Page images
PDF
EPUB

up.

the arrangements which had been made for the funeral, and other matters of the same kind, without taking any further notice of Frederick.

This behaviour was so pointed, that even the steward seemed embarrassed by it, and made every answer by a reference to Frederick, saying, " Mr. Falconer knows, Sir; Mr. Falconer desired it should be so and so; it was by Mr. Falconer's orders.”

In the mean time, Frederick seemed resolved not to be offended, if possible: but, placing himself again at the table, he said, “ Robert, I shall finish the arrangement of these papers: they are merely household bills--things of little consequence; but it will save trouble to wind up these unimportant matters.”

Sir Robert made no observation on this, but gave orders for refreshments, continuing to speak to Humphreys as if no third person were present. Frederick, in the interim, completed his business, tied

and wrote memorandums on the papers, and then, delivering them to Mr. Humphreys, « There, Sir,” he said, “ they are all straight, and ready for Sir Robert's inspection at a future time.' Then rising, he came up to Robert, gave him his hand, and told him what he had done with regard to sealing up the papers in Lord V's presence, expressing his wish that they might be opened before the same person; and added, “I am going, now, my dear Robert, to return to my own house, where my presence is required, and I shall expect that you will send for me whenever you want me.

I must, therefore, bid you adieu.”

Robert hesitated, and seemed not to know how to act; but while he still remained undecided, Frederick left the room: and, having given one look at the coffin which contained the remains of his uncle, whose memory at that moment was more precious to him than ever, he returned to his peaceful home, full of sentiments of gratitude to that uncle, through whose kindness he was possessed of such a home, and was in a state of such perfect independence of the humours of his cousin.

The funeral of Sir Anthony took place the next day, and was attended by most of the gentlemen of the county, Sir Robert and Frederick being the chief mourners.

The day after the funeral was appointed for opening

the seals; on which occasion, Lord V—was requested to be present, and Frederick thought it his duty to attend. Mr. Coleman, Sir Anthony's solicitor, was also of the party, and some other friends of the family. Lord V- called on Frederick in his way to the Hall, and took him up in his carriage. He appeared to be in high spirits, and addressed Frederick as one whom he regarded as his future son-in-law.

Frederick, however, was dejected, and said to his Lordship, “I do feel my cousin's coldness; I cannot but feel it; and I fear it will embitter much of my future life. But he is to be pitied. He thinks I have stood in his way

in a case where his heart was deeply concerned ; and perhaps there is not a severer trial to a man of

any feeling, than to be compelled to live in friendship with a successful rival."

Lord V — smiled, and replied, "You have hit upon a good excuse for Sir Robert's insolence; but I believe that the world, in general, is not inclined to judge so favourably of him as you do."

When they were arrived at the Hall, Lord V and Mr. Falconer found the rest of the persons who were to be present at the opening of the seals, assembled in the library, partaking of some refreshments. consisted, not only of several gentlemen of distinction in the neighbourhood; but Mr. Humphreys the late Sir Anthony's steward, and Mr. Coleman his solicitor, the latter being a man of great importance in his own esteem, and one who had been introduced to Mr. Lambert some years before by Lord V

were among the number present.

Sir Robert bowed coolly to the earl, and nodded haughtily to Frederick, as they entered; while Mr. Coleman, in his well-powdered wig and creaking shoes, bustled forward to meet the earl's offered hand, at the same time exchanging a glance with him which was not lost

upon Sir Robert, whose uneasy feelings rendered him more than usually quick in observing the change and expression of every

countenance. “ Lord V. said Sir Robert, “I am glad to see you; we have been waiting for

you some time, and as soon as you have refreshed yourself, we will, if you please, proceed to business.”

“I am at your service at any time, Sir Robert,” re

The party

[ocr errors]

can

I get

turned the earl, but, upon my word, this ham looks so temptingly that I must taste it. I believe that the air must have given me an appetite, for I am excessively hungry."

The earl then took his seat at the table, and Mr. Coleman began to shew his skill in cutting the ham, while Lord V called for mustard, Chili vinegar, and pickles, exciting such a bustle, that poor Robert was almost ready to wish that some of these good things might stick in his throat. “Do try this hung beef, Lord V-," said Mr. Coleman, “it is most excellent."

Sir Robert, who all this time was walking, or rather stamping, about the room, suddenly stopped, and turning round, desired Frederick, with some haughtiness, to ring the bell.

“What do you want, Sir Robert?” said Mr. Humphreys, running before Frederick to the bell; any thing for you? Perhaps it might not be so well to introduce the servants, as we are likely to be engaged in business.”

“Business!” repeated Sir Robert, “I see no chance of our commencing business at present: Lord V and Mr. Coleman are otherwise engaged.”

