Read CHAPTER I - The Second Son of My Brave and Gallant Gentleman, free online book, by Robert Watson, on ReadCentral.com.

Lady Rosemary Granton! Strange how pleasant memories arise, how disagreeable nightmares loom up before the mental vision at the sound of a name!

Lady Rosemary Granton! As far back as I could remember, that name had sounded familiar in my ears. As I grew from babyhood to boyhood, from boyhood to youth, it was drummed into me by my father that Lady Rosemary Granton, some day, would wed the future Earl of Brammerton and Hazelmere. This apparently awful calamity did not cause me any mental agony or loss of sleep, for the reason that I was merely The Honourable George, second son of my noble parent.

I was rather happy that morning, as I sat in an easy chair by the library window, perusing a work by my favourite author, after a glorious twenty-mile gallop along the hedgerows and across country. I was rather happy, I say, as I pondered over the thought that something in the way of a just retribution was at last about to be meted out to my elder, haughty, arrogant and extremely aristocratic rake of a brother, Harry.

My mind flashed back again to the source of my vagrant thoughts. Lady Rosemary Granton! To lose the guiding hand of her mother in her infancy; to spend her childhood in the luxurious lap of New York’s pampered three hundred; to live six years more among the ranchers, the cowboys and, no doubt, the cattle thieves of Wyoming, in the care of an old friend of her father, to wit, Colonel Sol Dorry; then to be transferred for refining and general educational purposes for another spell of six years to the strict discipline of a French Convent; to flit from city to city, from country to country, for three years with her father, in the stress of diplomatic service what a life! what an upbringing for the future Countess of Brammerton! Finally, by way of culmination, to lose her father and to be introduced into London society, with a fortune that made the roues of every capital in Europe gasp and order a complete new wardrobe!

As I thought what the finish might be, I threw up my hands, for it was a most interesting and puzzling speculation.

Lady Rosemary Granton! Who had not heard the stories of her conquests and her daring? They were the talk of the clubs and the gossip of the drawing-rooms. Masculine London was in ecstasies over them and voted Lady Rosemary a trump. The ladies were scandalised, as only jealous minded ladies can be at lavishly endowed and favoured members of their own sex.

Personally, I preferred to sit on the fence. Being a lover of the open air, of the agile body, the strong arm and the quick eye, I could not but admire some of this extraordinary young lady’s exploits. But, the woman who was conceded the face of an angel, the form of a Venus de Milo; who was reported to have dressed as a jockey and ridden a horse to victory in the Grand National Steeplechase; who, for a wager, had flicked a coin from the fingers of a cavalry officer with a revolver at twenty paces; lassooed a cigar from between the teeth of the Duke of Kaslo and argued on the Budget with a Cabinet Minister, all in one week; who could pray with the piety of a fasting monk; weep at will and look bewitching in the process; faint to order with the grace, the elegance and all the stage effect of an early Victorian Duchess: the woman who was styled a golden-haired goddess by those on whom she smiled and dubbed a saucy, red-haired minx by those whom she spurned; was too, too much of a conglomeration for such a humdrum individual, such an ordinary, country-loving fellow as I, George Brammerton.

And now, poor old Hazelmere was undergoing a process of renovation such as it had not experienced since the occasion of a Royal visit some twenty years before: not a room in the house where one could feel perfectly safe, save the library: washing, scrubbing, polishing and oiling in anticipation of a rousing week-end House Party in honour of this wonderful, chameleon-like, Lady Rosemary’s first visit; when her engagement with Harry would be formally announced to the inquisitive, fashionable world of which she was a spoiled child.

Why all this fuss over a matter which concerned only two individuals, I could not understand. Had I been going to marry the Lady Rosemary, which, Heaven forbid, I should have whipped her quietly away to some little, country parsonage, to the registrar of a small country town; or to some village blacksmith, and so got the business over, out of hand. But, of course, I had neither the inclination, nor the intention, let alone the opportunity, of putting to the test what I should do in regard to marrying her, nor were my tastes in any way akin to those of my most elegant, elder brother, Viscount Harry, Captain of the Guards, egad, for which two blessings I was indeed truly thankful.

