Charles James Lever.

Sir Brook Fossbrooke (Volume 1) online

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i^ My dear Rose,











Your affectionate friend,


Si'E/iA, Ocloh^Y 20, 18G6.

Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2009 with funding from

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign




The mess was over, and the officers of H.M/s — th
were grouped in little knots and parties, sipping their
coffee, and discussing the arrangements for the even-
ing. Their quarter was that pleasant city of Dublin,
which, bating certain exorbitant demands in the
matter of field-day and guard-mounting, stands pre-
eminently first in military favour.

"Are you going to that great ball in Merrion
Square?" asked one.

'' Not so lucky ; not invited."

" I got a card," cried a third ; " but I've just heard
it's not to come off. It seems that tlio lady's lius-
band is a judge. He's Chief something or other;
and he has been called away."



" Nothing of the kind, Tomkins ; unless you call
a summons to the next world being caUed away.
The man is dangerously ill. He was seized with
paralysis on the Bench yesterday, and, they say,
can't recover."

There now ensued an animated conversation as to
whether, on death vacancies, the men went up "by
■ seniority at the bar, or whether a subaltern could at
once spring up to the top of the regiment.

" Suppose," said one, " we were to ask the Colonel's
guest his opinion. The old cove has talked pretty
nigh of everything in this world during dinner;
what if we were to ask him about barons of the
Exchequer ? "

" Who is he ? what is he ? " asked another.

"The Colonel called him Sir Brook Fossbrooke;
that's all I know."

" Colonel Cave told me," whispered the Major,
"that he was the fastest man on town some forty
years ago."

" I think he must have kept over the wardrobe of
that brilliant period," said another. " I never saw a
really swallow-tailed coat before."

" His ring amused me. It is a small smoothing-
iron, with a coat of arms on it. Hush! here he

The man who now joined the group was a tall,
gaunt figure, with a high narrow head, from which


the hair was brushed rigidly back to fall behind in
something like an old-fashioned queue. His eyes
were black, and surmounted with massive and much-
arched eyebrows; a strongly-marked mouth, stern,
determined, and, except in speaking, almost cruel in
expression, and a thin-pointed projecting chin, gave
an air of severity and strong will to features which,
when he conversed, displayed a look of courteous
deference, and that peculiar desire to please that we
associate with a bygone school of breeding. He was
one of those men, and very distinctive are they, with
whom even the least cautious take no liberties, nor
venture upon any familiarity. The eccentricities of
determined men are very often indications of some
deep spirit beneath, and not, as in weaker natures,
mere emanations of vanity or offsprings of self-in-

If he was, beyond question, a gentleman, there
were also signs about him of narrow fortune: his
scrupulously white shirt was not fine, and the seams
of his well-brushed coat showed both care and wear.

He had joined the group, who were talking of the
coming Derby when the Colonel came up. " I have
sent for the man we want, Fossbrooke. I'm not a
fisherman myself ; but they tell me he knows every
lake, river, and rivulet in the island. He has sat
down to whist, but we'll have him here presently."

" On no account ; don't disturb his game for me."


" Here lie comes. Trafford, I want to present you
to a very old friend of mine, Sir Brook Fossbrooke —
as enthusiastic an angler as yourself. He has the
ambition to hook an Irish salmon. I don't suppose
any one can more readily help him on the road to it."

The young man thus addressed was a large,
strongly, almost heavily built young fellow, but with
that looseness of limb and freedom that showed ac-
tivity had not been sacrificed to mere power. He
had a fine frank handsome face, blue-eyed, and bold-
looking; and as he stood to receive the Colonel's
orders there was in his air that blending of deference
and good-humoured carelessness that made up his
whole nature.

