Charles James Lever.

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cited frame of mind in which he became a volunteer with
the army had not time to subside ere came the spirit-
stirring hour of the landing at Aboukir. The fight, in
all its terrible but glorious vicissitudes the struggle in
which he perilled his own life to save his leader's the
moments that seemed those of ebbing life in which he lay
upon a litter before Darcy's eyes, and yet unable to speak'
his name and then the sudden news of his brother's
death, overwhelming him at once with sorrow for his loss
and all the thousand fleeting thoughts of his own
future, should life be spared him these were enough,
and more than enough, to disturb and overbalance a mind
already weakened by severe illness.

Had Forester known more of his only brother, it is
certain that the predominance of the feeling of grief
would have subdued the others, and given at least the


calm of affliction to his troubled senses. But they were
almost strangers to each other; the elder having passed
his life almost exclusively abroad, and the younger, sepa-
rated by distance and a long interval of years, being a
complete stranger to his qualities and temper.

Dick Forester's grief, therefore, was no more than that
which ties of so close kindred will ever call up, but un-
mixed with the tender attachment of a brother's love.
His altered fortunes had not thus the strong alloy of
heartfelt sorrow to make them distasteful ; but still there
was an unreality in everything a vague uncertainty in
all his endeavours at close reasoning, which harassed and
depressed him. And when he awoke from each short
disturbed sleep, it took several minutes before he could
bring back his memory to the last thought of his waking
hours. The very title " my lord," so scrupulously re-
peated at each instant, startled him afresh at each moment
he heard it ; and as he read over the names of the high
and titled personages whose anxieties for his recovery had
made them daily visitors at his hotel, his heart faltered
between the pleasure of flattery and a deeper feeling of
almost scorn for the sympathies of a world that could
minister to the caprices of rank what it withheld from
the real sufferings of the same man in obscurity. His
mother he had not seen yet, for Lady Netherby, much
attached to her eldest son, and vain of abilities by which
she reckoned on his future distinction, was herself seri-
ously indisposed. Lord Netherby, however, had been a
frequent visitor, and had already seen Forester several
times, although always very briefly, and only upon the
terms of distant politeness.

Although in a state that precluded everything like active
exertion, and which, indeed, made the slightest effort a
matter of peril, Forester had already exchanged more
than one communication with the Horse Guards on the
subject of the Knight's safety, and received the most
steady assurances that his exchange was an object on which
the authorities were most anxious, and engaged at the
very moment in negotiations for its accomplishment. There
were two difficulties : one, that no officer of Darcy's precise
rank was then a prisoner with the British; and secondly,


that any very pressing desire expressed for his liberation
would serve to weaken the force of that conviction they
were so eager to impress, that the campaign was nearly
ended, and that nothing but capitulation remained for the

Forester was not more gratified than surprised at the
tone of obliging and almost deferential politeness which
pervaded each answer to his applications. He had yet to
learn how a vote in the " Lords " can make secretaries
civil, and under-secretaries most courteous, and while his
few uncertain lines were penned with diffidence and dis-
trust, the replies gradually inducted him into that sense of
confidence which a few months later he was to feel like a

How far these thoughts contributed to his recovery it
would be difficult to say, nor does it exactly lie in our
province to inquire. The likelihood is, that the induce-
ments to live are strong aids to overcome sickness, for, as
a witty observer has remarked, "There is no such manque
de savoirvivre as dying at four-and-twenty."

It is very probable Forester experienced all this, and
that the dreams of the future in which he indulged were
not only his greatest, but his pleasantest aid to recovery.
A brilliant position, invested with rank, title, fortune, and
a character for enterprise, are all flattering adjuncts to
youth, while in the hope of succeeding, where his dearest
wishes were concerned, lay a source of far higher happiness.
How to approach this subject again most fittingly, was now
the constant object of his thoughts. He sometimes re-
solved to address Lady Eleanor, but so long as he could
convey no precise tidings of the Knight, this would be an
ungracious task. Then he thought of Miss Daly, but he
did not know her address. All these doubts and hesita-
tions invariably ending in the resolve, that as soon as his
strength permitted he would go over to Ireland, and find-
ing out Bicknell, obtain accurate information as to Lady
Eleanor's present residence, and also learn if, without
being discovered, he could in any way be made serviceable
to the interests of the family.

