(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

There was a diplomatic dispute between England and France with much rattling of swords on both sides. The affair, loudly taken up by the press, so stirred Nevil Beauchamp’s national pride that he decided to post a challenge to the French Guard. Uncle Everard Romfrey’s housekeeper, Mrs. Rosamund Culling, mailed the letter for Nevil. No reply ever came, and Nevil went off to fight the Russians in the Crimea. Uncle Everard expected his nephew to behave like a true Beauchamp.

Wounded in service, Nevil went to Venice with Roland de Croisnel, a French officer whose life he had saved at the risk of his own. Mrs. Culling also went to Italy. In Venice, Nevil drifted in a gondola with Roland de Croisnel’s sister Renee, who was grateful to her brother’s rescuer. The flirtation was interrupted by the arrival of the middle-aged Marquis de Rouaillout, intended as a husband for Renee. Nevil asked Renee to marry him, but she refused to disappoint her father by betraying Rouaillout. When Nevil persisted, Roland assured him that Renee did not love him.

The marquis arrived just as Nevil, Roland, Renee, and Mrs. Culling set out for an overnight jaunt in a boat. During the trip, Nevil secured Renee’s promise to break her pledge to the marquis. They headed for Trieste, but Renee’s phlegmatic consent and Roland’s dismal viewpoint dissuaded Nevil from the elopement. They returned to Venice with nothing settled. The next day, Renee married the marquis. Nevil went to sea once more.

Later, in the famous port of Bevisham, Nevil began his campaign as a Liberal candidate for a seat in Parliament. Mrs. Culling followed the young man there and met Miss Denham, ward of Dr. Shrapnel, who seemed to be helping Nevil in his campaign. Mrs. Culling wished that she could influence Nevil to drop his foolish scheme. Uncle Everard scoffed at Nevil’s political ambitions, especially because he despised Dr. Shrapnel.

While campaigning for votes, Nevil paid calls on his acquaintances and attended dinners. Colonel and Cecelia Halkett were steadfast Tories. Prompted by Uncle Everard, they tried to talk the young Liberal candidate out of his set course. They were strongly opposed to his views, but when the opposition wrote a rhyme comically depicting Nevil’s romantic relationship with Renee, the colonel thought the thrust unfair.

Meeting Lord Palmet, who was secretly in the rival camp, Nevil invited the gentleman to accompany him on his campaign tour. While entangled in political plots from which Cecelia was trying to extricate him, Nevil received a note from Renee, bidding him to come to her at once.

Twice since her marriage Nevil had met Renee, both times in the company of her husband, and Roland had written to him occasionally. In France, Renee told Nevil that she had sent for him only to fulfill a wish to see him once again, a mere caprice. She was in the company of a Count Henri d’Henriel, who wore her glove....

(The entire section is 1208 words.)