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Stories By English Authors: Italy   By: (1829-1888)

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A FAITHFUL RETAINER James Payn BIANCA W. E. Norris GONERIL A. Mary F. Robinson THE BRIGAND'S BRIDE Laurence Oliphant MRS. GENERAL TALBOYS Anthony Trollope


When I lived in the country, which was a long time ago, our nearest neighbours were the Luscombes. They were very great personages in the country indeed, and the family were greatly "respected"; though not, so far as I could discern, for any particular reason, except from their having been there for several generations. People are supposed to improve, like wine, from keeping even if they are rather "ordinary" at starting; and the Luscombes, at the time I knew them, were considered quite a "vintage" family. They had begun in Charles II.'s time, and dated their descent from greatness in the female line. That they had managed to keep a great estate not very much impaired so long was certainly a proof of great cleverness, since there had been many spend thrifts among them; but fortunately there had been a miser or two, who had restored the average, and their fortunes.

Mr. Roger Luscombe, the present proprietor, was neither the one nor the other, but he was inclined to frugality, and no wonder; a burnt child dreads the fire, even though he may have had nothing to do with lighting it himself, and his father had kicked down a good many thousands with the help of "the bones" (as dice were called in his day) and "the devil's books" (which was the name for cards with those that disapproved of them) and race horses; there was plenty left, but it made the old gentleman careful and especially solicitous to keep it. There was no stint, however, of any kind at the Court, which to me, who lived in the little vicarage of Dalton with my father, seemed a palace.

It was indeed a very fine place, with statues in the hall and pictures in the gallery and peacocks on the terrace. Lady Jane, the daughter of a wealthy peer, who had almost put things on their old footing with her ample dowry, was a very great lady, and had been used, I was told, to an even more splendid home; but to me, who had no mother, she was simply the kindest and most gracious woman I had ever known.

My connection with the Luscombes arose from their only son Richard being my father's pupil. We were both brought up at home, but for very different reasons. In my case it was from economy: the living was small and our family was large, though, as it happened, I had no brothers. Richard was too precious to his parents to be trusted to the tender mercies of a public school. He was in delicate health, not so much natural to him as caused by an excess of care coddling. Though he and I were very good friends, unless when we were quarreling, it must be owned that he was a spoiled boy.

There is a good deal of nonsense talked of young gentlemen who are brought up from their cradles in an atmosphere of flattery not being spoiled; but unless they are angels which is a very exceptional case it cannot be otherwise. Richard Luscombe was a good fellow in many ways; liberal with his money (indeed, apt to be lavish), and kind hearted, but self willed, effeminate, and impulsive. He had also which was a source of great alarm and grief to his father a marked taste for speculation.

After the age of "alley tors and commoneys," of albert rock and hard bake, in which we both gambled frightfully, I could afford him no opportunities of gratifying this passion; but if he could get a little money "on" anything, there was nothing that pleased him better not that he cared for the money, but for the delight of winning it. The next moment he would give it away to a beggar. Numbers of good people look upon gambling with even greater horror than it deserves, because they cannot understand this; the attraction of risk, and the wild joy of "pulling off" something when the chances are against one, are unknown to them... Continue reading book >>

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