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Paul Gosslett's Confessions in Love, Law, and The Civil Service   By: (1806-1872)

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By Charles James Lever

Boston: Little, Brown, And Company.



I was walking very sadly across the Green Park one day, my hat pressed over my eyes, not looking to right or left, but sauntering slowly along, depressed and heavy hearted, when I felt a friendly arm slip softly within my own, while a friendly voice said, "I think I have got something to suit you, for a few months at least. Don't you know Italian?"

"In a fashion, I may say I do. I can read the small poets, and chat a little. I'll not say much more about my knowledge."

"Quite enough for what I mean. Now tell me another thing. You 're not a very timid fellow, I know. Have you any objection to going amongst the brigands in Calabria, on a friendly mission, of course, where it will be their interest to treat you well?"

"Explain yourself a little more freely. What is it I should have to do?"

"Here's the whole affair; the son of a wealthy baronet, a Wiltshire M.P., has been captured and carried off by these rascals. They demand a heavy sum for his ransom, and give a very short time for the payment. Sir Joseph, the youth's father, is very ill, and in such a condition as would make any appeal to him highly dangerous; the doctors declare, in fact, it would be fatal; and Lady Mary S. has come up to town, in a state bordering on distraction, to consult Lord Scatterdale, the Foreign Secretary, who is a personal friend of her husband. The result is that his Lordship lias decided to pay the money at once; and the only question is now to find the man to take it out, and treat with these scoundrels."

"That ought not to be a very difficult matter, one would say; there are scores of fellows with pluck for such a mission."

"So there are, if pluck were the only requisite; but something more is needed. If Sir Joseph should not like to acknowledge the debt, if, on his recovery, he should come to think that the thing might have been better managed, less cost incurred, and so on, the Government will feel embarrassed; they can't well quarrel with an old supporter; they can't well stick the thing in the estimates; so that, to cover the outlay in some decent fashion, they must give it a public service look before they can put it into the Extraordinaries; and so Lord S. has hit upon this scheme. You are aware that a great question is now disputed between the Bourbonists of Naples and the party of New Italy, whether brigandage means highway robbery, or is the outburst of national enthusiasm in favor of the old dynasty. The friends of King Bomba, of course, call it a 'La Vendée;' the others laugh at this, and say that the whole affair is simply assassination and robbery, and totally destitute of any political coloring. Who knows on which side the truth lies, or whether some portion of truth does not attach to each of these versions? Now, there are, as you said awhile ago, scores of fellows who would have pluck enough to treat with the brigands; but there are not so many who could be trusted to report of them, to give a clear and detailed account of what he saw of them, of their organization, their sentiments, their ambitions, and their political views, if they have any. You are just the man to do this. You have that knack of observation and that readiness with your pen which are needed. In fact, you seem to me the very fellow to do this creditably."

"Has Lord S. any distinct leanings in the matter?" asked I. "Does he incline to regard these men as political adherents, or as assassins, purs et simples? "

"I see what you mean," said my friend, pinching my arm. "You want to know the tone of your employer before you enter his service. You would like to be sure of the tints that would please him."

"Perhaps so. I won't go so far as to say it would frame my report, but it might serve to tinge it. Now, do you know his proclivities, as Jonathan would call them?"

"I believe they are completely with the Italian view of the matter... Continue reading book >>

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