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AN ACCOMPLISHED GENTLEMAN.

CHAPTER I.

“Now, by the salt wave of the Mediterranean, a sweet touch, a quick venew of wit! snip, snap, quick and home :-"

“ EVEN THERE,” said the Contessa Belrotoli, “there are human hearts." She was speaking of Paris, whence she had but just returned with spring to her Venetian palace. “That is so true," murmured her hostess Lady Lappin with her soft contemplative air.

These two ladies were firm friends, and it was owing to the devotion of his wife to the Italian lady that Sir Rupert Lappin had become tenant of the first floor of the capacious Palazzo Belrotoli. Lady Lappin had declared again and again that she could not live out of Venice, and so far was her husband from desiring her death, that he had hastened to secure a permanent residence in that wonderful city. He found it very dull, but he was wont to proclaim its historical interest with amazing persistence and amiability. “There's nothing like it, you know,” he would say; “and when one thinks of all that has happened, you know." Beyond this he did not often venture, but would cough a little and smile, and feel encouraged by the vague grandeur of his ideas. As a practical man he was sure that, if he must live in Venice, it was well to be tenant of the finest rooms in the famous Palazzo Belrotoli, and he was glad to enjoy the friendship of the family. It is true that he paid a price which, whispered out of doors, set markets bridges and gondola-stations gesticulating with amazement; but then the Signor Conte, who had sometimes found it hard to pay both his own and his wife's debts, had written him a letter adorned with the longest and softest superlatives. This representative of an ancient Venetian family never came to Venice, and had it been in his power, would have sold to the rich Englishman his palace with all his titles of nobility thrown in-nay, the entire city and the kingdom of united Italy to boot.

But though he went so far as to offer the whole mansion for

a royal sum, the Countess his wife, who protested that she adored her Venetians and who was not indifferent to the pleasure of thwarting her husband, commanded Sir Rupert to decline. Thus it happened that the Contessa Belrotoli returned to Venice with the spring, and on a pleasant afternoon swept down from the second to the first floor of her palace, guest of her sympathetic English 'friend, and eager to enjoy one of those delightful tea-parties which seemed to celebrate the union of English comfort with Italian art.

Seated in Lady Lappin's most sumptuous chair and with her little feet thrust forward and displayed upon a gold-embroidered cushion the Belrotoli was in high good - humour. There were people about her, people who might wonder and admire,—that faithful Florentine the Captain Tiribomba erect in his very tight uniform ; Mr Bonamy Playdell who was sure to tell stories about her; the venerable Andrew Fernlyn who appeared so refreshingly guileless; Stephen Aylward who was certainly young; and the great Mr Hugo Deane himself. There were also some women present, but these were less interesting to the Contessa. And yet she delighted in the society of Lady Lappin. She never appeared

more elegant nor less common than when she was sharply contrasted with her English friend, who was neither tall nor slender and whose nose was deficient in expression. Moreover she found it pleasant to quench her thirst at an inexhaustible fountain of sympathy. And Lady Lappin on her side was charmed by the Belrotoli, not, as she told herself and others, by her rank, but by something unconventional daring Bohemian in this dazzling Venetian. She received her words with profound attention; and when she heard that remark about human hearts in Paris, she found a world of meaning in it, and said, “That is so true," with a marked emphasis on the “so.”

Meanwhile Sir Rupert was hovering moth-like about his brilliant guest. “We have been quite desolate,” he said ; “quite desolate all the winter, I assure you,” and he added a little cough and a little bow as he handed her a cup of fragrant tea.

"I am come back to the home of gallantry," replied the lady with her fascinating accent, her quick glance, and slight wriggle of the shoulders.

“You have been very gay in Paris,” continued Sir Rupert, nervous but jocular. “We have heard of you.

We have seen it in the papers * Figaro' and that, you know-driving in the Bois

papers — the

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