Charles James Lever.

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invalidated the claim, but still induced him to silence
the pretension by hush money."

*' And you yourself "

*' Don't ask me, my dear friend; — do not ask me
the question I see is on your lips. I have no corn-age
to confess, even to you, through how many moods
I pass eveiT day I live. At moments I hope and
firmly believe I rise above eveiy low and interested
sentiment, and determine I will do as I would be
done by; — I will go through this trial as though
it were a matter apart from me, and in which truth
and justice were my only objects. There are hours
in which I feel equal to any sacrifice, and could say
to this man : — ' There ! take it ; take all we have
in the world. 'SVe have no right to be here ; we
are beggars and outcasts. And then — I can't tell


how or why — it actually seems as if there was a real
Tempter in one's nature, lying in wait for the moment
of doubt and hesitation; but suddenly, quick as a
flash of lightning, a thought would dart across my
mind, and I would begin to canvass this and question
that ; not fairly, not honestly, mark you, but casuist-
ically and cunningly ; and worse, far worse than all
this, — actually hoping, no matter on which side lay
the right, that tve should come out victorious."

" But have jou not prejudiced your case by preci-
pitancy? They tell me that you have given the
others immense advantage by your openly declared
doubts as to your title."

" That is possible. I will not deny that I may
have acted imprudently. The compromise to which
I at first agreed struck me, on reflection, as so ignoble
and dishonourable, that I rushed just as rashly into
the opposite extreme. I felt, in fact, George, as
though I owed this man a reparation for having ever
thought of stifling his claim ; and I carried this
sentiment so far that Sedley asked me one day, in a
scornful tone, what ill my family had done me I was
so bent on ruining them ? Oh, my dear friend, if
it be a great relief to me to open my heart to you.


it is with shame I confess that I cannot tell you
truthfully how weak and unahle I often feel to keep
straight in the path I have assigned myself. How,
when some doubt of this man's right shoots across
me, I hail the hesitation like a blessing from heaven.
T\"hat I would do ; what I would endure that he
could not show his claim to be true, I dare not own.
I have tried to reverse our positions in my own mind,
and imagine I was he ; but I cannot pursue the
thought, for whenever the dread final rises before me,
and I picture to myself our ruin and destitution, I
can but think of him as a deadly implacable enemy.
This sacrifice, then, that I puqoose to make with a pure
spirit and a high honour, is too much forme. I have
not courage for that I am doing ;— but I'll do it still ! "

L 'Estrange did his utmost to rally him out of his
depression, assuring him that, as the world went, few
men would have attempted to do what he had deter-
mined on, and frankly owning, that in talking over ^
the matter with Julia they were both disposed to
regard his conduct as verging on Quixotism.

** And that is exactly the best thing people will
say of it. I am lucky if they vdH even speak so


""What's this — a telegram?" cried L'Estrange,
as the servant handed him one of those square-
shaped missives, so charged with destiny that one
really does not know whether to bless or curse the
invention, which," annihilating space, brings us so
quickly face to face with fortune.

'' Kead it, George ; I cannot," muttered Bram-
leigh, as he stood against a tree for support.

" Ten o'clock. Court-house, Navan. Jury just
come out — cannot agree to verdict — discharged. New
trial. I write post,

" Sedley."

" Thank heaven, there is at least a respite," said
Bramleigh ; and he fell on the other's shoulder, and
hid his face.

''Bear up, my poor fellow. You see that, at all
events, nothing has happened up to this. Here are
the girls coming. Let them not see you in such

" Come away, then ; come away. I can't meet
them now ; or do you go and tell Nelly what this
news is — she has seen the messenger, I'm sure."

L'Estrange met Nelly and Julia in the walk,


while Augustus hastened away iu another direction.
*' There has heen no verdict. Sedley sends his
message from the court-house this morning, and
says the jury cannot agi-ee, and there will be another

''Is that bad or good news?" asked Nelly,

" I'd say good," replied he ; " at least, when I
compare it with your brother's desponding tone this
morning. I never saw him so low."

