Part 9 out of 12
said when he limped into the public-house with a ball in his back--"It's
only a 'healing measure,' don't make a fuss about it."'
'Mr. Flood wants to see your honour when you're dressed,' said the waiter,
interrupting his soliloquy.
'Where is he?'
'Walking up and down, sir, forenent the door.'
'Will ye say I'm coming down? I'm just finishing a letter to the
Lord-Lieutenant,' said Kilgobbin, with a sly look to the man, who returned
the glance with its rival, and then left the room.
'Will you not come in and sit down?' said Kearney, as he cordially shook
'I have only five minutes to stay, and with your leave, Mr. Kearney, we'll
pass it here'; and taking the other's arm, he proceeded to walk up and down
before the door of the inn.
'You know Ireland well--few men better, I am told--and you have no need,
therefore, to be told how the rumoured dislikes of party, the reported
jealousies and rancours of this set to that, influence the world here.
It will be a fine thing, therefore, to show these people here that the
Liberal, Mr. Kearney, and that bigoted old Tory, Tom Flood, were to be seen
walking together, and in close confab. It will show them, at all events,
that neither of us wants to make party capital out of this scrimmage, and
that he who wants to affront one of us, cannot, on that ground, at least,
count upon the other. Just look at the crowd that is watching us already!
There 'a a fellow neglecting the sale of his pig to stare at us, and that
young woman has stopped gartering her stocking for the last two minutes in
sheer curiosity about us.'
[Illustration: 'Just look at the crowd that is watching us already']
Kearney laughed heartily as he nodded assent.
'You follow me, don't you?' asked Flood. 'Well, then, grant me the favour
I'm about to ask, and it will show me that you see all these things as
I do. This row may turn out more seriously than we thought for. That
scoundrel Gill is in a high fever to-day--I would not say that just out of
spite the fellow would not die. Who knows if it may not become a great case
at the assizes; and if so, Kearney, let us have public opinion with us.
There are scores of men who will wait to hear what you and I say of this
business. There are hundreds more who will expect us to disagree. Let
us prove to them that this is no feud between Orange and Green, this is
nothing of dispute between Whig and Tory, or Protestant and Papist; but
a free fight, where, more shame to them, fifty fell upon one. Now what
you must grant me is leave to send this boy back to Kilgobbin in my own
carriage, and with my own liveries. There is not a peasant cutting turf
on the bog will not reason out his own conclusions when he sees it. Don't
refuse me, for I have set my heart on it.'
'I'm not thinking of refusing. I was only wondering to myself what my
daughter Kitty will say when she sees me sitting behind the blue and orange
'You may send me back with the green flag over me the next day I dine with
you,' cried Flood, and the compact was ratified.
'It is more than half-past already,' said Flood. 'We are to have a full
bench at three; so be ready to give your bail, and I'll have the carriage
at the corner of the street, and you shall set off with the boy at once.'
'I must say,' said Kearney, 'whatever be your Tory faults, lukewarmness is
not one of them! You stand to me like an old friend in all this trouble.'
'Maybe it's time to begin to forget old grudges. Kearney, I believe in my
heart neither of us is as bad as the other thinks him. Are you aware that
they are getting affidavits to refuse the bail?'
'I know it all; but I have sent a man to McEvoy about a case that will take
all his morning; and he'll be too late with his affidavits.'
'By the time he is ready, you and your charge will be snug in Kilgobbin;
and another thing, Kearney--for I have thought of the whole matter--you'll
take out with you that little vermin Price, the doctor, and treat him
well. He'll be as indiscreet as you wish, and be sure to give him the
opportunity. There, now, give me your most affectionate grasp of the hand,
for there's an attentive public watching us.'
Young O'Shea made the journey from Kilbeggan to Kilgobbin Castle in total
unconsciousness. The symptoms had now taken the form which doctors call
concussion; and though to a first brief question he was able to reply
reasonably and well, the effort seemed so exhausting that to all subsequent
queries he appeared utterly indifferent; nor did he even by look
acknowledge that he heard them.
Perfect and unbroken quiet was enjoined as his best, if not his only,
remedy; and Kate gave up her own room for the sick man, as that most remote
from all possible disturbance, and away from all the bustle of the house.
The doctors consulted on his case in the fashion that a country physician
of eminence condescends to consult with a small local practitioner. Dr.
Rogan pronounced his opinion, prophetically declared the patient in danger,
and prescribed his remedies, while Price, agreeing with everything, and
even slavishly abject in his manner of concurrence, went about amongst the
underlings of the household saying, 'There's two fractures of the frontal
bone. It's trepanned he ought to be; and when there's an inquest on the
body, I'll declare I said so.'
Though nearly all the care of providing for the sick man's nursing fell
to Kate Kearney, she fulfilled the duty without attracting any notice
whatever, or appearing to feel as if any extra demand were made upon her
time or her attention; so much so, that a careless observer might have
thought her far more interested in providing for the reception of the aunt
than in cares for the nephew.
Dick Kearney had written to say that Miss Betty was so overwhelmed with
affliction at young Gorman's mishap that she had taken to bed, and could
not be expected to be able to travel for several days. She insisted,
however, on two telegrams daily to report on the boy's case, and asked
which of the great Dublin celebrities of physic should be sent down to see
'They're all alike to me,' said Kilgobbin; 'but if I was to choose, I think
I'd say Dr. Chute.'
This was so far unlucky, since Dr. Chute had then been dead about forty
years; scarcely a junior of the profession having so much as heard his
'We really want no one,' said Rogan. 'We are doing most favourably in every
respect. If one of the young ladies would sit and read to him, but not
converse, it would be a service. He made the request himself this morning,
and I promised to repeat it.'
A telegram, however, announced that Sir St. Xavier Brennan would arrive
the same evening, and as Sir X. was physician-in-chief to the nuns of the
Bleeding Heart, there could be little doubt whose orthodoxy had chosen him.
He came at nightfall--a fat, comely-looking, somewhat unctuous gentleman,
with excellent teeth and snow-white hands, symmetrical and dimpled like a
woman's. He saw the patient, questioned him slightly, and divined without
waiting for it what the answer should be; he was delighted with Rogan,
pleased with Price, but he grew actually enthusiastic over those charming
nurses, Nina and Kate.
'With such sisters of charity to tend me, I'd consent to pass my life as an
invalid,' cried he.
Indeed, to listen to him, it would seem that, whether from the salubrity
of the air, the peaceful quietude of the spot, the watchful kindness
and attention of the surrounders, or a certain general air--an actual
atmosphere of benevolence and contentment around--there was no pleasure of
life could equal the delight of being laid up at Kilgobbin.
'I have a message for you from my old friend Miss O'Shea,' said he to Kate
the first moment he had the opportunity of speaking with her alone. 'It
is not necessary to tell you that I neither know, nor desire to know, its
import. Her words were these: "Tell my godchild to forgive me if she still
has any memory for some very rude words I once spoke. Tell her that I
have been sorely punished for them since, and that till I know I have her
pardon, I have no courage to cross her doors." This was my message, and I
was to bring back your answer.'
'Tell her,' cried Kate warmly, 'I have no place in my memory but for the
kindnesses she has bestowed on me, and that I ask no better boon from
Fortune than to be allowed to love her, and to be worthy of her love.'
'I will repeat every word you have told me; and I am proud to be bearer
of such a speech. May I presume, upon the casual confidence I have thus
acquired, to add one word for myself; and it is as the doctor I would
'Speak freely. What is it?'
'It is this, then: you young ladies keep your watches in turn in the
sick-room. The patient is unfit for much excitement, and as I dare not take
the liberty of imposing a line of conduct on Mademoiselle Kostalergi, I
have resolved to run the hazard with _you_! Let _hers_ be the task of
entertaining him; let _her_ be the reader--and he loves being read to--and
the talker, and the narrator of whatever goes on. To you be the part of
quiet watchfulness and care, to bathe the heated brow, or the burning hand,
to hold the cold cup to the parched lips, to adjust the pillow, to temper
the light, and renew the air of the sick-room, but to speak seldom, if at
all. Do you understand me?'
'Perfectly; and you are wise and acute in your distribution of labour: each
of us has her fitting station.'
'I dared not have said this much to _her_: my doctor's instinct told me I
might be frank with _you_.'
'You are safe in speaking to me,' said she calmly.
'Perhaps I ought to say that I give these suggestions without any concert
with my patient. I have not only abstained from consulting, but--'
'Forgive my interrupting you, Sir X. It was quite unnecessary to tell me
'You are not displeased with me, dear lady?' said he, in his softest of
'No; but do not say anything which might make me so.'
The doctor bowed reverentially, crossed his white hands on his waistcoat,
and looked like a saint ready for martyrdom.
Kate frankly held out her hand in token of perfect cordiality, and her
honest smile suited the action well.
'Tell Miss Betty that our sick charge shall not be neglected, but that we
want her here herself to help us.'
'I shall report your message word for word,' said he, as he withdrew.
As the doctor drove back to Dublin, he went over a variety of things in
his thoughts. There were serious disturbances in the provinces; those
ugly outrages which forerun long winter nights, and make the last days of
October dreary and sad-coloured. Disorder and lawlessness were abroad; and
that want of something remedial to be done which, like the thirst in fever,
is fostered and fed by partial indulgence. Then he had some puzzling cases
in hospital, and one or two in private practice, which harassed him; for
some had reached that critical stage where a false move would be fatal,
and it was far from clear which path should be taken. Then there was that
matter of Miss O'Shea herself, who, if her nephew were to die, would most
likely endow that hospital in connection with the Bleeding Heart, and
of which he was himself the founder; and that this fate was by no means
improbable, Sir X. persuaded himself, as he counted over all the different
stages of peril that stood between him and convalescence. 'We have now the
concussion, with reasonable prospect of meningitis; and there may come on
erysipelas from the scalp wounds, and high fever, with all its dangers;
next there may be a low typhoid state, with high nervous excitement;
and through all these the passing risks of the wrong food or drink, the
imprudent revelations, or the mistaken stimulants. Heigh-ho!' said he at
last, 'we come through storm and shipwreck, forlorn-hopes, and burning
villages, and we succumb to ten drops too much of a dark-brown liquor, or
the improvident rashness that reads out a note to us incautiously!
