Part 6 out of 6
"That's my business; my client has been wronged, I am determined to
right him, and when the aristocratic firm of Leasem and Fashun takes
refuge according to the custom of respectable repudiators, in the cool
arbors of the Court of Chancery, why, a mere bill-discounting attorney
like David Discount, need not hesitate about cutting a bludgeon out of
the Insolvent Court."
"Well, well, Mr. D., you are so warm--so fiery; we must deliberate, we
must consult. You will give me until the day after to-morrow, and then
we'll write you our final determination; in the meantime, send us a copy
of your authority to act for Mr. Molinos Fitz-Roy."
Of course I lost no time in getting the gentleman beggar to sign a
On the appointed day came a communication with the L. and F. seal, which
I opened, not without unprofessional eagerness. It was as follows:--
_"In re Molinos Fitz-Roy and Another._
"Sir,--In answer to your application on behalf of Mr. Molinos Fitz-Roy,
we beg to inform you that, under the administration of a paternal aunt
who died intestate, your client is entitled to two thousand five hundred
pounds eight shillings and sixpence, Three per Cents.; one thousand five
hundred pounds nineteen shillings and fourpence, Three per Cents.,
Reduced; one thousand pounds, Long Annuities; five hundred pounds, Bank
Stock; three thousand five hundred pounds, India Stock, besides other
securities, making up about ten thousand pounds, which we are prepared to
transfer over to Mr. Molinos Fitz-Roy's direction forthwith."
Here was a windfall! It quite took away my breath.
At dusk came my gentleman beggar, and what puzzled me was how to break
the news to him. Being very much overwhelmed with business that day, I
had not much time for consideration. He came in rather better dressed
than when I first saw him, with only a week's beard on his chin; but,
as usual, not quite sober. Six weeks had elapsed since our first
interview. He was still the humble, trembling, low-voiced creature, I
first knew him.
After a prelude, I said, "I find, Mr. F., you are entitled to something;
pray, what do you mean to give me in addition to my bill, for obtaining
it?" He answered rapidly, "Oh, take half; if there is one hundred pounds,
take half--if there is five hundred pounds, take half."
"No, no; Mr. F., I don't do business in that way, I shall be satisfied
with ten per cent."
It was so settled. I then led him out into the street, impelled to tell
him the news, yet dreading the effect; not daring to make the revelation
in my office, for fear of a scene.
I began hesitatingly, "Mr. Fitz-Roy, I am happy to say that I find you
are entitled to ... ten thousand pounds!"
"Ten thousand pounds!" he echoed. "Ten thousand pounds!" he shrieked.
"Ten thousand pounds!" he yelled; seizing my arm violently. "You are a
brick--Here, cab! cab!" Several drove up--the shout might have been heard
a mile off. He jumped in the first.
"Where to?" said the driver.
"To a tailor's, you rascal!"
"Ten thousand pounds! ha, ha, ha!" he repeated hysterically, when in the
cab; and every moment grasping my arm. Presently he subsided, looked me
straight in the face, and muttered with agonizing fervor, "What a jolly
brick you are!"
The tailor, the hosier, the boot-maker, the hair-dresser, were in turn
visited by this poor pagan of externals. As by degrees under their hands
he emerged from the beggar to the gentleman, his spirits rose; his eyes
brightened; he walked erect, but always nervously grasping my
arm--fearing, apparently, to lose sight of me for a moment, lest his
fortune, should vanish with me. The impatient pride with which he gave
his orders to the astonished tradesman for the finest and best of
everything, and the amazed air of the fashionable hairdresser when he
presented his matted locks and stubble chin, to be "cut and shaved," may
be _acted_--it cannot be described.
By the time the external transformation was complete, and I
sat down in a Cafe in the Haymarket opposite a haggard but handsome
thoroughbred-looking man, whose air, with the exception of the wild eyes
and deeply browned face, did not differ from the stereotyped men about
town sitting around us, Mr. Molinos Fitz-Roy had already almost
forgotten the past. He bullied the waiter, and criticised the wine, as if
he had done nothing else but dine and drink and scold there all the days
of his life.
Once he wished to drink my health, and would have proclaimed his whole
story to the coffee-room assembly, in a raving style. When I left he
almost wept in terror at the idea of losing sight of me. But, allowing
for these ebullitions--the natural result of such a whirl of events--he
was wonderfully calm and self-possessed.
The next day, his first care was to distribute fifty pounds among his
friends, the cadgers, at a "house of call" in Westminster, and formally
to dissolve his connection with them; those present undertaking for the
"fraternity," that for the future he should never be noticed by them in
public or private.
I cannot follow his career much further. Adversity had taught him
nothing. He was soon again surrounded by the well-bred vampires who had
forgotten him when penniless; but they amused him, and that was enough.
The ten thousand pounds were rapidly melting when he invited me to a
grand dinner at Richmond, which included a dozen of the most agreeable,
good-looking, well-dressed dandies of London, interspersed with a display
of pretty butterfly bonnets. We dined deliciously, and drank as men do of
iced wines in the dog-days--looking down from Richmond Hill.
One of the pink-bonnets crowned Fitz-Roy with a wreath of flowers; he
looked--less the intellect--as handsome as Alcibiades. Intensely
excited and flushed, he rose with a champagne glass in his hand to
propose my health.
The oratorical powers of his father had not descended on him. Jerking
out sentences by spasms, at length he said, "I was a beggar--I am a
gentleman--thanks to this--"
Here he leaned on my shoulder heavily a moment, and then fell back. We
raised him, loosened his neckcloth--
"Fainted!" said the ladies--
"Drunk!" said the gentlemen--
He was _dead_!
A FASHIONABLE FORGER.
I am an attorney and a bill-discounter. As it is my vocation to lend
money at high interest to extravagant people, my connection principally
lies among "fools," sometimes among rogues "of quality." Mine is a
pursuit which a prejudiced world either holds in sovereign contempt, or
visits with envy, hatred, and all uncharitableness; but to my mind, there
are many callings, with finer names, that are no better. It gives me two
things which I love--money and power; but I cannot deny that it brings
with it a bad name. The case lies between character and money, and
involves a matter of taste. Some people like character; I prefer money.