" Oh, he is almost always so of late. The coming
here and the pleasure of meeting you rallied him for
a moment, but I foresaw his depression would return.
I believe it is the uncertainty, the never-ceasing
terror of what next, is breaking him down ; and if
the blow fell at once, you would see him behave
courageously and nobly."

" He ought to get away from this as soon as
possible," said L 'Estrange. '' He met several
acquaintances yesterday in Rome, and they teased
him to come to them, and worried him to tell
where he was stopping. In his present humour he
could not go into society, but he is ashamed to his
own heart to admit it."

VOL. III. 49


" Then why don't we go at once ? " cried Julia.

" There's nothing to detain us here," said
L'Estrange, sorrowfully.

" Unless you mean to wait for my marriage,"
said Julia, laughing, "though, possibly. Sir Marcus
may not give me another chance."

"Oh, Julia!"

" Oh, Julia ! Well, dearest, I do say shocking
things, there's no doubt of it ; but when I've said
them, I feel the subject off my conscience, and revert
to it no more."

" At all events," said L'Estrange, after a moment
of thought, " let us behave when we meet him as
though this news was not bad. I know he will try
to read in our faces what we think of it, and on
every account it is better not to let him sink into

The day passed over in that discomfort which a
false position so inevitably imposes. The apparent
calm was a torture, and the efforts at gaiety were but
moments of actual pain. The sense of something
impending was so poignant that at every stir — the
opening of a door or the sound of a bell — there
came over each a look of anxiety the most intense


and eager. All their attempts at conYersation were
attended TN-itli a fear lest some unliappy expression,
some ill-timed allusion might suggest the very thought
they were struggling to suppress ; and it was with a
feeling of relief they parted and said good-night,
where, at other times, there had been only regi'et at

Day after day passed in the same forced and false
tranquilHty, the preparations for the approaching
journey being the only relief to the intense anxiety
that weighed Hke a load on each. At length, on the
fifth morning, there came a letter to Augustus in the
well-known hand of Sedley, and he hastened to his
room to read it. Some sharp passages there had
been between them of late on the subject of the
compromise, and Bramleigh, in a moment of forget-
fulness and anger, even went so far as to threaten
that he would have recourse to the law to determine
whether his agent had or had not overstepped the
bounds of his authority, and engaged in arrange-
ments at total yariance to all his wishes and instrac-
tions. A calm but somewhat indignant reply from
Sedley, however, recalled Bramleigh to reconsider
his words, and even ask pardon for them, and since

"■ OF lU. Liii


that day their intercourse had been more cordial and
frank than ever. The present letter was very long,
and quite plainly written, with a strong sense of the
nature of him it was addressed to. For Sedley well
knew the temper of the man — ^his moods of high
resolve and his moments of discouragement — his
desire to be equal to a great effort, and his terrible
consciousness that his courage could not be relied on.
The letter began thus : —

" My dear Sir, —

" If I cannot, as I hoped, announce a victory,
I am able at least to say that we have not been
defeated. The case was fairly and dispassionately
stated, and probably an issue of like importance was
never discussed with less of acrimony, or less of that
captious and overreaching spirit which is too common
in legal contests. This was so remarkable as to
induce the Judge to comment on it in his charge,
and declare that in all his experience on the bench,
he had never before witnessed anything so gratifying
or so creditable alike to plaintiff and defendant.

" Lawson led for the other side, and, I will own,
made one of the best openings I ever listened to.


disclaiming at once any wish to appeal to sympathies
or excite feeling of pity for misfortunes carried on
through three generations of blameless sufferers ; he
simply directed the jury to follow him in the details
of a brief and not very complicated story, every step
of which he would confirm and establish by evidence.

" The studious simplicity of his narrative was
immense art, and though he carefully avoided even
a word that could be called high-flown, he made
the story of Montagu Bramleigh's courtship of the
beautiful ItaHan girl one of the most touching episodes
I ever listened to.

