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here to-night with Grafton, so you will have an each player had gauged the other's character at opportunity of watching his play, and trying a glance. Della Croce, with a bow that would your luck with him yourself
. Better take care, have done honour to a Colonna, said, “ Very though, and keep the stakes low, or you inay proud to make the acquaintance of a player of find yourself sold !"
whom I have heard such great things as Well, I think I will stay and dine,” said Captain Grantley !" Grantley, carelessly, “and see how the fellow T'he whist-room at the club was soon full, as plays: I may pick up a wrinkle.”
the news spread that Della Croce and Grantley And after this determination he sent a note were going to play; and the game proceeded for to Ella not to wait dinner for him, as he had low stakes at Grantley's wish. It was a fine met some old friends, and they wouldn't hear of sight to see these two men, like two wary his deserting them at once. When she got the fencers, watching each other's weak point: but note I am afraid she said something very they were too well matched to allow of much naughty about these horrid clubs; but, as she advantage on either side. After they had played had to go out that evening, she thought no for some little time, and Della Croce was winmore about it. It was only another brick in ning slightly, Grantley proposed that the stakes the wall of separation.
should be doubled. The dinner was as good as the cook of the “As Monsieur pleases,” bowed his opponent, Army and Navy" could make it, and he was urbanely; and the battle went on. no mean performer in his way-the wines were Grantley was losing fast: he was five hun. such as make the tongue of 'man eloquent and dred to the bad, and the bystanders saw that brighten his eyes with fire ; and Grantley, as a change was working in his face. he sat sipping his coffee with his friend, felt a “Now he is getting riled !” thought they; thrill of savage pleasure in the forthcoming “and the game will soon be up with him!" game: he wanted some excitement to keep off They were wrong. Sternly as Grantley's remorse, and its attendant furies. The re- mouth contracted, and black as grew bis brow, nowned Count bad been dining too in the same it was not the loss he felt, but the assurance room ; so he had plenty of time to examine the that the Italian was playing unfairly. He bided stranger well. Thoroughly Italian in feature, his time, however, and for a short period Della Croce was certainly a handsome man, nothing was heard but the monotonous shufwith dark, lazy-looking eyes sleeping under their fling of the cards and the ticking of the clock, long lashes, and an olive, clear complexion, and as the two men watched each other's movements that nervous twitching about the corners of the like lynxes. Suddenly Grantley's face brightmouth which proclaims the inveterate gambler. ened: he had never taken his eyes off the He might have been any age : his was one of | Italian's band for a moment, and, quick as the those deceptive faces which might be twenty or expert gambler was, it escaped not his oppo. fifty--so smooth and unwrinkled. He might nent's eye that he had changed his cards, and have been any profession, from a nobleman to glanced at the uppermost. an exiled refugee ; for, by dint of long and care- “Stop!” thundered Grantley, rising with the ful practice, he had managed to bring the speed of thought; and, to the intense wondermuscles of his face into perfect subjection; and ment of the bystanders, he rushed upon Della no sign of trouble or joy ever excited that per- Croce, and held his hand firm as a vice, while fectly calm face and impassive demeanour. he whispered into his ear, “Don't move, or I'll Careful observance, though, would have de- strangle you!" Then turning to the asseinbled tected a quick, shifting inovement of the eye, company, he said, in a clear voice, “Gentlemen, restlessly looking behind him, which clever de- I regret to say that this fellow has played untectives will tell you is the sure mark of a thief! fairly, and cheated all of us ! Let there be no It seemed as if the man was ever dreading to disturbance : perhaps one of you will be kind hear the footsteps of the ministers of justice at enough to lock the door for a moment, while I his heels. Abstemious to a fault was the expose this man's trick. Now, Signor, be Italian, never allowing himself more than one kind enough to open your hand.” glass of wine at bis dinner, and steadily resusing He wrenched the Italian's hand open, and all the temptations of his more convivial there, sure enough, were the proofs of his guilt, friends.
needing no explanation of any kind. By an "Wants to keep his eye in and his brain excessively clever sleight-of-hand he had cool,” said the men at bis table. . "There will changed the cards, and hence his continual be somebody's pocket lightened before the success. night is over?”
