Charles James Lever.

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Produced by David Widger





THE DALTONS:

OR,

THREE ROADS IN LIFE


By Charles James Lever


With Illustrations By Phiz.


In Two Volumes

Vol. I.


Boston: Little, Brown, And Company

1895.



To LORD METHUEN.


MY DEAR METHUEN, Some idle folk have pretended that certain living
characters have been depicted under the fictitious names of these
volumes. There is, I assure you, but one personality contained in it,
and that is of a right true-hearted Englishman, hospitable, and manly
in all his dealings; and to him I wish to dedicate my book, in testimony
not only of the gratitude which, in common with all his countrymen here,
I feel to be his due, but in recognition of many happy hours passed in
his society, and the honor of his friendship. The personality begins and
ends with this dedication, which I beg you to accept of, and am

Ever yours faithfully,

CHARLES LEVER.

PALAZZO CAPPONI, FLORENCE, Feb. 28, 1852.




PREFACE.


IF the original conception of this tale was owing to the story of an old
and valued schoolfellow who took service in Austria, and rose to rank
and honors there, all the rest was purely fictitious. My friend had made
a deep impression on my mind by his narratives of that strange life,
wherein, in the very midst of our modern civilization, an old-world
tradition still has its influence, making the army of to-day the
veritable sons and descendants of those who grouped around the bivouac
fires in Wallenstein's camp. Of that more than Oriental submission that
graduated deference to military rank that chivalrous devotion to the
"Kaiser" whicli enter into the soldier heart of Austria, I have been
unable to reproduce any but the very faintest outlines, and yet these
were the traits which, pervaded all my friend's stories and gave them
character and distinctiveness.

Many of the other characters in this tale were drawn from the life, with
such changes added and omitted features as might rescue them from any
charge of personality. With all my care on this score, one or two have
been believed to be recognizable; and if so I have only to hope that
I have touched on peculiarities of disposition inoffensively, and
only depicted such traits as may "point a moral," without wounding the
possessor.

The last portion of the story includes some scenes from the Italian
campaign, which had just come to a close while I was writing. If a
better experience of Italy than I then possessed might modify some of
the opinions I entertained at that time, and induce me to form some
conclusions at least at variance with those I then expressed, I still
prefer to leave the whole unaltered, lest in changing I might injure the
impression under which the fulness of my once conviction had impelled me
to pronounce.

Writing these lines now, while men's hearts are throbbing anxiously for
the tidings any day may produce, and when the earth is already tremulous
under the march of distant squadrons, I own that even the faint, weak
picture of that struggle in this story appeals to myself with a
more than common interest. I have no more to add than my grateful
acknowledgments to such as still hold me in their favor, and to write
myself their devoted servant,

CHARLES LEVER.





THE DALTONS, OR THREE ROADS IN LIFE.




CHAPTER I. BADEN OUT OF SEASON.

A THEATRE by daylight, a great historical picture in the process of
cleaning, a ballet-dancer of a wet day hastening to rehearsal, the
favorite for the Oaks dead-lame in a straw-yard, are scarcely
more stripped of their legitimate illusions than is a fashionable
watering-place on the approach of winter. The gay shops and stalls of
flaunting wares are closed; the promenades, lately kept in trimmest
order, are weed-grown and neglected; the "sear and yellow leaves" are
fluttering and rustling along the alleys where "Beauty's step was
wont to tread." Both music and fountains have ceased to play; the very
statues are putting on great overcoats of snow, while the orange-trees
file off like a sad funeral procession to hide themselves in dusky sheds
till the coming spring.

You see as you look around you that nature has been as unreal as art
itself, and that all the bright hues of foliage and flower, all the
odors that floated from bed and parterre, all the rippling flow of
stream and fountain, have been just as artistically devised, and as much
"got up," as the transparencies or the Tyrolese singers, the fireworks
or the fancy fair, or any other of those ingenious "spectacles" which
amuse the grown children of fashion. The few who yet linger seem to have
undergone a strange transmutation.

The smiling landlord of the "Adler" we refer particularly to Germany
as the very land of watering-places is a half-sulky, farmer-looking
personage, busily engaged in storing up his Indian corn and his firewood
and his forage, against the season of snows. The bland "croupier," on
whose impassive countenance no shade of fortune was able to mark even
a passing emotion, is now seen higgling with a peasant for a sack of
charcoal, in all the eagerness of avarice. The trim maiden, whose golden
locks and soft blue eyes made the bouquets she sold seem fairer to look
on, is a stout wench, whose uncouth fur cap and wooden shoes are the
very antidotes to romance. All the transformations take the same sad
colors. It is a pantomime read backwards.

