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would certainly have never suspected evil. Of Alderney was more surprised than ever. The all the many classifications of mankind, there is last time Stephen spoke to him of Alison he called none more exhaustive than that which divides her a little devil. But that, to be sure, was late humanity into those who do not and those who in the evening, when he was lamenting her exdo think evil, those who believe in motives noble istence. and disinterested, and those who habitually at- “It is very creditable to you, Stephen,” said tribute motives low, sordid, and base. Needless Alderney warmly. You have the same kind to say that Stephen belonged, in his capacity of heart as your brother. I feared from what you man of the world, to the latter. There are sheep said once before that you bore poor Alison a and there are goats: the man of the world pre- grudge for ever having been born, which is a fers the goats.
thing that no girl should be blamed for." He invited Alderney to dine with him at Clap- " Alderney," said Stephen, "you ought to ham, stating that it would be a bachelor's dinner know better than to rake up an old thing said in for themselves. In fact, dinner was served in a bad temper. Alison has now become my esthe study. Alderney arrived, clad still in the pecial, my sacred charge." gorgeous coat with the fur lining. He was punc- Alderney Codd stroked his chin-noticing as tual to time-half-past seven—and found Stephen he did so that the frayed condition of his cuffs apparently hard at work behind a great pile of was really beyond everything—and began to be papers on a side-table.
more confounded than ever. He wished they “These are a few," he said, looking up and would bring dinner. That Stephen Hamblin greeting his cousin, “just a few of the papers should acknowledge any duty, and act upon that connected with the estate, which I have to go recognition ; that he should acknowledge anything through."
sacred, and square his conduct accordingly, was to "Oh!” said Alderney, with sympathy. “Poor Alderney like a new revelation; and yet Stephen Anthony will cut up, I hear, better than was appeared in perfect health. So he only coughed expected even.”
-an involuntary expression of incredulity-and Stephen nodded mysteriously.
said nothing. “ You have heard, perhaps, that I am to take “What a task!” said Stephen; "what a melout letters of administration. There was no will, ancholy yet profitable task it is going through the but of course I am the nearest friend of this simple records of a blameless life like my brothpoor, bereaved girl.”
er Anthony's! You think with me, Alderney, Alderney was rather astonished at this ex- that his life was really a blameless one?" pression of sympathy and so much grief, after an “Surely," said Alderney, almost ready by this interval of so many weeks. Many brothers dry time to believe that Stephen must be an awakup, so to speak, in a fortnight at latest. Most ened and converted vessel, and feeling some brothers cease to use the language of grief after natural anxiety on his own personal behalf lest a month.
the complaint might be contagious—" surely. The “Yes, it is very sad; but Alison won't go on very best man who ever lived. Many is the fiver crying for ever, I suppose ?"
I have borrowed of him. So far even as a ten“Don't be brutal, Alderney. Pretend to sym- ner went, indeed, I always regarded Anthony as pathy, if you can't feel any. You were always a safe draw; but, as a regular rule, not more inclined to look on things from so hard a point than that at a time, and not more than once a of view."
month or so. And it was best to vary the place, This, again, was astonishing. Alderney sat the time, and the emergency. Dear me! to down meekly, and began to wish that dinner think that I have borrowed the last fiver from would come.
him that I shall ever get! Where shall we find “ I thought," he said presently, while Stephen another lender so free and so forgetful ?” went on making notes and turning over leaves, “ You can always rely on me, Alderney,” said " that the lawyers relieved you of all the work.” Stephen, slowly and sadly, "for that amount at
“My dear fellow!" with gentle surprise. least.” “Impossible. They take care of the details, and “God bless my soul!” cried Alderney, bedo the necessary legal work. I have, however, wildered beyond power of control by this sudden to master the general situation. The guardi- conversion. " Has anything happened to you, ans, executors, and trustees have all the respon- Stephen ? You haven't got some internal comsibility, nearly all the work, and none of the plaint ?” profit.” This was ungrateful, considering the Stephen was still sitting at the table, with a five hundred a year. “But, of course, for the three-quarter face lit by the fire. The room was poor child's sake, one must not flinch from un- dark, and his hard features, suffused by the rosy dertaking it."
light, looked gentle and kind. Who, up till now,
had ever heard of Stephen Hamblin lending any have gone away to be married. Take another one a single penny ?
