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its worth. Get him to consent to this, and I am ready to pledge my word that he has seen the last of
"He gave it to you as a wedding present, Norman," said she, haughtily; and now her deep-toned voice rung out clear and strong; “and it will be an unpardonable offence to ask him this.'
"Have I not told you that I shall not need forgiveness - that with this act all ends between us?"
"I will be no party to this," said she, haughtily; and she arose and walked out upon the terrace. As she passed, the lamp-light flared strongly on her features, and M'Caskey saw a face he had once known well; but what a change was there! The beautiful Nina Brancaleone-the dark-haired Norma-the belle that Byron used to toast with an enthusiasm of admiration—was a tall woman advanced in years, and with two masses of snow-white hair on either side of a pale face. The dark eyes, indeed, flashed brightly still, and the eyebrows were dark as of yore; but the beautifully-formed mouth was hard and thin-lipped, and the fair brow marked with many a strong line of pain.
"You forget, perhaps," said she, after a short pause "you forget that it is from this villa I take my title. I am Brancaleone della Torricella, and I forfeit the name when it leaves our hands."
"And do you hold to this, mother?" asked he, in a voice of sorrow, through which something of scorn was detectable.
"Do I hold to it? Of course I hold to it! You know well the value it has in his eyes. Without it he never would have consented" --she stopped suddenly, and seemed to catch herself in time to prevent the utterance of some rash avowal. "As it is," added she, "he told me so late as yesterday that he has no rest nor peace, think ing over his brother's son, and the great wrong he has done him."
"Let him think of the greater wrong he has done me! - of my youth that he has wasted, and my manhood lost and shipwrecked. But for him and his weak ambition, I had belonged to a party who would have prized my ability and rewarded my courage. I would not find myself at thirty brigaded with a set of low-hearted priests and seminarists, who have no other weapons than treachery, nor any strategy but lies. If I have squandered his fortune, he has beggared me in reputation. He does not seem to remember these things. As to him whom he would prefer to me and make his heir, I have seen him."
"You have seen him, Norman ! When? where? how?" cried she, in wild impatience.
Yes, I even had a plan to let the uncle meet his promising nephew. I speculated on bringing together two people more made for mutual detestation than any other two in Europe."
"It would have been a rash venture," said she, fiercely.
“If you mean for me, that was the very reason I thought of it. What other game than the rash one is open to a man like me?"
"Who ever had the safer road to fortune if he could have walked with the commonest prudence?" said she, bitterly.
"How can you say that? Talk of prudence to the man who has no fortune, no family, not even a name -no!" cried he, fiercely; "for by the first Maitland I met I might be challenged to say from what stock I came. He could have saved me from all this. Nothing was ever easier. You yourself asked - ay, begged this. You told me you begged it on your knees; and I own, if I never forgave him for refusing, I have never forgiven you for the entreaty."
"And I would do it again today!" cried she, passionately. "Let him but acknowledge you, Norman, and he may turn me out upon the
world houseless and a beggar, and I will bless him for it!"
"What a curse is on the bastard!" broke he out in a savage vehemence, "if it robs him of every rightful sentiment, and poisons even a mother's love. Do not talk to me this way, or you will drive me mad!”
Oh, Norman! my dear, dear Norman!" cried she, passionately; "it is not yet too late."
"Too late for what?"
"Not too late to gain back his favour. When he saw the letter in the King's hand, calling you Count of Amalfi, he said, 'This looks ill for the monarchy. I have a Scotch earldom myself in my family, granted by another king the day after he had lost his own crown.' Try, then, if you cannot rally to the cause those men who are so much under your influence, that, as you have often told me, they only wanted to be assured of your devotion to pledge their own. If he could believe the cause triumphant, there is nothing he would not do to uphold it."
Yes," said he, thoughtfully, "there never lived the man who more worshipped success! The indulgences that he heaped upon myself were merely offerings to a career of insolent triumph.'
"You never loved him, Norman," said she, sadly.
66 'Love had no share in the compact between us. He wanted to maintain a cause which, if successful, must exclude from power England the men who had insulted him, and turned him out of office. I wanted some one who could afford to pay my debts, and leave me free to contract more. But why talk to you about these intrigues ?-once more, will he see me?"
She shook her head slowly in dissent. "Could you not write to him, Norman ?" said she at last.
"I will not write to a man under the same roof as myself. I have some news for him," added he, “if he cares to buy it by an audience;
for I suppose he would make it an audience," and the last word he gave with deep scorn.
"Let me bring him the tidings." "No, he shall hear them from myself, or not hear them at all. I want this villa!" cried he, passionately-" I want the title to sell it, and pay off a debt that is crushing me. Go, then, and say I have something of importance enough to have brought me down some hundred miles to tell him something that deeply concerns the cause he cares for, and to which his counsel would be invaluable.'
"And this is true?"