Such was Baden-Baden in the November of 182-. Some weeks of bad and
broken weather had scattered and dispersed all the gay company. The
hotels and assembly-rooms were closed for the winter. The ball-room,
which so lately was alight with a thousand tapers, was now barricaded
like a jail. The very post-office, around which each morning an eager
and pressing crowd used to gather, was shut up, one small aperture alone
remaining, as if to show to what a fraction all correspondence had been
reduced. The Hotel de Russie was the only house open in the little town;
but although the door lay ajar, no busy throng of waiters, no lamps,
invited the traveller to believe a hospitable reception might await him
within. A very brief glance inside would soon have dispelled any such
illusion, had it ever existed. The wide staircase, formerly lined with
orange-trees and camellias, was stripped of all its bright foliage;
the marble statues were removed; the great thermometer, whose crystal
decorations had arrested many a passing look, was now encased within a
wooden box, as if its tell-tale face might reveal unpleasant truths, if
left exposed.

The spacious "Saal," where some eighty guests assembled every day, was
denuded of all its furniture, mirrors, and lustres; bronzes and pictures
were gone, and nothing remained but a huge earthenware stove,
within whose grating a faded nosegay left there in summer defied all
speculations as to a fire.

In this comfortless chamber three persons now paraded with that quick
step and brisk motion that bespeak a walk for warmth and exercise; for
dismal as it was within doors, it was still preferable to the scene
without, where a cold incessant rain was falling, that, on the hills
around, took the form of snow. The last lingerers at a watering-place,
like those who cling on to a wreck, have usually something peculiarly
sad in their aspect. Unable, as it were, to brave the waves like strong
swimmers, they hold on to the last with some vague hope of escape, and,
like a shipwrecked crew, drawing closer to each other in adversity than
in more prosperous times, they condescend now to acquaintance, and
even intimacy, where, before, a mere nod of recognition was alone
interchanged. Such were the three who now, buttoned up to the chin,
and with hands deeply thrust into side-pockets, paced backwards and
forwards, sometimes exchanging a few words, but in that broken
and discursive fashion that showed that no tie of mutual taste or
companionship had bound them together.

The youngest of the party was a small and very slightly made man of
about five or six-and-twenty, whose face, voice, and figure were almost
feminine, and, only for a very slight line of black moustache, might
have warranted the suspicion of a disguise. His lacquered boots and
spotless yellow gloves appeared somewhat out of season, as well as the
very light textured coat which he wore; but Mr. Albert Jekyl had been
accidentally detained at Baden, waiting for that cruel remittance which,
whether the sin be that of agent or relative, is ever so slow of coming.
That he bore the inconvenience admirably (and without the slightest show
of impatience) it is but fair to confess; and whatever chagrin either
the detention, the bad weather, or the solitude may have occasioned, no
vestige of discontent appeared upon features where a look of practised
courtesy, and a most bland smile, gave the predominant expression. "Who
he was," or, in other words, whence he came, of what family, with what
fortune, pursuits, or expectations, we are not ashamed to confess our
utter ignorance, seeing that it was shared by all those that tarried
that season at Baden, with whom, however, he lived on terms of easy and
familiar intercourse.

The next to him was a bilious-looking man, somewhat past the middle of
life, with that hard and severe cast of features that rather repels than
invites intimacy. In figure he was compactly and stoutly built, his
step as he walked, and his air as he stood, showed one whose military
training had given the whole tone to his character. Certain strong lines
about the mouth, and a peculiar puckering of the angles of the eyes,
boded a turn for sarcasm, which all his instincts, and they were Scotch
ones, could not completely repress. His voice was loud, sharp, and
ringing, the voice of a man who, when he said a thing, would not brook
being asked to repeat it. That Colonel Haggerstone knew how to be
sapling as well as oak, was a tradition among those who had served with
him; still it is right to add, that his more congenial mood was the
imperative, and that which he usually practised. The accidental lameness
of one of his horses had detained him some weeks at Baden, a
durance which assuredly appeared to push his temper to its very last
intrenchments.

