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LIBRA!

UNWHRSITY-









OLD COURT,



PROLOGUE,



THE BROTHERS.



UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME.
BY THE SAME AUTHOR.



CARDINAL POLE.
CONSTABLE OP THE TOWER.
HILARY ST IVES.
JOHN LAW.



LEAGUER OF LATHOM.
LORD MAYOR OF LONDON.
MYDDLETON POMFRET.
OLD COURT.



CONSTABLE DE BOURBON.



WARD, LOCK AND CO., LONDON AND NEW YORK.



OLD COURT.



BV

WILLIAM HARRISON AINSWORTH,

' AUTHOR OF

"THE TOWER OF LONDON,"
"LEAGUER o^ LATHOM,"

" WINDSOR CASTLE."

"CARDINAL POLE,''

10



WARD, LOCK AND CO.

LONDON: WARWICK HOUSE, SALISBURY SQUARE, E.G.
NEW YORK: 10, BOND STREET.



91 ' f]




1830




CHAPTER I.

THE YOUNGER BROTHER.

J10ME two-and- twenty years ago, a remarkably
handsome young man, plainly attired, but of
gentlemanlike appearance, and looking like an
officer in the army, rode into the yard of the
Bell, at Aylesford, in the pleasant county of Kent, and
consigning his horse, who seemed to have done a good
day's work, to the ostler, entered the inn. As he passed
through a side-door into the house, he encountered the
landlord, a stout red-faced man, who, bowing obsequiously,
ushered him into a small parlour.

11 Any orders, Captain ? " inquired the host.

"Yes, let me have some dinner," replied the guest,
complacently surveying his handsome features in the little
mirror over the mantelpiece, and twisting the points of his
moustaches.

" What would you like, Captain ? " said the host.

" Give me what you please," said the guest. " It's now
just six o'clock. Let dinner be ready at seven precisely.
I've ridden from Hounslow barracks since breakfast, and
am infernally hungry, as you may suppose."

" No wonder you're hungry, Captain, if you've ridden
from Hounslow," said the landlord, smiling. " Well, you
shall have a roast fowl and broiled ham, and if that don't
satisfy your appetite, there's a cold sirloin of beef to make
out with."

"Put the sirloin on the table with the fowl, landlord."



4 Old Court.

"It shall be done," replied the host. "Perhaps you
want a bed. Shall the chambermaid show you a room ? "

" No, I sha'n't sleep here. I'm going further."

" I should think your horse can't go much further,
Captain."

" I don't intend to try him. He will take his rest in
your stable to-night. By-the-bye, I hope you have got some
good claret, landlord."

" First-rate, Captain first-rate. I'll back my claret
against any you'll get at Maidstone or Rochester. It's
Lafitte, Captain."

" Lafitte, is it?" remarked the guest, in an incredulous
tone. "Of what vintage, pray?"

" There you puzzle me," replied the host, rather taken
aback. " All I know is it's the real thing, as I'm sure you'll
admit, Captain, when you taste a glass of it."

" I suppose you can tell the price ? "

" Better wait till you get the bill, Captain," remarked the
host, knowingly. " You won't find the charge out of the
way."

" Well, if the wine's really good, I sha'n't complain. But
mind, I'm accounted the best judge of claret at our mess,
and can't be imposed upon."

" I'm not afraid, Captain. My wine will stand the trial.
If you're not content, you sha'n't pay me."

" That's a fair offer, and proves you to be an honest man,
landlord. Moreover, it shows you have faith in your wine.
I'll stroll to the church while dinner is getting ready. Stay,
has anybody inquired after me Captain Chetwynd?"

" Why, bless my heart and body ! " exclaimed the land-
lord, staring at him. " It can't be Clarence Chetwynd, of
Old Court, whom I used to know as a boy ? "

"The very same," replied the other, laughing, and
slapping him on the shoulder as he spoke. " My name is
Clarence Chetwynd just as certainly as yours is Sam
Plessets."

