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ALBERTO of Castelcicala, to conceal his princely rank, when he arrived in England an exile from his native shores, had adopted the style of Count AIteroni - this title being the name of an estate which he had possessed in Italy, but which, together with the remainder of his vast property, had been confiscated by order of the Grand Duke, his uncle. The government of Castelcicala was an absolute despotism; and it was because the Prince, with a view to ameliorate the condition of the people whom he might one day be called upon to govern, had placed himself at the head, and openly avowed himself as the patron, of a political party in the state, whose object was to obtain a constitution, he had been proscribed by the Grand Duke and the old aristocracy of the country.
    His party advised him to have recourse to arms; and meetings in favour of the enlightened principles which he advocated were held at the time throughout the country. But the Prince was resolved never to plunge his native land into the horrors of a civil war: he preferred exile and obscurity to such an alternative. His was, indeed, a lofty and patriotic soul, that knew how to sacrifice his dearest interests to the popular tranquillity.
    Accordingly, on his arrival in London he had adopted a rank comparatively humble in respect to the exalted station which he in reality occupied; and to this mode of conduct he was instigated by the same disinterested motives that had led him to fly from his country rather than raise the standard of civil strife. He knew that if he settled in London under his proper title, he could not avoid receiving those patriotic exiles who had fled from Castelcicala to avoid the consequences of their liberal opinions. He was averse to the idea of allowing his dwelling to be made the point of reunion for those who advocated the enforcement of the popular cause by means of arms he would not for a moment consent to permit a nucleus of open rebellion against the reigning sovereign of Castelcicala, to be formed under his auspices. He had, therefore, intimated to his friends and adherents that he intended to retire into private life, until circumstances might place him in a position to confer upon his native land the charter of liberties which he believed to be its natural right.
    The few English persons who were acquainted with his secret, religiously kept it. The Tremordyns, Armstrong, and the Earl of Warrington, whom he numbered amongst his best friends, respected the incognito which his Highness thought fit to preserve. Thus, Armstrong had not even communicated the fact to Richard Markham when he introduced him to the Prince's dwelling; and the reader may now understand the reasons which led the haughtiest of England's peers, the Earl of Warrington, on the occasion of his visit to the mansion near Richmond to solicit letters of introduction for Eliza Sydney, [-350-] to bend his head with such profound respect in the presence of the heir presumptive to a throne.
    Nor need it now be made a matter of marvel if those letters of introduction proved such immediate passports for Eliza Sydney into the first society of Castelcicala ;- but little did he who gave them or he who solicited them, - little did they think that their ulterior effect would be to open the way for that lady to such an eminence as the one which she had attained.
    We have before explained, - a point, indeed, which the intelligent reader could not fail to comprehend, - that the chance of Alberto to the Castelcicalan throne now depended upon the contingency of the marriage of Angelo III. producing offspring, or not. Scarcely, however, had that marriage been consummated, when the Minister of Foreign Affairs wrote to the Castelcicalan envoy at the court of Queen Victoria, to communicate to Prince Alberto the intention of the government, sanctioned by the Grand Duke, to allow him a handsome income, and supply him with an immediate grant, by way of indemnification for the loss of his estates. No political condition of any kind being attached to this concession, the Prince did not hesitate to accept it; and it was even mentioned in a Montoni newspaper, that the influence of the Grand Duchess, aided by the friendly feeling of some of the new Ministers towards the Prince, had procured this act of justice at the hands of Angelo III.
    These few observations may not be deemed superfluous, inasmuch as they tend to explain the real position of the Prince of Castelcicala - the father of our charming heroine.
    We said it was with a light heart that Richard Markham retraced his steps to Richmond, after having parted with the Princess Isabella.
    He was, moreover, desirous to examine the contents of the packet which she had placed in his hands, - not because he cared for the money which was thus returned to him; but because he was anxious to ascertain whether any note from her father accompanied it.
    He, however, restrained his curiosity until he reached Richmond, where he entered an hotel, ordered a private room, bespoke some refreshment, and then proceeded to break the seal of the envelope.
    Yes - there was a letter, containing a cheque.
    The cheque fell unheeded on the carpet: the letter was immediately perused with avidity:-