The third representative of forlorn humanity was a very tall, muscular
man, whose jockey-cut green coat and wide-brimmed hat contrasted oddly
with a pair of huge white moustaches, that would have done credit to
a captain of the Old Guard. On features, originally handsome, time,
poverty, and dissipation had left many a mark; but still the half-droll,
half-truculent twinkle of his clear gray eyes showed him one whom no
turn of fortune could thoroughly subdue, and who, even in the very
hardest of his trials, could find heart to indulge his humor for Peter
Dalton was an Irishman; and although many years an absentee, held the
dear island and its prejudices as green in his memory as though he had
left it but a week before.

Such were the three, who, without one sympathy in common, without a
point of contact in character, were now drawn into a chance acquaintance
by the mere accident of bad weather. Their conversation if such it could
be called showed how little progress could be made in intimacy by those
whose roads in life lie apart. The bygone season, the company, the
play-table and its adventures, were all discussed so often, that nothing
remained but the weather. That topic, so inexhaustible to Englishmen,
however, offered little variety now, for it had been uniformly bad for
some weeks past.

"Where do you propose to pass the winter, sir?" said Haggerstone to
Jekyl, after a somewhat lengthy lamentation over the probable condition
of all the Alpine passes.

"I 've scarcely thought of it yet," simpered out the other, with his
habitual smile. "There's no saying where one ought to pitch his tent
till the Carnival opens."

"And you, sir?" asked Haggerstone of his companion on the other side.

"Upon my honor, I don't know then," said Dalton; "but I would n't wonder
if I stayed here, or hereabouts."

"Here! why, this is Tobolsk, sir! You surely couldn't mean to pass a
winter here?"

"I once knew a man who did it," interposed Jekyl, blandly. "They cleaned
him out at 'the tables;' and so he had nothing for it but to remain.
He made rather a good thing of it, too; for it seems these worthy
people, however conversant with the great arts of ruin, had never seen
the royal game of thimble-rig; and Frank Mathews walked into them all,
and contrived to keep himself in beet-root and boiled beef by his little
talents."

"Was n't that the fellow who was broke at Kilmagund?" croaked
Haggerstone.

"Something happened to him in India; I never well knew what," simpered
Jekyl. "Some said he had caught the cholera; others, that he had got
into the Company's service."

"By way of a mishap, sir, I suppose," said the Colonel, tartly.

"He would n't have minded it, in the least. For certain," resumed the
other, coolly, "he was a sharp-witted fellow; always ready to take the
tone of any society."

The Colonel's cheek grew yellower, and his eyes sparkled with an angrier
lustre; but he made no rejoinder.

"That's the place to make a fortune, I'm told," said Dalton. "I hear
there's not the like of it all the world over."

"Or to spend one," added Haggerstone, curtly.

"Well, and why not?" replied Dalton. "I 'm sure it 's as pleasant as
saving barring a man 's a Scotchman."

"And if he should be, sir? and if he were one that now stands before
you?" said Haggerstone, drawing himself proudly up, and looking the
other sternly in the face.

"No offence no offence in life. I did n't mean to hurt your feelings.
Sure, a man can't help where he 's going to be born."

"I fancy we'd all have booked ourselves for a cradle in Buckingham
Palace," interposed Jekyl, "if the matter were optional."

"Faith! I don't think so," broke in Dalton. "Give me back
Corrig-O'Neal, as my grandfather Pearce had it, with the whole barony
of Kilmurray-O'Mahon, two packs of hounds, and the first cellar in
the county, and to the devil I'd fling all the royal residences ever I
seen."

"The sentiment is scarcely a loyal one, sir," said Haggerstone, "and, as
one wearing his Majesty's cloth, I beg to take the liberty of reminding
you of it."

"Maybe it isn't; and what then?" said Dalton, over whose good-natured
countenance a passing cloud of displeasure lowered.

"Simply, sir, that it shouldn't be uttered in my presence," said
Haggerstone.

"Phew!" said Dalton, with a long whistle, "is that what you 're at? See,
now" here he turned fully round, so as to face the Colonel "see, now,
I 'm the dullest fellow in the world at what is called 'taking a thing
up;' but make it clear for me let me only see what is pleasing to the
company, and it is n't Peter Dalton will balk your fancy."

"May I venture to remark," said Jekyl, blandly, "that you are both in
error, and however I may (the cold of the season being considered) envy
your warmth, it is after all only so much caloric needlessly expended."