'Those young ladies thought to mystify me,' said he aloud, after a long
reverie. 'I was not to know which of them was in love with the sick boy. I
could make nothing of the Greek, I own, for, except a half-stealthy
regard for myself, she confessed to nothing, and the other was nearly as
inscrutable. It was only the little warmth at last that betrayed her. I
hurt her pride, and as she winced, I said, "There's the sore spot--there's
mischief there!" How the people grope their way through life who have never
studied physic nor learned physiology is a puzzle to _me_! With all its aid
and guidance I find humanity quite hard enough to understand every day I
Even in his few hours' visit--in which he remarked everything, from the
dress of the man who waited at dinner, to the sherry decanter with the
smashed stopper, the weak 'Gladstone' that did duty as claret, and the
cotton lace which Nina sported as 'point d'Alençon,' and numberless other
shifts, such as people make who like to play false money with Fortune--all
these he saw, and he saw that a certain jealous rivalry existed between the
two girls; but whether either of them, or both, cared for young O'Shea, he
could not declare; and, strange as it may seem, his inability to determine
this weighed upon him with all the sense of a defeat.
Leaving the sick man to the tender care of those ladies whose division of
labour we have just hinted at, we turn to other interests, and to one of
our characters, who, though to all seeming neglected, has not lapsed from
Joe Atlee had been despatched on a very confidential mission by Lord
Danesbury. Not only was he to repossess himself of certain papers he had
never heard of, from a man he had never seen, but he was also to impress
this unknown individual with the immense sense of fidelity to another who
no longer had any power to reward him, and besides this, to persuade him,
being a Greek, that the favour of a great ambassador of England was better
than roubles of gold and vases of malachite.
Modern history has shown us what a great aid to success in life is the
contribution of a 'light heart,' and Joe Atlee certainly brought this
element of victory along with him on his journey.
His instructions were assuredly of the roughest. To impress Lord Danesbury
favourably on the score of his acuteness he must not press for details,
seek for explanations, and, above all, he must ask no questions. In fact,
to accomplish that victory which he ambitioned for his cleverness, and on
which his Excellency should say, 'Atlee saw it at once--Atlee caught the
whole thing at a glance,' Joe must be satisfied with the least definite
directions that ever were issued, and the most confused statement of duties
and difficulties that ever puzzled a human intelligence. Indeed, as he
himself summed up his instructions in his own room, they went no further
than this: That there was a Greek, who, with a number of other names, was
occasionally called Speridionides--a great scoundrel, and with every
good reason for not being come at--who was to be found somewhere in
Stamboul--probably at the bazaar at nightfall. He was to be bullied,
or bribed, or wheedled, or menaced, to give up some letters which Lord
Danesbury had once written to him, and to pledge himself to complete
secrecy as to their contents ever after. From this Greek, whose perfect
confidence Atlee was to obtain, he was to learn whether Kulbash Pasha,
Lord Danesbury's sworn friend and ally, was not lapsing from his English
alliance and inclining towards Russian connections. To Kulbash himself
Atlee had letters accrediting him as the trusted and confidential agent of
Lord Danesbury, and with the Pasha, Joe was instructed to treat with an
air and bearing of unlimited trustfulness. He was also to mention that his
Excellency was eager to be back at his old post as ambassador, that he
loved the country, the climate, his old colleagues in the Sultan's service,
and all the interests and questions that made up their political life.
Last of all, Atlee was to ascertain every point on which any successor to
Lord Danesbury was likely to be mistaken, and how a misconception might be
ingeniously widened into a grave blunder; and by what means such incidents
should be properly commented on by the local papers, and unfavourable
comparisons drawn between the author of these measures and 'the great and
enlightened statesman' who had so lately left them.
In a word, Atlee saw that he was to personate the character of a most
unsuspecting, confiding young gentleman, who possessed a certain natural
aptitude for affairs of importance, and that amount of discretion such
as suited him to be employed confidentially; and to perform this part he
The Pasha liked him so much that he invited him to be his guest while he
remained at Constantinople, and soon satisfied that he was a guileless
youth fresh to the world and its ways, he talked very freely before him,
and affecting to discuss mere possibilities, actually sketched events and
consequences which Atlee shrewdly guessed to be all within the range of
Lord Danesbury's post at Constantinople had not been filled up, except by
the appointment of a Chargé-d'Affaires; it being one of the approved modes
of snubbing a government to accredit a person of inferior rank to its
court. Lord Danesbury detested this man with a hate that only official
life comprehends, the mingled rancour, jealousy, and malice suggested by a
successor, being a combination only known to men who serve their country.
'Find out what Brumsey is doing; he is said to be doing wrong. He knows
nothing of Turkey. Learn his blunders, and let me know them.'
This was the easiest of all Atlee's missions, for Brumsey was the weakest
and most transparent of all imbecile Whigs. A junior diplomatist of small
faculties and great ambitions, he wanted to do something, not being clear
as to what, which should startle his chiefs, and make 'the Office' exclaim:
'See what Sam Brumsey has been doing! Hasn't Brumsey hit the nail on the
head! Brumsey's last despatch is the finest state-paper since the days of
Canning!' Now no one knew the short range of this man's intellectual
tether better than Lord Danesbury--since Brumsey had been his own private
secretary once, and the two men hated each other as only a haughty superior
and a craven dependant know how to hate.
The old ambassador was right. Russian craft had dug many a pitfall for the
English diplomatist, and Brumsey had fallen into every one of them. Acting
on secret information--all ingeniously prepared to entrap him--Brumsey had
discovered a secret demand made by Russia to enable one of the imperial
family to make the tour of the Black Sea with a ship-of-war. Though it
might be matter of controversy whether Turkey herself could, without the
assent of the other Powers to the Treaty of Paris, give her permission,
Brumsey was too elated by his discovery to hesitate about this, but at once
communicated to the Grand-Vizier a formal declaration of the displeasure
with which England would witness such an infraction of a solemn engagement.
As no such project had ever been entertained, no such demand ever made,
Kulbash Pasha not only laughed heartily at the mock-thunder of the
Englishman, but at the energy with which a small official always opens
fire, and in the jocularity of his Turkish nature--for they are jocular,
these children of the Koran--he told the whole incident to Atlee.
'Your old master, Mr. Atlee,' said he, 'would scarcely have read us so
sharp a lesson as that; but,' he added, 'we always hear stronger language
from the man who couldn't station a gunboat at Pera than from the
ambassador who could call up the Mediterranean squadron from Malta.'
If Atlee's first letter to Lord Danesbury admitted of a certain
disappointment as regarded Speridionides, it made ample compensation by the
keen sketch it conveyed of how matters stood at the Porte, the uncertain
fate of Kulbash Pasha's policy, and the scarcely credible blunder of
To tell the English ambassador how much he was regretted and how much
needed, how the partisans of England felt themselves deserted and abandoned
by his withdrawal, and how gravely the best interests of Turkey itself were
compromised for want of that statesmanlike intelligence that had up to this
guided the counsels of the Divan: all these formed only a part of Atlee's
task, for he wrote letters and leaders, in this sense, to all the great
journals of London, Paris, and Vienna; so that when the _Times_ and the
_Post_ asked the English people whether they were satisfied that the
benefit of the Crimean War should be frittered away by an incompetent youth
in the position of a man of high ability, the _Débats_ commented on the
want of support France suffered at the Porte by the inferior agency of
England, and the _Neue Presse_ of Vienna more openly declared that if
England had determined to annex Turkey and govern it as a crown colony, it
would have been at least courtesy to have informed her co-signatories of
At the same time, an Irish paper in the National interest quietly desired
to be informed how was it that the man who made such a mull of Ireland
could be so much needed in Turkey, aided by a well-known fellow-citizen,
more celebrated for smashing lamps and wringing off knockers than for
administering the rights of a colony; and by which of his services,
ballad-writing or beating the police, he had gained the favour of the
present Cabinet. 'In fact,' concluded the writer, 'if we hear more of
this appointment, we promise our readers some biographical memoirs of the
respected individual, which may serve to show the rising youth of Ireland
by what gifts success in life is most surely achieved, as well as what
peculiar accomplishments find most merit with the grave-minded men who rule
A Cork paper announced on the same day, amongst the promotions, that Joseph
Atlee had been made C.B., and mildly inquired if the honour were bestowed
for that paper on Ireland in the last _Quarterly_, and dryly wound up by
saying, 'We are not selfish, whatever people may say of us. Our friends
on the Bosporus shall have the noble lord cheap! Let his Excellency only
assure us that he will return with his whole staff, and not leave us Mr.
Cecil Walpole, or any other like incapacity, behind him, as a director
of the Poor-Law Board, or inspector-general of gaols, or
deputy-assistant-secretary anywhere, and we assent freely to the change
that sends this man to the East and leaves us here to flounder on with such
aids to our mistakes as a Liberal Government can safely afford to spare
A paragraph in another part of the same paper, which asked if the Joseph
Atlee who, it was rumoured, was to go out as Governor to Labuan, could be
this man, had, it is needless to say, been written by himself.
The _Levant Herald_ contented itself with an authorised contradiction to
the report that Sir Joseph Atlee--the Sir was an ingenious blunder--had
conformed to Islamism, and was in treaty for the palace of Tashkir Bey at
With a neatness and tact all his own, Atlee narrated Brumsey's blunder in a
tone so simple and almost deferential, that Lord Danesbury could show the
letter to any of his colleagues. The whole spirit of the document was
regret that a very well-intentioned gentleman of good connections
and irreproachable morals should be an ass! Not that he employed the
The Cabinet at home were on thorns lest the press--the vile Tory
organs--should get wind of the case and cap the blundering government of
Ireland with the almost equally gross mistake in diplomacy.
'We shall have the _Standard_ at us,' said the Premier.
'Far worse,' replied the Foreign Secretary. 'I shall have Brunow here in
a white passion to demand an apology and the recall of our man at
To accuse a well-known housebreaker of a burglary that he had not
committed, nor had any immediate thought of committing, is the very
luckiest stroke of fortune that could befall him. He comes out not alone
innocent, but injured. The persecutions by which bad men have assailed him
for years have at last their illustration, and the calumniated saint walks
forth into the world, his head high and his port erect, even though a
crowbar should peep out from his coat-pocket and the jingle of false keys
go with him as he went.
Far too astute to make the scandal public by the newspapers, Atlee only
hinted to his chief the danger that might ensue if the secret leaked out.
He well knew that a press scandal is a nine-day fever, but a menaced
publicity is a chronic malady that may go on for years.