" And Sam Plessets is my name, as everybody knows,"
said the host. "Only to think that I shouldn't recognise
you."

" Not so strange, Sam," rejoined Captain Chetwynd.
" You haven't seen me since I was a boy. But I knew you,



The Younger Brother. 5

Sam, the moment I set eyes upon you. You're not much
changed only fatter. Shake hands, old fellow ! shake
hands ! "

" Dear ! dear ! I'm heartily glad to see you, Clarence
beg pardon, Captain Chetwynd. And now I look closer at
you, I can make out something of the old face that used to
smile upon me so good-humouredly ten years ago, when
you were a lad of fourteen or fifteen. Ah ! you were a
handsome lad, Clarence beg pardon again Captain
Chetwynd, I ought to have said."

" Call me what you please, Sam. To you I shall always
be Clarence Chetwynd."

" Well, as I was saying, you were a handsome lad,
Captain and a mischievous lad everlastingly getting into
scrapes ha ! ha ! "

" I've not lost the old habit yet, Sam. I'm everlastingly
getting into scrapes still. I'm in a confoundedly awkward
one at the present moment."

" Sorry to hear it, *Sir," remarked Plessets, in a sym-
pathetic tone " very sorry. I've helped you out of a great
many scrapes years ago. Can I help you now? "

" Much obliged to you, Sam, but I fear not. This is a
serious matter."

" Still I may be of some use. Try me, Sir."

"You're a' good fellow, Sam, and if I could trust any one,
I would trust you. But "

" Excuse me for a minute, Captain," interrupted Plessets.
" I'll just order your dinner, and come back directly."

The landlord was not long absent, and when he returned,
he found the captain reclining in an arm-chair in a very
nonchalant attitude, with his hat pulled over his brows.
Plessets had taken the precaution of closing the door as he
came in, so as to exclude all listeners, and stepping towards
the glossy table near which his guest was seated, he took a
chair beside him.

"What sort of scrape is it, Captain?" he asked.

"A devilish bad one, I tell you, Sam," rejoined the
other, tapping his right boot, which he had swung over the
arm of the chair "a devilish bad one, and likely nay,
certain* to lead to unpleasant consequences very un
pleasant consequences, Sam."



6 Old Court.

" What have you been about, Sir ? Gambling ? Lost
money on the turf, or what ? "

" I've lost lots of money, Sam. But it's not that which
bothers me now."

" I see what it is ! " exclaimed Plessets, as if suddenly
struck by an idea. "You're just the gentleman to do it.
You've been and run off with another gentleman's wife."

" No, you're out there, Sam," replied Captain Chetwynd,
laughing. " But you're right so far that I've got into this
infernal scrape about a woman. I've been fool enough to
fall in love."

" I don't see any great folly in that, Sir, provided "

" But you will see the folly of it, when I tell you that, by
falling in love, I've deeply offended my brother, Sir Hugh.
We shall never be friends again ; but that I shouldn't care
so much about, for he's so cursed proud there's no tolerating
him, only he has stopped my allowance. It's no secret that
I am dependent upon my brother, Sam."

"I've heard so, certainly, Captain," replied Plessets.
"But can't the quarrel be made up? Can't you be
reconciled to Sir Hugh by giving up the lady ? "

" Impossible, Sam. I haven't made you clearly under-
stand how I have incurred my brother's displeasure. He's
my rival, Sam. He's in love with the lady, himself, and
jealousy makes him so awfully savage. He'd kill me if he
could, but as he daren't do that for fear of the con-
sequences, he is content to make me a beggar hoping, I
suppose, that I shall become desperate, and blow out my
brains. But I'll balk him."

"Come, come, Captain. You do Sir Hugh an injustice,"
said Piessets. "He's not so bad as that. He may be
angry with you just now ; but he'll cool down in time."

