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CONTENTS OF THE PACKET.
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
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
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
"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
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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