Charles James Lever.

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she was positively vulgar in the smirking complacence
in which she presented the man as her future hus-
band. She was already passee when she married
my father, and the exuberant joy at this proposal
revealed the old maid's nature. C, of course, calls
her charming, a woman of very attractive quahties,
and such like ; but men of a certain age have ideas
of their own on these subjects, and, like their notions
on cookery, make no converts among people under
forty. I believe I told him so, and, in consequence,
the whole theme has been strictly avoided by each of
us ever since."

The remainder of the letter was devoted to details
as to her future life at Constantinople, and the onerous
duties that would devolve on her as ambassadi*ess.
She hinted also to a time when she would ask dear
Nelly to come and visit her; but, of course, until
matters were fully settled and concluded, she could
not expect her to leave dear Gusty.


The postscript ran thus : — " Culduff meant to
have given some small Church promotion to young
L'Estrange, and, indeed, helieved he had done so ;
but some difficulty has arisen. It is either not his
tm*n, or the Bishop is troublesome, or the Eccle-
siastical Commissioners — if there be such people —
are making objections. If he — I mean L'Estrange
— be still disengaged, would it be wise to offer him
the chaplaincy to the embassy ? I mean vdse as
regards ourselves ; for I take it the sister may be
still unmarried, and, if she be like what I remember
her, a person not easily suppressed, nor at aU indis-
posed to assume airs of perfect equality, even vdth
those separated from her by a whole hemisphere of
station. Give me youi- candid advice on this point,
not thinking of them, but of me, for, though I feel
Julia — is not that her name '? — would be insupport-
able, the parson himself would be very useful, r.nd I
think a comfort to me.

" Of course you will not consult any one upon
this matter. It is your own personal opinion I want,
and you will give it to me, knowing me and my
prejudices — I suppose I had better call them — and
not thinking of your o-^ti leanings and likings for


the girl. She may, for aught I know, have changed.
Culduff has some wise saw ahout acid wines growing
dry by age ; I don't know whether young ladies
mellow in this fashion, but Julia was certainly tart
enough once to have tested the theory, and might
be the 'Amontillado ' of old maids by this time."

It may be imagined that after a sally of this kind
it was not easy for the writer to recover that semi-
moralizing vein in which the letter opened. Nor
did she. The conclusion was abrupt, and merely
directed Nelly to address her next to the Summer
Palace at Therapia; ''for those horrid people, our
predecessors, have left the embassy-house in such a
condition it will take weeks and several thousand
pounds to make it habitable. There must be a vote
taken ' in supply ' on this. I am wTiting Greek to
you, poor child; but I mean they must give us
money, and, of course, the discussion will expose
us to many impertinences. One writer declared that
he never knew of a debate on the estimates without
an allusion to Lord Culduff's wig. We shall endure
this — if not with patience, without resentment. Love
to dear Gusty, and believe me your affectionate sister,

"Mabion Culduff."


Such were the most striking passages of a long
letter which, fortunately for Xelly, Mr. CutbilFs
presence at the breakfast-table rescued her fi-om the
indiscretion of reading aloud. One or two extracts
she did give, but soon saw that the document was
one which could not be laid on the table, nor given
without prejudice to the public service. Her con-
fusion, as she crumpled up the paper, and thrust it
back into its envelope, was quickly remarked, and
Mr. Cutbill, with his accustomed tact, observed,
** I'd lay a ' fiver ' we've all of us been led out for a
canter in that epistle. It's enough to see Miss
Ellen's face to know that she wouldn't read it out
for fifty pounds. Eh, what ! " cried he, stooping
and rubbing his leg ; ''I told you to say, ' Stop
her,' Master Jack, when you wanted to take weigh
ofi*, but I never said. Kick my shins."

This absurd exclamation, and the laugh it pro-
voked, was a lucky diversion, and they arose from
table without another thought on Marion's epistle.

" Has Nelly shown you Marion's note ? " asked
Jack, as he strolled -wiib. Julia through the garden.

" No, and it is perhaps the only letter I ever
knew her to get without handing me to read."


" I suspect, with Cutbill, that we all of us catch
it in that pleasant document."

*' You perhaps are the only one who has

" As for me, I am not even remembered. Well,
I'll bear even that, if I can be sure of a little
sympathy in another quarter."