It was plain to see in him one easy to persuade —
impossible to coerce ; a fellow with whom the man
he liked could do anything, but one perfectly un-
manageable if thrown into the wrong hands. He
was the second son of a very rich baronet, but made
the mistake of believing he had as much right to
extravagance as his elder brother, and having per-
sisted in this error during two years in the Life
Guards, had been sent to do the double penance of
an infantry regiment and an Irish station ; two in-
flictions which, it was believed, would have sufficed
to calm down the ardour of the most impassioned
spendthrift. He looked at Fossbrooke from head to
foot. It was not exactly the stamp of man he would


have selected for companionsliip, but lie saw at once
that he was distinctively a gentleman, and then the
prospect of a few days away from regimental duty
was not to be despised, and he quickly replied that
both he and his tackle were at Sir Brook's disposal.
" If we could run down to Killaloe, sir," added he,
turning to the Colonel, " we might be almost sure of
some sport."

"Which means that you want two days' leave,

" No, sir ; four. It will take a day at least to get
over there ; another will be lost in exploring ; all
these late rains have sent such a fresh into the
Shannon there's no knowing where to try."

" You see, Fossbrooke, what a casuistical com-
panion I've given you. I'll wager you a five-pound
note that if you come back without a rise he'll have
an explanation that will perfectly explain it was the
best thing could have happened."

'' I am charmed to travel in such company," said
Sir Brook, bowing. "The gentleman has already
established a claim to my respect for him."

Trafford bowed too, and looked not at all displeased
at the compliment. " Are you an early riser, sir ? "•
asked he.

" I am anything, sir, the occasion exacts ; but
when I have an early start before me, I usually sit
up all night."


" My own plan, too/' cried Trafford. " And there's
Aubrey quite ready to join us. Aj-e you a whister,
Sir Brook r'

" At your service. I play all games."

" Is lie a whister ? " repeated the Colonel. " Ask
Harry Greville, ask Tom Newenham, what they say
of him at Graham's? Trafford, my boy, you may
possibly give him a hint about grey hackles, but I'll
be shot if you do about the odd trick."

" If you'll come over to my room, Sir Brook, we'll
have a rubber, and I'll give orders to have my tax-
cart ready for us by daybreak," said Trafford ; and
Fossbrooke promising to be with him so soon as he
had given his servant his orders, they parted.

" And are you as equal to this sitting up all night
as you used to be, Tossbrooke ? " asked the Colonel.

" I don't smoke as many cigars as formerly, and I
am a little more choice about my tobacco. I avoid
mulled port, and take weak brandy-and-water ; and
I believe in all other respects I'm pretty much
where I was when we met last, — I think it was at

" I wish I could say as much for myself You are
talking of thirty-four years ago."

" My secret against growing old is to do a little of
everything. It keeps the sympathies wider, makes
a man more accessible to other men, and keeps him
from dweUino" too much on himself. But tell me


about my young companion ; is lie one of Sir Hugh's

" His second son ; not unlike to be his eldest, for
George has gone to Madeira with very little prospect
of recovery. This is a fine lad ; a little wild, a little
careless of money, but the very soul of honour and
right-mindedness. They sent him to me as a sort
of incurable, but I have nothing but good to say
of him."

" There's great promise in a fellow when he can
be a scamp and a man of honour. When dissipations
do not degrade and excesses do not corrupt a man,
there is a grand nature ever beneath."

" Don't tell him that, Fossbrooke," said the Colo-
nel, laughing.

" I am not likely to do so," said he, with a grim
smile. "I am glad, too, to meet his father's son;
we were at Christ Church together ; and now I see
he has the family good-looks. * Le beau TrafFord,'
was a proverb in Paris once."

"Do you ever forget a man?" asked the Colonel,
in some curiosity.

" I believe not. I forget books, places, dates oc-
casionally, but never peoj^le. I met an old school-
fellow t'other day at Dover whom I never saw since
we. were boys. He had gone down in the world,
and was acting as one of the *commissionnaires' they
call them, who take your keys to the Custom-house


to have your luggage examined ; and when he came
to ask me to employ him, I said, ' What ! an't you
Jemmy Harper?' 'And who the devil are youl'
said he. 'Fossbrooke/ said I. 'Not "Wart"?'
said he. That was my school nickname, from a
wart I once had on my chin. ' Ay, to be sure,' said
I, ' Wart.' I wish you saw the delight of the old
dog. I made him dine with us. Lord Brackington
was with me, and enjoyed it all immensely."

