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Huss died suddenly in the night before the day where, with his poor brain full of some dreadful appointed for torture, the same kind of disap- hallucination.” pointment would have been felt by the judges. "It may be, Alison,” said Gilbert, willing to Nor was there so much consolation as might be encourage her. “It may be so, but then you at first supposed, in the thought that her prey must consider how we have advertised him, how had been cut off in all his sins. Some, no doubt. minutely we have described him, and how the She would have preferred to think that he was papers have talked about it. Why, I should say alive still and in prison, clad in convict garb, fed that half the people in this country know that on convict fare, doing convict work. A hard, Mr. Anthony Hamblin is missing, and what he revengeful woman.
is like. The partners began by offering a reward of one hundred pounds; now they have made it a thousand. Why, what a chance for a man
who thinks he recognizes the missing man in a CHAPTER VIII.
“Then,” said Alison, “he must be someHOW THE PARTNERS MADE A PROPOSAL. where among the other half, the people who
have never heard of him. Gilbert, do not disThey began by advertising. That was the courage me," she went on, her deep eyes filling only thing to do. They advertised everywhere with tears. “To think that he is not dead, but in newspapers; outside police-stations—side by living; to dream at night that his step may be side with the proclamations of a hundred pounds upon the road near the house; that he is coming reward for the discovery of murderers; on hoard- back to us all again—it fills me with comfort and ings, wherever the eye of passer-by might be hope: but to think otherwise would-oh! I must caught. For there was one slender chance. think that he is living. When they brought home Alison told how her father had left her in the the coat of Joseph to his father, Jacob rent his morning distrait, troubled about something. clothes and mourned. Yet Joseph was not dead, What could he be troubled about? Everything and presently he was restored to his father and had gone well with him; his business interests his brethren. O Gilbert, some day my father will were flourishing; his investments were sound; wake up from his madness, and come back to us he had no annoyances, unless it was that caused all
, in his right mind.” by his visitor: he was at peace with the only This speculation found no favor with Stephen. member of the family who had ever troubled His brother was dead. That was a fact which him.
admitted of no doubt. The partners whispered a word to each other; Certainly, the silence which followed the adtheir wives and daughters whispered it to Alison. vertisements boded little hope for Alison's theory. Sudden madness. Such a thing was unknown in There was hardly any attempt at response. Here the Hamblin family, but not unknown in the his- and there a letter came, mostly ill spelt and ill tory of humanity. Such a thing was possible. written, stating that the writer knew such a man It was almost the only explanation possible, ex- as was described, namely, with long brown beard, cept that of death. Anthony Hamblin might of whom he knew nothing else. There was that have been robbed and murdered. That crime, single fact of a beard-could he be the missing also, is unhappily not unknown, but rare in Lon- Anthony Hamblin? And, if so, the advertisers don: he could not have been robbed and shut would bear in mind the claim of the writer to up. Therefore he was either dead or insane. the reward. But this sort of clew led to nothing.
In a story told by one of our best English Either, then, Anthony Hamblin was dead, or he novelists, a man, formerly the skipper of a ship, was living, as Alison suggested, among that half loses his reason, but retains his sailor instinct, of the English people who had not even heard and ships himself before the mast as an able of his disappearance. Again, a gentleman, who seaman. This story came back to Alison's mind, dated from a public-house in the High Street of and she dwelt upon it.
Islington, wrote once offering confidently to pro“He left me," she said to Gilbert Yorke, “my duce Mr. Anthony Hamblin, if the advertisers poor dear left me trying to look cheerful: but he would first advance ten pounds for preliminary was not. He was troubled in his mind. Pain- expenses, leaving the rest of the reward open ful recollections of things long since forgotten until the restoration of the missing gentleman. had been revived in his mind. He could not And another worthy wrote, calling himself the sleep that night after our party; he could not representative and guardian of a boy, whose take his breakfast; he was uncertain in his man- father was Anthony Hamblin. This philanthroner, and went backward and forward. Gilbert, pist, on being interviewed by a clerk from the I am sure that he is not dead, but living-some- solicitor's office, first offered to square the claim
for fifty pounds down, and then, being threatened quire by courtesy, with never a title to your with conspiracy, abruptly bolted.
