Charles James Lever.

Sir Brook Fossbrooke (Volume 1) online

. (page 5 of 17)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverSir Brook Fossbrooke (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

examine ; but upon this theme, there was not the
inventor of a hair- wash, a skin-paste, a whisker-dye,
or a pearl-powder, that might not have led him cap-
tive. A bishop might have found difficulty in getting
audience of him — a barber might have entered unan-
nounced ; and while the lieutenant of a county sat
waiting in the antechamber, the tailor, with a new
waistcoat pattern, walked boldly into the august pre-


sence. Entering life by that petite porte of politics,
an Irish office, he had conceived a very humble esti-
mate of the people amongst whom he was placed.
Keo^ardinoj his extradition from Whitehall and its
precincts as a sort of probationary banishment, he
felt, however, its necessity; and as naval men are
accredited with two years of service for every one
year on the coast of Africa, Mr Balfour was aware
that a grateful Government could equally recognise
the devotion of him who gave some of the years of
his youth to the Fernando Po of statecraft.

This impression being rarely personal in its conse-
quences was not of much moment, but it was con-
joined with a more serious error, which was to
imagine that all rule and governance in Ireland
should be carried on with a Machiavellian subtlety.
The people, he had heard, were quick-witted ; he
must therefore out-manoeuvre them. Jobbery had
been, he was told, the ruin of Ireland; he would
show its inefficiency by the superior skill with which
he could wield its weapon. To be sure his office was
a very minor one, its influence very restricted, but
Mr Balfour was ambitious ; he was a Viceroy's
nephew ; he had sat four months in the House, from
which he had been turned out on a petition. He had
therefore social advantages to build on, abilities to
display, and wrongs to avenge ; and as a man too
late for the train speculates during the day how fiir


on his road he might have been by this time or by
that, so did Mr Balfour continually keep reminding
himself how, but for that confounded petition, he
might now have been a Treasury this or a Board of
Trade that — a corporal, in fact, in that great army
whose commissioned officers are amongst the highest
in Europe.

Let us now present him to our reader, as he lay
back in his chair, and by a hand-bell summoned his

" I say, Watkins, when Clancy calls about those
trousers show him in, and send some one over to the
packet-office about the phosphorus blacking ; you
know we are on the last jar of it. If the Solicitor-
General should come "

" He is here, sir ; he has been waiting these twenty
minutes. I told him you were with his Excellency."

" So I was — so I always am," said he, throwing a
half-smoked cigar into the fire. '' Admit him."

A pale, careworn, anxious-looking man, whose face
was not without traces of annoyance at the length of
time he had been kept waiting, now^ entered and sat

" Just where we were yesterday, Pemberton," said
Balfour, as he arose and stood with his back to the
fire, the tails of his gorgeous dressing-gown hanging
over his arms. "Intractable as he ever was; he
won't die, and he won't resign."


" His friends say lie is perfectly willing to resign
if you agree to liis terms."

" That may be possible ; the question is, What are
his terms ? Have you a precedent of a Chief Baron
being raised to the peerage ?"

" It's not, as I understand, the peerage he insists
on ; he inclines to a moneyed arrangement."

" We are too poor, Pemberton, — we are too poor.
There's a deep gap in our customs this quarter. It's
reduction we must think of, not outlay."

" If the changes are to be made," said the other,
with a tone of impatience, " I certainly ought to be
told at once, or I shall have no time left for my

'' An Irish borough, Pemberton — an Irish borough
requires so little," said Balfour, with a compassionate

" Such is not the opinion over here, sir," said Pem-
berton, stiffly; "and I might even suggest some
caution in saying it."

'* Caution is the badge of all our tribe," said Bal-
four, with a burlesque gra^dty. " By the way, Pem-
berton, his Excellency is greatly disappointed at the
issue of these Cork trials ; why didn't you hang these

" Juries can no more be coerced here than in Eng-
land ; they brought them in not guilty."

"We know aU that, and we ask you why?


There certainly was little room for doubt in the

" When you have lived longer in Ireland, Mr Bal-
four, you will learn that there are other considera-
tions in a trial than the testimony of the witnesses."

