Charles James Lever.

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

. (page 14 of 16)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly (Volume 3) → online text (page 14 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

scattered about.

'' Have you got good eyes, Miss L 'Estrange ? "
said Sedley, as he raised his spectacles, and turned a
peering glance towards her.

" Good eyes ? " repeated she, in some astonish-

" Yes ; I don't mean pretty eyes, or expressive
eyes. I mean, have you keen sight ? "

" I think I have."

" That's what I need from you at this moment ;
here are some papers with erasures and re -writings,
and corrections in many places, and it will take all
your acuteness to distinguish between the several
contexts. Aided by a little knowledge of Latin, I
have myself discovered some passages of considerable
interest. I was half the night over them ; but with
your help, I count on accomplishing more in half
an hour."

While he spoke, he continued to arrange papers


iu little packets before him, and, last of all, took
from the box a painter's pallet and several brushes,
along with two or three of those quaintly shaped
knives men use in fresco-painting.

" Have you ever heard of the painter Giacomo
Lami'? " asked he.

" Of course I have. I know the whole story in
which he figures. Mr. Bramleigh has told it to me."

" These are his tools. With thesfe ue accom-
plished those gi-eat works which have made him
famous among modern artists, and by his will — at
least I have spelled out so much — they were buried
along with him."

" And where was he buried *? "

*' Here ! here in Cattaro ; his last work was the
altar-piece of the little chapel of the villa."

" "Was there ever so strange a coincidence ! "

" The world is full of them, for it is a very small
world after all. This old man, driven from place to
place by police persecutions — for he had been a gi-eat
conspirator in early life, and never got rid of the
taste for it — came here as a sort of refuge, and
painted the frescoes of the chapel at the price of
being buried at the foot of the altar, which was


denied liim afterwards; for they only buried there
this box, with his painting utensils and his few
papers. It is to these papers I wish now to direct
your attention, if good luck will have it that some
of them may be of use. As for me, I can do little
more than guess at the contents of most of them."

" Now these," continued he, *' seem to me bills
and accounts ; are they such ? "

" Yes, these are notes of expenses incurred in
travelling ; and he would seem to have been always
on the road. Here is a curious note : * Nuremberg : .
I like this old town much; its staid propriety and
quietness suit me. I feel that I could work here ;
work at something greater and better than these
daily efforts for mere bread ; but why after all should
I do more ? I have none now to live for — none
to work for ! Enrichetta, and her boy, gone ! and
Cariotta ' "

" Wait a moment," said the lawj^er, laying his
hand on hers. '' Enrichetta was the wife of Montagu
Bramleigh, and this boy their son."

'^ Yes, and subsequently the father of Pracontal."

" And how so, if he died in boyhood ? " muttered
he ; " read on."


" ' Now, Carlotta has deserted me ! and for
whom ? For the man who betrayed me ! for that
Niccolo Baldassare who denounced five of us at
Verona, and whose fault it is not that I have not
died by the hangman.' "

" This is very important ; a light is breaking on
me through this cloud, too, that gives me hope."

"I see what you mean. You think that pro-
bably "

*' No matter what I think, search on through the
papers ; what is this ? here is a dravnng. Is it a
mausoleum ? "

" Yes ; and the memorandum says : ' If I ever
be rich enough, I shall place this over Enrichetta's
remains at Louvain, and have her boy's body laid
beside her. Poor child, that, if spared, might have
inherited a princely state and fortune, he lies now in
the pauper burial-ground at St. Michel. They let
me, in consideration of what I had done in repairing
their frescoes, place a wooden cross over him. I cut
the inscription with my own hands — G. L. B., aged
four years ; the last hope of a shattered heart.' "

" Does not this strengthen your impression ? "
asked Julia, turning and confronting him.


" Aged four years ; he was born, I think, in '^9
— the 3"ear after the rebellion in Ireland ; this brings
us nigh the date of his death. One moment. Let
me note this." He hurriedly scratched off a few
lines. '' St. Michel; where is St. Michel? It may
be a church in some town."

" Or it may be that village in Savoy, at the foot
of the Alps."

" True ! ^Ye shall try there."

" These are without interest ; they are notes
of sums paid on the road, or received for his
labour. All were evidently leaves of a book and
torn out."

