[Jan. 2, 1864.
ONCE A WEEK.
you had such a tender interest in Signor Beppo. He is a more fortunate man than I thought him!"
"I said nothing of the kind! I said no word about tender interest," replied Giulia, firing up, and flashing the lightning out upon him.
"Well, of whatever sort the interest is—family interest, perhaps," returned the Corporal in a more serious tone, "I am sorry for what makes your sorrow, Signora Giulia; and above all had no thought of offending you. But I confess that the Signor Capitano here, and I, as we were looking on the drawing, congratulated one another on the army having got such a soldier. But I thought that there was small chance of our getting Signor Beppo! I fancied that his father was in a position to buy him off. It seems to me a great pity he should not go. He would be sure to rise to be a corporal!"
"I fancied it was pretty certain, Signora Giulia, that your cousin would pay his bad number by proxy," said Captain Brilli; "and I confess I thought it a great pity that the service should lose a man who would make such a fine soldier. That is the sort of men we want, not a lot of poor, rickety scum from the towns."
"I don't know whether Signor Vanni will buy him off, or not," said Giulia; "but I know that he is very unwilling to serve."
"Why should he be? What is his objection to the service?" said Brilli
"I am sure I don't know, Signor Capitano; the same, I suppose, that all our contadini have. They don't like being sent out of the country, away from their homes—"
"And their cousins!" said the Corporal.
Giulia tossed her head, and turned her shoulder to him, without deigning any reply to this shot.
"It is a very great pity," said Captain Brilli, gravely, "that there should be so widespread a dislike to the service throughout all this district: and they are just the best men who manifest the most unwillingness to serve their country. It is a very great pity; the more so as the government is fully determined to enforce the law. There has been so much difficulty about it, that it will go hard with those who are contumacious. There seems to be a notion among the people," continued the Captain, "that they will escape by absenting themselves for a time, a little more or a little less, from their homes, and that all inquiry after them will then blow over. It is a most unfortunate mistake. The men will be brought in and tried as deserters; or, if they should succeed in eluding the pursuit of our fellows, they must remain bandits and outlaws, under the penalties of felony, all their days. It is quite a mistake to imagine that they will be able to return to their homes after a while."
Captain Brilli said all this as if it was a matter of ordinary conversation. But Giulia could not help thinking that it was intended as a special advertisement to her, for the use and behoof of her cousin. She had no certain knowledge of his intentions in this respect; but she knew the avarice of old Paolo Vanni, and thought it little likely that he would be persuaded to disburse a sum large enough to procure a substitute for Beppo. She knew, also, how strongly Beppo shared the aversion of his countrymen for service in the army. She feared that he might take to the hills, rather than submit to it; and the thought of Beppo a bandit, an outlaw, a felon, who could never any more return to his home without meeting a felon's doom, was very shocking to her.
No doubt the thoughts that rose in her mind, as Captain Brilli was speaking, made themselves legible in her face; and as little that the Corporal, whose eyes were very sure to be employed in that direction, read them there.
Then la Signora Dossi came in; and in a few minutes afterwards Lisa.
When she and the Captain were fully engaged in paying exclusive attention to each other, Corporal Tenda made a variety of efforts to induce Giulia to come out into the great hall. But they were all in vain. Giulia persisted in remaining close to la Dossi all the rest of the evening.
In the financial year, which ended on the 31st March, 1863, the duty on playing cards was reduced from one shilling to three-pence a pack. The present duty is nearly fifty per cent. lower than it has ever been before. This fact alone calls for some comment; it affects directly the card-player (who is, of course, the card user); and indirectly, and in a minor degree, the whole of the tax-contributing community. Before we proceed to the suggested comment, which will include an analysis of the last annual report of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, let us just trace the successive changes through which we have arrived at existing arrangements.
In the reign of James I. a duty, or tax, of five shillings per twelve dozen packs was levied on playing-cards by the authority of the Lord Treasurer. The popular belief is that a tax