" That's exactly what I said to his Excellency; and
I remarked. If Pemberton comes into the House, he
must prepare for a sharp attack about these trials."

" And it is exactly to ascertain if I am to enter
Parliament that I have come here to-day," said the
other, angrily.

" Bring me the grateful tidings that the Lord Chief
Baron has joined his illustrious predecessors in that
distinguished court, I'll answer you in five minutes."

" Beattie declares he is better this morning. He
says that he has in aU probability years of life before

" There's nothing so hard to kill as a judge, except
it be an archbishop. I believe a sedentary life does
it ; they say if a feUow will sit stiU and never move
he may live to any age."

Pemberton took an impatient turn up and down
the room, and then wheeling about directly in front
of Balfour, said — " If his Excellency knew perhaps
that I do not want the House of Commons "

" Not want the House — not wish to be in Parlia-

*' Certainly not. If I enter the House it is as a


law-officer of tlie Crown ; personally, it is no object
to me."

" I'll not tell him that, Pem. I'll keep your secret
safe, for I tell you frankly it would ruin you to re-
veal it."

" It's no secret, sir ; you may proclaim it — you
may publish it in the ' Gazette.' But really we are
wasting much valuable time here. It is now two
o'clock, and I must go down to Court. I have only
to say that if no arrangement be come to before this

time to-morrow " He stopped short. Another

word might have committed him, but he pulled up
in time.

" WeU, what then ? " asked Balfour, with a half

" I have heard you pride yourself, Mr Balfour,"
said the other, recovering, "on your skiU in nice
negotiation ; why not try what you could do with
the Chief Baron?"

" Are there women in the family 1 " said Balfour,
caressing his mustache.

" No ; only his wife."

" I've seen her," said he, contemptuously.

" He quarrelled with his only son, and has not
spoken to him, I believe, for nigh thirty years, and
the poor fellow is struggling on as a country doctor
somewhere in the west."

" What if we were to propose to do something for


Mm ? Men are often not averse to see those assisted
■whom their own pride refuses to help."

"I scarcely suspect you'll acquire his gratitude
that way."

" We don't want his gratitude, we want his place.
I declare I think the idea a good one. There's a
thing now at the Cape, an inspectorship of some-
thing — Hottentots or hospitals, I forget which. His
Excellency asked to have the gift of it ; what if we
were to appoint this man ? "

" Make the crier of his Court a Commissioner in
Chancery, and Baron Lendrick will be more obliged
to you," said Pemberton, with a sneer. " He is about
the least forgiving man I ever knew or heard of."

" Where is this son of his to be found ? "

" I saw him yesterday walking with Dr Beattie.
I have no doubt Beattie knows his address. But let
me warn you once more against the inutility of the
step you would take. I doubt if the old Judge would
as much as thank you."

Balfour turned round to the glass and smiled sweet-
ly at himself, as though to say that he had heard of
some one who knew how to make these negotiations
successful — a fellow of infinite readiness, a clever
fellow, but withal one whose good looks and distin-
guished air left even his talents in the background.

" I think I'll call and see the Chief Baron myself,"
said he. " His Excellency sends twice a-day to in-


quire, and I'll take the opportunity to make him a
visit — that is, if he will receive me."

" It is doubtful. At all events, let me give you
one hint for your guidance. Neither let drop Mr
Attorney's name nor mine in your conversation ;
avoid the mention of any one whose career might
be influenced by the Baron's retirement ; and talk
of him less as a human being than as an institution
that is destined to endure as long as the British

" I wish it was a woman — if it was only a woman
I had to deal with, the whole affair might be deemed

" If you should be able to do anything before the
mail goes out to-night, perhaps you will inform me,"
said Pemberton, as he bowed and left the room.
" And these are the men they send over here to
administer the country!" muttered he, as he de-
scended the stairs — " such are the intelligences that
are to rule Ireland ! Was it Voltaire who said there
was nothing so inscrutable in all the ways of Provi-
dence as the miserable smallness of those creatures
to whom the destiny of nations was committed ? "

Euminating over this, he hastened on to a nisi
prius case.



As Colonel Cave re-entered his quarters after morn-
ing parade in the Eoyal Barracks of Dublin, he found
the following letter, which the post had just delivered.
It was headed, " Strictly Private," with three dashes
under the words : —

" Holt-Trafford.

