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"Oh, dear! have I forgotten to present you?"



AT LADY AUGUSTA'S. 179

said Lady Augusta, with a perfect simplicity of
manner.

Marion acknowledged the introduction by the
slightest imaginable bow and a look of cold defiance ;
while Lord Culduff smiled blandly, and professed his
regi'et if he had uttered a word that could occasion pain.

" Loye and war are chartered Hbertines, and why
not law?" said the Viscount. '^ I take it that all
stratagems are available; the great thing is, they
should be successful."

" Count Pracontal declares that he can pledge
himself to the result," said Lady Augusta. '"' The
case, in fact, as he represents it, is as good as
determined."

'•' Has a jury decided, then ? " asked Culduff.

^' Xo, my lord ; the trial comes on next term. I
only repeat the assurance given me by my la^^yer ;
and so far confirmed by him that he has made me
large advances, which he well knows I could not
repay if I should not gain my cause."

" These are usually cautious people," said the
Viscount, gravely.

"It strikes me," said Marion, rising, "that this
sort of desultoiy conversation on a matter of sucli



180 THE BRAMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S EOLLY.

importance is, to say the least, incoiiYenient. Even
the presence of this gentleman is not sufficient to
make me forget that m.y family have always regarded
his pretension as something not very far from a
fraud."

" I regret infinitely, madam," said Pracontal,
bowing low, '^that it is not a man has uttered the
words just spoken."

*' Lady Culduff's words, sir, are all mine," said
Lord Culduff.

"I thank your lordship from my heart for the
relief you have afforded me."

" There must he nothing of this kind," said Lady
Augusta, warmly. '' If I have been remiss in not
making Count Pracontal known to you before, let me
repair my error by presenting him now as a gentleman
who makes me the ofier of his hand."

" I wish you good morning," said Marion. '' No,
thank you ; no luncheon. Your ladyship has given me
fully as much for digestion as I care for. Good-by."

"If my congratulations could only shadow forth
a vision of all the happiness I wish your ladyship,"
began Lord Culduff.

" I think I know, my lord, what 3'ou would say,"



AT LADY AUGUSTA'S. 181

broke she in, laughingly. " You would hke to
have uttered something very neat on well-assoi-ted
unions. There could he no better authority on such
a subject ; but Count Pracontal is toleration itself :
he lets me tell my friends that I am about to
marry him for money, just as I married poor Colonel
Bramleigh for love."

"I am waiting for you, my lord, ^\e have
abeady trespassed too far on her ladyship's time
and occupations." The sneering emphasis on the
last word was most distinct. Lord Culduff kissed
Lady Augusta's hand with a most devoted show of
respect, and slowly retired.

As the door closed after them, Pracontal fell at
her feet, and covered her hand \^ith kisses.

"There, there, count; I have paid a high price
for that piece of impertinence I have just uttered ;
but when I said it, I thought it would have given her
an apoplexy."

" But you are mine — you are my own ! "

" Nous en parlerons. The papers are full of
breaches of promise; and if you want me to keep
mine, you'll not make it odious to me by tormenting
me about it."



182 THE BKAMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S FOLLY.

" But, my lad}^, I Lave a heart ; a heart that
would be broken by a betrayal."

" What a strange heart for a Frenchman ! About
as suitable to the Boulevards Italiens as snow shoes
to the tropics. Monsieur de Pracontal," said she, in
a much graver tone, " please to bear in mind that I
am a very considerable item in such an arrangement
as we spoke of. The ivhole question is not what
would make you happy.''

Pracontal bowed low in silence ; his gesture
seemed to accept her words as a command to be
obeyed, and he did not utter a syllable.

"Isn't she handsome?" cried she, at length.
'' I declare, count, if one of your countr3rwomen
had a single one of the charms of that beautiful
face she'd be turning half the heads in Europe ;
and Marion can do nothing with them all, except
drive other women wild with envy."



( 183 )



CHAPTER Xni.

AT THE INX AT CATTARO.

When L 'Estrange had carried off Jack Bramleigli to
the iun, and had seen him engaged with an excellent
breakfast, he despatched a messenger to the villa to
say that he was not to he expected home by dinner-
time, but would be back to tea '' with a Mend,'' for
whom he begged Gusty Bramleigh's room might be
prepared.