" What is this about Carlotta here ?"

" Ah, yes. ' With this I send her all I had
saved and put by. I knew he would ill treat her;
but to take her boy from her — her one joy and
comfort in life — and to send him away she knows
not whither, his very name changed, is more than
I believed possible. She says that Niccolo has
been to England, and found means to obtain money
from M. B.' "

*' Montagu Bramleigh," muttered Sedley ; but
she read on : — " ' This is too base ; but it explains


why he stole all the letters in poor Enrichetta's box,
and the papers that told of her marriage.' "

''Are we on the track now?" cried tlue old
lawyer, triumphantly. " This Baldassare was the
father of the claimant, clearly enough. Enrichetta's
child died, and the sister's husband substituted
himself in his place."

"But this Niccolo who married Carlotta," said
Julia, "must have been many years older than
Enrichetta's son would have been had he lived."

" Who was to detect that '? Don't you see that
he never made personal application to the Bram-
leighs. He only addressed them by letter, which,
knowing all Enrichetta's story, he could do without
risk or danger. Kelson couldn't have been aware of
this," muttered he; "but he had some misgirings —
what were they ? "

AMiile the lawyer sat in deep thought, his face
bm'ied in his hands, Julia hurriedly turned over the
papers. There were constant references to Carlotta's
boy, whom the old man seemed to have loved
tenderly ; and different jottings showed how he had
kept his birthday, which fell on the 4th of August.
He was born at Zurich, where Baldassare worked as


a watchmaker, his trade being, however, a mere mask
to conceal his real occupation, that of conspirator.

''No," said Sedley, raising his head at last,
" Kelson knew nothing of it. I'm certain he did
not. It was a cleverly planned scheme throughout ;
and all the more so by suffering a whole generation
to lapse before litigating the claim."

"But what is this here?" cried Julia, eagerly.
" It is only a fragment, but listen to it : — ' There is
no longer a doubt about it. Baldassare's first wife —
a certain Marie de Pracontal — is alive, and living
with her parents at Aix, in Savoy. Four of the
committee have denounced him, and his fate is

" ' I had begun a letter to Bramleigh, to expose
the fraud this scoundrel would pass upon him ;
but why should I spare him who killed my child ? ' "

" First of all," said Sedley, reading from his
notes, "we have the place and date of Enrichetta's
death; secondly, the burial-place of Godfrey Lami
Bramleigh set down as St. Michel, perhaps in Savoy.
We have then the fact of the stolen papers, the
copies of registries, and other documents. The
marriage of Carlotta is not specified, but it is clearly


evident, and we can even fix the time ; and, last of
all, we have this second wife, whose name, Pracontal,
was always borne by the present claimant."

"And are yon of opinion that this same
Pracontal was a party to the fi'aud?" asked Julia.

"I am not certain," muttered he. "It is not
too clear; the point is doubtful."

" But what have we here ? It is a letter, with a
post-mark on it." She read, "Leghorn, February
8, 1812." It was addressed to the Illustrissimo
Maestro Lami, Porta Eossa, Florence, and signed
N. Baldassare. It was but a few lines, and ran
thus : —

" Seeing that Carlotta and her child now sleep at
Pisa, why deny me your interest for my boy Anatole?
You know well to what he might succeed, and how.
Be unforgiving to me if you will. I have borne as
hard things even as your hatred, but the child that
has never wronged you deserves no part of this hate.
I want but little from you ; some dates, a few names
— that I know j'ou remember, — and last of all, my
mind refreshed on a few events which I have heard
you talk of again and again. Nor is it for me that
you will do this, for I leave Europe within a week, — •


I shall return to it no more. Answer this Yes or
No, at once, as I am about to quit this place. You
know me well enough to know that I never threaten
though I sometimes counsel, and my counsel now is,
consent to the demand of — N. Baldassake."

Underneath was written in Lami's hand, — "I
will carry this to my grave, that I may curse him who
wrote it here and hereafter."

" Now the story stands out complete," said Julia,
" and this Pracontal belonged to neither Bramleigh
nor Lami."