"I was n't choleric at all," broke in Dalton, mistaking the word, and
thus happily, by the hearty laugh his blunder created, bringing the
silly altercation to an end.

"Well," said Haggerstone, "since we are all so perfectly agreed in our
sentiments, we could n't do better than dine together, and have a bumper
to the King's health."

"I always dine at two, or half-past," simpered Jekyl; "besides, I'm on a
regimen, and never drink wine."

"There 's nobody likes a bit of conviviality better than myself,"
said Dal ton; "but I 've a kind of engagement, a promise I made this
morning."

There was an evident confusion in the way these words were uttered,
which did not escape either of the others, who exchanged the most
significant glances as he spoke.

"What have we here?" cried Jekyl, as he sprang to the window and looked
out. "A courier, by all that's muddy! Who could have expected such an
apparition at this time?"

"What can bring people here now?" said Haggerstone, as with his glass
to his eye he surveyed the little well-fed figure, who, in his tawdry
jacket all slashed with gold, and heavy jack-boots, was closely locked
in the embraces of the landlord.

Jekyl at once issued forth to learn the news, and, although not fully
three minutes absent, returned to his companions with a full account of
the expected arrivals.

"It's that rich banker, Sir Stafford Onslow, with his family. They were
on their way to Italy, and made a mess of it somehow in the Black
Forest they got swept away by a torrent, or crushed by an avalanche, or
something of the kind, and Sir Stafford was seized with the gout, and so
they 've put back, glad even to make such a port as Baden."

"If it's the gout's the matter with him," said Dalton, "I 've the finest
receipt in the world. Take a pint of spirits poteen if you can get it
beat up two eggs and a pat of butter in it; throw in a clove of garlic
and a few scrapings of horseradish, let it simmer over the fire for a
minute or two, stir it with a sprig of rosemary to give it a flavor, and
then drink it off."

"Gracious Heaven! what a dose!" exclaimed Jekyl, in horror.

"Well, then, I never knew it fail. My father took it for forty years,
and there wasn't a haler man in the country. If it was n't that he gave
up the horseradish for he did n't like the taste of it he 'd, maybe, be
alive at this hour."

"The cure was rather slow of operation," said Haggerstone, with a sneer.

"'Twas only the more like all remedies for Irish grievances, then,"
observed Dal ton, and his face grew a shade graver as he spoke.

"Who was it this Onslow married?" said the Colonel, turning to Jekyl.

"One of the Headworths, I think."

"Ah, to be sure; Lady Hester. She was a handsome woman when I saw
her first, but she fell off sadly; and indeed, if she had not, she 'd
scarcely have condescended to an alliance with a man in trade, even
though he were Sir Gilbert Stafford."

"Sir Gilbert Stafford!" repeated Dalton.

"Yes, sir; and now Sir Gilbert Stafford Onslow. He took the name from
that estate in Warwickshire; Skepton Park, I believe they call it."

"By my conscience, I wish that was the only thing he took," ejaculated
Dalton, with a degree of fervor that astonished the others, "for he
took an elegant estate that belonged by right to my wife. Maybe you have
heard tell of Corrig-O'Neal?"

Haggerstone shook his head, while with his elbow he nudged his
companion, to intimate his total disbelief in the whole narrative.

"Surely you must have heard of the murder of Arthur Godfrey, of
Corrig-O'Neal; was n't the whole world ringing with it?"

Another negative sign answered this appeal.

"Well, well, that beats all ever I heard! but so it is, sorrow bit they
care in England if we all murdered each other! Arthur Godfrey, as I was
saying, was my wife's brother, there were just the two of them, Arthur
and Jane; she was my wife."

"Ah! here they come!" exclaimed Jekyl, not sorry for the event which so
opportunely interrupted Dalton's unpromising history. And now a heavy
travelling-carriage, loaded with imperials and beset with boxes, was
dragged up to the door by six smoking horses. The courier and the
landlord were immediately in attendance, and after a brief delay the
steps were lowered, and a short, stout man, with a very red face and
a very yellow wig, descended, and assisted a lady to alight. She was a
tall woman, whose figure and carriage were characterized by an air of
fashion. After her came a younger lady; and lastly, moving with great
difficulty, and showing by his worn looks and enfeebled frame the
suffering he had endured, came a very thin, mild-looking man of about
sixty. Leaning upon the arm of the courier at one side, and of his stout
companion, whom he called Doctor, at the other, he slowly followed the
ladies into the house. They had scarcely disappeared when a caleche,
drawn by three horses at a sharp gallop, drew up, and a young fellow
sprang out, whose easy gestures and active movements showed that all
the enjoyments of wealth and all the blandishments of fashion had not
undermined the elastic vigor of body which young Englishmen owe to the
practice of field sports.