back. At last, Alison consented to put on the garb Stephen's courteous and considerate deof mourning. But it was in deference to the meanor was due mainly to a grievous doubt wishes of her cousins. For herself she would which constantly afflicted and possessed him. have preferred to continue in the belief that the Panurge was not a greater martyr to a doubt missing man was not dead but living, and would than Stephen Hamblin. return some day and ere long to his daughter's Consider his position. He had been for near
ly twenty years dependent on his brother. AnStephen, naturally, remained in the house. thony never offered to make him any allowance. That course suited him perfectly-first, because He seemed perfectly to realize that Stephen's he was short of ready money, and free quarters pretense at business, financing or broking, was meant great economy; secondly, because the only the shallowest form; and there was the unfree quarters were excellent, meaning wine of the derstanding between them that when Stephen very noblest crus, cigars of the finest brands, wanted any money he was to write for it, or call and a really noble cook; thirdly, because it gave for it, and have it. him an opportunity of producing a favorable im- Only one man, Mr. Billiter, the family solicitpression on Alison, which might eventually be or, knew of those loans, though the partners useful; and, lastly, for a purpose of his own, suspected them. which was conceived later on, by whisper of the Anthony being dead, who was going to have devil, and which rapidly grew upon him and be- the honor of maintaining Stephen? came an overmastering passion.
There was absolutely no form of labor by He was not a lady's man, He was not alto- which he could earn his daily bread; there was gether at his ease with his cousin Flora Cridland none by which he meant to try. He called himand his niece Alison. He rejoiced, therefore, self an indigo-broker, but he had done that for when he found that they preferred an early din- twenty years and more. He sometimes dabbled ner with the boy, and allowed him to dine alone in small financing schemes with his cousin Alin the study. The breakfast-hour, again, was derney Codd, but that would not do for a perearly. He would breakfast in the study. After manent prop. And his private account in the breakfast he inquired ceremoniously after the bank was next to nothing. health of his niece, whom he seldom saw. He The great doubt, therefore, was, how Aninterfered with none of the arrangements of the thony had disposed of his property by testament. house; went to town every day after breakfast, And really, considering everything, Stephen came back most days to dine by himself, and seems justified in being anxious. after dinner either read a French novel or put up He might have satisfied himself upon the his feet, smoked cigars, drank brandy-and-soda, point by the simple means of calling at the soand reflected. The quarters were so good that licitor's office. There were reasons, however, he had not the least intention of turning out. why he hesitated. In the first place, there were
If he met Alison in the house, he was gravely associations of an extremely disagreeable characdeferential, sympathetic, but not obtrusive; if he ter connected with the one room in that firm's met his cousin, Flora Cridland, he was more offices into which he was always shown. It was sprightly, but kind and thoughtful; if he met the room of the senior partner, Mr. Billiter. the boy, he would pat his cheek gently, and ask, Stephen, although now in his forty-fifth year, with a sigh of real feeling, how he was getting was afraid of that old man. It had been Mr. on with his Latin verses. He gave no trouble, Billiter's duty to confer with him in connection assumed no air of command, and gained every with a good many episodes of his career which kind of credit, solely because he did nothing. he was desirous of forgetting. Now, Mr. BilliAnd, really, when one considers how reputations ter, a man with old-fashioned notions about reare made, whether by statesmen, governors of pentance, had an unpleasant way of recalling provinces, able editors, or original dramatists, these little matters. Again, Mr. Billiter was the one is inclined to think that the art of doing no- only man who knew the secret which Stephen thing has hitherto been most extensively prac- and Anthony kept between themselves—the fact ticed and most grossly underrated. Had you, of Stephen's absolute dependence on the elder dear reader, never done anything except follow brother. in a groove, you would doubtless have been ere At first he thought that he might be disposnow F.R.S., C. B., C. M. G., K. C. B., K.C.M.G., sessed from his self-constituted post of guardian, and perhaps a baronet. Whereas, in conse- in favor of one of the cousins, presumably Auquence of your perpetual activity, you are now gustus or William Hamblin, appointed by the no better than myself, plain Mister, le sicur, Es- will. But time passed on, and no such intimation was sent to him. Had, then, Anthony actu- and shame very disagreeable to a high-toned, ally appointed him the guardian of his daughter? whole-souled prodigal. It seemed incredible, considering the history of He held Stephen Hamblin in especial dislike, the past.
