« PreviousContinue »
money-the two springs of all success-will make even greater change than you see depicted here." Mr. Cutbill delivered these words with a somewhat pompous tone, and in a voice such as he might have used in addressing an acting committee or a special board of works; for one of his fancies was, to believe himself an orator of no mean power.
"I trust, I fervently trust, Mr. Cutbill," said his lordship nervously, "that the coal-fields are somewhat nigher the stage of being remunerative than that broken line of rock is to this fanciful picture before me."
'Wealth, my lord, like heat, has its latent conditions."
"Condescend to a more commonplace tone, sir, in consideration of my ignorance, and tell me frankly, is the mine as far from reality, as that reef there?"
Fortunately for Mr. Cutbill perhaps, the door was opened at this critical juncture, and the landlord presented himself with a note, stating that the groom who brought it would wait for the answer.
Somewhat agitated by the turn of his conversation with the engineer, Lord Culduff tore open the letter, and ran his eyes towards the end to see the signature. "Who is Bramleigh-Temple Bramleigh? Oh, I remember, an attaché. What's all this about Castello? Where's Castello ?
"That's the name they give the Bishop's Folly, my lord," said the landlord, with a half grin.
"What business have these people to know I am here at all? Why must they persecute me? You told me, Cutbill, that I was not to be discovered."
"So I did, my lord, and I made the Doun Express call you Mr. Morrice, of Charing Cross."
His lordship winced a little at the thought of such a liberty, even for a disguise, but he was now engaged with the note, and read on without speaking. "Nothing could be more courteous, certainly," said he, folding it up, and laying it beside him on the table. "They invite me over towhat's the name ?-Castello, and promise me perfect liberty as regards my time. To make the place my head-quarters,' as he says. Who are these Bramleighs? You know every one, Cutbill; who are they?"
"Bramleigh and Underwood are bankers, very old - established firm. Old Bramleigh was a brewer, at Slough; George the Third never would drink any other stout than Bramleigh's. There was a large silver flagon, called the King's Quaigh,' always brought out when his Majesty rode by, and very vain old Bramleigh used to be of it, though I don't think it figures now on the son's sideboard-they have leased the brewery."
"Oh, they have leased the brewery, have they?"
"That they have; the present man got himself made Colonel of militia, and meant to be a county member, and he might too, if he hadn't been in too great a hurry about it; but county people won't stand being carried by assault. Then they made other mistakes; tried it on with the Liberals, in a shire where everything that called itself gentleman was Tory; in fact, they plunged from one hole into another, till they regularly swamped them
selves; and as their house held a large mortgage on these estates in Ireland, they paid off the other encumbrances and have come to live here. I know the whole story, for it was an old friend of mine who made the plans for restoring the mansion."
"I suspect that the men in your profession, Cutbill, know as much of the private history of English families as any in the land?"
"More, my lord; far more even than the solicitors, for people suspect the solicitors, and they never suspect us. We are detectives in plain clothes." The pleasant chuckle with which Mr. Cutbill finished his speech was not responded to by his lordship, who felt that the other should have accepted his compliment, without any attempt on his own part to enhance it.
"How long do you imagine I may be detained here, Cutbill?" asked he after a pause.
"Let us say a week, my lord, or ten days at furthest. certainly to see that new pit opened, before you leave."
"In that case I may as well accept this invitation. I can bear a little boredom if they have only a good cook. Do you suppose they have a
"The agent, Jos Harding, told me they had a Frenchman, and that the house is splendidly got up."
"What's to be done with you, Cutbill, eh?"
"I am at your lordship's orders," said he, with a very quiet composure. "You have nothing to do over at that place just now ?—I mean at the mine."
"No, my lord. Till Pollard makes his report, I have nothing to call me over there."
"And here, I take it, we have seen everything," and he gave a very hopeless look through the little window as he spoke.