To do him credit, Della Croce's calmness Della Croce simply smiled, and went on with did not desert him at that trying moment. He his cigar. He did not trouble himself to con- summoned enough courage to glance back tradict the soft imputation.
defiantly at the crowd of excited men, most of “ We have got a man here I would back whom he had won money from, and to say, against you, Count, if I can only persuade him quietly, “Some foolish error. Our friend the to play."
Captain is a trifle too hasty. I will explain "I shall be delighted, I am sure," answered it all." the Count. “I like playing with a good man.” Calm as his face was, his breast raged with all
The introduction was soon performed, and 'the passions of hell, Oh, how gladly would he
bare killed every man in that room, could he “Earl Percy sees my fall !" might have been only get free, and prevent the exposure! But the bitter cry of his heart—"and then to be rebe saw no trace of pity or belief in the scornful fused satisfaction, to be treated like some eyes which were bent upon him from all quar rascally thimble-rigger !" ters. Every man in that room was convinced He had not intended cheating; indeed, it of his treachery, and glad to bave the oppor- must be said for his credit, that his play was tunity of revenging themselves for their losses. generally fair when he had foemen to contend
Up came Grafton, with his face pale as with unworthy of his prowess : but now, when death, bis voice trembling: “Grantley, for the game was turning against him, when he saw heaven's sake be sure of this, I hope you don't that in the end Grantley's superb skill and think that I-"
finished play must win the victory, he bad He could go no further : tears of downright listened in an evil moment to the Templer, shame were in his eyes.
and forfeited the good old name of the family "Of course it is no fault of yours, Graston, we which had been a watchword at Venice for many all know. I need not say, gentlemen, that you a century-a family which had rivalled the Fill acquit Mr. Grafton of all knowledge of this Viscontis of Milan. Henceforth it would thing?"
be useless his trying to play honestly. Of course-certainly!” resounded through The fame of these things spread like wildfire,
and, ere the week was over, men would be talk“Now, Count della Croce, I don't wish to ing generally how Della Croce cheated at écarté,
scene, but I have a great mind and was kicked out of the club! As these to give you a downright thrashing! This thoughts surged through the disgraced man's much let me tell you -- if I ever catch brain, he kept bis eye still fixed on Grantley, as you with a card in your hand in this or any if striving to imprint his features on his meother club in London, nothing skall hinder memory; and, as he looked, he swore to be refrom kicking you out! At present, what I ad- venged. He bath ta’en a deadly oath that, vise you is this, and I am sure the gentlemen wherever he met this Grantley, on sea or land, present will agree with me in what I say–return by day or night, then and there he would me all that you have cheated me out of this kill him! The searching scrutiny completed, evening, and do these gentlemen all the repara- Della Croce turned short on his heel, and left tion in your power, and make yourself scarce in the room—not without a courtly bow to GrantLondon ; for, as sure as I catch you playing ley. again, that moment will I post you up as cheat
Addio, Captain Grantley; you may hear of and thief !”
