Charles James Lever.

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playing, betting, drinking, yachting, driving Sir Dudley,
there was no chance of even time for their plans ; but with a
sick man on the sofa, bored by his inactivity, hipped for want
of his usual resources, the game was open. The Colonel's
visit, too, had such an air of true kindness !

Broughton had left quarters without leave ; but, instead of
reprimands, arrests, and heaven knows what besides, there
was Colonel Delmar the fine old fellow, shaking his finger
in mock rebuke, and saying, "Ah, Dudley, my boy, I came
down to give you a rare scolding, but this sad business has
saved you ! " And Lydia also, against whom he had. ever
felt a dislike that prejudice your boisterous and noisy kind
of men ever feel to clever women, whose sarcasms they know
themselves exposed to why, she was gentle good-nature and
easy sisterlike kindness itself! She did not, as the phrase
goes, " nurse him ; " but she seldom left the room where he
lay. She read aloud, selecting with a marvellous instinct
the very kind of books he fancied. Novels, tales of every-
day life, things of whose truthfulness he could form some
judgment; and sketches wherein the author's views were
about on a level with his own. She would sit at the window,
too, and amuse him with descriptions of the people passing in
the street ; such smart shrewd pictures were they of watering-



78 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON OREGAN.

place folks and habits, Dudley never tired of them ! She
was unsurpassed for the style with which she could dress up
an anecdote or a bit of gossip ; and if it verged upon the free,
her French education taught her the nice perception of the
narrow line that separates " libertinage " from indelicacy.

So far from feeling impatient at his confinement to a sofa,
therefore, Broughton affected distrust in his renovated limb
for a full fortnight after the doctor had pronounced him cured.
At last he was able to drive out, and soon afterwards to take
exercise^ on horseback, Lydia Delmar and her father occa-
sionally accompanying him.

People will talk at Leamington, as they do at other places;
and so the gossips said that the rich for he was still so re-
puted in the world the " rich " Sir Dudley Broughton was
going to marry Miss Delmar.

Gossip is half-brother to that all-powerful director called
" Public Opinion ; " so that when Sir Dudley heard, some half-
dozen times every day, what it was reputed he would do, he
began to feel that he ought to do it.

Accordingly they were married ; the world at least the
Leamington section of that large body criticizing the match
precisely as it struck the interests and prejudices of the class
they belonged to.

;.. Fathers and mothers agreed in thinking that Colonel Del-
mar was a shrewd old soldier, and had made an " excellent
hit." Young ladies pronounced Liddy for a girl who had
been out eight years decidedly lucky. Loungin'g men at
club doors looked knowingly at each other as they joked
together in half sentences, " No affair of mine ; but I did not
think Broughton would have been caught so easily." " Yes,
by Jove ! " cried another, with a jockey-like style of dress,
" he'd not have made so great a mistake on the ' Oaks ' as to
run an aged nag for a two-year-old ! "

" I wonder he never heard of that Russian fellow ! " said a
third.

" Oh, yes ! " sighed out a dandy, with an affected drawl ;
" poor dear Liddy did, indeed, catch a ' Tartar ! ' '

Remarks such as these were the pleasant sallies the event
provoked ; but so it is in higher and greater things in life !
At the launch of a line-of-battle ship, the veriest vagrant
in rags fancies he can predict for her defeat and ship-
wreck !

The Broughtons were now the great people of the London
season, at least to a certain " fast " set, who loved dinners at
the Clarendon, high play, and other concomitant pleasures.



SIR DUDLEY BROUGHTON. 7&

Her equipages were the most perfect ; Tier diamonds the most
splendid ; while Ms dinners were as much reputed by one
class, as Tier toilet by another.

Loans at ruinous interest ; sales of property for a tithe of
its value ; bills renewed at a rate that would have swamped
Rothschild ; purchases made at prices proportionate to the
risk of non-payment ; reckless waste everywhere ; robbing
solicitors, cheating tradesman, and dishonest servants !
But why swell the list, or take trouble to show how the
ruin came ? If one bad leak will cause a shipwreck, how
is the craft to mount the waves with every plank riven
asunder ?

If, among the patriarchs who lend at usury, Broughton's
credit was beginning to ebb, in the clubs at the west end, in
the betting-ring, at Crockford's, and at Tattersall's, he was in
all the splendour of his former fame. Anderson would trust
him with half his stable. Howell and James would send him
the epergne they had designed for a czar. And so he lived.
With rocks and breakers head, he only " carried on " the
faster and the freer.