" I don't care whether he does or not," cried Captain
Chetwynd, springing suddenly up. " I hate my brother,
Sam. He would rob me of the woman I adore, if he could
but he can't. But he can rob me of my money, and that
he intends to do. I hate him, I tell you, Sam worse than
the devil."

"I'm sorry to hear you say so, Sir you ought not to
harbour such unchristian-like feelings. You talk of Sir
Hu r h robbing you, but mightn't he retortj and say you have



2/ie Younger Brother. 7

robbed him of his sweetheart. Maybe, he thinks so.
Maybe, he's right in thinking so. But you're his brother,
after all, and he must forgive you. Consider how you're
circumstanced "

" My circumstances require no consideration, Sam,"
interrupted the captain. "I'm a younger son, entirely
dependent upon a rich elder brother. I haven't a sixpence
except what comes from him. True, I am his heir heir to
Old Court heir to the baronetcy. But what of that ? Sir
Hugh devil seize him ! has it in his power to cut off all
my expectations. He may marry and have sons. He's
only two years older than I am. What chance have I of
succeeding to the property or the title ? I wish somebody
would shoot him through the head. I've half a mind to do
it myself."

He uttered the words so fiercely, that Plessets absolutely
recoiled.

" Don't talk in that way, Captain, I beg you," he said.
" However, I know you don't mean it, and I can make all
allowances for your excitement."

" Well, perhaps I wouldn't shoot him, Sam," remarked
Captain Chetwynd; "but I shouldn't be sorry to hear of his
death. You looked shocked. But if you had an elder
brother possessed of a baronetcy, of a large estate, of an old
family mansion, of a large park full of fine old timber, with
rents coming in regularly from his tenants, and a heavy
balance at his banker's; and if you yourself were just as
proud as he, but had neither title, mansion, park, nor rents,
and an overdrawn account at your banker's, you'd hate your
elder brother, Sara."

" Maybe I might, though I hope not. At all events, I
shouldn't wish to deprive him of his title and possessions by
unfair means. Neither would you, Captain, I'm persuaded."

Captain Chetwynd took no notice of the remark, but he
looked as if he should like to have the property, come how
it might.

" However, all this has nothing to do with the point in
question," pursued Plessets. " You say that you and Sir
Hugh have come to a complete rupture about a lady. Is
there no chance of settling the quarrel?"

"None whatever, Sam," rejoined Captain Chetwynd,



8 Old Court.

sternly. Words have passed between me and Sir Hugh
tltat can never be forgotten or forgiven on either side. I
have told you thus much, but I will tell you something
more. I have spoken of the object of my devotion and of
my brother's devotion as a lady, but to be candid with you,
she is not a lady by birth. However, though she cannot
boast high descent, she has as good manners as any lady in
the land, and you may be quite sure she must have more
than ordinary personal attractions, since she has contrived
to inflame the breast of Sir Hugh Chetwynd. Cold and
fastidious as he is, he couldn't resist my Amice. I know
that he made the strongest efforts to conquer his passion
that he went abroad for the purpose, hoping by change of
scene to effect a cure. In vain. The image of Amice
haunted him wherever he went. He could not banish it,
and he speedily returned more violently in love than ever.
Now imagine what this proud man must have felt. Imagine
how completely he must have been enthralled. Imagine
what it must have cost him to stoop from his high place,
and offer his hand to a simple farmer's daughter. For her
sake he was willing to brave all the ridicule which such a
match was sure to bring upon hin. He offered his hand.
She refused him."

" Why on earth did she refuse him ? " exclaimed Plessets
"a baronet, young, handsome, wealthy. Excuse my
saying so, but she must be a fool to refuse such an offer."

" She refused it because she loved another," rejoined
Captain Chetwynd, with a self-satisfied smile.