I shall not delay to chronicle all the doubt,
the discussion, and the guessing that the note
occasioned ; the mere fact that George had yentured
to issue an order of this kind without first con-
sulting Julia, investing the step with a degi'ee of
mysteriousness perfectly inscrutable. I turn, how-
ever, to Cattaro. where L'Estrange and Jack sat
together, each so eager to hear the other's tidings
as to be aluiost too impatient to dwell upon himself.



1S4 THE BRAMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S FOLLY.

To account for their presence in this remote spot,
George, as briefly as he could, sketched the course of
events at Castello, not failing to lay due stress on the
noble and courageous spirit with which Augustus
and Nelly had met misfortune. '^ All is not lost
yet," said L 'Estrange ; " far from it ; but even if
the worst should come, I do not know of two people
in the world who will show a stouter front to
adversity."

"And your sister, where is she?" said Jack, in
a voice scarce above a whisper.

"Here— at the villa."

" Not married ? "

"No. I believe she has changed less than any
of us. She is just what you remember her."

It was not often that L'Estrange attempted
anything like adroitness in expression, but he did
so here, and saw, in the heightened colour and
sparkling eye of the other, how thoroughly his
speech had succeeded.

"I wonder will she know me," said Jack, after a
pause. " You certainly did not at first."

" Nor, for that matter, did you recognize me.'"

" Ah, but I did though," said Jack, passing his



AT THE INN AT CATTARO. 185

hand over his hrow, "but I had gone through so much,
and my head was so knocked about, I couldn't trust
that my senses were not deceiving me, and I thought
if I make any egi-egious blunder now, these people
will set me down for mad. That was the state I was
in the whole time you were questioning me. I
promise you it was no small suffering while it
lasted."

*'My poor fellow, what trials you must have gone
through to come to this. Tell me by what mischance
you were at Ischia."

With all a sailor's frankness, and with a modesty
in speaking of his own achievements just as sailor-like,
Jack told the story of the storm at Naples.

" I had no thought of breaking the laws," said
he, bluntly. " I saw ships foundering, and small
craft turning keel uppermost ; on every side of me
there was disaster and confusion everywhere. I had
no time to inquire about the morals of the men I saw
clinging to hencoops or holding on by stretchers. I
saved as many as I could, and sorry enough I was to
have seen many go down before I could get near
them ; and I was fairly beat when it was all over, or
perhaps they'd not have captured me so easily. At



186 THE BRAIMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S FOLLY.

all events," said he, after a minute's silence, " they
might have let me off with a lighter sentence, but my
temper got the better of me in court, and when they
asked me if it was not true that I had made greater
efforts to save the galley-slaves than the soldiery, I
told them it might have been so, for the prisoners,
chained and handcuffed as they were, went down
like brave men, while the royal troops j^elled and
screamed like a set of arrant cowards, and that when-
ever I pulled one of the wretches out of the water I
v^'as half ashamed of my own humanity. That speech
settled me, at least the lawyer said so, and declared
he was afraid to say a word more in defence of a man
that insulted the tribunal and the nation together."

'^ And what was your sentence ? "

" Death, commuted to the galleys for life ; worse
than any death ! It's not the hardship or the labour,
I mean. A sailor goes through more downright
hard work on a blowy night than these fellows do in
a year. It is the way a man brutalises when vice
and crime make up the whole atmosphere of his life.
The devil has a man's heart all his own, whenever
hope deserts it, and you want to do wickedness just
because it is wickedness. For three weeks before I



AT THE INN AT CATTAKO. 187

made my escape it was all I could do not to dash the
turnkey's brains out when he made his night round.
I told my comrade — the man I was chained to —
what I felt, and he said, ' AYe all go through that at
first, but when you're some years here you'll not care
for that or anything.' I believe it was the terror of
coming to that condition made me try to escape. I
don't know^ that I ever felt the same ecstacy of
deHght that I felt as I found myself swimming in
that fi"esh cold sea in the silence of a calm starry
night. I'm sure it will be a memory- that will last
my lifetime. I thought of you ail — I thought of
long ago, of our happy evenings, and I pictured to
my mind the way we used to sit around the fire, and
I wondered what had become of my place : was I
ever remembered, was I spoken of ; could it be that
at that very moment some one was asking, where
was poor Jack? And how I wished you might all
know that my last thoughts were upon you, that it
was the dear old long ago vvas before me to the last.
I was seventeen hours in the water. When they
picked me up I was senseless fi-om a sun- stroke, for
the corks floated me long after I gave up swimming.
I was so ill when I landed that I went to hospital ;



192 THE BRAMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S FOLLY.

impatient to see tliem, I have mucli to ask you
about."