The last lines of his letter were: 'I have made a curious and interesting
acquaintance--a certain Stephanotis Bey, governor of Scutari in Albania, a
very venerable old fellow, who was never at Constantinople till now. The
Pasha tells me in confidence that he is enormously wealthy. His fortune
was made by brigandage in Greece, from which he retired a few years ago,
shocked by the sudden death of his brother, who was decapitated at Corinth
with five others. The Bey is a nice, gentle-mannered, simple-hearted old
man, kind to the poor, and eminently hospitable. He has invited me down
to Prevesa for the pig-shooting. If I have your permission to accept the
invitation, I shall make a rapid visit to Athens, and make one more
effort to discover Speridionides. Might I ask the favour of an answer by
telegraph? So many documents and archives were stolen here at the time of
the fire of the Embassy, that, by a timely measure of discredit, we can
impair the value of all papers whatever, and I have already a mass of false
despatches, notes, and telegrams ready for publication, and subsequent
denial, if you advise it. In one of these I have imitated Walpole's style
so well that I scarcely think he will read it without misgivings. With so
much "bad bank paper" in circulation, Speridionides is not likely to set a
high price on his own scrip.'
Lord Danesbury read Atlee's letter with an enjoyment not unlike the feeling
an old sportsman experiences in discovering that his cover hack--an animal
not worth twenty pounds--was a capital fencer; that a beast only destined
to the commonest of uses should actually have qualities that recalled the
steeplechaser--that the scrubby little creature with the thin neck and the
shabby quarters should have a turn of speed and a 'big jump' in him, was
something scarcely credible, and highly interesting.
Now political life has its handicaps like the turf, and that old jockey of
many Cabinets began seriously to think whether he might not lay a little
money on that dark horse Joe Atlee, and make something out of him before he
was better known in 'the ring.'
He was smarting, besides, under the annoyances of that half-clever fellow
Walpole, when Atlee's letter reached him, and though the unlucky Cecil had
taken ill and kept his room ever since his arrival, his Excellency had
never forgiven him, nor by a word or sign showed any disposition to restore
him to favour.
That he was himself overwhelmed by a correspondence, and left to deal with
it almost alone, scarcely contributed to reconcile him to a youth who was
not really ill, but smarting, as he deemed it, under a recent defeat; and
he pointed to the mass of papers which now littered his breakfast-table,
and querulously asked his niece if that brilliant young gentleman upstairs
could be induced to postpone his sorrows and copy a despatch.
'If it be not something very difficult or requiring very uncommon care,
perhaps I could do it myself.'
'So you could, Maude, but I want you too--I shall want you to copy out
parts of Atlee's last letter, which I wish to place before the Foreign
Office Secretary. He ought to see what his protégé Brumsey is making of
it. These are the idiots who get us into foreign wars, or those apologetic
movements in diplomacy, which are as bad as lost battles. What a contrast
to Atlee--a rare clever dog, Atlee--and so awake, not only to one, but to
every contingency of a case. I like that fellow--I like a fellow that stops
all the earths! Your half-clever ones never do that; they only do enough
to prolong the race; they don't win it. That bright relative of
ours--Cecil--is one of those. Give Atlee Walpole's chances, and where would
A very faint colour tinged her cheek as she listened, but did not speak.
'That's the real way to put it,' continued he, more warmly. 'Say to Atlee,
"You shall enter public life without any pressing need to take office for
a livelihood; you shall have friends able to push you with one party, and
relations and connections with the Opposition, to save you from unnecessary
cavil or question; you shall be well introduced socially, and have a seat
in the House before--" What's his age? five-and-twenty?'
'I should say about three-and-twenty, my lord; but it is a mere guess.'
'Three-and-twenty is he? I suspect you are right--he can't be more. But
what a deal the fellow has crammed for that time--plenty of rubbish, no
doubt: old dramatists and such like; but he is well up in his treaties;
and there's not a speaker of eminence in the House that he cannot make
contradict himself out of Hansard.'
'Has he any fortune?' sighed she, so lazily that it scarcely sounded as a
'I suppose not.'
'Nor any family?'
'Brothers and sisters he may have--indeed, he is sure to have; but if you
mean connections--belonging to persons of admitted station--of course he
has not. The name alone might show it.'
Another little sigh, fainter than before, followed, and all was still.
'Five years hence, if even so much, the plebeian name and the unknown stock
will be in his favour; but we have to wade through a few dreary measures
before that. I wish he was in the House--he ought to be in the House.'
'Is there a vacancy?' said she lazily.
'Two. There is Cradford, and there is that Scotch place--the
something-Burg, which, of course, one of their own people will insist on.'
'Couldn't he have Cradford?' asked she, with a very slight animation.
'He might--at least if Brand knew him, he'd see he was the man they wanted.
I almost think I'll write a line to Brand, and send him some extracts of
the last letter. I will--here goes.'
'If you'll tell me--'
'DEAR B.,--Read the inclosed, and say have you anybody better than the
writer for your ancient borough of Cradford? The fellow can talk, and I am
sure he can speak as well as he writes. He is well up in all Irish press
iniquities. Better than all, he has neither prejudices nor principles, nor,
as I believe, a five-pound note in the world. He is now in Greece, but I'll
have him over by telegraph if you give me encouragement.
'Tell Tycross at F. O. to send Walpole to Guatemala, and order him to his
post at once. G. will have told you that I shall not go back to Ireland.
The blunder of my ever seeing it was the blackest in the life of yours,
The first letter his lordship opened gave him very little time or
inclination to bestow more thought on Atlee. It was from the head of the
Cabinet, and in the coldest tone imaginable. The writer directed his
attention to what had occurred in the House the night before, and how
impossible it was for any Government to depend on colleagues whose
administration had been so palpably blundering and unwise. 'Conciliation
can only succeed by the good faith it inspires. Once that it leaks out
you are more eager to achieve a gain than confer a benefit, you cease to
conciliate, and you only cajole. Now your lordship might have apprehended
that, in this especial game, the Popish priest is your master and mine--not
to add that he gives an undivided attention to a subject which we have to
treat as one amongst many, and with the relations and bearings which attach
it to other questions of state.
'That you cannot, with advantage to the Crown, or, indeed, to your own
dignity, continue to hold your present office, is clear enough; and the
only question now is in what way, consistent with the safety of the
Administration, and respect for your lordship's high character, the
relinquishment had best be made. The debate has been, on Gregory's motion,
adjourned. It will be continued on Tuesday, and my colleagues opine that if
your resignation was in their hands before that day, certain leaders of the
Opposition would consent to withdraw their motion. I am not wholly
agreed with the other members of the Cabinet on this point; but, without
embarrassing you by the reasons which sway my judgment, I will simply place
the matter before you for your own consideration, perfectly assured, as I
am, that your decision will be come to only on consideration of what you
deem best for the interests of the country.
'My colleague at the Foreign Office will write to-day or to-morrow with
reference to your former post, and I only allude to it now to say the
unmixed satisfaction it would give the Cabinet to find that the greatest
interests of Eastern Europe were once more in the keeping of the ablest
diplomatist of the age, and one of the most far-sighted of modern
'A motion for the abolition of the Irish viceroyalty is now on the notice
paper, and it will be matter for consideration whether we may not make it
an open question in the Cabinet. Perhaps your lordship would favour me with
such opinions on the subject as your experiences suggest.
'The extra session has wearied out every one, and we can with difficulty
make a House.--Yours sincerely, G. ANNIVEY.'
The next he opened was briefer. It ran thus:--
'DEAR DANESBURY,--You must go back at once to Turkey. That inscrutable
idiot Brumsey has discovered another mare's-nest, and we are lucky if
Gortschakoff does not call upon us for public apology. Brunow is outrageous
and demands B.'s recall. I sent off the despatch while he was with me.
Leflo Pasha is very ill, they say dying, so that you must haste back to
your old friend (query: which is he?) Kulbash, if it be not too late, as
Apponyi thinks.--Yours, G.
'_P.S._--Take none of your Irish suite with you to the East. The papers are
sure to note the names and attack you if you should. They shall be cared
for somehow, if there be any who interest you.
'You have seen that the House was not over civil to you on Saturday night,
though A. thinks you got off well.'
'Resign!' cried he aloud, as he dashed the letter on the table. 'I think I
would resign! If they asked what would tempt me to go back there, I should
be sorely puzzled to name it. No; not the blue ribbon itself would induce
me to face that chaos once more. As to the hint about my Irish staff, it
was quite unnecessary. Not very likely, Maude, we should take Walpole to
finish in the Bosporus what he has begun on the Liffey.'
He turned hastily to the _Times_, and threw his eyes over the summary of
the debate. It was acrimonious and sneery. The Opposition leaders, with
accustomed smoothness, had made it appear that the Viceroy's Eastern
experience had misled him, and that he thought 'Tipperary was a Pashalick!'
Imbued with notions of wholesale measures of government, so applicable to
Turkey, it was easy to see how the errors had affected his Irish policy.
'There was,' said the speaker, 'somebody to be conciliated in Ireland, and
some one to be hanged; and what more natural than that he should forget
which, or that he should make the mistake of keeping all the flattery for
the rebel and the rope for the priest.' The neatness of the illustration
took with the House, and the speaker was interrupted by 'much laughter.'
And then he went on to say that, 'as with those well-known ointments or
medicines whose specific virtues lay in the enormous costliness of some
of the constituents, so it must give unspeakable value to the efficacy
of those healing measures for Ireland, to know that the whole British
Constitution was boiled down to make one of them, and every right and
liberty brayed in the mortar to furnish even one dose of this precious
elixir.' And then there was 'laughter' again.
'He ought to be more merciful to charlatans. Dogs do not eat dogs,'
muttered his lordship to himself, and then asked his niece to send Walpole
It was some time before Walpole appeared, and when he did, it was with such
a wasted look and careworn aspect as might have pleaded in his favour.
'Maude told me you wished to see me, my lord,' said he, half diffidently.
'Did I? eh? Did I say so? I forget all about it. What could it be? Let us
see. Was it this stupid row they were making in the House? Have you read
'No, my lord; not looked at a paper.'
'Of course not; you have been too ill, too weak. Have you seen a doctor?'
'I don't care to see a doctor; they all say the same thing. I only need
rest and quiet.'
'Only that! Why, they are the two things nobody can get. Power cannot have
them, nor money buy them. The retired tradesman--I beg his pardon, the
cheesemonger--he is always a cheesemonger now who represents vulgarity and
bank-stock--he may have his rest and quiet; but a Minister must not dream
of such a luxury, nor any one who serves a Minister. Where's the quiet to
come from, I ask you, after such a tirade of abuse as that?' And he pointed
to the _Times_. 'There's _Punch_, too, with a picture of me measuring out
"Danesbury's drops to cure loyalty." That slim youth handing the spoon is
meant for _you_, Walpole.'
'Perhaps so, my lord,' said he coldly.
'They haven't given you too much leg, Cecil,' said the other, laughing; but
Cecil scarcely relished the joke.
