Charles James Lever.

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had so much inYolved him that he was seldom ahle
to show himself, and could only resort to letter-
writing to press his demands. In fact, it was always
his lot to be in hiding on this charge or that, and
the police of half Europe were eager in pursuit of
him. With a man so deeply compromised, almost
outlawed over the whole Continent, it was not
difficult to treat, and it happened more than once
that he was for years without anything being heard
of him ; and, in fact, it was clear that he only
preferred his claim as a means of raising a little
money, when all other means of obtaining supplies
had failed him. At last, news of his death arrived
— he died at Monte Video — and it was at first
beHeved that he had never married, and consequently
that his claim, if it deserved such a name, died with
him. It was only three years ago, that the demand
VOL. n. 30


was revived, and this man, M. Anatole Pracontal as
he called himself, using his maternal name, appeared
in the field as the rightful owner of the Bramleigh

" Now this man is a very different sort of person
from his father. He has heen well educated, mixed
much with the world, and has the manners and
bearing of a gentleman. I have not been able to
learn much of his career ; but I know that he served
as a lieutenant in a French hussar regiment, and
subsequently held some sort of employment in
Egypt, He has never stooped to employ threat or
menace, but frankly appealed to the law to establish
his claim, and his solicitor. Kelson, of Furnival's
Inn, is one of the most respectable men in the

" You have seen this Monsieur Pracontal your-

" Yes. By a strange accident, I met him at
3^our brother's. Captain Bramleigh's, breakfast-table.
They had been fellow-travellers, without the slightest
suspicion on either side how eventful such a meeting
might be. Your brother, of course, could know
nothing of Pracontal's pretensions ; but Pracontal,


vrheu he came to know ^-ith whom he had been
trayelKng, must have questioned himseK closely
as to what might have dropped from him inad-

Augustus leaned his head on his hand in deep
thought, and for seyeral 'minutes was silent. At last
he said, — " Give me your own opinion, Mr. Sedley —
I don't mean your opinion as a lawyer, relying on
nice technical questions or minute points of law, but
simply yom- judgment as a man of sound sense, and,
above all, of such integrity as I know you to possess
— and tell me what do you think of this claim ? Is
it — in one word, is it founded on right ?"

" You are asking too much of me, Mr. Bramleigh.
First of all, you ask me to disassociate myself from
all the habits and instincts of my daily life, and give
you an opinion on a matter of law, based on other
rules of evidence than those vrhich alone I suffer
myself to be guided by. I only recognize one kind
of right, that which the law declares and decrees."

" Is there not such a thing as a moral right ?"

'' There may be ; but we are disputatious enough
in this world, with all our artificial aids to some fixity
of judgment, and for heaven's sake let us not soar up


to tlie realms of morality for our decisions, or we
shall bid adieu to guidance for ever."

" I'm not of your mind there, sir. I think it is
quite possible to conceive a case in which there could
be no doubt on which side lay the right, and not
difficult to believe that there are men who would act,
on conviction, to their own certain detriment."

" It's a very hopeful view of humanity, Mr. Bram-
leigh," said the lawyer, and he took a pinch of snuff.

" I am certain it is a just one. At least, I will
go this far to sustain my opinion. I will declare to
you here, that if the time should ever come that it
may depend upon me to decide this matter, if I
satisfy my mind that M. Pracontal's claim be just
and equitable — that, in fact, he is simply asking for
his own — I'll not screen myself behind the law's
delays or its niceties ; I'll not make it a question of
the longest purse or the ablest advocate, but frankly
admit that the property is his, and cede it to him."

" I have only one remark to make, Mr. Bram-
leigh, which is. Keep this determination strictly to
yourself, and, above all things, do not acquaint
Colonel Bramleigh with these opinions."

"I suspect that my father is not a stranger to


them," said Augustus, reddening with shame and
irritation together.

"It is therefore as weU, sir, that there is no
question of a compromise to lay before you. You are
for strict justice and no favour."

" I repeat, Mr. Sedley, I am for him who has the

'' So am I," quickly responded Sedley; ''and we
alone differ about the meaning of that word ; but let
me ask another question. Are you aware that this
claim extends to nearly eTer}i:hing you have in the
world : that the interest alone on the debt would
certainly swallow up all your funded property, and
make a great inroad besides on your securities and
foreign bonds?"

