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I only sent to you, to tell you that it was all over. I am only a weak woman. When things are Poor boy!” Her hard eyes softened and became said, the words are like daggers and pierce my beautiful again, as she laid her hand upon his heart. But you are right. I am fallen indeed if sleeve. “You feel it now, but you will forget. I can cease to believe in the goodness of my You will go about in the world and do great father.” work, and so learn to forget, and then you will “And this ring, Alison ?" He held up the find some other girl whom you will love as much engaged ring. as ever you loved me—and who will have a-a- “ No," she said, “I am resolved upon that. story that can be told without shame.”
You and I, Gilbert, will believe in my father“Stay!” cried Gilbert—"stay, Alison. We you, because you are loyal to the memory of a are going far too quickly. All is not over yet. man who loved you, and I, because it will be all Whose word have
uncle's?" my comfort. But I will not put on that ring “No one's. He would not dare to say such again until it has been proved to all the world a thing unless it were true.”
that I need not blush with shame when my moth“ He says, Nicolas tells me, that he has proof er's name is mentioned.” that there was no marriage. We shall believe Gilbert hesitated for a moment, thinking what that story when we see the proofs."
to say, what comfort to bring. “ There must be proofs.”
In that case,” he said at length with a forced “Let us first learn what they are. Until we smile, “we must try to penetrate the mystery can examine the proofs for ourselves, I for one, and find the truth about your father's marriage. Alison, shall disbelieve the statement. What At least you will let me work for you." would the proof be? Are we to believe that “ I shall be deeply grateful to you,” she reyour father deliberately left a paper among his plied, holding out her hand to him. The hard private documents, stating that he was never light in her eyes was gone, but the lip trembled married ? This seems ridiculous. What other still: “I shall be grateful, even if you find noproof has he, or can he have ?
thing. But you must remember one thing, Gil“I believe,” Gilbert continued, “that the bert: until you have found out—what we seekstatement is a pure fabrication. See, Alison, there must be no word of love; and, if we never Mr. Stephen Hamblin is, and always has been, a find out, there must never be word of love beman of low principle. It is his interest to make tween us. Do you promise not to break this out this charge. He knows that there is no will. rule?” He knows, further, that your father was unwill- “ It is a very hard promise, Alison. If you ing, for some reason best known to himself, to knew how I love you, you would not ask it of talk about his married life; and so, he calmly me.” frames this gigantic Lie, in hope that it will be “ It is because I do know, and because—0 believed."
Gilbert !-because it is as hard for me to ask as Alison shook her head.
for you to promise, and because whatever hap“Let us not be the first to believe it. Until pens, I must try to keep my self-respect. Promit is proved—and it never can be proved—let us ise me.” -if only you and I remain loyal-go on believ- He promised, at length, kissing her fingers. ing in the honor of your father. My dear, you “ And now," he said, “I shall go to your must believe it."
cousins and offer my services to unravel the “ You say so, Gilbert, to comfort me.”
mystery. I shall do nothing else until we have “ Perhaps, partly to comfort you; but I be- learned the truth.” lieve solemnly that it is the truth. Surely it is "Oh, Gilbert !” She was going to have one more easy to believe that your father was always devoted friend at least. To be sure, she had what you knew him to be in every relation of known that he would be her knight. “But you life-a good man—than that he lived perpetually must not ruin your practice at the bar for my in an atmosphere of deceit and treachery. Shake sake." off that distrust, Alison. It is a nightmare born The young member of the Inner Temple of the base insinuations and suggestions of that laughed sarcastically. man. Hold up your head and face the world. “My practice ?” he asked. “What does not Let us say simply, ‘Anthony Hamblin could not exist can not be very well ruined, my dear child. have done this thing.' And even if the law al- I have no practice. No doubt I shall get some lows him, which I do not think, to lay his un- in course of time if I go on. At present, solicirighteous hand upon your fortune, go on in your tors do not know my name, and I am briefless. belief and loyalty to your father.”