" And what had brought him so low ? "

" He was cursed, he said, with a strong constitu-
tion ; all the other fellows of his set had so timed it,
that when they had nothing to live on they ceased
to live ; but Jemmy told us he never had such an
appetite as now; that he passed from fourteen to
sixteen hours a-day on the pier in all weathers ; and
as to gout, he firmly believed it all came of the
adulterated wines of the great wine -merchants.
British gin he maintained to be the wholesomest
liquor in existence."

"I wonder how fellows bear up under such re-
verses as that," said the Colonel.

"My astonishment is rather," cried Fossbrooke,
" how men can live on in a monotony of wellbeing,
getting fatter, older, and more unwieldy, and with
only such experiences of life as a well-fed fowl
might have in a hen-coop."

" I know that's ^/Oi^r theory," said the other, laughing


" Well, no man can say that I have not lived up
to my conductions ; and for myself, I can aver I have
thoroughly enjoyed my intercourse with the world,
and like it as well to-day as on the first morning I
made my bow to it/'

" Listen to this, young gentlemen," said the Colo-
. nel, turning to his officers, who now gathered around
them. "Now and then I hear some of you com-
plaining of being bored or wearied — sick of this,
tired of that ; here's my friend, who knows the whole
thing better than any of us, and he declares that the
world is the best of all possible worlds, and that, so
far from familiarity with it inspiring jdisgust with
life, his enjoyment of it is as racy as when first he
knew it."

" It is rather hard to ask these gentlemen to take
me as a guide on trust," said Fossbrooke ; " but I
have known the fathers of most of those I see around
me, and could call many of them as witnesses to
character. Major Aylmer, your father and I went
up the Nile together, when people talked of it as a
journey. Captain Harris, I'm sure I am not wrong
in saying you are the son of Godfrey Harris of Har-
risburg. Your father was my friend on the day I
wounded Lord Ecclesmore, I see four or five others
too — so like old companions that I find it hard to
believe I am not back again in the old days when I
was as young as themselves ; and yet, I'm not \eTy


certain if I would like to exchange my present quiet
enjoyment as a looker-on for all that active share I
once took in life and its pleasures."

Something in the fact that their fathers had lived
in his intimacy, something in his manner — a very
courteous manner it was — and something in the
bold, almost defiant bearing of the old man, vouch-
ing for great energy and dignity together, won
greatly upon the young men, and they gathered
around him. He was, however, summoned away by
a message from Trafford to say that the whist-party
waited for him, and he took his leave with a stately
courtesy and withdrew.

" There goes one of the strangest fellows in Chris-
tendom," said the Colonel, as the other left the room.
" He has already gone through three fortunes ; he
dissipated the first — speculated and lost the second
— and the third he, I might say, gave away in acts
of benevolence and kindness — leaving himself so ill-
off, that I actually heard the other day that some
friend had asked for the place of barrack-master at
Athlone for him; but on coming over to see the
place, he found a poor fellow with a wife and five
children a candidate for it; so he retired in his
favour, and is content, as you see, to go out on the
world, and take his chance with it."

Innumerable questions pressed on the Colonel to
tell more of his strange friend ; he had, however,


little beyond hearsay to give tliem. Of his own
experiences, he could only say that when first he met
him it was at Ceylon, where he had come in a yacht
like a sloop of war to hunt elephants — the splendour
of his retinue and magnificence of his suite giving him
the air of a royal personage — and indeed the gorgeous
profusion of his presents to the King and the chief
personages of the court, went far to impress this no-
tion. "I never met him since," said the Colonel, *' till
this morning, when he walked into my room, dusty
and travel-stained, to say, ' I just heard your name,
and thought I'd ask you to give me my dinner to-day.'
I owe him a great many — not to say innumerable
other attentions ; and his last act on leaving Trin-
comalee was to present me with an Arab charger, the
most perfect animal I ever mounted. It is therefore
a real pleasure to me to receive him. He is a
thoroughly fine-hearted fellow, and, with all his ec-
centricities, one of the noblest natures I ever met.
The only flaw in his frankness is as to his age ;
nobody has ever been able to get it from him. You
heard him talk of your fathers — he might talk of
your grandfathers ; and he would too, if we had only
the opportunity to lead him on to it. I know of my
own knowledge that he lived in the Carlton House
coterie, not a man of which except himself survives ;
and I have heard him give imitations of Burke,
Sheridan, Gavin Hamilton, and Pitt, that none but