If I am hated and despised, I chuckle over the "per contra." I find it
pleasant for members of a proud aristocracy to condescend from their high
estate to fawn, feign, flatter; to affect even mirthful familiarity in
order to gain my good-will. I am no Shylock. No client can accuse me of
desiring either his flesh or his blood. Sentimental vengeance is no item
in my stock in trade. Gold and bank-notes satisfy my "rage;" or, if need
be, a good mortgage. Far from seeking revenge, the worst defaulter I ever
had dealings with cannot deny that I am always willing to accept a good
I say again, I am daily brought in contact with all ranks of society,
from the poverty-stricken patentee to the peer; and I am no more
surprised at receiving an application from a duchess than from a pet
opera-dancer. In my ante room wait, at this moment, a crowd of
borrowers. Among the men, (beardless folly and mustachioed craft are most
prominent,) there is a handsome young fellow, with an elaborate cane and
wonderfully vacant countenance, who is anticipating in feeble follies, an
estate that has been in the possession of his ancestors since the reign
of Henry the Eighth--there is a hairy, high-nosed, broken-down
nondescript, in appearance something between a horse-dealer and a
pugilist. He is an old Etonian. Five years ago he drove his four-in-hand;
he is now waiting to beg a sovereign, having been just discharged from
the Insolvent Court, for the second time. Among the women, a pretty
actress, who, a few years since, looked forward to a supper of steak and
onions, with bottled stout, on a Saturday night, as a great treat, now
finds one hundred pounds a month insufficient to pay her wine merchant
and her confectioner. I am obliged to deal with each case according to
its peculiarities. Genuine undeserved Ruin seldom knocks at my doer. Mine
is a perpetual battle with people who imbibe trickery at the same rate as
they dissolve their fortunes. I am a hard man, of course. I should not be
fit for my pursuit if I were not; but when, by a remote chance, honest
misfortune pays me a visit, as Rothschilds amused himself at times by
giving a beggar a guinea, so I occasionally treat myself to the luxury of
doing a kind action. My favorite subjects for this unnatural generosity,
are the very young or the poor, innocent, helpless people, who are unfit
for the war of life. Many among my clients (especially those tempered in
the "ice book" of fashion and high-life--polished and passionless) would
be too much for me, if I had not made the face, the eye, the accent, as
much my study as the mere legal and financial points of discount To show
what I mean, I will relate what happened to me not long since:--
One day, a middle-aged man in the usual costume of a West-End shopman,
who had sent in his name as Mr. Axminster, was shown into my private
room. After a little hesitation, he said, "Although you do not know me,
living at this end of the town, I know you very well by reputation, and
that you discount bills. I have a bill here which I want to get
discounted. I am in the employ of Messrs. Russle and Smooth. The bill is
drawn by one of our best customers, the Hon. Miss Snape, niece of Lord
Blimley, and accepted by Major Munge, whom, no doubt, you know by name.
She has dealt with us for some years--is very, very extravagant; but
always pays." He put the acceptance--which was for two hundred
pounds--into my hands.
I looked at it as scrutinizingly as I usually do at such paper The
Major's signature was familiar to me; but having succeeded to a great
estate, he had long ceased to be a customer. I instantly detected a
forgery; by whom?--was the question. Could it be the man before me?
Experience told me it was not. Perhaps there was something in the
expression of my countenance which Mr. Axminster did not like, for he
said, "It is good for the amount, I presume?"
I replied, "Pray, sir, from whom did you get this bill?"
"From Miss Snape herself."
"Have you circulated any other bills made by the same drawer?"
"O yes!" said the draper, without hesitation; "I have paid away a bill
for one hundred pounds to Mr. Sparkle, the jeweller, to whom Miss Snape
owed twenty pounds. They gave me the difference."
"And how long has that bill to run now?"
"About a fortnight."
"Did you indorse it?"
"I did. Mr. Sparkle required me to do so, to show that the bill came
properly into his possession."
"This second bill, you say is urgently required to enable Miss Snape to
"Yes; she is going to Brighton for the winter."
I gave Mr. Axminster a steady, piercing look of inquiry. "Pray, sir," I
said, "could you meet that one hundred pounds bill, supposing it could
not be paid by the accepter?"
"Meet it!" The poor fellow wiped from his forehead the perspiration which
suddenly broke out at the bare hint of a probability that the bill would
be dishonored--"Meet it? O no! I am a married man, with a family, and
have nothing but my salary to depend on."
"Then the sooner you get it taken up, and the less you have to do with
Miss Snape's bill affairs, the better."
"She has always been punctual hitherto."
"That may be." I pointed to the cross-writing on the document, and said
deliberately, "_This_ bill is a forgery!"
At these words the poor man turned pale. He snatched up the document, and
with many incoherent protestations, was rushing toward the door, when I
called to him in an authoritative tone, to stop. He paused--his manner
indicating not only doubt, but fear. I said to him, "Don't flurry
yourself; I only want to serve you. You tell me that you are a married
man, with children, dependent on daily labor for daily bread, and that
you have done a little discounting for Miss Snape, out of your earnings.
Now, although I am a bill-discounter, I don't like to see such men
victimized. Look at the body of this bill--look at the signature of your
lady-customer, the drawer. Don't you detect the same fine, thin,
sharp-pointed handwriting in the words 'Accepted, Dymmock Munge." The
man, convinced against his will, was at first overcome. When he
recovered, he raved; he would expose the Honorable Miss Snape, if it cost
him his bread--he would go at once to the police office. I stopped him,
by saying roughly, "Don't be a fool! Any such steps would seal your ruin.
Take my advice; return the bill to the lady, saying, simply, that you
cannot get it discounted. Leave the rest to me, and I think the bill you
have indorsed to Sparkle will be paid." Comforted by this assurance,
Axminster, fearfully changed from the nervous, but smug, hopeful man of
the morning, departed. It now remained for me to exert what skill I
possessed, to bring about the desired result. I lost no time in writing a
letter to the Honorable Miss Snape, of which the following is a copy:--
"Madam,--A bill, purporting to be drawn by you, has been offered to me
for discount. There is something wrong about it; and, though a stranger
to you, I advise you to lose no time in getting it back into your own
I intended to deal with the affair quietly, and without any view to
profit. The fact is, that I was sorry--you may laugh--but I really was
sorry to think that a young girl might have given way to temptation under
pressure of pecuniary difficulties. If it had been a man's case, I doubt
whether I should have interfered. By the return of post, a lady's maid
entered my room, profusely decorated with ringlets, lace, and perfumed
with patchouli. She brought a letter from her mistress. It ran thus:--
"Sir,--I cannot sufficiently express my thanks for your kindness in
writing to me on the subject of the bills, of which I had also heard a
few hours previously. As a perfect stranger to you, I cannot estimate
your kind consideration at too high a value. I trust the matter will be
explained; but I should much like to see you. If you would be kind
enough to write a note as soon as you receive this, I will order it to
be sent to me at once to Tyburn Square. I will wait on you at any hour
on Friday you may appoint. I believe that I am not mistaken in supposing
that you transact business for my friend, Sir John Markham, and you will
therefore know the inclosed to be his handwriting. Again thanking you
most gratefully, allow me to remain your much and deeply obliged,
This note was written upon delicate French paper embossed with a coat of
arms. It was in a fancy envelope--the whole richly perfumed, and
redolent of rank and fashion. Its contents were an implied confession of
forgery. Silence, or three lines of indignation, would have been the
only innocent answer to my letter. But Miss Snape thanked me. She let me
know, by implication that she was on intimate terms with a name good on
a West-End bill. My answer was, that I should be alone on the following
afternoon at five.
At the hour fixed, punctual to a moment, a brougham drew up at the corner
of the street next to my chambers. The Honorable Miss Snape's card was
handed in. Presently, she entered, swimming into my room, richly, yet
simply dressed in the extreme of Parisian good taste. She was pale--or
rather colorless. She had fair hair, fine teeth, and a fashionable voice.
She threw herself gracefully into the chair I handed to her, and began by
uncoiling a string of phrases, to the effect that her visit was merely to
consult me on "unavoidable pecuniary difficulties."
According to my mode, I allowed her to talk; putting in only an
occasional word of question that seemed rather a random observation than
a significant query. At length after walking round and round the subject,
like a timid horse in a field around a groom with a sieve of oats, she
came nearer and nearer the subject. When she had fairly approached the
point, she stopped, as if her courage had failed her. But she soon
recovered, and observed, "I cannot think why you should take the trouble
to write so to me, a perfect stranger." Another pause--"I wonder no one
ever suspected me before."
Here was a confession and a key to character. The cold gray eye, the thin
compressed lips, which I had had time to observe, were true indexes to
the "lady's inner heart;" selfish calculating, utterly devoid of
conscience; unable to conceive the existence of spontaneous kindness;
utterly indifferent to anything except discovery, and almost indifferent
to that, because convinced that no serious consequences could affect a
lady of her rank and influence.