Not that he~knew, indeed, the extent, or anything approach-
ing the extent, to which his fortune was wrecked. All that
he could surmise on the subject was founded on the increased
difficulty he found in raising money a circumstance his
pliant solicitor invariably explained by that happy phrase, the
" tightness of the money market." This completely satisfied
Sir Dudley, who, far from attributing it to his own almost
exhausted resouices, laid all the blame upon some trickery
of f jreign statesmen, some confounded disturbance in Ireland,
something that the Foreign Secretary had done, or would not
do ; and that thus the money folk would not trust a guinea
out of their fingers. In fact, it was quite clear that to
political intrigue and cabinet scheming all Sir Dudley's
difficulties might fairly be traced !

It was just at this time that the Count Badchoffsky arrived
once more in London in charge of a special mission. No
longer the mere secretary of embassy, driving about in his
quiet cab, but an envoy extraordinary, with cordons and
crosses innumerable. He was exactly the kind of man for
Broughton's " set," so that he soon made his acquaintance,
and was presented by him to Lady Broughton as a most
agreeable fellow, and something very distinguished in his
own country.

She received him admirably remembered to have met
him, she thought, at Lord Edenbury's ; but he corrected her



80 THE CONFESSIONS OP CON CREGAN.

by saying it was at the Duke of Clifton's a difference of
testimony at which Broughton laughed heartily, saying, in
his usual rough way, " Well, it is pretty clear you didn't make
much impression on each other."

The Russian noble was a stranger to the turf. In the
details of arranging the approaching race, in apportioning
the weights, and ages, and distances, Broughton passed his
whole mornings for a month, sorely puzzled at times by
the apathy of his northern friend, who actually never ob-
truded an opinion, or expressed a wish for information on
the subject.

Sir Dudley's book was a very heavy one, too. What " ho
stood to win " was a profound secret ; but knowing men
said that if he lost, it would be such a " squeeze " as had
not been known at Newmarket since the Duke of York's
day.

Such an event, however, seemed not to enter into his own
calculations ; and so confident was he of success, that he
could not help sharing his good fortune with his friend Rad-
chofFsky, and giving him something in his own book. The
count professed himself everlastingly grateful, but confessed
that he knew nothing of racing matters ; and that, above all,
his Majesty the Emperor would be excessively annoyed if a
representative of his in any way interfered with the race ; in
fact, the honour of the Czar would be tarnished by such a
proceeding. Against such reasonings there could be no
opposition ; and Broughton only took to himself all the bene-
fits he bad destined for his friend.

At last the eventful day came ; and although Sir Dudley
had arranged that Lady Broughton should accompany him to
the course, she was taken with some kind of nervous attack,
that prevented her leaving her bed. Her husband was pro-
voked at this ill-timed illness, for he was still vain of her
appearance in public ; but knowing that he could do nothing
for hysterics, he sent for Doctor Barham ; and then with all
speed he started for the race.

Among the friends who were to go along with him, the
count had promised to make one ; but despatches that
admirable excuse of diplomatists, from the great secretary to
the humblest unpaid attache despatches had just arrived ;
and if he could manage to get through his business early
enough, "he'd certainly follow."

Scarcely had Sir Dudley reached the ground, when a
carriage drove up to the stand, and a gentleman descended
in all haste. It was Mr. Taperton, his solicitor his trusty



SIR DUDLEY BKOUGHTON. 81

man of loans and discounts for many a day. " Eh, Tappy ! "
cried Broughton, " come to sport a fifty on the filly ? "

" Walk a little this way, Sir Dudley," said he, gravely ;
and his voice soon convinced the hearer that something
serious was in the wind.

" What's the matter, man ? You look as if ' Cardinal ' was
dead lame."

" Sir Dudley, you must start from this at once. Holds-
worth has taken proceedings on the bills ; Lord Corthern has
foreclosed ; the whole body of the creditors are up, and you'll
be arrested before you leave the field ! "

If the threat had conveyed the ignominious penalty of
felony, Broughton could not have looked more indignant.
"Arrested! You don't mean that we cannot raise enough to
pay these rascals ? "

" Your outstanding bills are above twenty thousand, sir."