one who had seen them could have accomplished.
And now that I have told you all this, will one of
you step over to Trafford's rooms, and whisper him
a hint to make his whist-points as low as he can ;
and, what is even of more importance, to take care
lest any strange story Sir Brook may tell — and he
is full of them — meet a sign of incredulity — still
less provoke any quizzing; the slightest shade of
such a provocation would render him like a mad-

The Major volunteered to go on this mission,
which indeed any of the others would as willingly
have accepted, for the old man had interested them
deeply, and they longed to hear more about him.


THE swan's nest.

As the Shannon draws near Killaloe, the wild char-
acter of the mountain scenery, the dreary wastes and
desolate islands which marked Lough Derg, disappear,
and give way to gently-sloping lawns, dotted over
with well-grown timber, well-kept demesnes, spacious
country-houses, and a country which, in general,
almost recalls the wealth and comfort of Ensrland.

About a mile above the town, in a little bend of
the river forming a small bay, stands a small but
pretty house, with a skirt of rich wood protecting it
at the back, while the lawn in front descends by an
easy slope to the river.

Originally a mere farmhouse, the taste of an in-
genious owner had taken every advantage of its
irregular outline, and converted it into something
Elizabethan in character, a style admirably adapted
to the site, where all the features (^ rich-coloured
landscape abounded, and where varied foliage, heathy


mountain, and eddying river, all lent themselves to
make up a scene of fresh and joyous beauty.

In the marvellous fertility of the soil, too, was
found an ally to every prospect of embellishment.
Sheltered from north and east winds, plants grew
here in the open air, which in less favoured spots
needed the protection of the conservatory ; and thus
in the neatly shaven lawn were seen groups of blos-
soming shrubs or flowers of rare excellence, and the
camellia and the salvia and the oleander blended
with the tulip, the moss-rose, and the carnation, to
stud the grass with their gorgeous colours.

Over the front of the cottage, for cottage it really
was, a South American creeper, a sort of acanthus,
grew, its crimson flowers hanging in rich profusion
over cornice and architrave ; while a passion-tree of
great age covered the entire porch, relieving with its
softened tints the almost over-brilliancy of the south-
ern plant.

Seen from the water — and it came suddenly into
view on rounding a little headland — few could for-
bear from an exclamation of wonder and admiration
at this lovely spot ; nor could all the pretentious
grandeur of the rich-wooded parks, nor all the more
imposing architecture of the great houses, detract
from the marvellous charm of this simple home.

A tradition pf a swan carried away by some rising
of the river from the Castle of Portumna, and swept


down the lake till it found refuge in the little bay,
had given the name to the place, and for more than
a hundred years was it known as the Swan's Nest.
The Swan, however, no longer existed, though a little
thatched edifice at the water-side marked the spot it
had once inhabited, and sustained the truth of the

The owner of the place was a Dr Lendrick : he
had come to it about twenty years before the time at
which our story opens — a widower with two children,
a son and a daughter. He was a perfect stranger to
all the neighbourhood, though by name well known
as the son of a distinguished judge. Baron Lendrick
of the Court of Exchequer.

It was rumoured about, that, having displeased his
father, first by adopting medicine instead of law as
his profession, and subsequently by marrying a por-
tionless girl of humble family, the Baron had ceased
to recognise him in any way. Making a settlement
of a few hundreds a-year on him, he resolved to
leave the bulk of his fortune to a step -son, the child
of his second wife, a Colonel Sewell, then in India.

