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happen to have in my trunk up-stairs. Appear below; speak in broken English; and, in short, do as you please-while I will assume your clerkship for a few days, till we get tired of the farce. What say you, Allan ?''
"But, Ralph, I am not equal to it. My will is good enough," replied Allan, while an appreciative smile played about his mouth; "but I shall commit a thousand blunders, and expose myself. Besides, they'll recognize the imposture."
"No, that is impossible," urged Ralph. "I went from home a slight youth. I return in excellent health, and with figure well developed. They wouldn't know me."
legacy of my poor Kate. But I am glad you are like your mother, my girl. John Balfour has one comfort left yet in all his gloominess."
"But, uncle, I wish you wouldn't sit down here so often; I wish you would mix with the company to-night; come!"' pleaded Caroline.
"Not I," laughed her uncle, hoarsely. "Why, girl, they wouldn't know me up there! Men know John Balfour in his counting-house; Mrs. John Balfour knows me when she asks for a hundred pounds or so, to squander in finery; my girls know me, too, when they tease me for pin-money, or the means to give a party-but that's all! Mrs. John Balfour and her daughters drive out daily in their carriage; they attend concerts and balls; they give entertainments; but poor old John Balfour is never seen there. Little one, I begin to think that John
"But I know nothing of the thousand forms of town life," replied Allan. "The broken English would not be so hard, for I read French all one winter with Kate at home, who has been to Southwell, to school, a couple of quarters; but I should blunder into some mistake or other with that crowd down-Balfour is only a silent partner in this concern!" And again stairs. I am a fool, cousin Ralph; for I don't even know what that queer-looking custard is on the waiter yonder, which that James called 'Charlotte Rooste,' or something like it; ha! ha!"
"Give us your hand again, my dear fellow!" exclaimed the delighted Ralph, stifling a laugh. "I like it. A man who is never ashamed to confess his ignorance of what he doesn't understand, and keeps a sharp 'look-out,' will get along well enough. No matter about the forms. I'll risk you for blunders with those keen eyes of yours. If you make a mistake, and find folks inclined to laugh at you, put it through boldly, and that'll turn the laugh on them; call everything by outlaudish names-ridicule everything that's Stockingtonian-use your eyeglass incessantly-criticise the ladies-pause knowingly before the pictures-talk about the old masters,' and 'when I was in Rome or Florence,' in short, put on airs, and 'swell' extensively, and you'll do. I shouldn't be surprised if half the ladies below were flounced, rouged and crinolined purposely for you to-night, Allan. But come; we musn't stand here all night, or aunt will forget etiquette, and insist upon hastening up here to welcome her dear nephew.' Come up into my room to arrange the metamorphosis, Allan."
"WHAT is it, uncle John? Why do you sit here in this gloomy
"Why, my little girl, what sent you down here? To try and comfort uncle John ?-to share his gloomy thoughts, eh?" And John Balfour drew her into his lap, with an effort at a smile, which, somehow, failed to dispel that harassed, troubled look from his forehead. "Why, little one, you are young and pretty!" he continued. 'You should be up-stairs, dancing and enjoying yourself with the rest of 'em, and leave an old man, who is fool enough to sit down here, alone to his dreariAnd he put her from him, speaking ness, as they do. Go!" bitterly. But Carrie came back; and the tone was very womanly in which she said, "Now, uncle John, don't talk so! I'm sure I don't think you would, if you knew how sad it made me feel. It makes me very sad to see you so unhappy." And she laid her cheek caressingly to his.
that strange laugh—a mixture of sarcasm and pain-floated out through the dim room, where the old man sat often till midnight over his papers.
Oh, uncle, don't! I wish I could do something to make you feel happier !" said Caroline.
"Well, don't you?" he replied. "Who steals down here every night to make me my tea, to warm my slippers, and then creeps into my lap, and looks into my eyes with the eyes of her mother? Is it my daughters, either of them? No, Carrie, I have no daughter but you!" And the sadness of John Balfour's voice would have moved you to tears. "Child, I did not look forward to see this day, when, forty years ago, I slung my little bundle over my shoulder, and, bidding them all good-bye, and kissing my mother and Katy in that old farmhouse, set out to seek my fortune.