'I say, Piccadilly is scarcely the place for a man after that: I mean, of
course, for a while,' continued he. 'These things are not eternal; they
have their day. They had me last week travelling in Ireland on a camel; and
I was made to say, "That the air of the desert always did me good!" Poor
fun, was it not?'
'Very poor fun indeed!'
'And you were the boy preparing my chibouque; and, I must say, devilish
'I did not see it, my lord.'
'That's the best way. Don't look at the caricatures; don't read the
_Saturday Review_; never know there is anything wrong with you; nor, if you
can, that anything disagrees with you.'
'I should like the last delusion best of all,' said he.
'Who would not?' cried the old lord. 'The way I used to eat potted prawns
at Eton, and peach jam after them, and iced guavas, and never felt better!
And now everything gives acidity.'
'Just because our fathers and grandfathers would have those potted prawns
you spoke of.'
'No, no; you are all wrong. It's the new race--it's the new generation.
They don't bear reverses. Whenever the world goes wrong with them, they
talk as they feel, they lose appetite, and they fall down in a state like
your--a--Walpole--like your own!'
'Well, my lord, I don't think I could be called captious for saying that
the world has not gone over well with me.'
'Ah--hum. You mean--no matter--I suppose the luckiest hand is not all
trumps! The thing is to score the trick--that's the point, Walpole, to
score the trick!'
'Up to this, I have not been so fortunate.'
'Well, who knows what's coming! I have just asked the Foreign Office people
to give you Guatemala; not a bad thing, as times go.'
'Why, my lord, it's banishment and barbarism together. The pay is
miserable! It _is_ far away, and it _is_ not Pall Mall or the Rue Rivoli.'
'No, not that. There is twelve hundred for salary, and something for a
house, and something more for a secretary that you don't keep, and an
office that you need not have. In fact, it makes more than two thousand;
and for a single man in a place where he cannot be extravagant, it will
'Yes, my lord; but I was presumptuous enough to imagine a condition in
which I should not be a single man, and I speculated on the possibility
that another might venture to share even poverty as my companion.'
'A woman wouldn't go there--at least, she ought not. It's all bush life,
or something like it. Why should a woman bear that? or a man ask her to do
'You seem to forget, my lord, that affections may be engaged, and pledges
'Get a bill of indemnity, therefore, to release you: better that than wait
for yellow fever to do it.' 'I confess that your lordship's words give me
great discouragement, and if I could possibly believe that Lady Maude was
of your mind--'
'Maude! Maude! why, you never imagined that Lady Maude would leave comfort
and civilisation for this bush life, with its rancheros and rattlesnakes. I
confess,' said he, with a bitter laugh, 'I did not think either of you were
bent on being Paul or Virginia.'
'Have I your lordship's permission to ask her own judgment in the matter: I
mean with the assurance of its not being biassed by you?'
'Freely, most freely do I give it. She is not the girl I believe her if she
leaves you long in doubt. But I prejudge nothing, and I influence nothing.'
'Am I to conclude, my lord, that I am sure of this appointment?'
'I almost believe I can say you are. I have asked for a reply by telegraph,
and I shall probably have one to-morrow.'
'You seemed to have acted under the conviction that I should be glad to get
'Yes, such was my conclusion. After that fiasco in Ireland you must go
somewhere, for a time at least, out of the way. Now as a man cannot die for
half-a-dozen years and come back to life when people have forgotten
his unpopularity, the next best thing is South America. Bogota and the
Argentine Republic have whitewashed many a reputation.'
'I will remember your lordship's wise words.'
'Do so,' said my lord curtly, for he felt offended at the flippant tone in
which the other spoke. 'I don't mean to say that I'd send the writer of
that letter yonder to Yucatan or Costa Rica.'
'Who may the gifted writer be, my lord?'
'Atlee, Joe Atlee; the fellow you sent over here.'
'Indeed!' was all that Walpole could utter.
'Just take it to your room and read it over. You will be astonished at
the thing. The fellow has got to know the bearings of a whole set of new
questions, and how he understands the men he has got to deal with!'
'With your leave I will do so,' said he, as he took the letter and left the
Cecil Walpole's Italian experiences had supplied him with an Italian
proverb which says, '_Tutto il mal non vien per nuocere_,' or, in other
words, that no evil comes unmixed with good; and there is a marvellous
amount of wisdom in the adage.
That there is a deep philosophy, too, in showing how carefully we should
sift misfortune to the dregs, and ascertain what of benefit we might rescue
from the dross, is not to be denied; and the more we reflect on it, the
more should we see that the germ of all real consolation is intimately
bound up in this reservation.
No sooner, then, did Walpole, in novelist phrase, 'realise the fact' that
he was to go to Guatemala, than he set very practically to inquire what
advantages, if any, could be squeezed out of this unpromising incident.
The creditors--and he had some--would not like it! The dreary process of
dunning a man across half the globe, the hopelessness of appeals that took
two months to come to hand, and the inefficacy of threats that were wafted
over miles of ocean! And certainly he smiled as he thought of these, and
rather maliciously bethought him of the truculent importunity that menaced
him with some form of publicity in the more insolent appeal to some
Minister at home. 'Our tailor will moderate his language, our jeweller
will appreciate the merits of polite letter-writing,' thought he. 'A few
parallels of latitude become a great school-master.'
But there were greater advantages even than these. This banishment--for it
was nothing else--could not by any possibility be persisted in, and if Lady
Maude should consent to accompany him, would be very short-lived.
'The women will take it up,' said he, 'and with that charming clanship that
distinguishes them, will lead the Foreign Secretary a life of misery till
he gives us something better.--"Maude says the thermometer has never been
lower than 132°, and that there is no shade. The nights have no breeze, and
are rather hotter than the days. She objects seriously to be waited on by
people in feathers, and very few of them, and she remonstrates against
alligators in the kitchen-garden, and wild cats coming after the canaries
in the drawing-room."
'I hear the catalogue of misfortunes, which begins with nothing to
eat, plus the terror of being eaten. I recognise the lament over lost
civilisation and a wasted life, and I see Downing Street besieged with
ladies in deputations, declaring that they care nothing for party or
politics, but a great deal for the life of a dear young creature who is to
be sacrificed to appease some people belonging to the existing Ministry. I
think I know how beautifully illogical they will be, but how necessarily
successful; and now for Maude herself.'
Of Lady Maude Bickerstaffe Walpole had seen next to nothing since his
return; his own ill-health had confined him to his room, and her inquiries
after him had been cold and formal; and though he wrote a tender little
note and asked for books, slyly hinting what measure of bliss a five
minutes' visit would confer on him, the books he begged for were sent, but
not a line of answer accompanied them. On the whole, he did not dislike
this little show of resentment. What he really dreaded was indifference.
So long as a woman is piqued with you, something can always be done; it is
only when she becomes careless and unmindful of what you do, or say, or
look, or think, that the game looks hopeless. Therefore it was that he
regarded this demonstration of anger as rather favourable than otherwise.
'Atlee has told her of the Greek! Atlee has stirred up her jealousy of the
Titian Girl. Atlee has drawn a long indictment against me, and the fellow
has done me good service in giving me something to plead to. Let me have
a charge to meet, and I have no misgivings. What really unmans me is the
distrust that will not even utter an allegation, and the indifference that
does not want disproof.'
He learned that her ladyship was in the garden, and he hastened down to
meet her. In his own small way Walpole was a clever tactician; and he
counted much on the ardour with which he should open his case, and the
amount of impetuosity that would give her very little time for reflection.
'I shall at once assume that her fate is irrevocably knitted to my own, and
I shall act as though the tie was indissoluble. After all, if she puts me
to the proof, I have her letters--cold and guarded enough, it is true. No
fervour, no gush of any kind, but calm dissertations on a future that must
come, and a certain dignified acceptance of her own part in it. Not the
kind of letters that a Q.C. could read with much rapture before a crowded
court, and ask the assembled grocers, "What happiness has life to offer to
the man robbed of those precious pledges of affection--how was he to
face the world, stripped of every attribute that cherished hope and fed
He was walking slowly towards her when he first saw her, and he had some
seconds to prepare himself ere they met.
'I came down after you, Maude,' said he, in a voice ingeniously modulated
between the tone of old intimacy and a slight suspicion of emotion. 'I came
down to tell you my news'--he waited, and then added--'my fate!'
Still she was silent, the changed word exciting no more interest than its
'Feeling as I do,' he went on, 'and how we stand towards each other, I
cannot but know that my destiny has nothing good or evil in it, except as
it contributes to your happiness.' He stole a glance at her, but there was
nothing in that cold, calm face that could guide him. With a bold effort,
however, he went on: 'My own fortune in life has but one test--is my
existence to be shared with you or not? With _your_ hand in mine,
Maude,'--and he grasped the marble-cold fingers as he spoke--'poverty,
exile, hardships, and the world's neglect, have no terrors for me. With
your love, every ambition of my heart is gratified. Without it--'
[Illustration: 'I should like to have back my letters']
'Well, without it--what?' said she, with a faint smile.
'You would not torture me by such a doubt? Would you rack my soul by a
misery I have not words to speak of?'
'I thought you were going to say what it might be, when I stopped you.'
'Oh, drop this cold and bantering tone, dearest Maude. Remember the
question is now of my very life itself. If you cannot be affectionate, at
least be reasonable!'
'I shall try,' said she calmly.
Stung to the quick by a composure which he could not imitate, he was
able, however, to repress every show of anger, and with a manner cold and
measured as her own, he went on: 'My lord advises that I should go back to
diplomacy, and has asked the Ministers to give me Guatemala. It is nothing
very splendid. It is far away in a remote part of the world; not over-well
paid, but at least I shall be Chargé-d'Affaires, and by three years--four
at most, of this banishment--I shall have a claim for something better.
'I hope you may, I'm sure,' said she, as he seemed to expect something like
'That is not enough, Maude, if the hope be not a wish--and a wish that
'I am so dull, Cecil: tell me what you mean.'
'Simply this, then: does your heart tell you that you could share this
fortune, and brave these hardships; in one word, will you say what will
make me regard this fate as the happiest of my existence? will you give
me this dear hand as my own--my own?' and he pressed his lips upon it
rapturously as he spoke.
She made no effort to release her hand; nor for a second or two did she say
one word. At last, in a very measured tone, she said, 'I should like to
have back my letters.'
'Your letters? Do you mean, Maude, that--that you would break with me?'
'I mean certainly that I should not go to this horrid place--'
'Then I shall refuse it,' broke he in impetuously.
'Not that only, Cecil,' said she, for the first time faltering; 'but except
being very good friends, I do not desire that there should be more between
'No, no engagement. I do not believe there ever was an actual promise,
at least on my part. Other people had no right to promise for either of
us--and--and, in fact, the present is a good opportunity to end it.'