As they issued from the inn, it was, as L'Estrange
surmised, to meet a most respectful reception from
the townsfolk, who regarded Jack as a mountaineer
chief of rank and station. They uncovered and made
way for him as he passed, and from the women
especially came words of flattering admiration at his
handsome looks and gallant bearing.

" Are they commenting on the ass in the lion's
skin ? " said Jack, in a sly whisper ; "is that what
they are muttering to each other?"

" Quite the reverse. It is all in extravagant
praise of you. The police are on the alert, too :
they think there must be mischief brewing in the
mountains, that has brought a great chief down
to Cattaro."

Thus chatting and laughing they gained the out-
skirts of the town, and soon found themselves on one
of the rural paths which led up the mountain.

*' Don't think me very stupid, George, or very
tiresome," said Jack, " if I ask you to go over again
what you told me this morning. Such strange things
have befallen me of late that I can scarcely distinguish



AT THI- rS'X AT CATTAUO. 193

between fact and fancy. Now, first of all, have we
lost Castello — and who owns it ? "

" No. The question is vet to be decided ; the
trial will take place in about two months."

" And if we are beaten, does it mean that we
are ruined ? Does it sweep away Marion and Xelly's
fortunes, too?"

" I fear so. I know little accurately, but I believe
the whole estate is involved in the claim."

" Gusty bears it well, you say ! "

" Admirably. I never saw a man behave with
such splendid courage."

" I'll not ask about Xelly, for I could swear for
her pluck. She was always the best of us."

If L'Estrange drank in this praise with ecstasy,
he had to turn away his head, lest the sudden flush
that covered his face should be observed.

" I have no wish to hear the story of this claim
now ; you shall tell it to me some other time. But
just tell me, was it ever heard of in my father's time? "

" I believe so. Your father knew of it, but did
not deem it serious."

" Marion, of course, despises it still ; and what
does Temple say ? "

VOL. III. 58



190 THE BRAMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S EOLLY.

" Don't talk balderdasli ; my head is weak
enough ah-eady. If you're not ashamed of the
tatterdemahon that comes back to you, it's more
than I deserve. There now, go off, and do your
business, and don't be long, for I'm growing very
impatient to see them. Give me something to
smoke till you come back, and I'll try and be calm
and reasonable by that time."

If L 'Estrange had really anything to do in the
town he forgot all about it, and trotted about from
street to street, so full of Jack and his adventures
that he walked into apple-stalls and kicked over
egg-baskets amid the laughter and amusement of
the people.

If he had told no more than the truth in saying
that Jack was still like what he had been, there
were about him signs of suffering and hardship that
gave a most painful significance to his look, and
more painful than even these was the poor fellow's
consciousness of his fallen condition. The sudden
pauses in speaking, the deep sighs that would escape
him, the almost bitter raillery he used when speak-
ing of himself, all showed how acutely he felt his
altered state.



AT THE INN AT CATTARO. 191

L'Estrange was in uo vase prepared for the
change half an hour had made in Jack's humour.
The handsome di-ess of Montenegro became him
admirably, and the sailor-like freedom of his move-
ments went well with the easy costume. "' Isn't this
a most appropriate transformation, George *? " he
cried out. '* I came iu here looking like a pick-
pocket, and I go out like a stage bandit ! "

" I declare it becomes you wonderfully. I'll
wager the girls will not let you wear any other
dress."

" Ay, but my toilet is not yet completed. See
what a gorgeous scarf I have got here — gi-een and
gold, and with a gold fringe that \nt11 reach to my
boots, and the landlord insists on lending me his
own silver-mounted sabre. I say, old fellow, have
you courage to go through the town with me ? "

*' You forget you are in the last fashion of
the place ; if they stare at you now, it will be
approvingly."

" ^Tiat's the distance ? Ai-e we to walk ? "

'' Walk or drive, as you like best. On foot we
can do it in an hour."

" On foot be it then ; for though I am very



192 THE BRAMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S FOLLY.

impatient to see them, I liave mucli to ask you
about."

As they issued from the inn, it was, as L'Estrange
surmised, to meet a most respectfal reception from
the townsfolk, who regarded Jack as a mountaineer
chief of rank and station. They uncovered and made
way for him as he passed, and from the women
especially came words of flattering admiration at his
handsome looks and gallant bearing.

'' Are they commenting on the ass in the lion's
skin?" said Jack, in a sly whisper; " is that what
they are muttering to each other?"