"I have worked and toiled. I married a poor girl-poor, but ambitious; and we worked and toiled together till fortune smiled on me, and I grew to be a rich man. But riches don't always bring happiness, child-no, no! Poor Joseph went up to town a year or two after I, got into business, was sent to India by the firm who employed him, became a partner, and accumulated an immense fortune; but he didn't live to enjoy it left it all to Ralph. No!-wealth doesn't always bring happiness. I'd give half I'm worth to enjoy life as Charles does at Wethersfield, in the old homestead. I fairly envied him last summer."
"Uncle, why don't you buy a farm there and leave this business, that worries you to death?" asked Caroline. "It would be so beautiful among the hills and flowers, and those grand old trees."
The old man's eyes kindled. "The same hills where Katy and I used to play in childhood!" he said, enthusiastically; then his kindling eyes faded. It's impossible, child; I am chained to it here-the ceaseless treadmill of trade. Once I might have done it; but not now."
"Why, uncle, everybody calls you a very rich man, and I'm sure it wouldn't cost so very much to buy a nice little farm," exclaimed the girl.
And John Balfour whispered something strangely exciting in girl, do you know?'' his niece's ear, if one might judge from the start which Carrie gave, and the bitter, hopeless expression that settled on his own compressed lips.
"No, not so very much; but if
"Oh, uncle, is it so bad as that?" she asked. "Why don't you tell them of it? I'm sure they would economise, and do anything to prevent it."
"Economise! girl; the word is unknown in Mrs. John Balfour's vocabulary. Once, when she was Henrietta Stevens, the milliner, when we went into housekeeping in a narrow street,
For a moment the old man pressed her cheek silently to his own withered one; then he spoke in a softer tone. "Ah, Caroline, you grow every day more like your mother! Just so she used to steal up behind me, put her arms round my neck, and kiss me, when we were children together in the old farm-and up three flights of stairs, it might have been; but not house. Ah, that's a long way back in life's journey, girl! We two loved each other best, I used to think, of all who were born and cradled in that old Staffordshire farm-house. "Caroline-Kate we always called her was my darling and my pet; in all my boyish troubles she was my comforter; and though she was full six years younger, yet I looked upon her as a little woman-and her advice was always a woman's advice, too. Poor girl! she wasn't any too happy in her married life; and, after the loss of many children and husband, she died in my arms, leaving one orphan-you, Carrie-the sole
now, when she lives in a mansion, and keeps her footman.
THE CHAIR AND " PEGGY-TUB.'
Thomas had hardly telegraphed (beg pardon, conveyed the telegram) to his mistress, and that lady, after impatiently awaiting the close of a quadrille, conveyed to her daughters the intelligence of the late arrival of the vessel and the train, ere a tall, elegantlooking (?) young man, dressed in the extreme of the Parisian mode, and with his dark sun-browned (foreign suns!) features half concealed by a pair of black whiskers of fabulous dimensions, and moustache of the same glossy hue, made his appearance in the doorway, and was announced by the bland Thomas loudly, as "Mr. Ralph Balfour!"
"Ah, ma chère aunt!" exclaimed the new comer, as
AN ETHIOPIAN MOTHER-FROM AN ANCIENT NUBIAN SCULPTURE.
the delighted Mrs. Balfour hastened forward to receive him, bestowing a most cordial embrace and welcome, "ma chère madame, so happy to return to my native land and your hospitable maison," and with a profound bow (a posture a trifle between a dancing-master's and a kangaroo's, as he expressed it afterwards to "uncle John's clerk" pro tem.), he kissed the tips of Mrs. John Balfour's gloved fingers.
"Ralph certainly has grown good-looking," thought Henrietta, as she came near her mother's side; and the pensive Adelia, leaning on the Count Mattini's arm, exclaimed enthusiastically, "Oh, it is consin Ralph, returned from France and Italy! He certainly is distingué looking. I must present
THE DUTCH CUSTOM.
him to you," and she languidly advanced to meet him.
