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start, I would prove a marriage somehow, if it made me assume, apparently, an attitude of was only a Scotch marriage."

"Too late, Jack," said Stephen. "We have had one row. I got into a rage, and so did she. She's got a temper like mine-got it from her grandmother. These things very often pass over part of a generation. The temper passed over her father. She reminded me of my mother. Gad! what blazing rows we used to have in the old days!"

"Come, Hamblin. I will make a little compromise with you. Make it up, if you can, with the girl. If things go against you, you can then get my thousand out of her, with whatever you want for yourself. Your own affairs may be straighter then, no doubt."

"Oh, my own affairs—yes—yes. They are pulling round," said Stephen, forcing a smile.

"Very well, then. If the thing goes in your favor, you can let all the world see what a magmanimous creature you've been. Don't you see? If the worst happens, you can always reckon on getting a slice of the cake; if the best, then it will be all in your own hands, to do what you please with."

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'I think you are right," said Stephen, with an effort. "I am sure you are right, Jack. I ought never to have quarreled with the little spitfire, but she would have it. We always did hate each other, you know. I wonder if she ever suspected what I knew? Perhaps she did. Girls are more crafty than any one who doesn't know the nature of women would believe possible."

He got up and found writing materials.

"I suppose it will be better to write to her than to call upon her. Yes, certainly better. I used to be able to pitch a very decent letter in the old days. Let me try my hand again."

This letter took him some time to write. He wrote it, in fact, at least three times, and even then he was not satisfied with it. At last he brought the third draft to his friend, and submitted it for consideration.

"Listen, Jack," he said. "I think this will do as well as a longer letter. Of course, we shall keep a copy, and send one to the cousins.

"MY DEAR ALISON: I have for some time been trying to write to you. The memory of hard words, and, perhaps, bitter thoughts, on one or the other side, has hitherto prevented me. I have no desire to excuse myself. In fact, I can find no excuse. My unfortunate temper alone is to blame. To that, and to that alone, I would ascribe the misfortune that I have been made to appear to you in a light of hostility-"

"Don't like that," said Jack slowly;


"Think so? Yes. Perhaps that will be better." Stephen made the correction in pencil. Made me assume an apparent attitude of hostility. Nothing really was further from my thoughts, my wish, or my intention. Will you do me the justice of believing that I, for my own part, am most anxious, most desirous, to do my utmost to prove the truth, that you may rely upon my most sincere coöperation in any serious effort to ascertain the truth; and that, in the discovery of any fact which may convince me, yourself, and our cousins of your title to the estate, I am ready to withdraw my claim at once? I beg you to believe that I should refuse to take any advantage of legal technicalities. At the same time, in justice to my own birth, to my position, to my brother's position, I ask that the truth should be fairly and fearlessly investigated. The future of the Hamblin House must not be open to the questions or the doubts of any who wish to throw a stone, or cast a slur. I am aware, very sorrowfully I own it, that the investigation which I ask-it is all I ask-may possibly prove disastrous to yourself. At all events, you are a Hamblin. You would not wish to be rich at the expense of others, whose rights you were usurping?

"For the moment, I think I had better not attempt to see you. I send you this letter by the hand of a personal friend, Mr. Bunter Baker.'"

"Hallo!" cried Jack; "I say, you don't mean me to take it?"

"Who will be able, I trust,'" Stephen read on quickly, "to persuade you, as I, with my unhappy impetuosity, am unable to do, that I am a friend and not an enemy, that I am most anxious not to be regarded as an enemy. Sooner or later, this question, which in everybody's mind-'"

"I say," said Jack, "I suppose it isn't, real


"No," replied Stephen; "I don't suppose anybody outside the Hamblin lot troubles his head about it. But, you see, it has been very much in my head, which is the great thing. Where are we?—'everybody's mind must have been raised. Was it not better that it should be raised by myself, in a spirit of inquiry, without animosity, or would you have preferred that it should be raised later on, perhaps when your children's fortunes might be blighted and their pride brought low?'”

