Charles James Lever.

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pall as the body was borne in.

One part of the ceremony overcame me altogether. When
the third round of musketry had rung out over the grave, a
solemn pause of half a minute or so was to ensue, then the
band was to burst out with the first bars of " God preserve the
Emperor;" and while a wild cheer arose, I was to spring into
the saddle of my father's horse, which had been led close after
the coffin, and to join the cheer. This soldier declaration that
death was but a passing terror, revolted me to the heart, and I
over and over asserted I could not do this. They would not
yield, however; they regarded my reasons as childish senti-



262 THAT BOY OF NOEC'OTT'S.

mentality, and half impugned my courage besides. I do not
know why I gave in, nor am I sure I ever did yield ; but when
the heavy smoke of the last round slowly rose over the bier, I
felt myself jerked up into the saddle of a horse that plunged
wildly and struck out madly in affright. With a rider's instinct
I held my seat, and even managed the bounding animal with the
hand of a practised rider. Four fearful bounds I sat unshaken,
while the air rang with the hoarse cheer of some thousand voices,
and then a sickness like death itself gathered over my heart, — a
sense of horror, of where I was and why, came over me. My
arms fell powerless to my sides, and I rolled from the saddle
and fell senseless and stunned to the ground.

Without having received serious injury, I was too ill to be
removed from the little village of Naglos, where I was confined
to bed for ten days. The doctor remained with me for some
days, and came again and again to visit me afterwards. The
chief care of me, however, devolved on my father's valet, a smart
young Swiss, whom I had difficulty in believing not to be English,
so perfectly did he speak our language.

I soon saw this fellow was thoroughly conversant with all my
father's history, and, whether in his confidence or not, knew
everything that concerned him, and understood his temperament
and nature to perfection. There was much adroitness in the
way in which he showed me this, without ever shocking my
pride or offending my taste by any display of a supposed influ-
ence. Of his consummate tact I need give but one — a very
slight instance, it is true, but enough to denote the man. He,
in addressing me as Sir Digby, remarked how the sound of my
newly acquired title seemed to recall my father to my mind



IN SORROW. 263

at once, and ever after limited himself to saying simply " sir,"
which attracted no attention from me.

Another instance of his address I must record also. I had
got my writing-desk on the bed, and was writing to my mother,
to whom I had already despatched two telegraphic messages, but
as yet received no reply. " I beg pardon, sir," said La Grange,
entering in his usual noiseless fashion ; " but I thought you would
like to know that my lady has left Schloss Hunyadi. She took
her departure last night for Pesth."

"You mean ?" I faltered, not really knowing what I

would say.

" Yes, sir," said he, thoroughly aware of what was passing
in my mind. " She admitted no one, not even the doctor, and
started at last with only a few words of adieu in writing for the
Countess."

" What impression has this left ? How are they speaking of
her? " asked I, blurting out against my will what was working
within me.

" I believe, sir," said he, with a very faint smile, " they lay
it all to English ways and habits. At least I have heard no
other comments than such as would apply to these."

" Be sure that you give rise to no others," said I,
sternly.

" Of course not, sir. It would be highly unbecoming in me
to do so."

" And greatly to your disservice besides," added I, severely.

He bowed in acquiescence, and said no more.

"How long have you served my father. La Grange?"
asked I.



264 THAT BOY OF NORCOTT'S.

" About two years, sir. I succeeded Mr. Nixon, sir, avIio
often spoke of you."

" All, I remember Nixon. What became of him ? "

" He set up the Hotel Victoria at Spa, sir. You know, sir,
that he married, and married very well too ? "

" No, I never heard of it," said I, carelessly.

" Yes, sir; he married Delorme's daughter, la belle Pauline
they used to call her at Brussels."

"What, Pauline Delorme?" said I, growing crimson with
I know not what feeling.

' ' Yes, sir, the same ; and she's the size of old Pierre, her
father already; not but she's handsome still — but such a
monster ! "

I cannot say with what delight I heard of her disfigurement.
It was a malice that warmed my heart like some good news.

" It was Sir Roger, sir, that made the match."