"Ah, ma chère cousins!" exclaimed the young man, gaily, "Ralph Balfour is but too delighted to find himself recognized, and to see you looking so well, so parfaitement charmante. Ah, give me the roses and lilies of my own clime to those of foreign lands." And then, bowing to the count, whom Adelia had duly presented, he offered his arm to Henrietta, and was hastened away for presentation to other guests.
"Roses and lilies! what a delicate compliment!" mentally sighed the fair Adelia, viewing her own colorless face in a glass; "lilies! how refined-how sweet; and I'm sure Henrietta is looking un
commonly well to-night; that pale amber tones down her, ening into the half-suppressed, half-audible titter, more cutting color marvellously! Don't you think the atmosphere exces- than an open laugh could possibly be. sively sultry, count? It is deliciously cool in the conservatory, and the flowers are all so beautiful and sweet," she added aloud.
"I zall be only ze too happie to promenade le signorina to ze conservatoir," replied the count Mattini, in a shocking mixture of broken English, French and Italian, as he led her thither. "Ah, zis is superb, délicieuse, cara mia," he repeated boldly, yet in a tone of tenderness, to the credulous girl at his side. "Maria, it puzzles me; I can't see a trace of Ralph Balfour in this freshly imported popinjay the Balfours are going into ecstacies over," said Frank Chamberlain to his sister, a fair, golden-haired, blue-eyed young girl on his arm.
"No more do I, Frank," was the reply; "yet the form is his, and the eyes-you know Ralph always had fine eyes, Frank. But Henrietta is bringing him this way. He does not recognize She will introduce him."
"Well, you jest try that game agin, and I'll knock you into the middle of next week!" came in a stentorian voice from the hall, where Thomas, in great perturbation, was vainly endeavoring to prevent the appearance of the country cousin in his mistress's elegant drawing-room.
"Pretty work, this," came in still louder tones, "to find aunt Henrietty and the gals gettin' up a great swarry all on my account, and you, you con-found-ed fool, tryin' to keep me out o' sight, 'cause I ain't finified up like some of these ere Stockington chaps! Hoity toity, as if Charles Balfour's farm, settin' aside the crops and live stock, wouldn't fetch more any day, under the auctioneer's hammer, than half o' these fine folks are worth. Better not let me catch you at your tricks again. Stand aside, and let a feller pass." And a pair of thick boots strode boldly forward over Mrs. John Balfour's Persian carpets. "Heaven! what a shocking creature!" ejaculated an overdressed belle, raising her eyeglass to survey the figure clad in a suit guiltless of covering either wrists or ankles, and surmounted by a wig which seemed guiltless of all combing for many a day. "Fool! what will our guests say! I wish John Balfour's relations were all sunk in the Red Sea!" rushed through Mrs. Balfour's mind, if not to her tongue's end, as she rushed forward, endeavoring by a politic move to meet the intruder on the threshold, and thus conceal him from the full view of her guests.
But no; the enterprising new comer was not to be turned aside. With fearfully long strides, he had already advanced rapidly, stopping short just under the chandelier to avoid contact with his aunt's sweeping voluminous robes.
"How d'ye do, aunt Henrietty? How d'ye do? Maybe ye'd given me up to-night; but ye see the train was behind time. Howmsomever, it's all right now; how's the gals? and how's uncle John?"
"Heavens! what a shocking mistake! It papa's new clerk— only a poor country youth whom papa took pity on and hired, and no relation at all, I assure you," exclaimed Henrietta, red with anger and mortification. "That stupid Thomas! how dared he allow him in here? Pray go and get him away, cousin Ralph. It will be so annoying! what will people say?''
"Oh, I shall die! Do, pray, have James order him out, ma," whispered Adelia (whom the loud spoken words had interrupted in listening to a very eloquent avowal of love from Count Mattini in the conservatory). "He will mortify us all to death, ma!" she whispered more faintly in the maternal ear. "Keep him away; he's coming!"