" Master Jack, you ask for too many professions.
I have told you already to-day, and I don't mean to
repeat it for a week, that you are not odious to me."

''But will 5^ou not remember, Julia, the long
months of banishment I have suffered ? Will you
not bear in mind that if I have lived longingly for
this moment, it is cruel now to dash it with a

*' But it is exactly what I am not doing ! I have
given you fully as much encouragement as is good
for you. I have owned — and it is a rash confession
for a girl to make at any time — that I care for you
more than any part of our prospects for the future
could warrant, and if I go one step further there will
be nothing for it but for you to buy a bragotza and
turn fisherman, and for me to get a basket and sell
pilchards in the piazza."


" You needn't taunt me with my poverty, I feel
it bitterly enough already. Nor have you any right
to think me unable to win a living."

" There, again, you wrong me. I only said, Do
not, in your impatience to reach your goal, make it
not worth the winning. Don't forget what I told
you about long engagements. A man's share of
them is the worst."

" But you love me, Juha? " said he, drawing her
close to him.

*' How tiresome you are ! " said she, trying to
free herself from his arm.

" Let me once — only once — hear you say this,
and I swear to you, Julia, I'll never tease you

" Well, then, if I must "

More was not spoken, for the lips were pressed
by a rapturous kiss, as he clasped her to his heart,
muttering, " My own, my own ! "

" I declare there is Nelly," cried Julia, wresting
herself from his embrace, and starting off; not,
however, towards Ellen, but in the direction of the

" Oh, Nelly," said Jack, rushing towards his


sister, " she loves me — she has said so — she is all
my own."

" Of com-se she is, Jack. I never doubted it,
though I own I scarcely thought she'd have told it."

And the brother and sister walked along hand in
hand without speaking, a closer pressure of the
fingers at intervals alone revealing how they followed
the same thoughts and lived in the same joys.

( 253 )



" What's to be done with Cutbill ? — will any one
tell me this ? " was the anxious question Augustus
asked as he stood in a group composed of Jack,
Nelly, and the L'Estranges. " As to Sedley meet-
ing him at all, I know that is out of the question ;
but the mere fact of finding the man here will so
discredit us in Sedley' s eyes that it is more than
likely he will pitch up the whole case and say good-
by to us for ever."

" But can he do that ? " asked Julia. " Can he,
I mean, permit a matter of temper or personal feel-
ing to interfere in a dry affair of duty ? "

" Of course he can ; where his counsels are dis-
regarded and even counteracted he need not continue
his guidance. He is a hot-tempered man besides,


and has more than once shown me that he will not
bear provocation bej-ond certain limits."

"I think," began L'Estrange, ''if I were in
your place, I'd tell Cutbill. I'd explain to him how
matters stood ; and "

"No, no," broke in Jack; ''that won't do at all.
The poor dog is too hard up for that."

"Jack is right," said Nelly, warmly.

" Of course he is, so far as Mr. Cutbill goes,"
broke in Julia; " but we want to do right to every
one. Now, how about your brother and his suit?"

" What if I were to show him this letter," said
Augustus, "to let him see that Sedley means to be
here to-morrow, to remain at farthest three days ; is
it not likely Cutbill would himself desire to avoid
meeting him?"

" Not a bit of it," cried Jack. " It's the thing of
all others he'd glory in ; he'd be full of all the lively
impertinences that he could play off on the lawyer ;
and he'd write a comic song on him, — ay, and sing it
in his own presence."

" Nothing more likely," said Julia, gravely.

" Then what is to be done ? Is there no escape
out of the difficulty ?" asked Augustus.


'' Yes," said Nelly, " I think there is. The way I
should advise would be this : I'd show Mr. Cutbill
Sedley's letter, and taking him into counsel, as it were,
on the embarrassment of his own position, I'd say,
* We must hide you somewhere for these three
days.' "

*'But he wouldn't see it, Nelly. He'd laugh at
yom- delicate scruples ; he'd say, ' That's the one man
in all Europe I'm dying to meet.' "

" Nelly is quite right, notwithstanding," said
Julia. " There is more than one side to Mr. Cutbill's
nature. He'd like to be thought a very punctilious
gentleman fully as much as a very jocose companion.
Make him believe that in keeping out of sight here at
this moment he will be exercising a most refined
delicacy, — doing what nothing short of a high-bred
sensibility would ever have dreamed of, and you'll see
he'U be as dehghted with his part as ever he was with
his coarse drollery. And here he comes to test my
theory about him."