" And if they be ; do you tell me that with my estate

" My dear Sir Dudley, how much of it is unencumbered ?
what single portion, save the few hundreds a year of Lady
Broughton 's jointure, is not sunk under mortgage ? but this
is no time for discussion ; get into the chaise with me ; we'll
reach London in time for the mail ; to-morrow you can be
in Boulogne, and then we shall have time at least for an
arrangement.''

"The race is just coming off! how can I leave? I'm a
steward : besides, I have a tremendous book. Do you know
how many thousands I stand to win here ? "

" To lose, you mean," said the solicitor. "You're sold ! "
The words were whispered so low as to be almost inaudible,
but Broughton actually staggered as he heard them.

"Sold! how? what? impossible, man! who could sell
me?"

"Only one man, perhaps; but he has done it! Is it true
you have backed Calliope ? "

" Yes ! " said he, staring wildly.

" She was found hamstrung this morning in the stable,
then," said Taperton ; " if you want to hear further particulars
you must ask your friend the Count Radchoffsky ! "

" The scoundrel ! the black-hearted villain! I see it all !"
cried Broughton. " Come, Taperton, let us start ! I'll go
with you ; by Jove, you have found a way to make me eager
for the road ! "

The lawyer read in the bloodshot eye, and flushed face, the
passion for vengeance that was boiling within him ; but ho
never spoke as they moved on and entered the carriage.

Q



82 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CREGAN.

It was full three hours before the expected time of his re-
turn, when the chaise in which they travelled drew up at the
Clarendon, and Broughton, half wild with rage, dashed up
stairs to the suite of splendid rooms he occupied.

" Oh dear, Sir Dudley ! " cried the maid, as she saw him
hastening along the corridor ; " oh, I'm sure, sir, how you'll
alarm my lady if she sees you so flurried ! "

" Stand out of the way, woman ! " said he, roughly, en-
deavouring to push her to one side, for she had actually placed
herself between him and the door of the drawing-room.

" Surely, sir, you'll not terrify my lady ! Surely, Sir
Dudley "

Despite her cries, for they had now become such, Broughton
pushed her rudely from the spot, and entered the room.

Great was his astonishment to find Lady Broughton, whom
he had left so ill, not only up, but dressed as if for the
promenade; her face was flushed, and her eye restless and
feverish ; and her whole manner exhibited the highest degree
of excitement.

Broughton threw down his hat upon the table, and then
returning to the door, locked and bolted it.

" Good heavens, Dudley ! " exclaimed she, in a voice of
terror. " What has happened ? "

"Everything!" said he ; " utter ruin ! the whole crew of
creditors are in full chase after me, and in a few hours we
shall be stripped of all we possess."

She drew a long full breath as she listened ; and had her
husband been in a mood to mark it, he might have seen how
lightly his terrible tidings affected her.

" I must fly ! Taperton, he's in the carriage below, says
France, at least for some weeks, till we can make some com-
promise or other ; but I have one debt that must be acquitted
before I leave."

There was a terrible significance in the words, and she was
sick to the heart as she asked, " What, and to whom ? "

" Radchofisky ! " cried he, savagely ; " that scoundrel whom
I trusted like a brother ! "

Lady Broughton fell back, and for a moment her motion-
leas limbs, and pallid features, seemed like fainting ; but with
a tremendous effort rallying herself, she said, " Go on ! "

" He betrayed me ! told every circumstance of my book !
and the mare I had backed for more than thirty thousand is
dying this instant! so that I am not only ruined, but dis-
honoured ! "

She sat with wide staring eyes, and half open lips, whilo



SIB DUDLEY BROUGHTON. 83

he spoke, nor did she seera, in the fearful confusion of her
fear, to understand fully all he said.

" Have I not spoken plainly ? " said he, angrily ; " don't
you comprehend me, when I say that to-morrow I shall be
branded as a defaulter at the settling? but enough of this.
Tell Millar to get a portmanteau ready for me. I'll start this
evening; the interval is short enough for all I have to do."
As he spoke, he hastened to his bedroom, and providing
himself with a case containing his duelling pistols, he hurried
downstairs ; ordering the postilion to drive to the Russian
Embassy.

The carriage was scarce driven from the door, when Lady
Broughton, taking a key from her pocket, opened a small
door which led from the drawing-room into her dressing-room,
from which the Count walked forth; his calm features un-
ruffled and easy as though no emotion had ever stirred
them.

"You heard what Broughton said ? " whispered she, in an
accent of faltering agitation.