" I can well believe it," said the other, mourn-

" I must say, sir," said Sedley, as he rose and
proceeded to thrust the papers hm-riedly into his bag,
' ' that though I am highly impressed — very highly
impressed, indeed, with the noble sentiments you
have delivered on this occasion — sentiments, I am
bound to admit, that a long professional career has
never made me acquainted with till this day — yet.


on the whole, Mr. Bramleigh, looking at the question
with a view to its remote consequences, and specu-
lating on what would result if such opinions as yours
were to meet a general acceptance, I am bound to say
I prefer the verdict of twelve men in a jury-box to the
most impartial judgment of any individual breathing ;
and I wish you a very good-night."

What Mr. Sedley muttered to himself as he
ascended the stairs, in what spirit he canvassed the
character of Mr. Augustus Bramleigh, the reader
need not know ; and it is fully as well that our story
does not require it should be recorded. One only
remark, however, may be preserved : it was said as
he reached the door of his room, and apparently in a
sort of summing up of all that had occurred to him,
— " These creatures, with their cant about con-
science, don't seem to know that this mischievous
folly would unsettle half the estates in the kingdom ;
and there's not a man in England would know what
he was born to, till he had got his father in a

( 119 )



In a handsome apartment of the Hotel Bristol at
Paris sat Lord and Ladv Culduff, at tea. Thej
were in deep mourning ; and though they were
perfectly alone, the room was splendidly lighted, —
hranches of candies figuring on every console, and
the glass lustre that hung from the ceiling a blaze
of waxhghts. »

If Lord Culduff looked older and more careworn
than we have lately seen him, Marion seemed in
higher bloom and beauty, and the haughty, half-
defiant air which had, in a measure, spoiled the
charm of her girlhood, sat with a sort of dignity on
her features as a woman.

Not a word was spoken on either side ; and from.
her look of intense preoccupation, as she sat gazing
on the broad hem of her handkerchief, it was evident


that her thoughts were wandering far away from the
place she was in. As they sat thus, the door was
noiselessly opened by a servant in deep black, who,
in a very subdued voice, said, '' The Duke de Castro,
3^our Excellency."

" I don't receive," was the cold reply, and the
man withdrew. In about a quarter of an hour after
he reappeared, and in the same stealthy tone said,
*' Madame la Comtesse de Renneville begs she may
have the honour "

" Lady Culduff does not receive," said his lord-
ship, sternly.

^' The countess has been very kind; she has
been here to inquire after me several times."

" She is a woman of intense curiosity," said he

" I'd have said of great good nature."

" And you'd have said perfectly wrong, madam.
The woman is a political ' intriguante,' who only
lives to unravel mysteries ; and the one that is now
puzzling her is too much for her good manners."

" I declare, my lord, that I do not follow you."

" I'm quite sure of that, madam. The sort of
address Madame de Eenneville boasts was not a


quality that your life in Ireland was likely to make
you familiar with."

" I'd beg you to remember, my lord," said she,
angrily, "that all my experiences of the world have
not been derived from that side of the Channel."

" I'm cruel enough to say, madam, that I wish
they had ! There is nothing so difficult as un-

" I wish, my lord — I heartily wish — that you had
made this discovery earlier."

" Madam," said he, slowly, and with much
solemnity of manner, ''I owe it to each of us to
own that I had made what you are pleased to call
this ^ discovery ' while there was yet time to obviate
its consequences. My very great admiration had
not bhnded me as to certain peculiarities, let me call
them, of manner ; and if my vanity induced me to
believe that I should be able to correct them, it is
my only error."

"I protest, my lord, if my temper sustain me
under such insult as this, I think I might be
acquitted of ill breeding."

" I live in the hope, madam, that such a charge
would be impossible."