"Well! I'm dredful glad to see ye, gals. Why, if Henrietty don't look fresh as a full-blown piony, e'enabout as healthy as any o' our Wethersfield gals. That summer on the farm done ye good, didn't it? But Deely, she looks kind o' ailin' loik. What ails ye? Don't eat slate-pencils nor bricks, nor nothin', do ye, like Mirandy Pike does, to make her look delikit? I think ye'll have to go up to old Wethersfield, to get your color agin. They say exchange o' pasters make fat calves; so you'd better try it, cousin Deely, while I stay in Stockington and larn to be uncle John's clerk "
But the elegant and travelled Ralph Balfour (pro tem,), pitying their confusion, came to the rescue : "Pon ma honnaw, the gentleman does his part capitally! Il est un bon masquerade, a capital masquerade, madame," he said, addressing the distressed Mrs. Balfour. "A capital masquerade!" he repeated, looking round boldly and defiantly upon the company, as if to say, "Let who dares contradict me!"
"Oui, it is un capital zing. I saw ze same in Italie at ze Anglice ambassador's reception," promptly added the Count Mattini.
Frank Chamberlain and his sister caught at this new turn of the tide, and came to the rescue; for both were too goodnatured and thoroughly well-bred not to feel indignation towards those who evidently enjoyed the discomfiture of their hostess.
"Yes, my dear fellow, a capital masquerade, but no go here," said Frank, laying his hand heavily on the rustic's shoulder. "It won't do for you to come here and enact a part, while no other guest is in costume, I protest, my dear fellow."
"Will you come with me to the next room? There are some beautiful engravings I should like to show you," asked Maria Chamberlain, with ready wit, laying her hand on his arm.
"Well, don't care if I do," he replied. "I like picters. But, Jiminy! it appears to me that aunt Henrietty and the gals ain't any tor glad to see me. P'r'aps, ma'am, you could tell a feller where to find uncle John?''
"Certainly," said Miss Chamberlain, stifling her own amusement, as she conduc'ed him to another apartment. "Here, Robert, show this gentleman to Mr. Balfour," she said, firmly, to a lad in livery. "Or will you look at the engravings first?''
"Oh, cracky! no matter about the picters, now," he replied. "I'll wait till some other time. Much obleeged to ye, though, ma'am. I'm in a terrible hurry to see uncle John, you see." "Then good evening, sir," said Maria, turning away. "Maria Chamberlain, please return to the drawing-room, and listen to the story of Ralph Balfour's European travels," came in a low but distinct voice to the girl's ears.
She turned quickly; but the rustic, with slouching gait, was following the servant over the threshold.
"How singular! that was the voice of Ralph Balfour himself," soliloquised Maria Chamberlain, in wonder.
"Ah, my dear Miss Chamberlain, whither have you spirited the Great Unknown?" maliciously inquired a supercilious, fashionable exquisite, with a derisive laugh.
"That is my secret," boldly replied Maria. "So long as this little joke has proved such an absolute success as not only to amuse her guests, but really to put too great a tax on the good nature of our hostess, I think it best to let it pass. Mr. Balfour, I believe I promised you my agreeable company for the polka which the band are just striking up."
And so Maria Chamberlain's tact and presence of mind diverted the attention of the company. Mrs. John Balfour and her daughters rewarded her with expressive glances of gratitude; and during the remainder of the social evening, if the advent of the " young farmer" was referred to, it was as "splendid fun," "a good joke," "a capital masquerade," performed by some privileged gentleman guest; while some even went so far as to affirm that it was sanctioned by Ralph Balfour and Frank Chamberlain, who seemed on excellent terms the remainder of the evening.
But some there were who, discussing the affair over their late breakfast next morning, voted the whole thing as "shockingly vulgar," even expressing their belief that it was a bonâ fide mal-à-propos happening, and ended with a sneering tirade against parvenus in general, and the Balfours in particular.