As I was thus ruminating, the library door opened and my noble sire came in, spick and span as he always was, and happier looking than usual.

“’Morning, George,” he greeted.

“Good morning, dad.”

He rubbed his hands together.

“Gad, youngster! (I was twenty-four) everything is going like clockwork. The house is all in order; supplies on hand to stock an hotel; all London falling over itself in its eagerness to get here. Harry will arrive this afternoon and Lady Rosemary to-morrow.”

I raised my eyebrows, nodded disinterestedly and started in again to my reading. Father walked the carpet excitedly, then he stopped and looked down at me.

“You don’t seem particularly enthusiastic over it, George. Nothing ever does interest you but boxing bouts, wrestling matches, golf and books. Why don’t you brace up and get into the swim? Why don’t you take the place that belongs to you among the young fellows of your own station?”

“God forbid!” I answered fervently.

“Not jealous of Harry, are you? Not smitten at the very sound of the lady’s name, like the young bloods, and the old ones, too, in the city?”

“God forbid!” I replied again.

“Hang it all, can’t you say anything more than that?” he asked testily.

“Oh, yes! dad, lots,” I answered, closing my book and keeping my finger at the place. “For one thing I have never met this Lady Rosemary Granton; never even seen her picture and, to tell you the truth, from what I have heard of her, I have no immediate desire to make the lady’s acquaintance.”

There was silence for a moment, and from my father’s heavy breathing I could gather that his temper was ruffling.

“Look here, you young barbarian, you revolutionary, what do you mean? What makes you talk in that way of one of the best and sweetest young ladies in the country? I won’t have it from you, sir, this Lady Rosemary Granton, this Lady indeed.”

“Oh! you know quite well, dad, what I mean,” I continued, a little bored. “Harry is no angel, and I doubt not but Lady Rosemary is by far too good for him. But, you know, you cannot fail to have heard the stories that are flying over the country of her cantrips; some of them, well, not exactly pleasant. And, allowing fifty percent for exaggeration, there is still a lot that would be none the worse of considerable discounting to her advantage.”

“Tuts, tush and nonsense! Foolish talk most of it! The kind of stuff that is garbled and gossiped about every popular woman. The girl is up-to-date, modern, none of your drawing-room dolls. I admit that she has go in her, vim, animal spirits, youthful exuberance and all that. She may love sport and athletics, but, but, you, yourself, spend most of your time in pursuit of these same amusements. Why not she?”

“Why! father, these are the points I admire in her, the only ones, I may say. But, oh! what’s the good of going over it all? I know, you know, everybody knows; her flirtations, her affairs; every rake in London tries to boast of his acquaintance with her and bandies her name over his brandy and soda, and winks.”

“Look here, George,” put in my father angrily, “you forget yourself. These stories are lies, every one of them! Lady Rosemary is the daughter of my dearest, my dead friend. Very soon, she will be your sister.”

“Yes! I know, so let us not say any more about it. It is Harry and she for it, and, if they are pleased and an old whim of yours satisfied, what matters it to an ordinary, easy-going, pipe-loving, cold-blooded fellow like me?”

“Whim, did you say? Whim?” cried my father, flaring up and clenching his hands excitedly. “Do you call the vow of a Brammerton a whim? The pledged word of a Granton a whim? Whim, be damned.”

For want of words to express himself, my father dropped into a chair and drummed his agitated fingers on the arms of it.

I rose and went over to him, laying my hand lightly on his shoulder.

Poor old dad! I had not meant to hurt his feelings. After all, he was the dearest of old-fashioned fellows and I loved his haughty, mid-Victorian ways.