It was with no thought of practising his profession
that Dr Lendrick had settled in the neighbourhood ;
but as he was always ready to assist the poor by his
advice and skill, and as the reputation of his great
ability gradually got currency, he found himself con-
strained to yield to the insistance of his neighbours.


and consent to practise generally. There were many
things which made this course unpalatable to him.
He was by nature shy, timid, and retiring ; he was
fastidiously averse to a new acquaintanceship ; he
had desired, besides, to live estranged from the world,
devoting himself entirely to the education of his
children ; and he neither liked the forced publicity
he became exposed to, nor that life of servitude
which leaves the doctor at the hourly mercy of the
world around him.

If he yielded, therefore, to the professional calls
upon him, he resisted totally all social claims : he
went nowhere but as the doctor.

No persuasion, no inducement, could prevail on
him to dine out ; no exigency of time or season pre-
vent him returning to his home at night. There
were in his neighbourhood one or two persons whose
rank might have, it was supposed, influenced him
in some degree to comply with their requests — and,
certainly, whose desire for his society would have
left nothing undone to secure it ; but he was as ob-
durate to them as to others, and the Earl of Drum-
carran and Sir Eeginald Lacy, of < Lacy Manor, were
not a whit more successful in their blandishments
than the Vicar of Killaloe — Old Bob Mills, as he was
irreverently called — or Lendrick's own colleague, Dr
Tobin, who, while he respected his superior ability,
and admitted his knowledge, secretly hated him as


only a rival doctor knows how to hate a brother

For the first time for many years had Dr Lendrick
gone up to Dublin. A few lines from an old family
physician, Dr Beattie, had, however, called him up to
town. The Chief Baron had been taken ill in Court,
and was conveyed home in a state of insensibility.
It was declared that he had rallied and passed a
favourable night; but as he was a man of very
advanced age, at no time strong, and ever unsparing
of himself in the arduous labours of his office, grave
doubts were felt that he would ever again resume
his seat on the Bench. Dr Beattie well knew the
long estrangement that had separated the father from
the son ; and although, perhaps, the most intimate
friend the Judge had in the world, he never had dared
to interpose a word or drop a hint as to the advis-
ability of reconciliation.

Sir William Lendrick was indeed a man whom no
amount of intimacy could render his friends familiar
with. He was positively charming to mere acquain-
tanceship — his manner was a happy blending of de-
ference with a most polished wit. Full of bygone ex-
periences and reminiscences of interesting people and
events, he never overlaid conversation by their men-
tion, but made them merely serve to illustrate the
present, either by contrast or resemblance. All this
to the world and society was he ; to the inmates of



his house he was a perfect terror ! It was said his
first wife had died of a broken heart; his second,
with a spirit fierce and combative as his own, had
quarrelled with him so often, so seriously, and so
hopelessly, that for the last fifteen years of life they
had occupied separate houses, and only met as ac-
quaintances, accepting and sending invitations to
each other, and outwardly observing all the usages
of a refined courtesy.

This was the man of whom Dr Beattie wrote : " I
cannot presume to say that he is more favourably
disposed towards you than he has shown himself for
years, but I would strenuously advise your being
here, and sufficiently near, so that if a happier dispo-
sition should occur, or an opportunity arise to bring
you once more together, the fortunate moment should
not be lost. Come up, then, at once — come to my
house, where your room is ready for you, and where
you will neither be molested by visitors nor interfered
with. Manage too, if you can, to remain here for
some days."

It is no small tribute to the character of filial affec-
tion when one can say, and say truthfully, that scarcely
any severity on a parent's part effaces the love that
was imbibed in infancy, and that struck root in the
heart before it could know what unkindness was !
Over and over again in life have I witnessed this
deep devotion. Over and over again have I seen a

THE swan's nest. 19

clinging affection to a memory whicli nothing short of
a hallowed tie could have made so dear — a memory
that retained whatever could comfort and sustain,
and held nothing that recalled shame or sorrow.

Dr Lendrick went up to town full of such
emotions. All the wrong — it was heavy wrong
too — he had suffered was forgotten, all the in-
justice wiped out. He only asked to be permitted
to see his father — to nurse and watch by him.
There was no thought for himself. By recon-
ciliation he never meant restoration to his place as
heir. Forgiveness and love he asked for — to be

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Online LibraryCharles James LeverSir Brook Fossbrooke (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 17)