There it is, my lord," said Cutbill, taking up the coloured picture of the pier, with its busy crowds, and its bustling porters. "There it is!" "I should say, Cutbill, there it is not!" observed the other bitterly. "Anything more unlike the reality is hard to conceive."
"Few things are as like a cornet in the Life Guards, as a child in a perambulator"
"Very well, all that," interrupted Lord Culduff impatiently. know that sort of argument perfectly. I have been pestered with the acorn, or rather, with the unborn forests in the heart of the acorn, for many a day. Let us get a stride in advance of these platitudes. Is the whole thing like this?" and he threw the drawing across the table contemptuously as he spoke. "Is it all of this pattern, eh?"
"In one sense it is very like," said the other, with a greater amount of decision in his tone, than usual.
"In which case, then, the sooner we abandon it the better," said Lord Culduff, rising, and standing with his back to the fire, his head high, and his look intensely haughty.
"It is not for me to dictate to your lordship-I could never presume to do so-but certainly it is not every one in Great Britain who could reconcile himself to relinquish one of the largest sources of wealth in the kingdom. Taking the lowest estimate of Carrick Nuish mine alone,-and when I say the lowest, I mean throwing the whole thing into a company of shareholders, and neither working nor risking a shilling yourself,-you may put from twenty to five-and-twenty thousand pounds into your pocket within a twelvemonth."
"Who will guarantee that, Cutbill?" said Lord Culduff, with a faint smile.
"I am ready myself to do so, provided my counsels be strictly followed. I will do so, with my whole professional reputation."
"I am charmed to hear you say so. It is a very gratifying piece of news for me. You feel, therefore, certain that we have struck coal?" My lord, when a young man enters life from one of the universities, with a high reputation for ability, he can go a long way-if he only be prudent-living on his capital. It is the same thing in a great industrial enterprise; you must start at speed, and with a high pressure-get way on you, as the sailors say-and you will skim along for half a mile after the steam is off."
"I come back to my former question. Have we found coal?" "I hope so. I trust we have. Indeed there is every reason to say we have found coal. What we need most at this moment is a man like that gentleman whose note is on the table-a large capitalist, a great City name. Let him associate himself in the project, and success is as certain as that we stand here."
"But you have just told me he has given up his business life-retired from affairs altogether."
My lord, these men never give up. They buy estates, they go live at Rome or Paris, and take a château at Cannes, and try to forget Mincing Lane and the rest of it; but if you watch them, you'll see it's the money article in The Times they read before the leader. They have but one barometer for everything that happens in Europe-how are the exchanges? and they are just as greedy of a good thing as on any morning they hurried down to the City in a hansom to buy in or sell out. See if I'm not right. Just throw out a hint, no more, that you'd like a word of advice from Colonel Bramleigh about your project; say it's a large thing-too large for an individual to cope with-that you are yourself the least possible of a business man, being always engaged in very different occupations, and ask what course he would counsel you to take."
"I might show him these drawings-these coloured plans."
"Well, indeed, my lord," said Cutbill, brushing his mouth with his hand, to hide a smile of malicious drollery, "I'd say I'd not show him the plans. The pictorial rarely appeals to men of his stamp. It's the multiplication-table they like, and if all the world were like them one would never throw poetry into a project."
"You'll have to come with me, Cutbill; I see that," said his lordship, reflectingly.
"My lord, I am completely at your orders."
"Yes; this is a sort of negotiation you will conduct better than myself. I am not conversant with this kind of thing, nor the men who deal in them. A great treaty, a question of boundary, a royal marriage,—any of these would find me ready and prepared, but with the diplomacy of dividends, I own myself little acquainted. You must come with me." Cutbill bowed in acquiescence, and was silent.
As the family at the Great House were gathered together at luncheon on the day after the events we have just recorded, Lord Culduff's answer to Temple Bramleigh's note was fully and freely discussed.
"Of course," said Jack, "I speak under correction; but how comes it that your high and mighty friend brings another man with him? Is Cutbill an attaché? Is he one of what you call the line?'"