" Quite the reverse. It is all in extravagant
praise of you. The police are on the alert, too :
they think there must be mischief brewing in the
mountains, that has brought a great chief down
to Cattaro."

Thus chatting and laughing they gained the out-
skirts of the town, and soon found themselves on one
of the rural paths which led up the mountain.

" Don't think me very stupid, George, or very
tiresome," said Jack, " if I ask you to go over again
what you told me this morning. Such strange things
have befallen me of late that I can scarcely distinguish



AT Till-: INX AT CATTAUO. 193

between fact and fancy. Now, first of all, have we
lost Castello — and who owns it '? "

" No. The question is yet to be decided ; the
trial will take place in about two months."

" And if we are beaten, does it mean that we
are ruined ? Does it sweep away Marion and Nelly's
fortunes, too ? "

" I fear so. I know little accurately, but I believe
the whole estate is involved in the claim."

*' Gusty bears it well, you say ! "

" Admirably. I never saw a man behave with
such splendid courage."

" I'll noi ask about Xelly, for I could swear for
her pluck. She was always the best of us."

If L'Estrange drank in this praise with ecstasy,
he had to turn away his head, lest the sudden flush
that covered his face should be observed.

" I have no wish to hear the story of this claim
now ; you shall tell it to me some other time. But
just tell me, w^as it ever heard of in my father's time ? "

" I believe so. Your father knew of it, but did
not deem it serious."

" Marion, of course, despises it still ; and what
does Temple say ? "

YOL. III. 58



194 THE BRAMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S FOLLY.

" One scarcely knows. I don't think tliey have
had a letter from him since they left Ireland."

" See what a wise fellow I was ! " cried he,
laughing. " I sank so low in life, that any change
must be elevation. You are all great folk to me ! "

There was a long and painful pause after this
— each deep in his own thoughts. At last Jack
asked suddenly, "How is Marion? Is she happy
in her marriage? "

" We hear next to nothing of her ; the news-
papers till us of her being at great houses and in fine
company, but we know no more."

" Of course she's happy then. When she was a
child, she would only play with us if we made her a
queen ; and though we often tried to rebel, — we were
great levellers in our way, — she always kept us down,
and whether we liked it or not, we had to admit the
sovereignt}^"

''Your younger sister" — he did not call her
Nelly — '' was not of this mould ? "

" Not a bit of it ; she was the peace-maker,
always on the side of the weak, and though she was
a delicate child, she'd fight against oppression with
the passion of a tigress. Wasn't it strange ? " said



AT THE INN AT CATTARO. 195

lie after a pause. '' There we were, five of us,
treated and reared exactly alike ; in early life certainly
there were no distinctions made, nor any favouritism
practised. We were of the same race and blood, and
yet no two of us were alike. Temple had perhaps
some sort of resemblance to Marion, but he had not
her bold daring spirit. Where she was courageous,
he'd have been crafty. Whatever good there was
amongst us, Nelly had it."

Another and longer pause now succeeded. " I
say, George," cried Jack at last, "' how do you
mean to break it to the gMs that I'm here ? I
take it, poor Nelly's nerves must have suflered
sorely of late. Is she likely to stand a shock
without injury?"

"It is exactly what I'm trpng to resolve this
moment. Flushed with the walk, and cheered by the
fresh air, you don't look sickly now."

" Ah, my dear fellow, that's not the worst of it.
It is the sight of me as recalling my fallen fortune, —
that's what I fear for her ; her last good-by to me
was blended with joy at my promotion — I was going
to take up my command ! She has never seen me
since my disgrace."



196 THE BRAMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S FOLLY.

" Don't call it that, Jack ; we all know there is
no other blame attaches to jou than rashness."

" When rashness can make a man forget his
condition, it's had enough ; but I'll not go back to
these things. Tell me how I am to meet her."

" Perhaps it would be best I should first see
Julia, and tell her you are here. I alwaj^s like to ask
her advice."

" I know that of old," said Jack with a faint
smile.

" I'll leave you in the summer-house at the end
of the garden there, till I speak with Julia."

" Not very long I hope."

" Not an instant ; she never requires a minute to
decide on what to do : follow me now along this path,
and I'll place you in your ambush. You'll not leave
it till I come."

" What a lovely spot this seems, it beats Castello
hollow ! "

" So we say every day. We all declare we'd
like to pass our lives here."