"I SAY, my dear fellow," exclaimed Ralph Balfour (in propriâ personâ), coming softly into Allan's room, after the household was still-"I say, 'this is a capital masquerade.' 'I saw ze same zing in Italie at l'Anglice ambassadeur's ball.' Give us your hand, my dear boy. Charles Mathews could not have A smile ran round that splendid drawing-room-confined to sustained his part more admirably. Ah, you're an honor to the smile in the well-bred, but among those who, from innate the Balfours! French perukes are becoming to your style. Do vulgarity or pique, wished to mortify their entertainers, deep-you know, Allan, that nature turned you out a handsome man?
They do get up some fine-looking specimens of the human race in these Catsback Hills. Stand up here, and let me look at you fairly. Fine form, well-turned features, handsome mouth and expressive eye--a trifle brown; but that's easily accounted for. That comes of exposure to foreign suns; ha ha!" And the two young men laughed long and merrily, as they stood beside the cheery fire. "I'd like to carry the joke a little further, with your concurrence, Allan,” resumed Ralph. "It can be easily done. You must give out, early in the morning, that an engagement to meet a friend, or something of the sort, takes you away for a few days. There is a friend of mine up at the Duke's Arms, who is going on to York for a week or so and I'd like you to bear him company, and look around a little before you settle down to business. Never mind the damages; that's my look-out; you're at my disposal, you know, for a week or two, cousin Allan. Meantime, I'll attend to your clerkship, and make it all right with uncle John, if he suspects anything; for he questioned me rather closely, last night, about 'brother Charles,' and the old homestead.'
Well, if it's your wish to carry the affair further, so be it,'' replied Allan; “but I should decline if I were to remain here, for to-night I was nigh betraying myself several times. There were people here, it seems, who had known Ralph Balfour before his foreign journey; and I was treading on pretty ticklish ground, I tell you, cousin. But didn't you come the yokel' rather strong, Ralph ? You found 'uncle John,' I take it?" "Perhaps," replied Ralph, with a smile. "Yes, I found uncle John; and I found, too," he added, a moment or two after, during which he gazed dreamily into the glowing fire"I found, too, the sweetest face I have looked on this many a long month-the sweetest face hidden on uncle John's shoulder down there in his little office, counting house, library or what not? Who can she be, Allan? for I am sure she is neither chick nor child of aunt Balfour's; and of course she isn't governess, or any one in that situation. I saw her but a moment, for she glided away, after looking-rather amusedly, I thought at my outré rig; while uncle John, I suppose, forgot to introduce her; and I-well, somehow-I couldn't bring myself to think of asking further than the name I heard him utter when he said, 'Good-night, Carrie.'
"Carrie! Why, Caroline Lindsay !-your cousin and mineaunt Kate's only daughter! Uncle John took her here at aunt Kate's death, last September," replied Allan. "Then she is pretty. I haven't seen her since she was a little thing."
longer than Jacob of old did for Rachel, so I could but win her; but you should remember, cousin Ralph, that your position in life and mine are widely different, and that a poor clerk and a rich and beautiful heiress are widely separated. I know my position better, Ralph."
Ralph Balfour eyed keenly and appreciatingly for a moment the stalwart, youthful and handsome figure standing there in the firelight, and the light of purpose, love and pride beaming in the dark hazel eye.
"Allan, you are one of nature's noblemen!" he said, enthusiastically, offering his hand. "By your noble manliness and resolve you shame me into action. You show me that there is something better than to lead an idle, inane life; something better than to be the spoiled child of fortune. I approve of your determination to win your way in the world, as I mean to win mine henceforward. Another week shall find us both at our poɛts of duty; and, Allan, uncle John shall appreciate you. And remember, this, too, my boy; Maria Chamberlain I have known from childhood for a true-hearted, impulsive girl, and I know now that she is, unlike half these flaunting belles, a whole-souled woman. I do not think she is engaged, and worth and effort may win her yet; at least I hope so. Good-night, Allan." And while the farmer's son stood that night thinking in the waning firelight of that luxurious chamber, while the pulses of the busy town were hushed without, Hope and Love, sisters twain at birth, but, alas! parted rudely oft-times in the great world strife, hovered together in the vantage-ground of his
And then Allan reverently drew forth the little Bible from his trunk, and read a chapter, thinking of the loved homestead nestling down where Needwood once was; then sleep, serene and white-winged angel, settled down over all.
