Charles James Lever.

That boy of Norcott's online

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would have been a disloyalty which, had he lived, he never would have
pardoned, and so I restrained myself, and burned it.

One box, strongly strapped with bands of brass, and opening by a lock
of most complicated mechanism, was filled with articles of jewelry,
not only such trinkets as men affect to wear in shirt-studs and
watch-pendants, but the costlier objects of women's wear; there were
rings and charms, bracelets of massive make, and necklaces of great
value. There was a diamond cross, too, at back of which was a locket,
with a braid of very beautiful fair hair. This looked as though it had
been worn, and if so, how had it come back to him again? by what story
of sorrow, perhaps of death?

If a sentiment of horror and loyalty had made me burn all the letters, I
had found there was no restraining the exercise of my imagination as to
these relics, every one of which I invested with some story. In a secret
drawer of this box, was a considerable sum in gold, and a letter of
credit for a large amount on Escheles, of Vienna, by which it appeared
that he had won the chief prize of the Frankfort lottery, in the spring
drawing; a piece of fortune, which, by a line in his handwriting, I saw
he believed was to cost him dearly: "What is to be counterpoise to this
luck? An infidelity, or a sudden death? I can't say that either affright
me, but I think the last would be less of an insult."

In every relic of him, the same tone of mockery prevailed, an insolent
contempt for the world, a disdain from which he did not exempt himself,
went through all he said or did; and it was plain to see that, no matter
how events went with him, he always sufficed for his own un happiness.

What a relief it was to me to turn from this perpetual scorn to some
two or three letters of my dear mother's, written after their separation
indeed, but in a spirit of such thorough forgiveness, and with such an
honest desire for his welfare, that I only wondered how any heart could
have resisted such loving generosity. I really believe nothing so
jarred upon him as her humility. Every reference to their inequality of
condition seemed to affect him like an insult; and on the back of one of
her letters there was written in pencil, "Does she imagine I ever forget
from what I took her; or that the memory is a pleasant one?"

Mr. La Grange's curiosity to learn what amount of money my father had
left behind him, and what were the dispositions of his will, pushed my
patience very hard indeed. I could not, however, exactly afford to
get rid of him, as he had long been intrusted with the payment of
tradesmen's bills, and he was in a position to involve me in great
difficulty, if so disposed.

At last we set out for England; and never shall I forget the strange
effect produced upon me by the deference my new station attracted
towards me. It seemed to me but yesterday that I was the companion of
poor Hanserl, of the "yard;" and now I had become, as if by magic, one
of the favored of the earth. The fame of being rich spreads rapidly,
and my reputation on that head lost nothing through any reserve or
forbearance of my valet I was an object of interest, too, as the son of
that daring Englishman who had lost his life so heroically. Heaven
knows how La Grange had related the tragic incident, or with what
embellishment he had been pleased to adorn it. I can onsay that
half my days were passed in assuring eager inquirers that I was neither
present at the adventure, nor wounded in the affray; and all my efforts
were directed to proving that I was a most insignificant person, and
without the smallest claim to interest on my side.

Arrived in London, I was once more a "personage;" at least, to my
family solicitors. My father's will had been already proved, and I was
recognized in all form as the heir to his title and fortune. They were
eager to know would I restore the family seat at Hexham. The Abbey was
an architectural gem that all England was proud of, and I was
eagerly entreated not to suffer it to drop into decay and ruin. The
representation of the borough - long neglected by my family - only
needed an effort to secure; and would I not like the ambition of a
parliamentary life?

What glimpses of future greatness were shown me! what possible chances
of this or that attained that would link me with real rank forever! And
all this time I was pining to clasp my mother to my arms; to pour out
my whole heart before her, and tell her that I loved a pale Jewish
girl, silent and half sad-looking, but whose low soft voice still echoed
within my heart, and whose cold hand had left a thrill after its touch
that had never ceased to move me.

"Oh, Digby, my own, own darling," cried she, as she hugged me in her
arms, "what a great tall fellow you have grown, and how like - how like
him!" and she burst into a torrent of tears, renewed every time that
she raised her eyes to my face, and saw how I resembled my father. There
seemed an ecstasy in this grief of which she never wearied, and day
after day she would sit holding my hand, gazing wistfully at me, and
only turning away as her tearful eyes grew dim with weeping. I will not
dwell on the days we passed together; full of sorrow they were, but a
sorrow so hallowed by affection that we felt an unspeakable calm shed
over us.

My great likeness to my father, as she first saw him, made her mind
revert to that period, and she never ceased to talk of that time of
hope and happiness. Ever ready to ascribe anything unfavorable in his
character to the evil influences of others, she maintained that though
occasionally carried away by hot temper and passion, he was not only the
soul of honor but had a heart of tenderness and gentleness. Curious to
find out what sudden change of mind had led him after years of neglect
and forgetfulness to renew his relations with her, by remitting money to
her banker, we examined all that we could of his letters and papers to
discover a clew to this mystery. Baffled in all our endeavors, we were
driven at length to write to the Frankfort banker through whom the
letter of credit had come. As we assumed to say that the money should be
repaid by us, in this way hoping to trace the history of the incident,
we received for answer, that, though bound strictly to secrecy at
the time, events had since occurred which in a measure removed that
obligation. The advance, he declared, came from the house of Hodnig and
Oppovich, Fiume, who having failed since that time, there was no longer
the same necessity for reserve. "It is only this morning," he added,
"that we have received news of the death of Herr Ignaz Oppovich, the
last of this once opulent firm, now reduced to utter ruin."

My mother and I gazed on each other in silence as we read these words,
when at length she threw her arms around me and said, "Let us go to her,
Digby; let us set out this very day."

Two days after we were on the Rhine. I was seated with my mother on the
deck of a river steamer, when I was startled to hear a voice utter my
name. The speaker was a burly stout man of middle age, who walked the
deck with a companion to whom he talked in a loud tone.

"I tell you, sir," said he, "that boy of Norcott's, what between those
new coal-fields and the Hexham property, can't have less than ten
thousand a year."

"And he's going to marry a rich Austrian Jewess, they say," replied the
other, "as if his own fortune was not enough for him."

"He'll marry her, and desert her just as his father did."

I have but to say that I accomplished one part of this prediction, and
hope never to fulfil the other.


THE END.








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Online LibraryCharles James LeverThat boy of Norcott's → online text (page 17 of 17)