" My dear Colonel Cave, — Sir Hugh is confined
to bed with a severe attack of gout — the doctors call
it flying gout. He suffers greatly, and his nerves are
in a state of irritation that makes all attempt at writ-
ing impossible. This will be my apology for obtrud-
ing upon you, though perhaps the cause in which I
write might serve for excuse. We are in the deepest
anxiety about Lionel. You are already aware how
heavily his extravagance has cost us. His play-
debts amounted to above ten thousand pounds, and
all the cleverness of Mr Joel has not been able to


compromise with the tradespeople for less than as
much more ; nor are we yet done with demands
from various quarters. It is not, however, of these
that I desire to speak. Your kind offer to take him
into your own regiment, and exercise the watchful
supervision of a parent, has relieved us of much
anxiety, and his own sincere affection for you is the
strongest assurance we can have that the step has
been a wise one. Our present uneasiness has, how-
ever, a deeper source than mere pecuniary embarrass-
ment. The boy — he is very little more than a boy
in years — has fallen in love, and gravely writes to
his father for consent that he may marry. I assure
you the shock brought back all Sir Hugh's most
severe symptoms ; and his left eye was attacked
with an inflammation such as Dr Gole says he never
saw equalled. So far as the incoherency of his letter
will permit us to guess, the girl is a person in a very
humble condition of life, the daughter of a country
doctor, of course without family or fortune. That he
made her acquaintance by an accident, as he informs
us, is also a reason to suppose that they are not
people in society. The name, as well as I can de-
cipher it, is Lendrich or Hendrich — neither very dis-
tinguished !

"Now, my dear Colonel, even to a second son,
such an alliance would be perfectly intolerable —
totally at variance with all his fatlier's plans for


him, and inconsistent with the station he should
occupy. But there are other considerations — too
sad ones, too melancholy indeed to be spoken of,
except where the best interests of a family are to
be regarded, which press upon us here. The last
accounts of George from Madeira leave us scarcely
a hope. The climate, from which so much was ex-
pected, has done nothing. The season has been un-
happily most severe, and the doctors agree in declar-
ing that the malady has not yielded in any respect.
You will see, therefore, what a change any day may
accomplish in Lionel's prospects, and how doubly
important it is that he should contract no ties in-
consistent with a station of no mean importance.
Not that these considerations would w^eigh with
Lionel in the least : he was always headstrong, rash,
and self-willed ; and if he were, or fancied that he
were, bound in honour to do a thing, I know well
that all persuasions would be unavailing to prevent
him. I cannot believe, however, that matters can
have gone so far here. This acqu-aintanceship must
be of the very shortest ; and however designing and
crafty such people may be, there will surely be some
means of showing them that their designs are im-
practicable, and of a nature only to bring disappoint-
ment and disgrace upon themselves. That Sir Hugh
would give his consent is totally out of the question
— a thing not to be thought of for a moment ; indeed


I may tell you in confidence that liis first thought
on reading L/s letter was to carry out a project to
which George had already consented, and b}^ which
the entail should be cut off, and our third son, Harry,
in that case would inherit. This will show you to
what extent his indignation would carry him.

" Now what is to be done ? for, really, it is but
time lost in deploring when prompt action alone can
save us. Do you know, or do you know any one who
does know, these Hendrichs or Lendrichs — who are
they, what are they? Are they people to whom I
could write myself ? or are they in that rank in life
which would enable us to make some sort of com-
promise ? Again, could you in any way obtain L/s
confidence and make him open his heart to you first .?
This is the more essential, because the moment he
hears of anything like coercion or pressure his whole
spirit will rise in resistance, and he will be totally
unmanageable. You have perhaps more influence
over him than any one else, and even your influence
he would resent if he suspected any dominance.

" I am madly impatient to hear what you will
suggest. Will it be to see these people? to reason
with them ? to explain to them the fruitlessness of
what they are doing ? Will it be to talk to the girl

" My first thought was to send for Lionel, as his
father was so ill, but on consideration I felt that a


meeting between them might be the thing of all others
to be avoided. Indeed, in Sir Hugh's present temper,
I dare not think of the consequences.

