Charles James Lever.

The Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly (Volume 3) online

. (page 1 of 16)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2009 with, funding from
iversity of Illinois Urbana-Champaign






VOL. m.



[The Right of Translation is reserved.]




I. A Pleasant Dinsee 1

n. A Stroll and a Gossip 12

in. A Proposal in Form 31

rV. " A Telegram " 42

V. A Long Tete-a-tete 65

VI. Cattaro - 78

Vn. Some News from Without 88

Vin. ISCHIA 103

IX. A Rainy Night at Sea 125

X, The Letter Bag 141

XL The Prisoner at Cattaro 158

Xn. At Lady Augusta's 172

XIII. At the Inn at Cattaro _ - ." 183

XrV. The Villa Life 200



XV. A Veey Brief Dream 211

XVI. A Keturn Home 225

XVII. Lady Culduff's Letter 239

XVIII. Dealing with Cutbill 253

XIX. The Client and his Lawyer 262

XX. A First Gleam of Light 272

XXI. The Light Stronger 289

XXII. Sedley's Notes , 302

XXin. A Wayfarer 314

XXIV. A Meeting and a Parting ^ 326

XXV. The Last of All 336





Prudent people will knit their brows and wise
people shake their heads at the bare mention of it,
but I cannot help saying that there is a wonderful
fascination in those little gatherings which bring
a few old friends around the same board, who,
forgetting all the little pinchings and straits of
narrow fortune, give themselves up for once to
enjoyment without a thought for the cost or a care
for the morrow. I do not want this to pass for
sound morality, nor for a discreet line of conduct ;
I only say that in the spirit that can subdue every
sentiment that would jar on the happiness of the
VOL. III. 46


hour there is a strength and vitahty that shows
this feehng is not horn of mere conviviaHty, hut
of something deeper, and truer, and heartier.

''If we only had poor Jack here," whispered
Augustus Bramleigh to L 'Estrange, as they drew
around the Christmas fire, " I'd say this was the
happiest hearth I know of."

" And have you no tidings of him ? " said
L'E strange, in the same low tone ; for, although
the girls were in eager talk together, he was afraid
Julia might overhear what was said.

*' None, except that he sailed from China on
hoard an American clipper for Smyrna, and I
am now waiting for news from the Consul there,
to whom I have written, enclosing a letter for

'* And he is serving as a sailor ? "

Bramleigh nodded.

" Wliat is the mysterious conversation going on
there ? " said Julia. " How grave George looks, and
Mr. Bramleigh seems overwhelmed with a secret of

" I guess it," said Nelly, laughing. " Your
hrother is relating your interview with Sir Marcus


Cluff, and tliey are speculating on what is to come
of it."

" Oh, that, reminds me," cried L'Estrange,
suddenly, " Sir Marcus's seiTant brought me a
letter just as I was di-essing for dinner. Here it
is. \Miat a splendid seal — supporters, too ! Have
I permission to read ? "

" Eead, read by all means," cried Julia.
" Dear Sie, — If I could have sufficiently con-
quered my bronchitis as to have ventured out this
morning, I would have made you my personal apolo-
gies for not having received you last night when
you did me the honour to call, as well as opened
to you by word of mouth what I am now reduced to
convey by pen."

"He is just as prolix as when he talks," said

" It's a large hand, however, and easy to read.
* My old enemy the larynx — more in fault than even
the bronchial tubes — is again in arms ' "

" Oh, do spare us his anatomical disquisition,
George. Skip him down to where he proposes
for me."

" But it is what he does not. You are not


mentioned in the whole of it. It is all about Church
matters. It is an explanation of why every one has
withdrawn his subscription and left the establishment,
and why he alone is faithful and willing to contribute,
even to the extent of five pounds additional "

" This is too heartless by half; the man has
treated me shamefully."

'' I protest I think so too," said Nelly, with a
mock seriousness ; "he relies upon your brother's
gown for his protection."

" Shall I have him out ? But, by the way, why
do you call me Mr. Bramleigh ? Wasn't I Augustus
— or rather Gusty — when we met last ? "

" I don't think so ; so well as I remember,
I treated you with great respect, dashed with a
little bit of awe. You and your elder sister were
always ' personages ' to me."

