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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 11

Chapter XXV. — The Signor Avvocato In His Glory

Chapter XXV.

The Signor Avvocato In His Glory.

"By the bye," said the minister to Onofrio at the close of a long conversation on official matters, "he is a wonderful young fellow that protegé of yours. I told him scarcely two months ago he had better learn to read English, and already he translates it at sight. He had quite the best of it in an argument we had last night as to the meaning of the phrase 'with a vengeance;' he had indeed."

"He is clever, and works very hard," said Onofrio.

"I am sure he does, and then he is so clear-headed—it is a pleasure to watch his quickness in grasping a question, and his method of discussing it. You must read a few short articles on sundry matters he wrote at my request. Cavour has looked them over, and thinks highly of them. I shall be perplexed as to a choice when the time comes for employing him. He has many of the qualities which would make a capital diplomatist—but then he has no handle to his name. Perhaps the administrative career will suit him best. What do you say?"

"I say that the question seems to me a premature one; you will be able to solve it best when you see him fairly at work."

"That's true; but, whether in diplomacy, or in the administration, your protegé will make his way. Now don't page 300 soil him by telling him of my golden oinions."

"It would do him no harm if I did," sid Onofrio; "Vincenzo is intus et in cte a modest youth."

"Yes; and straightforward. What I like in him is his independent way with one; he never humours or flatters me—vhenever we differ in opinion, he tells one so candidly, and frankly asserts his own views."

Onofrio judged that the time was now come to strike his second grand bow in Vincenzo's behalf; that is, to aquaint his godfather with the new prspective opening before his godson. Iven a change of ministry would not affect it much, for, though out of power, the actual minister so friendly to Vincenzo would still command patronage enough to push on his protegé; and he, Onofrio himself, would not be without interest with the limited number of his colleagues in the House, likely to take office in another Cabinet.

"If I could but make sure," thought Signor Onofrio, "that this Signor Avvocato has a stomach strong enough to dgest a sound piece of advice, I would willingly give it him to swallow—but in dubiis abstine. I cannot answer for a man, whom I have only seen for an hour once in my life, not being narrow-minded; and, if he be so, ten to one but that self-love and pique will prompt him to defeat the plan I have in view; and then, instead of forwarding, I injure Vincenzo's interests. I will run no such risk. After all, there is no reason why I should tell him that one of my notives for pushing on his godson is that he may many his daughter." And Signor Onofrio wrote as follows:—

"My dear Sir,—When on our first meeting at Ibella, about a year ago, you kindly expressed the wish of hearing from me now and then, I little thought that my first letter to you would be an interested one. Yes, my dear sir, I come to ask of you what in forensic language is called a sanatoria—namely, to confirm and ratify a step which I have taken in regard to your godson Vincenzo, and which, though conducive to his benefit, as I am convinced it to be, I am not sure I was quite justified in taking without having consulted you beforehand. Perhaps the general terms of your recommendation of the young man to me, on the occasion I have referred to above, might plead my justification. However, let me hasten to add that nothing has been done which cannot be undone, if you so wish it. And now, without further preamble, I come to the gist of the matter. Vincenzo, as you well know, is a remarkably clever and gifted young fellow; as to me, what strikes me in him is less the brilliancy and the extent than the rare harmony of his faculties. A more happily balanced young head than his I never met in my life. The more I have seen of him, and had opportunities of appreciating his qualities, the stronger has the impression become of how well he is suited for official life. Nobody thinks more highly than I do of the profession of a barrister—but ars longa—briefs come in few and far between to candidates for them, while in a rising State like ours advancement is rapid in Government employments. The Ministry ask nothing better than to encourage youths of talent, of activity and principle. I have, as you know, the ear of the Minister, my friend as well as chief—that was another temptation—in short, one fine day I presented and recommended Vincenzo to him; and you may judge of the progress he has made in the Minister's favour within scarcely a couple of months, from the abstract I here subjoin of a conversation (to remain inter nos) which I had lately with the minister. [Here followed an abridgment of the dialogue beginning this chapter.] You see now as clearly as I do Vincenzo's prospects. After taking his degree, he will enter on official duty; in five or six years he is sure to be a good way up the ladder of promotion—at thirty a deputy; once in Parliament, there is no saying to what eminence he may not attain. The career is tempting; what do you say? There will be no fortune to be made by it, it is true, but a treasure of honour page 301 gained for himself, his country, and his friends. Should the independence of a barrister's calling outweigh all these advantages in your mind, should you object to a political life for your godson, or should you see any reason for discountenancing this plan, you have only a word to say, and that word shall be adhered to.

"Vincenzo is well, and sends his affectionate duty. Accept, my dear sir, my heartiest wishes, and believe me,

"Your obedient servant,

"Onofrio."