'To end it,' echoed he, in intense bitterness; 'to end it?'
'And I should like to have my letters,' said she calmly, while she took
some freshly plucked flowers from a basket on her arm, and appeared to seek
for something at the bottom of the basket.
'I thought you would come down here, Cecil,' said she, 'when you had spoken
to my uncle. Indeed, I was sure you would, and so I brought these with me.'
And she drew forth a somewhat thick bundle of notes and letters tied with a
narrow ribbon. 'These are yours,' said she, handing them.
Far more piqued by her cold self-possession than really wounded in feeling,
he took the packet without a word; at last he said, 'This is your own
wish--your own, unprompted by others?'
She stared almost insolently at him for answer.
'I mean, Maude--oh, forgive me if I utter that dear name once more--I mean
there has been no influence used to make you treat me thus?'
'You have known me to very little purpose all these years, Cecil Walpole,
to ask me such a question.'
'I am not sure of that. I know too well what misrepresentation and calumny
can do anywhere; and I have been involved in certain difficulties which, if
not explained away, might be made accusations--grave accusations.'
'I make none--I listen to none.'
'I have become an object of complete indifference, then? You feel no
interest in me either way. If I dared, Maude. I should like to ask the date
of this change--when it began?'
'I don't well know what you mean. There was not, so far as I am aware,
anything between us, except a certain esteem and respect, of which
convenience was to make something more. Now convenience has broken faith
with us, but we are not the less very good friends--excellent friends if
'Excellent friends! I could swear to the friendship!' said he, with a
'So at least I mean to be,' said she calmly.
'I hope it is not I shall fail in the compact. And now, will my quality of
friend entitle me to ask one question, Maude?'
'I am not sure till I hear it.'
'I might have hoped a better opinion of my discretion; at all events, I
will risk my question. What I would ask is, how far Joseph Atlee is mixed
up with your judgment of me? Will you tell me this?'
'I will only tell you, sir, that you are over-vain of that discretion you
believe you possess.'
'Then I am right,' cried he, almost insolently. 'I _have_ hit the blot.'
A glance, a mere glance of haughty disdain, was the only reply she made.
'I am shocked, Maude,' said he at last. 'I am ashamed that we should spend
in this way perhaps the very last few minutes we shall ever pass together.
Heart-broken as I am, I should desire to carry away one memory at least of
her whose love was the loadstar of my existence.'
'I want my letters, Cecil,' said she coldly.
'So that you came down here with mine, prepared for this rupture, Maude? It
was all prearranged in your mind.'
'More discretion--more discretion, or good taste--which is it?'
'I ask pardon, most humbly I ask it; your rebuke was quite just. I was
presuming upon a past which has no relation to the present. I shall not
offend any more. And now, what was it you said?'
'I want my letters.'
'They are here,' said he, drawing a thick envelope fully crammed with
letters from his pocket and placing it in her hand. 'Scarcely as carefully
or as nicely kept as mine, for they have been read over too many times;
and with what rapture, Maude. How pressed to my heart and to my lips, how
treasured! Shall I tell you?'
There was that of exaggerated passion--almost rant--in these last words,
that certainly did not impress them with reality; and either Lady Maude
was right in doubting their sincerity, or cruelly unjust, for she smiled
faintly as she heard them.
'No, don't tell me,' said she faintly. 'I am already so much flattered by
courteous anticipation of my wishes that I ask for nothing more.'
He bowed his head lowly; but his smile was one of triumph, as he thought
how, this time at least, he had wounded her.
'There are some trinkets, Cecil,' said she coldly, 'which I have made into
a packet, and you will find them on your dressing-table. And--it may save
you some discomfort if I say that you need not give yourself trouble to
recover the little ring with an opal I once gave you, for I have it now.'
'May I dare?'
'You may not dare. Good-bye.'
And she gave her hand; he bent over it for a moment, scarcely touched it
with his lips, and turned away.
A CHANGE OF FRONT
Of all the discomfitures in life there was one which Cecil Walpole did not
believe could possibly befall him. Indeed, if it could have been made a
matter of betting, he would have wagered all he had in the world that no
woman should ever be able to say she refused his offer of marriage.
He had canvassed the matter very often with himself, and always arrived
at the same conclusion--that if a man were not a mere coxcomb, blinded
by vanity and self-esteem, he could always know how a woman really felt
towards him; and that where the question admitted of a doubt--where,
indeed, there was even a flaw in the absolute certainty--no man with a
due sense of what was owing to himself would risk his dignity by the
possibility of a refusal. It was a part of his peculiar ethics that a man
thus rejected was damaged, pretty much as a bill that has been denied
acceptance. It was the same wound to credit, the same outrage on character.
Considering, therefore, that nothing obliged a man to make an offer of his
hand till he had assured himself of success, it was to his thinking a mere
gratuitous pursuit of insult to be refused. That no especial delicacy
kept these things secret, that women talked of them freely--ay,
triumphantly--that they made the staple of conversation at afternoon tea
and the club, with all the flippant comments that dear friends know how to
contribute as to your vanity and presumption, he was well aware. Indeed,
he had been long an eloquent contributor to that scandal literature which
amuses the leisure of fashion and helps on the tedium of an ordinary
dinner. How Lady Maude would report the late scene in the garden to
the Countess of Mecherscroft, who would tell it to her company at her
country-house!--How the Lady Georginas would discuss it over luncheon, and
the Lord Georges talk of it out shooting! What a host of pleasant anecdotes
would be told of his inordinate puppyism and self-esteem! How even the
dullest fellows would dare to throw a stone at him! What a target for a
while he would be for every marksman at any range to shoot at! All these
his quick-witted ingenuity pictured at once before him.
'I see it all,' cried he, as he paced his room in self-examination. 'I
have suffered myself to be carried away by a burst of momentary impulse. I
brought up all my reserves, and have failed utterly. Nothing can save
me now, but a "change of front." It is the last bit of generalship
remaining--a change of front--a change of front!' And he repeated the words
over and over, as though hoping they might light up his ingenuity. 'I might
go and tell her that all I had been saying was mere jest--that I could
never have dreamed of asking her to follow me into barbarism: that to go
to Guatemala was equivalent to accepting a yellow fever--it was courting
disease, perhaps death; that my insistence was a mere mockery, in the worst
possible taste; but that I had already agreed with Lord Danesbury,
our engagement should be cancelled; that his lordship's memory of our
conversation would corroborate me in saying I had no intention to propose
such a sacrifice to her; and indeed I had but provoked her to say the very
things, and use the very arguments, I had already employed to myself as a
sort of aid to my own heartfelt convictions. Here would be a "change of
front" with a vengeance.
'She will already have written off the whole interview: the despatch is
finished,' cried he, after a moment. 'It is a change of front the day after
the battle. The people will read of my manoeuvre with the bulletin of
victory before them.
'Poor Frank Touchet used to say,' cried he aloud, '"Whenever they refuse
my cheques at the Bank, I always transfer my account"; and fortunately the
world is big enough for these tactics for several years. That's a change of
front too, if I knew how to adapt it. I must marry another woman--there's
nothing else for it. It is the only escape; and the question is, who shall
she be?' The more he meditated over this change of front the more he saw
that his destiny pointed to the Greek. If he could see clearly before him
to a high career in diplomacy, the Greek girl, in everything but fortune,
would suit him well. Her marvellous beauty, her grace of manner, her social
tact and readiness, her skill in languages, were all the very qualities
most in request. Such a woman would make the full complement, by her
fascinations, of all that her husband could accomplish by his abilities.
The little indiscretions of old men--especially old men--with these women,
the lapses of confidence they made them, the dropping admissions of this or
that intention, made up what Walpole knew to be high diplomacy.
'Nothing worth hearing is ever got by a man,' was an adage he treasured as
deep wisdom. Why kings resort to that watering-place, and accidentally meet
certain Ministers going somewhere else; why kaisers affect to review troops
here, that they may be able to talk statecraft there; how princely compacts
and contracts of marriage are made at sulphur springs; all these and
such like leaked out as small-talk with a young and pretty woman, whose
frivolity of manner went bail for the safety of the confidence, and
went far to persuade Walpole, that though bank-stock might be a surer
investment, there were paying qualities in certain women that in the end
promised larger returns than mere money and higher rewards than mere
wealth. 'Yes,' cried he to himself, 'this is the real change of front--this
has all in its favour.'
Nor yet all. Strong as Walpole's self-esteem was, and high his estimate of
his own capacity, he had--he could not conceal it--a certain misgiving as
to whether he really understood that girl or not. 'I have watched many a
bolt from her bow,' said he, 'and think I know their range. But now and
then she has shot an arrow into the clear sky, and far beyond my sight to
That scene in the wood too. Absurd enough that it should obtrude itself at
such a moment, but it was the sort of indication that meant much more to a
man like Walpole than to men of other experiences. Was she flirting with
this young Austrian soldier? No great harm if she were; but still there had
been passages between himself and her which should have bound her over to
more circumspection. Was there not a shadowy sort of engagement between
them? Lawyers deem a mere promise to grant a lease as equivalent to a
contract. It would be a curious question in morals to inquire how far the
licensed perjuries of courtship are statutory offences. Perhaps a sly
consciousness on his own part that he was not playing perfectly fair made
him, as it might do, more than usually tenacious that his adversary should
be honest. What chance the innocent public would have with two people
who were so adroit with each other was his next thought; and he actually
laughed aloud as it occurred to him. 'I only wish my lord would invite us
here before we sail. If I could but show her to Maude, half an hour of
these women together would be the heaviest vengeance I could ask her! I
wonder how could that be managed?'
'A despatch, sir, his lordship begs you to read,' said a servant, entering.
It was an open envelope, and contained these words on a slip of paper:--
'W. shall have Guatemala. He must go out by the mail of November 15.
Send him here for instructions.' Some words in cipher followed, and an
'Now, then, for the "change of front." I'll write to Nina by this post.
I'll ask my lord to let me tear off this portion of the telegram, and I
shall inclose it.'
The letter was not so easily written as he thought--at least he made more
than one draft--and was at last in great doubt whether a long statement or
a few and very decided lines might be better. How he ultimately determined,
and what he said, cannot be given here; for, unhappily, the conditions
of my narrative require I should ask my reader to accompany me to a very
distant spot and other interests which were just then occupying the
attention of an almost forgotten acquaintance of ours, the redoubted Joseph
WITH A PASHA
Joseph Atlee had a very busy morning of it on a certain November day at
Pera, when the post brought him tidings that Lord Danesbury had resigned
the Irish viceroyalty, and had been once more named to his old post as
ambassador at Constantinople.