"I am happy to contribute the correction you ask for," said Temple haughtily. "Mr. Cutbill is not a member of the diplomatic body, and though such a name might not impossibly be found in the Navy List, you'll scarcely chance upon it at F. O.”
"My chief question is, however, still to be answered. On what pretext does he bring him here?" said Jack, with unbroken good-humour.
"As to that," broke in Augustus, "Lord Culduff's note is perfectly explanatory; he says his friend is travelling with him; they came here on a matter of business, and, in fact, there would be an awkwardness on his part in separating from him, and on ours, if we did not prevent such a contingency."
"Quite so," chimed in Temple. "Nothing could be more guarded or courteous than Lord Culduff's reply. It wasn't in the least like an Admiralty minute, Jack, or an order to Commander Spiggins, of the Snarler, to take in five hundred firkins of pork.”
"I might say, now, that you'll not find that name in the Navy List, Temple," said the sailor, laughing.
"Do they arrive to-day?" asked Marion, not a little uncomfortable at this exchange of tart things.
"To dinner," said Temple.
"I suppose we have seen the last leg of mutton we are to meet with till he goes," cried Jack; "that precious French fellow will now give his genius full play, and we'll have to dine off salmis' and suprêmes,' or make our dinner off bread and cheese."
"Perhaps you would initiate Bertond into the mystery of a sea-pie, Jack," said Temple, with a smile.
"And a precious mess the fellow would make of it! He'd fill it with cocks' combs and mushrooms, and stick two skewers in it, with a halfboiled truffle on each-lucky if there wouldn't be a British flag in spun sugar between them; and he'd call the abomination 'pâté à la gun-room,' or some such confounded name."
A low, quiet laugh was now heard from the end of the table, and the company remembered, apparently for the first time, that Mr. Harding, the agent, was there, and very busily engaged with a broiled chicken. "Ain't I right, Mr. Harding?" cried Jack, as he heard the low chuckle of the small, meek, submissive-looking little man, at the other end of the table. "Ain't I right?
"I have met with very good French versions of English cookery abroad, Captain Temple."
"Don't call me 'Captain,' or I'll suspect your accuracy about the cookery," interrupted Jack. "I fear I'm about as far off that rank as Bertond is from the sea-pie."
"Do you know Cutbill, Harding?" said Augustus, addressing the agent in the tone of an heir expectant.
"Yes. We were both examined in the same case before a committee of the House, and I made his acquaintance then."
"What sort of person is he?" asked Temple.
"Is he jolly, Mr. Harding?—that's the question," cried Jack. "I suspect we shall be overborne by greatness, and a jolly fellow would be a boon from heaven."
"I believe he is what might be called jolly," said Harding cautiously. 'Jolly sounds like a familiar word for vulgar," said Marion. "I hope Mr. Harding does not mean that."
"Mr. Harding means nothing of the kind, I'll be sworn," broke in Jack. "He means an easy-tempered fellow, amusing and amusable. Well, Nelly, if it's not English, I can't help it-it ought to be; but when one wants ammunition, one takes the first heavy thing at hand. Egad! I'd ram down a minister plenipotentiary, rather than fire blankcartridge."
"Is Lord Culduff also jolly, Mr. Harding?" asked Eleanor, now looking up with a sparkle in her eye.
"I scarcely know, I have the least possible acquaintance with his lordship; I doubt, indeed, if he will recollect me," said Harding, with diffidence.
"What are we to do with this heavy swell when he comes, is the puzzle to me," said Augustus, gravely. "How is he to be entertained,— how amused? Here's a county with nothing to see-nothing to interest -without a neighbourhood. What are we to do with him?"
"The more one is a man of the world, in the best sense of that phrase, the more easily he finds how to shape his life to any and every circumstance," said Temple, with a sententious tone and manner.
"Which means, I suppose, that he'll make the best of a bad case,