'* Make me a literal translation of that letter,"
said Sedley. "It is of more moment than almost
all we have yet read. I do not mean now. Miss
Julia," said he, seeing she had already commenced
to write ; "for we have these fragments still to look

While the laT\yer occupied himself with drawing
up a memorandum for his own guidance, Julia, by
his directions, went carefully over the remaining
papers : few were of any interest, but these she
docketed accurately, and with such brevity and
clearness combined, that Sedley, little given to com-
pliments, could not but praise her skill. It was not


till the day began to decline that their labours drew
to a close. It was a day of intense attention and
great work, but only when it was over did she feel
the exhaustion of overwTought powers.

''You are very, very tired," said Sedley. "It
was too thoughtless of me ; I ought to have remem-
bered how unused you must be to fatigue like this."

"But I couldn't have left it, the interest was
intense, and nothing would have persuaded me to
leave the case without seeing how it ended."

" It will be necessary to authenticate these," said
he, lading his hand on the papers, " and then we
must 'show how we came by them."

"Jack can tell you this," said she; and now her
strength failed her outright, and she lay back, over-
come, and almost fainting. Sedley hurriedly rang
for help, but before any one arrived Julia rallied, and
wdth a faint smile said, " Don't make a fuss about
one. You have what is really important to occupy
you. I will go and lie down till evening ; " and so
she left him.




Julia found herself unable to come down to dinner,
and Mr. Sedley had to confess that he had overtaxed
her strength and imposed too far upon her zeal.
*'To tell truth," added he, ''I forgot she was not
a colleague. So shrewd and purpose-like wel-e aU
her remarks, such aptitude she displayed in rejecting
what was valueless, and such acuteness in retaining
all that was really important, it w^ent clean out of my
head that I was not dealing with a brother of the
craft, instead of a veiy charming and beautiful young

'' And you really have fallen upon papers of im-
portance?" asked Nelly, eagerly; for Julia had
already, in answer to the same question, said, "Mr.
Sedley has pledged me to silence."

" Of the last importance, Miss Bramleigh." He


paused for an instant, and then added, '* I am well
aware that I see nothing but friends, almost members
of one family, around this table, but the habits of
my calling impose reseiTe ; and, besides, I am un-
willing to make revelations until, by certain inquiries,
I can affirm that they may be relied on.''

''Oh, ^h'. Sedley, if you have a gleam, even a
gleam of hope, do give it us. Don't you think our
long-suffering and patience have made us worthy
of it ? "

" Stop, Xelly," cried Augustus, '' I will have no
appeals of this kind. Mr. Sedley knows oui* anxieties,
and if he does not }ield to them he has his own good

"I don't see that," broke in Jack. ''We are
not asking to hear our neighbour's secrets, and I
take it we are of an age to be entrusted Ti^dth our

" You speak sharply, sii*," said Sedley, " but you
speak well. I would only observe that the most
careful and cautious people have been known to write
letters, very confidential letters, which somehow get
bruited about, so that clues are discovered and infer-
ences traced which not unfi-equently have given the


most serious difficulties to those engaged in in-

" Have no fears on that score, Mr. Sedley," said
Jack; "there are not four people in Europe at this
moment with fewer correspondents. I believe I
might say that the roof of this house covers our
whole world."

''Jack is right there," added Augustus. "If
we don't write to The Times or the Post, I don't
see to whom we are to tell our news."

" George hasn't even a pulpit here to expound
us from," cried Jack, laughingly.

" You have an undoubted right to know what
is strictly your own concern. The only question is,
shall I be best consulting your interests by telling

" Out with it, by all means," said Jack. " The
servants have left the room now, and here we are
in close committee."

Sedley looked towards Augustus, who replied by
a gesture of assent ; and the lawyer, taking his
spectacles from his pocket, said, "I shall simply
read you the entry of my note-book. Much of it
will surprise and much more gratify you; but let


me entreat that if you have am' doubts to resolve,
or questions to put, you ^dll reserve them till I have
finished. I will only say that for everjihing I shall
state as fact there appears to me to he abundant
proofs, and where I mention what is simply con-
jecture I will say so. You remember my condition,
then ? I am not to be interrupted."

''Agi-eed," cried Jack, as though replying for
the most probable defaulter. '' I'll not utter a word,
and the others are all discretion."