Perhaps we cannot better convey the gradually dawning
conviction of his altered fortune on his mind, than by



mentioning that while he canvassed these various chancea,
and speculated on their course, he never dwelt on the
possibility of Lady Netherby's power to influence his
determination. In the brief note he received from her
each morning, the tone of affectionate solicitude for his
health was always accompanied by some allusive hint of
the " duties " recovery would impose, and each inquiry after
his night's rest was linked with a not less anxious ques-
tion, as to how soon he might feel able to appear in public.
Constitutionally susceptible of all attempts to control him,
and from his childhood disposed to rebel against dictation,
ho limited his replies to brief accounts of his progress, or
inquiries after her own health, resolved in his heart that
now that fortune was his own, to use the blessings it
bestows according to the dictates of affection and a con-
scientious sense of right, and be neither the toy of a faction
nor the tool of a party. In Darcy could he but see him
once more he looked for a friend and adviser, and what-
ever the fortune of his suit, he felt that the Knight's coun-
sels should be his guidance as to the future, reposing not
even more trust on unswerving rectitude, than the vast
range of his knowledge of life, and the common-sense
views he could take of the most complex, as of the very
simplest questions.

It was now some seven weeks after his return, and
Forester, for we would still desire to call him by the name
our reader has known him, was sitting upon a sofa, weak
and nervous, as the first day of a convalescent's appearance
in he drawing-room usually is, when his servant, having
deposited on the table several visiting-cards of distinguished
inquirers, mentioned that the Earl of Netherby wished to
pay his respects. Forester moved his head in token of
assent and his lordship soon after entered.




STEPPING noislessly over the carpet, with an air at once
animated and regardful of the sick man, Lord Netherby
was at Forester's side before he could arise to receive
him ; and pressing him gently down with both hands,
said, in a voice of most silvery cadence,

" My dear lord you must not stir for the world
Halford has only permitted me to see you under the strict
pledge of prudence ; and now, how are you ? Ah ! I see
weak and low. Come, you must let me speak for you,
or at least interpret your answers to my own liking. We
have so much to talk over, it is difficult where to begin."

" How is Lady Netherby ?" said Forester, with a slight
hesitation between the words.

" Still very feeble and very nervous. The shock has
been a dreadful one to her. You know that poor Augustus
was coming home on leave when when this hap-

Here his lordship sighed, but not too deeply, for he
remembered that the law of primogeniture is the sworn
enemy to grief.

" There was some talk, too, of his being sent on a
special embassy to Paris a very high and important
trust and so really the affliction is aggravated by think-
ing what a career was opening to him. But, as the Dean
of Walworth beautifully expressed it, ' We are cut down
like, flowers of the field.' Ah ! "

A sigh and a slight wave with a handkerchief, diffusing
an odour of eau-de-Portugal through the chamber, closed
this affecting sentiment.

" I trust in a day or two I shall bo able to see my

x 2


mother," said Forester, whose thoughts were following a
far more natural channel. " I can walk a little to-day,
and before the end of the week Halford promises me that
I shall drive out."

" That's the very point we are most anxious about,"
said Lord Netherhy, eagerly : " we want you, if possible,
to take your seat in ' the Lords' next week. There is a
special reason for it. Rumour runs that the Egyptian
expedition will be brought on for discussion on Thursday
next. Some malcontents are about to disparage the
whole business, and, in particular, the affair at Alexandria.
Ministers are strong enough to resist this attack, and
even carry the war back into the enemy's camp; but we
all think it would be a most fortunate moment for yon,
when making your first appearance in the House, to rise
and say a few woi'ds on the subject of the campaign.
The circumstances under which you joined your very
dangerous wound have given you a kind of prerogative
to speak, and the occasion is most opportune. Come,
what say you ? Would such an effort be too great ? "

" Certainly not for my strength, my lord, if not for my
shame sake ; for really I should feel it somewhat pre-
sumptous in me, a man who carried his musket in the
ranks, to venture on a discussion, far more a defence, of
the great operations in which he was a mere unit ; one of
those rank and file who figured, without other designa-
tion, in lists of killed and wounded."

