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I HUMBLY desire, dear readers, to please you if I can, and therefore hasten to gratify an aspiration which lurks in all novel-readers' heartsto "get into the thick of the business at once." So come with me and be summarily introduced to one or two principal personages of this little drama. Let us take them unawares, let us surprise them while they sit at meat,-eating, drinking, and (some of them, at least) making merry, on the margin of the Lake of Como, in one of the pleasantest hotels in Europe, the "Bellevue," at Cadenabbia. And do thou, old Time, turn back in thy flight a few short years, and suffer us to enter the table-d'hôte room of the hotel in question, on the bright evening of an early summer day in 187-.

The banquet is spread. The guests are assembled or assembling. They are of many nationalities, of diverse ranks, of most ages; each of the three sexes is represented, for more than one palpable curate bows his meek head over the flesh


pot. You find the noise a little trying at first, don't you? The crockery does seem to be possessed with devils, and every glass in the room must have St Vitus's dance. Every one seems to be impatient at first first

hungry, angry, vociferous. What tempers these waiters must have! Outside the window a stringband is playing a selection from the

Barbiere.' Could anything be more appropriate?" Figaro quà, Figaro là!" shrieks the band. "Kellner!" "Garçon!" "Cameriere!" "Waiter!" shout the guests; and through all the crush and the bustle these admirable men glide about here, there, everywhere, breathless and perspiring, but full of polyglot politeness and attention. The only calm, still, cool-looking object in the room is that tremendous headwaiter in the buff waistcoat, standing near the door, in Jove-like serenity. The guests, as they enter, pause before him to ask where they may place themselves. In that august presence they appear to peak and dwindle. He is too great to speak,


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