'' Might it be advisable to get Lionel attached to
some foreign station? If so, I am sure I could
manage it— only, would he go ? there's the question
— would he go ? I am writing in such distress of
mind, and so hurriedly, too, that I reaUy do not know
what I have set down, and what I have omitted. I
trust, however, there is enough of this sad case before
you to enable you to counsel me, or, what is much
better, act for me. I wish I could send you L.'s
letter; but Sir Hugh has put it away, and I can-
not lay my hand on it. Its purport, however, was
to obtain authority from us to approach this girl's
relations as a suitor, and to show that his inten-
tions were known to and concurred in by his family.
The only gleam of hope in the epistle was his saying,
' I have not the slightest reason to believe she would
accept me, but the ajjproval of my friends will cer-
tainly give me the best chance.'

" Now, my dear Colonel, compassionate my anxiety,
and write to me at once -^something — anything.
Write such a letter as Sir Hugh may see ; and if you
have anything secret or confidential, enclose it as a
separate slip. Was it not unfortunate that we refused
that Indian appointment for him ? All this misery
might have been averted. You may imagine how


Sir Hugh feels this conduct the more bitterly,
coming, as I may say, on the back of all his late

" Eemember, finally, happen what may, this project
must not go on. It is a question of the boy's whole
future and life. To defy his father is to disinherit
himself ; and it is not impossible that this might be
the most effectual argument you could employ with
these XDCople who now seek to entangle him.

" I have certainly no reason to love Ireland. It
was there that my cousin Cornwallis married that
dreadful creature who is now suing him for cruelty,
and exposing the family throughout England.

" Sir Hugh gave directions last week about lodging
the purchase-money for his company, but he wrote a
few lines to Cox's last night — to what purport I can-
not say — not impossibly to countermand it. What
affliction all this is ! "

As Colonel Cave read over this letter for a second
time, he was not without misgivings about the even
small share to which he had contributed in this diffi-
cultj^ It was evidently during the short leave he
had granted that this acquaintanceship had been
formed ; and Fossbrooke's companionship was the
very last thing in the world to deter a young and
ardent fellow from anything high-flown or romantic.
" I ought never to have thrown them together," nmt-


tered he, as lie walked his room in doubt and de-

He rang his bell and sent for the Adjutant.
"Where's Trafford?" asked he.

''You gave him three days' leave yesterday, sir.
He's gone down to that fishing village where he went

" Confound the place ! Send for him at once —
telegraph. No — let us see — his leave is up to-

" The next day at ten he was to report."

" His father is ill — an attack of gout," muttered the
Colonel, to give some colour to his agitated manner.
" But it is better, perhaps, not to alarm him. The
seizure seems passing off."

" He said something about asking for a longer term ;
he wants a fortnight, I think. The season is just
beginning now."

"He shall not have it, sir. Take good care to
warn him not to apply. It will breed discontent
in the regiment to see a young fellow who has not
been a year with us obtain a leave every ten or
fifteen days."

" If it were any other than Trafford, there would
be plenty of grumbling. But he is such a favourite !"

'' I don't know that a worse accident could befall
any man. Many a fine feUow has been taught selfish-
ness by the over-estimate others have formed of him.


See that you keep him to his duty, and that he is to
look for no favouritism."

The Colonel did not well know why he said this,
nor did he stop to think what might come of it. It
smacked, to his mind, however, of something prompt,
active, and energetic.

His next move was to write a short note to Lady
Trafford, acknowledging hers, and saying that Lionel
being absent — he did not add where — nothing could
be done till he should see him. " To-morrow — next
day at farthest — I will re^Dort progress. I cannot
believe the case to be so serious as you suppose : at
all events, count upon me."

"Stay!" cried he to the Adjutant, who stood in
the window awaiting further instructions ; " on second
thoughts, do telegraph. Say, ' Eeturn at once.' This
will prepare him for something."



On the clay after the picnic Sir Brook went by in-
vitation to breakfast with the Vicar.

"When a man asks yon to dinner," said Foss-
brooke, " he generally wants you to talk ; when he
asks you to breakfast, he wants to talk to you."