    "I cannot sufficiently express my admiration of your noble and generous conduct in having liquidated the debts for which I was detained in the Queen's Bench prison. I now repay, with unfeigned and heart-felt gratitude, that sum which you advanced, for my necessities, in a manner so honourable to your own nature and so eminently useful to me at that period. I need not say how deeply I regret the injurious suspicions which I entertained concerning you on a certain occasion; but circumstances wore too powerfully combined against you to admit of any other impression. You will forgive me - for I ask your pardon I sincerely apologise for all I may have said or done on that occasion.
    "And now, my dear Mr. Markham. I am compelled to touch upon a subject which, though painful, demands a low observations. That you have been unfortunate, I know that you were never guilty, I am now well convinced. I have read a document which proves this. But you have inspired my daughter with an affection, which I understand is reciprocal, and which never can end otherwise than In disappointment to you both. Crush, then, this sentiment in your breast; and for the peace of mind of her who is my only child, and who never - never can become your wife, I implore you not to see her more! Avoid her - as I shall instruct her to avoid you, - my only motive being based upon certain circumstances, unknown to you. which render your union an impossibility. I address you as a friend - as a father I write to you; your generous heart will teach you how to respect my wishes.
    "One more subject must not be forgotten. I am well aware that you are not as wealthy as you once were. Thank God, my pecuniary means have ceased to be a subject of anxiety to me. You aided me when I was in need and in distress; allow me to offer you a trifling assistance towards enabling you to build up your fortunes. This is an object, which, with your great talents, you cannot fall to accomplish. Remember, I do not offer this small aid as an acquittal of my deep obligation towards you; no - my gratitude is intense - and the circumstances under which you befriended me leave me ever your debtor. But as a friend, I offer you the use of my purse ;- as a friend I place in your hands a sum of money which you can use during your pleasure, and return to me at your convenience. Should that sum be insufficient to forward your views, hesitate not to apply to me for more.
    "And now, farewell - at least for the present; and believe that no one will be more delighted to hear of your success in life, than
        "Your very sincere friend,

    Markham picked up the cheque: it was for five thousand pounds.
    We must endeavour to explain the nature of the feelings which the contents of the Prince's letter created within him.
    He saw with delight that the illustrious exile once more addressed him as a friend, and that all suspicions of his guilt had been extirpated from the mind of that nobleman. But, on the other hand, the barrier between himself and Isabella seemed to be rendered insuperable by the positive terms in which the Prince bade him eradicate his passion from his bosom. That barrier was no doubt twofold: the father of Isabella never could consent to the union of his daughter with one whom the world had stamped with ignominy, although innocent:- and, chiefly, the Italian Prince - the probable heir to a throne - might aspire to a far, far higher connexion for his child. Then Richard's thoughts were directed to the handsome sum of money which the Prince had placed at his disposal; and he could not do otherwise than admire the delicate manner in which it was proffered, - a manner that scarcely admitted of a refusal. And yet Richard was resolved to return the surplus above the amount which he had disbursed to procure the Prince's liberation from prison.
    Thus was it with mingled feelings of joy and melancholy that Markham reviewed the contents of that letter.
    Still he clung to Hope, - for Isabella had bade him hope ; and he thought that the same good Providence which had thus far reconciled him to the father of his beloved, might in time accomplish more striking miracles in his favour.
    But, alas! it must indeed be a miracle that could link his fate with the high destinies of the ducal house of Castelcicala!
    Isabella, instead of being the daughter of an obscure count, was the only child of one who, if he were not to become himself the sovereign of the most powerful petty state in Europe, would at all events occupy a station next only to the sovereign whenever circumstances should allow him to return to his native land.
    But, on the other hand, Isabella was faithful and true; and what might not be expected from woman's love?
    In a word, Markham was rather inclined to hope than to despair; and the incidents of that morning imparted to his soul a solace which was a recompense for much, very much of past suffering.
    Having partaken of some refreshment, Richard [-351-] returned to London, and repaired to the bank where the cheque was made payable.
    He only drew for the amount actually due to him, and desired that the surplus might be retained in behalf of Count Alteroni (under which name the Prince was known at the bankers' establishment).
    On his return home, Richard addressed the following letter to the Italian nobleman:-

    "A thousand thanks, my dear lord, for your most kind and courteous letter. To find that you have at length become convinced that I was unfortunate, and never guilty, is a source of happiness the extent of which I cannot describe.
    "Your wishes in respect to the attachment which I certainly entertain for the Signora Isabella, shall be so far complied with - that I will not venture to present myself at your abode. As for extinguishing that affection which burns in my heart - mortal power cannot accomplish the task.
    "It was with unfeigned delight that I understood from your lordship's letter that your position not only enabled you to return the trifle which I once ventured to use in your behalf, but also most generously to offer me the means of building up my fallen fortunes. My lord, I am unable to profit by your kindness; the stigma under which I lie - and with tears I write these words - is a bar to any legitimate speculation with a hope of success. Moreover, I have sufficient for my wants; and am therefore, in one sense, rich. Excuse me if I have not availed myself of your noble offer - an offer that scarcely admits of refusal in consequence of the delicacy and kindness with which it was made. Nevertheless, I am bound to decline it - with the most sincere gratitude; at the same time observing, that should need ever press me, I shall not hesitate to have recourse to the friendship with which you honour me.
    "In the earnest hope that happiness and health may attend upon yourself and amiable family,
    "I remain, my dear lord,
        "Your most grateful and faithful servant,
            "RICHARD MARKHAM."

    It will be seen that the tone of this letter was somewhat constrained; but, although Richard endeavoured to write with apparent ease, as if ignorant of his correspondent's real rank, he could not forget that he was addressing himself to the Prince of Castelcicala.

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