'' I cannot understand that. I can easily imagine
Temple inspiring that deference you speak of."

" You were the true Prince, however, and I had
all Falstaff's reverence for the true Prince."

" And yet you see after all I am like to turn out
only a Pretender."

" By the way, the pretender is here ; I mean — if


it be not a bull to say it — the real pretender, Count

" Count Pracontal de Bramleigb, George," said
Julia, correcting him. ''It is the drollest mode of
assuming a family name I ever beard of."

" Wbat is be like ? " asked EUen.

" Like a very well-bred Frencbman of the worst
scbool of Frencb manners : be bas none of tbat
graceful ease and tbat placid courtesy of the past
period, but be bas abundance of tbe volatile readiness
and sbowy smartness of tbe present day. Tbey are a
wonderful race, bowever, and tbeir smattering is better
tban otber men's learning."

" I want to see bim," said Augustus.

'' Well," broke in L'Estrange, '' Lady Augusta
writes to me to say tbat be wants to see you.''

" Wbat does Lady Augusta know of bim ? "

*' Heaven knows," cried Julia ; '"' but tbey are
always together ; tbeir rides over tbe Campagna
famish just now tbe chief scandal of Piome. George,
you may see, looks veiw serious and rebukeful about
it ; but, if tbe truth were told, there's a little jealousy
at tbe root of bis morality."

" I declare, Julia, this is too bad."


" Too true, also, my dear George. Will you
deny that you used to ride out with her nearly every
evening in the summer, rides that hegan at sunset
and ended — I was always asleep when you came
home, and so I never knew when they ended."

" Was she very agreeable ? " asked Nelly, with
the faintest tinge of sharpness in her manner.

" The most — what shall I call it ? — inconsequent
woman I ever met, mixing up things the most
dissimilar together, and never dwelling for an instant
on anjrthing."

'^ How base men are," said Julia, with mock
reproach in her voice. " This is the way he talks
of a woman he absolutely persecuted with attentions
the whole season. Would you believe it, Nelly, we
cut up our nice little garden to make a school to train
her horse in?"

Whether it was that some secret intelligence was
rapidly conveyed from Julia as she spoke to Nelly, or
that the latter of herself caught up the quizzing spirit
of her attack, but the two girls burst out laughing,
and Greorge blushed deeply, in shame and irritation.

'' First of all," said he, stammering with con-
fusion, " she had a little Ai-ab, the wickedest animal


I ever saw. It wasn't safe to approach him ; he
struck out with his forelegs "

" Come, Nelly," said JuHa, rising, " we'll go
into the di-awing-room, and leave George to explain
how he tamed the Ai-ah and captivated the Arab's
mistress, for your brother might like to learn the
secret. You'll join us, gentlemen, when you wish
for coffee."

" That was scarcely fair, Julia dear," said Nelly,
when they were alone. ^^Your banter is sometimes
too sharp for him."

" I can't help it, dearest — it is part of my nature.
When I was a child, they could not take me to a
wild-beast show, for I would insist on poking straws
at the tiger — not that poor dear George has much
' tiger ' in him. But do you know, Nelly," said she,
in a graver tone, '' that when people are very poor,
when their daily lives are beset by the small accidents
of nan-ow fortune, there is a great philosophy in a little
banter ? You brush away many an annoyance by
seeming to feel it matter for di-ollery, which, if taken
seriously, might have made you fretful and peevish."

" I never suspected there was method in your
madness, Ju," said Nelly, smiling.


"Nor was there, dearest; the explanation was
almost an after- thought. But come now and tell me
about yourselves."

"There is really little to tell. Augustus never
speaks to me now of business matters. I think I
can see that he is not fully satisfied with himself;
but, rather than show weakness or hesitation, he is
determined to go on as he began."

" And you are really going to this dreary place ? "

"He says so."

" Would any good come, I wonder, of bringing
your brother and Pracontal together ? They are both
men of high and generous feelings. Each seems
to think that there ought to be some other settle-
ment than a recourse to lawyers. Do you think he
would refuse to meet Pracontal ? "

" That is a mere chance. There are days he
would not listen to such a proposal, and there are
times he would accept it heartily ; but the suggestion
must not come from me. With all his love for me,
he rather thinks that I secretly disapprove of what he
has done, and would reverse it if I knew how."

