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I was standing in a hostelry, at Geneva, making a bargain with
an Italian for a place in a return carriage to Florence, when an
Englishman, who had been in the same steamer with me on Lake
Leman, the day before, came in and stood listening to the conversation.
We had been the only two passengers on board, but
had passed six hours in each other's company without speaking.
The road to an Englishman's friendship is to have shown yourself
perfectly indifferent to his acquaintance, and, as I liked him
from the first, we were now ready to be conscious of each other's

“I beg pardon,” said he, advancing in a pause of the vetturino's
oration, “will you allow me to engage a place with you?
I am going to Florence, and if agreeable to you, we will take the
carriage to ourselves.”

I agreed very willingly, and in two hours we were free of the
gates of Geneva, and keeping along the edge of the lake, in the
cool twilight of one of the loveliest of heaven's summer evenings.
The carriage was spaciously contrived for four; and, with the
curtains up all around, our feet on the forward seat, my companion
smoking, and conversation bubbling up to please itself, we
rolled over the smooth road, gliding into the first chapter of our


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acquaintance as tranquilly as Geoffrey Crayon and his reader into
the first chapter of anything he has written.

My companion (Mr. St. John Elmslie, as put down in his
passport) seemed to have something to think of beside propitiating
my good will, but he was considerate and winning, from
evident high breeding, and quite open, himself, to my most scrutinizing
study. He was about thirty, and, without any definite
beauty, was a fine specimen of a man. Probably most persons
would have called him handsome. I liked him better, probably,
from the subdued melancholy with which he brooded on his secret
thought, whatever it might be—sad men, in this world of boisterous
gayety or selfish ill-humor, interesting me always.

From that something, on which his memory fed in quiet but
constant revery, nothing aroused my companion except the passing
of a travelling carriage, going in the other direction, on our
arrival at an inn. I began to suspect, indeed, after a little while,
that Elmslie had some understanding with our vetturino, for,
on the approach of any vehicle of pleasure, our horses became
restiff, and, with a sudden pull up, stood directly across the
way. Out jumped my friend to assist in controlling the restiff
animals, and, in the five minutes during which the strangers were
obliged to wait, we generally saw their heads once or twice thrust
inquiringly from the carriage window. This done, our own vehicle
was again wheeled about, and the travellers allowed to proceed.

We had arrived at Bologna with but one interruption to the
quiet friendliness of our intercourse. Apropos of some vein of
speculation, I had asked my companion if he were married. He
was silent for a moment, and then, in a jocose tone of voice which
was new to me, replied, “I believe I have a wife—somewhere in


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Scotland.” But though Elmslie had determined to show me that he
was neither annoyed nor offended at my inquisitiveness, his manner
changed. He grew ceremonious. For the remainder of that
day, I felt uncomfortable, I scarce knew why; and I silently determined
that if my friend continued so exceedingly well-bred in
his manner for another day, I should find an excuse for leaving
him at Bologna.

But we had left Bologna, and, at sunset of a warm day, we
were slowly toiling up the Appenines. The inn to which we were
bound was in sight, a mile or two above us, and, as the vetturino
stopped to breathe his horses, Elmslie jumped from the carriage
and started to walk on. I took advantage of his absence to
stretch myself over the vacated cushions, and, on our arrival at
the inn, was soundly asleep.

My friend's voice, in an unusual tone, awoke me; and, by his
face, as he looked in at the carriage window, I saw that he was under
some extraordinary excitement. This I observed by the light
of the stable-lantern—for the hostelry, Italian fashion, occupied
the lower story of the inn, and our carriage was driven under the
archway, where the faint light from without made but little impression
on the darkness. I followed Elmslie's beckoning finger, and
climbing after him up the stairway of stone, stood in a large refectory
occupying the whole of the second story of the building.

At the first glance I saw that there was an English party in
the house. An Italian inn of the lower order has no provision
for private parties, and few, except English travellers, object to
joining the common evening meal. The hall was dark with the
twilight, but a large curtain was suspended across the farther extremity,
and, by the glimmer of lights, and an occasional sound
of a knife, a party was within supping in silence.


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“If you speak, speak in Italian,” whispered Elmslie, taking
me by the arm, and leading me on tiptoe to one of the corners
of the curtain.