CHAPTER VI. AND LAST.
SCARCE Six weeks from the day on which we first looked into the stately mansion in Stockington, a nicely-arranged elopement, in which affair the elegant Count Mattini and Adelia Balfour were to be the principal actors, was providentially
nipped in the bud" by the timely arrival of a detective from London, who politely requested the presence of the slightly confused Italian noble (?) to answer a charge, not only of already being the husband of one legal wife, but of embezzling moneys of his employer-a respectable merchant-to a great extent.
And also, in less than one year from that period-worn to a very shadow by his exertions to "keep aboveboard" meantime
cantile world, John Balfour found himself on the verge of suspension, then that kind old man's credit was saved, and his position made secure, by the timely loan of a portion of his nephew Ralph's safely-invested fortune.
"Beautiful as an eastern reveric, as some one has poetically expressed it," said Ralph, enthusiastically. "But this is the first intimation I ever had of her presence in this household.-when in the general panic that reigned throughout the merThey wrote me by every steamer-carefully chronicling every event in their little world of fashion-all about Mrs. This and That's party, Madam So and So's fancy ball-even the arrival of every opera singer, but no word of little blue-eyed Carrie Lindsay, the sweet child, the lonely, homeless orphan. Aha! Mrs. John Balfour, my worthy lady aunt! aha, my elegant lady cousins!" But the contemptuous curl that wreathed Ralph Balfour's lips expressed more forcibly than words could have done what remained unsaid. 'Allan," he added, after an interval of silence, and laughing lightly, "I used to think I'd come back and marry Maria Chamberlain. She was a sweet girl of sixteen when I went away; but that's past, now; albeit she did kindly offer to show me the picters' to night. I saw her conversing gaily with you, Allan." "Yes--fair, ladylike and gentle,' said Allan, in a slow, musing tone, as if communing with memory, and pleasant memories, too, judging by the slight flush on his cheek.
"I declare, my dear fellow, if I don't believe you're smitten! Good! capital! I like it!" exclaimed Ralph, delightedly. "Don't blush so! I don't believe Maria's engaged! I should love her dearly for a cousin. I hope you'll win, my boy."
"Ralph Balfour," said Allan, while the flush on his cheek, breaking up through the tint of brown, became painfully red, "this is strange language to a poor country farmer's son on the eve of his advent in a great manufacturing town, where he will make only one of the thousands toiling on, like himself, in the hope of a brighter future. I deny nothing," he added ingenuously; "I admit that she whom I met to-night was all beauty, goodness and gentleness; and I would serve for her
"I must insist upon this, uncle John," urged Ralph; "you have been to me a father from my youth up; and the example of your patient, untiring industry has not been lost upon me. Now, when I have become a man in action as well as in years— now, while the exercise of my rapidly increasing profession is more than sufficient for my own wants, you will not refuse me the keen happiness of appropriating a portion of my accumulated inheritance, towards propping your firm above this crisis that is shaking the commercial world to its centre. And especially uncle John, you will not now refuse to make sure what I know you have thought much of these declining years of your life-a farm in old Needwood-a farm close by the old homestead,' where, at your will, you can retreat to pass the remnant of your days in quietude and rest."
"God bless you, Ralph!" said the old man. "You have lifted a heavy load off my head-a load that for nearly a twelvemonth has been bowing me to earth. I will accept what you offer, not as a gift, but as a loan. Trade must come up again; the wheels of business, now clogged, will turn again. Ralph, I feel twenty years younger, already!" And old John Balfour's face looked less care worn than it had for many a long day.
"But, uncle John, I fear I am not so unselfish as you deem me in this offer," said Ralph, somewhat nervously. "The fact is, uncle John, I want good security-not notes of hand, or bill