And yet he was Anthony's only as a prodigal of five-and-twenty years' standing, brother.
which was really extending the rope beyond all And even if he were appointed guardian, precedent. Stephen was irreclaimable. It was there was the anxiety about the future. What hard to look on, and see the waste of so much provision, if any, had his brother made for him? money on so bad a subject. Surely some; otherwise he would have literally He was in appearance a shriveled-up man, to beg his daily bread of his niece. The facts between sixty and seventy years of age; a thin, might be presented, he thought, in graceful, pa- small man, with gray hair, still strong, and thick, thetic, and attractive form. But influences might pointed chin, keen bright eyes, and a sharp nose. be brought to bear on the girl, against which he He received Stephen without offering to shake would be powerless. There were his cousins, hands with him, coolly nodding, and going on the partners; they were not friendly. There was with the papers before him. Stephen took a that young fellow Yorke, always about the place, chair by the fire, and waited. Presently the old no doubt anxious to hang up his hat in the house man jerked his head sideways, and said, without and marry the heiress. Of course Alison's hus- taking the trouble to look at his visitor: band would not desire to diminish his wife's in- “This is a bad business for you, Stephen. come by a permanent charge. Yet how could What do you propose to do?" he live under eight hundred a year, or so? Why, There was a twinkle in his eye, caught by his dinners cost him three hundred a year, at Stephen, which seemed to mean that, the worse least. Anthony had never counted what he the business turned out, the better he would be bestowed; or, if he did practice that meanness, pleased. had the grace to hide it. How should he per- Then he pushed away his papers, leaned back suade Alison that nothing under a thousand a in his wooden chair, with his elbows on the arms, year would adequately represent his brother's and looked round. affection ? And what if the will contained a “That depends upon my brother's testamenprovision ridiculously small ?
tary dispositions,” said Stephen, reading the He wrestled with these doubts for six weeks twinkle in that sense, and tentatively. and more. During that time the advertising "I am coming to that presently. Meantime, went on; and they all kept up some show of you see, you are left without any resources at all. pretense that perhaps Anthony would return un- And to work you are ashamed.” expectedly, recovered from that hallucination in Stephen laughed. He was resolved on keepwhich Alison believed so firmly.
ing his temper if possible. One day, however, Stephen received a letter “Can I dig?” he asked, “or shall I beg ?” from Mr. Billiter, the family solicitor, officially “When I recall,” continued this disagreeable and stiffly worded, requesting the honor of an old man, “the various occasions on which you interview at a stated time.
and I have conversed in this office" Mr. Billiter, who perhaps knew more family “Thank you.” Stephen made an impatient secrets than any other man of his profession in gesture; “I have not the least wish to be reLondon, was not, as we have said, popular minded of them again. Great Heavens! is it imamong the prodigal sons with whose career he possible for you to forget those old schoolboy was acquainted. He had a great, a profound scrapes ? " dislike for scattering, wasting, idleness, and de- Quite," replied Mr. Billiter; unless the bauchery of all kinds, being himself a man of schoolboy repents and reforms. Of repentance great common sense, holding a just view of the I have as yet seen no trace. I fear you have proportion of things, and incapable, at all times never experienced that salutary discipline. ” in his life, of being allured by the imaginary “If I had, you would not have heard of it,” pleasures of riot. Having this dislike to the do- said Stephen, his face growing dark. ings of Comus, he showed it in a certain con- "Nay, nay; I should have had ocular demontemptuous treatment of those prodigals who stration. We know the tree by its fruits.” came to him to know the intentions of the fam- This was an unpromising beginning. The ily; and whether he gave them a check, or told lawyer, doubtless for some reason of his own, them they were to be pitchforked into some un- went on to recall in detail, one after the other, fortunate colony with a ten-pound note, or an- the whole of his previous interviews with his visnounced another act of forgiveness, he put the itor. When he had quite finished, Stephen's face facts so plainly that the youth, whether repentant wore an expression of wrath suppressed with difor not, went away with a sense of humiliation ficulty, which would have delighted his enemies.