I looked in and saw two persons seated at a table—a bold and
soldierly-looking man of fifty, and a young lady, evidently his
daughter. The beauty of the last-mentioned person was so extraordinary
that I nearly committed the indiscretion of an exclamation
in English. She was slight, but of full and well-rounded
proportions, and she sat and moved with an eminent grace and
ladylikeness altogether captivating. Though her face expressed
a settled sadness, it was of unworn and faultless youth and loveliness,
and while her heavily-fringed eyes would have done, in
their expression, for a Niobe, Hebe's lips were not more ripe, nor
Juno's arched more proudly. She was a blonde, with eyes and
eyelashes darker than her hair—a kind of beauty almost peculiar
to England.

The passing in of a tall footman, in a plain livery of gray, interrupted
my gaze, and Elmslie drew me away by the arm, and
led me into the road in front of the locanda. The night had
now fallen, and we strolled up and down in the glimmer of the
starlight. My companion was evidently much disturbed, and we
made several turns after I had seen very plainly that he was
making up his mind to communicate to me the secret.

“I have a request to make of you,” he said, at last; “a service
to exact, rather, to which there were no hope that you would
listen for a moment if I did not first tell you a very singular story.
Have a little patience with me, and I will make it as brief as I can
—the briefer, that I have no little pain in recalling it with the
distinctness of description.”


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I expressed my interest in all that concerned my new friend,
and begged him to go on.

“Hardly six years ago,” said Elmslie, pressing my arm gently
in acknowledgment of my sympathy, “I left college and joined
my regiment, for the first time, in Scotland. By the way, I
should re-introduce myself to you as Viscount S—, of the title
of which, then, I was in prospect. My story hinges somewhat
upon the fact that, as an honorable captain, a nobleman in expectancy,
I was an object of some extraneous interest to the
ladies who did the flirting for the garrison. God forgive me for
speaking lightly on the subject!

“A few evenings after my arrival, we had been dining rather
freely at mess, and the major announced to us that we were invited
to take tea with a linen-draper, whose house was a popular
resort of the officers of the regiment. The man had three or
four daughters, who, as the phrase goes, `gave you a great deal
for your money,' and, for romping and frolicking, they had good
looks and spirit enough. The youngest was really very pretty,
but the eldest, to whom I was exclusively presented by the major,
as a sort of quiz on a new-comer, was a sharp and sneering old
maid, red-headed, freckled, and somewhat lame. Not to be out-done
in frolic by my persecutor, I commenced making love to Miss
Jacky in mock heroics, and we were soon marching up and down
the room, to the infinite entertainment of my brother-officers,
lavishing on each other every possible term of endearment.

“In the midst of this the major came up to me with rather a
serious face.

“`Whatever you do,' said he, `for God's sake don't call the old
girl your wife. The joke might be serious.'

“It was quite enough that I was desired not to do anything in


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the reign of misrule then prevailing. I immediately assumed a
connubial air, to the best of my dramatic ability, begged Miss
Jacky to join me in the frolic, and made the rounds of the room,
introducing the old girl as Mrs. Elmslie, and receiving from her
quite as many tendernesses as were bearable by myself or the
company present. I observed that the lynx-eyed linen-draper
watched this piece of fun very closely, and my friend, the major,
seemed distressed and grave about it. But we carried it out till
the party broke up, and the next day the regiment was ordered
over to Ireland, and I thought no more, for a while, either of Miss
Jacky or my own absurdity.

“Two years afterwards, I was, at a drawing-room, at St.
James's, presented, for the first time, by the name which I bear.
It was not a very agreeable event to me, as our family fortunes
were inadequate to the proper support of the title, and on the
generosity of a maternal uncle, who had been at mortal variance
with my father, depended our hopes of restoration to prosperity.
From the mood of bitter melancholy in which I had gone through
the ceremony of an introduction, I was aroused by the murmur in
the crowd at the approach of a young girl just presented to the
king. She was following a lady whom I slightly knew, and had
evidently been presented by her; and, before I had begun to recover
from my astonishment at her beauty, I was requested by
this lady to give her protegé an arm, and follow to a less crowded
apartment of the palace.

“Ah, my friend! the exquisite beauty of Lady Melicent—but
you have seen her. She is here, and I must fold her in my arms
to-night, or perish in the attempt.

“Pardon me!” he added, as I was about to interrupt him with
an explanation. “She has been—she is—my wife! She loved


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me and married me, making life a heaven of constant ecstacy—
for I worshipped her with every fibre of my existence.”