"That's devilish good," said Jack.

"Yes; I think I can manage the palter on occasion," said Stephen. "Well-You will be told, perhaps, that my action in the case was say dictated by a selfish desire to obtain, wrongfully.

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"Your affectionate uncle,


'And, anyhow, it will show it is an act of kindness on my part. They will think I am not afraid. For that matter," he added, with a dash of gasconade, "I am not the least afraid. Let them do their level worst."

"Level worst!" To bid a man do that is to throw the glove in earnest, and to throw it with the superiority of the better position. Jack Baker felt it. He was going as ambassador into the enemy's camp, not with the sneaking conscious ness of defeat, but in the proud position of one who holds an olive-branch in one hand, and with the other invites the enemy to do his level worst. He forgot, for the moment, the mysterious old woman whose visit had disquieted him, and he only saw himself clothed in the grandeur of a plenipotentiary, dictating terms to a sulky and plain young woman, easily reduced to reason, and open, like most of her sex, to the influences of terror, respect, and awe, which are induced by the voice, and the presence, and the majesty of a Man!

saying, or generous emprise, naturally found employment in the invention of new braveries. He was still, though now past thirty, on that level of civilization where men take the same view of maidens as the peacock takes of the peahens, and imagine that, by spreading gorgeous plumage, and strutting with braggart air, they can awaken the admiration of the weaker sex.

He expected to be received by a small, timid girl, who might possibly show temper, but who would begin, at least, by being enormously afraid of him. This was unfortunate at the outset. He was unprepared, too, for the magnificence of the house, which surpassed anything of which he had ever dreamed. The private houses of rich men and gentlemen were not, as a rule, thrown open to this successful speculator in silk. A club drawing-room was Jack's most exalted idea of a well-furnished apartment.

He was shown into the study, whither in a few moments Alison came to him. And then Jack's cheek paled, and his heart sank, for, instead of the insignificant and spiteful little animal he had dreamed of, the poor creature whom Stephen Hamblin generally spoke of as "that little devil," there stood before him a young lady, whose beauty, dignity, and self-possession overwhelmed him and crushed him.

She bowed and looked again at the card: "Mr. J. Bunter Baker." It is the day of double names. Smith is nothing unless he is differentiated by a prænomen other than the Christian name. Jones belongs to the Porkington Joneses. Jack Baker, as we have seen already, on arriving at success, remembered that he, too, had a second name, given him by his godfather, a most respectable clerk in a wholesale tea-warehouse. Mr. Bunter was now no more, but his name served to give his godson additional importance, and in his own eyes, at least, to elevate him in the social scale.

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'Mr. J. Bunter Baker,'" she repeated. "I-I am Mr. Bunter Baker," he replied. Here he was so unlucky as to drop his hat, which, on recovering, he placed on the table. "May I ask, Mr. Baker," she went on, "what is the meaning of your visit?"

In fact, Jack Baker, armed with this letter, did pay that visit the very next day. He went to Clapham Common in his own private hansom, hoping devoutly that Miss Hamblin might be sitting at the window when he drove to the door. Of course his horse was showy, and his tiger small. Of course, too, he was attired with the greatest magnificence permitted to City men by a very liberal fashion. No young fellow had more gold about him; no one wore better gloves; no one was more daring in the matter of neckties; no one more shiny of hat, neat of boot, or original in waistcoat. To men of this generation very few things are permitted in dress compared with what young men used to be allowed in the good old days when ribbons, lace, gorgeous doublets, slashed sleeves, pearl-embroidered pourpoint, silk stockings, sword-belt, sash, diamond buckles, and red-heeled shoes set off to advantage a young fellow who could boast a reasonably fine figure and shapely leg. Yet the present fashion allows something for the imagination to work upon; "My friend, Miss Hamblin," he said, "who is and the imagination of Jack Baker, which was a gentleman of extraordinarily sensitive nature, not occupied with thoughts of heroic deed, brave as perhaps you know, has been rendered ex

"I come," he replied, "with a letter to you from Mr. Stephen Hamblin."