“ Did you speak to me, Sir Robert?" asked Mr. Coleman. No, Sir," returned Sir Robert; “but when

you

have satisfied your hunger, we will, if you please, proceed to business.'

“Sir, I shall be ready immediately," answered Mr. Coleman; while he and Lord V continued to cut slice after slice of the hung beef, evidently enjoying the impatience of Sir Robert, who seemed scarcely able to repress his angry feelings. - 1

say, Lambert,” said Lord V-, beef like this in Paris?”

Sir Robert bit his lips, and could hardly find words to answer. Mr. Coleman then took up the subject of French cookery, and ran a parallel between that and English, till at length Frederick became uneasy, and hinted to Lord V that he was keeping Sir Robert in pain. 0, true, ” said Lord V-, looking at his watch, and rising from the table.

Sir Robert appeared as if relieved by this motion, and

« have you any

led the way to the room where Sir Anthony had kept his

papers, and which had been locked up by Lord V. and Frederick.

Perhaps no man,” said Sir Robert, “knew my poor father's arrangements better than you did, Mr. Coleman. Is there a will?”

“Yes, Sir," said Mr. Coleman, “there should be one."

“You are acquainted with its contents then, Sir,” rejoined Sir Robert.

“I cannot say that I am, Sir,” returned Mr. Coleman; “though I was present when it was executed.”

Lord V. looked closely at the seals on an iron chest and scrutoire, all of which were in perfect preservation. The scrutoire was first opened, but it contained nothing

of consequence, excepting the key of the strong box. The strong box was next resorted to, and there was the will, which, from its date on the envelope, in Sir Anthony's own hand, appeared to have been made a little after the marriage of Robert; a circumstance which filled the young man with such violent apprehensions that he could scarcely command his feelings till the document was opened.

It was agreed that Mr. Coleman should read the will; and the old gentleman accordingly seated himself, in due form, at a small table, causing the company to arrange themselves around him, and stopping, very deliberately, to wipe his spectacles before he began. At length he unfolded the scroll, and cursorily ran over the preamble, but without the least variation of countenance, during the time of his doing which poor Robert was in agonies. At length the old gentleman began to read, and, after certain long-winded and formal preludes, such as are commonly found at the head of documents of this kind, he proceeded, in an unaltered tone, to these important words:-"I, Anthony Lambert, Baronet, &c. &c. being in sound mind, &c. &c. give and bequeath to niy well-beloved and dutiful nephew, Frederick Falconer, the only surviving child of my late sister, Barbara Falconer;" here Mr. Coleman was troubled with a cough, which was, however, the less to be wondered at, as the old gentleman was sometimes known to cough on other occasions, and, being thus put out of his course, he was

obliged to begin anew, and to proceed leisurely from the commencement of the above-mentioned weighty clause, till being again come to the name of Barbara Falconer, he went on as follows: “the whole of my landed estates, my personal property, goods, and chattels, &c. &c. to be by him possessed, without condition or encumbrance: and

my son Robert, the whole of his mother's fortune, being ten thousand pounds in the five per cents, with the saving thereupon, &c. &c.”

Mr. Coleman was proceeding, when he was suddenly and violently interrupted by the exclamations of several persons in the company; while those who were particularly concerned, started, turned pale, and spoke not a word. “Would you wish to hear these clauses again, Lord V. —?” said Mr. Coleman, on his Lordship hinting that he did not understand them. The earl nodded assent, and there was a dead silence in the apartment, while Mr. Coleman recapitulated what he had before read: but he had scarcely come a second time to a conclusion, before Sir Robert, wildly awakening from the state of stupor into which he had been thrown by this sudden and dreadful downfall of all his prospects, rose up, and fixing his fiery gaze on Frederick, who was even more astonished than himself, and was become pale as death from agitation, poured upon him such a volume of bitter execrations as made every one present tremble with horror; “Contemptible creature! mean and creeping villain!” he exclaimed, “ are you now satisfied ?”

Robert,” said Frederick, “I have not deserved this, I solemnly declare!"

“ Fawning hypocrite!” rejoined Robert, interrupting him, “approach me and I will fell you to the ground, and trample you beneath my feet!” and the young man as he spoke stood trembling with rage, and looked as if even murder was not far from his thoughts.

Mr. Humphreys, the venerable steward, at the same instant, took hold of his young master's arm, and hinted something about command of temper; on which Robert pushed him from him, with a violence which made the old man reel backwards to the wall, while he himself again burst forth in a torrent of such furious invectives against Frederick, that even Lord V— and Mr. Coleman were forced from their pretended calmness, and

« EelmineJätka »