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The Three Brothers; vol. 1/3

The Three Brothers; vol. 1/3
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Title: The Three Brothers; vol. 1/3
Release Date: 2018-11-22
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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{i}

THE THREE BROTHERS.

VOLUME I.

{ii} 

{iii} 

THE THREE BROTHERS.

BY
MRS. OLIPHANT,
AUTHOR OF
‘CHRONICLES OF CARLINGFORD,’
‘SALEM CHAPEL,’ ‘THE MINISTER’S WIFE,’
ETC. ETC.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
VOL. I.
LONDON:
HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS,
13 GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.
1870.
The Right of Translation is Reserved.
{iv}

LONDON:
Strangeways and Walden, Printers,
28 Castle St. Leicester Sq.
{v}

CONTENTS
OF
THE FIRST VOLUME.

  PAGE
I.THEIR FATHER 1
II.THE WILL17
III.THE NEW CAREER32
IV.THE ELDEST SON49
V.THE MAGICIAN’S CAVE66
VI.THE WORKING OF THE SPELL86
VII.PUT TO THE TOUCH103
VIII.MRS. TRACY’S I. O. U.120
IX.BEN’S REWARD134
X.THE LAST INTERVIEW152
XI.MRS. BARTON’S LITTLE BILL161
XII.MILLICENT’S NEW START179
XIII.REACTION{vi}188
XIV.MARY’S OPINION197
XV.KENSINGTON GORE218
XVI.WELBY, R.A.232
XVII.THE PADRONA248
XVIII.THE TEA-TABLE264
XIX.CHARLOTTE STREET, FITZROY SQUARE279
XX.LAURIE’S WORK297
XXI.WHAT THEY THOUGHT OF IT IN THE SQUARE316

{1}

THE THREE BROTHERS.

CHAPTER I.
THEIR FATHER.

The reason why Mr. Renton’s sons were sent out into the world in thehumble manner, and with the results we are about to record, must befirst told, in order that their history may be comprehensible to thereader. Had they been a poor man’s sons no explanation would have beennecessary; but their father was anything but a poor man. The family wasone of those exceptional families which add active exertion tohereditary endowments. Though the Rentons had been well-known people inBerks for two or three centuries, it had almost been a family traditionthat each successive heir, instead of resting content with the goodthings Providence had given him, should add by his own efforts to thefamily store. There had been pirates among them in Elizabeth’s time.They had made money when everybody else lost money in the time of the‘South Sea.’ Mr. Renton’s father had gone to India young, and hadreturned, what was then called, a ‘Nabob.’ Mr.{2} Renton himself was sentoff in his turn to Calcutta, as remorselessly as though he had not beenthe heir to heaven knows how many thousands a-year; and he too hadincreased the thousands. There was not a prettier estate nor a morecommodious house in the whole county than Renton Manor. The town-housewas in Berkeley Square. The family had everything handsome about them,and veiled their bonnet to none. Mr. Renton was a man who esteemedwealth as a great power; but he esteemed energy still more, and placedit high above all other qualities. As he is just about to die, andcannot have time to speak for himself in these pages, we may bepermitted to describe a personage so important to this history. He was aspare, middle-sized man, with a singular watchfulness and animation inhis looks; his foot springy and light; his sight, and hearing, and allhis senses, unusually keen;—a man always on the alert, body and mind,yet not incapable of repose. Restless was not an epithet you could applyto him. A kind of vigilant, quiet readiness and promptitude breathed outfrom him. He would have sooner died than have taken an unfair advantageover any one; but he was ready to seize upon any and every advantagewhich was fair and lawful, spying it out with the eyes of an eagle, andcoming down upon it with the spring of a giant. Twice, or rather let ussay four times in his life he had departed from the traditions of theRentons. Instead of the notable, capable woman whom{3} they had been wontto choose, and who had helped to make the family what it was, he hadmarried a pretty, useless wife, for no better reason than that he lovedher. And partly under her influence, partly by reason of a certainlanguor and inclination towards personal ease which had crept over him,he had been—as he sometimes felt—basely neglectful of the bestinterests of his sons. The eldest, Ben, had not been sent to India atsixteen, as his father was; nor had Laurie, the second, gone off to theColonies, as would have been natural; and as for Frank, his father’sweakness had gone so far as to permit of the purchase of a commissionfor him when the boy had fallen in love with a red coat. Frank was aGuardsman, and he a Renton! Such a thing had never been heard of in thefamily before.

The eldest surviving aunt, Mrs. Westbury, who was full of Rentontraditions, almost went mad of this event, so afflicted was she by sucha departure from use and wont. She had two boys of her own, whom she hadsteadfastly kept in the family groove, and, accordingly, had the verybest grounds for her indignation. ‘But what was to be expected,’ shesaid, ‘from such a wife?’ Mrs. Renton was as harmless a soul as ever layon a sofa, and had little more than a passive influence in the affairsof her family; but her husband’s sister, endowed with that contempt forthe masculine understanding which most women entertain, put all theblame upon her soft shoulders. Two{4} men-about-town, and a boy in theGuards! ‘Is Laurence mad?’ said Mrs. Westbury. It was her own son whohad gone to the house in Calcutta, which might have mollified her; butit did not. ‘My boy has to banish himself, and wear out the best of hislife in that wilderness,’ she said, vehemently, ‘while Ben Renton makesa fool of himself at home.’ When they brought their fine friends to theManor for shooting or fishing, she had always something to say of herboy who was banished from all these pleasures; though, indeed, there hadbeen a great rejoicing in the Westbury household when Richard got theappointment. It was but a very short time before her brother’s deaththat Aunt Lydia’s feelings became too many for her, and she felt thatfor once she must speak and deliver her soul.