" This is very creditable to your modesty, my dear lord,"
said the old peer, smiling most blandly, " but pardon me
if I say it displays a great forgetfulness of your present
position. Remember that you now belong to the Upper
House, and that the light of the peerage shines on the
past as on the future."

" By which I am to understand," replied Forester,
laughing, " that the events which would have met a
merited oblivion in Dick Forester's life, are to be remem-
bered with honour to the Earl of Wallincourt."

" Of course they are," cried Lord Netherby, joining in
the laugh. " If an unlikely scion of royalty ascends the
throne, we look out for the evidences of his princely tastes
in the sports of his boyhood. Nay, if a clever writer or


painter wins distinction from the world, do we not ' try
back ' for his triumphs at school, or his chalk sketches
on coach-house gates, to warrant the early development
of genius ? "

" Well, my lord," said Forester, gaily, " I accept the
augury, and as nothing more nearly concerns a man's
life than the fate of those who have shown him friend-
ship, let me inquire after some friends of mine, and some
relations of yours the Darcys."

" Ah, those poor Darcys ! " said Lord Netherby, wiping
his eyes, and heaving a very profound sigh, as though to
say that the theme was one far too painful to dwell upon,
" theirs is a sad story, a very sad story indeed ! "

" Anything more gloomy than the loss of fortune, my
lord ? " asked Forester, with a trembling lip, and a cheek
pale as death. Lord Netherby stared to see whether the
patient's mind was not beginning to wander. That there
could be anything worse than loss of fortune he had yet
to learn assuredly he had never heard of it. Forester
repeated his question.

" No, no, perhaps, not if you understand by that phrase
what I do," said Lord Netherby, almost pettishly. " If,
like me, you take in all the long train of ruin and decay
such loss implies : pecuniary distress moneyed diffi-
culties fallen condition in societv inferior associa-
tion "

" Nay, my lord, in the present instance, I can venture
to answer for it, such consequences have not ensued.
You do your relatives scarcely justice to suppose it."

" It is very good and very graceful, both, in you," said
Lord Netherby, with an almost angelic smile, " to say so.
Unfortunately, these are not merely speculative opinions
on my part. While I make this remark, understand me as
by no means imputing any blame to them. What could
they do ? that is the question what could they do ? "

" I would rather ask of your lordship, what have they
done? When I know that, I shall be, perhaps, better
enabled to reply to your question."

In all likelihood it was more the manner than the
substance of this question which made Lord Netherby
hesitate how to reply to it, and at last he said,


" To say in so many words what they have done, is not
so easy. It would, perhaps, give better insight into the
circumstances were I to say what they have not done."

" Even as you please, my lord. The negative charge,
then," said Forester impatiently.

" Lord Castlereagh, my lord ! " said a servant, throwing
open the door, for he had already received orders to admit
him when he called, though, had Forester guessed how
inopportune the visit could have proved, he would never
have said so.

In the very different expressions of Lord Netherby and
the sick man's face, it might be seen how differently they
welcomed the new arrival.

Lord Castlereagh saluted both with a courteous and
cordial greeting and although he could not avoid seeing
that he had dropped in somewhat mal-a-propos, he
resolved rather to shorten the limit of his stay than
render it awkward by any expressions of apology. The
conversation, therefore, took that easy, careless tone, in
which each could join with freedom. It was after a
brief pause, when none exactly liked to be the first to
speak, that Lord Netherby observed,

" The very moment you were announced, my lord, I
was endeavouring to persuade my young friend here to a
line of conduct in which, if I have your lordship's co-
operation, I feel I shall be successful."

" Pray let me hear it," said Lord Castlereagh, gaily,
and half interrupting what he feared was but the opening
of an over lengthy exposition.

Lord Netherby was not to be defeated so easily, nor
defrauded of a theme whereupon to expend many loyal
sentiments, and so he opened a whole battery of argu-
ments on the subject of the young peer's first appearance
in the House, and the splendid opportunity, as he called
it, of a maiden speech.

" I see but one objection," said Lord Castlereagh, with
a well affected gravity.