glass, Alderney." “I have been searching among these pa
Not that it takes a week,” said Alderney, pers,” he went on, still in the same slow, sad “to be married in. You may leave the office and way, without noticing Alderney's extraordinary find a church within a stone's-throw, if you like. question, “ for some evidence-say, rather, some Gad! Stephen, the thing is so easy that I wonrecord-of my brother's marriage. Alison is der you and I have never been let in for it. Thank nearly twenty years of age. Here, for instance, you. The decanter is with you. Full of body, is a bundle of papers which refer to a time be- isn't it?" fore her birth. Plenty of diaries of that date are “The ceremony is not everything. The nosehere before me. Oddly enough, I find no men- gay of this wine is perfect. You have to court tion anywhere of any marriage. Yet Anthony your bride, I suppose ; and all that takes time. was a most methodical man, and one would think And what sort of a wife would that be, content must have made somewhere a careful record of with a five minutes squeezed here and there out an important event such as his marriage. Here, of the office-day? Alderney, I know every holiagain "-he took up a thick volume, and opened day he ever took, where he went, with whom he it at random—“is a diary of that time. Any- went, and what he did. Ah, what a color! For thing seems set down. Advanced to Alderney the life of me, I can not understand when he was Codd, twenty-five pounds.' And here is even married.” your own 1 O U.”
“It does seem odd,” said Alderney, “now “ Really!” cried Alderney, springing to his one begins to think of it. This is the inner flask. feet. “Let me see that document. My own Why can't a man drink a couple of bottles of this IOU! And for five-and-twenty! I remember divine liquor without getting drunk?” it well. It was twenty years ago. We went to “ Then the death of his wife. Did he go Paris, you and I, with the money, and we staid about as if nothing had happened? How is it there for a week. When it was all gone, you there is no word about it in the diaries? We had to write to Anthony for more, to bring us can have another bottle up. And the birth of home. I remember-I remember. Now this his daughter? Why is not that event entered ?” is really touching. I borrowed that money “ It does seem odd." twenty years ago. Think of one's good deeds “So odd, Alderney, that I am going to invesseeing the light again after so many years ! It tigate it. Do have some more port. If Anthony was indeed a casting of bread upon the water. had been any other kind of man, if we were not I never expected to be rewarded in this man- all sure, quite sure in our own minds, that his ner.”
life was always beyond reproach—if we could not His face flushed, especially his nose, and he all agree in this, I should say that he had never spoke as if his own borrowing had been the good been married at all.” deed thus providentially brought to light.
As Stephen said these words slowly, he leaned Then the dinner was brought up. Alderney, his head upon his hand, and gazed sadly into the like all thin men, was blessed with a regular and fire. trustworthy appetite. There was little conver- Alderney did not reply at first. He was taksation during the dinner, which was good. When ing another glass of port. Wine stimulates the it was all over, and nothing more remained but perceptive faculties, but sometimes confuses the the wine, the two men turned their chairs to the powers of speech. Presently he said, rather thickfire, and fell to quiet talk over a bottle of 1856, ly: out of Anthony's capacious cellar.
“Quite – quite impossible. Anthony's the “I suppose,” said Stephen presently,'harking best man in the world, and there's no better port back to the subject of his brother, “that you have out of Cambridge." a very distinct recollection of poor Anthony's regular habits ?"
Alderney called next day at the offices in the “ Why, any man would remember so regular City. Augustus Hamblin, apparently willing to a life as his."
waste a quarter of an hour with him, which was " True, the most methodical of men. It seems not always the case, received him, and let him to me, Alderney, as if he knew on any day and talk. at any time what he was then doing. This is Alderney expatiated on the virtuous attitude really admirable port. I should like a bin of of the new guardian. it. Of course, Anthony moved like the hands * Richard III.,” said Augustus, “was equalof a clock. It is good wine-Falernian. And ly full of love for his nephews.” yet I can not remember, nor can I find a trace “Nay, nay,” cried Alderney reproachfully, of, any week or month during which he could • Stephen is in earnest. He is a new man.”