"Madam," I replied, "as long as you dealt with tradesmen accustomed to
depend on aristocratic customers, your rank and position, and their
large profits, protected you from suspicion; but you have made a mistake
in descending from your vantage ground to make a poor shopman your
innocent accomplice--a man who will be keenly alive to anything
that may injure his wife or children. His terrors--but for my
interposition--would have ruined you utterly. Tell me, how many of these
things have you put afloat?"
She seemed a little taken a-back by this speech, but was wonderfully
firm. She passed her white, jewelled hand over her eyes, seemed
calculating, and then whispered, with a confiding look of innocent
helplessness, admirably assumed, "About as many as amount to twelve
"And what means have you for meeting them?"
At this question so plainly put, her face flushed. She half rose from her
chair, and exclaimed in the true tone of aristocratic _hauteur_, "Really,
sir, I do not know what right you have to ask me that question."
I laughed a little, though not very loud. It was rude, I own; but who
could have helped it? I replied, speaking low, but slowly and
distinctly--"You forget. I did not send for you; you came to me. You have
forged bills to the amount of twelve hundred pounds. Yours is not the
case of a ruined merchant or an ignorant over-tempted clerk. In your case
a jury"--(she shuddered at that word)--"would find no extenuating
circumstances; and if you should fall into the hands of justice you will
be convicted, degraded, clothed in a prison-dress, and transported for
life. I do not want to speak harshly; but I insist that you find means to
take up the bill which Mr. Axminster has so unwittingly endorsed!"
The Honorable Miss Snape's grand manner melted away. She wept. She seized
and pressed my hand. She cast up her eyes, full of tears, and went
through the part of a repentant victim with great fervor. She would do
anything--anything in the world to save the poor man. Indeed, she had
intended to appropriate part of the two hundred pound bill to that
purpose. She forgot her first statement, that she wanted the money to go
out of town. Without interrupting, I let her go on and degrade herself by
a simulated passion of repentance, regret, and thankfulness to me, under
which she hid her fear and her mortification at being detected. I at
length put an end to a scene of admirable acting, by recommending her to
go abroad immediately, to place herself out of reach of any sudden
discovery; and then lay her case fully before her friends, who would no
doubt feel bound to come forward with the full amount of the forged
bills. "But," she exclaimed, with an entreating air, "I have no money; I
cannot go without money!" To that observation I did not respond although
I am sure she expected that I should, check-book in hand, offer her a
loan. I do not say so without reason; for, the very next week, this
honorable young lady came again, and, with sublime assurance and a number
of very charming, winning speeches, (which might have had their effect
upon a younger man), asked me to lend her one hundred pounds, in order
that she might take the advice I had so obligingly given her, and retire
into private life for a certain time in the country. I do meet with a
great many impudent people in the course of my calling--I am not very
deficient in assurance myself--but this actually took away my breath.
"Really, madam," I answered, "you pay a very ill-compliment to my gray
hairs, and would fain make me a very ill return for the service I have
done you, when you ask me to lend a hundred pounds to a young lady who
owns to having forged to the extent of one thousand two hundred pounds,
and to owing eight hundred pounds besides. I wished to save a personage
of your years and position from a disgraceful career; but I am too good a
trustee for my children to lend money to anybody in such a dangerous
position as yourself."
"Oh!" she answered, quite unabashed, without a trace of the fearful,
tender pleading of the previous week's interview--quite as if I had been
an accomplice, "I can give you excellent security."
"That alters the case; I can lend any amount on good security."
"Well, sir, I can get the acceptance of three friends of ample means"
"Do you mean to tell me, Miss Snape, that you will write down the names
of three parties who will accept a bill for one hundred pounds for you?"
Yes, she could, and did actually write down the names of three
distinguished men. Now I knew for certain, that not one of those noblemen
would have put his name to a bill on any account whatever for his dearest
friend; but, in her unabashed self-confidence, she thought of passing
another forgery _on me_. I closed the conference by saying, "I cannot
assist you;" and she retired with the air of an injured person. In the
course of a few days, I heard from Mr. Axminster, that his liability of
one hundred pounds had been duly honored.
In my active and exciting life, one day extinguishes the recollection
of the events of the preceding day; and, for a time, I thought no more
about the fashionable forger. I had taken it for granted that,
heartily frightened, although not repenting, she had paused in her
My business one day led me to the establishment of one of the most
wealthy and respectable legal firms in the city, where I am well known,
and, I believe, valued; for at all times I am most politely, I may say,
most cordially received. Mutual profits create a wonderful freemasonry
between those who have not any other sympathy or sentiment. Politics,
religion, morality, difference of rank, are all equalized and
republicanized by the division of an account. No sooner had I entered the
_sanctum_, than the senior partner, Mr. Precepts, began to quiz his
junior, Mr. Jones, with, "Well, Jones must never joke friend Discount
anymore about usury. Just imagine," he continued, addressing me, "Jones
has himself been discounting a bill for a lady; and a deuced pretty one
too. He sat next her at dinner in Grosvenor Square, last week. Next day
she gave him a call here, and he could not refuse her extraordinary
request. Gad, it is hardly fair for Jones to be poaching on your domains
of West-End paper!"
Mr. Jones smiled quietly, as he observed, "Why, you see, she is the niece
of one of our best clients; and really I was so taken by surprise, that I
did not know how to refuse."
"Pray," said I, interrupting his excuses, "does your young lady's name
begin with S.? Has she not a very pale face, and cold gray eye?"
The partners stared.
"Ah! I see it is so; and can at once tell you that the bill is not
worth a rush."
"Why, you don't mean--?"
"I mean simply that the acceptance is, I'll lay you a wager, a forgery."
"A forgery," I repeated as distinctly as possible.
Mr. Jones hastily, and with broken ejaculations, called for the cash-box.
With trembling hands he took out the bill, and followed my finger with
eager, watchful eyes, as I pointed out the proofs of my assertion. A long
pause was broken by my mocking laugh; for, at the moment, my sense of
politeness could not restrain my satisfaction at the signal defeat which
had attended the first experiment of these highly respectable gentlemen
in the science of usury.
The partners did not have recourse to the police. They did not propose a
consultation with either Mr. Forrester or Mr. Field; but they took
certain steps, under my recommendation; the result of which was that at
an early day, an aunt of the Honorable Miss Snape was driven, to save so
near a connection from transportation, to sell out some fourteen hundred
pounds of stock, and all the forgeries were taken up.
One would have thought that the lady who had thus so narrowly escaped,
had had enough--but forgery, like opium-eating, is one of those charming
vices which is never abandoned, when once adopted. The forger enjoys not
only the pleasure of obtaining money so easily, but the triumph of
befooling sharp men of the world. Dexterous penmanship is a source of the
same sort of pride as that which animates the skillful rifleman, the
practiced duellist, or well-trained billiard-player. With a clean Gillott
he fetches down a capitalist, at three or six months, for a cool hundred
or a round thousand; just as a Scrope drops over a stag at ten, or a
Gordon Cumming a monstrous male elephant at a hundred paces.