" The marriage was, of course, the foundation of
the whole claim, and he arrayed all his proofs of it
with gi-eat skill. The recognition in your grand-
father's letters, and the tone of affection in which
they were written, his continual reference to her in
his life, left little if any doubt on the minds of the
jury, even though there was nothing formal or official
to show that the ceremony of marriage had passed ;
he reminded the jury that the defence would rely
gi*eatly on this fact, but the fact of a missing registry-
book was neither so new nor so rare in this countrj^
as to create any astonishment, and when he offered


proof that the church and the vestiy-room had been
sacked by the rebels in '98, the evidence seemed
almost superfluous. The birth and baptism of the
child he established thoroughly ; and here he stood
on strong grounds, for the infant was christened at
Brussels by the Protestant Chaplain of the Legation
at the Hague, and he produced a copy of the act
of registry, stating the child to be son of Montagu
Bramleigh, of Cossenden Manor, and Grosvenor
Square, London, and of Enrichetta his wife. Indeed,
as Lawson declared, if these unhappy foreigners had
ever even a glimmering suspicion that the just rights
of this poor child were to be assailed and his inherit-
ance denied him, they could not have taken more
careful and cautious steps to secure his succession
than the simple but excellent precautions they had

" The indignation of Lami at what he deemed
the unfeeling and heartless conduct of Montagu
Bramleigh — his cold reception of the news of his
son's birth, and the careless tone in which he
excused himself fii-om going over to the christening
' — rose to such a pitch that he swore the boy should
never bear his father's name, nor ever in any way


be beholden to him, and ' this rash oath it was that
has carried misery down to another generation, and
involved in misfortune others not more blameless
nor more truly to be pitied than he who now seeks
redress at your hands.' This was the last sentence
he uttered after speaking three hours, and obtaining
a slight pause to recruit his strength.

" Issue of Montagu Bramleigh being proved,
issue of that issue was also estabhshed, and your
father's letters were given in evidence to show how
he had treated with these claimants and given largely
in money to suppress or silence their demands.
Thos. Bolton, of the house of Parker and Bolton,
bankers, Naples, proved the receipt of various sums
from Montagu Bramleigh in favour of A. B. C, for
so the claimant was designated, private confidential
letters to Bolton showing that these initials were
used to indicate one who went under many aliases,
and needed every precaution to escape the poHce.
Bolton proved the journal of Giacomo Lami, which
he had often had in his own possession. In fact,
this witness damaged us more than all the rest ; his
station and position in life, and the mode in which
he behaved under examination, having great effect on


the jury, and affording Lawson a favourable oppor-
tunity of showing what confidence w^as felt in the
claimant's pretensions by a man of wealth and
character, even when the complications of political
conspiracy had served to exhibit him as a dangerous

** Waller's reply was able, but not equal to his
best efforts. It is but fair to him, however, to state
that he complained of our instructions, and declared
that your determination not to urge anything on a
point of law, nor tender opposition on grounds merely
technical, left him almost powerless in the case. He
devoted his attention almost entirely to disprove
the first marriage, that of Mr. B. with Enrichetta
Lami; he declared that the relative rank of the
parties considered, the situation in which they were
placed towards each other, and all the probabilities of
the case duly weighed, there was every reason to
believe the connection w^as illicit. This view was
greatly strengthened by Mr. B.'s subsequent conduct :
his refusal to go over to the christening, and the
utter indifference he displayed to the almost menacing
tone of old Lami's letters ; and when he indignantly
asked the jury ' if a man were likely to treat in this


manner liis wife and the mother of his first-horn, the
heir to his vast fortune and estates ? ' there was a
subdued murmur in the court that showed how
strongly this point had told.

"He argued that when a case broke down at its
very outset, it would be a mere trifling with the time
of the court to go further to disprove circumstances
based on a fallacy. As to the christening and the
registration of baptism, what easier than for a woman
to declare whatever she pleased as to the paternity
of her child ? It was true he was written son of
Montagu Bramleigh : but when we once agree that
there was no marriage, this declaration has no value.
He barely touched on the correspondence and the
transmission of money abroad, which he explained
as the natural effort of a man of high station and
character to suppress the notoriety of a youthful
indiscretion. Political animosity had, at that period,
taken a most injurious turn, and scandal was ran-
sacked to afford means of attack on the reputations
of public men.