me again !" The Italian sulkily pushed all the glit- Every man there drew a long breath when tering beap by his side over to Grantley, and he was gone, and turned with an air of relief to then, like a wild animal enclosed by the hunters | Grantley, who was now as cool and unconon every side, prepared to leave the room, while cerned as though nothing but one of the most every man in the place shrank from him with everyday occurrences had happened. gestures of contempt and anger; for, wild as “So there is an end of your wonderful prothey were, honour was to them dear as their digy!” he said, coolly. “I am rather sorry for life : but, before he went, he muttered some- the fellow, too. He did play uncommonly well, thing about "satisfaction” through his teeth. and that's a fact. I don't know when I have
Grantley heard it, and laughed scornfully. tackled a better man, and couldn't make out at " Do you mean to say that you expect me io first what his game was.” give you the satisfaction due to a gentleman ? “Well, I wouldn't stand in your shoes for a I would not sully my hands with so much as trifle, mind you, Grantley,” said Grafton. “Since laying a finger upon you, sir, much less stand I have known the man he has shot three poor before you to be shot down like a dog! I dare- fellows in fair fight-so they said: but I have say you would like that well enough, and con- an idea that Della Croce has a pretty little trick sider yourself very well avenged. I have seen of firing before the handkerchief drops. He will men, and you have too, I daresay, for less than hardly dare to show his face in London for a you have done, stripped of every rag of cloth- time. I expect he will bolt to Baden, or one ing, and half-killed! But we are gentlemen of those places where the Prince of Darkness here-not betting-inen. Now go, or it may be himself would be tolerated if he had lots of too late for you yet!”
coin!” The perspiration stood out like beads on the “Oh, I don't fear the fellow!” said Grantley. Italian's white forehead, and he fetched his “I do not think he is coward enough to commit breath in short gasping sobs, so great was a murder : he would much rather do it in the the conflict of passion within; for Luigi della duelling way, if I would only allow him. And now Croce was by no means a coward physically, and, I think I shall go home, afterall this -- a wiser man, bad it chanced that he and Grantley were alone perhaps, if not a better man. Good-night, you in that room, would have fought to the last fellows; good night, Grafton: I am sorry that drop of his blood; but, to be publicly disgraced the man was an acquaintance of yours ; but of before the men who had often sat at' his table, course you knew nothing about it.” and to whose families he had the entré, was too “All I hope is that no wrong will come of
this," said Grafton. “I know Della Croce will
HE COMES TOO LATE WHO COMES TO BE
not stick at anything. He is the sort of fellow | temptation, and grant her strength to struggle I should much prefer being friend to than foe. through the dark, starless path of life, innocent He might be deputing some of his cousins, the and undefiled ! organ-grinders, to shoot me some fine night!"
Grantley preserved a religious silence about all this to his wife, hoping that she might not hear
CHAP. XVII. it. But a thing with which the town rang was not likely to escape the ears of a lady who went out so much ; and it was not long before she heard
DENIED." all about the occurrence, and her husband's share in it, and a flood of light was thrown upon It was universally allowed that the “Wife's the wife's happy ignorance. Yet she would not Trials” was a decided success. People talked taunt him with it: she would suffer in silence, of nothing else at clubs and dinner-tables and at all events, and not let hiin know that she was meetings of every kind; but the wonderful aware of his deceit. Alas! the pillow whereon actress, whose performance was so life-like, rested the fair young head was wet with bitter and whose beauty was so magnificent-cartestears often now; and often, after returning de-visite of the wonderful Madame Brabazon from some feverish excitement, she would tear were seen in every window, in every imaoff her silk and jewellery with a weary gesture, ginable position : “ The wife in her happiand sigh, "Ah, me! I wonder if there are ness," "The wife in her misery." taken from many wives of a year as miserable as I am !" the last scene, where she knelt before her re
It is easy enough to doubt the love of one (pentant husband. Music - sellers advertised who never entrusts a secret to our keeping, • The Brabazon Waltz," and the “Song of the never makes a confidante of the nearest one on Deserted Wife," and the “Wife's Trials Quaearth; and Ella Grantley began to ask herself drille,” and all the imaginable forms of musical whether the man who, in the first place, refused performance, which the genius of Godfrey or to let her share his secrets, and then deceived Coote could turn the new play to; and so great her grossly, could love her at all! It might was the furore that even dressmakers turned the have been happier far for her had she accepted thing to advantage, and brought out the" BraCharley, after all! He would have had no se bazon Coiffure”; whilst the host of pennycrets from her: but to think thus was treason book writers issued shoals of tales founded on to her marriage-vow. No: she had sworn to the plot, to delight the people in general; and I honour and obey-that she must do, let what would warrant you that if you descended into happen.