As I before observed, my connection especially lies among the
improvident--among those who will be ruined--who are being ruined--and
who have been ruined. To the last class belongs Francis Fisherton, once
a gentleman, now without a shilling or a principle; but rich in
mother-wit--in fact, a _farceur_, after Paul de Kock's own heart. Having
in by-gone days been one of my willing victims, he occasionally finds
pleasure and profit in guiding others through the gate he frequented, as
long as able to pay the tolls. In truth, he is what is called a
One day I received a note from him, to say that he would call on me at
three o'clock the next day to introduce a lady of family, who wanted a
bill "done" for one hundred pounds. So ordinary a transaction merely
needed a memorandum in my diary, "Tuesday, 3 p.m.; F.F., L100 Bill." The
hour came and passed; but no Frank, which was strange--because every one
must have observed, that, however dilatory people are in paying, they are
wonderfully punctual when they expect to receive money.
At five o'clock, in rushed my Jackall. His story, disentangled from
oaths and ejaculations, amounted to this:--In answer to one of the
advertisements he occasionally addresses "To the Embarrassed," in the
columns of the "Times," he received a note from a lady, who said she was
anxious to get a "bill done"--the acceptance of a well-known man of rank
and fashion. A correspondence was opened, and an appointment made. At the
hour fixed, neatly shaved, brushed, gloved, booted--the revival, in
short, of that high-bred Frank Fisherton who was so famous
"In his hot youth, when Crockford's was the thing."
glowing with only one glass of brandy, "just to steady his nerves," he
met the lady at a West-End pastry-cook's.
After a few words (for all the material questions had been settled by
correspondence) she stepped into a brougham, and invited Frank to take a
seat beside her. Elated with a compliment of late years so rare, he
commenced planning the orgies which were to reward him for weeks of
enforced fasting, when the coachman, reverentially touching his hat,
looked down from his seat for orders.
"To ninety-nine, George Street, St. James," cried Fisherton, in his
In an instant the young lady's pale face changed to scarlet, and then to
ghastly green. In a whisper, rising to a scream, she exclaimed, "Good
heavens! you do not mean to go to _that_ man's house," (meaning me.)
"Indeed, I cannot go to him, on any account; he is a most horrid man, I
am told, and charges most extravagantly."
"Madam," answered Frank, in great perturbation, "I beg your pardon, but
you have been grossly misinformed. I have known that excellent man these
twenty years, and have paid him hundreds on hundreds; but never so much
by ten per cent. as you offered me for discounting your bill."
"Sir, I cannot have anything to do with your friend." Then, violently,
pulling the check-string, "Stop," she gasped, "and _will you_ have the
goodness to get out?"
"And so I got out," continued Fisherton, "and lost my time; and the heavy
investment I made in getting myself up for the assignation--new primrose
gloves, and a shilling to the hair-dresser--hang her! But, did you ever
know anything like the prejudices that must prevail against you? I am
disgusted with human nature. Could you lend me half a sovereign till
I smiled. I sacrificed the half sovereign, and let him go, for he is not
exactly the person to whom it was advisable to intrust all the secrets
relating to the Honorable Miss Snape. Since that day I look each morning
in the police reports with considerable interest; but, up to the present
hour, the Honorable Miss Snape has lived and thrived in the best society.
THE YOUNG ADVOCATE.
Antoine de Chaulieu was the son of a poor gentleman of Normandy, with a
long genealogy, a short rent-roll, and a large family. Jacques Rollet
was the son of a brewer, who did not know who his grandfather was; but
he had a long purse and only two children. As these youths flourished in
the early days of liberty, equality, and fraternity, and were near
neighbors, they naturally hated each other. Their enmity commenced at
school, where the delicate and refined De Chaulieu, being the only
gentilhomme among the scholars, was the favorite of the master, (who was
a bit of an aristocrat in his heart,) although he was about the worst
dressed boy in the establishment, and never had a sou to spend; while
Jacques Rollet, sturdy and rough, with smart clothes and plenty of
money, got flogged six days in the week, ostensibly for being stupid and
not learning his lessons,--which, indeed, he did not,--but, in reality,
for constantly quarrelling with and insulting De Chaulieu, who had not
strength to cope with him. When they left the academy, the feud
continued in all its vigor, and was fostered by a thousand little
circumstances arising out of the state of the times, till a separation
ensued in consequence of an aunt of Antoine de Chaulieu's undertaking
the expense of sending him to Paris to study the law, and of maintaining
him there during the necessary period.
With the progress of events came some degree of reaction in favor of
birth and nobility, and then Antoine, who had passed for the bar, began
to hold up his head and endeavored to push his fortunes; but fate seemed
against him. He felt certain that if he possessed any gift in the world
it was that of eloquence, but he could get no cause to plead; and his
aunt dying inopportunely, first his resources failed, and then his
health. He had no sooner returned to his home, than, to complicate his
difficulties completely, he fell in love with Mademoiselle Natalie de
Bellefonds, who had just returned from Paris, where she had been
completing her education. To expatiate on the perfections of Mademoiselle
Natalie would be a waste of ink and paper; it is sufficient to say that
she really was a very charming girl, with a fortune which, though not
large, would have been a most desirable acquisition to De Chaulieu, who
had nothing. Neither was the fair Natalie indisposed to listen to his
addresses; but her father could not be expected to countenance the suit
of a gentleman, however well born, who had not a ten-sous piece in the
world, and whose prospects were a blank.
While the ambitious and lovesick young barrister was thus pining in
unwelcome obscurity, his old acquaintance, Jacques Rollet, had been
acquiring an undesirable notoriety. There was nothing really bad in
Jacques' disposition, but having been bred up a democrat, with a hatred
of the nobility, he could not easily accommodate his rough humor to treat
them with civility when it was no longer safe to insult them. The
liberties he allowed himself whenever circumstances brought him into
contact with the higher classes of society, had led him into many
scrapes, out of which his father's money had one way or another released
him; but that source of safety had now failed. Old Rollet, having been
too busy with the affairs of the nation to attend to his business, had
died insolvent, leaving his son with nothing but his own wits to help him
out of future difficulties, and it was not long before their exercise was
called for. Claudine Rollet, his sister, who was a very pretty girl, had
attracted the attention of Mademoiselle de Bellefonds' brother, Alphonse;
and as he paid her more attention than from such a quarter was agreeable
to Jacques, the young men had more than one quarrel on the subject, on
which occasions they had each, characteristically, given vent to their
enmity, the one in contemptuous monosyllables, and the other in a volley
of insulting words. But Claudine had another lover more nearly of her own
condition of life; this was Claperon, the deputy-governor of the Rouen
jail, with whom she made acquaintance during one or two compulsory visits
paid by her brother to that functionary; but Claudine, who was a bit of a
coquette, though she did not altogether reject his suit, gave him little
encouragement, so that betwixt hopes and fears, and doubts and
jealousies, poor Claperon led a very uneasy kind of life.
Affairs had been for some time in this position, when, one fine morning,
Alphonse de Bellefonds was not to be found in his chamber when his
servant went to call him; neither had his bed been slept in. He had been
observed to go out rather late on the preceding evening, but whether or
not he had returned, nobody could tell. He had not appeared at supper,
but that was too ordinary an event to awaken suspicion; and little alarm
was excited till several hours had elapsed, when inquiries were
instituted and a search commenced, which terminated in the discovery of
his body, a good deal mangled, lying at the bottom of a pond which had
belonged to the old brewery. Before any investigations had been made,
every person had jumped to the conclusion that the young man had been
murdered, and that Jacques Rollet was the assassin. There was a strong
presumption in favor of that opinion, which further perquisitions tended
to confirm. Only the day before, Jacques had been heard to threaten M. de
Bellefonds with speedy vengeance. On the fatal evening, Alphonse and
Claudine had been seen together in the neighborhood of the now dismantled
brewery; and as Jacques, betwixt poverty and democracy, was in bad odor
with the prudent and respectable part of society, it was not easy for him
to bring witnesses to character, or prove an unexceptionable alibi. As
for the Bellefonds and De Chaulieus, and the aristocracy in general, they
entertained no doubt of his guilt; and finally, the magistrates coming to
the same opinion, Jacques Rollet was committed for trial, and as a
testimony of good will Antoine de Chaulieu was selected by the injured
family to conduct the prosecution.