Whatever be the truth of this adage generally, it
certainly had its application in the present case.
The Vicar wanted very much to talk to Sir Brook.

As they sat, therefore, over their coffee and de-
villed kidneys, chatting over the late excursion, and
hinting at another, the Vicar suddenly said, " By
the way, I want you to tell me something of the
young fellow who was one of us yesterday. Tobin,
our doctor here, who is a perfect commission-agent
for scandal, says he is the greatest scamp going;
that about eight or ten months ago the ' Times ' was
full of his exploits in bankruptcy; that his liabilities
were tens of thousands — assets nil. In a word, that


notwithstanding his frank, honest look, and his nn-
affected manner, he is the most accomplished scape-
grace of the age."

" And how much of this do you believe ? " asked
Sir Brook, as he helped himself to coffee.

" That is not so easy to reply to ; but I tell you, if
you ask me, that I'd rather not believe one word of it."

" ]N"or need you. His Colonel told me something
about the young fellow's difficulties ; he himself re-
lated the rest. He went most recklessly into debt;
betted largely on races, and lost; lent freely, and lost;
raised at ruinous interest, and renewed at still more
ruinous : but his father has paid every shilling of it
out of that fortune which one day was to have come
to him, so that Lionel's thirty thousand pounds is
now about eight thousand. I have put the whole
story into the fewest possible words, but that's the
substance of it."

" And has it cured him of extravagance 1"

" Of course it has not. How should it ? You
have lived some more years in the world than he
has, and / a good many more than you, and will you
tell me that time has cured either of us of any of
our old shortcomings? Non sum qualis eram means,
I can't be as wild as I nsed to be."

" No, no ; I won't agree to that. I protest most
strongly against the doctrine. Many men are wiser
through experience, and consequently better."


" I sincerely believe I knew the world better at
four-and- twenty than I know it now. The reason
why we are less often deceived in after than in early
life is not that we are more crafty or more keen-
eyed. It is simply because we risk less. Let us
hazard as much at sixty as we once did at six-and-
twenty, and we'll lose as heavily."

The Vicar paused a few moments over the other's
words, and then said, " To come back to this young
man, I half suspect he has formed an attachment to
Lucy, and that he is doing his utmost to succeed in
her favour.'"

"And is there anything wrong in that, Doctor?"

" 'Not positively wrong ; but there is what may
lead to a great deal of unhappiness. Who is to say
how Trafford's family would like the connection?
Who is to answer for Lendrick's approval of Traf-

" You induce me to make a confidence I have no
right to impart; but I rely so implicitly on your dis-
cretion. I will tell you what was intrusted to me as
a secret : Trafford has already written to his father
to ask his consent."

" Without speaking to Lendrick ? without even
being sure of Lucy's ?"

"Yes, without knowing anything of either; but
on my advice he has first asked his father's permis-
sion to pay his addresses to the yoimg lady. His


position with Ms family is peculiar ; he is a younger
son, but not exactly as free as most younger sons
feel to act for themselves. I cannot now explain
this more fully, but it is enough if you understand
that he is entirely dependent on his father. When
I came to know this, and when I saw that he was
becoming desperately in love, I insisted on this ap-
peal to his friends before he either entangled Lucy
in a promise or even made any declaration himself
He showed me the letter before he posted it. It
was all I could wish. It is not a very easy task for
a young fellow to tell his father he's in love; but he,
in the very frankness of his nature, acquitted himself
well and manfully."

" And what answer has he received ?"

"None as yet. Two posts have passed. He
might have heard through either of them; but no
letter has come, and he is feverishly uneasy and

The Vicar was silent, but a grave motion of his
head implied doubt and fear.

"Yes," said Sir Brook, answering the gesture —
" yes, I agree with you. The Traffords are great folk
in their own country. Trafford was a strong place
in Saxon times. They have pride enough for all this
blood, and wealth enough for both pride and blood."

" They'd find their match in Lendrick, quiet and
simple as he seems," said the Vicar.



" Which makes the matter worse. Who is to give
way ? Who is to c4der le pas V

"I am not so sure I should have advised that

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryCharles James LeverSir Brook Fossbrooke (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 17)