" The case is this," said Sedley. '* Montagu
Bramleigh, of Cossenden Manor, married Enrichetta,
daughter of Giacomo Lami, the painter. The
marriage was celebrated at the village church of
Portshannon, and duly registered. They separated
soon after — she retiring to Holland with her father,
who had compromised himself in the Irish rebeUion
of '98. A son was born to this marriage, christened
and registered in the Protestant church at Louvain
as Godfi'ey Lami Bramleigh. To his christening
Bramleigh was entreated to come, but under various
pretexts he excused himself, and sent a costly present
for the occasion; his letters, however, breathed
nothing but affection, and fully recognized the boy



as his son and liis lieir. Captain Bramleigh is, I
know, impatient at the length of these details, but
I can't help it. Indignant at the treatment ,of his
daughter, Lami sent back the gift with a letter of
insulting meaning. Several letters were interchanged
of anger and recrimination; and Enrichetta, whose
health had long been failing, sunk under the suffer-
ing of her desertion and died. Lami left Holland,
and repaired to Germany, carrying the child with
him. He was also accompanied by a younger
daughter, Carlotta, who, at the time I refer to,
might have been sixteen or seventeen years of age.
Lami held no intercourse with Bramleigh from this
date, nor, so far as we know, did Bramleigh take
measures to learn about the child — how he grew
up, or where he was. Amongst the intimates of
Lami's family was a man whose name is not un-
familiar to newspaper readers of some thirty or forty
years back — a man who had figured in various
conspiracies, and contrived to escape scatheless,
where his associates had paid the last penalty of
their crimes. This man became the suitor of
Carlotta, and won her aifections, although Giacomo
neither liked nor trusted Niccolo Baldassare "


" Stop there," cried Jack, rising, and leaning
eagerly across the table ; '' say that name again."

" Niccolo Baldassare.*'

"My old companion — my comrade at the galleys,"
exclaimed Jack; ''we were locked to each other,
wrist and ankle, for eight months."

" He lives then ? "

" I should think he does ; the old beggar is as
stout and hale as any one here. I can't guess his
age, but I'll answer for his vigour."

" This will be all important hereafter," said Sedley,
making a note. " Now to my narrative. From Lami,
Baldassare learned the story of Enrichetta's unhappy
marriage and death, and heard how the child, then a
playful little boy of three years or so, was the rightful
heir of a vast fortune, — a claim the grandfather firmty
resolved to prosecute at some future day. The hope
was, however, not destined to sustain him, for the
boy caught a fever and died. His burial-place is
mentioned, and his age, four years."

"So that," cried Augustus, "the claim became
extinct with him ? "

" Of course ; for though Montagu Bramleigh remar-
ried, it was not till six years after his first wife's death."


''And our rights are unassailable ? " cried Nelly,

''Your estates are safe; at least they will be

" And who is Pracontal de Bramleigh ? " asked

" I will tell you. Baldassare succeeded in
winning Carlotta's heart, and persuaded her to
elope with him. She did so, carrjdng with her
all the presents Bramleigh had formerly given to
her sister — some rings of great price, and an old
watch with the Bramleigh arms in brilliants, among
the number. But these were not all ; she also
took the letters and documents that established her
marriage, and a copy of the registration. I must
hasten on, for I see impatience on every side. He
broke the heart of this poor girl, who died, and was
buried with her little boy in the same grave, leaving
old Lami desolate and childless. By another marriage,
and by a wife still living, Marie Pracontal, Baldassare
had a son ; and he bethought him, armed as he was
with papers and documents, to prefer the claim to
the Bramleigh estates for this youth ; and had even
the audacity to ask Lami's assistance to the fraud,


and to threaten him vdih his vengeance if he hetrayed

" So perfectly propped was the pretension hy
circumstances of actual events — Xiccolo knew every-
thing — that Bramleigh not only sent several sums of
money to stifle the demand, but actually despatched
a confidential person abroad to see the claimant, and
make some compromise with him ; for it is abun-
dantly evident that Montagu Bramleigh only dreaded
the scandal and the eclat such a story would create,
and had no fears for the title to his estates, he all
along believing that there were circumstances in
the marriage with Enrichetta which would show
it to be illegal, and the issue consequently ille-

" I must say, I think our respected grandfather,"
said Augustus, gravely, " does not figure handsomely
in this story."

" With the single exception of old Lami," cried
Jack, '' they were a set of rascals — every man of

*'And is this the way 3'ou speak of your dear
friend Niccolo Baldassare ? " asked Nelly.