Here, at last, was the opportunity he had sighed for! So interesting a
case, too, furnishing such ample occasion for passion, pathos,
indignation! And how eminently fortunate that the speech which he set
himself with ardor to prepare, would be delivered in the presence of the
father and brother of his mistress, and perhaps of the lady herself! The
evidence against Jacques, it is true, was altogether presumptive; there
was no proof whatever that he had committed the crime; and for his own
part he stoutly denied it. But Antoine de Chaulieu entertained no doubt
of his guilt, and his speech was certainly well calculated to carry
conviction into the bosom of others. It was of the highest importance to
his own reputation that he should procure a verdict, and he confidently
assured the afflicted and enraged family of the victim that their
vengeance should be satisfied. Under these circumstances could any thing
be more unwelcome than a piece of intelligence that was privately
conveyed to him late on the evening before the trial was to come on,
which tended strongly to exculpate the prisoner, without indicating any
other person as the criminal? Here was an opportunity lost. The first
step of the ladder on which he was to rise to fame, fortune, and a wife,
was slipping from under his feet!
Of course, so interesting a trial was anticipated with great eagerness by
the public, and the court was crowded with all the beauty and fashion of
Rouen. Though Jacques Rollet persisted in asserting his innocence,
founding his defence chiefly on circumstances which were strongly
corroborated by the information that had reached De Chaulieu the
preceding evening, he was convicted.
In spite of the very strong doubts he privately entertained respecting
the justice of the verdict, even De Chaulieu himself, in the first flush
of success, amid a crowd of congratulating friends, and the approving
smiles of his mistress, felt gratified and happy; his speech had, for the
time being, not only convinced others, but himself; warmed with his own
eloquence, he believed what he said. But when the glow was over, and he
found himself alone, he did not feel so comfortable. A latent doubt of
Rollet's guilt now burnt strongly in his mind, and he felt that the blood
of the innocent would be on his head. It is true there was yet time to
save the life of the prisoner; but to admit Jacques innocent was to take
the glory out of his own speech, and turn the sting of his argument
against himself. Besides, if he produced the witness who had secretly
given him the information, he should be self-condemned, for he could not
conceal that he had been aware of the circumstance before the trial.
Matters having gone so far, therefore, it was necessary that Jacques
Rollet should die; so the affair took its course; and early one morning
the guillotine was erected in the courtyard of the jail, three criminals
ascended the scaffold, and three heads fell into the basket which were
presently afterwards, with the trunks that had been attached to them,
buried in a corner of the cemetery.
Antoine de Chaulieu was now fairly started in his career, and his success
was as rapid as the first step towards it had been tardy. He took a
pretty apartment in the Hotel de Marboeuf Rue Grange-Bateliere, and in a
short time was looked upon as one of the most rising young advocates in
Paris. His success in one line brought him success in another; he was
soon a favorite in society, and an object of interest to speculating
mothers; but his affections still adhered to his old love, Natalie de
Bellefonds, whose family now gave their assent to the match,--at least,
prospectively,--a circumstance which furnished such an additional
incentive to his exertions, that in about two years from the date of his
first brilliant speech, he was in a sufficiently flourishing condition to
offer the young lady a suitable home. In anticipation of the happy event,
he engaged and furnished a suit of apartments in the Rue du Helder; and
as it was necessary that the bride should come to Paris to provide her
trousseau, it was agreed that the wedding should take place there,
instead of at Bellefonds, as had been first projected--an arrangement the
more desirable, that a press of business rendered M. de Chaulieu's
absence from Paris inconvenient.
Brides and bridegrooms in France, except of the very high classes, are
not much in the habit of making those honeymoon excursions so universal
in this country. A day spent in visiting Versailles, or St. Cloud, or
even the public places of the city, is generally all that precedes the
settling down into the habits of daily life. In the present instance, St.
Denis was selected, from the circumstance of Natalie having a younger
sister at school there, and also because she had a particular desire to
see the abbey.
The wedding was to take place on a Thursday; and on the Wednesday
evening, having spent some hours most agreeably with Natalie, Antoine de
Chaulieu returned to spend his last night in his bachelor apartments. His
wardrobe and other small possessions had already been packed up and sent
to his future home; and there was nothing left in his room now but his
new wedding suit, which he inspected with considerable satisfaction
before he undressed and lay down to sleep. Sleep, however, was somewhat
slow to visit him; and the clock had struck one before he closed his
eyes. When he opened them again, it was broad daylight; and his first
thought was, had he overslept himself? He sat up in bed to look at the
clock, which was exactly opposite; and as he did so, in the large mirror
over the fireplace he perceived a figure standing behind him. As the
dilated eyes met his own, he saw it was the face of Jacques Rollet.
Overcome with horror, he sank back on his pillow, and it was some minutes
before he ventured to look again in that direction; when he did so, the
figure had disappeared.
The sudden revulsion of feeling such a vision was calculated to occasion
in a man elate with joy, may be conceived. For some time after the death
of his former foe, he had been visited by not unfrequent twinges of
conscience; but of late, borne along by success, and the hurry of
Parisian life, these unpleasant remembrances had grown rarer, till at
length they had faded away altogether. Nothing had been further from his
thoughts than Jacques Rollet, when he closed his eyes on the preceding
night, nor when he opened them to that sun which was to shine on what he
expected to be the happiest day of his life. Where were the high-strung
nerves now? the elastic frame? the bounding heart?
Heavily and slowly he arose from his bed, for it was time to do so; and
with a trembling hand and quivering knees, he went through the processes
of the toilet, gashing his cheek with the razor, and spilling the water
over his well-polished boots. When he was dressed, scarcely venturing to
cast a glance in the mirror as he passed it, he quitted the room, and
descended the stairs, taking the key of the door with him for the purpose
of leaving it with the porter: the man, however, being absent, he laid it
on the table in his lodge, and with a relaxed and languid step proceeded
on his way to the church, where presently arrived the fair Natalie and
her friends. How difficult it was now to look happy with that pallid face
and extinguished eye!
"How pale you are! Has any thing happened? You are surely ill," were the
exclamations that met him on all sides. He tried to carry it off as well
as he could, but felt that the movements he would have wished to appear
alert were only convulsive, and that the smiles with which he attempted
to relax his features were but distorted grimaces. However, the church
was not the place for further inquiries; and while Natalie gently pressed
his hand in token of sympathy, they advanced to the altar, and the
ceremony was performed; after which they stepped into the carriages
waiting at the door, and drove to the apartments of Madame de Bellefonds,
where an elegant _dejeuner_ was prepared.
"What ails you, my dear husband?" inquired Natalie, as soon as they
"Nothing, love," he replied; "nothing, I assure you, but a restless night
and a little overwork, in order that I might have to-day free to enjoy my
"Are you quite sure? Is there nothing else?"
