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[-50-]

CHAPTER CLV.

PATRIOTISM.

    It was late in the evening of the day on which Richard adopted the measures just recorded to ensure the most complete investigation into the case of Katherine Wilmot, that a foreigner called at Markham Place and requested a few moment's private conversation with our hero.
    The request was immediately acceded to; and the foreigner was shown into the library.
    He was a man of middle age, with a dark complexion, and was dressed with considerable taste. His air was military, and his manners were frank and open.
    He addressed Richard in bad English, and tendered an apology for thus intruding upon him.
    Markham, believing him, by his accent and appearance, to be an Italian, spoke to him in that language; and the foreigner immediately replied in the same tongue with a fluency which convinced our hero that he was not mistaken relative to the country to which his visitor belonged.
    "The object of my visit is of a most important and solemn nature," said the Italian; "and you will excuse me if I open my business by asking you a few questions."
    "This is certainly a strange mode of proceeding," observed our hero; "but you are aware that I must reserve to myself the right of replying or not to your queries, as I may think fit."
    "Undoubtedly," said the Italian. "But I am a man of honour; and should our interview progress as favourably as I hope, I shall entrust you with secrets which will prove my readiness to look upon you in the same light."
    "Proceed," said Richard: "you speak fairly."
    "In the first place, am I right in believing that you were once most intimate with a certain Count Alteroni who resides near Richmond ?"
    "Quite right," answered Richard.
    "Do you, or do you not, entertain good feelings towards that nobleman?"
    "The best feelings  the most sincere friendship  the most devoted attachment," exclaimed our hero.
    "Are you aware of any particulars in his political history?"'
    "He is a refugee from his native land," he replied.
    "Does he now bear his true name?"' he continued.
    "If you wish me to place confidence in you," said Richard," you will yourself answer me one question, before I reply to any farther interrogatory on your part." [-51-]
    "Speak," returned the Italian stranger.
    "Do you wish to propose to me anything whereby I can manifest my attachment to Count Alteroni, without injury to my own character or honour?" demanded Richard.
    "I do," said the stranger solemnly. "You can render Count Alteroni great and signal services."
    "I will then as frankly admit to you that I am acquainted with all which relates to Count Alteroni," said Richard, dwelling upon the words marked in italics.
    "With all which relates to Prince Alberto of Castelcicala?" added the stranger, in a significant whisper. "Do we understand each other?"
    "So far that we are equally well acquainted with the affairs of his Highness the Prince," answered Richard.
    "Right. You have heard of General Grachia?" said the foreigner.
    "He is also an exile from Castelcicala," returned Markham.
    "He is in England," continued the foreigner. "I had the honour to be his chief aide-de-camp, when he filled the post of Minister of War; and I am Colonel Morosino."
    Richard bowed an acknowledgment of this proof of confidence.
    "General Grachia," proceeded Morosino, "reached England two days ago. His amiable family is at Geneva. The general visited Prince Alberto yesterday, and had a long conversation with his Highness upon the situation of affairs in Castelcicala. The Grand Duke is endeavouring to establish a complete despotism, and to enslave the country. One province has already been placed under martial law; and several executions have taken place in Montoni itself. The only crime of the victims was a demand for a Constitution. General Grachia represented to his Highness Prince Alberto the necessity of taking up arms in defence of the liberties of the Castelcicalans against the encroachments of despotism. The reply of the Prince was disheartening to his friends and partisans. 'Under no pretence,' said he, 'would I kindle civil war in my native country.'"
    "He possesses a truly generous soul," said Richard.
    "He is so afraid of being deemed selfish," observed the Colonel; "and no one can do otherwise than admire that delicacy and forbearance which shrink from the idea of even appearing to act in accordance with his own personal interests. The Prince has every thing to gain from a successful civil war; hence he will not countenance that extremity."
    "And what does General Grachia now propose?" asked Markham.
    "You are aware that when Prince Alberto was exiled from Castelcicala for having openly proclaimed his opinions in favour of a Constitution and of the extension of the popular liberties, numbers of his supporters in those views were banished with him. We know that there cannot be less than two thousand Castelcicalan refugees in Paris and London. Do you begin to comprehend me?"
    "I fear that you meditate proceedings which are opposed to the wishes of his Highness Prince Alberto," said Markham.
    "The friends of Castelcicalan freedom can undertake what in them would be recognised as pure patriotism, but which in Prince Alberto would be deemed the result of his own personal interests and ambition."
    "True," said Richard: "the distinction is striking."
    "The Prince, moreover, in the audience which he accorded to General Grachia yesterday evening, used these memorable words:  'Were I less than I am, I would consent to take up arms in defence of the liberties of Castelcicala; but, being as I am, I never will take a step which the world would unanimously attribute to selfishness."'
    Those were noble sentiments!" ejaculated Markham: "well worthy of him who uttered them."
    "And worthy of serving as rules and suggestions for the patriots of Castelcicala!" cried Colonel Morosino. "There are certain times, Mr. Markham," he continued, "when it becomes a duty to take up arms against a sovereign who forgets his duty towards his subjects. Men are not born to be slaves; and they are bound to resist those who attempt to enslave them."
    "Those words have often been uttered by a deceased friend of mine  Thomas Armstrong," observed Richard.