Do not be disturbed about my practice.” “They are brave words, Gilbert,” she said. Meantime Nicolas had found his way home “You are a strong man : you can dare and do. and discovered his mother again in tears. This
was disagreeable. It was still more disagreea- man into an early grave. But we don't want to ble, when he inquired the cause, to learn that, if give him anything luxurious. This is a lovely Alison lost her inheritance, his mother would lose thing from Mauritius, see: clouded and mounted; that three hundred pounds a year which formed, it's trustworthy, too, and heavy; but I'm not as Nicolas for the first time learned, her sole in- going to treat such a fellow as that to anything
expensive. He'd boast of it afterward. Common “I suppose we shall all three go to the work- ware, sir, and tough, and apt to curl about the house!” the poor lady sobbed.
legs. That's all he shall get from me." “ No, mother,” said Nicolas. “You and Ali- Gilbert looked on in amazement. What did son may go there, if you like, and if you prefer the boy mean? skilly to chops. I sha'n't. Come, old lady"-he Now here "-he took down a thin and longrammed his hands into his pockets, and stood ish bamboo. “This is the very thing. Common with his legs apart—“come, cheer up. Work- and cheap, effective, and tough. You can lay on house, indeed! Haven't you got ME? For the with this without fear of its breaking. It's as present, I suppose, I must enlist. I can have springy, too, as India-rubber. That thing, sir, stoppages made for you and Alison out of the judiciously handled, will raise the most enormous pay. That will carry you on till I'm old enough weals, and hurt like winkin'. Phew! Ey-oh!” -provided I am not in the mean time killed in • What do you mean?” action—to enter the firm. The least they can “You've been spooning again,” said Nicolas do for me after cheeking Uncle Stephen-and, of severely, “and it's made you go silly. Didn't I course, I shall horsewhip him when the time promise you should stand in with me about the comes—is to give me a desk. Then I can sup- cowhiding? Very well, then. Take and go and port you both in comfort, with boiled rabbit and do it.” onions and pickled pig every day. That fellow Oh, nonsense! There's to be no cowhidYorke, unless I am greatly mistaken in the man, ing." which isn't usual with me, will want to cry off "No cowhiding ?” Young Nick almost when he hears that Alison has got no money. I shrieked with indignation. “Why, I promised don't much like that style of man: blue eyes, him. You're not going to do it?” curly brown hair, regular features—barber's-block Certainly not." features, long legs, and broad shoulders. I hope The boy's face fell. This was bitter disapshe won't take it too much to heart. After all, pointment. it will be only waiting for me. I'm the sort of “Go away,” he said ; “I thought better of man to make her really happy. I feel it in me. you. If I had a girl who'd been treated as AliCheer up, old lady."
son has been treated, I'd cowhide the man first He kissed his mother and patted her cheek, and pepper and salt him next. You'll do as you I think Mrs. Cridland was greatly comforted by please.” He replaced the stick with a sigh. the thought that her boy would be so great a
Of course all the real work, as usual, is laid stay and prop to her.
upon my shoulders.” Then the boy heard Gilbert's step in the hall, and ran out. “Done with Alison ?” he asked. “ Come
CHAPTER XV. this way." He led him into the study, where there stood a rack of choice canes, walking- HOW STEPHEN LEFT THE HOUSE. sticks, and bamboos, brought to the Head of the House from foreign parts. It was a really valu- STEPHEN slept at his chambers that night. able and beautiful collection, which Anthony had But in the morning, the strange feeling of nerbeen accumulating for many years.
vous terror, under the influence of which he had “This way.” He stood before the rack and left the house at Clapham, had disappeared with examined the contents critically. “I will find the impression produced by Alison's eyes and something that will just do for you, Yorke. See: words. He began to consider whether it was don't take this Malacca, because it is too light prudent to retract from the stronghold of confor serious business : Malaccas are apt to break structive possession. in the hand. Here's a Penang Lawyer, which I It was matter of simple evidence that he went should like to lend you if I could trust your tem- to the house on the very day of his brother's per. But I can't, and you might kill your man. death : that might be with the view of assuming This Persuader is from Singapore, but they've the guardianship which naturally devolved upon loaded it with lead, and we must stick to the him, or that of asserting his own claim. He had legitimate thing. The Tickler at your left hand lived there for three months, by tacit acknowlis from Shanghai : it has tickled many a China- edgment, he might say, the master. And yet,
on the day when he distinctly laid his pretensions monds, peaches, white-thorn, and laburnum-for before the partners, he returned to his own it was an early season-were all blossoming tochambers. Perhaps that would look something gether: the air of the young spring was heavy like distrust of his own claims.