"Nothing, indeed; and pray don't take notice of it; it only makes
Natalie was not deceived, but she saw that what he said was true; notice
made him worse; so she contented herself with observing him quietly, and
saying nothing; but, as he _felt_ she was observing him, she might almost
better have spoken; words are often less embarrassing things than too
When they reached Madame de Bellefond's he had the same sort of
questioning and scrutiny to undergo, till he grew quite impatient under
it, and betrayed a degree of temper altogether unusual with him. Then
every body looked astonished; some whispered their remarks, and others
expressed them by their wondering eyes, till his brow knit, and his
pallid cheeks became flushed with anger. Neither could he divert
attention by eating; his parched mouth would not allow him to swallow any
thing but liquids, of which, however, he indulged in copious libations;
and it was an exceeding relief to him when the carriage, which was to
convey them to St. Denis, being announced, furnished an excuse for
hastily leaving the table. Looking at his watch, he declared it was late;
and Natalie, who saw how eager he was to be gone, threw her shawl over
her shoulders, and bidding her friends _good morning_, they hurried away.
It was a fine sunny day in June; and as they drove along the crowded
boulevards, and through the Porte St. Denis, the young bride and
bridegroom, to avoid each other's eyes, affected to be gazing out of the
windows; but when they reached the part of the road where there was
nothing but trees on each side, they felt it necessary to draw in their
heads, and make an attempt at conversation, De Chaulieu put his arm round
his wife's waist, and tried to rouse himself from his depression; but it
had by this time so reacted upon her, that she could not respond to his
efforts, and thus the conversation languished, till both felt glad when
they reached their destination, which would, at all events, furnish them
something to talk about.
Having quitted the carriage, and ordered a dinner at the Hotel de
l'Abbaye, the young couple proceeded to visit Mademoiselle Hortense de
Bellefonds, who was overjoyed to see her sister and new brother-in-law,
and doubly so when she found that they had obtained permission to take
her out to spend the afternoon with them. As there is little to be seen
at St. Denis but the Abbey, on quitting that part of it devoted to
education, they proceeded to visit the church, with its various objects
of interest; and as De Chaulieu's thoughts were now forced into another
direction, his cheerfulness began insensibly to return. Natalie looked so
beautiful, too, and the affection betwixt the two young sisters was so
pleasant to behold! And they spent a couple of hours wandering about with
Hortense, who was almost as well informed as the Suisse, till the brazen
doors were opened which admitted them to the Royal vault. Satisfied, at
length, with what they had seen, they began to think of returning to the
inn, the more especially as De Chaulieu, who had not eaten a morsel of
food since the previous evening, owned to being hungry; so they directed
their steps to the door, lingering here and there as they went, to
inspect a monument or a painting, when, happening to turn his head aside
to see if his wife, who had stopped to take a last look at the tomb of
King Dagobert, was following, he beheld with horror the face of Jacques
Rollet appearing from behind a column! At the same instant his wife
joined him, and took his arm, inquiring if he was not very much delighted
with what he had seen. He attempted to say yes, but the word would not be
forced out; and staggering out of the door, he alleged that a sudden
faintness had overcome him.
They conducted him to the Hotel, but Natalie now became seriously
alarmed; and well she might. His complexion looked ghastly, his limbs
shook, and his features bore an expression of indescribable horror and
anguish. What could be the meaning of so extraordinary a change in the
gay, witty, prosperous De Chaulieu, who, till that morning, seemed not to
have a care in the world? For, plead illness as he might, she felt
certain, from the expression of his features, that his sufferings were
not of the body but of the mind; and, unable to imagine any reason for
such extraordinary manifestations, of which she had never before seen a
symptom, but a sudden aversion to herself, and regret for the step he had
taken, her pride took the alarm, and, concealing the distress she really
felt, she began to assume a haughty and reserved manner towards him,
which he naturally interpreted into an evidence of anger and contempt.
The dinner was placed upon the table; but De Chaulieu's appetite, of
which he had lately boasted, was quite gone, nor was his wife better able
to eat. The young sister alone did justice to the repast; but although
the bridegroom could not eat, he could swallow champagne in such copious
draughts, that ere long the terror and remorse that the apparition of
Jacques Rollet had awakened in his breast were drowned in intoxication.
Amazed and indignant, poor Natalie sat silently observing this elect of
her heart, till overcome with disappointment and grief, she quitted the
room with her sister, and retired to another apartment, where she gave
free vent to her feelings in tears.
After passing a couple of hours in confidences and lamentations, they
recollected that the hours of liberty granted, as an especial favor, to
Mademoiselle Hortense, had expired; but ashamed to exhibit her husband in
his present condition to the eyes of strangers, Natalie prepared to
re-conduct her to the _Maison Royale_ herself. Looking into the
dining-room as they passed, they saw De Chaulieu lying on a sofa fast
asleep, in which state he continued when his wife returned. At length,
however, the driver of their carriage begged to know if Monsieur and
Madame were ready to return to Paris, and it became necessary to arouse
him. The transitory effects of the champagne had now subsided; but when
De Chaulieu recollected what had happened, nothing could exceed his shame
and mortification. So engrossing indeed were these sensations that they
quite overpowered his previous one, and, in his present vexation, he, for
the moment, forgot his fears. He knelt at his wife's feet, begged her
pardon a thousand times, swore that he adored her, and declared that the
illness and the effect of the wine had been purely the consequences of
fasting and over-work. It was not the easiest thing in the world to
re-assure a woman whose pride, affection, and taste, had been so severely
wounded; but Natalie tried to believe, or to appear to do so, and a sort
of reconciliation ensued, not quite sincere on the part of the wife, and
very humbling on the part of the husband. Under these circumstances it
was impossible that he should recover his spirits or facility of manner;
his gaiety was forced, his tenderness constrained; his heart was heavy
within him; and ever and anon the source whence all this disappointment
and woe had sprung would recur to his perplexed and tortured mind.
Thus mutually pained and distrustful, they returned to Paris, which they
reached about nine o'clock. In spite of her depression, Natalie, who had
not seen her new apartments, felt some curiosity about them, whilst De
Chaulieu anticipated a triumph in exhibiting the elegant home he had
prepared for her. With some alacrity, therefore, they stepped out of the
carriage, the gates of the Hotel were thrown open, the _concierge_ rang
the bell which announced to the servants that their master and mistress
had arrived, and whilst these domestics appeared above, holding lights
over the balustrades, Natalie, followed by her husband, ascended the
stairs. But when they reached the landing-place of the first flight, they
saw the figure of a man standing in a corner as if to make way for them;
the flash from above fell upon his face, and again Antoine de Chaulieu
recognized the features of Jacques Rollet!
From the circumstance of his wife's preceding him, the figure was not
observed by De Chaulieu till he was lifting his foot to place it on the
top stair: the sudden shock caused him to miss the step, and, without
uttering a sound, he fell back, and never stopped till he reached the
stones at the bottom. The screams of Natalie brought the concierge from
below and the maids from above, and an attempt was made to raise the
unfortunate man from the ground; but with cries of anguish he besought
them to desist.
"Let me," he said, "die here! What a fearful vengeance is thine! O,
Natalie, Natalie!" he exclaimed to his wife, who was kneeling beside him,
"to win fame, and fortune, and yourself, I committed a dreadful crime!
With lying words I argued away the life of a fellow-creature, whom,
whilst I uttered them, I half believed to be innocent; and now, when I
have attained all I desired, and reached the summit of my hopes, the
Almighty has sent him back upon the earth to blast me with the sight.
Three times this day--three times this day! Again! again!"--and as he
spoke, his wild and dilated eyes fixed themselves on one of the
individuals that surrounded him.
"He is delirious," said they.