" What if I were to hint at it ? He already said
he wished to see him. This might be mere curiosity,


however. '\l\Tiat if I were to say, "^Tiy not meet
Pracontal? Why not see what manner of man he
is ? There is nothing more true than the saying
that half the dislikes people conceive against each
other would give way if they would condescend to
become acquainted.' "

"As I have just said, it is a mere chance whether
he would consent, and then "

" Oh, I know! It would be also a chance what
might come of it."

Just as she said this, the young men entered the
room, with smiling faces, and apparently in high

" Do you know the plan we've just struck out ? "
cried Bramleigh. '' George is to come and live at
Cattaro. I'm to make him consular chaplain."

"But is there such an appointment?" asked
Julia, eagerly.

" Heaven knows ; but if there is not, there ought
to be."

" And the salary, Mr. Bramleigh. Who pays it *?
What is it ? "

" There again I am at fault ; but her Majesty
could never intend we should live hke heathens,"


said Augustus, '^and we shall arrange it some-

*' Oh, if it were not for ' somehow,' " said Julia,
^' we poor people would be worse ojBf in life than we
are; but there are so many what the watchmakers
call escapements in existence, the machinery manages
to survive scores of accidents."

"At all events we shall be all together," said
Augustus, " and we shall show a stouter front to
fortune than if we were to confront her singly."

" I think it a delightful plan," said Julia. " What
says Nelly?"

"I think," said Nelly, gravely, "that it is
more than kind in you to follow us into our

" Then let us set off at once," said Augustus,
" for I own to you I wish to be out of men's sight,
out of ear- shot of their comments, while this suit
is going on. It is the publicity that I dread far more
than even the issue. Once that we reach this wild
barbarism we are going to, you will see I will bear
myself with better spirits and better temper."

" And will you not see M. Pracontal before jou
go ? " asked Julia.


" Not if I can avoid it ; unless, indeed, you all
think I ought."

Julia looked at Nelly, and then at her brother.
She looked as if she wanted them to say something
— anything ; but neither spoke, and then, with a
courage that never failed her, she said —

" Of course we think that a meeting between two
people who have no personal reasons for dislike, but
have a great question to be decided in favour of one
of them, cannot but be useful. If it will not lead to
a friendship, it may at least disarm a prejudice."

" I wish I had you for my counsel, Julia," said
Bramleigh, smiling. "Is it yet too late to send you
a brief?"

" Perhaps I am engaged for the other side."

"At all events," said he, more seriously, "if
it be a blunder to meet the man, it cannot much
matter. The question between us must be decided
elsewhere, and we need not add the prejudices of
ignorance to the rancour of self-interest. I'll see

'^ That's right; I'm sure that's right," said
L'Estrange. " I'll despatch a note to Lady Augusta,
who is eager for your answer."




As well to have a long talk together as to enjoy the
glorious beauty and freshness of the Campagna, the
two young men set out the next morning for a walk
to Rome. It was one of those still cold days of winter,
with a deep blue sky above, and an atmosphere clear
as crystal as they started.

There was not in the fortunes of either of them
much to cheer the spirits or encourage hope, and yet
they felt — they knew not why — a sense of buoyancy
and light-heartedness they had not known for many a
day back.

" How is it, George," asked Augustus, "can you
explain it, that when the world went well with me,
when I could stroll out into my own woods, and walk
for hours over my own broad acres, I never felt so
cheery as I do to-day ? "


" It was the same spirit made you yesterday
declare you enjoyed our humble dinner "^ith a
heartier zest than those grand banquets that were
daily served up at Castello."

*' Just so. But that does not solve the riddle for
me. I want to know the why of all this. It is no
high sustaining consciousness of doing the right
thing ; no grand sense of self-approval : for, in the
first place, I never had a doubt that we were not the
rightful owners of the estate, nor am I now supported
by the idea that I am certainly and indubitably on
the right road, because nearly all my friends think
the very reverse." L 'Estrange made no answer.
Bramleigh went on : '* You yourself are so minded,
George. Out with it, man ; say at once you think
me wrong."

'' 1 have too little faith in my own judgment to go
that far."