As she spoke Cutbill came lounging up the garden


walk, too busily engaged in making a paper cigarette
to see those in front of him.

" I'm sure Mr. Cutbill that ci^farette must be


intended ^or me," cried Julia, " seeing all the pains
jou are bestowing on its manufacture."

" All, Miss Julia, if I could only believe that you'd
let me corrupt your morals to the extent of a pinch of
Latakia "

*'Give me Sedley's letter. Gusty," said Nelly,
" and leave the whole arrangement to me. Mr.
Cutbill, will you kindly let me have three minutes of
your company. I want a bit of advice from you."
And she took his arm as she spoke and led him down
the garden. She wasted no time in preliminaries,
but at once came to the point, saying, ''We're in
what you would call ' a fix ' this morning, Mr. Cutbill :
my brother's lawyer, Mr. Sedley, is coming here most
unexpectedly. We know that some unpleasant
passages have occured between you and that gentleman,
making a meeting between you quite impossible ; and
in the great difficulty of the moment I have charged
myself with the solution of the embarrassment, and
now begin to see that without your aid I am power-
less. Will you help me; that is, will you ad^dse
with or for me ?"

" Of course I will ; but, first of all, where's the
difficulty you speak of ? I'd no more mind meeting


this man, — sitting next him at dinner, if you Hke,
than I would an old creditor — and I have a good many
of them — that I never mean to pay."

"We never doubted your tact, Mr. Cutbill," said
she, with a strong emphasis on the pronoun.

'^If so, then the matter is easy enough. Tact
always serves for two. If I be the man you take me
for, that crabbed old fellow will love me like a brother
before the first day is over."

" That's not the question, Mr. Cutbill. Your
personal powers of captivation no one disputes, if only
they get a fair field for their exercise ; but what we
fear is that Mr. Sedley, being the hot-tempered, hasty
man he is, will not give you this chance. My brother
has twice already been on the verge of a rupture with
him for having acted on his own independent judg-
ment. I believe nothing but his regard for poor dear
papa would have made him forgive Augustus ; and
when I tell you that in the present critical state of
our cause his desertion of us would be fatal, I am sure
you will do anything to avert such a calamity."

" Let us meet. Miss Ellen ; let us dine together
once — I only ask once — and if I don't borrow money
from him before he takes his bedroom candle, you may
VOL. III. 62


scratch Tom Cutbill, and put him off ' the course ' for
ever. What does that impatient shrug of the
shoulders mean ? Is it as much as to say, ' Wliat a
conceited snob it is ! 'eh?"

" Oh, Mr. Cutbill, you couIdn;t possibly "

" Couldn't I though ? And don't I know well
that I am just as vain of my little talents, — as your
friend, Miss Julia, called them, — as you and others
are ready to ridicule them ; but the real difference
between us after all is this : You think the world at
large is a monstrous clever creature, with great
acuteness, great discrimination and great delicacy ;
and I know it to be a great overgrown bully, mistaking
half it hears, and blundering all it says, so that any
one, I don't care who he is, that will stand out from
the crowd in life, think his own thoughts and guide
his own actions, may just do what he pleases with
that unwieldy old monster, making it believe it's the
master, all the while it is a mere slave and a drudge.
There's another shrug of the shoulders. "Why not
say it out — you're a puppy, Tom Cutbill ?"

" First of all it wouldn't be polite, and secondly — "

" Never mind the secondly. It's quite enough

for me to see that I have not convinced you, nor am I


half as clever a fellow as I think myself ; and do you
Imow, you're the first I ever knew dispute the

" But I do not. I subscrihe to it implicitly ; my
presence here, at this moment, attests how I believe
it. It is exactly because I regard Mr. Cutbill as the
cleverest person I know — the very ablest to extricate
one from a difficulty — that I have come to him this

"My honour is satisfied!" said he, laying his
hand on his heart, and bowing with a gi-and serious-

'' And now," said Nelly, hurriedly, for her patience

had well nigh given in, '' what's to be done ? I have
a project of my o^\ti, but I don't know whether you
would agree to it."