*'He was a capital fellow at the galleys; but I


suspect lie'd prove a very shady acquaintance in more
correct company."

^'And, Mr. Sedley, do you really say that all
this can be proven ? " cried Nelly. " Do j'ou believe
it all yourself?"

" Every word of it. I shall test most of it within
a few days. I have already telegraphed to London
for one of the clever investigators of registries and
records. I have ample means of tracing most of the
events I need. These papers of old Lami's are full
of small details ; they form a closer biography than
most men leave behind them."

" There was, however, a marriage of my
grandfather with Enrichetta Lami ? '.' asked Au-

"We give them that," cried the la\\7er, who
fancied himself already instructing counsel. '' We
contest nothing — notice, registry, witnesses, all are
as legal as they could wish. The girl was Mrs.
Bramleigh, and her son Montagu Bramleigh's heir ;
death, however, carried away both, and the claim fell
with them. That these people will risk a trial now
is more than I can believe; but if they should, we
will be prepared for them. They shall be indicted


before they leave the court, and Count Pracontal de
Bramleigh be put in the dock for forgery."

"No such thing, Sedley," broke in Bramleigh,
vriih an energy very rare with him. " I am well
inclined to beUeve that this young man was no party
to the fraud — he has been duped throughout; nor
can I forget the handsome terms he extended to us
when our fortune looked darkest."

" A generosity on which late events have thrown
a very ugly light," muttered Sedley.

'' My brother is right. I'll be sworn he is," cried
Jack. " We should be utterly unworthy of the good
luck that has befallen us, if the first use v^e made of
it was to crush another."

" If your doctrines were to prevail, sir, it would
be a very puzzling world to live in," said Sedley,

" We'd manage to get on with fewer lawyers,

" Mr. Sedley," said Nelly, mildly, " we are all
too happy and too gratified for this unlooked-for
deliverance to have a thought for what is to cause
suffering anywhere. Let us, I entreat you, have the
full enjoyment of this gi-eat happiness."


*' Then we are probably to include tlie notable
Mr. Cutbill in this act of indemnity ? " said Sedley,
sneeringly. .

"I should think we would, sir," replied Jack.
"Without the notable Mr. Cutbill's aid we should
never have chanced on those papers you have just
quoted to us."

"Has he been housebreaking again?" asked
Sedley, with a grin.

" I protest," interposed Bramleigh, " if the
good fairy who has been so beneficent to us were
only to see us sparring and wrangling in this fashion,
she might well think fit to withdraw her gift."

" Oh, here's Julia," cried Nelly ; " and all will
go right now."

""Well," said Julia, "has any one moved the
thanks of the house to Mr. Sedley ? for if not, I'm
quite ready to do it. I have my speech prepared."

" Move ! move ! " cried several together.

" I first intend to have a little dinner," said she ;
"but I have ordered it in the small dining-room;
and you are perfectly welcome, any or all of you, to
keep me company, if you like."

To follow the conversation that ensued would be


little more than again to go over a story, whicli we feel
lias been already impressed with tiresome reiteration
on the reader. TMiatever had failed in Sedley's nar-
rative, Julia's ready wit and quick intelligence had
supplied by conjecture, and they talked on till late
into the night, bright gleams of future projects
shooting like meteors across the placid heaven of their
enjoyment, and making all bright around them.

Before they parted it was arranged that each
should take his separate share of the inquiry, for
there were registries to be searched, dates confirmed
in several places ; and while L'Estrange was to set
out for Louvain, and Jack for Savoy, Sedley himself
took charge of the weightier question to discover
St. Michel, and prove the burial of Godfrey Bram-




When the time came for the several members of the
family at the villa to set out on the search after evi-
dence, Jack, whose reluctance to leave home — he called
it '' home " — increased with every day, induced Cutbill
to go in his stead, a change which even Mr. Sedley
himself was forced to admit was not detrimental to
the public service.

Cutbill's mission was to Aix, in Savoy, to see and
confer with Marie Pracontal, the first wife of Baldas-
sare. He arrived in the nick of time, for only on
that same morning had Baldassare himself entered
the town, in his galley-slave uniform, to claim his

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly (Volume 3) → online text (page 14 of 16)