" Well, -^ill you say that you would have acted
differently yourself *? Come, I think you can answer
that question."

'' Xo, I cannot."

" You can't say whether you would have done as
I have, or something quite different ? "


" No ; there is only one tiling I know I should
have done — I'd have consulted Julia."

If Bramleigh laughed at this avowal the other
joined him, and for a while nothing was said on
either side. At last Bramleigh said, *' I, too, have
a confession to make. I thought that if I were to
resist this man's claim by the power of superior
wealth I should be acting as dishonourably as though
I had fought an unarmed man with a revolver. I told
Sedley my scruples, but though he treated them with
little deference, there they were, and I could not
dismiss them. It was this weakness — Sedley would
give it no other name than weakness — of mine that
made him incline to settle the matter by a com-
promise. For a while I yielded to the notion ; I'm
afraid that I yielded even too far — at least Cutbill
opines that one of my letters actually gives a distinct
consent, but I don't think so. I know that my
meaning was to say to my lawyer, ' This man's claim
may push me to publicity and much unpleasantness,
without any benefit to him. He may make me a
nine-days' wonder in the newspapers and a town talk,
and never reap the least advantage from it. To avoid
such exposure I would pay, and pay handsomely ; but


if YOU really opined that I was merely stifling a just
demand, such a compromise would only biing me
lasting misery.' Perhaps I could not exactly define
what I meant ; perhaps I expressed myself imper-
fectly and ill ; but Sedley always replied to me by
something that seemed to refate my reasonings. At
the same time Lord Culdufi" and Temple treated my
scruples with an open contempt. I grew iiTitable, and
possibly less reasonable, and I wi-ote long letters to
Sedley to justify myself and sustain the position I
had taken. Of these, indeed of none of my letters,
have I copies ; and I am told now that they contain
admissions which will show that I yielded to the plan
of a compromise. Knowing, however, what I felt —
what I still feel on the matter — I will not beHeve this.
At all events the world shall see now that I leave the
law to take its course. If Pracontal can estabHsh his
right, let him take what he owns. I only bargain for
one thing, which is, not to be expelled ignominiously
from the house in which I was never the rightful
owner. It is the act of abdication, George — the
moment of dethronement, that I could not face. It
is an avowal of great weakness, I know ; but I
struggle against it in vain. Every morning when I


awoke the same thought met me, am I a mere pre-
tender here ? and hy some horrible perversity, which
I cannot explain, the place, the house, the grounds,
the gardens, the shrubberies, the deer-park, grew
inexpressibly more dear to me than ever I had felt
them. There was not an old ash on the lawn that I
did not love ; the shady walks through which I had
often passed without a thought upon them grew now
to have a hold upon and attraction for me that I
cannot describe. What shall I be without these dear
familiar spots ; what will become of me when I shall
no longer have these deep glades, these silent woods,
to wander in ? This became at last so strong upon
me that I felt there was but one course to take— I
must leave the place at once, and never return to it
till I knew that it was my own beyond dispute. I
could do that now, while the issue was still unde-
termined, which would have broken my heart if di-iven
to do on compulsion. Of course this was a matter
between me and my own conscience ; I had not
courage to speak of it to a la^v^er, nor did I. Sedley,
however, was vexed that I should take any steps
without consulting him. He wrote me a letter —
almost an angry letter — and he threatened — for it


really amounted to a threat, to say that, to a client
so decidedly bent on guiding liis own case, he
certainly felt his services could scarcely be advan-
tageously contributed. I rejoined, perhaps not
without irritation ; and I am now expecting by each
post either his submission to my views, or to hear
that he has thrown up the direction of my cause."

'* And he was your father's adviser for years ! "
said L'Estrange, with a tone almost despondent.

" But for which he never would have assumed
the tone of dictation he has used towards me. Lord
Culduflf, I remember, said, ' The first duty of a man
on coming to his property is to change his agent,
and his next to get rid of the old servants.' I do
not like the theory, George ; but from a certain point
of view it is not without reason."

" I suspect that neither you nor I want to look at
life from that point of view," said L'Estrange, with
some emotion.