** How could that be ? What could he care about it ? "

" Well, sir, he certainly gave Nixon five hundred pounds to
go and propose for her, and promise old Pierre his patronage, if
he agreed to it."

" Are you sure of this ? " asked I, eagerly.

" Nixon himself told me, sir. I remember he said, ' I haven't
much time to lose about it, for the tutor, Mr. Eccles, is quite
ready to take her, on the same terms, and Sir Ptoger doesn't care
which of us it is.' "

" Nor the lady either, apparently," said I, half angrily.

" Of course not. Pauline was too well brought up for that."

I was not going to discuss this point of ethics with Mr. La
Grange, and soon fell off into a vein of reflection over early loves.



IN SORROW. 265-

and wliat they led to, which took me at last miles away from
Pauline Delorme, and her fascinations.

I would have liked much to learn what sort of a life my father
had led of late : whether he had plunged into hahits of dissipa-
tion and excess ; or whether any feeling of remorse had weighed
with him, and that he sorrowed over the misery and the sorrow'
he had so recklessly shed around him ; hut I shrunk from ques-
tioning a servant on such matters, and merely asked as to his
hahitual spirits and temper.

" Sir Koger was unlike every other gentleman I ever lived
with, sir," said he. " He was never in high spirits except when
he was hard up for money. Put him down in a little country
inn to wait for his remittances, and live on a few francs a day
till they arrived, and I never saw his equal for good humour.
He'd play with the children ; he'd work in the garden. I've
seen him harness the donkey, and go off for a load of firewood.
There's nothing he would not do to ohlige, and with a kind word
and a smile for every one all the while ; but if some morning he'd
get up with a dark frown on his face, and say, ' La Grange, get
in your bills here, and pay them ; we must get away from this
dog-hole ; ' I knew well the banker's letter had come, and that
whatever he might want, it would not be money."

"And had my lady, — madame, I mean, — no influence over
him?"

" None, sir, or next to none ; he was all ceremony with her ;
took her in to dinner every day with great state, showed her
every attention at table, left her at liberty to spend what money
she liked. If she fancied an equipage, it was ordered at once.
If she liked a bracelet, it was sent home. As to toilette, I



266 THAT BOY OF NORCOTTS.

believe there are queens have not as many dresses to change.
We had two fourgons of her luggage alone, when we came to
the Schloss, and she was always saying there was something she
was longing for."

" Did not this irritate my father ? "

"No, sir; he would simply say, 'Don't wish, hut write
for it.' And I verily believe this indifference piqued her — she
saw that no sacrifice of money cost him anything, and this
thought wounded her pride."

" So that there was not much happiness between them ? "

" There was none, sir ! Something there was that Sir
Roger would never consent to, but which she never ceased to
insist on, and I often wondered how she could go on, to press a
man of his dangerous temper, as she did, and at times she would
do so to the very verge of a provocation. Do you know, sir,"
said he, after a short silence — " if I was to be on my oath to-
morrow, I'd not say that he was not seeking his death when he
met it ? I never saw a man so sick of life — he was only puzzled
how to lay it down without dishonour."

I motioned him to leave me as he said this, and of my father
I never spoke to him more.



( 267 )



CHAPTEE XXXII.

THE END.

Two telegrams came from my mother. They were little other
than repetitions. She had heen ill, and was impatient to see
me. In the last, she added that she would shorten the distance
between us by coming to Dublin to meet me. I was to enquire
for her at ''Elridge's Hotel."

I was no less eager to be with her ; but there were many
matters of detail which still delayed me. First of all, all my
father's papers and effects were at Schloss Hunyadi, and some
of these were all-essential to me. On arriving at the Castle, a
sealed packet addressed Sir Digby Norcott, Bart., in Madame
Cleremont's hand, was given me. On opening, I found it con-
tained a bunch of keys, ■wdthout one word of any kind. It was
an unspeakable relief to me to discover that she had not sent
me either her condolences or her threats, and I could scarcely
reassure myself that we had parted thus easily.