with perfume : a blackbird was singing in the This knotty point gave him uneasiness. He garden : all round him were the delicate leaves really did not wish to return: he was afraid of of spring, the young foliage, yellow rather than meeting his niece: he was afraid of those black green : a broad horse-chestnut over the stables eyes in the portrait which followed him round the was showing on its branches the great sticky cone, room with reproachsul gaze; but, on the other oozing all over with gum, out of which would hand, he was bound to show a bold front. He shortly spring blossom and leaf: the dark cedars had taken up a position from which there was of Lebanon showed black beyond it. At his no retreat. He had gone beyond the truth in feet were all the spring flowers that he rememasserting that he held written proof that there bered of old—the London-pride, the pale primnever had been any marriage at all; whereas all rose, the wallflower, the violet, the auricula, the that he could really prove was that he had found polyanthus, the narcissus, and the jonquil. no mention of any marriage. And there was The memory of those accusing eyes of the always the terrible doubt in the background portrait followed Stephen into the garden; the that, after all, there might have been a secret lawns and flower-beds, the lilacs and laburnums, marriage, a marriage under an assumed name awakened unexpected associations. which further search might reveal. If it were “I have not seen the old garden,” he murdiscovered, he would be indeed ruined.
mured, "for twenty years. It is not changed at It was more than possible : it even seemed all. My mother might be on the lawn now, as probable, now that it was too late, now that he she was one morning—just such a morninghad incurred the wrath of the other side and thirty years ago and more, when I was played his trump cards. Why was it that it boy—” seemed so impossible the day before ?
As he spoke, Alison, coming from the vinery, Given a man of absolutely unblemished char- crossed the lawn on her way to the house. She acter, living a life open for all the world to see; paused for a moment, and standing on the given the fact of a child strongly resembling springy turf, not seeing her uncle, she looked him, and even more strongly resembling his round her and breathed the soft sigh of contentmother; add to these the open production and ment which the early summer air pours into the acknowledgment of the girl as his own daugh- heart of maidenhood. She had tied a handkerter—these things made up a very strong case; chief round her head. Her black eyes were full so strong, that when Stephen put them together of softness, heavy with the sweet influences of he felt cold, and began to wish that he had not the hour: her lips were parted : her head been so precipitate.
drooped a little, like a flower too happy in the It became, therefore, the more necessary to sun; her figure, svelte et gracieuse, seemed soft maintain the boldest bearing. He would go back and yielding, a very figure of Venus-how differto the house, install himself there, and let the ent from the wrathful eyes, the angry voice, the servants know that he was master. As for Ali- set lips, of yesterday! son, it was her part, not his, to turn out.
Stephen dropped his cigar. The house, when he admitted himself with a “My God!” he said, “I thought it was my latch-key, was perfectly silent. The two ladies mother! How like her she is !” were in the breakfast-room; Nicolas was at He dropped into thought, standing where he school; the servants were engaged in the light was, gazing through the shrubs upon the vacant and leisurely occupations which they called work. lawn, peopled again in imagination by just such They made no noise; if they talked, it was in low a woman as Alison, only older, by a child of five tones, so as not to disturb the silence which, for or six, himself, and a tall, raw schoolboy, his three months, save for the voice and the steps of brother. Nicolas, had been almost unbroken. He stepped “Anthony!" he murmured, with something hurriedly, as if afraid of meeting some one, into like a choke in his throat. He saw again in his the study. The eyes of his mother's portrait imagination the little boy running backward and met his as he closed the door, and again the odd forward, shouting, laughing, dancing, while the feeling of cold, as if the dead were reproaching elder boy played for him and with him, and the him, fell upon him. He threw down his bag : lady with her black mantilla watched them both took a cigar from the box nearest, lit it, and went with soft and loving eyes. out of this silence, which was sepulchral and op- Stephen's own eyes softened as he recalled pressive, into the gardens.
the pretty scene, so old, so long gone by, himself The morning was delightful : the lilacs, al- the only survivor.