    "Thomas Armstrong was a true philanthropist," said the Colonel; "and were he alive now, he would tell you that subjects who take up arms against a bad prince are as justified in so doing as the prince himself could be in punishing those who violate the laws."
    "In plain terms," said Richard, "General Grachia intends to espouse the popular cause against the tyranny of the Grand Duke!"
    "Such is his resolution," answered Colonel Morosino. "And now that you have heard all these particulars, you will probably listen with attention to the objects of my present visit."
    "Proceed, Colonel Morosino," said Richard. "You must be well aware that, as one well attached to his Highness Prince Alberto, I cannot be otherwise than interested in these communications."
    "I shall condense my remarks as much as possible," continued the officer. "General Grachia purports to enter into immediate relations with the Castelcicalans now in London and Paris. Of course the strictest secresy is required. The eventual object will be to purchase two or three small ships which may take on board, at different points, those who choose to embark in the enterprise; and these ships will have a common rendezvous. When united, they will sail for Castelcicala. A descent upon that territory would be welcomed with enthusiasm by nine tenths of the population; and the result," added Morosino, in a whisper,  "the inevitable result must be the dethronement of the Grand Duke and the elevation of Alberto to the sovereign seat."
    "That the project is practicable, I can believe," said Markham; "that it is just, I am also disposed to admit. But do you not think that a bloodless revolution might be effected?"
    "We hope that we shall be enabled successfully to assert the popular cause without the loss of life," returned Morosino. "But this can only be done by means of an imposing force, and not by mere negotiation."
    "You consider the Grand Duke to be so wedded to his despotic system?" said Markham, interrogatively.
    " What hope can we experience from so obstinate [-52-] a sovereign, and so servile an administration as that of which Signor Pisani is the chief!" demanded the Colonel. "And surely you must allow that patriotism must not have too much patience. By allowing despots to run their race too long they grew hardened and will then resist to the last, at the sacrifice of thousands of lives and millions of treasure."
    "Such is, alas! the sad truth," said Richard "At the same time a fearful responsibility attaches itself to those who kindle a civil war."
    "Civil wars are excited by two distinct motives," returned the Colonel. "In one instance they are produced by the ambition of aspirants to power: in the other, they take their origin in the just wrath of a people driven to desperation by odious tyranny and wrong. The latter is a sacred cause."
    "Yes  and a most just one," exclaimed Markham. "If then, I admit that your projects ought to be carried forward, in what way can my humble services be rendered available?"
    "I will explain this point to you," answered Colonel Morosino. "General Grachia, myself and several stanch advocates of constitutional freedom, met to deliberate last evening upon the course to be pursued, after the General had returned from his interview with the Prince at Richmond. We sat in deliberation until a very late hour; and we adopted the outline of the plans already explained to you. We then recognised the necessity at having the co-operation of some intelligent, honourable, and enlightened Englishman to aid us in certain departments of our preliminary arrangements. We must raise considerable sums of money upon certain securities which we possess; we must ascertain to what extent the laws of this country will permit our meetings, or be calculated to interfere with the progress of our measures; we must purchase ships ostensibly for commercial purposes; and we must adopt great precautions in procuring from outfitters the arms clothing and stores which we shall require. In all these proceedings we require the counsel and aid of an Englishman of honour and integrity."
    "Proceed, Colonel Morosino," said Richard, seeing that the Italian officer paused.
    "We then found ourselves at a loss where to look for such a confidential auxiliary and adviser, when one of our assembly spoke in this manner  'I came to this country, as you well know, at the same time as his Highness the Prince. From that period until the present day I have frequently seen his Highness; and I became aware of the acquaintance which subsisted between his Highness and an English gentleman of the name of Richard Markham, who was introduced to his Highness by the late Thomas Armstrong. I am also aware that a misunderstanding arose between the Prince and Mr. Markham: the nature of that misunderstanding I never learnt; but I am aware that, even while it existed, Richard Markham behaved in the most noble manner in a temporary difficulty in which his Highness was involved. I also know that the motive which led to that misunderstanding have been completely cleared away, and that the Prince now speaks in the highest terms of Mr. Richard Markham. Address yourself, then, to Mr. Markham: he is a man of honour; and with him your secret is safe, even if he should decline to meet your views.' Thus spoke our friend last night; and now the cause and object of my visit are explained to you."
    "You have spoken with a candour and frankness which go far to conquer any scruples that I might entertain in assisting you," said Richard. "At the same time, so important a matter demands mature consideration. Should I consent to accept the office with which you seek to honour me, I should not be a mere lukewarm agent: I should enter heart and soul into your undertaking; nor should I content myself with simply succouring you in an administrative capacity. Oh! no," added Richard enthusiastically, as he thought of Isabella, "I would accompany you on your expedition when the time came, and I would bear arms in your most righteous cause."
    "Generous young man!" cried the Colonel, grasping our hero's hand with true military frankness: "God grant that your answer may be favourable to us. But pray delay not in announcing your decision."
    "This time to-morrow evening I will be prepared to give you an answer," returned Markham.
    The Colonel then took his leave, saying, "Tomorrow evening I will call again."    

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