'My uncle desires me,' wrote Lady Maude, 'to impress you with the now
all-important necessity of obtaining the papers you know of, and, so far
as you are able, to secure that no authorised copies of them are extant.
Kulbash Pasha will, my lord says, be very tractable when once assured
that our return to Turkey is a certainty; but should you detect signs of
hesitation or distrust in the Grand-Vizier's conduct, you will hint that
the investigation as to the issue of the Galatz shares--"preference
shares"--may be reopened at any moment, and that the Ottoman Bank agent,
Schaffer, has drawn up a memoir which my uncle now holds. I copy my lord's
words for all this, and sincerely hope you will understand it, which, I
confess,_ I_ do not at all. My lord cautioned me not to occupy your time or
attention by any reference to Irish questions, but leave you perfectly free
to deal with those larger interests of the East that should now engage you.
I forbear, therefore, to do more than mark with a pencil the part in the
debates which might interest you especially, and merely add the fact,
otherwise, perhaps, not very credible, that Mr. Walpole _did_ write the
famous letter imputed to him--_did_ promise the amnesty, or whatever be the
name of it, and _did_ pledge the honour of the Government to a transaction
with these Fenian leaders. With what success to his own prospects, the
_Gazette_ will speak that announces his appointment to Guatemala.
'I am myself very far from sorry at our change of destination. I prefer the
Bosporus to the Bay of Dublin, and like Pera better than the Phoenix. It
is not alone that the interests are greater, the questions larger, and the
consequences more important to the world at large, but that, as my uncle
has just said, you are spared the peddling impertinence of Parliament
interfering at every moment, and questioning your conduct, from an
invitation to Cardinal Cullen to the dismissal of a chief constable.
Happily, the gentlemen at Westminster know nothing about Turkey, and have
the prudence not to ventilate their ignorance, except in secret committee.
I am sorry to have to tell you that my lord sees great difficulty in what
you propose as to yourself. F. O., he says, would not easily consent to
your being named even a third secretary without your going through the
established grade of attaché. All the unquestionable merits he knows you to
possess would count for nothing against an official regulation. The course
my lord would suggest is this: To enter now as mere attaché, to continue
in this position some three or four months, come over here for the general
election in February, get into "the House," and after some few sessions,
one or two, rejoin diplomacy, to which you might be appointed as a
secretary of legation. My uncle named to me three, if not four cases
of this kind--one, indeed, stepped at once into a mission and became a
minister; and though of course the Opposition made a fuss, they failed in
their attempt to break the appointment, and the man will probably be soon
an ambassador. I accept the little yataghan, but sincerely wish the present
had been of less value. There is one enormous emerald in the handle which I
am much tempted to transfer to a ring. Perhaps I ought, in decency, to have
your permission for the change. The burnous is very beautiful, but I could
not accept it--an article of dress is in the category of things impossible.
Have you no Irish sisters, or even cousins? Pray give me a destination to
address it to in your next.
'My uncle desires me to say that, all invaluable as your services have
become where you are, he needs you greatly here, and would hear with
pleasure that you were about to return. He is curious to know who wrote
"L'Orient et Lord D." in the last _Revue des Deux Mondes_. The savagery of
the attack implies a personal rancour. Find out the author, and reply to
him in the _Edinburgh_. My lord suspects he may have had access to the
papers he has already alluded to, and is the more eager to repossess them.'
A telegraphic despatch in cipher was put into his hands as he was reading.
It was from Lord Danesbury, and said: 'Come back as soon as you can, but
not before making K. Pasha know his fate is in my hands.'
As the Grand-Vizier had already learned from the Ottoman ambassador at
London the news that Lord Danesbury was about to resume his former post
at Constantinople, his Turkish impassiveness was in no way imperilled by
Atlee's abrupt announcement. It is true he would have been pleased had the
English Government sent out some one new to the East and a stranger to all
Oriental questions. He would have liked one of those veterans of diplomacy
versed in the old-fashioned ways and knaveries of German courts, and whose
shrewdest ideas of a subtle policy are centred in a few social spies and a
'Cabinet Noir.' The Pasha had no desire to see there a man who knew all the
secret machinery of a Turkish administration, what corruption could do, and
where to look for the men who could employ it.
The thing was done, however, and with that philosophy of resignation to
a fact in which no nation can rival his own, he muttered his polite
congratulations on the event, and declared that the dearest wish of his
heart was now accomplished.
'We had half begun to believe you had abandoned us, Mr. Atlee,' said he.
'When England commits her interests to inferior men, she usually means to
imply that they are worth nothing better. I am rejoiced to see that we are,
at last, awakened from this delusion. With his Excellency Lord Danesbury
here, we shall be soon once more where we have been.'
'Your fleet is in effective condition, well armed, and well disciplined?'
'All, all,' smiled the Pasha.
'The army reformed, the artillery supplied with the most efficient guns,
and officers of European services encouraged to join your staff?'
'Wise economies in your financial matters, close supervision in the
collection of the revenue, and searching inquiries where abuses exist?'
'Especial care that the administration of justice should be beyond even
the malevolence of distrust, that men of station and influence should be
clear-handed and honourable, not a taint of unfairness to attach to them?'
'Be it all so,' ejaculated the Pasha blandly.
'By the way, I am reminded by a line I have just received from his
Excellency with reference to Sulina, or was it Galatz?'
The Pasha could not decide, and he went on--
'I remember, it is Galatz. There is some curious question there of a
concession for a line of railroad, which a Servian commissioner had the
skill to obtain from the Cabinet here, by a sort of influence which our
Stock Exchange people in London scarcely regard as regular.'
The Pasha nodded to imply attention, and smoked on as before.
'But I weary your Excellency,' said Atlee, rising, 'and my real business
here is accomplished.'
'Tell my lord that I await his arrival with impatience, that of all pending
questions none shall receive solution till he comes, that I am the very
least of his servants.' And with an air of most dignified sincerity, he
bowed him out, and Atlee hastened away to tell his chief that he had
'squared the Turk,' and would sail on the morrow.
ATLEE ON HIS TRAVELS
On board the Austrian Lloyd's steamer in which he sailed from
Constantinople, Joseph Atlee employed himself in the composition of a small
volume purporting to be _The Experiences of a Two Years' Residence in
Greece_. In an opening chapter of this work he had modestly intimated to
the reader how an intimate acquaintance with the language and literature of
modern Greece, great opportunities of mixing with every class and condition
of the people, a mind well stored with classical acquirements and
thoroughly versed in antiquarian lore, a strong poetic temperament and the
feeling of an artist for scenery, had all combined to give him a certain
fitness for his task; and by the extracts from his diary it would be seen
on what terms of freedom he conversed with Ministers and ambassadors, even
with royalty itself.
A most pitiless chapter was devoted to the exposure of the mistakes and
misrepresentations of a late _Quarterly_ article called 'Greece and her
Protectors,' whose statements were the more mercilessly handled and
ridiculed that the paper in question had been written by himself, and the
sarcastic allusions to the sources of the information not the less pungent
on that account.
That the writer had been admitted to frequent audiences of the king, that
he had discussed with his Majesty the cutting of the Isthmus of Corinth,
that the king had seriously confided to him his belief that in the event
of his abdication, the Ionian Islands must revert to him as a personal
appanage, the terms on which they were annexed to Greece being decided by
lawyers to bear this interpretation--all these Atlee denied of his own
knowledge, an asked the reader to follow him into the royal cabinet for his
When, therefore, he heard that from some damage to the machinery the vessel
must be detained some days at Syra to refit, Atlee was scarcely sorry that
necessity gave him an opportunity to visit Athens.
A little about Ulysses and a good deal about Lord Byron, a smattering of
Grote, and a more perfect memory of About, were, as he owned to himself,
all his Greece; but he could answer for what three days in the country
would do for him, particularly with that spirit of candid inquiry he could
now bring to his task, and the genuine fairness with which he desired to
judge the people.
'The two years' resident' in Athens must doubtless often have dined with
his Minister, and so Atlee sent his card to the Legation.
Mr. Brammell, our 'present Minister at Athens,' as the _Times_ continued
to designate him, as though to imply that the appointment might not be
permanent, was an excellent man, of that stamp of which diplomacy has
more--who consider that the Court to which they are accredited concentrates
for the time the political interests of the globe. That any one in Europe
thought, read, spoke, or listened to anything but what was then happening
in Greece, Mr. Brammell could not believe. That France or Prussia, Spain
or Italy, could divide attention with this small kingdom; that the
great political minds of the Continent were not more eager to know what
Comoundouros thought and Bulgaris required, than all about Bismarck and
Gortschakoff, he could not be brought to conceive; and in consequence of
these convictions, he was an admirable Minister, and fully represented all
the interests of his country.
As that admirable public instructor, the _Levant Herald_, had frequently
mentioned Atlee's name, now as the guest of Kulbash Pasha, now as having
attended some public ceremony with other persons of importance, and once
as 'our distinguished countryman, whose wise suggestions and acute
observations have been duly accepted by the imperial cabinet,' Brammell
at once knew that this distinguished countryman should be entertained at
dinner, and he sent him an invitation. That habit--so popular of late
years--to send out some man from England to do something at a foreign Court
that the British ambassador or Minister there either has not done, or
cannot do, possibly ought never to do, had invested Atlee in Brammell's
eyes with the character of one of those semi-accredited inscrutable people
whose function it would seem to be to make us out the most meddlesome
people in Europe.
Of course Brammell was not pleased to see him at Athens, and he ran over
all the possible contingencies he might have come for. It might be the old
Greek loan, which was to be raked up again as a new grievance. It might be
the pensions that they would not pay, or the brigands that they would not
catch--pretty much for the same reasons--that they could not. It might
be that they wanted to hear what Tsousicheff, the new Russian Minister,
was doing, and whether the farce of the 'Grand Idea' was advertised for
repetition. It might be Crete was on the _tapis_, or it might be the
question of the Greek envoy to the Porte that the Sultan refused to
receive, and which promised to turn out a very pretty quarrel if only
The more Brammell thought of it, the more he felt assured this must be the
reason of Atlee's visit, and the more indignant he grew that extra-official
means should be employed to investigate what he had written seventeen
despatches to explain--seventeen despatches, with nine 'inclosures,' and a
'private and confidential,' about to appear in a blue-book.
To make the dinner as confidential as might be, the only guests besides
Atlee were a couple of yachting Englishmen, a German Professor of
Archæology, and the American Minister, who, of course, speaking no language
but his own, could always be escaped from by a digression into French,
German, or Italian.