the kitchen of the town-house about that time God pity the poor wife who, after the first you would see cook and housemaid deeply inblush of the honeymoon dies out, finds that the tent on the story of “The Wife's Sorrow," man to whom she has entrusted her life's hap- illustrated, and No. 2 issued with No. 1-the piness is unworthy of the sacred charge! only two numbers, by the way, which would What is she to do? With a man it is different. ever appear. The blow, of course, is equally as great, when Lawrence Hilton had enough to do at this he finds that the wife of his bosom is different time to keep the green-room sacred, as was from the wife of his fancy, when the fairy cha- his determination. Had Nathalie wanted a teaux en Espagne which he has been building, as husband at that time she would but have to abodes of love and happiness, crumble to dust
, hold out her hand, and choose from the motley and there remain but the naked conviction crowd of men who were desperately, madly in that there is no sympathy, no community of love with her. From the clerk in the City, who tastes, no oneness of spirit between himself and attended with the most assiduous regularity the woman he has taken to be his helpmeet. and expended all his fortune in the hiring of But he has other incentives to steel his heart-opera-glasses wherewith to get a nearer view of ambition; there is a great name to make, his divinity, but who still had to sing though the wife be not fit to share it. Art, with all her fair creations, the magic touch of
"Thou art so ncar and yet so far," the pencil, may transfer his glowing fancies to the canvas; the pen may adorn the written to the mighty swell in the West-end Club, who page; there are new countries for him to dis- made desperate efforts to get into the green-room, cover, new inventions for him to render patent whose large, resplendent form might be seen and useful to mankind. All these things may looming in his box every night, whose joyous soothe him in his great sorrow : but for the bouquet fell with unfailing aim at the beautiful wife, poor heart, there are none of these things. actress's feet, sometimes enclosing a little In silence she must bear the great burden of her scented billet, in which he entreated her to woe, and hide the secret of her great mistake smile upon him-all were in love with her. It from the eyes of the prying vulgar; for, mark is a remarkable fact that little Tommy Potts,
“ 'tis caviare to the general” to remove the who sent that picture of his “ Fisherman off veil which shrouds married life, and make its Deal” to the Academy, and got great kudos for hidden things matters of every-day talk. Heaven it-little Tommy Potts, the great gun of the help the woman who has made this great, irre-“ Free and Easy Club," and the oracle of the trievable mistake! Heaven keep her from smoke room, was observed about this time to
become almost spruce in his general appear- and holds that terrible soliloquy, they could not ance, that he had his hair cropped and his help shuddering as she spoke the words-mighty beard trimmed, and that he spoke often, in a low mysterious voice, of his intention of
“Hark!-I laid their daggers ready, trying his luck with the Brabazon, which saying He could not miss them.-Had he not resembled Vas received with a roar by his artist brethren. My father as he slept, I had donc't.”
"You needn't laugh, you fellows! though I And in that night scene, when the conseienceam no beauty I wouldn't change with you: no, stricken woman walks in her sleep, murmuring, not even with you, Finerty, though you do think
as she “washed her hands," Adonis was a fool to you. And perhaps the Brabazon means cutting the boards, and going
"Out, damned spot! Out, I say! Yet who would in for a quiet home, “be it ever so humble,
have thought the old man to have had so much blood you know, and I could offer her a decent little in him? box if I only sell my big picture “Antony and Cleopatra."