"May I ask one question, Sir," said Plessets. "Was
Sir Hugh made aware of the reason why he was refused ? "

"Of course. It could not be concealed from him.
When he learnt who was his rival his successful rival his
rage nearly drove him mad. He stormed furiously, taxed
me with treachery and ingratitude, and vowed he would
make me bitterly repent my base and dishonourable
conduct. It would be no use to detail our meeting to
you, Sam. The upshot was, that we are no longer
brothers."

"A most unfortunate business altogether," exclaimed
Plessets, shaking his head dolefully. " Any advice I might
give would, I fear, be useless ; but, if you would condescend



The Youngtr Brother. 9

to listen to me, I would counsel you to make matters up
with your brother. You have clearly injured him."

" Injured him ! " exclaimed Captain Chetwynd, sharply.
" I don't see in what way. I am not to blame because
Amice prefers me to him. I was not called upon to
surrender her to him because he chose to offer her his
hand. You take a strangely perverted view of things,
Sam."

" I'm looking at your interest, Sir. Circumstanced as you
are, in my humble opinion you ought to have resigned the
lady to your brother."

" Even if I were capable of doing so, which I am not,"
said Captain Chetwynd, haughtily, " Amice would not have
accepted him. She has given her heart to me, and could
not transfer it to another."

"Perhaps I don't understand such matters, Sir; but it
seems to me that there are very few women who would
hesitate between a wealthy baronet and "

" And a beggarly younger son, you would say, Sam. You
are right in the main, no doubt. But Amice happens to be
an exception to the rule. She is a true-hearted woman, and
not to be dazzled by rank or wealth. She quite com-
prehended that Sir Hugh's offer was far superior to mine
but, nevertheless, she refused it."

" I'm sorry she did, both on her own account and yours,
Captain," said Plessets, stoutly. " Don't be displeased by my
freedom, but I must speak out. You seem to have set your
mind upon marrying this girl, but I sincerely hope the
marriage will never take place, for I am satisfied no good
will come of it."

" Sam ! " exclaimed Captain Chetwynd, angrily.

" Don't let your love blind you to the consequences of
the rash step you are about to take, Sir," pursued Plessets.
" If you marry the girl, you'll be miserable. You think you
can endure poverty for her sake but I know better. By-
and-by you will begin to feel what you have lost, and will
reproach her. Reproaches will lead to quarrels, and I
don't like to complete the picture. But I have it before me,
Sir I have it before me."

Captain Chetwynd was evidently touched by these
remarks, though reluctant to admit their truth. Perceiving



io Old Court.

he had gained a slight advantage, Plessets determined to
follow it up,

" Now were I in your place, Sir," he said, " I would
write to Sir Hugh, and tell him that I deeply regretted what
had occurred ; that I would not interfere with his happiness,
but would immediately withdraw my pretensions to the lady
and so forth."

" You presume rather too far on our old acquaintance,
Sam, when you venture to counsel such mean conduct," said
Captain Chetwynd, scornfully. " I am the last man to act
.so contemptibly."

"I tell you what it is, Sir," cried Plessets, unable to
restrain himself, and becoming warm in his turn, " you're
infatuated about this farmer's daughter infatuated, I say.
She may be all you represent her, and more but you will
fail to convince me that she is worth the sacrifice you are
making for her. Act like a man of sense. The girl will be
happier with your brother than with you."

" You think so ? " said the captain.

"I'm sure of it," rejoined Plessets, confidently. "And
what's more, you will be better without her. Let him take
her, then. But make terms for the surrender good terms.
I'll show you how to do it. Act like a man of sense, I tell
you."

" I should act like a scoundrel if I acted as you would
have me, Sam."

" Well, I've done my duty. You'll rue your folly when
too late. But I'll say no more," he added ; with a groan.
" I talk to deaf ears."

" Harkee, Sam. While you're about it, why can't you
show me how to get rid of Sir Hugh ? "

" Show you what? " cried Plessets, startled.

