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THE verdure of the early spring re-clothed the trees with their gay garments, and gave back its air of cheerfulness to the residence of Count Alteroni.
    It was about mid-day; and the sun beamed brightly from a heaven of unclouded blue. Nature appeared to be reviving from the despotism of winter's rule; and the primrose peeped bashfully forth to welcome the return of the feathered chorister of the grove.
    The count and countess, with their lovely daughter, were seated in the breakfast-parlour. The two ladies were occupied with their embroidery the noble Italian exile himself was reading the Montoni Gazette, which that morning's post had brought him.
    Suddenly he tittered an exclamation of surprise, and then appeared to read with additional interest and attention.
    "What news from Castelcicala?" inquired the countess.
    "You remember that the Earl of Warrington applied to me between three and four months ago for letters of introduction on behalf of a lady of the name of Eliza Sydney?" said the count.
    "And who was about to visit Castelcicala in order to escape the persecution of that vile man who aspired to the hand of Isabella," added the countess.
    "The very same. She is a cousin of the Earl of Warrington; and it appears that her presence has created quite a sensation in Montoni. The Gazette of the 15th of last month contains the following passage :- The fashionable circles of Montoni have lately received a brilliant addition in the person of Miss Eliza Sydney, a near relative of the Earl of Warrington, the noble Englishman who purchased some years ago the beautiful villa at the extremity of the suburbs of Petrarca. Miss Sydney has taken up her abode at the villa; and during the month that she has already honoured our city with her presence, her agreeable manners, amiable qualities, and great personal attraction, have won all hearts. It is even rumoured that the highest person in the land has not remained indifferent to the attractions of this charming foreigner- ' "
    "Surely this latter sentence cannot allude to the duke?" exclaimed the countess.
    "It can allude to none other," answered the count: " 'the highest person in the land.' Of course it means the duke. But, after all, it is probably only one of those idle reports which so frequently obtain vogue in the fashionable circles of all great cities —"
    "Or one engendered in the fertile brain of a newspaper editor," said the countess. "Still it would be strange if, through your letters of introduction  —"
    "Oh! it is too absurd to speculate upon," interrupted the count, impatiently.
    "And yet your lordship is not unaccustomed to judge now and then by the mere superficial appearances of things," said the countess severely.
    "I!" ejaculated the Italian noble.
    "Decidedly," answered the countess. "You believed Mr. Greenwood to be an honest man with out examining into his real position  —"

    "Ah! that one foolish step of mine!"
    "And you pronounced Mr. Markham a villain without according him an opportunity of giving an explanation," added the countess.
    "Always Richard Markham!" cried the count angrily. "Why do you perpetually throw his name in my teeth?"
    "Because I think that you judged him too hastily," said the countess.
    "Not at all! did he not admit that he had been in Newgate?"
    A cold shudder crept over Isabella's frame.
    "Yes; and so has our friend Mr. Armstrong, whom you value so highly, and whose letter from Germany gave you so much pleasure yesterday morning."
    "Certainly I was pleased to receive that letter, because I had not heard from Armstrong so long: I fancied that something had happened to him. But, to return to what you were saying," continued the count; "Armstrong was incarcerated merely for a political offence; and there is something honourable in that."
    "Mr. Markham may have been more unfortunate than guilty," said the countess. "At all events you have condemned without giving him a fair hearing. I have even asked you to refer to the newspapers of the period and read his case; but you refuse to give him a single chance."
    "Your ladyship is very quick to blame," said the count, somewhat sarcastically; " but you forget how rejoiced you were some years ago to discover that the chevalier Gilderstein, whose father was executed for coining, was no relation of our family, as you had long deemed him to be : and yet the chevalier was himself innocent of his father's offence."
    "I certainly have expressed myself more than once in the way you mention," returned the countess; "but I had so spoken without due consideration. Now that a case is immediately present to my view, I am inclined to feel and act mote charitably."
    "But how could Mr. Markham justify himself?" exclaimed the count. "Was not that attempt at burglary in this house so very glaring?"
    "Oh!" cried Isabella, colouring deeply; "let Mr. Markham be guilty in other respects, I would pledge my existence he never, never could have been a participator in that!"
    [-226-] "You speak warmly, Signora," said the count, whose brow contracted. "You forget that I myself overheard him talking with some one over the wall of the garden only a few hours before the entrance of the burglars  —"
    "We have many cases upon record," interrupted Isabella enthusiastically, "in which men have been unjustly convicted on an almost miraculous combination of adverse circumstances. Suppose that Mr. Markham was, in the first instance, made the victim of rogues and villains, and sacrificed by them to screen their own infamy, - suppose he underwent his punishment in Newgate, being innocent, - will you sympathise with and commiserate him? or will you scorn and repulse him? Oh! my dear father, no kindness would be too great towards a being who has suffered through the fallibility of human laws! Suppose that one of the villains who plunged him - innocent - into all that misery, repented of the evil, and signed a confession of his own enormity and of Mr. Markham's guiltlessness ;- then would you remain thus prejudiced? Oh! no - my dear father, you never would! your nature is too noble!"