" Let me be one of the party, and I'll say
nothing against the project," said Jack, as he
brushed throu^irh a hedge of sweet briar, and



AT THE INX AT CATTARO. 197

descended a little slope, at the foot of which a shady
summer-house stood guardian over a well. '' Remem-
ber now," cried he, "not to tax my patience too
far. Ill give you ten minutes, hut I won't wait
twenty."

L'Estrange lost no time in hastening back to the
house. Julia, he heard, was giving orders about the
room for the stranger, and he found her actively
engaged in the preparation. " For whom am I
taking all this trouble, George ? " said she, as he
entered.

" Guess Julia, guess ! Whom would you say
was best worth it ? "

" Not Mr. Cutbill, — whom Nelly fixed on, — not
Sir Marcus Clufi", whose name occurred to myself,
nor even the Pretender Count Pracontal ; and now
I believe I have exhausted the category of possible
guests."

" Not any of these," said he, drawing her to
his side. '' Where is Nelly ? "

*' She went down to gather some roses."

*' Not in the lower garden, I hope," cried he
eacrerlv.

" "WTierever she could find them best — but why



198 THE BKAMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S FOLLY.

not there ? and what do you mean by all this
mystery ? "

''Go and fetch her here at once," cried he.
'• If she should see him suddenly, the shock might
do her great harm."

" See whom ? see whom ? " exclaimed she wildly.
''' Don't torture me this way ! "

'' Jack, her brother, Jack Bramleigh," and he
proceeded to tell how he had found him, and in
what condition : but she heard nothing of it all,
for she had sunk down on a seat and sat sobbing
with her hands over her face, then suddenly wiping
the tears away, she rose up, and, while her voice
trembled with each word, she said — *' Is he changed,
George? is he greatly changed?"

" Changed ! yes, for he has been ill, and gone
through all manner of hardships, and now he is
dressed like a Montenegro chief, for we could get
no other clothes, so that j'ou'll scarcely know him."

"Let us find Nelly at once," said she, moving
towards the door. "Come George, — come," and
she was down the stairs, and across the hall, and
out at the door, before he could follow her. In her
agitated manner, and rapid expression, it was evident



AT THE INN AT CATTARO. 199

she was endeavouring to subdue the deep emotion
of her heart, and, by seeming to be occupied, to
suppress the signs of that blended joy and sorrow
which rack the nature more fatally than downright
misery.

" See, George, look there ! " cried she wildly,
as she pointed down a straight alley, at the top of
which they were standing. " There they are. Nelly
has her arm round him. They have met, and it is
all over ; " and so sapng, she hid her face on her
brother's shoulder, and sobbed hea^dly ; meanwhile
the two came slowly forward, too much engaged with
each other to notice those in front of them.



200 THE BRAMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S FOLLY.



CHAPTEK XIV.

THE VILLA LIFE.

It is not, at this the eleventh hour of my story, I
can stop to dwell on the life of the villa at Cattaro,
though I am free to own it was about the sunniest
bit of landscape our long journey has offered us.

Seated or lying on the grass, under the shade
of a broad-leaved fig-tree, they listened to Jack's
adventures, told with a quaint humour, of which
they who knew him w^ell could appreciate every shade
and tint. In his days of prosperous fortune it was
rare to hear him speak of himself: the routine life
he led seemed to develope little or nothing of his real
nature, but now, dependent as he was altogether on
intrinsic qualities, for whatever estimation he might
obtain, owing nothing to station, it was remarkable
how his character had widened and expanded, how
his sympathies with his fellow-men had increased.



THE VILLA LIFE. 201

Though nothing could be farther from his nature
than any mawkish sentimentaHty, there was that
show of trustfulness, that degree of hopeful belief
in the world at large, which occasionally, led Julia to
banter him on his optimism, and this, be it said
passingly, was the only show of freedom between
them ; their manner to each other from the moment
they met being marked by a studied reserve on each
side.

" And surely, Prince," said she, calling him by
the title which, in honour of his dress, they had
given him, " surely you must have met some charm-
ing creature^ at the galleys. All the good qualities
of human nature were not reserved for the cockpit
or the steerage, or whatever it is."

" Aye, even at the galleys they weren't all bad,
though it's not exactly the sort of place men grow
better in. I had a capital old fellow as comrade,
and, I take shame to s^y, I ought to have thought
of him before this. I say, George, have you any
friends of influence at Naples ? I wish I could get
my old companion his liberty."

" George has gone in to write to Augustus," said


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Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly (Volume 3) → online text (page 9 of 16)