· Perhaps,” said Augustus. “We have, how- liard-balls, and by the distant murmur from the ever, cut his nails pretty short. New man or room where the members of the club are holding old, he will do no mischief to the estate." their daily conference. If you ask for anything
“Well,” Alderney went on, “it is very odd, at this place after four, the waiters collect tobut Stephen can find no trace of Anthony's mar- gether to gaze upon you in pity; if at half-past riage, which was always, you know, a very mys- five, they receive your orders with contumely, or terious affair. He must have married somebody.” even eject you with violence.
"Yes," said Augustus confidently, though his The Birch-Tree Tavern, the glories of which brow clouded; “of course, somebody. What belong perhaps to the times when the new and does it matter?”
splendid restaurant was unknown, consists of "Stephen says that if Anthony had been a several houses, or parts of houses. Many years different kind of man, unless we were all agreed ago these had behind them little yards, each four that he was the best of men, we might be in- feet broad by twenty long, where rubbish could clined to think that he never was married at all.” be shot, where cats could practice gymnastics,
The words went home. Augustus felt a sud- and where the melancholy moss, which can live den pang of fear and surprise. Stephen would without sunshine, dragged on a monotonous exin that case be the sole heir.
istence. But the walls of the yards are taken "A changed man, is he?" he asked. “Upon down, the space between the houses roofed over, my word, Alderney, I suspect he is exactly the and the ground thus reclaimed has been made same man as he always has been: not changed into a bar and a luncheon-table. If you go up a bit."
stairs and turn to the left hand, first door on the first floor, you will find yourself in the room affected by the members of this nameless club.
They arrive between one and two o'clock in CHAPTER XI.
the day; they find a row of tables on one side of
the room, spread with table-cloths, which are THE BIRCH-TREE TAVERN.
white on Monday; here they dine. After dinner
they adjourn to a row of tables without tableAMONG the City clubs is a small and little- cloths, on the other side, near the windows, which known association which meets informally on are adorned with nothing but lucifer-matches in every day of the week and all the year round, their native caskets. Here they join their friends, between the hours of two and five in the after- and sit talking over fragrant tobacco and whisnoon.
ky-and-water till afternoon deepens into evenThere are no rules in this club: it has no ing—in other words, until the waiter turns them ballot-box: nobody is ever blackballed, nobody out. is ever proposed, nobody is ever elected: there is Where do they go when they leave the Birchno subscription-if there were, the club would Tree Tavern? instantly dissolve: and it is nameless. It is, how- That is a question to which there is no reply. ever, felt by the members to be a very real and They used to show a man at the Stilton Cheese existing club, a place where they may be sure of who sat in that place every day of his life from meeting their friends, an institution to which only four o'clock till seven, except on Sunday, when those resort who are bound together by the com- he was supposed to lie in bed till six. He then mon ties of like pursuits.
went to the Coach and Four, where he remained This place of meeting is the Birch-Tree Tav- until nine. After that he repaired to the Albion, ern, which stands in one of the narrow streets where he finished his monotonous day of perleading southward out of Cornhill. Its situation, petual thirst, for, during the whole of that time, therefore, is central, in the very heart of London. he drank whisky-and-water gayly. It is a simple house of refreshment, which, like The members of this club began to drink all the City places, is full of life between one and earlier than this hero. In all probability, therethree, and before or after those hours is dull and fore, they left off earlier. It does not seem in empty. When the hungry clerks have all dis- nature, for instance, to drink whisky-and-water appeared, when the jostling waiters have left off from two till six, and then to finish with another carrying, taking orders, and bawling, when the sitting from six till eleven afterward. Perhaps boys have ceased to balance among the mob they went home and had tea and read good their piles of plates and dishes, when the com- books; perhaps they went to bed at once; perpartments are all empty, a great calm falls upon haps they sat in solitude and reflected; perhaps the place, broken only by the buzz of conversa- they sat like mediums waiting for a communication of the men who are always lounging over a tion. I do not know, nor did the members of London bar: by the occasional click of the bil- this club know, because their acquaintance with each other began and ended at the tavern, what I am far from asserting that these gentlemen they did in the evening.