"My uncle can have nothing to write to me," said Alison, “that I would wish to hear. I can not receive any communications from him. Is that all you have to say to me?"

Jack Baker began to wish he had not consented to act as ambassador. But he plucked up courage.

tremely unhappy by the position in which he finds hope is, that I may never again see him, never himself unavoidably placed toward you."

"Why," cried Alison, "he has deliberately insulted the memory and character of my father. Unavoidably?"

"There were reasons, Miss Hamblin," Jack went on, trying to speak grandly, "why he was bound to go on against his wish. Had his cousins listened to him at the outset there would have been, probably, no publicity-no litigation."

"I know nothing of any motives,” said Alison; "I judge only by his actions. My uncle is my enemy. I want to have no communication of any kind with him. I mistrust him, and I suspect him."

"At least you will read his letter." Jack produced it, and tendered it with a winning smile. But Alison was very far from thinking of his manner of smiling. "Do not let me go away and tell my friend, Mr. Stephen Hamblin, that you refused to receive a letter from him, even after I told you that it was conciliatory."

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Conciliatory!" she echoed, "as if I did not well to be angry. Well, sir, I will read your letter."

She took it, and sat down without inviting her visitor to take a chair, which was rude. Jack, therefore, remained standing. He felt conscious that he was not looking to advantage. To stand without your hat in your hands, without the aid even of an umbrella or walking-stick, before a lady, while she reads a letter, makes one feel like a schoolboy about to say a lesson which he does not know.

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He offers," said Alison, "to withdraw his claim as soon as anything has been discovered which will convince him that he is wrong. That is very noble in him, considering that we shall force him to withdraw as soon as that has been discovered. Why did he write me this letter, sir? You say you are his friend. Have you seen the letter?"

"I have; I think it is a most friendly letter. Nothing could be more so, I am sure; most creditable to the writer."

"Thank you. Why did he write it ?”

"Pure good feeling," said Jack. "He is a man of wonderful good feeling; that, when you come to think of it, is his strong point.”

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again speak to him.”

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"Pardon me.

That is not at all his intention

or his object. You are a lady, Miss Hamblin, and you do not feel, as men do, the necessity of securing for every man his right. Prove your right, and Stephen Hamblin retires. Until you do, he is the heir at law. But "-he raised his finger, for Alison was going to burst in with an indignant denial—" suppose that he was to meet you half way. Suppose that he was ready to say: 'Let us arrange this dispute. Let your friends agree upon a present settlement for you. Let me succeed without opposition: I shall not marry; you will be my sole heiress.' Now, could anything be more agreeable and comfortable for all parties?"

Alison rose.

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This is quite idle," she said grandly; “I will make no such arrangement."

Jack Baker confessed to himself on the spot that all his previously conceived ideas of feminine beauty would have to be modified. He had never seen any one at all comparable with this magnificently beautiful creature on the stage, which, in common with many young City men, he confidently believed to be the natural home and harbor of the highest types of English beauty; nor behind the bar, where those fair ones who can not play burlesques delight to display their loveliness for all to behold who possess the "price of half a pint." Nor could any music-hall in London show such a face, such deep black eyes, such splendid black hair, such lips, such a warm, rosy cheek, such a figure. It was a new lesson for him; he felt an unaccustomed glow about the pericardium; a yearning all over; a consciousness of higher things than he had as yet imagined; a sudden weariness of Topsy and Lottie and their drink-dispensing friends: he choked; he blushed; he stammered; he was penetrated with the majesty of a beauty far beyond his

dreams; he was so deeply struck with the shock of this revelation that he actually forgot himself and his own peacockery. Then he suddenly remembered his mission.

"Surely," he pleaded, with a last effort, "surely it would be better to come to an arrangement than to carry on a long and fruitless opposition. It can't do anybody good: nothing will come of it except disappointment. All this time they've been searching and advertising and offering rewards-and what's come? Nothing."

