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dred pounds out of his own capital of three It is, indeed, one of the most remarkable cirthousand pounds. It will be seen that the mar- cumstances attendant on success, that, while all gin for safety in case of a fall was small. the world envies the successful man, not one in
There was no loss; Jack's correspondent was a hundred considers how he himself might win right; there was a large profit, for silk went up. that same success by following parallel lines.
Jack was prudent; he let the profit remain in As for the Birch-Tree Tavern, Jack Baker, the bank, continued to live frugally, but next time as we have seen, did not forsake that festive he asked for a credit of thirty thousand pounds, place. Luncheon was to be had there as well which was also granted him.
as anywhere else, and perhaps a wrinkle might That operation again was successful.
be picked up among those inventors of schemes Another and yet another succeeded. Jack's and contrivers of companies. And it was not name became favorably known. Jack's capital unpleasant for a man of Jack Baker's coarse was trebled. His ventures were larger.
fiber to be received with deference; a respect He took larger offices and engaged more due to the man who has made money was paid clerks. He had made already a good business him in full measure, and even ostentatiously; of the speculative kind, which report magnified the newest schemes were explained, the latest into a great business of the safe kind.
ideas were aired, for his benefit; the house, so He next gave up the modest lodgings in to speak, played up to the capitalist ; Jack Baker, Bloomsbury which had hitherto contented him, who had made his own fortune, was ready to took chambers in the West End, joined a new make that of everybody else. When will men proprietary club (where he made the acquaint- understand that he who wants to make his forance of Stephen Hamblin), took to playing whist tune must do it by himself? there, and of course, because his temperament was cool, and his memory good, and he never Stephen Hamblin did not commit the error forgot a card, always won; bought a horse and common among vulgar practitioners of his school. rode in the park; remembered that he had a He did not, that is, confide his case to the hands second name, and wrote on his card, “Mr. J. of a petifogging solicitor. He took it to a firm Bunter Baker.” In other matters he lived ex- of the utmost respectability, told the whole exactly as he had always done, without the least act truth, and only asked that the affair should desire for the society of ladies, conversing with be pushed on as rapidly as possible. This done, Polly, Lotty, and Topsy aforesaid, and raising he felt easier. The fight would come off; the golden visions in the minds of those young per- sooner the better. Let it come. About the issons; and even continuing on affable terms with sue he felt generally, though there were times of his old associates, still mostly clerks, and envi- doubt, pretty confident. ous beyond measure of a success which their He dined at the club with Jack Baker. After want of pluck made impossible for them. At dinner, in the smoking-room, he talked darkly his West-End chambers he gave little dinners, to about what was going to happen. Presently he which he invited his new friends, Stephen Ham- : opened up the matter more fully. blin, the manager of the London, Southwark and “What I mean," he said, “what I meant yesStepney Bank, and others. The wine he gave terday is, that I am myself the claimant to the them was choice; after dinner, it was not un- whole of my late brother's property." usual to have a little lansquenet, baccarat, loo, or “Phew!" Jack Baker whistled. “The whole ? perhaps an écarté pool. But Jack Baker was Why, it is—how much-a quarter of a million ?" too wary to lose his head over cards, and gener- More,” said Stephen. “We have now ally came out of the mêlée a winner.
found out that he never married. It is, of To these dinners, it is needless to add, Mr. course, hard
the girl.” J. Bunter Baker did not invite his former friends. "Oh, hang the girl !" Jack replied, with his It was enough that he should stand them drinks ready laugh. "Number one comes first. And, at the bar; it was, indeed, all they asked. Tears of course, if it isn't her own, she can't have it. rose to the eyes of those honest fellows when When do you come into possession ?" they thought of the magnificence to which one 'That I do not know. My lawyers will ask of their number had soared. Like Baker père, for letters of administration. The other side deceased, they were satisfied to contemplate suc- may possibly ask.for time, in order to prove the cess from afar, without dreaming that it might marriage, or they may choose not to fight. I be their own case. But then they never had that can not tell." vision of the night—they never heard that voice “Oh-h!” Jack's face fell.
“They may which said, “Whether you wish to be president choose to fight. And suppose they win?" of a South American republic or a successful Stephen lay back in his chair, crossed his merchant, one thing only is wanted --pluck." legs, and laughed gently.
“My dear boy, how can they win, when I breaking with your family, supposing, as you hold in my hands proof-not documentary proof, say, they consider the thing as an act of hostility. which would satisfy a court of law, but moral I believe, on your own showing, that you are proof—that my brother never was married at bound to win. And I don't mind risking someall ?"
thing. Still, it is a risk. You will have to pay “Have you? Then that's all right, and I for the risk." congratulate you with all my heart."
"Certainly." They shook hands.
“ I will lend you a thousand, Hamblin," he “You have not done so badly yourself, went on slowly, “on condition of your paying Jack."
me back two thousand on the day that you get "Well, no," he replied, stroking his chin. your brother's estate.” “Not so very badly, considering my opportuni- Stephen laughed. ties. But a quarter of a million! Mon Dew! “Only cent. per cent.,” he said.