are models of morality. On the contrary, they Men who pursue secret, tortuous, or mysteri- have no morality; such a thing does not exist in ous methods of making money always meet their the lower flights of financing, whatever may be fellow laborers in certain taverns. One class of the case with the higher. They are positively ingenious adventurers, which turns its attentions without morals on this side of their character. to the fluctuations of foreign stock, may be seen They consider nothing about a company, except whispering together-they all whisper-in a cer- to inquire how the idea can be so presented as to tain underground place where they keep wonder- attract the general public. Whether it is a snare ful sherry at eighteen pence a glass; it is a sherry and a delusion, whether the formation of such a which unlocks all hearts. Others, who take an company is a dishonest trading on the credulity interest in the railways of the foreigner, may be of the ignorant, whether the traffic in its shares seen at the Whittington, an agreeable little place, is not a mere robbery and plunder—these are where they put you into little boxes, four feet things which the small projectors neither inquire square, with walls eight feet high. Here the into, nor care for, nor would understand. guests sit like conspirators and discuss their se- One of the most regular frequenters of the crets. Sometimes you may see one more sus- tavern was Mr. Alderney Codd. Since the age picious than the rest, peering over the partition- of eight-and-twenty — since the time, that is, wall to see if the occupiers of the next place are when he made that little arrangement, of which likely to be listeners. At Binn's, again, you will we have spoken, with his creditors—he has been find in the ordinary compartments German Jews, engaged in the active, but hitherto unsuccessful, who can tell you all about the price of diamonds pursuit of other people's money by the promoand the rise of bullion. They are safe from lis- tion of risky companies. How he fell into this teners, because they are talking their own lan- profession, by what successive steps this lay felguage, which is Schmoozum, and no one under- low of St. Alphege's became a promoter of comstands that except themselves.
panies, it is needless here to tell. He was in the The men who used the Birch-Tree Tavern profession, which is the important thing, and he were all of them engaged perpetually in the was greatly respected in it, partly on account of formation, the promotion, the floating of new his fertile imagination, which perpetually led him companies. To conceive the idea of a new com- to devise new openings, and partly because he pany; to give it such a name as would attract; was supposed able to "influence " capital. Next to connect it with popular objects; to draw up a to a capitalist comes the man who can influence flaming prospectus, showing how the profits must capital. Was he not cousin to the Hamblins of be five-and-twenty, and would most likely be cent. Great St. Simon Apostle? Was he not hand-inper cent.; to receive fully paid-up shares, in re- glove with Stephen, the younger brother, who ward for the idea and the preliminary work; to was not in the firm, yet was supposed to be posrealize upon them when the shares were at their sessed of great wealth, and was always hanging highest, and before the smash—this was the about in the City ? Was he not, again, a private golden dream of men who frequented that first- friend of the successful Mr. Bunter Baker, comfloor room. They were always occupied with monly known as Jack Baker? designs-hatching new ideas, abandoning old. It was nothing that Alderney Codd was shabThey listened with the utmost eagerness to each by and poor; they were all poor, and most of other's ideas. They believed in them more than them were shabby. The important thing was, in their own, envied their possession, marveled at that he could influence capital directly, while the their own bad luck in not hitting upon them for rest of them had to work crab-fashion toward the themselves; and they pleased themselves with attainment of their objects—to crawl up back stories about great strokes of good fortune. stairs, to take into their confidence a go-between,
They are not an unkindly set of men. They whose commission sopped up most of their profdo not steal each other's ideas or try to anticipate its. Another thing in Alderney's favor was that them. Their faces lack the hawk-like look of he was undoubtedly a university man, a fellow of professional turf-men and gamblers. They all his college, reputed to be a great scholar-a thing love to lounge and talk. Their calling makes which always commands respect. Lastly, Alderthem perhaps inclined to be dreamy and imagina- ney had once, some years before, actually made a tive. One would not claim for them the highest great coup. He always told the story at the tavstandard of moral excellence, but certainly, when ern whenever any stranger appeared in the circle the imagination is allowed fair play, the habits of -it was a privilege accorded to him; and the the bird of prey are seldom found. Now the rest were never tired of hearing the story. rook is an eminently practical and not an imagina- " It was in the early days of trams," he said, tive bird.