He paused and gave me his story brokenly, and I waited for
him to go on without questioning.

“We had lived together in absolute and unclouded happiness
for eight months, in lover-like seclusion, at her father's house,
and I was looking forward to the birth of my child with anxiety
and transport, when the death of my uncle left me heir to his
immense fortune, and I parted from my greater treasure to go
and pay the fitting respect at his burial.

“I returned, after a week's absence, with an impatience and
ardor almost intolerable, and found the door closed against me.

“There were two letters for me at the porter's lodge—one
from Lord A—, my wife's father, informing me that the Lady
Melicent had miscarried and was dangerously ill, and enjoining
upon me as a man of honor and delicacy never to attempt to see her
again; and another from Scotland, claiming a fitting support for my
lawful wife, the daughter of the linen-draper. The proofs of the
marriage, duly sworn to and certified by the witnesses of my fatal
frolic, were enclosed, and on my recovery, six weeks after, from
the delirium into which these multiplied horrors precipitated me,
I found that, by the Scotch law, the first marriage was valid, and
my ruin was irrevocable.”

“And how long since was this?” I inquired, breaking in upon
his narration for the first time.

“A year and a month—and till to-night I have not seen her.
But I must break through this dreadful separation now—and I
must speak to her, and press her to my breast—and you will aid

“To the last drop of my blood assuredly. But how?”


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“Come to the inn! You have not supped, and we will devise
as you eat. And you must lend me your invention, for my
heart and brain seem to be going wild.”

Two hours after, with a pair of loaded pistols in my breast, we
went to the chamber of the host, and bound him and his wife to
the posts of their bed. There was but one man about the
house, the hostler, and we had made him intoxicated with our
travelling flask of brandy. Lord A— and his daughter were
still sitting up, and she, at her chamber window, was watching
the just risen moon, over which the clouds were drifting very
rapidly. Our business was, now, only with them, as, in their footman,
my companion had found an attached creature, who remembered
him, and willingly agreed to offer no interruption.

After taking a pull at the brandy-flask myself (for, in spite of
my blackened face and the slouched hat of the hostler, I required
some fortification of the muscles of my face before doing violence
to an English nobleman), I opened the door of the chamber which
must be passed to gain access to that of Lady Melicent. It was
Lord A—'s sleeping-room, and, though the light was extinguished,
I could see that he was still up, and sitting at the
window. Turning my lantern inward, I entered the room and
set it down, and, to my relief, Lord A— soliloquized in English,
that it was the host with a hint that it was time to go to
bed. My friend was at the door, according to my arrangement,
ready to assist me should I find any difficulty; but, from the
dread of premature discovery of the person, he was to let me
manage it alone if possible.

Lord A— sat unsuspectingly in the chair, with his head
turned half way over his shoulders to see why the officious host
did not depart. I sprung suddenly upon him, drew him backward


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and threw him on his face, and with my hand over his
mouth, threatened him with death, in my choicest Italian, if he
did not remain passive till his portmanteau had been looked into.
I thought he might submit, with the idea that it was only a robbery,
and so it proved. He allowed me, after a short struggle,
to tie his hands behind him, and march him down to his carriage,
before the muzzle of my pistol. The hostelry was still as death,
and shutting his carriage door upon his lordship, I mounted

The night seemed to me very long, but morning dawned, and,
with the earliest gray, the postillions came knocking at the outer
door of the locanda. My friend went out to them, while I marched
back Lord A— to his chamber, and, by immense bribing, the
horses were all put to our carriage a half hour after, and the out-raged
nobleman was left without the means of pursuit till their
return. We reached Florence in safety, and pushed on immediately
to Leghorn, where we took the steamer for Marseilles and
eluded arrest, very much to my most agreeable surprise.

By a Providence that does not always indulge mortals with
removing those they wish into another world, Lord S— has
lately been freed from his harrowing chain by the death of his
so-called lady; and, having re-married Lady Melicent, their happiness
is renewed and perfect. In his letter to me, announcing
it, he gives me liberty to tell the story, as the secret was divulged
to Lord A— on the day of his second nuptials. He said
nothing, however, of his lordship's forgiveness for my rude handling
of his person, and, in ceasing to be considered a brigand
possibly I am responsible as a gentleman.