‘Ben is to succeed you, I suppose?’ she said, perhaps in rather anunsympathetic way, as she took Mr. Renton to the river-side for a walk,under pretence of speaking to him ‘about the boys.’ He thought, poorman, that it was her own boys she meant, and was very good-natured aboutit. And then it was his favourite walk. The river ran through the Rentonwoods, at the foot of a steep bank, and was visible from some of thewindows of the Manor. The road to it was a charming woodland walk,embowered in great beeches, the special growth of Berks. Through theirvast branches, and round about their giant trunks, playing with thespectator’s charmed vision like a child, came{5} glimpses of the broad,soft water, over which willows hung fondly, and the swans andwater-lilies shone. Mr. Renton was not sentimental, but he had known theriver all his life, and was fond of it;—perhaps all the more so as hefound out what mistakes he had made, and that life had not been expendedto so much purpose as it ought to have been; so that he walked down verywillingly with his sister, and inclined his ear with much patience andgood-nature to hear what she had to say about her boys.

‘Ben will succeed you, I suppose?’ she said, looking at him in adisapproving way, as they came to the very margin of the stream whereLaurie’s boat, with its brightly painted sides and red cushionsreflected in the water, lay moored by the bank. It was a fantasticlittle toy, meant for speed, and not for safety; and Mrs. Westbury wouldhave walked ten miles round by Oakley Bridge rather than have trustedherself to that arrowy bark. She sighed as her eyes fell upon it. ‘PoorLaurie! poor boy!’ she said, shaking her head. The sight seemed to fillher with a compassion beyond words.

‘Why poor Laurie?’ said Mr. Renton; but he knew what she meant, and itmade him angry. ‘Of course Ben will succeed me. I succeeded my father.It is his right.’

‘Ah, Laurence, but how did you succeed your father?’ said Mrs. Westbury.‘You had the satisfaction of being the greatest comfort to dear papa.{6}He felt the property would be safe in your hands, and be improved, as ithas always been. People say we are such a lucky family, but you and Iknow better. We know it is work that has always done it,—alas! untilnow!’ she said, suddenly lifting up her eyes to heaven. Truth compels usto add that Mr. Renton was very much disconcerted. He could not bear tohear his own family attacked; but he felt the justice of all she said.

‘Well, Lydia, manners change,’ he said. ‘It seemed natural enough in ourtime; but, when you come to consider it, I don’t see what reason I havefor sending the boys away. I can leave them very well off. We were neverso well off as we are now. You know I managed to buy that last farm myfather had set his mind upon. I don’t see why I should have broken theirmother’s heart.’

‘Ah, I knew it would come out,’ said Mrs. Westbury, with a littlebitterness. ‘Why should Mary’s heart be more tender than other people’s?I have to send my boys away, though I love them as well as she doeshers; and people congratulate me on having such a good appointment forRichard. It never occurs to anybody that I shall break my heart.’

‘You are a Renton,’ said her brother, with some dexterity. ‘I oftenthink you are the best Renton of us all. But if poor Westbury had lived,you know, he might have contrived to spare you the {7}parting, as I havespared Mary; and—— The short and the long of it is the boys are doingvery well. I have no fault to find with them, and I mean to take my ownway with my own family, Lydia; no offence to you.’

‘Oh, no; no offence,’ said Mrs. Westbury, with a little toss of herhead. ‘It is all for my advantage, I am sure. When my Richard comes homeat a proper time with the fortune your Ben ought to have made, I shallhave no reason to complain for one.’

‘Ben will be very well off,’ said Mr. Renton, but with an uncomfortablesmile.

‘Oh, very well off, no doubt,’ said his sister, with a touch ofcontempt; ‘a vapid squire, like the rest of them. People used to say theRentons were like a fresh breeze blowing in the county. Always motionand stir where they were! And, poor Laurie!’ she added once more, withoffensive compassion, as they turned and came again face to face withLaurie’s boat.

‘I should like to know why Laurie so particularly excites your pity,’said Mr. Renton, much irritated. Laurie was his own namesake andfavourite, and this was the animadversion which he could least bear.

‘Poor boy! I don’t know who would not pity him,’ said Aunt Lydia; ‘itwould melt a heart of stone to see a boy with such abilities all goingto wrack and ruin. It is all very well as long as he is at home; butwhen he comes to have his own money{8} what will he do with it? Spend iton pictures and nonsense, and encourage a set of idle people about himto eat him up. Laurence, you mark my words—that is just the kind of boyto be eaten up by everybody, and to

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