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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Disowned - Chapter 4
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The Disowned - Chapter 4 Post by :Boss_Hogg Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2013

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The Disowned - Chapter 4

CHAPTER IV

The letter, madam; have you none for me?--The Rendezvous.
Provide surgeons.--Lover's Progress.


Our solitary traveller pursued his way with the light step and gay spirits of youth and health.

"Turn gypsy, indeed!" he said, talking to himself; "there is something better in store for me than that. Ay, I have all the world before me where to choose--not my place of rest. No, many a long year will pass away ere any place of rest will be my choice! I wonder whether I shall find the letter at W----; the letter, the last letter I shall ever have from home but it is no home to me now; and I--I, insulted, reviled, trampled upon, without even a name--well, well, I will earn a still fairer one than that of my forefathers. They shall be proud to own me yet." And with these words the speaker broke off abruptly, with a swelling chest and a flashing eye; and as, an unknown and friendless adventurer, he gazed on the expanded and silent country around him, he felt like Castruccio Castrucani that he could stretch his hands to the east and to the west and exclaim, "Oh, that my power kept pace with my spirit, then should it grasp the corners of the earth!"

The road wound at last from the champaign country, through which it had for some miles extended itself, into a narrow lane, girded on either side by a dead fence. As the youth entered this lane, he was somewhat startled by the abrupt appearance of a horseman, whose steed leaped the hedge so close to our hero as almost to endanger his safety. The rider, a gentleman of about five-and-twenty, pulled up, and in a tone of great courtesy apologized for his inadvertency; the apology was readily admitted, and the horseman rode onwards in the direction of W----.

Trifling as this incident was, the air and mien of the stranger were sufficient to arrest irresistibly the thoughts of the young traveller; and before they had flowed into a fresh channel he found himself in the town and at the door of the inn to which his expedition was bound. He entered the bar; a buxom landlady and a still more buxom daughter were presiding over the spirits of the place.

"You have some boxes and a letter for me, I believe," said the young gentleman to the comely hostess.

"To you, sir!--the name, if you please?"

"To--to--to C---- L----," said the youth; "the initials C. L., to be left till called for."

"Yes, sir, we have some luggage; came last night by the van; and a letter besides, sir, to C. L. also."

The daughter lifted her large dark eyes at the handsome stranger, and felt a wonderful curiosity to know what the letter to C. L. could possibly be about; meanwhile mine hostess, raising her hand to a shelf on which stood an Indian slop-basin, the great ornament of the bar at the Golden Fleece, brought from its cavity a well-folded and well-sealed epistle.

"That is it," cried the youth; "show me a private room instantly."

"What can he want a private room for?" thought the landlady's daughter.

"Show the gentleman to the Griffin, No. 4, John Merrylack," said the landlady herself.

With an impatient step the owner of the letter followed a slipshod and marvellously unwashed waiter into No. 4,--a small square asylum for town travellers, country yeomen, and "single gentlemen;" presenting, on the one side, an admirable engraving of the Marquis of Granby, and on the other an equally delightful view of the stable-yard.

Mr. C. L. flung himself on a chair (there were only four chairs in No. 4), watched the waiter out of the room, seized his letter, broke open the seal, and read--yea, reader, you shall read it too--as follows:--

"Enclosed is the sum to which you are entitled; remember, that it is all which you can ever claim at my hands; remember also that you have made the choice which now nothing can persuade me to alter. Be the name you have so long iniquitously borne henceforth and always forgotten; upon that condition you may yet hope from my generosity the future assistance which you must want, but which you could not ask from my affection. Equally by my heart and my reason you are forever DISOWNED."

The letter fell from the reader's hands. He took up the inclosure: it was an order payable in London for 1,000 pounds; to him it seemed like the rental of the Indies.

"Be it so!" he said aloud, and slowly; "be it so! With this will I carve my way: many a name in history was built upon a worse foundation!"

With these words he carefully put up the money, re-read the brief note which enclosed it, tore the latter into pieces, and then, going towards the aforesaid view of the stable-yard, threw open the window and leaned out, apparently in earnest admiration of two pigs which marched gruntingly towards him, one goat regaling himself upon a cabbage, and a broken-winded, emaciated horse, which having just been what the hostler called "rubbed down," was just going to be what the hostler called "fed."

While engaged in this interesting survey, the clatter of hoofs was suddenly heard upon the rough pavement, a bell rang, a dog barked, the pigs grunted, the hostler ran out, and the stranger, whom our hero had before met on the road, trotted into the yard.

It was evident from the obsequiousness of the attendants that the horseman was a personage of no mean importance; and indeed there was something singularly distinguished and highbred in his air and carriage.

"Who can that be?" said the youth, as the horseman, having dismounted, turned towards the door of the inn: the question was readily answered, "There goes pride and poverty!" said the hostler, "Here comes Squire Mordaunt!" said the landlady.