    "My dearest Isabella, let us drop this conversation. In the first place, it is not likely that your romantic idea of one of the villains whom you bring upon your fanciful stage, signing such a confession  —" 
    "Oh! my dear father," exclaimed Isabella, a ray of joy flashing from her large black eyes; "if such were the case  —"
    "Well - if such were the case," added the count impatiently, "the entire mystery of the burglary remains to be cleared up to my satisfaction; and therefore, with your permission, we will leave this subject - now, and for ever!"
    Isabella's head dropped upon her bosom; and her countenance wore an expression of the most profound disappointment and grief.
    Scarcely had the conversation thus received a rude check and the count resumed the perusal of his paper, when Sir Cherry Bounce and Captain Smilax Dapper were announced.
    "Here we are - the two inseparables, strike me!" ejaculated the gallant hussar. "How is the signora this morning? somewhat melancholy - blow me!"
    "It seems that you have nothing to make you melancholy, Captain Dapper," said the count, who did not experience the greatest possible amount of delight at the arrival of the two young gentlemen, although he was far too well bred to show his annoyance.
    "Beg pardon, count - on the contrary, smite me!" returned Captain Dapper: "I have a great deal to be melancholy for. I lost six hundred pounds last night at cards - blow me for a fool that I was! I must confess, however, that I wasn't half awake."
    "Yeth - and Thmilackth inthithted upon my thitting down and playing too; and I lotht thwenty poundth."
    "And got scolded by your mamma into the bargain, far sitting up too late," said the Captain.
    "Nonthenth,Thmilackth!" exclaimed Sir Cherry; "I dare thay my mother allowth me ath gweat a lithenth ath your'th."
    "Well we won't quarrel, Cherry," said the officer. "But what do you think, count? I and Cherry dined together at the Piazza, Covent-Garden, where we got the most unexceptionable turtle and the most approved venison. The iced punch was superlative - the charges, of course. comparative. Well, in the evening, while I and Cherry were sipping our claret - and Cherry was admitting confidentially to me that he really hates claret, and only drinks because it is fashionable  —"
    "Oh! naughty Thmilackth!"
    "Hold your tongue, Cherry. Well - a couple of gentlemen came into the coffee-room. There was no one else there besides me and Cherry and the new comers. So they began whispering together for a few moments; and at length one of them rushes forward, catches Cherry in his arms, and cries out, 'Oh! my dear Smith - my friend Smith - how glad I am to meet with you again!'  Cherry coloured up to the eyes  —"
    "Oh! what an infamouth falthhood!"
    "You did, and you were so frightened you could not speak a word. I was obliged to tell the loving gentleman that your name was not Smith; and then he begged pardon, and said he never saw in his life such a resemblance to an old school-fellow of his as Cherry was. Well, we laughed over the mistake: the two gentlemen rang for claret; and we all sate down to the same table together. We drank several bottles of wine, and then adjourned to another place to sink it all with brandy-and-water. Cherry was quite top-heavy; but I was as sober as a judge  —"
    "Why did you woll in the mud, then?"
    "Why? because I tripped against a stone. Well, then we were foolish enough to go to a gambling- house with these gentlemen; and there I lost, and Cherry lost."
    "And the two gentlemen won, I suppose?" said the count, drily.
    "Oh! of course," answered Captain Dapper.
    "How foolish of two mere boys like you to think of going to a gambling-house," exclaimed the count. "Do you not see that the two gentlemen who accosted you in so strange a manner in the coffee-room of an hotel, perceived you to be a couple of greenhorns?"
    "They might have thought so of Cherry," cried the captain, colouring deeply, and twirling his moustachios; "but they couldn't have formed such an opinion of me - an officer in her majesty's service - strike, smite, and blow me!"
    "I'm thure I don't look tho veway gween ath you think," said Sir Cherry Bounce, now falling into a sulky fit with his friend the officer.
    "Oh! I know perfectly well that they were regular gentlemen," continued the captain; "for they gave us their cards; and one was Sir Rupert Harborough. The other was Mr. Chichester."
    "Sir Rupert Harborough and Mr. Chichester!" exclaimed Isabella, on whom the mention of these names produced a strange effect.
    "Yes," answered Captain Dapper; "and so you see that they were proper gentlemen, and it was all luck. But strike such luck as mine!"
