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      "You speak with the utmost fluency, my daughter,"[Pg 47] he had commended, and she had explained that she found expression more easy in French.


      But though the abandonment, for the present, of this enterprise, so fondly cherished by France, was calculated to cast a damp on the country, Buonaparte had another project ready which flattered the French pride of conquest. This was to seize on Egypt, as the preliminary to the fall of Britain. He had for some time entertained this idea, and had written from Italy to the Directory on the subject in the previous September. To insure the real destruction of England, he said, they must make themselves masters of Egypt. Malta and Corfu must be seized first, and for this purpose he conceived eight or ten sail of the line and twenty-five thousand men would suffice. The possession of Egypt, he contended, would draw all the commerce of the East thither, instead of taking the circuitous route by the Cape of Good Hope. He had thoroughly inspired Talleyrand with his scheme. Egypt was imagined to be much more wealthy than it was, and there were monuments of ancient art for Buonaparte and his right-hand bandit, Monge, to lay hands on. The Directory, which was extremely unpopular, uneasy at the presence of so popular and daring a person, were glad to be rid of him anywhere, the farther off the better. There were not wanting counsellors who already advised him to perpetrate a coup d'tat, and place himself at the head of affairs; but Buonaparte, not at all averse from the prospect, replied, "The pear is not ripe." He knew that, however popular with his own army, he was looked on with jealousy by the army of the Rhine, which served under, and prided themselves in, Moreau. He knew that the middle classes hated him for sweeping them away with grape-shot in the affair of the Sections. He hoped to make[465] himself yet more popular and more necessary, and that in the meantime the Directory would have completed their full measure of odium. He now therefore plunged into arrangements for this grand conquest of the East.


      But they, themselves, had done that thoroughly! Larry made the objection but Dick waved a hand to dismiss it.[See larger version]

      Thus guided, both studied the switches.


      And Cairness himself was startled and utterly unprepared when the Reverend Taylor opened the door of the room where he lay and let her pass in. The little parson uttered no word, but there was a look on his face which said that now the questions he had put with no result were answered. It was for this that Cairness had given the best of his life.

      "Cairness never was a squaw-man," corrected Crook.

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      In the opinion of Landor, who knew the impracticable country foot for foot, they were well-intentioned lunatics. But they were agreeable guests, who exchanged the topics of the happy East for the wild turkey and commissary supplies of the Far West, and in departing took with them a picturesque, if inexact, notion of army life on the frontier, and left behind a large number of books for Felipa, who had dazzled their imaginations.From Clive, events cause us to pass at once to one accused of much greater misdemeanours, and one whose administration terminated in a more formal and extraordinary trial than that of Clive; a trial made ever famous by the shining abilities and eloquence of Burke and Sheridan, and the awful mysteries of iniquity, as practised by our authorities in India, which were brought to the public knowledge by them on this grand occasion. Hastings commenced his rule in Bengal under circumstances which demanded rather a man of pre-eminent humanity than of the character yet lying undeveloped in him. In 1770, under the management of Mr. Cartier, a famine, as we have mentioned, broke out in Bengal, so terrible that it is said to have swept away one-third of the population of the state, and to have been attended by indescribable horrors. The most revolting circumstance was, that the British were charged with being the authors of it, by buying up all the rice in the country, and refusing to sell it, except at the most exorbitant prices. But the charge is baseless. Macaulay says, "These charges we believe to have been utterly unfounded. That servants of the Company had ventured, since Clive's departure, to deal in rice, is probable. That, if they dealt in rice, they must have gained by the scarcity, is certain. But there is no reason for thinking that they either produced or aggravated the evil which physical causes sufficiently explain." Hastings promptly introduced a change in the land-tax by means of which more revenue was obtained with less oppression, and he also freed the country from marauders.

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      CHAPTER XXI THE SKY PATROL GIVES UPStill, during all this time, though the Tory Ministers in the Council appeared paralysed, the Jacobite lords assembled in secret junto in the very palace where the Council was sitting and the queen dying. Lady Masham's apartments were the scene of the last convulsive agitation of Jacobitism. From her the distracted leaders of that faction received the accounts of the progress of the queen's illness. Amongst these were Buckingham, Ormonde, Atterbury, and, when he was not at Anne's bedside, Robinson, Bishop of London. This prelate, when he attended to administer the Sacrament to the dying woman, received a message from her, which he was bound by the Duchess of Ormonde to promise to deliver, though it cost him his head. Probably it was some last remembrance to her brother, the Pretender; though it was supposed by some to be an order to the Duke of Ormonde, the Commander-in-Chief, to hold the army for the Stuart. Nothing, however, of the nature of this message ever transpired; but the Duke of Buckingham, on the separation of the Council, which had just obtained the affixing of the Great Seal to a patent providing for the government of the country by four-and-twenty regents till the arrival of the successor, clapped his hand on Ormonde's shoulder, saying, "My lord, you have four-and-twenty hours to do our business in, and make yourself master of the country." It was a forlorn hope. That evening Lady Masham entered her apartments in great agitation, saying, "Oh, my lords, we are all undoneentirely ruined! The queen is a dead woman; all the world cannot save her!" Upon which one of the lords asked if the queen had her senses, and if Lady Masham thought she could speak to them. She replied, "Impossible; her pain deprives her of all sense, and in the interval she dozes and speaks to nobody." "That is hard indeed," said one of the lords. "If she could but speak to us, and give us orders, and sign them, we might do the business for all that." "Alas!" replied another lord, "who would act on such orders? We are all undone!" "Then we cannot be worse," said a third. "I assure you," remarked another of these conspirators, probably Ormonde, "that if her Majesty would give orders to proclaim her successor in her lifetime, I would do it at the head of the army. I'll answer for the soldiers." "Do it, then!" swore the Bishop Atterbury, for he did not stick at an oath. "Let us go out and proclaim the Chevalier at Charing Cross. Do you not see that we have no time to lose?" Lady Masham told them they might waive debate; there was nothing to be done; her Majesty was no longer capable of directing anything. On which the Duke of Ormonde exclaimed, "Lord, what an unhappy thing this is! What a cause is here lost at one blow!"


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