“There, there, father, I did not mean to say anything that would give offence. I take it all back. I am sorry, indeed I am.”

He looked up at me and his face brightened once more.

“’Gad, boy, I’m glad to hear you say it. I know you did not mean anything by your bruskness. You are an impetuous, headstrong young devil though, with a touch of your mother in you, and, ’gad, if I don’t like you the more for it.

“But, but,” he went on, looking in front of him, “you must remember that although Granton and I were mere boys at the time our vow was made, he was a Granton and I a Brammerton, whose vows are made to keep. It seems like yesterday, George; it was a few hours after he saved my life in the fighting before Sevastopol. We were sitting by the camp-fire. The chain-shot was still flying around. The cries of the wounded were in our ears. The sentries were challenging continually and drums were rolling in the distance.

“I clasped Fred’s hand and I thanked him for what he had done for me that day, right in the teeth of the Russian guns.

“‘Freddy, old chap, you’re a trump,’ I said, ’and, if ever I be blessed with an heir to Brammerton and Hazelmere, I would wish nothing better than that he should marry a Granton.’

“’And nothing would please me so much, Harry, old boy, as that a maid of Granton should wed a Brammerton,’ he answered earnestly.

“‘Then it’s a go,’ said I, full of enthusiasm.

“‘It’s a go, Harry.’

“And we raised our winecups, such as they were.

“‘Your daughter, Fred!’

“‘Your heir, Harry!’

“‘The future Earl and Countess of Brammerton and Hazelmere,’ we chimed together.

“Our winecups clinked and the bond was made; made for all time, George.”

My father’s eyes lit up and he seemed to be back in the Crimea. He shook his head sadly.

“And now, poor old Fred is gone. Ah, well! our dream is coming true. In a month, the maid of Granton weds the future Earl of Brammerton.

“’Gad, George, my boy, Rosemary may be skittish and lively, but were she the most mercurial woman in Christendom, she has never forgotten that she is first of all a Granton, and, as a Granton, she has kept a Granton’s pledge.”

For a moment I caught the contagion of my father’s earnestness. My eyes felt damp as I thought how important, after all, this union was to him. But, even then, I could not resist a little more questioning.

“Does Harry love her, dad?”

“Love her!” He smiled. “Why! my boy, he’s madly in love with her.”

“Then, why doesn’t he mend a bit? give over his mad chasing after, to put it mildly, continual excitement; and demonstrate that he is thoroughly in earnest. You know, falling madly in love is a habit of Harry’s.”

“Don’t you worry your serious head about that, George. You talk of Harry as if he were a baby. You talk as if you were his grandfather, instead of his younger brother and a mere boy.”

“Does Lady Rosemary love Harry?” I asked, ignoring his admonition.

“Of course, she loves him. Why shouldn’t she? He’s a good fellow; well bred and well made; he is a soldier; he is in the swim; he has plenty to spend; he is the heir to Brammerton; why shouldn’t she love him? She is going to marry him, isn’t she? She may not be of the gushing type, George, but she’ll come to it all in good time. She will grow to love him, as every good wife does her husband. So, don’t let that foolish head of yours give you any more trouble.”

I turned to leave.

“George!”

“Yes, dad!”

“You will be on hand this week-end. I want you at home. I need you to keep things going. No skipping off to sporting gatherings or athletic conventions. I wish you to meet your future sister.”

“Well, I had not thought of that, dad. Big Jim Darrol, Tom Tanner and
I have entered for a number of events at the Gartnockan Games on
Saturday. I am also on the lists as a competitor for the Northern
Counties Golf Championship on Monday.”

My father looked up at me in a strange way.

“However,” I went on quickly, “much as I dislike the rush, the gush and the clatter of house parties, I shall be on hand.”

“Good! I knew you would, my boy,” replied my father quietly. “Where away now, lad?”

“Oh! down to the village to tell Jim and Tom not to count on me for their week-end jaunt.”