Charles James Lever.

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

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Jack, tai-tly, for he resented hotly whatever seemed
to annoy Julia.

"Tom Cutbill is shunted off the line, I see,"
said Cutbill, mournfully.

"If he were," cried Augustus, " we should be
about the most worthless set of people Hying. We
owe him much, and like him even more."

" Xow, that's what I call handsome," resumed
Cutbill, "and if it wasn't a moment when you are
all thinking of things a precious sight more inter-
esting than T. C, I'd ask permission to return my
acknowledgments in a speech."

" Oh, don't make a speech, Mr. Cutbill," said

" No, ma'am. I'll reserve myself till I return
thanks for the bridesmaids."

"Will no one suppress him?" said Julia, in a

" Oh, I am so glad you are to live at CasteUo,
dearest," said Nelly, as she di-ew Julia to her, and
kissed her. " You are just the chatelaine to be-
come it."


" There 'is such a thing as losing one's head,
Nelly, out of sheer delight, and when I think I shall
soon be one of you I run this risk ; but tell me,
dearest" — and here she whispered her lowest — " why
is not our joy perfect ? Why is poor George to be
left out of all this happiness ? "

"You must ask him that," muttered she, hiding
her head on the other's shoulder.

" And may I, dearest?" cried Julia, rapturously.
*' Oh, Nelly, if there be one joy in the world I would
prize above all it would be to know you were doubly
my sister — doubly bound to me in affection. See,
darling, see — even as we are speaking — George and
your brother have walked away together. Oh, can it
be — can it be? Yes, dearest," cried she, throwing
her arm around her; "your brother is holding ;him
by the hand, and the tears are falling along George's
cheek; his happiness is assured, and you are his

Nelly's chest heaved violently, and two low deep
sobs burst from her, but her face was buried in Julia's
bosom, and she never uttered a word. And thus
Julia led her gently away down one of the lonely
alleys of the garden, till they were lost to sight.


Lovers are proyerbially the veiy worst of company
for the outer '\\-orlcl, nor is it easy to say whicli is
more intolerable — their rapture or their reserve. The
overweening selfishness of the tender passion con-
ciliates no s}TQpathy; veiy fortunately, it is quite
indifferent to it. If it were not all- sufficing, it would
not be that glorious dehrium that believes the present
to be eternal, and sees a world peopled only by two.

What should we gain therefore, if we loitered in
such company ? They would not tell us their secrets
— they would not care to hear ours. Let it be
enough to say that, after some dark and anxious
days in life, fortune once more shone out on those
whom we saw so prosperous when first we met them.
If they were not very brilhant nor veiy good, they
were probably — with defects of temper and short-
comings in high resolve — pretty much like the best
of those we know in life. Augustus, with a certain
small vanity that tormented him into thinking that he
had a lesson to read to the world, and that he was a
much finer creature than he seemed or looked, was
really a generously minded and warm-hearted fellow,
who loved his neighbour — meaning his brother or his
sister — a great deal better than himself.


Nelly was about as good as— I don't think better
than — nineteen out of every twenty honestly brought-
up girls, who, not seduced by the luxuries of a very
prosperous condition, come early to feel and to know
what money can and what it cannot do.

Jack had many defects of hot temper and hasti-
ness, but on the whole was a fine sailor-like fellow,
carrying with him through life the dashing hardihood
that he would have displayed in a breach or on a
boarding, and thus occasionally exuberant, where
smaller and weaker traits would have sufficed. Such
men, from time to time, make troublesome first lieu-
tenants, but women do not dislike them, and there
is an impression abroad that they make good hus-
bands, and that all the bluster they employ towards
the world subsides into the mildest possible murmur
beside the domestic hearth-rug.

Marion was not much more or much less than we
have seen her ; and though she became, by the great
and distinguished services of her husband, a countess ,
she was not without a strange sentiment of envy for a
certain small vicarage in Herts, where rosy children
jomped before the latticed porch, beneath which sat a
very blooming and beautiful mother, and worked as


her husband read for her. A very simple Kttle home
sketch ; but it was the page of a hfe where all har-
monized and all went smoothly on : one of those lives
of small ambitions and humble pleasures which are
nearer Paradise than anything this world gives us.