" Oui, parbleu, every word of it ! " replied he, laughing
gently. " The people of the house might almost have heard
him."

" And is it true ? " asked she, while a cold sickness crept
over her, and her mouth was shaken convulsively.

" I believe so," said he, calmly.

" Oh, Alexis, do not say so ! " cried she, in an agony of
grief; " or least of all, in such a voice as that."

He shrugged his shoulders, and then, after a moment's
pause, said, "I confess myself quite unprepared for this
show of affection, Madame "

" Not so, Alexis. It is for you I am concerned ; for your
honour as a gentleman ; for your fair fame among men "

" Pardon, Madame, if I interrupt you ; but the defence of
my honour must be left to myself "

" If I had but thought this of you "

" It is never too late for repentance, Madame. I should
be sorry to think I could deceive you."

" Oh, it is too late ! far too late ! " cried she, bursting into
tears. " Let us go ! I must never see him again ! I would
not live over that last half-hour again to save me from a
death of torture !"

" Allow me, then," said he, taking her shawl, and draping
it on her shoulders. " The carriage is ready ;" and with
these words, spoken with perfect calm, he presented his arm.
and led her from the room.

G 2



84 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CliEGAN.

To return to Sir Dudley. On arriving at tbe Russian
Embassy, he could learn nothing of the whereabouts of him
he sought ; a young secretary, however, with whom he had
some intimacy, drawing him to one side, whispered, " Wait
here a moment, I have a strange revelation to make you, but
in confidence, remember, for it must not get abroad." The
story was this : Count Radchoffsky had been, on his recall
from the Embassy, detected in some Polish intrigue, and
ordered to absent himself from the capital, and preserve a
life of strict retirement, under police "surveillance;" from
this, he had managed to escape and reach England, with
forged credentials of Envoy Extraordinary ; the mission being
an invention of his own, to gain currency in the world, and
obtain for him loans of large sums from various houses in the
" City." " As he knows," continued Broughton's informant,
" from his former experience, the day of our courier's expected
arrival, he has up to this lived fearlessly and openly ; but the
despatch having reached us through the French cabinet sooner
than he expected, his plot is revealed. The great difficulty is
to avoid all publicity ; for we must have no magisterial inter-
ference, no newspaper or police notoriety ; all must be done
quietly, and he must be shipped off to Russia without a
rumour of the affair getting abroad."

Bronghton heard all this with the dogged satisfaction of a
man who did not well know whether to be pleased or other-
wise, that an object of personal vengeance had been withdrawn
from him.

But not accustomed to dwell long on any subject where the
main interest of his own line of action was wanting, he drove
home to his hotel to hasten the preparations for his departure.
On his arrival at the Clarendon, a certain bustle and move-
ment in the hall and on the stairs attracted his attention, and
before he could inquire the cause, a half whisper, " There he
is; that's Sir Dudley?" made him turn round; the same
instant a heavy hand was laid on his shoulder, and a man
said, " I arrest you, Sir Dudley Broughton, at the suit of
Messrs. Worrit and Sneare, Lombard Street."

" Be calm ; don't make any resistance." whispered Taper-
ton in his ear ; " come upstairs." They passed on, and
entered the drawing-room, where everything appeared in
disorder. As for Broughton, he was bewildered and stupefied
by all he had gone through, and sat in a chair staring vacantly
at the groups around him, evidently unable, through the haze
of his disordered faculties, to see clearly how, and in what,
he was interested in the affair.



SIR DUDLEY BOUGHTON. 85

""Where's my lady ?" whispered Taperton to the valet, who
stood almost as spellbound as his master.

" Gone, sir ; she's gone," said the man, in a faint voice.

" Gone where ? scoundrel ! " said Sir Dudley, jumping up
and seizing him by the throat with both hands, while he
roared out the words with a savage vehemence that startled
all the room.

" Gone away, Sir Dudley," said the half-choking man; "I
saw her drive off in a chaise and pair with Count Rad-
choffsky."

Broughton let go his hold, and fell heavily upon his face to
the ground. A surgeon was called in, who at once perceived
that the attack was one of apoplexy. For that night, and
part of the next day, his recovery was almost hopeless ; for,
though repeatedly bled, he gave no signs of returning anima-
tion, but lay heaving, at intervals, long heavy sighs, and
respiring with an effort that seemed to shake the strong
frame in convulsions.