And then that distracted cry, as she looks at Whether little Potts prosecuted his suit his- her hands, tory does not mention; certain it is, though, that he sent to the favourite actress, entreating "Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perher to sit for him, and that she returned answer fumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! that she felt obliged, but hated all this publicity. oh! oh!” Tommy would show this letter sometimes, when particularly maudlin, to his confrères, and in that scene the actors who played the Doctor say, mysteriously, "This is from her, my boys! | of Physic and the waiting gentlewoman trembled but death alone shall divulge my secret.” with more than assumed fright as they listened
And the object of all this adoration pursued to the night-walker's words, and were right the even tenor of her way unmoved, amid the glad when the scene was over. It needed not din of admiration which heralded every night's Lawrence Hilton's care and protection to assure performance. There is no occupation so ex. Nathalie now. She felt quite at home on the citing that, in course of time, it would not be- boards, and trod them with as perfect ease as come common and uninteresting to the per- though she had been “to the manner born.” former : and so it is with the stage, and so it Ever and anon, in the course of her acting, she was with Nathalie. All very well, when the would direct her glances to that box where she first excitement of new scenes and new people had seen Grantley and his young wife, on her was fresh upon her ; but by enacting the same first appearance; but in vain. She never saw róle night after night she became exceeding that face which haunted her to distraction there weary of it, and sighed for fresh occupation; again. Grantley steadily refused to go to the and she so worked upon Hilton's impulsive Thespian," and Ella could only wonder at the temperament that she persuaded him to with strange freak which had taken her husband's draw the “Wife's Trials” for a time at least, fancy. There was one humble heart though, and to substitute “Macbeth” instead, she which paid its silent devotion to the new actress, taking the part of Lady Macbeth; and so it was and that was the son of the persons with whom not long before the town was informed that Nathalie lodged, and I question if in any of the after an unprecedented run of 300 nights, the fulsome compliments which were paid her by popular drama of “The Wife's Trials” would the world of London, there lurked half as much be withdrawn and “Macbeth” be substituted, real passionate devotion as dwelt in the young the part of Lady Macbeth by the renowned lover's breast. No very romantic lover, though; Madame Brabazon. It is not my intention to he was only an underpaid clerk in an attorney's follow Nathalie through every new character office, but his liking was ever with the stage, in which she astonished the theatre-going and when one famous star fell from the firmaworld; suffice it to say that in Lady Macbeth ment, and gave place to a brighter one still, she lost none of her former popularity. young William Tibbett changed his allegiance There was a sternness of purpose in which too, and swore fealty to the new queen. Regushe represented the guilty Thane's spouse; lar as the night came did that humble young and as she strode across the stage with one man wait at the door of the "Thespian” to esbeautiful white arm bared, people began to de- cort Nathalie home, too gratified if she would plore the loss of Siddons less, and, like the condescend to exchange a common word of Doctor, in “Gil Blas” ceased to lament the civility with him, and rendered happy as a king lessened size of peaches since their youth, when his enslaver thanked him for bis kindness.
To the worthy production of Shakspeare's Recollect, he was only a boy of eighteen, and did terrible tragedy, Hilton too, in his managerial not earn as many shillings a week, and, to boot, capacity, did wonderful justice. Never was a was head over ears in love. The only consolafiner scene put on any stage than the one in tion accorded him was that he could purchase as which the witches brew their hell-broth, and many cartes of his beloved one as he could afford, Locke's incantation music was chanted by a and add them to the gallery he had already large troup of sister-witches, clothed in dark formed. He never thought for an instant that garments and bearing in their hands long staves ; the proud, fierce, handsome lodger would conand, in the second scene, where the lady enters, I descend to notice him, but that she would marry
some great nobleman or other, and be a fine old gambling haunts. Safe of course he was lady all the days of her life, he felt certain ; and from any legal punishment, but he could scarceoften, when her character was discussed among ly endure to pass by the men who had courted the clerks of his office, young Tibbets would him once, and to see their averted eyes and stand up like a Bayard for her, and inform them scornful faces; and at every fresh insult he that it was like their precious cheek to talk in ground bis teeth savagely, and cursed the name that way of a perfectly virtuous woman. And of the Englishman who had wrougbt this. One what if the unbelieving heathens did put their night a note was brought into his box by the fingers to their nose and cry "Walker!” his box-keeper. He tore it open, and read as faith in his heroine's purity and goodness was follows: not a whit weakened. Nor was he the only admirer that Nathalie had: young Viscount Dar- “ Count DELLA CROCE, lington, of the Guards, chose to fall madly in
“I have a matter of vital importance to love with the theatrical star, and presented him- tell you. If you will come home with me after the self to Hilton, entreating an introduction.
