dressed in black, and covered with a thick veil, accosted him by name. There was nothing remarkable in this, and in his present humour nothing inviting. He bowed politely, and would have passed, but the lady, taking his arm, he could not help walking with her.
"Sir Philip," said she, in Italian, "you are own country-that country so free and so strong. you to assist with your influence poor Italy, at ages, struggling for freedom?"
powerful in your May I, then, ask present, and for
Madame," said Sir Philip (who was somewhat surprised at the abrupt introduction of so serious a subject, and not at all disposed for a political intrigue), "I am no philanthropist, and have, I confess, little sympathy with united Italy. I know too much about it to be very hopeful of its real union."
"Allow me, Sir Philip," said she, "to doubt the accuracy of your information. Your acquaintance with Italians was not in a good school. Believe me, there are patriots as pure, scholars as
profound, statesmen as able, in Italy as in England, only, I admit, they are not to be found in the Abruzzi."
Sir Philip started. The word awoke uneasy memories, but he replied
"I know not why you exclude the Abruzzi from the capacity of producing great men, as well as the rest of Italy. I know that country well there are men of energy and decision there; and if you are in want of revolutionists who will not stick at trifles, there is no better recruiting ground. Brigandage and revolution are nearly allied."
"In that you are mistaken," said she. "The peasantry of the Abruzzi are loyal to a man. They follow their priests, who feel that revolution of any kind is against their order, and they also follow their interests; for no Government can deal more tenderly with the population of the Abruzzi than that of Ferdinand of Naples. They know well that a patriotic government would ruin. them, as it would be the first duty of such a government to destroy robbers."
"Are you a native of the Abruzzi," said Sir Philip, "that you know them so well?"
"Yes," said the lady; "I am of the Brigand country, and. know it well. Fifteen years of my life were spent there."
Sir Philip started. Could it be that his long-loved, his lost Alicia was before him? The voice had struck him, but nothing else assisted his memory. The craped figure revealed none of the graceful contours of figure he remembered so well, and the veil was impervious.
“If,” said he, “you know the Abruzzi, you perhaps have heard of the Capelmonte?"
"I knew them well," said the lady; "I was the school companion and friend of the Lady Alicia, now Countess Bosconi." "I knew her too," said Sir Philip.
"That I know," said the lady, "and that was the reason I spoke to you. Alicia has often spoken of you, and, I believe, thought of you more than became the Countess."
I hope she is happy," said Sir Philip.
"She is a widow," said the mask.
"A widow !" said Sir Philip, eagerly; "tell me, my dear lady, where I can see her."
"Is it of any use to give you that information ?" said his companion. "You loved her not, or you could not have let a year elapse without writing her or sending to her some message. sides, it is probable, even if you loved her still, that she loves you no longer. The Count was not a very kind husband, but he was her husband, and she, I hope, laments his death. A year after
this will be time enough. Adieu, Sir Philip! I have told all that I mean to tell."
"One word yet!" said Sir Philip; "I love your friend still: I never loved anyone else. I am unmarried; and if you think she still thinks of me as at one time she did, I conjure you to tell me where I can see her. Nay, I will not let you go till you tell me.
He caught her by the hand. It was plain to her she could not escape from his firm grasp. Several parties passed them, generally two-and-two, and smiles were interchanged as they saw the distinguished Englishman so engaged.
"Come with me into the garden," she said at last, "and I will gratify your curiosity."
He obeyed. The evening was clear and warm; the air was heavy with the perfume of flowers, and the stillness was uninterrupted save by the distant waterfall and the whisper of lovers' voices among the flowering shrubs. The mask led the way to a retired part of the garden, where, the trees terminating, allowed the moon to throw a faint light on surrounding objects. The voices had died away. The thick shrubbery they had passed shut them off from the festive guests, while before them was open meadow, in which no object was visible within the limited and indistinct horizon.
The lady gently released her hand.
"I will not attempt to escape," Sir Philip; "I do not wish to do Do you not know me? Has five years made such a difference in me that Sir Philip Warden does not know Alicia Capelmonte ?"
It was she, indeed, more beautiful than ever, though fuller in figure and more matronly than the girlish form which had secured his affections.
"Oh, pardon me, Sir Philip!" she said; "I only wished to try you. I know what I have done is wrong in your eyes-would be wrong in an Englishwoman; but I am an Italian, and there was a time, Philip, when you said you loved me, and a time when I said I loved you; and although I have since been married, I loved you still."