" I see one hundred," broke in Forester, impatiently.

" Perhaps my one will do," rejoined Lord Castlereagh.

" Which is if I may take the liberty " lisped out

Lord Netherby.


"That there will be no debate on the subject. The
motion is withdrawn."

" Motion withdrawn ! since when ? "

" I see you have not heard the news this morning,"
said Lord Castlereagh, who really enjoyed the discom-
fiture of one very vain of possessing the earliest intelli-

" I have heard nothing," exclaimed he, with a sigh of

" Well, then, I may inform you, that the Pike has
brought us very stirring intelligence. The war in Egypt
is now over. The French have surrendered under the
terms of a convention, and a treaty has been ratified that
permits their return to France. Hostages for the guar-
antee of the treaty have been already interchanged, and,"
here he turned towards Forester, and added " it will
doubtless interest you to hear that your old friend the
Knight of Gwynne is one of them, an evidence that he is
not only alive, but in good health also."

" This is, indeed, good news you bring me," said
Forester, with a flashing eye and a heightened com-
plexion. "Has any one written? Do Colonel Darcy's
friends know of this ? "

" I have myself done so," said Lord Castlereagh.
" Not that I may attribute the thoughtful attention to
myself, for I received his Royal Highness's commands on
the subject. I need scarcely say that such a communica-
tion must be gratifying to any one."

"Where are they at present ? " said Forester, eagerly.

"That was a question of some difficulty to me, and I
accordingly called on my Lord Netherby to ascertain the
point. I found he had left home, and now have the good
fortune to catch him here." So saying, Lord Castlereagh
took from the folds of a pocket-book a sealed but unad-
dressed letter, and dipping a pen in the ink before him,
prepared to write.

There were, indeed, very few occurrences in life which
made Lord Netherby feel ashamed. He had never been
obliged to blush for any solecism in manner, or any
offence against high breeding, nor had the even tenor
of his days subjected him to any occasion of actual


shame, so that the confusion he now felt had the added
poignancy of being a new as well as a painful sensation.

"It may seem very strange to you, my lord," said he,
in (l broken and hesitating voice ; " not but that, on a
little reflection, the case will be easily accounted for ; but
so it is I really must own I must frankly acknow-
ledge that I am not at this moment aware of my dear
cousin's address."

If his lordship had not been too much occupied in watch-
ing Lord Castlereagh's countenance, he could not have
failed to see, and be struck by, the indignant expression of
Forester's features.

"How are we to reach them, then, that's the point?"
said Lord Castlereagh, over whose handsome face not the
slightest trace of passion was visible. " If I mistake not,
Gwynne Abbey they have left many a day since."

" I think I can lay my hand on a letter. I am almost
certain I had one from a law-agent, called called "

" Bicknell, perhaps," interrupted Forester, blushing
between shame and impatience.

" Quite right you are quite right," replied Lord
Netherby, with a significant glance at Lord Castlereagh,
cunningly intended to draw off attention from himself.
" Well, Mr. Bicknell wrote to me a very tiresome and
complicated epistle about law affairs motions, rules, and
so forth and mentioned at the end that Lady Eleanor and
Helen were living in some remote village on the northern

" A cottage called the Corvy," broke in Forester,
"kindly lent to them by an old friend, Mr. Bageual

"Will that address suffice," said Lord Castlereagh,
" with the name of the nearest post-town ?"

" If you will make me the postman, I'll vouch for the safe
delivery," said Forester, with an animation that made him
flushed and pale within the same instant.

" My dear young friend my dear Lord Wallincourt ! "
exclaimed Lord Netherby, laying his hand upon his arm.
He said no more ; indeed he firmly believed the enuncia-
tion of his new title must be quite sufficient to recall him to
a sense of due consideration for himself.


"You are scarcely strong enough, Dick," said Lord
Castlereagh, coolly. " It is a somewhat long journey for an
invalid, and Halford, I'm sure, wouldn't agree to it."

"I'm quite strong enough," said Forester, rising and
pacing the room with an attempted vigour that made his
debility seem still more remarkable : " if not to-day, I
shall be to-morrow. The travelling, besides, will serve
me change of air and scene. More than all, I am deter-
mined on doing it."