I tell you I am fearfully hit in that quarter, play, I will tell it you. Hilton,” would the noble guardsman cry, for
“Yours truly, getting in his excitement the drawl and lisp of
“ CAROLINE BRABAzon." his class—"and I won't rest till I see her.” “Your lordship will forgive me," the manager
“Que diable fait-il dans cette galere P” would reply, “but I really cannot break through muttered he, as he crushed the note in his my rule. Don't be so foolish, my lord; it will finger, and bowed to Nathalie as she glanced do no good in the world, I can assure you."
up to his box.
" What can this woman have to So Darlington had to content himself, like all tell me? Luigi Della Croce, you are the very the untitled lovers, with worshipping from afar, devil amongst the fair ones!" and he stroked and grew very moody and miserable, hanging his heavy moustache, placidly. That night the about the club in a melancholy way, and shun- new actress had extracted from hiin all the story ning the delights of society in every way. Iof his exposure by Grantley, and, in turn, told believe he actually tried to perpetrate verses, him all the necessary details of her own life. but that was the turning point of his madness; “We are both on equal terms, then, it seems and after that, when he saw it was no use, he eignora,” said the Italian coolly. “This man reformed his habits like a sensible young fiends destroy him!--has offended both you viscount, and forgot the actress in the pursuit me. We are both desirous of revenge-bitterer of some new Will-'o-the-Wisp."
the better--and we cannot do better than coBut there was one man of the crowd who operate our forces to that end : two heads may hung about the favourite, whom she did really prove better than one, and it will go hard yet if seem to care for, and that was a man of foreign i don't humble that meddling fool's pride! No aspect, scrupulously dressed, and people called one crosses Luigi Della Croce's path, and finds him Count Della Croce. Something in his himself the safer for it, and I shall bide my dark, quiet face seemed to attract Nathalie, time.” for she allowed the manager to introduce him, “ I would sacrifice anything to revenge my. and graciously bowed as the Count murmured self on this man," answered Nathalie. "I have some words of flattery in the soft Italian. This sworn an oath that I will not rest till that was a mystery that very few people could un- revenge is fulfilled.” derstand why the woman who had steadfastly And then followed a long, earnest consultaset her face against acquaintances of any kind tion, which the reader shall not be entrusted should thus suddenly have smiled upon the with at present; and the end of it was that when Italian. Now it so happened that it had come Nathalie showed the Count out that evening, her to Nathalie's ears that the same Della Croce face wore a strangely triumphant expression; had, a little time ago, been accused of cheating and, as she looked on the miniature of her in a London club, and had been detected by a child, she murmured, wildly, “I shall be reCaptain Grantley. How she discovered it, it is venged ! mio preciosa! I shall be revenged yet, all impossible to tell ; but it struck the woman's | in good time.” She bowed her face between quick perception that this man, disgraced by her hands, and let her memory stray back-far Grantley, was in the same position as herself, back from the present scenes of excited life, and might assist her in the great scheme of far back, till she saw in her mind's eye the revenge. At any rate it very soon became evi- home of her youth, and right plainly, as in a dent that the dark stranger was becoming au mirror, the beautiful little cottage where her pris with Madame Brabazon, and his face was widowed father dwelt; she, the light and hope seldom missed in the theatre while she was of his hoine, she saw herself fairest among the acting, and at the stage-door when she had fair girls who thronged to the festa in their gay finished. Once or twice he had formed a third holiday attire; and then she lieard the music of in the walk home, and had taken leave of the military band, and saw that dark handsome Nathalie at her door, promising to see her again Captain, who fixed his eyes upon her so tenderly; on the morrow. Why he had not left London she remembers--ah! how clearly, through the was a puzzle; for he dared not be seen by any of long mist of years—the sound of his voice as be his former associates, and kept away from his 'sang delicious little love-songs in that window