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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
"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
"In the first place, am I right in believing that
you were once most intimate with a certain Count Alteroni who resides near
"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
"He is a refugee from his native land," he
"Does he now bear his true name?"' he
"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,"
"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
"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
"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?"
"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
"True," said Richard: "the distinction is
"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
"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
"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
"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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