Youth and bold remedies, however, favoured him, and on
the third morning he awoke, weak and weary, like one who
had just reached convalescence after a long and terrible
fever. His features, his gestures, his very voice, were all
altered ; there was a debility about him mental and physical
that seemed like premature decay ; and they who knew
the bold high-spirited man of a few days before, could never
have recognized him in the simple-looking, vacant, and pur-
poseless invalid, who sat there, to all seeming, neither
noticing nor caring what happened around him. It is true,
indeed, few essayed the comparison. Of those who visited
him the greater number were creditors, curious to speculate
on his recovery ; there were a couple of reporters, too, for
gossiping newspapers, desirous of coining a paragraph to
amuse the town ; but no friends not a man of those who
dined, and drank, and drove, and played with him. In fact,
his fate was soon forgotten even in the very circles of which
he had been the centre ; nor did his name ever meet mention,
save in some stale report of a bankruptcy examination, or a
meeting of creditors to arrange for the liquidation of his
debts.

The wasteful, heedless extravagance of his mode of living,
was urged even to vindictiveness by his creditors ; so that for
three years he remained a prisoner in the Fleet ; and it was
only when they saw he had no feeling of either shame or
regret at his imprisonment, that an arrangement was at last
agreed to, and he was liberated ; set free to mix in a world



86 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CREGAN.

in which he had not one tie to bind, or one interest to attach
him!

From that hour forth none ever knew how far his memory
retained the circumstances of his past life ; he never certainly
mentioned them to any of those with whom he formed com-
panionship ; nor did he renew acquaintance with one among
his former friends. By great exertions on the part of his
lawyers, almost a thousand a year was secured to him from
the -wreck of his great fortune, the proceeds of a small
estate that had belonged to his mother.

On this income he lived some time in total seclusion, when,
to the astonishment of all, he was again seen about town, in
company with men of the most equivocal character : noted
gamblers at hells, " Legs of Newmarket," and others, to whom
report attributed bolder and more daring feats of iniquity.
While it was a debated point among certain fashionables of
the clubs, how far he was to be recognized by them, he
saved them all the difficulty, by passing his most intimate
friends without a bow, or the slightest sign of recognition.
A stern repulsive frown never left his features ; and he whose
frank light-hearted buoyancy had been a proverb, was grave
and silent, rarely admitting anything like an intimacy, and
avoiding whatever could be called a friendship.

After a while he was missed from his accustomed haunts,
and it was said that he had purchased a yacht, and amused
himself by sea excursions. Then there came a rumour of his
being in the Carlist insurrection in Spain, some said with a
high command ; and afterwards he was seen in a French
voltigeur regiment serving in Africa. From all these varied
accidents of life, he came back to London, frequenting, as
before, the same play resorts, and betting sums whose amount
often trenched upon the limits of the bank. If, in his early
life, he was a constant loser, now he invariably won ; and he
was actually the terror of hell-keepers, whose superstitious
fears of certain " lucky ones *' are a well-known portion of
their creed.

As for himself, he seemed to take a kind of fiendish sport
in following up this new turn of fortune. It was like a
Nemesis on those who had worked his ruin! One man in
particular, a well-known Jew money-lender, of great wealth,
he pursued with all the vindictive perseverance of revenge.
He tracked him from London to Brighton, to Cheltenham, to
Leamington, to Newmarket, to Goodwood ; he followed him
to Paris, to Brussels ; wherever in any city the man opened a
table for play there was Broughton sure to be found.



SIR DUDLEY BROtGHTON. 87

At last, by way of eluding all pursuit, the Jew went over to
Ireland a country where of all others fewest resources for
his traffic presented themselves ; and here again, despite
change of name, and every precaution of secrecy, Broughton
traced him out; and, on the night when I first met him, he
was on his return from a hell on the Quays, where he had
broken the bank, and arisen a winner of above two thousand
pounds.

The peculiar circumstances of that night's adventure are
easily told. He was followed from the play-table by two
men, witnesses of his good fortune, who saw that he carried
the entire sum on his person ; and from his manner a feint
I found he often assumed they believed him to be drunk. A
row was accordingly organized at the closing of the play, the
lights were extinguished, and a terrible scene of tumult and
outrage ensued, whose sole object was to rob Broughton of
his winnings.

After a desperate struggle, in which he received the wound
I have mentioned, he escaped by leaping from a window into
the street, a feat too daring for his assailants to imitate. The
remainder is already known ; and I have only again to ask



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 5) → online text (page 9 of 50)