" I barely give you the outline of his argument,
but I ^-ill send you the printed account of the trial as
soon as the shorthand writer shall have completed it


for press. Baron Jocelyn's charge was, I must say,
less in our favour than I had expected ; and when he
told the jury that the expressions of attachment and
affection in Mr. B.'s letters, and the reiterated use of
the phrase ' my dear, dear wife ' demanded their
serious consideration as to whether such words would
have fallen from a man hampered by an illicit connec-
tion, and ah'eady speculating how to be free of it ; — all
this put with great force and clearness, and a certain
appeal to their sense of humanity, did us much dis-
service. The length of time he dwelt on this part of
the case was so remarkable that I overheard a Q.C.
say he had not known till then that his lordship was
retained for the plaintiff.

*' When he came to that part where allusion was
made to the fact of the claimant being a foreigner,
he made an eloquent and effective appeal to the
character of English justice, which elicited a burst
of applause in the court that took some seconds to
repress; but this, I am told, was more owing to
the popular sympathy with the politics of old Lami,
and his connection with the rebellion of '98, than
with any enthusiasm for his lordship's oratory.

" The jury were three hours in deliberation. I


am confidentially informed that we had but five with,
and seven against us ; the verdict, as you know, was
not agreed on. We shall go to trial in spring, I
hope ^ith Holmes to lead for us, for I am fully
persuaded the flaw lies in the history subsequent to
the marriage of Mr. B., and that it was a mistake to
let the issue turn on the event which had already
enlisted the sympathies of the jury in its favour.

"In conclusion, I ought to say, that the plain-
tiff's friends regard the result as a victoiy, and the
National press is strong in asserting that, if the
Orange element had been eliminated from the jury-
box, there is little doubt that Count Bramleigh — as
they call him — would at that hour be dispensing the
splendid hospitalities of a princely house to his
county neighbours, and the still more gratifying
benefits of a wide charity to the poor around him.
Writing rapidly, as I do, I make no pretension to
anything like an accurate history of the case. There
are a vast variety of things to which I mean to direct
your attention when a more favom-able moment will
permit. I will only now add, that your presence in
England is urgently required, and that your return
to Castello, to resume there the style of living that


alike becomes the proprietor and the place, is, in the
opinion of all your friends, much to he desired.

" Mr. Waller does not hesitate to say that your
absence decided the case against you, and was heard
to declare openly that ' he for one had no fancy to
defend a cause for a man who voluntarily gave him-
self up as beaten.'

" May I entreat, then, you will make it your
convenience to return here? I cannot exaggerate
the ill effects of your absence, nor to what extent
your enemies are enabled to use the circumstance to
your discredit. Jurors are, after all, but men, taken
from the common mass of those who read and talk
over the public scandals of the hour, and all the
cautions of the Bench never yet succeeded in making
men forget, within the court-house, what they had for
weeks before been discussing outside of it.

"At all events, do not dismiss my suggestion
without some thought over it, or better still, without
consulting some friends in whose sense and intelli-
gence you have confidence. I am, with, many
apologies for the liberty I have thus taken,
" Most faithfully, your servant,

" T. Sedley."


When Bramleigh had read this letter carefully
over, he proceeded to Xelly's room, to let her hear its

"It's not ver}' cheery news," said he, "but it
might be worse. Shall I read it for you, or will you
read it yourself? "

" Read it, Gusty ; I would rather hear it from
you," said she, as she sat down with her face to the
window, and partially averted from him as he sat.

Not a word dropped from her while he read,
and though once or twice he paused as if to invite
a remark or a question, she never spoke, nor by
a look or a gesture denoted how the tidings affected

" Well," asked he at last, " what do you say to
it aU ? "

"It's worse — I mean worse for us — than I had
ever suspected ! Surely, Gusty, you had no concep-
tion that their case had such apparent strength and

" I have thought so for many a day," said he

" Thought that they, and not we " she could

not go on.


" Just so, dearest," said he, drawing liis chair
to her side, and laying his hand affectionately on
her shoulder.