when he had led the conversation artfully to the
right moment for introducing the story—“the perous as an early engineer, and as rich as Nebuearly days of trams. Not but what there is chadnezzar, Vanderbilt, or Mr. Stewart. It ran, a good deal to be done in trams, even now, by or passed, from one place not marked on any a man who keeps his eyes open; and I would English map to another not marked on any Engrecommend anybody here who has time in his lish map—from one to another world-center, both hands, and a little money for preliminary ex- shamefully passed over and neglected by Mr. penses” (here their jaws fell), “to consider the Stanford's young men. It was elaborately exsubject of trams applied to our own towns. My plained that, besides the enormous passenger traftown was no other than—Valparaiso.” Alder- fic in this densely-populated country, there would ney Codd at this point would look round with an be expected from the extraordinary wealth of the air of triumph, as if real genius was shown in territory, as above indicated, a great and rapidlythe selection of a town so remote from Cornhill. increasing goods business. Figures showed that “Valparaiso. It is a city which has a fine trade, the least which holders of ordinary stock in this and-and-well, I thought the idea of a tram in railway could expect would be twenty-five per Valparaiso would possibly attract. Had it been cent. The shares of the new railway were placed Bristol or Birmingham, no one would have upon the markets; Alderney Codd's money was touched it; but to lend money to a foreign en- all, by Stephen's advice, invested in them. He terprise in those good days when people were unfortunately let go the golden opportunity, which credulous—ah, well!” Alderney Codd sighed. Stephen embraced, of selling all he held when the “We may well, like Horace, praise the past time, shares were at their highest, and was involved in because it will never come again.” Alderney's the general ruin when it was discovered that allusions to the classical authors, like his quota- there was no town at all within hundreds of miles tions, would not always bear inspection. “I con- of the place, that there were no people except one ceived this idea, however. I have, as our friends or two in a log-hut, that there would be no pasknow, some little influence over capital. I drew senger traffic, and no conveyance of goods. Alup the prospectus of that company; I introduced derney, unfortunately, like all his friends, bethat company in certain quarters; I floated that lieved in other people's companies. He promoted company; I received five thousand pounds in what he knew to be a bubble, but he accepted fully-paid shares; the shares were taken ; they all other bubbles for what they professed to be. ran up; I had the happiness to sell out when And bubbles always profess to be solid pudding: they were at seventy per cent. premium, a fort- such is their playful way. night before the company smashed. As for the Perhaps Alderney's popularity was due in tram, gentlemen, it never was made, in conse- great measure to his personal qualities. He was quence of a dispute with the municipality. How- a good-hearted man; he never ascribed evil, or ever, it was not my fault; and I believe, gentle- thought evil, though his manner of life would men, I may call that transaction business—'quo- have been, had Providence allowed him to float cunque modo, rem,' as Horace says.”
many of his bubble companies, as mischievous, Alderney generally stopped here. Had he tortuous, and shady as that of an Egyptian vicegone on, he would have to explain that it was roy. He took everybody into his confidence, Stephen Hamblin who helped in starting this dis- and, with a sublime trust in human nature which astrous company, the name of which still brings nothing could ever destroy, he imparted profound tears of rage and bitterness to the eyes of many secrets to the acquaintance of an hour, who in a country clergyman and poor maiden lady; he his turn not unfrequently revealed mysteries of would have explained, further, that it was in con- the most startling and confidential description to sequence of acting further on Stephen's advice him. Men who talk to strangers at bars have that he subsequently lost the whole. For he in- few secrets, and are very candid. Then Aldervested it in a new American railway. The pro- ney never forgot a face or a friend; he had an spectus, beautifully emblazoned with arms of the excellent memory; he was always cheerful, even State, mottoes, gilded emblems, and effigies of the sanguine, and was never mean. To be sure he almighty dollar, set forth that this line of El Do- was a lavish borrower, a very prodigal in borrado, this railway of Golconda, this iron road of rowing; he would ask for a ten-pound note and Ophir, ran through diamond-fields, silver-mines, take a crown-piece; and he never, unless when gold-mines, rich ranchos boasting of ten thou- he borrowed among his own set, remembered to sand cattle; past meadows smiling-nay, grin- repay. ning-with perpetual crops; through vineyards Perhaps, again, part of his popularity was due whose grapes were better for pressing and fer- to his face. This was thin and clean shaven. menting than any on the Johannisberg or belong- The mouth had an habitual smile lurking in the ing to the Château Lafitte; and among a popu- corners; the nose was just touched with red, lation numerous as the ants in an ant-hill, pros- which, when not carried too far, imparts benevo