He put this out as a feeler, but Alison's face showed no change, so that he was sure nothing had been found.

“Not the least discovery-has there, now?" She did not reply.

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Why, if we could have a little agreement come to, all your troubles would stop at once." "No, sir," said Alison. "On the contrary, all the trouble would begin. You can not understand, I suppose, that my father's honor is dear to me. My Uncle Stephen can not understand. Nothing, nothing!"-she stamped with her foot and looked so resolute that Jack trembled"nothing would ever persuade me to sacrifice the good name of my father. I will make no such bargain as you suggest; I would rather, believe me, sir, I would far rather go out from this house a beggar."

Her black eyes burned with so fierce a light, and her lips were set so firm after she said this, that the ambassador felt singularly small.

you may tell your principal, as you call him, that I have torn up his letter."

She did so, in fact. No actress on the stage ever did a little piece of business more effectively, because it was done so quietly.

The fragments of the letter lay at his feet. "Humph!" said Jack doubtfully. Well, we've taken the precaution to keep a copy. That will be proof of our intentions. Good morning, Miss Hamblin"; he bowed in his very best style. 'I would meet with another failure, willingly, for the pleasure of seeing you again."


He smiled his sweetest, while she looked at him in speechless indignation. What did the man mean? When she had found some words in which to express her sense of his impertinence, he was gone.

"Now," murmured Jack the experienced, "if it was any of the bar lot, I should understand that standoffishness. I'm up to their gag, anyhow. They'd like to get the chance of Mr. J. Bunter Baker, wouldn't they? Just. But with a bit o' muslin like this Hamblin girl, I suppose it's different. Perhaps I took her a little aback at first, though she can't really mean that she don't want to see me again. Gad! that's too ridiculous. A girl's a girl all the world over. And it must be mighty dull down here all by herself. I'll find another opportunity and call again. Give her line for a bit, J. Double B."

He sought the shelter of his cab, and drove back to town, seeking solace for his wounded heart in cigars. And in the evening he met Stephen at the club, and they dined together. Jack was radiant and boisterous.

"In that case," he said, "I have nothing more to say. You quite understand that this last proposal is my own suggestion, not Mr. Hamblin's, though I am quite satisfied of his desire to be on good terms with his niece and to benefit her." "That I do not believe," said Alison. "Good yours, Hamblin. Kept it for a surprise. She's morning, sir."

She looked superb. Jack Baker thought of his balance at the bank and his ventures on the high-seas, and took heart.

"In any case, Miss Hamblin," he said, with an ingratiating smile, "I am not my principal in this affair, and I hope you will not consider me as rowing in the same boat with him. Of course, I can hardly discuss his conduct with you, as he is my friend. But I can not, I am sure, regret it, since it has enabled me to introduce myself to a young lady who I must say-who-" here he broke down, because she stared at him with cold and wondering eyes. "And I hope, Miss Hamblin, that when we meet in the City-I mean in the streets, and in society, and at dinners, and so on, that you will let me consider myself a friend. And if I might be permitted to call again—"

"Sir!" The tone of her voice froze him. "I have already wished you good morning. Stay,


"By Jupiter Omnipotent and Christopher Columbus!" he cried, in an ecstasy. You never told me what she is like-that niece of

splendid, she is; she's magnificent; she's a goddess, that's what she is. Hang me, if she isn't a goddess! And you to call that gorgeous creature a little devil! Little? why, she's five feet eight if she's an inch. And her face, and her figure! Come, Hamblin, I can make allowance for the feelings of a man who has any one standing between him and such an almighty pile, but 'little devil'—I say-it really is- Here, waiter!" (this young man habitually bawled as loudly in a club dining-room as he had been accustomed to do in the City shilling dining-places years before). "Waiter, come here. Bring me a bottle of Perrier Jouet Sec-not the Très sec. It's the least I can do for her, to drink her health in Perrier Fouet."

"I suppose uncles are not expected to fall in love with their nieces," said Stephen carelessly. "I never said that Alison was ugly or small." You called her a little devil, that's all I know.