At the farther end of the stable-yard, through a narrow gate, the youth caught a glimpse of the green sward and the springing flowers of a small garden. Wearied with the sameness of No. 4 rather than with his journey, he sauntered towards the said gate, and, seating himself in a small arbour within the garden, surrendered himself to reflection.

The result of this self-conference was a determination to leave the Golden Fleece by the earliest conveyance which went to that great object and emporium of all his plans and thoughts, London. As, full of this resolution and buried in the dream which it conjured up, he was returning with downcast eyes and unheeding steps through the stable-yard, to the delights of No. 4, he was suddenly accosted by a loud and alarmed voice,--

"For God's sake, sir, look out, or--"

The sentence was broken off, the intended warning came too late, our hero staggered back a few steps, and fell, stunned and motionless, against the stable door. Unconsciously he had passed just behind the heels of the stranger's horse, which being by no means in good humour with the clumsy manoeuvres of his shampooer, the hostler, had taken advantage of the opportunity presented to him of working off his irritability, and had consequently inflicted a severe kick upon the right shoulder of Mr. C. L.

The stranger, honoured by the landlady with the name and title of Squire Mordaunt, was in the yard at the moment. He hastened towards the sufferer, who as yet was scarcely sensible, and led him into the house. The surgeon of the village was sent for and appeared. This disciple of Galen, commonly known by the name of Jeremiah Bossolton, was a gentleman considerably more inclined to breadth than length. He was exactly five feet one inch in height, but thick and solid as a milestone; a wig of modern cut, carefully curled and powdered, gave somewhat of a modish and therefore unseemly grace to a solemn eye; a mouth drawn down at the corners; a nose that had something in it exceedingly consequential; eyebrows sage and shaggy; ears large and fiery; and a chin that would have done honour to a mandarin. Now Mr. Jeremiah Bossolton had a certain peculiarity of speech to which I shall find it difficult to do justice. Nature had impressed upon his mind a prodigious love of the grandiloquent; Mr. Bossolton, therefore, disdained the exact language of the vulgar, and built unto himself a lofty fabric of words in which his sense managed very frequently to lose itself. Moreover, upon beginning a sentence of peculiar dignity, Mr. Bossolton was, it must be confessed, sometimes at a loss to conclude it in a period worthy of the commencement; and this caprice of nature which had endowed him with more words than thoughts (necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention) drove him into a very ingenious method of remedying the deficiency; this was simply the plan of repeating the sense by inverting the sentence.

"How long a period of time," said Mr. Bossolton, "has elapsed since this deeply-to-be-regretted and seriously-to-be-investigated accident occurred?"

"Not many minutes," said Mordaunt; "make no further delay, I beseech you, but examine the arm; it is not broken, I trust?"

"In this world, Mr. Mordaunt," said the practitioner, bowing very low, for the person he addressed was of the most ancient lineage in the county, "in this world, Mr. Mordaunt, even at the earliest period of civilization, delay in matters of judgment has ever been considered of such vital importance, and--and such important vitality, that we find it inculcated in the proverbs of the Greeks and the sayings of the Chaldeans as a principle of the most expedient utility, and--and--the most useful expediency!"

"Mr. Bossolton," said Mordaunt, in a tone of remarkable and even artificial softness and civility, "have the kindness immediately to examine this gentleman's bruises."

Mr. Bossolton looked up to the calm but haughty face of the speaker, and without a moment's hesitation proceeded to handle the arm, which was already stripped for his survey.

"It frequently occurs," said Mr. Bossolton, "in the course of my profession, that the forcible, sudden, and vehement application of any hard substance, like the hoof of a quadruped, to the soft, tender, and carniferous parts of the human frame, such as the arm, occasions a pain--a pang, I should rather say--of the intensest acuteness, and--and of the acutest intensity."

"Pray, Mr. Bossolton, is the bone broken?" asked Mordaunt.

By this time the patient, who had been hitherto in that languor which extreme pain always produces at first, especially on young frames, was sufficiently recovered to mark and reply to the kind solicitude of the last speaker: "I thank you, sir," said he with a smile, "for your anxiety, but I feel that the bone is not broken; the muscles are a little hurt, that is all."

"Young gentleman," said Mr. Bossolton, "you must permit me to say that they who have all their lives been employed in the pursuit, and the investigation, and the analysis of certain studies are in general better acquainted with those studies than they who have neither given them any importance of consideration--nor--nor any consideration of importance. Establishing this as my hypothesis, I shall now proceed to--"

"Apply immediate remedies, if you please, Mr. Bossolton," interrupted Mr. Mordaunt, in that sweet and honeyed tone which somehow or other always silenced even the garrulous practitioner.

Driven into taciturnity, Mr. Bossolton again inspected the arm, and proceeded to urge the application of liniments and bandages, which he promised to prepare with the most solicitudinous despatch and the most despatchful solicitude.

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