" I suppose you mean," said she, with a sneering
smile, "when I have taken more lessons, — when I
have completed the course of instruction you so
courteously began with me yesterday ? "

" Precisely, madam, precisely. There are no
heaven-born courtiers. The graces of manner are
as much matter of acquirement as are the notes in
music. A delicate organization has the same dis-
advantage in the one case that a fine ear has in the
other. It substitutes an aptitude for what ought
to be pure acquirement. The people who are
naturally well mannered are like the people who
sing by ear ; and I need not say what inflictions
are both."

" And you really think, my lord, that I may yet
be able to enter a room and leave it with becoming
grace and dignity ? "

" You enter a room well, madam," said he, with
a judicial slowness. " Now that you have subdued
the triumphant air I objected to, and assumed more
quietness, — the blended softness with reserve, — your
approach is good, I should say, extremely good. To
withdraw is, however, far more difficult. To throw
into the deference of leave-taking, — for it is always a


permission you seem to ask, — the tempered sorrow
of departm-e with the sense of tasted enjoyment, to do
this with ease and with elegance, and not a touch of
the dramatic ahout it, is a yerv high success ; and I
grieve to say, madam," added he, seriously, '"'it is a
success not yet accorded you. Would you do me the
great favour to repeat our lesson of this morning — I
mean the curtsey with the two steps retiring, and
then the slide ? "

" If you do not think me well mannered, my lord,
you must at least believe me very good-tempered,"
said she, flushing.

" Let me assure you, my lady, that to the latter
quality I attach no importance whatever. Persons
who respect themselves never visit peculiarities of
temperament on others. We have our infirmities of
nature, as we have our maladies ; Imt we keep them
for ourselves, or for our doctor. It is the triumph
of the well-bred world to need nothing but good

" What charming people. I take it that heaven
must be peopled with lords-in-waiting."

''Let me observe to your ladyship that there is
no greater enormity in manners than an epigram.


Keep this smartness for correspondence exclusively,
abstain from it strictly in conversation."

" I protest, my lord, your lessons come so thick
that I despair of being able to profit by half of them.
Meanwhile, if I am not committing another sole-
cism against good manners, I should like to say
good night."

Lord Culduff arose and walked to the door, to be
ready to open it as she approached. Meanwhile, she
busied herself collecting her fan and her scent-
bottle and her handkerchief, and a book she had
been reading.

" Hadn't Yirginie better come for these things ? "
said he quietly.

"Oh, certainly," replied she, dropping them
hurriedly on the table; " Vm always transgressing;
but I do hope, my lord, with time, and with that
sincere desire to learn that animates me, I may yet
attain to at least so many of the habits of your
lordship's order as may enable me to escape

He smiled and bowed a courteous concurrence
with the wish, but did not speak. Though her lip
now trembled with indignation, and her cheek was


flushed, she controlled her temper, and as she
drew nigh the door dropped a low and most respect-
ful curtsey.

"Very nice, very nice, indeed; a thought,
perhaps, too formal, — I mean for the occasion, —
but in admirable taste. Your ladyship is grace

" My lord, you are a model of courtesy."

" I cannot even attempt to convey what pleasure
your words give me," said he, pressing her hand to
his heart and bowdnglow. Meanwhile, with a darken-
ing brow and a look of haughty defiance, she swept
past him and left the room.

*' Isn't Marion well ? " said Temple Bramleigh, as
he entered a few minutes later; '^her maid told me
she had gone to her room."

" Quite well : a little fagged, perhaps, by a day of
visiting; nothing beyond that. You have been
dining at the embassy? Whom had you there?"

"A family party and a few of the smaller

''To be sure. It was Friday. Any news
stirring ? "

''Nothing whatever."


'' Does Bartleton talk of retiring still ? "

''Yes. He says lie is sick of sending in his
demand for retirement. That they always say, ' We
can't spare yon ; you must hold on a little longer.
If you go out now, there's Bailey and Hammersmith,
and half-a-dozen others will come insisting on advance-
ment.' "

''Didn't he say Culduff too? eh, didn't he?"
said the old lord, vA\h a wicked twinkle of the eye.

" I'm not sure he didn't," said Temple, blushing.

" He did, sir, and he said more — he said. Rather
than see Culduff here, I'd stay on and serve these
twenty years."

" I didn't hear him say that, certainly."