Now, to what length this softening process pulled down the blind, but the sight of him might have gone, had it not been interrupted, I brought back the horror of the day before, and do not know. One can only speculate. It was, her brief joy in the season of spring was dein point of fact, stopped, ruined, and hopelessly stroyed. destroyed, all in a moment, and in the
bud The garden, both broad and long, had a great and opening. For just then a stable-boy-this lawn, set with flower-beds, immediately behind was on the way to the stables—who was engaged the house. At the back of the lawn was a goodin polisbing harness, became suddenly possessed ly show of glass, with vineries, conservatories, by the devil. I think, indeed, that he was the hot-houses, every kind of luxurious garden-house. devil himself. He laughed aloud-a strident, And at the back of the glass houses lay the mocking laugh, which seemed to Stephen as if kitchen-garden. his one newly-conceived germ of-call it a ten- Most of the glass houses were new to Stedency to a readiness to accept the softening in- phen. He began to reckon up the expense of fluence of repentance—were the object of the keeping them up, and resolved on one more stable-boy's derision.
economy. It is curious to observe how jealous Stephen's temper was arbitrary; his own per- the prodigal son has always shown himself over sonal submission to that temper was abject. He the reckless extravagance of his brother. stepped hastily into the stable-yard and cursed “Who are you?” he asked a man without a that young assistant, who, to outward view, was coat, who was pottering among some plants, set as meek as Moses, till he trembled and shook in out to enjoy the morning sun. The man was his shoes.
tall and spare; he had red hair; his cheek-bones Then Stephen entered the stables themselves were high. They called him Andrew, and he and began to examine them. The profitable never boasted any other name. vision of the lawn had already faded from his “Who are you?" he repeated, because the mind. When the wicked man turneth away from man only looked at him and replied not. In fact, his wickedness, even in imagination, and for a Andrew did not know Stephen by sight, and was few brief moments only, he does not like to be just slowly beginning to make out that the stranlaughed at. He would rather relapse. Stephen ger bore a resemblance to Miss Hamblin. “Who relapsed. He remembered, too, that he was there are you, and what are you doing here?” to show himself as the master; he therefore “I'm head gardener," replied Andrew, with cursed the groom a second time.
dignity, “and that's what I'm doing.” Two fat coach-horses and two riding-horses “ Head gardener! Why, how many of you and a pony,” said Stephen, standing at the door are there?" of the stable, while the groom trembled outside,
“ Three,” said Andrew. “Myself
, a man, and “and four lazy scoundrels to wait on them! a boy.” You, groom-fellow, take a month's notice. Tell * Three!” Stephen echoed. “ And four lazy the coachman to take a month's notice. Tell the devils for the stables. What a household! what other men to take a month's notice. I am going reckless profusion !” to sell off all the horses—do you hear?-and Andrew looked stolidly at him. this coach and the pony-carriage. A hansom " I suppose ” —Stephen addressed the chief of cab is good enough for me. Such mad expendi
this watchful band of three-“I suppose you ture,” he added, “would swamp the income of a think that this extravagance will be allowed to Rothschild !"
continue ?" The groom made no reply, resolving to lay "It's accordin' to the young leddy,” said Anthe whole case immediately before the young drew. You and me, we've just got to do what lady. Miss Hamblin's riding-horse, Master Nic- she says." olas's pony, and all to be sold off! And the “You and I?” cried Stephen. “What the coachman, grown old in the Hamblin service, to devil do you mean?” be dismissed! And himself to take a month's “ Dinna swere,” said Andrew. “What I mean notice, who hoped to remain, like the coachman, is that the young leddy is the maister since poor among the Hamblins all his life! “Why," thought Mr. Hamblin got drouned. If ye don't like this the boy, watching Stephen's receding figure, extravagance, go and tell her, and leave me and “who's Mr. Stephen, to come and order people out of the house?” But he was alarmed.