Temple Bramleigh was a secretary of legation,
and lived to see himself — in tlie uniformity of his
manuscript, the precision of his docketing, and the
exactness of his sealing-wax, — the pet of " the
Office." Acolytes, who swung incense before per-
manent secretaries, or held up the vestments of
chief clerks, and who heard the vrords which drop
from the high priests of foolscap, declared Temple
was a rising man ; and with a brother-in-law in
the Lords, and a brother rich enough to contest
a seat in the Lower House, one whose future
pointed to a high post and no small distinction :
for, happily for us, we live in an age where
self-assertion is as insufficient in public life as
self-righteousness in religion, and our merits are
always best cared for by imputed holiness.

The story of these volumes is of the Bramleighs,
and I must not presume to suppose that my reader
interests himself in the fate of those secondaiw


personages who figure in the picture. Lady Augusta,
however, deserves a passing mention, but perhaps
her own words will be more descriptive than any
of mine ; and I cannot better conclude than with the
letter she wrote to Nelly, and which ran thus : —

" Villa Altieri, Eome.

*' Dearest Child, —

"How shall I ever convey to you one-half the
transport, the joy, the ecstasy I am filled with by this
glorious news ! There is no longer a question of
law or scandal or exposure. Your estates are your
own, and your dear name stands, forth untarnished
and splendid, as it has ever done. It is only as I
bethink me of what you and dearest Augustus and
darling Jack must have gone through that I spare
you the narrative of my own sufierings, my days of
sorrow, my nights of crying. It was indeed a
terrific trial to us all, and those horrid stories of
hair turning white from grief made me rush to
the glass every morning at daybreak with a degree of
terror that I know well I shall never be able to throw
off for many a year : for I can assure you, dearest,
that the washes are a mistake, and most pernicious !
They are made of what chemists call Ethiops


mineral, which is as explosive as nitro-glycerine ;
and once penetrating the pores, the head becomes,
as Doctor Robertson saj's, a ' charged shell.' Can
you fancy anj-thing as horrible ? Incipient greyness
is best treated with silver powder, which, when the
eyelashes are properly darkened at the hase, gives a
very charming lustre to the expression. On no
account use gold powder.

" It was a Mr. Longworth, a neighbour of yours,
whom you don't know, brought me the first news ;
but it was soon all over Rome, for his father — I
mean Pracontal's — was formerly much employed by
Antonelli, and came here with the tidings that the
mine had exploded, and blown up only themselves.
A very dreadful man his father, with a sabre- scar
down the cheek and deep marks of manacles on
his wrists and ankles ; but wouldn't take money
from the Cardinal, nor anything but a passport.
And they went away, so the poHce say, on foot,
P. dressed in some horrid coarse clothes like his
father ; and oh, darling, how handsome he was, and
how distinguished-looking ! It was young France,
if you like; but, after all, don't we all like the
Boulevard de Ghent better than the Faubourg St.


G-ermain ? He was very witty, too ; that is, he
was a master of a language where wit comes easy,
and could season talk with those nice little flatteries
which, like fioriture in singing, heighten the charm
but never impair the force of the melody. And
then, how he sang ! Imagine Mario in a boudoir
with a cottage piano accompaniment, and then you
have it. It is very hard to know anji-hing about
men, but, so far as I can see, he was not a cheat;
he believed the whole stupid story, and fancied that
there had been a painter called Lami, and a beautiful
creature who married somebody and was the mother
of somebody else. He almost made me believe it,
too ; that is, it bored me ineffably, and I used to
doze over it, and when I awoke I wasn't quite sure
whether I dreamed he was a man of fortune or that
such was a fact. Do you think he'll shoot himself?
I hope he'll not shoot himself. It would throw
such a lasting gloom over the whole incident that one
could never fall back upon it in memory without deep
sorrow; but men are so essentially selfish I don't
think that this consideration would weigh with him.