" No, sir, perhaps not, but he said it to himself,
as sure as I stand here. There isn't a country in
Europe — I say it advisedly — where intellect — I mean
superior intellect — is so persistently persecuted as in
England. I don't want my enemy to have any
heavier misfortune than to be born a man of brains
and a Briton ! Once that it's known that 3'ou stand
above your fellow-men, the whole world is arrayed
against you. AATio knows that better than he who
now speaks to you ? Have I ever been forgiven the


Erzeroum convention ? Even George Canning —
from whom one might have expected better — even he
used to say, ^ How well Culduff managed that com-
mercial treaty with the Hanse Towns : ' he never
got over it, sir, never ! You are a young fellow
entering upon life — let me give you a word of counsel.
Always be inferior to the man you are, for the time
being, in contact with. Outbid him, outjockey him,
overreach him, but never forget to make him believe
he knows more of the game than you do. If you
have any success over him, ascribe it to ' luck,' mere
' luck.' The most envious of men will forgive ' luck,'
all the more if they despise the fellow who has profited
by it. Therefore, I say, if the intellectual standard
of your rival is only four feet, take care that with
your tallest heels on, you don't stand above three
feet eleven ! Xo harm if only three ten and a half."

The little applauding ha I ha ! ha ! with which
his lordship ended, was faintly chorussed by the

'' And what is your news from home ; you've had
letters, haven't you ? "

" Yes. Augustus writes me in gi-eat confusion.
They have not found the will, and they begin to fear


that the very informal scrap of paper I already
mentioned is all that represents one."

''What ! do you mean that memorandum stating
that your father bequeathed all he had to Augustus,
and trusted he would make a suitable provision for
his brothers and sisters ? "

" Yes ; that is all that has been found. Augustus
says in his last letter, my poor father would seem to
have been most painfully affected for some time back
by a claim put forward to the title of all his landed
property, by a person assuming to be the heir of my
grandfather, and this claim is actually about to be
asserted at law. The weight of this charge and all
its consequent publicity and exposure appear to have
crushed him for some months before his death, and
he had made great efforts to effect a compromise."

A long, low, plaintive whistle from Lord Culduff
arrested Temple's speech, and for a few seconds there
was a dead silence in the room.

*' This, then, would have left you all ruined —
eh ? " asked Culduff, after a pause.

" I don't exactly see to what extent we should
have been liable, — whether only the estated property,
or also all funded moneys."


"Everything; eveiy stick and stone ; every scrip
and debenture, you may swear. The rental of the
estates for j'ears back would have to be accounted for
— with interest."

" Sedley does not say so," said Temple, in a tone
of considerable irritation.

'' These fellows never do ; they always imply
there is a game to be played, an issue to be waited
for, else their occupation were gone. How much of
all this story was known to your sister Marion '? "

*' Nothing. Neither she nor any of us ever
suspected it."

" It's always the same thing," said the viscount,
as he arose and settled his wig before the glass.
**The same episode goes on repeating itself for ever.
These trade fortunes are just card-houses ; they are
raised in a night, and blown away in the morning."

" You forget, my lord, that my father inherited
an entailed estate."

"Which turns out not to have been his," replied
he, with a grin.

*' You are going too fast, my lord, faster than
judge and jury. Sedley never took a very serious view
of this claim, and he only concurred in the attempt to

VOL. II. 31


compromise it out of deference to my father's dislike
to public scandal."

'' And a very wise antipathy it was, I must say.
No gentleman ever consulted his self-respect by
inviting the world to criticize his private affairs. And
how does this pleasing incident stand now ? . In which
act of the drama are we at this moment ? Is there an
action at law or are we in the stage of compromise ? "

*' This is what Augustus says," said Temple,
taking the letter from his pocket and reading :
*' * Sedley thinks that a handsome offer of a sum
down, — say twenty thousand pounds, — might possibly
be accepted ; but to meet this would require a united
effort by all of us. Would Lord Culduff be disposed
to accept his share in this liability? Would he, I
mean, be willing to devote a portion of Marion's
fortune to this object, seeing that he is now one of
us ? I have engaged Cutbill to go over to Paris and
confer with him, and he will probably arrive there by
Tuesday. Nelly has placed at my disposal the only
sum over which she has exclusive control, — it is
but two thousand pounds. As for Jack, matters have
gone very ill with him, and rather than accept a court-
martial, he has thrown up his commission and left the


service. We are expecting him here to-night, but
only to say good-by, as he sails for China on Thurs-
day.' "