“I believe,” he said at last, " that I have now You have put the case plainly. It is a perreminded you of everything that has previously fectly correct statement, and the situation has passed between us. If I have omitted any im- been before my eyes for six weeks. Now for portant point, it is from no desire to spare your your proposal.” feelings."
“Of course my statement of the facts is per“That I can quite believe,” said Stephen, with fectly correct. Remember, then, your position.” a ghastly grin.
“I want to know, however, what my
brother's “But from forgetfulness. I am growing old, will directed.” and some of the details may have escaped my “My dear sir, the surviving partners feel so memory."
strongly in the matter, that, had his will named “So much the better,” said Stephen.
you as guardian and trustee, they would have * All this, however," the old man went on, opposed your appointment in open court as an “is a preamble. I am now coming to the real unfit person for the trust; and then those facts business of the day. I asked you to call upon would have come out which are better hidden." me because"
"I am much obliged to my cousins,” said "I thought,” said Stephen, "you were going Stephen. "They are, and always have been, to confine yourself to the pleasure of reviving the my very dear friends. I am very much obliged business of the past. That is a part of our in- to them.” terview which has always afforded you so much “You ought to be, when you learn what they gratification."
propose." “Not at all, Stephen, not at all. I merely * But
brother's will—what does that say? sketched out some of the past because it is as · Why is it not produced ?" well that men should know sometimes the light “Because, my dear sir” (the lawyer spoke in which others regard their actions. Fortu- very slowly and distinctly), “your brother Annately for you, I am the only man in possession thony, in spite of his great wealth, could never of all the facts. Yet the partners in the house be persuaded to make a will at all. He always know some of them."
put it off. There is no will.” "Would you mind proceeding straight to the “No will !” Stephen stared in amazement ; point?" Stephen cried, impatiently.
'my brother made no will ?" “I am doing so."
“ None. There was the chance that some Here Mr. Billiter pushed back his chair and other firm of lawyers had drawn it up for him. rose. A standing position gives one a certain We have searched his private safe at the office; advantage-stature has nothing to do with it. we have searched his papers at Clapham,"
“Do you think, Stephen Hamblin," he asked, After I went there?” shaking a judicial forefinger, “that a man of your “The day after, while you were away. All antecedents is a fit person to be the guardian of business documents were removed by myself, a young lady?"
and brought here. The papers left in his desk “Do you mean that I shall rob her, or ill and drawers are nothing but old accounts, diaries, treat her, or beat her with a stick, or murder her, and letters. There is no will." then?"
“No will ?" Stephen repeated. It was not “That is not an answer to my question, till afterward that he waxed indignant over the which is, are you a proper person for such a want of confidence which caused the partners to charge?”
remove the papers. "I really think that I am not called upon to No will; consequently no bequests for any answer that question.”
Do you understand your position? Miss “ You will see directly why I put it. I only Hamblin is sole heiress to the whole property.” want you to acknowledge the justice of the pro- Stephen remained silent. This was, indeed, posal I am about to make you."
the very worst thing that could possibly have “Oh! you are going to make a proposal ? happened to him. Well, I am ready to listen.”