'' Not agree to a project of yours ! What do you
take me for, Miss Ellen '? "

" My dear Mr. Cutbill, I have exhausted all my
compliments. I can only say I endorse all the
preceding Vtith compound interest."

Slightly piqued by the half sarcasm of her manner,
he simply said — '' And your project ; what is it ?"

'' That you should be a close prisoner for the


short time Mr. Seclley stays here ; sufficiently near to
be able to communicate and advise with jon — for we
count much on your counsel — and yet totally safe
from even the chance of meeting him. There is a
small chapel about a mile off, where the family
confessor used to live, in two neat little rooms
adjoining the building. These shall be made com-
fortable for you. We mil take care — I will — that
you are not starved ; and some of us will be sure to
go and see you every day, and report all that goes on.
I foresee a number of details, but I have no time
now to discuss them ; the great point is, do you
agree ? "

" This is Miss Julia's scheme, is it not ? "
*' No, I assure 3'ou ; on my word it is mine."
'' But you have concerted it with her ? "
" Not even that ; she knows nothing of it."
" With whom, then, have you talked it over ? "
" With none, save Mr. Cutbill."
"In that case, Mr. Cutbill complies," said he,
with a theatrical air of condescension.
''You will go there?"
" Yes, I promise it."
" And remain close prisoner till I liberate you ? "


"Everything you command."

" I thank you much, and I am very proud of my
success," said she, offering her hand. '' Shall I own
to you," said she, after a pause, "that my brother's
nerves have been so shaken by the agitation he has
passed through, and by the continual pressure of
thinking that it is his own personal fault that this
battle has been so ill contested, that the faintest show
of censure on him now would be more than he could
bear. I have little doubt that the cause is lost, and
I am only eager that 2^oor Augustus should not feel
it was lost through him.'^

She was gi'eatly agitated as she spoke, and, with
a hurried farewell, she turned and left him.




When the rest of the party had left the dinner-room,
and Augustus Bramleigh and Mr. Sedley found them-
selves alone, a silence of several minutes ensued ; a
very solemn pause each felt it, well kno^ving that at
such a moment the slightest word may be the signal
for disclosures which involve a destiny. Up to this,
nothing had been said on either side of *' the cause ; "
and though Sedley had travelled across Europe to
speak of it, he waited with decorous reserve till his
host should invite him to the topic.

Bramleigh, an awkward and timid man at the best
of times, was still more so when he found himself in
a situation in which he should give the initiative. As
the entertainer of a guest, too, he fancied that to
introduce his personal interests as matter of conver-


sation would be in bad taste, and so lie fidgeted, and
passed tlie decanters across the table with a nervous
impatience, trying to seem at his ease, and stammer-
ing out at last some unmeaning question about the
other's journey.

Sedley repHed to the inquiry vdth. a cold and
measured politeness, as a man might to a matter
purely irrelevant.

" The Continent is comparatively new ground to
you, Mr. Sedley?"

"Entirely so. I have never been beyond Brussels
before this."

" Late years have nearly effaced national peculi-
arities. One crosses frontiers now, and never
remembers a change of country."

" Quite so."

" The money, the coinage, perhaps, is the great
reminder after all."

" Money is the gi-eat reminder of almost every-
thing everywhere, sir," said Sedley, with a stern and
decisive tone.

'•'I am afraid you are right," said Bramleigh, with
a faint sigh, and now they seemed to stand on the
brink of a precipice, and look over.


" What news have you for me ? " said he at last,
gulping as he spoke.

"None to cheer, nothing to give encouragement.
The discovery at Castello will ensure them a verdict.
We cannot dispute the marriage, it was solemnized
in all form and duly witnessed. The birth of the
child w^as also carefully authenticated — there isn't a
flaw in the registry, and they'll take care to remind
us on the second trial of how freely we scattered our
contemptuous sarcasms on the illegitimacy of this
connexion on the first record."

** Is the case hopeless then ? "

" Nothing is hopeless where a jury enters, but it
is only short of hopeless. Kelson of course says he
is sure, and perhaps so should I, in his place. Still
they might disagree again : there's a strong repug-
nance felt by juries against dispossessing an old
occupant. All can feel the hardship of his case, and
the sympathy for him goes a great way."

" Still this would only serve to protract matters,
— they'd bring another action."