"And do you helieve that poor papa thought
so ? " said she, and her eyes now swam in tears.

A scarcely perceptible nod was all his answer.

" Oh, Gusty, this is more nciisery than I was
prepared for ! " cried she, throwing herself on his
shoulder. " To think that all the time we were —
what many called — outraging the world with dis-
play; exhibiting our wealth in every ostentatious
way; to think that it was not ours, that we
w^ere mere pretenders, with a mock rank, a mock

" My father did not go thus far, Nelly," said he,
gravely. " That he did not despise these preten-
sions I firmly believe, but that they ever gave him
serious reason to suppose his right could be suc-
cessfully disputed, this I do not believe. His fear
was, that when the claim came to be resisted by
one like myself, the battle would be ill fought. It
was in this spirit he said, ' Would that Marion had
been a boy ! "

" And what will you do, Gusty ? "


" I'll tell you what I will not do, Nelly," said
lie firmly: "I will not, as tliis letter counsels me,
go back to live where it is possible I have no
right to live, nor spend money to which the law-
may to-morrow declare I have no claim. I will
abide by what that law shall declare, without one
efi'ort to bias it in my favour. I have a higher pride
in submitting myself to this trial than ever I had in
being the owner of Castello. It may be that I shall
not prove equal to what I propose to myself. I have
no over-confidence in my own strength, but I like to
think, that if I come well through the ordeal, I shall
have done what will dignify a life, humble even as
mine, and give me a self-respect, without which
existence is valueless to me. AYill you stand by me,
Nelly, in this struggle — I shall need you much ? "

" To the last," said she, giving him both her
hands, which he grasped within his, and pressed

'' Write, then, one line from me to Sedley, to
say that I entrust the case entirely to his guidance ;
that I will not mix myself with it in any way,
nor will I return to England till it be decided ; and
say, if you can, that you agree with me in this deter-


mination. And then, if the L'Estranges are ready,
let us start at once."

" They only wait for us ; Julia said so this

*' Then we shall set out to-morrow."

( ^55 )



" Scant courtesy, I must say," exclaimed Lady
Augusta, as, after rapidly running her eyes over a
note, slie flung it across the table towards Pracontal.

They were seated tete-a-tete in that small draw-
ing-room which looked out upon the garden and the
grounds of the Borghese Palace.

*' Am I to read it ? " asked he.

"Yes, if you like. It is from Augustus Bram-
leigh, a person you feel some interest in."

Pracontal took up the note, and seemed to go
very carefully over its contents.

" So then," said he, as he finished, '' he thinks
it better not to meet — not to know me."

" Which is no reason on earth for being wanting
in a proper attention to mc,'' said she, angrily.
" To leave Piome without calling here, without con-
voL. III. 50


suiting my wishes, and learning my intentions for
the future, is a gross forgetfulness of proper respect."

*' I take it, the news of the trial was too much
for him. Longworth said it would, and that the
comments of the press would he insupportable he-

" But what have I to do with that, sir ? Mr.
Bramleigh's first duty was to come here. I should
have been thought of. I was the first person this
family should have remembered in their hour of

" There was no intentional want of respect in it,
I'll be bound," cried Pracontal. " It was just a
bashful man's dread of an awkward moment — that
English terror of what you call a ' scene ' — that sent
him off."

"It is generous of you, sir, to become his
apologist. I only wonder" — here she stopped and
seemed confused.

" Go on, my lady. Pray finish what you began."

" No, sir. It is as well unsaid."

** But it was understood, my lady, just as well as
if it had been uttered. Your ladyship wondered who
was to apologize for ??ie."


She grew crimson as he spoke ; hut a faint smile
seemed to say how thoroughly she relished that
southern keenness that could divine a half-uttered

''How quick you are," said she, without a trace
of irritation.

'* Say, rather, how quick he ought to he who
attempts to parry you at fence. And, after all,"
said he, in a lighter tone, "is it not as well that
he has spared us all an embarrassment? I could
not surely have been able to condole with him, and
how could he have congratulated me? ''

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