You now understand the general situation," “I must remind you that you have no money continued the lawyer, sitting down again, “and and no income, that you were dependent on your are prepared no doubt to meet my proposal in a brother until his death, that you have drawn upon favorable spirit?" him of late years for a very large amount-many “What is your proposal ?” hundreds every year—and that, unless you get " It is one which was suggested by Mr. Ausomething out of the estate, you will be reduced gustus Hamblin, in the first place, and put into to the painful necessity of working or starving. shape by me. It is this. Miss Hamblin wants Your cousins in the firm, as I dare say you know about fifteen months before she comes of age. very well, will certainly do nothing for you." That is a very short period of guardianship. We
are willing, so as to avoid all suspicion of scan- he got there, he had walked himself into a good dal, that you should be nominally the guardian, temper. Why, what did it matter what the old and that letters of administration, if they are man said ? Five hundred a year, not so much granted at all during the minority, shall be taken as he had always managed to get out of Anout in your name. We, however, shall relieve thony, but still something; still a good round you of all your duties. You will have nothing sum for a bachelor, and for a year at least the whatever to do with the management of the es- run of the fraternal cellar. Not at all bad. tates. You will continue to live at Clapham, if He sent word to Alison that he would like you please, and until your residence becomes dis- to see her if she was quite disengaged. tasteful to Alison ; and for your trouble, whatever “My dear," he said, taking her by the two trouble the arrangement may cause you, we are hands-he had never called her before by any prepared to offer you the sum of five hundred other term of endearment—“my dear, I have topounds. If Miss Hamblin consents, as her cous- day been with your poor father's lawyer. They ins will advise her to do, that sum will be con- have invited me, with the concurrence of your tinued afterward for your lifetime as an annual cousins, and for the brief space which remains charge upon the estate, subject to good behav- before you attain your majority, to act as your ior.”
guardian. I hope you will not object to me.” “What is good behavior ?" Stephen asked, He still held her two hands, gazed sentimenlooking as amiable as an hyena.
tally into her eyes, and went on before she had “ If you raise money upon it, or sell it, as if time to reply: it were an actual annuity of your own, or dis- “ We have not seen so much of each other grace yourself in any way, the allowance will be as we might have done in the old days. That stopped.”
was entirely my fault. My partial estrangement “Have you anything more to say ?” added from you, and from the rest of the family, was Stephen, rising.
my fault altogether. But your father and I were “Nothing more," said the lawyer, pleasantly. never estranged. One heart always. Perhaps I “Let me see—we have recapitulated the facts, took offense because certain youthful peccadilloes have we not?”
were too severely visited. Perhaps I showed of“Oh, yes; you have raked up all the mud.” fense too readily, and have been forgiven with
"And I've given you to understand my opin- difficulty. But never mind. Those things are ion about your conduct.”
now like old songs. You have no fear of any “ Yes; you've certainly told me that."
more wild oats, Alison ?” “And-and-yes, I really think that is all.” “Not at all, uncle."
“In that case I can go, I suppose.” Stephen She smiled in his face, as he held her hands. put on his hat. “Is not a very remarkable She was too young to see that the light in his thing, Mr. Billiter, that at every interview I have eyes was unreal and the smile on his lips forced. ever had with you I should desire vehemently to " Then that is settled. You will do what you kill you?”
like, go where you like, have all you wish to “ It really is remarkable, Stephen Hamblin," have. That will be my sole care as your guaranswered the lawyer, with a hard smile; "it dian. That is my idea of looking after you for shows how admirable are our laws that you are the next fifteen months or so. When you come deterred from carrying your wish into effect. of age, you can turn me into the street, and sit -By the way, you accept the conditions, I sup- down to enjoy, all the rest of your life, this
wealth of your father. Happy girl! I wish I “Yes, I accept; of course I accept. If you was only twenty. And I wish I was going to had offered me a hundred a year, I must have have, like you, a quarter of a million of money!" accepted. I suppose the outside world will not
This part of his speech, at any rate, was sinknow. Alison will not know, for the present."
“ I see no reason why any one should know. Augustus Hamblin does not talk. And, Stephen"—just as the door was closing—“what a
CHAPTER IX. very sad pity it is that you never could run straight! When are you going to begin repent- HOW STEPHEN DREAMED A DREAM. ance? Time is getting on, and the rope will be quite played out some day."
This good understanding was celebrated afStephen slammed the door and strode away, ter the English fashion. Stephen dined with the with rage tearing at his heart.
ladies in the evening. Nicolas was permitted to He walked all the way, because he was in assist at this little banquet, which was, the boy such a rage, to Clapham Common. By the time observed with pleasure, the first cheerful meal