"No," said the stranger! "What he says is true enough,--at least in
part;" and bending over the expiring man, he added, "May Heaven forgive
you, Antoine de Chaulieu! I was not executed; one who well knew my
innocence saved my life. I may name him, for he is beyond the reach of
the law now,--it was Claperon, the jailor, who loved Claudine, and had
himself killed Alphonse de Bellefonds from jealousy. An unfortunate
wretch had been several years in the jail for a murder committed during
the frenzy of a fit of insanity. Long confinement had reduced him to
idiocy. To save my life Claperon substituted the senseless being for me,
on the scaffold; he was executed in my stead. He has quitted the country,
and I have been a vagabond on the face of the earth ever since that time.
At length I obtained, through the assistance of my sister, the situation
of concierge in the Hotel Marboeuf, in the Rue Grange-Bateliere. I
entered on my new place yesterday evening, and was desired to awaken the
gentleman on the third floor at seven o'clock. When I entered the room to
do so, you were asleep, but before I had time to speak you awoke, and I
recognized your features in the glass. Knowing that I could not vindicate
my innocence if you chose to seize me, I fled, and seeing an omnibus
starting for St. Denis, I got on it with a vague idea of getting on to
Calais, and crossing the Channel to England. But having only a franc or
two in my pocket, or indeed in the world, I did not know how to procure
the means of going forward; and whilst I was lounging about the place,
forming first one plan and then another, I saw you in the church, and
concluding you were in pursuit of me, I thought the best way of eluding
your vigilance was to make my way back to Paris as fast as I could; so I
set off instantly, and walked all the way; but having no money to pay my
night's lodging, I came here to borrow a couple of livres of my sister
Claudine, who lives in the fifth story."
"Thank Heaven!" exclaimed the dying man; "that sin is off my soul!
Natalie, dear wife, farewell! Forgive, forgive all!"
These were the last words he uttered; the priest, who had been
summoned in haste, held up the cross before his failing sight; a few
strong convulsions shook the poor bruised and mangled frame; and then
all was still.
And thus ended the Young Advocate's Wedding Day.
A MURDER IN THE TIME OF THE CRUSADES.
There is, perhaps, no country or climate more beautiful than England, as
seen in one of its rural landscapes, when the sun has just risen upon a
cloudless summer's dawn. The very feeling that the delightful freshness
of the moment will not be entirely destroyed during the whole day,
renders the prospect more agreeable than the anticipated fiery advance of
the sun in southern or tropical lands. Exhilaration and gladness are the
marked characteristics of an English summer morning. So it ever is, and
so it was hundreds of years ago, when occurred the events we are about to
narrate. How lovely then, on such a morning as we allude to, looked that
rich vale in the centre of Gloucestershire, through which the lordly
Severn flows! The singing of the birds, the reflective splendor of the
silvery waters, the glittering of the dew as it dazzled and
disappeared--all combined to charm sound, sight, and sense, and to
produce a strong feeling of joy. But the horseman, who was passing
through this graceful scene, scarcely needed the aid of any external
object to enhance the pleasurable sensation that already filled his
breast. The stately horse on which he sat, seemed, by its light steps,
and by ever and anon proudly prancing, to share in the animation of its
rider. So, the noble stag-hound that followed, and continually looked up
contentedly at its master, appeared, likewise, a participator in the
general content. The stranger had indeed cause to rejoice, for he was
upon the fairest errand. He bad wooed and won the gentle heiress of a
proud, but good-hearted Gloucestershire baron--he had wooed and won her,
too, with the full consent of father, kinsmen, and friends, and he was
now on his way to the baron's castle to arrange with his betrothed the
ceremonial of the nuptials. Ride on, thou gallant knight, ride on, and
swifter too; for though the day will be yet early when thou arrivest,
thou wilt find thyself expected within the Gothic enciente of the Baron
de Botetourt's dwelling. A banner waves from the topmost tower to do thee
honor and welcome; there walks, too, by the battlements, one whose night
has been sleepless because of thee, whose thoughts and whose whole
existence centre in thee, whose look firmly attaches to the road that
brings thee to her. Ride on then speedily, Sir Knight, to the happiness
thy virtue and thy deeds have so well deserved.
This lover is no ordinary suitor: he is of mingled Saxon and Norman noble
blood, the recent companion-in-arms of Richard Coeur de Lion. His name is
Ralph de Sudley, and though he has passed his thirtieth year, the effect
of long toil and war scarcely appears upon his handsome and still very
youthful countenance. Yet the knight has seen and endured much: he has
been with Richard at the siege and capture of Acre, and at the battle of
Azotus. When Conrad of Montferrat fell by the dagger of the assassins,
Sir Ralph took a prominent part in the stormy debates which ensued among
the Crusaders. He even proposed with his men-at-arms, and those who would
follow him, to invade the territory of the Lord of the Mountain, and to
avenge in his blood the death which that king of murderers had caused to
be done to Conrad. This event made so deep an impression on his mind,
that he still took every opportunity of urging upon his own and other
Christian governments the necessity of extirpating these eastern
assassins. On his return from the crusades, Sir Ralph found the daughter
of his friend, the Baron de Botetourt, just verging into beauteous
womanhood. The glory of his reputation, and the graces of his person,
gained her heart at once; the Lady Alianore, though much his junior in
years, loved the knight fondly and devotedly.
Sir Ralph has reached the portcullis of the castle; the wardour and
men-at-arms are there to receive him with full honors, though he comes
privately, without his armor or his followers: he wears the civil but
costly dress of the period, with no other weapon than a slight sword at
his side. But the baron will have each advent of his future son-in-law
welcomed as an approach of state.
"Grammercy, Sir Baron," observed the knight, as after passing through a
crowd of domestics, he grasped his host's hand upon the threshold, "one
would imagine me Richard of England himself, or rather Saladin, that
greatest and most gaudy of Oriental Soldans, to see this pompous prelude
to my disjune with your lovely daughter and yourself."
"Nay, Ralph de Sudley," replied the baron, "my castle must needs put on
its best looks, when it beholds the entry of one who is to be its lord
and protector when I shall be no more. But I see you are all impatience
to go within; and, in truth, the sooner your first interview be over the
better, for the table is prepared, and the pasty awaits us, and the
chaplain too, whose inward man, after the morning's Mass, craves some
"A moment, my worthiest of friends, and I am with you," said the knight,
as he hurried by: in another instant the Lady Alianore was in his
embrace. Need we repeat the oft-told tale of love? Need we describe the
day of delight Sir Ralph passed in the castle, lingering from hour to
hour until the dusk? O, there is some one we must depict, the lady
herself, who so subdued and softened this knightly soul. There, one hand
upon the shoulder of her lover, her other hand locked in his, she sits
listening to his words, and luxuriating in his discourse. The Lady
Alianore, somewhat tall in stature, but perfect in form, has a face of
dazzling beauty, yet the bewitching sweetness of her smile is tempered by
a certain dignity of countenance, to which her dark, raven hair, and
darker eyes, do not a little contribute; her hands, and the foot that
peeps from beneath, her graceful robe, are of exquisite smallness, and
bespeak the purest Norman blood. Her extreme fairness, shaded by her
sable locks, form a strong contrast to the auburn hair and ruddy visage
of the stalwart warrior beside her.