    Isabella's countenance was suddenly irradiated with a gleam of the purest and most heart-felt joy; - the tears started to her eyes - but they were tears of happiness ;-and, fearful that her emotions would be observed, she hurried from the room.
    "Ah! but you didn't hear Cherry's adventure about the bird, did you, count?" demanded Dapper still continuing the conversation
    The count shook his head.
    "Why, this was it, said the gallant captain of hussars. "A waggish friend of mine, whose name is Dawson, dined with me and Cherry the other day; and the conversation turned upon birds. Cherry said he was very fond of choice birds; and Dawson immediately observed, 'If you like to accept of it, I will make you a present of a very beautiful and curious bird. I bought it the other day at Snodkins's [-227-] the bird-fancier's in Castle Street; and you may have it :- it is still there. All you have to do is to take a cage with you, call, and ask for Mr. Dawson's Poluphloisboio.' Of course Cherry was quite delighted ;- indeed, he almost hugged my friend Dawson; and all the rest of the evening he could think and talk of nothing but the bird with a hard name. At length he thought of asking how large a cage he ought to take with him. 'The largest you have got,' replied Dawson. So the evening passed away; and next morning, before the clock struck nine, there was Cherry, rattling up Regent Street as fast as he could in a hack-cab, with a huge parrot-cage jolting on his knees. Well, he reached Castle Street, found out Snodkins's, and said, 'Pleathe, I have come for Mithter Dawthon'th Poluphloithboio. ' - 'For Mr. Dawson's what?' cried Snodkins.- 'For Mithter Dawthon'th Poluphoithboio,' repeated Cherry.- 'And what the devil is that? and who the deuce are you?' roared Snodkins, who thought that Cherry had come to make a fool of him.- 'The thing ith a bird; and my name ith Thir Cherway Bounthe,' was the reply.-' And my name is Snodkins,' said the fellow; 'and I don't understand being made a fool of by you.'-'Mithter Dawthon bought a bird here a few dayth ago,' persisted Cherry; 'and he thayth I may have it. Here'th the cage: tho give me the bird.'- Snodkins was now inclined to believe that it was all right; so he brought down the bird, put it into the cage, and Cherry drove triumphantly home with it. His mamma was sitting at breakfast when he entered with the cage in his hand. 'Here, ma,' said Cherry —"
    "I don't thay Ma more than you do, Thmilackth,'" interrupted the youthful baronet.
    "Yes, you do, Cherry," returned Dapper: "I have heard you a hundred times. But let me tell the story out. Well - Cherry's mamma exclaims, 'Lor, boy, what have you got there? - 'A Poluphloithboio, ma, that my fwiend Dawthon gave me.' - 'A what, Cherry!' shrieks the old lady.- 'A Poluphloithboio, ma,' answers Cherry, bringing the cage close up to his ma.- 'A Poluphloisboio!' ejaculates mamma: 'why, you stupid boy, it is nothing more or less than a hideous old owl!' -and so it was: and there the monster sate upon the perch, blinking away at a furious rate and looking as stupid as - as Cherry himself - smite him!"
    Isabella had returned to the apartment and resumed her seat a few moments before this story was finished; and Captain Dapper appeared very much annoyed and surprised that she did not condescend to laugh at the recital.
    "By the by," he observed, after a moment's pause, "I have something to tell you all - strike me!"
    "Oh! yeth - about Wichard Markham," said Sir Cherry.
    The count made a movement of impatience; the countess looked up from her embroidery; and a deep blush mantled upon the cheek, and a sudden tremor passed through the frame, of the lovely Isabella.
    "Yes - about Richard Markham," continued the hussar officer. "I and Cherry were riding in the neighbourhood of his house the other day —"
    "And we thaw the two ath tweeth."
    "Yes - and something else too;- for we saw one of the sweetest, prettiest, most interesting young ladies - the signora herself excepted - walking in the garden —"
    "Well, well," said the count impatiently; "perhaps Mr. Markham is married, and you saw his wife - that it all."
    "No," continued Dapper; "for she was close by the railings that skirt the aide of the road running behind his house; and we saw an old butler-looking kind of a fellow go up to her, and I heard him call her 'Miss.' "
    "Mr. Markham and his affairs are not of the slightest interest to us, Captain Dapper," said the count: "we do not even wish to hear his name mentioned. Isabella, my love, let us have some music."
    But no reply was given to the request of the count, who was seated in such a way that he could not see his daughter's place at the work-table.
    Isabella had again left the room.
    Of what nature were the emotions which agitated the bosom of that beauteous - that amiable creature?
    Wherefore had she first sought her own chamber to conceal tears of joy?
    And why had she now retired once more, to hide the out-pourings of an intense anguish?

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