Atlee felt, as he entered the drawing-room, that the company was what he
irreverently called afterwards, a scratch team; and with an almost equal
quickness, he saw that he himself was the 'personage' of the entertainment,
the 'man of mark' of the party.
The same tact which enabled him to perceive all this, made him especially
guarded in all he said, so that his host's efforts to unveil his intentions
and learn what he had come for were complete failures. 'Greece was a
charming country--Greece was the parent of any civilisation we boasted.
She gave us those ideas of architecture with which we raised that glorious
temple at Kensington, and that taste for sculpture which we exhibited near
Apsley House. Aristophanes gave us our comic drama, and only the defaults
of our language made it difficult to show why the member for Cork did not
more often recall Demosthenes.'
As for insolvency, it was a very gentlemanlike failing; while brigandage
was only what Sheil used to euphemise as 'the wild justice' of noble
spirits, too impatient for the sluggard steps of slow redress, and too
proud not to be self-reliant.
Thus excusing and extenuating wherein he could not flatter, Atlee talked on
the entire evening, till he sent the two Englishmen home heartily sick of a
bombastic eulogy on the land where a pilot had run their cutter on a rock,
and a revenue officer had seized all their tobacco. The German had retired
early, and the Yankee hastened to his lodgings to 'jot down' all the fine
things he could commit to his next despatch home, and overwhelm Mr. Seward
with an array of historic celebrities such as had never been seen at
'They're gone at last,' said the Minister. 'Let us have our cigar on the
The unbounded frankness, the unlimited trustfulness that now ensued between
these two men, was charming. Brammell represented one hard worked and
sorely tried in his country's service--the perfect slave of office,
spending nights long at his desk, but not appreciated, not valued at home.
It was delightful, therefore, to him, to find a man like Atlee to whom he
could tell this--could tell for what an ungrateful country he toiled,
what ignorance he sought to enlighten, what actual stupidity he had to
counteract. He spoke of the Office--from his tone of horror it might have
been the Holy Office--with a sort of tremulous terror and aversion: the
absurd instructions they sent him, the impossible things he was to do, the
inconceivable lines of policy he was to insist on; how but for him the king
would abdicate, and a Russian protectorate be proclaimed; how the revolt
at Athens would be proclaimed in Thessaly; how Skulkekoff, the Russian
general, was waiting to move into the provinces 'at the first check my
policy shall receive here,' cried he. 'I shall show you on this map; and
here are the names, armament, and tonnage of a hundred and ninety-four
gunboats now ready at Nicholief to move down on Constantinople.'
Was it not strange, was it not worse than strange, after such a show of
unbounded confidence as this, Atlee would reveal nothing? Whatever his
grievances against the people he served--and who is without them?--he would
say nothing, he had no complaint to make. Things he admitted were bad, but
they might be worse. The monarchy existed still, and the House of Lords
was, for a while at least, tolerated. Ireland was disturbed, but not in
open rebellion; and if we had no army to speak of, we still had a navy, and
even the present Admiralty only lost about five ships a year!
Till long after midnight did they fence with each other, with buttons on
their foils--very harmlessly, no doubt, but very uselessly too: Brammell
could make nothing of a man who neither wanted to hear about finance or
taxation, court scandal, schools, or public robbery; and though he could
not in so many words ask--What have you come for? why are you here? he said
this in full fifty different ways for three hours and more.
'You make some stay amongst us, I trust?' said the Minister, as his guest
rose to take leave. 'You mean to see something of this interesting country
before you leave?'
'I fear not; when the repairs to the steamer enable her to put to sea, they
are to let me know by telegraph, and I shall join her.'
'Are you so pressed for time that you cannot spare us a week or two?'
'Totally impossible! Parliament will sit in January next, and I must hasten
This was to imply that he was in the House, or that he expected to be, or
that he ought to be, and even if he were not, that his presence in England
was all-essential to somebody who was in Parliament, and for whom his
information, his explanation, his accusation, or anything else, was all
needed, and so Brammell read it and bowed accordingly.
'By the way,' said the Minister, as the other was leaving the room, and
with that sudden abruptness of a wayward thought, 'we have been talking of
all sorts of things and people, but not a word about what we are so full of
here. How is this difficulty about the new Greek envoy to the Porte to end?
You know, of course, the Sultan refuses to receive him?'
'The Pasha told me something of it, but I confess to have paid little
attention. I treated the matter as insignificant.'
'Insignificant! You cannot mean that an affront so openly administered
as this, the greatest national offence that could be offered, is
insignificant?' and then with a volubility that smacked very little of want
of preparation, he showed that the idea of sending a particular man, long
compromised by his complicity in the Cretan revolt, to Constantinople, came
from Russia, and that the opposition of the Porte to accept him was also
Russian. 'I got to the bottom of the whole intrigue. I wrote home how
Tsousicheff was nursing this new quarrel. I told our people facts of the
Muscovite policy that they never got a hint of from their ambassador at St.
'It was rare luck that we had you here: good-night, good-night,' said Atlee
as he buttoned his coat.
'More than that, I said, "If the Cabinet here persist in sending
'Whom did you say? What name was it you said?'
'Kostalergi--the Prince. As much a prince as you are. First of all, they
have no better; and secondly, this is the most consummate adventurer in the
'I should like to know him. Is he here--at Athens?'
'Of course he is. He is waiting till he hears the Sultan will receive him.'
'I should like to know him,' said Atlee, more seriously.
'Nothing easier. He comes here every day. Will you meet him at dinner
'Delighted! but then I should like a little conversation with him in the
morning. Perhaps you would kindly make me known to him?'
'With sincere pleasure. I'll write and ask him to dine--and I'll say that
you will wait on him. I'll say, "My distinguished friend Mr. Atlee, of whom
you have heard, will wait on you about eleven or twelve." Will that do?'
'Perfectly. So then I may make my visit on the presumption of being
'Certainly. Not that Kostalergi wants much preparation. He plays baccarat
all night, but he is at his desk at six.'
'Is he rich?'
'Hasn't a sixpence--but plays all the same. And what people are more
surprised at, pays when he loses. If I had not already passed an evening
in your company, I should be bold enough to hint to you the need of
caution--great caution--in talking with him.'
'I know--I am aware,' said Atlee, with a meaning smile.
'You will not be misled by his cunning, Mr. Atlee, but beware of his
'I will be on my guard. Many thanks for the caution. Good-night!--once
GREEK MEETS GREEK
So excited did Atlee feel about meeting the father of Nina Kostalergi--of
whose strange doings and adventurous life he had heard much--that he
scarcely slept the entire night. It puzzled him greatly to determine in
what character he should present himself to this crafty Greek. Political
amateurship was now so popular in England, that he might easily enough
pass off for one of those 'Bulls' desirous to make himself up on the Greek
question. This was a part that offered no difficulty. 'Give me five
minutes of any man--a little longer with a woman--and I'll know where
his sympathies incline to.' This was a constant boast of his, and not
altogether a vain one. He might be an archæological traveller eager about
new-discovered relics and curious about ruined temples. He might be a
yachting man, who only cared for Salamis as good anchorage, nor thought of
the Acropolis, except as a point of departure; or he might be one of those
myriads who travel without knowing where, or caring why: airing their ennui
now at Thebes, now at Trolhatten; a weariful, dispirited race, who rarely
look so thoroughly alive as when choosing a cigar or changing their money.
There was no reason why the 'distinguished Mr. Atlee' might not be one of
these--he was accredited, too, by his Minister, and his 'solidarity,' as
the French call it, was beyond question.
While yet revolving these points, a kavass--with much gold in his jacket,
and a voluminous petticoat of white calico--came to inform him that his
Excellency the Prince hope to see him at breakfast at eleven o'clock; and
it now only wanted a few minutes of that hour. Atlee detained the messenger
to show him the road, and at last set out.
Traversing one dreary, ill-built street after another, they arrived at last
at what seemed a little lane, the entrance to which carriages were denied
by a line of stone posts, at the extremity of which a small green gate
appeared in a wall. Pushing this wide open, the kavass stood respectfully,
while Atlee passed in, and found himself in what for Greece was a garden.
There were two fine palm-trees, and a small scrub of oleanders and dwarf
cedars that grew around a little fish-pond, where a small Triton in the
middle, with distended cheeks, should have poured forth a refreshing jet of
water, but his lips were dry, and his conch-shell empty, and the muddy tank
at his feet a mere surface of broad water-lilies convulsively shaken by
bull-frogs. A short shady path led to the house, a two-storeyed edifice,
with the external stair of wood that seemed to crawl round it on every
In a good-sized room of the ground-floor Atlee found the prince awaiting
him. He was confined to a sofa by a slight sprain, he called it, and
apologised for his not being able to rise.
The prince, though advanced in years, was still handsome: his features had
all the splendid regularity of their Greek origin; but in the enormous
orbits, of which the tint was nearly black, and the indented temples,
traversed by veins of immense size, and the firm compression of his lips,
might be read the signs of a man who carried the gambling spirit into every
incident of life, one ready 'to back his luck,' and show a bold front to
fortune when fate proved adverse.
The Greek's manner was perfect. There was all the ease of a man used to
society, with a sort of half-sly courtesy, as he said, 'This is kindness,
Mr. Atlee--this is real kindness. I scarcely thought an Englishman would
have the courage to call upon anything so unpopular as I am.'
'I have come to see you and the Parthenon, Prince, and I have begun with
'And you will tell them, when you get home, that I am not the terrible
revolutionist they think me: that I am neither Danton nor Félix Pyat, but
a very mild and rather tiresome old man, whose extreme violence goes no
further than believing that people ought to be masters in their own house,
and that when any one disputes the right, the best thing is to throw him
out of the window.'
'If he will not go by the door,' remarked Atlee.
'No, I would not give him the chance of the door. Otherwise you make no
distinction between your friends and your enemies. It is by the mild
methods--what you call "milk-and-water methods"--men spoil all their
efforts for freedom. You always want to cut off somebody's head and spill
no blood. There's the mistake of those Irish rebels: they tell me they have
courage, but I find it hard to believe them.'
'Do believe them then, and know for certain that there is not a braver
people in Europe.'
'How do you keep them down, then?'
'You must not ask _me_ that, for I am one of them.'
'Yes, Irish--very Irish.'
'Ah! I see. Irish in an English sense? Just as there are Greeks here
who believe in Kulbash Pasha, and would say, Stay at home and till your
currant-fields and mind your coasting trade. Don't try to be civilised, for
civilisation goes badly with brigandage, and scarcely suits trickery. And
you are aware, Mr. Atlee, that trickery and brigandage are more to Greece
than olives or dried figs?'