My father's personal luggage might have sufficed for half-a-
dozen people. Not only did he carry about a quantity of clothes
that no ordinary life could have required, but that he journeyed
with every imaginable kind of weapon, together with saddlery
and horse-gear of all fashions and shapes. Fishing-tackle and



268 THAT BOY OF NOECOTT'S.

hunting- speai'B abounded ; and lassos of Mexican make seemed
to show that he had intended to have carried his experiences to
the great Savannahs of the West.

From what I had seen of him, I was in no way prepared for
the order and regularity in which I found his papers. All that
regarded his money matters was contained in one small oak
desk, in which I found a will, a copy of which, it was stated, was
deposited with Norton and Temple, Solicitors, Furnival's Inn.
The document ran thus : —

" I leave whatever I may die possessed of in personal or real
property to the wife I have long neglected, in trust for the boy
I have done much to corrupt. With time, and in the enjoy-
ment of better fortune, they may learn to forgive me ; but,

even if they should not, it will little trouble the rest of

Roger Norcott.

" I desire that each of my servants in my service at the time
of my death should receive a quarter's wages ; but no present or
gratuity of any kind. It is a class that always served me with
fear and dislike, and whose services I ever accepted with distrust
and repugnance.

" I also desire that my retriever, ' Spy,' be shot as soon after
my death as may be, and that my other dogs be given away to
persons who have never known me, and that my heirs will be
particular on this head, so that none shall pretend that they
inherit this or that of mine in token of friendship or affectionate
remembrance.

" There are a few objects of furniture in the care of Salter,



THE END. 269

the house-agent at Brussels, of which I heg my wife's accept-
ance ; they are intrinsically of little value, but she will know
how dearly we have both paid for them. This is all.

(Signed) " Roger Norcott, Bart.
" Witnesses, Joseph Granes, head groom.
" Paul Lanyon, house-steward."

This will, which bore for date only four months prior to his
death, did not contain any, the slightest, allusion to Madame
Cleremont. Was it that by some antecedent arrangement he
had taken care to provide for her, omitting, through a sense of
delicacy to my mother, all mention of her name ? This I could
not guess at the time, nor did I ever discover afterwards.

In a larger desk I found a mass of letters ; they were tied
in packets, each with a ribbon of a different colour ; they were
all in women's handwriting. There were several miniatures
on ivory, one of which was of my mother, when a girl of about
eighteen. It was exceedingly beautiful, and wore an expression
of girlish innocence and frankness positively charming. On
the back, in my father's hand, there was — " Why won't they
keep this look ? Is the fault theirs or ours ? "

Of the contents of that box, I committed all to the flames
except that picture. A third desk, the key of which was
appended to his watch, contained a manuscript in his writing,
headed "My Cleremont Episode, how it began, and how it
cannot but end." I own it pushed my curiosity sorely to throw
this into the fire without reading it ; but I felt it would have
been a disloyalty, which, had he lived, he never would have
pardoned, and so I restrained myself, and burned it.



270 THAT BOY OF NORCOTT'S.

One box, strongly strapped with bands of brass, and opening
by a lock of most complicated mechanism, was filled with articles
of jewellery, 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 honour 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 afiright 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 mth him,
he always sufficed for his own unhappiness.

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



THE END. 271

their separation indeed, but in a spirit of such thorough forgive-
ness, 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 entrusted vnth 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 favoured of the
earth. The fame of being rich spreads rajDidly, and my rej)uta-
tion 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
only say that half my days were passed in assuring eager
inquirers that I was neither present at the adventure, nor



272 THAT BOY OF NOECOTT'S.

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 any 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 par-
liamentary life ? What glimpses of future greatness were shown
me ! what possible chances of this or that attained that would
link me with real rank for ever ! 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 Je^vish 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



THE END. 273

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
unfavourable 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 honour 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 forgetful-
ness 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 clue to this mystery. Baffled in all our endeavours,
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

18



274 THAT BOY OF NORCOTT'S.

mother on the deck of a river steamer, when I was startled to
hear a voice utter my name. The speaker was a bm-ly 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 pre-
diction, 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)