"Show me how to get rid of Sir Hugh," continued
Captain Chetwynd, with a very serious look, "before he can
deprive me of Old Court and the title by marrying and
setting up an heir to the property. Since you are such a
clever fellow, show me how to manage this secretly, so
that no suspicion can possibly attach to me."

" What a horrible idea ! " exclaimed Plessets, staring
aghast. "You've given me a chill down the back. What
do you take me for ; Sir?"



The Younger Brother. 1 1

c< I take you for a man of sense," replied Captain
Chetwynd, gravely "for a man not much troubled with
scruples. I ask you again, how am I to get rid of my
brother?"

" This is going too far. If it is a joke it's a very bad one.
I don't like it. Do you suppose I would show you how to
in m mur der your brother?"

" Certainly," replied Captain Chetwynd, with the utmost
gravity. "Why not?"

"Why not?" exclaimed Plessets, wiping his brow, which
had suddenly become damp. "You've thrown me into a
cold perspiration ; and no wonder. How dare you make
such an atrocious proposal to me ? I feel myself insulted,"
he added, trying to get into a passion.

" I'm glad to find you sensitive on some points, Sam,"
cried Captain Chetwynd, bursting into a loud laugh.
" My proposition is not a whit more injurious than yours,
and I thought that a man who would advise such a base
act as you have just done wouldn't stop at assassination.
Ha ! ha ! "

"Joke or no joke, it's plain to me, Captain, that you
would be very much obliged to anybody who would put
your brother out of the way."

"Why, so I should. I won't deny it," said Captain
Chetwynd, still laughing. "So do it, Sam."

" No more of this, if you please, Sir. Where is Sir
Hugh just now ?"

" At Old Court, I suppose. But I know nothing about
him. I'm forbidden the house. Yet something is con-
stantly telling me I shall find myself there again one of these
days. Ay, and as lord of the mansion/ 7

"I hope that ' something' may be right, Sir. And now,"
said Plessets, with some diffidence, " I hope I shan't offend
you by the offer I'm going to make. Will a hundred pounds
be of any use to you ? If so. say the word. I can lend it
without inconvenience."

"Upon my soul you're a deuced good fellow, Sam, and
I'm very much obliged to you. I accept your offer. But I
don't know when 1 can repay you."

" Never mind that. I don't want to be repaid just now.
Any time will do for me. Suit your own convenience.



I* Old Court.

I've got the money about me now," said Plessets,
producing a fat and greasy-looking pocket-book, and ex-
tracting a roll of bank-notes from it. " I was going to put
these in the County Bank at Maidstone, but they'll be much
better in your hands."

" Thank ye, Sam thank ye," cried Captain Chetwynd, as
he took the roll, and, without unfolding it, put it into his
own smart red morocco pocket-book. You're a deuced
good fellow, Sam. The money will be of miinens e service
to me. A hundred pounds, isn't it ? "

"A hundred pounds, Sir. Better count the notes, to
make sure."

" Not in the least necessary, Sam. I'll take your word
for it," replied Captain Chetwynd, securing the notes in his
breast-pocket. "You've made me feel quite easy, for to
speak truth, I really do want the money. And now, since
we've settled affairs so satisfactorily, I'll stroll to the church-
yard and look at the view before it gets dark," he added,
taking a cigar from his case and lighting it.

" Dinner shall be ready against your return, Sir," said
Plessets, accompanying his guest to the outer door.

The captain nodded, and puffing away at his cigar,
sauntered up the street in the direction of the church.





CHAPTER II.

THE ELDER BROTHER.