There was that of mockery in the way he said this, and the little
smile that played about his mouth when he finished, that left Atlee in
considerable doubt how to read him.
'I study your newspapers, Mr. Atlee,' resumed he. 'I never omit to read
your _Times_, and I see how my old acquaintance, Lord Danesbury, has been
making Turkey out of Ireland! It is so hard to persuade an old ambassador
that you cannot do everything by corruption!'
'I scarcely think you do him justice.'
'Poor Danesbury,' ejaculated he sorrowfully.
'You opine that his policy is a mistake?'
'Poor Danesbury!' said he again.
'He is one of our ablest men, notwithstanding. At this moment we have not
his superior in anything.'
'I was going to say, Poor Danesbury, but I now say, Poor England.'
Atlee bit his lips with anger at the sarcasm, but went on, 'I infer you are
not aware of the exact share subordinates have had in what you call Lord
Danesbury's Irish blunders--'
'Pardon my interrupting you, but a really able man has no subordinates. His
inferior agents are so thoroughly absorbed by his own individuality
that they have no wills--no instincts--and, therefore, they can do no
indiscretions They are the simple emanations of himself in action.'
'In Turkey, perhaps,' said Atlee, with a smile.
'If in Turkey, why not in England, or, at least, in Ireland? If you are
well served--and mind, you must be well served, or you are powerless--you
can always in political life see the adversary's hand. That he sees yours,
is of course true: the great question then is, how much you mean to mislead
him by the showing it? I give you an instance: Lord Danesbury's cleverest
stroke in policy here, the one hit probably he made in the East, was to
have a private correspondence with the Khedive made known to the Russian
embassy, and induce Gortschakoff to believe that he could not trust the
Pasha! All the Russian preparations to move down on the Provinces were
countermanded. The stores of grain that were being made on the Pruth were
arrested, and three, nearly four weeks elapsed before the mistake was
discovered, and in that interval England had reinforced the squadron at
Malta, and taken steps to encourage Turkey--always to be done by money, or
promise of money.'
'It was a _coup_ of great adroitness,' said Atlee.
'It was more,' cried the Greek, with elation. 'It was a move of such
subtlety as smacks of something higher than the Saxon! The men who do these
things have the instinct of their craft. It is theirs to understand that
chemistry of human motives by which a certain combination results in
effects totally remote from the agents that produce it. Can you follow me?'
'I believe I can.'
'I would rather say, Is my attempt at an explanation sufficiently clear to
Atlee looked fixedly at him, and he could do so unobserved, for the other
was now occupied in preparing his pipe, without minding the question.
Therefore Atlee set himself to study the features before him. It was
evident enough, from the intensity of his gaze and a certain trembling of
his upper lip, that the scrutiny cost him no common effort. It was, in
fact, the effort to divine what, if he mistook to read aright, would be an
With the long-drawn inspiration a man makes before he adventures a daring
feat, he said: 'It is time I should be candid with you, Prince. It is time
I should tell you that I am in Greece only to see _you_.'
'To see me?' said the other, and a very faint flush passed across his face.
'To see you,' said Atlee slowly, while he drew out a pocket-book and took
from it a letter. 'This,' said he, handing it, 'is to your address.' The
words on the cover were M. Spiridionides.
'I am Spiridion Kostalergi, and by birth a Prince of Delos,' said the
Greek, waving back the letter.
'I am well aware of that, and it is only in perfect confidence that I
venture to recall a past that your Excellency will see I respect,' and
Atlee spoke with an air of deference.
'The antecedents of the men who serve this country are not to be measured
by the artificial habits of a people who regulate condition by money.
_Your_ statesmen have no need to be journalists, teachers, tutors;
Frenchmen and Italians are all these, and on the Lower Danube and in Greece
we are these and something more.--Nor are we less politicians that we are
more men of the world.--The little of statecraft that French Emperor ever
knew, he picked up in his days of exile.' All this he blurted out in short
and passionate bursts, like an angry man who was trying to be logical in
his anger, and to make an effort of reason subdue his wrath.
'If I had not understood these things as you yourself understand them, I
should not have been so indiscreet as to offer you that letter,' and once
more he proffered it.
This time the Greek took it, tore open the envelope, and read it through.
'It is from Lord Danesbury,' said he at length. 'When we parted last, I
was, in a certain sense, my lord's subordinate--that is, there were things
none of his staff or secretaries or attachés or dragomen could do, and I
could do them. Times are changed, and if we are to meet again, it will be
as colleagues. It is true, Mr. Atlee, the ambassador of England and the
envoy of Greece are not exactly of the same rank. I do not permit myself
many illusions, and this is not one of them; but remember, if Great Britain
be a first-rate Power, Greece is a volcano. It is for us to say when there
shall be an eruption.'
It was evident, from the rambling tenor of this speech, he was speaking
rather to conceal his thoughts and give himself time for reflection, than
to enunciate any definite opinion; and so Atlee, with native acuteness,
read him, as he simply bowed a cold assent.
'Why should I give him back his letters?' burst out the Greek warmly.
'What does he offer me in exchange for them? Money! mere money! By what
presumption does he assume that I must be in such want of money, that the
only question should be the sum? May not the time come when I shall be
questioned in our chamber as to certain matters of policy, and my only
vindication be the documents of this same English ambassador, written
in his own hand, and signed with his name? Will you tell me that the
triumphant assertion of a man's honour is not more to him than bank-notes?'
Though the heroic spirit of this speech went but a short way to deceive
Atlee, who only read it as a plea for a higher price, it was his policy to
seem to believe every word of it, and he looked a perfect picture of quiet
'You little suspect what these letters are?' said the Greek.
I believe I know: I rather think I have a catalogue of them and their
contents,' mildly hinted the other.
'Ah! indeed, and are you prepared to vouch for the accuracy and
completeness of your list?'
'You must be aware it is only my lord himself can answer that question.'
'Is there--in your enumeration--is there the letter about Crete? and the
false news that deceived the Baron de Baude? Is there the note of my
instructions to the Khedive? Is there--I'm sure there is not--any mention
of the negotiation with Stephanotis Bey?'
'I have seen Stephanotis myself; I have just come from him,' said Atlee,
grasping at the escape the name offered.
'Ah, you know the old Paiikao?'
'Intimately; we are, I hope, close friends; he was at Kulbash Pasha's while
I was there, and we had much talk together.'
'And from him it was you learned that Spiridionides was Spiridion
Kostalergi?' said the Greek slowly.
'Surely this is not meant as a question, or, at least, a question to be
answered?' said Atlee, smiling.
'No, no, of course not,' replied the other politely. 'We are chatting
together, if not like old friends, like men who have every element to
become dear friends. We see life pretty much from the same point of view,
Mr. Atlee, is it not so?'
'It would be a great flattery to me to think it.' And Joe's eyes sparkled
as he spoke.
'One has to make his choice somewhat early in the world, whether he will
hunt or be hunted: I believe that is about the case.'
'I suspect so.'
'I did not take long to decide: _I_ took my place with the wolves!' Nothing
could be more quietly uttered than these words; but there was a savage
ferocity in his look as he said them that held Atlee almost spell-bound.
'And you, Mr. Atlee? and you? I need scarcely ask where _your_ choice
fell!' It was so palpable that the words meant a compliment, Atlee had only
to smile a polite acceptance of them.
'These letters,' said the Greek, resuming, and like one who had not
mentally lapsed from the theme--'these letters are all that my lord deems
them. They are the very stuff that, in your country of publicity and free
discussion, would make or mar the very best reputations amongst you. And,'
added he, after a pause, 'there are none of them destroyed, none!'
'He is aware of that.'
'No, he is not aware of it to the extent I speak of, for many of the
documents that he believed he saw burned in his own presence, on his own
hearth, are here, here in the room we sit in! So that I am in the proud
position of being able to vindicate his policy in many cases where his
memory might prove weak or fallacious.'
'Although I know Lord Danesbury's value for these papers does not bear out
your own, I will not suffer myself to discuss the point. I return at once
to what I have come for. Shall I make you an offer in money for them,
'What is the amount you propose?'
'I was to negotiate for a thousand pounds first. I was to give two thousand
at the last resort. I will begin at the last resort and pay you two.'
'Why not piastres, Mr. Atlee? I am sure your instructions must have said
Quite unmoved by the sarcasm, Atlee took out his pocket-book and read
from a memorandum: 'Should M. Kostalergi refuse your offer, or think it
insufficient, on no account let the negotiation take any turn of acrimony
or recrimination. He has rendered me great services in past times, and it
will be for himself to determine whether he should do or say what should in
any way bar our future relations together.'
'This is not a menace?' said the Greek, smiling superciliously.
'No. It is simply an instruction,' said the other, after a slight
'The men who make a trade of diplomacy,' said the Greek haughtily, 'reserve
it for their dealings with Cabinets. In home or familiar intercourse they
are straightforward and simple. Without these papers your noble master
cannot return to Turkey as ambassador. Do not interrupt me. He cannot come
back as ambassador to the Porte! It is for him to say how he estimates the
post. An ambitious man with ample reason for his ambition, an able man with
a thorough conviction of his ability, a patriotic man who understood and
saw the services he could render to his country, would not bargain at the
price the place should cost him, nor say ten thousand pounds too much to
pay for it.'
'Ten thousand pounds!' exclaimed Atlee, but in real and unfeigned
'I have said ten thousand, and I will not say nine--nor nine thousand nine
Atlee slowly arose and took his hat.
'I have too much respect for yourself and for your time, M. Kostalergi, to
impose any longer on your leisure. I have no need to say that your proposal
is totally unacceptable.'
'You have not heard it all, sir. The money is but a part of what I insist
on. I shall demand, besides, that the British ambassador at Constantinople
shall formally support my claim to be received as envoy from Greece, and
that the whole might of England be pledged to the ratification of my
A very cold but not uncourteous smile was all Atlee's acknowledgment of
'There are small details which regard my title and the rank that I lay
claim to. With these I do not trouble you. I will merely say I reserve them
if we should discuss this in future.'
'Of that there is little prospect. Indeed, I see none whatever. I may say
this much, however, Prince, that I shall most willingly undertake to place
your claims to be received as Minister for Greece at the Porte under Lord
Danesbury's notice, and, I have every hope, for favourable consideration.
We are not likely to meet again: may I assume that we part friends?'
'You only anticipate my own sincere desire.'
As they passed slowly through the garden, Atlee stopped and said: 'Had
I been able to tell my lord, "The Prince is just named special envoy at
Constantinople. The Turks are offended at something he has done in Crete or
Thessaly. Without certain pressure on the Divan they will not receive him.
Will your lordship empower me to say that you will undertake this, and,