" Not till we can't help it, I'm sure ; but these
crafty men of the world say that we all anive at their
modus operandi in the end ; that however generously,
however trustfully and romantically, we start on the
morning of life, before evening we come to see that in
VOL. HI. 47 .


this game we call tlie world it is only the clever player
that escapes ruin."

" I don't — that is, I won't believe that."
" Quite right, George. The theory would tell
terribly against fellows like us ; for let us do our very
best we must be bunglers at the game. What a
clever pair of hacks are those yonder ! that grey -the
jady is on has very showy action."

"Look at the liver chestnut the groom is riding,
— there's the horse for my money, — so long and so
low, — a regular turnspit, and equal to any weight. I
declare, that's Lady Augusta, and that's Pracontal
with her. See how the Frenchman charges the ox-
fences ; he'll come grief if he rides at speed against

The party on horseback passed in a little dip of
the ground near them at a smart canter, and soon
were out of sight again.

" What a strange intimacy for her, is it not ? "
" Julia says, the dash of indiscretion in it was the
temptation she couldn't resist, and I suspect she's
right. She said to me herself one day, ' I love
skating, but I never care for it except the ice is so
thin that I hear it giving way on eveiy side as I go.' "


" She gave you her -^hole character in that one
trait. The pleasure that wasn't linked to a peril had
no charm for her. She ought, however, to see that
the world will regard this intimacy as a breach of

" So she does ; she's dying to be attacked about
it; at least, so Julia says."

" The man too, if he be an artful fellow, will
learn many family details about us, that may disserve
us. If it went no further than to know in what spirit
we treat his claim, — whether we attach importance to
his pretensions or not, — these are all things he need
not, should not be informed upon."

" Cutbill, who somehow hears everything, told us
t'other morning, that Pracontal is ' posted up,' — that
was his phrase — as to the temper and nature of eveiy
member of your family, and knows to a nicety how to
deal with each."

" Then I don't see why we should meet."

" Julia says it is precisely for that very reason ;
people are always disparaged by these biogi-aphical
notices, then- caprices are assumed to be tastes, and
their mere humours are taken for traits of character ;
and she declares that it ^-ill be a good ser\-ice to the


truth that hringing you together. Don't take my
version, however, of her reasons, hut ask her to give
them to you herself."

" Isn't that the wall of the City ? I declare we
are quite close to Kome already. Now then, first to
leave my name for Lady Augusta — not sorry to know
I shall not find her at home, for I never understood
her, George. I never do understand certain people,
whether their levity means that it is the real nature,
or simply a humour put on to get rid of you ; as
though to say, rather than let you impose any
solemnity upon me, or talk seriously, I'll have a
game at shuttlecock ! "

" She always puzzled me," said L'Estrange,
" hut that w^asn't hard to do."

" I suspect, George, that neither you nor I know
much ahout women."

" For my part, I know nothing at all about

" And I not much."

After this frank confession on either side, they
walked along, each seemingly deep in his own
thought, and said little till they reached the City.
Leaving them, then, on their way to Lady Augusta's


house, where Bramleigh desired to drop his card, we
turn for a moment to the little yilla at Albano, in
front of which a smart groom was leading a lady's
horse, while in the distance a soHtary rider was
slowly walking his horse, and frequently turning his
looks towards the gate of the yilla.

The explanation of all this was, that Lady
Augusta had taken the opportunity of being near
the L'Estranges to pay a "visit to the Bramleighs,
leaving Pracontal to wait for her till she came

'* This visit is for you, Nelly," said Julia, as she
read the card ; " and I'll make my escape."

She had but time to get out of the room when
Lady Augusta entered.

" My dear child," said she, rushing into Nelly's
arms, and kissing her with rapturous affection.
" My dear child, what a happiness to see you
again, and how well you are looking; you're hand-
somer, I declare, than Marion. Yes, darling, — don't
blush ; it's perfectly true. "WTiere's Augustus ? has
he come with you ? "

*' He has gone in to Rome to see you," said
Nelly, whose face was still crimson, and who felt


flurried and agitated by the fliglity impetuosity of
the other.

" I hope it was to say that you are both coming
to me ? Yes, dearest, I'll take no excuse. It would
be a town -talk if you stopped anywhere else ; and I
have such a nice little villa — a mere baby-house ; but
quite large enough to hold you ; and my brother-in-

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 16)