Sir Philip was an enamoured man, and not disposed to criticism. He heard Alicia's history-how that she had been unhappy during her brief marriage with Count Bosconi, who had died a year ago. Her father and mother were both dead, her uncle survived, and she had also an aunt (the Abbess of the Carmelite nunnery), with whom she now resided; but she was her own mistress, and could marry the man of her choice. Such was the purport of her information, gathered by Sir Philip at that moonlight interview. It would have been well for the lady had she been more candid, and entered more at large into the history of her family.
The marrlage took place, of course, after a preliminary courtship, much more en régle than that I have summarised above, but which it is not necessary here to narrate, as Sir Philip is not our hero, and we may, perhaps, have occasion to describe the marriage of our own hero, which will be enough for the book.
The married couple went to England, and Warden Hall again welcomed its master. For a year or two nothing could be happier than the life these two led. Sir Philip's nature became softer from contact with the mild nature of Alicia; his apathy and reserve melted like snow before the sun. He took an interest in his tenants, lowering their rents, and encouraging every scheme their improvement. He cultivated the society of his neighbours,
RCANTIL 1 spent his large income, and something more, in a stately LIBRARY.
cordial hospitality. His political position became more and more important and powerful as the House and the country became accustomed to the judgment and wisdom which characterised his speeches; while his thoroughly independent character and large fortune gave him an influence which, could he have submitted to the drudgery of office, would have secured him one of the highest places in the Ministry.
Thus, on the whole, assuming that our duties centre in ourselves an assumption by no means uncommon-Sir Philip led a reasonable, happy, and stately life. He had a secure position in the highest circle of English society. He was a man of ton, but his real power in the country secured him the respect of the many out of the pale of fashion who often excel those within it. In his domestic relations he was certainly happy. On the whole, during these years of his married life, there was no man who, setting religious considerations out of view, led a life more apparently enviable than Sir Philip Warden. I say, setting religious considerations aside: were these to be taken into account, it would have astonished Sir Philip and shocked fashionable society, if it were hinted that his old butler, who was a sincere believer, was much more to be envied by a wise man.
And there came a time-and it came suddenly-when, even putting religion aside, Sir Philip had little to boast of as compared with the butler. All of a sudden, in the third year of his marriage, the fashionable world was startled by the rumour, and then by the certainty, that Sir Philip was separated from his wife.
What the cause of the separation was, the world did not know. Lady Warden was a foreigner, and, despite her amiable manners. and real kindness of heart, the presumption in correct English society was against her, and no one suspected the distinguished statesman, so cold, so self-possessed, so patriotic, of having given any cause to justify her ladyship taking the initiative, if, in fact,
she had done so. But this possibility was put an end to at once by Sir Philip, who, pre-eminently a public man, deemed it right to silence suspicion. He did so in a He did so in a quiet and quite conclusive way. Sir Philip's own character stood high, but Lord Grahame Falconer had the advantage of years and of a life against the honourable propriety of which no whisper was ever heard. A Nestor of the clubs and a man of the highest family and fashion, his life had been a sort of model to all the young men who aspired to be worthy of the rank and name of gentleman. His honour, during a long life, was unstained and chivalrous.
To this nobleman, as a private friend, Sir Philip laid bare his domestic wrongs; and his lordship, after an inquiry, gave his opinion that the step his friend had taken was quite justified by the circumstances of the case, and that he had acted worthily and kindly towards his wife.
There was no impugning the verdict, although the grounds on which it rested were not revealed. What Lord Grahame said must be right; and therefore poor Lady Warden, without further inquiry, was put under the social ban. Apparently she acquiesced in the sentence. After the separation she appeared no more in London society, nor was she heard of in Blankshire nor at Eveslay.
It was after this domestic catastrophe that Algernon was consigned to the care of Sir Philip. The experience which Sir Philip had undergone will to some extent explain his conduct to that young gentleman. In his own experience Sir Philip knew what the result of an aristocratic education had been, and he was too perspicuous not to see that the unlimited command of money he had at all times possessed had not conduced to his advantage. The result, in his case, had been years of isolation and ennui, broken up for a little by the deceitful lustre of an imprudent passion, the effect of which had been the utter shipwreck of his life. No wonder that he went to the other extreme, and thought that it was, after all, best for the lad to bring him up on somewhat Spartan principles-to accustom him to self-denial when young-and to throw him as much as possible on his own resources. He acted, therefore, from no want of generosity, or even affection, towards Darcy; on the contrary, at the very first he had taken a warm interest in him, both on his father's account and his own; for the bright, sunny boy, by some hidden connection, had endeared himself to the worn-out, disappointed man, and, coming to him at the time of his bereavement and disgrace, had monopolised all the affection remaining of which his heart was capable. But this affection was not outwardly manifested; on the contrary, the more he felt he liked the lad, the more perversely did he hide any external indications of it. He feared his love would be disastrous, and he wished that Darcy should