Lord Culduff walked quietly towards the chimney-
piece as Temple concluded, and took up a small
tobacco-box of chased silver, from which he proceeded
to manufacture a cigarette — a process on which he
displayed considerable skill and patience ; having
lighted which, and taken a couple of puffs, he said,
*' You'll have to go to Bogota, Temple, that's clear."
" Go to Bogota ! I declare I don't see why."
''Yes, you'll have to go; every man has to take
his turn of some objectionable post, his Gaboon and
yellow fever- days. I myself passed a year at Stuttgard.
The Bramleighs are now events of the past. There's
no use in fighting against these things. They were,
and they are not : that's the whole story. It's very
hard on every one, especially hard upon me. Reverses
in life sit easily enough on the class that furnishes
adventurers, but in my condition there are no
adventurers. You and others like you descend to the
ranks, and nobody thinks the worse of you. We, — we
cannot ! that's the pull you have. We are born with
our epaulettes, and we must wear them till we die."


" It does not seem a very logical consequence,
notwithstanding, to me, that hecause my brother may
have to defend his title to his estate, that I must
accept a post that is highly distasteful to me."

"And yet it is the direct consequence. Will you
do me the favour to touch that hell. I should like
some claret-cup. The fact is, we all of us take too
little out of our prosperity ! Where we err is, we
experiment on good fortune : now we shouldn't do
that, we should realize. You, for instance, ought to
have made your * running ' while your father was
entertaining all the world in Belgravia. The people
couldn't have ignored you, and dined with hiin ; at
least, you need not have let them."

" So that your lordship already looks upon us as
bygones, as things of the past ? "

"I am forced to take this very disagreeable view.
Will you try that cup ? it is scarcely iced enough for
my liking. Have you remarked that they never make
cup properly in an hotel ? The clubs alone have the

" I suppose you will confer with Cutbill before
you return an answer to Augustus?" said Temple


"I may — that is, I may listen to what that very
plausible but not yery polished individual has to say,
before I frame the exact terms of my reply. We are
all of us, so to say, dans des mauvais drcq^s. You
ai*e going where you hate to go, and I, who really
should have had no share in this general disaster,
have taken my ticket in the lotteiy when the last
prize has just been paid over the counter."

" It is very hard on you indeed," said the other

" Nothing less than your sympathy would make it
endurable," and as he spoke he lighted a bed-room
candle and moved towards the door. '•' Don't tell
them at r. 0. that you are going out unwillingly, or
they'll keep you there. Trust to some irregularity
when you are there, to get recalled, and be injured.
If a man can only be injured and brought before the
House, it's worth ten years' active service to him.
The first time I was injured I was made secretary of
embassy. The second gave me my K. C.B., and I
look to my next misfortune for the Grand Cross.
Oood-by. Don't take the j'ellow fever, don't marry a
squaw." And with a graceful move of the hand he
motioned an adieu, and disappeared.




L'E STRANGE and his sister were on their way to Italy.
The curate had been appointed to the church at
Albano, and he was proceeding to his destination with
as much happiness as is permitted to a man who,
with a very humble opinion of himself, feels called on
to assume a position of some importance.

Wishing, partly from motives of enjoyment, partly
from economy, to avoid the route most frequented by
travellers, they had taken the road through Zurich
and the valley of the upper Ehine, and had now
reached the little village of Dornbirn in the Vorarlberg
— a spot of singular beauty, in the midst of a
completely pastoral country. High mountains, snow-
capped above, pine-clad lower down, descended by
grassy slopes into rich pasture-lands, traversed by
innumerable streams, and dotted over with those

ox THE KOAB. 135

cottages of framed wood, which, with their orna-
mented gables and quaint galleries, are the most
picturesque peasant-houses in existence. Beautiful
cattle covered the hills, their tinkling bells ringing
out in the clear air, and blending their tones with the

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Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 16)