"This place quite deserted, I suppose," cried he, addressing the
landlord. "No one here?"

"No one, sir. All gone," was the reply.

Haggerstone's head shook with a movement of impatience as he heard
this remark, disparaging as it was, to his own importance; but he said
nothing, and resumed his walk as before.

"Our Irish friend is gone away, I perceive," said Jekyl, as he looked
around in vain for Dalton. "Do you believe all that story of the estate
he told us?"

"Not a syllable of it, sir. I never yet met an Irishman and it has been
my lot to know some scores of them who had not been cheated out of a
magnificent property, and was not related to half the peerage to boot.
Now, I take it that our highly connected friend is rather out at elbows!"
And he laughed his own peculiar hard laugh, as though the mere fancy
of another man's poverty was something inconceivably pleasant and
amusing.

"Dinner, sir," said the waiter, entering and addressing the Colonel.

"Glad of it," cried he; "it's the only way to kill time in this cursed
place;" and so saying, and without the ceremony of a good-bye to his
companion, the Colonel bustled out of the room with a step intended to
represent extreme youth and activity. "That gentleman dines at two?"
asked he of the waiter, as he followed him up the stairs.

"He has not dined at all, sir, for some days back," said the waiter. "A
cup of coffee in the morning, and a biscuit, are all that he takes."

The Colonel made an expressive gesture by turning out the lining of his
pocket.

"Yes, sir," replied the other, significantly; "very much that way, I
believe." And with that he uncovered the soup, and the Colonel arranged
his napkin and prepared to dine.



CHAPTER II. AN HUMBLE INTERIOR

WHEN Dalton parted from his companions at the "Russie," it was to
proceed by many an intricate and narrow passage to a remote part of the
upper town, where close to the garden wall of the Ducal Palace stood,
and still stands, a little solitary two-storied house, framed in wood,
and the partitions displaying some very faded traces of fresco painting.
Here was the well-known shop of a toy-maker; and although now closely
barred and shuttered, in summer many a gay and merry troop of children
devoured with eager eyes the treasures of Hans Roeckle.

Entering a dark and narrow passage beside the shop, Dalton ascended the
little creaking stairs which led to the second story. The landing place
was covered with firewood, great branches of newly-hewn beech and oak,
in the midst of which stood a youth, hatchet in hand, busily engaged
in chopping and splitting the heavy masses around him. The flush of
exercise upon his cheek suited well the character of a figure which,
clothed only in shirt and trousers, presented a perfect picture of
youthful health and symmetry.

"Tired, Frank?" asked the old man, as he came up.

"Tired, father! not a bit of it. I only wish I had as much more to split
for you, since the winter will be a cold one."

"Come in and sit down, boy, now," said the father, with a slight
tremor as he spoke. "We cannot have many more opportunities of talking
together. To-morrow is the 28th of November."

"Yes; and I must be in Vienna by the fourth, so Uncle Stephen writes."

"You must not call him uncle, Frank, he forbids it himself; besides, he
is my uncle, and not yours. My father and he were brothers, but never
saw each other after fifteen years of age, when the Count that 's what
we always called him entered the Austrian service, so that we are all
strangers to each other."

"His letter does n't show any lively desire for a closer intimacy," said
the boy, laughing. "A droll composition it is, spelling and all."

"He left Ireland when he was a child, and lucky he was to do so," sighed
Dalton, heavily. "I wish I had done the same."

The chamber into which they entered was, although scrupulously clean and
neat, marked by every sign of poverty. The furniture was scanty and of
the humblest kind; the table linen, such as used by the peasantry, while
the great jug of water that stood on the board seemed the very climax of
narrow fortune in a land where the very poorest are wine-drinkers.

A small knapsack with a light travelling-cap on it, and a staff beside
it, seemed to attract Dalton's eyes as he sat down. "It is but a poor
equipment, that yonder. Frank," said he at last, with a forced smile.



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