"Did I ever tell you a falsehood, mother?" asked he, in a voice of deep and sorrowful meaning.
"I will go," said she, after a few moments of thought, and left the room. Maitland took a bottle of some essenced water from the table and bathed his forehead. He had been more agitated than he cared to confess; and now that he was alone, and, as he believed, unobserved, his features betrayed a deep depression. As he sat with his head leaning on both hands, the door opened. "Come," said she, gently—“come!" He arose and followed her. No sooner was all quiet around than M'Caskey rowed swiftly back to his quarters, and, packing up hastily his few effects, made with all speed for the little bay, where was the village he had passed on his arrival, and through which led the road to Reggio. That something was "up" at Naples he was now certain, and he resolved to be soon on the field : whoever the victors, they would want him.
On the third evening he entered the capital, and made straight for Caffarelli's house. He met the Count in the doorway. "The man I wanted," said he, as he saw the Major. Go into my study and wait for me."
CHAPTER XLII.-MARK LYLE'S LETTER.
"HOTEL VICTORIA, NAPLES. "MY DEAR ALICE,-While I was cursing my bad-luck at being too late for the P. and O. steamer at Marseilles, your letter arrived deciding me to come on here. Nothing was ever more fortunate; first of all, I shall be able to catch the Austrian Lloyds at Ancona, and reach Alexandria in good time for the mail; and, secondly, I have perfectly succeeded—at least I hope so -in the commission you gave me. For five mortal days I did nothing but examine villas. I got a list of full fifty, but in the course of a little time the number filtered down to ten possible, and came at last to three that one could pronounce fairly habitable. To have health in this climate-that is to say, to escape malaria-you must abjure vegetation; and the only way to avoid tertian is to book yourself for a sunstroke. These at least were my experiences up to Tuesday last, for all the salubrious spots along the sea-shore had been long since seized on either by the King or the Church, and every lovely point of view was certain to be crowned by a royal villa or a monastery. I was coming back then on Tuesday, very disconsolate indeed from a long day's fruitless search, when I saw a perfect gem of a place standing on the extreme point of a promontory near Caserta. It was of course 'royal' at least it belonged to a Count d'Amalfi, which title was borne by some younger branch of the Bourbons; yet as it was untenanted, and several people were working in the gardens, I ventured in to have a look at it. I will not attempt description, but just say
that both within and without it
realises all I ever dreamed or imagined of an Italian villa. Marble and frescoes and fountains, terraces descending to the sea, and gardens a wilderness of orange and magnolia, and grand old rooms, the very air of which breathed splendour and magnificence; but à quoi bon? dear Alice. It was a 'Palazzotto reale,' and one could only gaze enviously at delights they could not hope to compass.
"Seeing my intense admiration of the place, the man who showed me around it said, as I was coming away, that it was rumoured that the Count would not be indisposed to sell the property. I know enough of Italians to be aware that when a stranger supposed to be rich,— all English are in this category,— is struck with anything-picture, house, or statue the owner will always part with it at tenfold its value. Half out of curiosity, half to give myself the pretext for another morning's ramble over the delicious place, I asked where I could learn any details as to the value, and received an address as follows, Count Carlo Caffarelli, Villino della Boschetta, Chiaja, Naples.' Caffarelli I at once remembered as the name of Maitland's friend, and in this found another reason for calling on him, since I had totally failed in all my attempts to discover M. either in London, Paris, or even here.
"The same evening I went there, and found Count Caffarelli in one of those fairy-tale little palaces which this country abounds in. He had some friends at dinner, but, on reading my name, recognised me, and came out with a most charming politeness to press me to join his party. It was no use refusing; the Italian persuasiveness has that element of the irresistible about it that one cannot oppose; and I soon found myself smoking my cigar in a company of half-a-dozen people,
who treated me as an intimate friend.
"I may amuse you some day by some of the traits of their bonhommie. I must now confine myself to our more immediate interests. Caffarelli, when he found that I wanted some information about the villa, drew his arm within my own, and, taking me away from the rest, told me in strictest confidence that the villa was Maitland's - Maitland being the Conte d'Amalfi-the title having been conferred by the late King, one of the very last acts of his life.
"And Maitland,' said I, scarcely recovering from my astonishment; where is he now ?'
"Within a few yards of you,' said he, turning and pointing to the closed jalousies of a room that opened on a small separately-enclosed garden; 'he is there.'
"There was something like secrecy, mystery at least, in his manner as he said this, that prevented my speaking for a moment, and he went on:-'Yes, Maitland is in that room, stretched on his bed, poor fellow; he has been severely wounded in a duel which, had I been here, should never have been fought. All this, remember, is in confidence; for it is needless to tell you Maitland is one of those men who hate being made gossip of; and I really believe that his wound never gave him onehalf the pain that he felt at the bare possibility of his adventure being made town-talk. So well have we managed hitherto, that of the men you see here to-night-all of them intimate with him-one only knows that his illness is not a malaria fever.'