JHE fine old Norman church, towards which.
Captain Chetwynd was slowly wending his way,
smoking his cigar as he sauntered along and ever
and anon halting beneath one of the elms which
give so agreeable a character to Aylesford, occupies a com-
manding position at the end of the single street forming
that picturesque little town. Having ascended the eminence,
he entered the churchyard, and looked round. He was not
exactly in the serene frame of mind which would have best
enabled him to enjoy a lovely prospect, and he was by no
means an enthusiastic admirer of scenery in a general way,
but he nevertheless contemplated, with a certain sort of
pleasure, the charming landscape now offered to his gaze.
The soft beauty of the scene produced a tranquillising effect
on his feelings, and awakened a train of thought to which
he had been latterly a stranger. He watched the course
of the gentle Medway, as it flowed placidly down from
Maidstone through luxuriant hop-gardens, past woody banks
and fertile meadows, until it swept through the grey arches
of the ancient bridge of Aylesford.

A peculiar character was also added to the picture by
the sunset, which gave a glowing hue to the smooth surface
of the Medway. The evening was perfectly calm not a
breath was stirring but it was a stillness which seemed the
prelude of a storm, for there were appearances in the sky
that boded a change. Seated on a tombstone, with his
arms folded upon his breast, Captain Chetwynd gazed long



14 Old Court.

at the scene around him, and dwelt pensively arid almost
fondly upon its beauties ; and as the landscape darkened,
as the glow upon the river faded away, as the woods of the
chalk-hills on the opposite side of the river grew dark and
sombre, as the tall festooned hop-poles stood out against
a patch of sky where some brightness yet lingered, melan-
choly thoughts took possession of him, and in spite of all
his efforts to shake it off, his mental gloom deepened as the
darkness drew on. Long ago, the rooks had returned from
the distant plains below Rochester to the trees of the Friary,
which skirted the opposite bank of the river, and ere this
their cawing had ceased, and now the only sound that greeted
his ears was the hooting of a spectral owl as it wheeled
around him. A foreboding of ill seized him, and it almost
seemed as if he were about to bid adieu to the world. At
last, shaking off these gloomy thoughts, he arose from the
tombstone, and turned to quit the churchyard.

Just then he became aware of a tall dark figure standing
near the church porch, apparently watching him. At once
recognising his brother, Sir Hugh, Captain Chetwynd
stopped, half inclined to turn back, and find some other
means of egress from the churchyard than that offered by
the gate.

" What can he be doing here ? " thought the captain.
" I would rather not have met him, but I won't turn out of
my way."

With this he marched on, intending to pass his brother
without addressing him, but Sir Hugh stretched out his
arm, and in an authoritative tone commanded him to stay.

" What do you want with me, Sir ? " demanded Captain
Chetwynd, halting.

" I have a proposition to make to you a final propo-
sition," rejoined Sir Hugh.

" Indeed ! " exclaimed the captain, with a bitter laugh.
" I thought all was at an end between us. When last we
parted, you said you never would exchange another word
with me that, regardless of all ties of relationship and
affection, you had cast me off for ever, and bade me never
again enter your house, or intrude upon your presence. I
never will enter your house, Sir my father's house, while
you occupy it I never will come near you, if I can help it



The Elder Brother. 1 5

but why, after using such language to me why do you
dog me thus ? How did you know I was here ? "

" I have followed you to Aylesford," replied Sir Hugh,
"and discovered that you had put up at the Bell, and
strolled out to the churchyard. Learning this, I came
hither."

"You have given yourself a vast deal of unnecessary
trouble, Sir," said Captain Chetwynd, very haughtily.
" After what has passed, I do not desire to hold any inter,
course with you whatever. I do not see by what right you
should follow me to Aylesford still less, why you should
force yourself upon me thus. It is better we should meet
no more. Permit me to pass. I wish you good-evening,
Sir."

"Stay," said Sir Hugh, in the same authoritative tone as
before. " We must have a few more words together. You
must you shall listen to me."

"Shall! Sir Hugh," exclaimed the captain. " Under-
stand, if you please, that I am not to be bullied. If you
have anything particular to say to me, be brief. I have no
time to bestow upon you."

" You may as well moderate your tone, Clarence, till you
have heard what I have to say," rejoined Sir Hugh. " You
may be sure I should not have sought you out without an



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