"This will indeed be too much, Ralph," observed the lady; "a monarch, his
queen, and his court, to come to this out-of-the-way castle, to honor the
wedding of a lone damsel like myself; I can hardly support the idea of so
"Fear not, my beloved," replied the knight, "Richard is homely enough,
and all good nature. Moreover, it is but a return of civility; for I it
was who accompanied him to the altar, where he obtained the hand of
Berengaria of Navarre; the office was a dangerous one then, since I
incurred by it the wrath of Philip of France. And why, dearest, should
not every magnificence attend our nuptials? It is the outward emblem of
our great content--a mark, like those gorgeous ceremonies that accompany
the festive prayers of the Church, which tell the people of the earth of
a joy having something of the gladness and glory of Heaven in it."
"Be it as you wish, my own true knight; yet I almost feel that I am too
happy. May God bless and protect us!"
Thus passed this bright day, until the approach of dusk imperatively
compelled the enraptured lovers to separate. The knight had urgent
business to settle, early on the morrow, at his own castle, before
setting out for London, to announce to the king the day fixed for the
espousal, and to beg from the monarch the fulfilment of the promise he
had made, to be present in person with his court, at the wedding of his
gallant and faithful vassal. The knight was therefore forced to depart
ere the gloom advanced; for though his journey lay in a friendly and
peaceful country, it was not the habit in those days to be abroad much
after dusk, without an efficient escort.
Sir Ralph reluctantly quitted his betrothed: he made his escape moreover
from the baron and the chaplain, who prayed his further tarrying, to
share in another flagon of Rhenish about to be produced. The horse and
dog were at the porch, and, in a few minutes, the knight had passed the
drawbridge, and was in the same fair road again.
"I have known Sir Ralph from his birth," observed the baron to the
chaplain, "and I love him as my own son. The king may well come here to
see him wedded; for he has not a nobler, braver, or more generous knight
within his realm."
"Truly, Sir Baron, he is endowed with much excellence," replied the
priest; "I do greatly admire his strong denunciation against the Templars
and other warlike orders, who tolerate the protracted existence of that
band of murderers in the past who have their daggers ever pointed
against the sons of the Church. Sir Ralph speaks on this subject like a
true soldier of the Cross."
"Very true," retorted the baron, "yet I wish our chevaliers would cease
to think of foreign broils and questions, and attend to affairs at home.
This Rhenish is perfect: after all, wine is the only thing really good
that originates beyond our seas."
Their discourse had scarcely proceeded farther, when it was suddenly
interrupted by the loud howling and barking of a dog. The baron and the
chaplain started up. "It is Leo, Sir Ralph's dog," exclaimed the former,
"what in God's name can be the matter?" and the two rushed out.
The Lady Alianore, at her orisons above, heard the same terrible howl and
bark. She instantly descended to the courtyard; as she came there, the
outer gate was opened, and Leo, the knight's dog, flew past the wardour,
and ran to the feet of the lady. The animal's mouth was blood-stained,
and his glaring eye-balls and ruffled crest showed the extent of his fury
"Something dreadful has happened to Sir Ralph," she cried, and urged
by the dog, who had seized her robe, she hurried through the gate,
and crossed the drawbridge, with a rapidity those who followed could
When the baron, his chaplain, and his domestics had proceeded a little
beyond a quarter of a mile upon the road, a fearful sight met their view.
The knight lay dead upon the green sward by the side of the highway; a
poignard which had effected the mortal wound, still rested fixed into his
back. His body was locked fast in the embrace of the Lady Alianore, who
lay senseless upon it: the dog stood by, howling piteously. No trace
could be discovered of who had done the deed. No proof was there beyond
the dagger itself, which was of Oriental fashion, and bore the
inscription in Latin _Hoc propter verba tua_; naught beyond that and
another circumstance, which went to show that the knight had been slain
by an eastern enemy. The dog, as he re-entered the castle, called
attention to some pieces of blood-stained rag, which, from their
appearance, had dropped from his mouth; one of these, the innermost, was
in texture and pattern evidently part of a Syrian garment.
The Lady Alianore did not die under this dreadful calamity: she lived to
mourn. The knight was interred within the precinct of the Abbey Church of
Gloucester; his tomb and effigy were in a niche at an angle of the
cloisters. Here would Alianore continually come, accompanied by Leo, who,
since his master's death, never left her side; here would she stop,
fixedly gazing upon the monument, the tear in her eye, and the chill of
hopeless sorrow in her heart. There are, indeed, few of us, who,
wandering through the interior of some noble ecclesiastical edifice, can
suppress a feeling of melancholy, when we view the sepulchre of a knight
of repute, who has died in his prime, in the midst of his achievements
and his fame, and who, clad in the harness of his pride, lies
outstretched in the marble before us. Courage and courtesy, chivalry and
Christianity, are buried there--there the breast, replete with honor, the
heart to feel, and the right arm to defend. The monument tells of the
sudden extinguishment of some bright light that shone in a semi-barbarous
age, which had its main civilization and refinement from knights and
churchmen solely. If this sight would sadden a stranger soul, what must
have been the deep grief of the lady as she contemplated the cold
memorial of Sir Ralph, and felt that the consummation of her whole
earthly comfort was there entombed! A secret sentiment that satisfied, or
rather softened her mental agony, brought her again and again to the
place--ay, again and again to gaze upon the grave, and then to retire
into the church to long and ardent prayer.
About two years after the knight had been dead, the Lady Alianore was one
morning departing through the cloisters from a visit to the tomb, when
her attention was suddenly arrested by a low growl from the dog who
accompanied her. She turned back, and saw two persons in the garb of
foreign merchants or traders, the one pointing out to the other the
knight's monumental effigy. Scarcely had she made the observation, when
Leo rushed from her side, and flew at the throat of him who was
exhibiting the grave; in an instant he brought him to the ground; the
other endeavored to escape, but some sacristans who heard the noise,
hastened to the spot, and the men were arrested.
On examination, the two pretended merchants were found to wear eastern
habilaments beneath their long gowns, and the cloth of the turban was
concealed under the broad brimmed hat of each. They both had daggers, and
upon the arm of the one the dog had seized, there was the deep scar of
what seemed to be a desperate bite. Further proof became needless, for
when every chance of escape was gone, they made a full confession, and
appeared to glory in it. They were emissaries from the Old Man of the
Mountain. The one on a previous occasion had journeyed from the far east
to do his fearful master's bidding, and had stabbed the knight in the
back, on the evening he rode in his gladness from the abode of his
affianced bride. The fanatic himself narrowly escaped destruction at the
time; for the dog had fixed his teeth into his arm, and it was only by
allowing the flesh to be torn out, (his dagger was in his victim,) that
he contrived to reach a swift Arabian horse, which bore him from the
scene. He had since returned to Phoenicia, and had once more come to
England, bringing with him a comrade to remove a doubt expressed by his
master, and to testify to the monarch of the Mountain how effectively his
object had been accomplished.
The Baron de Botetourt, with the assent of the crown, caused the two
miscreants to be hanged upon a gibbet on the summit of his castle, their
turbans tied to their heels. Leo, as if he had nothing more to live for,
soon after pined and died. The Lady Alianore, retired into a convent, and
eventually became its abbess. During the course of her monastic life, she
preserved in silence her undying regret for the knight, and the
recollection of her happiness, so miserably thwarted. She was always kind
and gentle, yet always also dignified and reserved. On her death-bed, she
requested that her remains might be interred in the Abbey of Gloucester,
nigh unto the tomb of Sir Ralph de Sudley, and that her monumental tablet
should contain no more than her name and state, and an inscription
pointing out the extreme vanity of all human felicity. Such a memorial,
it is said, was, until entirely effaced by time, to be seen, read, and
thought upon, within the cloisters of Gloucester's time-honored and