Well, old man, here's her jolly good health and a lover, and I shouldn't mind if it was me, J. Double B, yours truly."

"Well "—Stephen listened with natural impatience to this enthusiasm―"well, how did you get on, and what did she say?"

"No use, my boy, thinking of anything friendly in that quarter. But keep your copy of the letter, which may be useful later on. I did my best for you: I said you were a man of the most sensitive feelings-ho! ho!—and I said that you were most unhappy about the position you had been obliged to assume-ha! ha! Might just as well have tried the hostile line, because she's as savage as she is beautiful. She will want a man, not a thread-paper, for a husband, that girl. J. Double B would about meet the case, I think. By the way, I found out one thing whoever the old woman was who called at their office, they haven't made any discovery yet."

"If she won't be friendly, she needn't," said Stephen. "Anyhow, I've done the regular thing, and it will be worse for her in the long run. Let her go to "

"No, Hamblin, don't couple any more the name of such an angelic creature with that of the devil. I wonder what you were like before the thatch came off your pretty brows? She reminded me of you at once. Here's her health again, and, if there was any better wine in the club, I would drink it in that."

"She takes after my mother, the Señora," said Stephen. "All the Hamblins are like each other; but she has got her grandmother's complexion, like me. She can't help being like me, though she would rather not, I dare say. Let her go, Jack."

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News came, presently, to the cousinhood that Stephen had written a letter, and had hinted at an arrangement. The family were divided in opinion. For while some thought that Alison showed the proper Hamblin spirit in rejecting all overtures short of absolute submission, others thought that perhaps she had no right to possess any portion of the Hamblin spirit at all, until things were proved; so that in fact the refusal to make any compromise was a sort of impertinence in her. Undoubtedly the feeling was growing stronger in the family that Stephen was very likely right. Gilbert Yorke, however, agreed with Alison that a compromise was an impossibility. It was remarkable, considering that she was so resolute never to marry unless her father's name was cleared, how Alison comforted and guided herself by the opinion of this young man.

But his vision of perfect beauty abided with Jack Baker, so that he began to feel how con

versation at bars, admiration of actresses, talk about ballet people, might all lose their charm, compared with the society of the one perfect woman he had ever seen. Perhaps it was as well for Gilbert Yorke's tranquillity that he could not tell how this rising young City merchant thought more about Alison than his speculations, more about her deep dark eyes than about his silks.




Now, while Gilbert and Alderney Codd were floundering in the dark, groping here and there with uncertain steps and finding nothing; while Mr. Theodore Bragge was "following up" one clew after another, and asking continually for more checks; while Nicolas was hugging to his bosom the new and delightful secret, with which he intended one day to make such a coup as would make the ears of them who heard of it to tingle, and set the hearts of all boys wherever the English tongue is spoken, aflame; while the partners were doubtful and despondent; while the cousins daily became as uncertain over the event as the English public once were over the identity of a certain claimant-Miss Nethersole, this time an Instrument without knowing it, voluntarily communicated the very fact which they were all anxious to find.

We have seen how this lady, her enemy being dead, and her lawyer stubbornly refusing to ask for the indictment of a dead man, betook herself to her country villa, and sat down to enjoy comfortably the settled gloom which may arise in woman's heart equally from love, disappointment, or the baffling of revenge. The forgeries were put away with her plate in a box, which for greater safety she kept screwed to the floor under her own bed. And for a time she submitted herself to the inevitable, and tried to be resigned under the Ruling which had torn her enemy from her grasp.

You can not, to be sure, execute any revenge upon a dead man which shall have the true flavor about it. You may-as many great monarchs, gourmets in revenge, have done-hang up the limbs cut into neat joints upon gibbets, or stick them on pikes, or paint them beautifully with tar, and then sling them up with chains on a gibbet to dangle in the wind; and yet, after all, nothing satisfies. You may gaze with pleasure on the gallows-tree, but there is always the uneasy feeling that the man himself, who has joined the majority, may be laughing at you all the


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