"But can you answer for the same prudence and reserve on the part of the other principal?'
"We have secured it, for the time at least, by removing him from Naples; and as the laws here are very severe against duelling, his own safety will suggest silence.'
"Do you think Maitland would see me?'
"I suppose he will be delighted to see you; but I will ascertain that without letting him know that I have already told you he was here. Remember, too, if he should receive you, drop nothing about the duel or the wound. Allude to his illness as fever, and leave to himself entirely the option of telling you the true story or not.'
"After a few more words of caution-less needed, if he only had known how thoroughly I understood his temper and disposition— he left me. He was back again in less than five minutes, and, taking me by the arm, led me to Maitland's door. There,' said he; go in; he expects you.'
"It was only after a few seconds that I could see my way through the half - darkened room, but, guided by a weak voice saying,
Come on-here,' I approached a bed, on the outside of which, in a loose dressing-gown, the poor fellow lay.
"You find it hard to recognise me, Lyle,' said he, with an attempt to smile at the amazement which I could not by any effort repress; for he was wasted to a shadow, his brown cheeks were sunken and sallow, and his dark flashing eyes almost colourless.
"And yet,' added he, 'the doc-tor has just been complimenting me on my improved looks. It seems I was more horrible yesterday.' I don't remember what I said, but he thanked me and pressed my hand-a great deal from him, for he is not certainly demonstrative; and then he pressed me to tell about you all-how you were, and what doing. He inquired so frequently, and recurred so often to Bella, that I almost suspected something between them
though, after all, I ought to have known that this was a conquest above Bella's reach-the man who might any day choose from the highest in Europe.
'Now a little about yourself,
Maitland,' said I. have you been ill?'
'How long receiving any visitors, and I had been there then full two hours!
This is the seventeenth day,' said he, sighing. "Caffarelli of course told you fever-but here it is,' and he turned on his side and showed me a great mass of appliances and bandages. 'I have been wounded. I went out with a fellow whom none of my friends would consent to my meeting, and I was obliged to take my valet Fenton for my second, and he, not much versed in these matters, accepted the Neapolitan sword instead of the French one. I had not touched one these eight years. At all events, my antagonist was an expert swordsman-I suspect, in this style of fencing, more than my equal; he certainly was cooler, and took a thrust I gave him through the fore-arm without ever owning he was wounded till he saw me fall.'
'Plucky fellow,' muttered I. "Yes, pluck he has unquestionably; nor did he behave badly when all was over, for though it was as much as his neck was worth to do it, he offered to support me in the carriage all the way back to Naples.' "That was a noble offer,' said I.
'And there never was a less noble antagonist!' cried Maitland, with a bitter laugh. Indeed, if it ever should get abroad that I crossed swords with him, it would go near to deny me the power of demanding a similar satisfaction from one of my own rank to-morrow. Do not ask me who he is, Lyle; do not question me about the quarrel itself. It is the thinking, the brooding over these things as I lie here, that makes this bed a torture to me. The surgeon and his probes are not pleasant visitors, but I welcome them when they divert my thoughts from these musings.'
"I did my best to rally him, and get him to talk of the future, when he should be up and about again. I almost thought I had done him some little good, when Caffarelli came in to warn me that the doctors were imperative against his
"I have told Lyle,' said he, as we were leaving the room, that you must let him come and see me to-morrow; there are other things I want to talk over with him.'
"It was high time I should have left him, for his fever was now coming on, and Caffarelli told me that he raved throughout the whole night, and talked incessantly of places which, even in a foreign pronunciation, I knew to be in our own neighbourhood in Ireland. The next day I was not admitted to see him. The day after that I was only suffered to pass a few minutes beside his bed, on condition, too, that he should not be allowed to speak; and to-day, as it is my last in Naples, I have been with him for above an hour. I am certain, my dear Alice, that there is something at least in my suspicion about Bella, from what took place to-day. Hearing that I was obliged to leave to-night to catch the steamer at Ancona, he said, 'Lyle, I shall want a few minutes with you, all alone though, before you leave.' He said this because either the doctor or Caffarelli, or both, have been with us since our first meeting. 'Don't look gloomy, old fellow,' he added; 'I'm not going to speak about my will. It is rather of life I mean to talk, and what to do with life to make it worth living for. Meanwhile, Caffarelli has been telling me of your hunt after a villa. There is mine-the Torricella-take it. Carlo says you were greatly struck with it; and as it is really pretty, and inhabitable too, a thing rare enough with villas, I insist upon your offering it to your family. There's a sort of summer-house or "Belvidere" on the extreme point of the rock, with half-a-dozen little rooms; I shall keep that for myself; but tell Lady Lyle I shall not be a troublesome visitor. It will be the rarest of all events to see me there, for I shall not be long in Italy.' I was eager to ask why, or whither he was turning his steps, but he was