" Not if I refuse you the despatches, I suppose ? " said
Lord Castlereagh, laughing.

"You can scarcely do that," said Forester, fixing his
eyes steadfastly on him. " Your memory is a bad one,
or you must recollect sending me down once upon a time
to that family on an errand of a different nature. Don't
you think you owe an amende to them and to me ? "

" Eh ! what was that? I should like to know what you
allude to," said Lord Netherby, whose curiosity became
most painfully eager.

" A little secret between Dick and myself," said Lord
Castlereagh, laughing. " To show I do not forget which,
I'll accede to his present request, always provided that he
is equal to it."

" Oh, as to that "

" It must be ' Halfordo non obstante,' or not at all,"
said Lord Castlereagh, rising. " Well," continued he, as
he moved towards the door, " I'll see the doctor on my
way homeward, and if he incline to the safety of the
exploit, you shall hear from me before four o'clock. I'll
send you some extracts, too, from the official papers, such
as may interest your friends, and you may add ' bien des
chases de ma part? in the way of civil speeches and

Lord Netherby had moved towards the window as Lord
Castlereagh withdrew, and seemed more interested by the
objects in the street than anxious to renew the interrupted

Forester if one were to judge from his preoccupied
expression appeared equally indifferent on the subject,
and both were silent. Lord Netherby at last looked at
his watch, and, with an exclamation of astonishment at


the lateness of the hour, took up his hat. Forester did
not notice the gesture, for his mind had suddenly become
awake to the indelicacy, to say no worse, of leaving Lon-
don for a long journey without one effort to see his mother.
A tingling feeling of shame burned in his cheek and made
his heart beat faster, as he said, " I think you have your
carriage below, my lord ?"

" Yes," replied Lord Netherby, not aware whether the
question might portend something agreeable or the

" If you'll permit me, I'll ask you to drive me to
Berkeley Square. I think the air and motion will benefit
me ; and perhaps Lady Netherby will see me.''

"Delighted charmed to see you my dear young
friend," said Lord Netherby, who having, in his own
person, some experience of the sway and influence her
ladyship was habituated to exercise, calculated largely on
the effect of an interview between her and her son. "I
don't believe you could possibly propose anything more
gratifying nor more likely to serve her. She is very .weak
and very nervous ; but to see you will, I know, be of im-
mense service. I'm sure you'll not agitate her," added he,
after a pause. If the words had been " not contradict,"
they would have been nearer his meaning.

" You may trust me, for both our sakes," said Forester,
smiling. "By-the-by, you mentioned a letter from a law-
agent of the Darcys, Mr. Bicknell, was it expressive of
any hope of a favourable termination to the suit, or did
he opine that the case was a bad one ?"

" If I remember aright, a very bad one ; bad, from the
deficiency of evidence worse, from the want of funds to
carry it on. Of course I only speak from memory, and
the epistle was so cramp, so complex, and with such a
profusion of detail intermixed, that I could make little
out of it, and retain even less. I must say that, as it was
written without my cousin's knowledge or consent, I paid
no attention to it. It was, so to say, quite unauthorized."

" Indeed ! " exclaimed Forester, in an accent whose
scorn was mistaken by the hearer, as he resumed.

" Just so ; a mere lawyer's ruse, to carry on a suit. He
proposed, I own, a kind of security for any advance I


should make, in the person of Miss Daly, whose property,
amounting to some three or four thousand pounds, was to
be given as security ! There always is some person of
this kind on these occasions some tame elephant to
attract the rest: but I paid no attention to it. The only
thing, indeed, I could learn of the lady was, that she had
a fire-eating brother who paid bond debts with a pistol,
and small ones with a horsewhip."

" I know Mr. Daly and his sister too. He is a most'
honourable and high-minded gentleman; of her, I only
needed to hear the trait your lordship has just mentioned,
to say that she is worthy to be his sister in every respect."

" I was not aware that they were acquaintances of

" Friends, my lord, would better express the relation-
ship between us, friends, firm and true, I sincerely believe
them. Pray, if not indiscreet, may I ask the date of this

" Some day of June last, I think. The case was to
come on for trial next November in Westport, and it was

Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 26 of 35)