“I tell you what,” cried Stephen, in a rage, Stephen passed through the shrubs and came and again obedient to that hard taskmaster, his into the garden itself. Alison was sitting at the temper, “I'll soon show you who's master here! window of her own room, called the breakfast. Go and put on your coat; you shall have a month's room, and saw her uncle. Instantly the day be- wages instead of notice.” came cold to her, and the sunshine paled. She “Eh, eh?” said Andrew, no way discon
certed. “I reckon I'll just wait till the young arm meets such an impediment in the sleeve, the leddy tells me go."
greater is the shock to the system. Young Nick, “You scoundrel!” cried Stephen, raising his therefore, executing his task with the sweet smile stick, “I'll break every bone in your insolent of anticipated delight, which he proposed to enbody!"
joy from ambush, sewed up the sleeves very low Andrew quietly allowed the spud in his hand down. to assume a horizontal position, so that it became This done, still in ignorance of his uncle's at once a spear leveled at vital parts.
presence, he began to whistle again, and be“ Aweel,” he said, with a smile of resolution, thought him of a certain double-shuffle which “ if there's ony breaking of bones, there's always he had seen at the Christmas pantomime, and the spud.”
had practiced without success ever since. The Stephen turned away. Hitherto he had not noise caused by a double-shuffle on canvas is in gained much by assuming the air of the master. itself far from soothing to the nerves. After the
He returned sulkily to the study, where he dance he proceeded to try a new figure in gymsat down, angry, ashamed, and unquiet, to ex- nastics, which also necessitated a good deal of amine and turn over for the tenth time those dia- inharmonious sound. He had just inverted himries of Anthony's life.
self, and was balancing on his two hands, trying The day was not destined to be a propitious to acquire complete control over his feet, when one for him. He had not been more than half the door of the study opened and Stephen came an hour at his work when he became aware of a out. He had been goaded almost to madness by most intolerable and exasperating noise.
the stamping, dancing, and whistling combined. Unfortunately, it was Wednesday.
He had borne it for a quarter of an hour. When Any misfortunes which might happen in that it became intolerable he rushed out. The boy, household on that day were always, from a rude, thinking it was one of the footmen, began at instinctive recognition of the principles of cause once to spar at him with his feet. and effect, associated with the fact that it was “You little devil !” roared Stephen, enraged young Nick's half-holiday.
at this last insult. “Get up at once, and I'll He was wont on Wednesdays to return home break your neck for you!” a little before one o'clock, with idle hands and a Young Nick sprang to his feet, and was inmind free from care, and therefore ready for the stantly collared by the angry Stephen and dragged reception of temptation; in fact, anxious to be into the study. He realized in a moment the tempted.
danger of the situation. He was hurried thither Let us do the boy justice. On this occasion because there was the choice collection of canes he thought that Stephen had left the house, after to which he had himself only the day before inthe awful row, for good, and was not coming troduced Gilbert Yorke. “How swift," observes back any more. Otherwise he would have pro- the poet of Olney, “is a glance of the mind !” ceeded with more discretion. Thus, he would In a moment the boy remembered every cane in not certainly have whistled so loudly as he ran the rack, and wondered whether he should be up the steps which led from the garden entrance operated upon by Penang Lawyer, by Malacca into the hall; nor would he, on arriving in the cane, by Singapore Persuader, or by Chinese hall, have followed up the rich and creamy notes Tickler. For the moment he gave himself up of his whistling - he always chose those airs for lost. Yesterday's defiance would be also which most madden and drive wild the adult reckoned in. A caning, grim and great, was imhearer-by singing the same melody at the top minent. It was, however, only for a moment of a voice which was not by nature musically that young Nick abandoned hope. Stephen soft, and was strident in the upper notes.
dragged him across the room, making swiftly for Had he known, too, that the great-coat hang- the sticks. There was not an instant to be ing in the hall belonged to his Uncle Stephen wasted in reflection. Suddenly Stephen found and not to the family doctor, who, he presumed, the boy's legs curled round and mixed up with was at the moment in conversation with his his own. He staggered, let go the collar of his mother, he would have hesitated before drawing prisoner's jacket, and fell heavily, tripped up by from his pocket a small case containing needles the craft and subtlety of the artful youth. The and thread and sewing up the lining of the next moment there was a mighty crash, as the sleeves. This, however, he did lightly, but with heavy table-cloth, with all its books, inkstands, judgment, about six inches above the cuff, so that papers, cigar- cases, and heterogeneous litter the arm on reaching the obstacle would have ac- which piled it, was dragged down upon him. quired a certain amount of momentum. Nic- When, after a few moments of struggle, he disolas had not yet studied dynamics, but he knew engaged himself and stood upright among the that the greater the force with which a human débris, the boy was gone. What was worse, he