'' Some malicious people here circulated a story
that he had made me an offer of marriage, and that


I had accepted it. Just as tliey said some months
ago that I had gone over to Rome, and here I am
still, as the police-sheet calls me, a ' Widow and a
Protestant.' My character for eccentricity exposes
me naturally to these kinds of scandal ; hut on the
other hand, it saves me from the trouble of refuting
or denying them. So that I shall take no notice
whatever either of my conversion or my marriage,
and the dear world — never ill-natured when it is
useless — will at last accept the fact, small and
insignificant though it be, just as creditors take half-
a-crown in the pound after a banki'uptcy.

*' And now, dearest, is it too soon, is it too
importunate, or is it too indelicate to tell your
brother that, though I'm the most ethereal of
creatures, I require to eat occasionally, and that,
though I am continually reproved for the lowness of
my dresses, I still do wear some clothes. In a word,
dearest, I am in dire poverty, and to give me simply
a thousand a year is to say, be a casual pauper. No
one — my worst enemy — and I suppose I have a few
who hate and would despitefully use me — can say I
am extravagant. The necessaries of life, as they are
called, are the costly things, and these are what I


can perfectly well dispense with. I want its elegan-
cies, its refinements, and these one has so cheaply.
What, for instance, is the cost of the bouquet on
your dinner-table ? Certainly not more than one of
your entrees ; and it is infinitely more charming and
more pleasure-giving. My cofiee costs me no more
out of Sevres than out of a white mug with a lip
like a milk-pail; and will you tell me that the
Mocha is the same in the one as the other?
What I want is that life should be picturesque,
that its elegancies should so surround one that its
coarser, grosser elements be kept out of sight ;
and this is a cheap philosophy. My little villa here
— and nothing can be smaller — afi'ords it ; but come
and see, dearest — that is the true way — come and
see how I live. If ever there was an existence of
simple pleasures it is mine. I never receive in the
morning — I study. I either read improving books —
I'll show you some of them — or I converse with
Monsignore Galloni. We talk theology and mun-
dane things at times, and we play besique, and we
flirt a little ; but not as you would understand
flirtation. It is as though a light zephjT stiiTed the
leaves of the aflections and shook out the perfume.


but never detached a blossom nor injured a bud.
Monsignore is an adept at this game ; so serious,
and vet so tender, so spiritual, and, at the same
time, so compassionate to poor weak human nature —
which, by the way, he understands in its conflicts
with itself, its motives, and its struggles as none of
your laymen do. Not but poor Pra-contal had a very
ingenious turn, and could reconcile much that coarser
minds would have called discrepant and contra-

" So that, dearest, with less than three thousand,
or two five hundred, I most positively go to gaol.
It has occurred to me that, if none care to go over
to that house in Ireland, I might as well live there,
at least for the two or three months in the year that
the odious climate permits. As to the people, I
know they would doat on me. I feel for them very
much, and I have learned out here the true chords
their natures respond to. What do you say to this
plan ? Would it not be ecstasy if you agreed to
share it ? The cheapness of Ireland is a proverb.
I had a grand-uncle who once was Viceroy there, and
his letters show that he only spent a third of his
official income.


'' I'd like to do tliis, too, if I only knew what my
official income was. Ask Gusty this question, and
kiss every one that ought to be kissed, and give them
loves innumerable, and believe me ever your

"Doating mamma (or mamina, that's prettier),
'^Augusta Beamleigh.

" I shall write to Marion to-morrow. It will not
be as easy a task as this letter ; but I have done even
more difficult ones. So they are saying now that
Culdu£f's promotion was a mere mistake ; that there
never was such a man as Sam Rogers at all — no case
— no indemnity — no escape — no anything. dear
me, as Monsignore says, what rest have our feet once
we leave total incredulity ? "


Lcndon : Printed by Smith, Elder & Co., Old Bailey, E.G.

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