" Of course they w^ould, and Kelson has money! "

" I declare I see no benefit in continuing a hope-
less contest."


" Don't be hopeless then, that's the remedy."

Bramleigh made a slight gesture of impatience,
and slight as it was, Sedley observed it.

** You have never treated this case as your father
would have done, Mr. Bramleigh. He had a rare
spirit to face a contest. I remember one day hinting
to him that if this claim could be backed by money it
would be a very formidable suit, and his answer was :
— ' When I strike my flag, Sedley, the enemy will
find the prize was scarcely worth fighting for.' I
knew what he meant was, he'd have mortgaged the
estate to every shilling of its value, before there arose
a question of his title."

" I don't believe it, sir ; I tell you to your face I
don't believe it," cried Bramleigh, passionately. '' 'My
father was a man of honour, and never would have
descended to such duplicity."

" My dear sir, I have not come twelve hundi-ed
miles to discuss a question in ethics, nor will I risk
myseK in a discussion with you. I repeat, sir, that
had your father lived to meet this contention, we
should not have found ourselves where we are to-day.
Your father was a man of considerable capacity,
Mr. Bramleigh. He conducted a large and important


house with consummate skill ; brought up his familj^
handsomely ; and had he been spared, would have
seen every one of them in positions of honour and

" To every word in his praise I subscribe heartily
and gratefully;" and there was a tremor in his voice
as Bramleigh spoke.

'• He has been spared a sad spectacle, I must
say," continued Sedley. " With the exception of your
sister who married that viscount, ruin — there's only
one word for it — ruin has fallen upon you all."

" Will you forgive me if I remind you that you
are my la-^yer, Mr. Sedley, not my chaplain nor my

'' Lawyer Avithout a suit ! Why, my dear sir,
there will be soon nothing to litigate. You and all
belonging to you were an imposition and a fraud.
There, there ! It's nothing to grow angry over ;
how could 3-0U or any of you suspect your father's
legitimacy ? You accepted the situation as you found
it, as all of us do. That you regarded Pracontal as
a cheat was no fault of yours, — he says so himself.
I have seen him and talked with him ; he was at
Kelson's when I called last vreek, and old Kelson


said, — • My client is iu the next room : lie says you
treated him rudely one day he went to your of&ce.
I wish you'd step in and say a ci\-il word or two. It
would do good, Sedley. I tell you, it would do
good ! ' and he laid such a significant stress on the
word, that I walked straight in and said how veiy
sorry I felt for having expressed myself in a way that
could offend him. 'At all events, sir,' said I, 'if
you will not accept my apolog}' for myself, let me
beseech you to separate the interest of my client from
my rudeness, and let not Mr. Bramleigh be pre-
judiced because his lawyer was ill mannered.' ' It's
aU forgotten, never to be recalled,' said he, shaking
my hand. 'Has Kelson told you my intentions
towards Bramleigh '? '

" ' He has told me nothing,' said I.

" ' Tell him, Kelson. I can't make the matter
plain as you can. Tell Mr. Sedley what we were
thinking of.'

" In one word, sir, his plan was a partition of the
property. He would neither disturb your title nor
dispute your name. You should be the Bramleighs
of CasteUo, merely paying him a rentcharge of four
thousand a year. Kelson suggested more, but he


said a hundred thousand francs was ample, and he
made no scruple of adding that he never was master
of as many sous in his life.

" ' And what does Kelson say to this ? '
asked I.

*' * Kelson says what Sedley would say — that it is
a piece of Quixotism worthy of Hanwell.'

" ' Ma foi/ said Pracontal, ' it is not the first time
I have fired in the air.'

*' We talked for two hours over the matter. Part
of what Pracontal said was good sound sense, well
reasoned and acutely expressed ; part was sentimental
rubbish, not fit to listen to. At last I obtained leave
to submit the whole afiair to you, not by letter — that
they wouldn't have — but personally, and there, in one
word, is the reason of my journey.

" Before I left town, however, I saw the Attorney-
General, whose opinion I had already taken on certain
points of the case. He was a personal friend of your
father, and willingly entered upon it. When I told
him Pracontal's proposal he smiled dubiously, and
said, ' Why, it's a confession of defeat ; the man
must know his case will break down, or he never
would ofi'er such conditions.'

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