“ Never as the French say. Who can compare with mind. I don't want any one to know how my that? What I complain of, however, is having affairs have been dipped of late. I accept, Jack. anything to do at all. Why weren't we all born You can make it a couple of hundred in cash, rich? Why don't we live in the good old days and eight hundred in a three months' bill. My when they had slaves, and all they had to do was dear boy,” he added with feeling, “when I do to enjoy life?"
come into my brother's money we will have such “Perhaps,” Stephen suggested gloomily, “we a caper, you and I together, with a friend or two, might have been born slaves ourselves.”
as you shall remember all your life. Hang it! “That," Jack acknowledged, “would have One must be five-and-forty to enjoy things propbeen the very devil.”
erly." “Now, Jack," said Stephen, leaning forward, and speaking seriously, “I have told you of my prospects. Let me tell you something more.
CHAPTER XVII. This is, of course, perfectly confidential.”
HOW THE BATTLE WAS BEGUN. The club smoking-room was quite empty at their end of it.
ALDERNEY CODD, the news of Stephen's “Go on, old man."
claim having reached him, fell into a doubt and “ Anthony's death came at an awkward time quandary the like of which he had never before for me. He and I were in a good big thing to experienced, because he saw that he must take gether, though his name was not mentioned, and a side. For quiet people, trimmers, friends of it's come to grief. My money is locked up here both camps, undecided thinkers, uncertain reaand there. I have lost a devil of a lot lately; soners, and philosophers who change their views and, in fact, I want to raise money until I get with the wind, it is most grievous to have to take possession."
a side. Suppose, for instance, they were to dis“Security?"
establish the Church ; suppose there was to be a “ First of all, the estate itself. If that won't civil war between republicans and royalists; supdo, any amount of bonds and scrip."
pose your paternal uncle, from whom you had It is almost needless to say that Anthony had expectations, held one view firmly, while your never speculated with Stephen in his life, and maternal aunt, from whom also you had expecequally needless to say that the only “scrip” in tations, took the other side forcibly, what then, Stephen's possession consisted of “pictures," reader, would your own feelings be? Such, howchiefly from Honduras, certain South American ever, was Alderney Codd's position. On the one republics, and sundry bogus American railways, hand, his long and early friendship with Stephen; got up by pirates on both sides the Atlantic.
the memory of a thousand youthful freaks and “I would rather not go to my banker's,” extravagances; the habit acquired in youth, and Stephen went on. "Can you help me to a pri- still maintained, of regarding Stephen as an advate lender - anybody-a friend of your own viser, and, in a sense, his superior; the familiariwould do ?"
ty of his associations with him—these were on Jack nodded, and went on quietly sucking his one side ; on the other were his respect and his cigar in silence for a few minutes. Then he loyalty to the Hamblin name, gratitude to the made up his mind and spoke.
memory of Anthony, duty to his daughter, and " I don't suppose," he said, “ that a sen- the belief that Stephen's position was a wrong sible man like yourself, and a man of the world one. like yourself, would go in for a claim which He was torn with conflicting emotions. If you weren't pretty sure of carrying through. he considered the thing from a practical point of Nothing short of certainty would justify you in view, it was difficult to discern which was the safe side to take. For if Stephen gained the ought to support Anthony's daughter. Well, day, and he should be found in the enemy's the feeling does you credit. Support her by all camp, what then? Or, if Alison should be vic- means. But not to the extent of injustice, Altorious, and he were a partisan of Stephen, with derney. Don't you see that the estate, since what face could he greet her again ?
there was no marriage, is all mine? Can you He was finally determined by perfectly disin- blame me for merely taking what is mine?" terested considerations. The sight of Anthony's “Yes,” said Alderney, plucking up his spirits, coat hanging before his eyes determined him. “I blame you for bringing scandal upon the
He lost no time in acting upon his resolution. family. What need to rake up the past? Even First, he repaired to Clapham, where he sought supposing your allegation to be true, which I do an interview with Alison and tendered his alle- not believe, what good does it do to let all the giance; this once offered and accepted, he felt world know it? Why, I hear they offered you easier and more comfortable in his mind, and five hundred a year for life, solely for taking sought Stephen at his chambers.
charge of Alison for one year. I'd have done Poor Alderney! He had been so many times that job, Stephen, for a quarter of the money. to those familiar chambers; he had spent so Five hundred pounds a year!” many evenings in them; he had smoked so many " A splendid sum, isn't it?" Stephen sneered ; pipes, cigars, and cigarettes; he had imbibed in "a fair equivalent for ten thousand a year. Don't them so prodigious a quantity of intoxicating be an ass, Alderney. Scandal on the family, too, drinks; he had been always welcome there. And because one of them is proved never to have now he was about to say that he could never married. Rubbish !” come there any more. Stephen, he knew, was “Then I will say more, Stephen. I think not, from a high moral point of view, a good that respect for Anthony's memory, if not conman. Quite the contrary. But then Stephen sideration for his child, ought to have prevailed was always a friend of Alderney's, and one for- upon you to prevent this misery from falling upon gives a great deal in those whose friendship has her.” *lasted for thirty years or so. Perhaps, too, his Alderney folded his arms firmly as he took his own standard of morality was not of the highest. stand. And Stephen was one of the Hamblins, to know Stephen, as usual, lost his temper. whom was to gain a certain distinction at the “Very well,” he said ; “I've heard what you Birch-Tree. Now, all that fabric of friendship, came to say, and now, if you have nothing more pride, and distinction was to be rudely shattered. to say, you may go. Of course you understand,
"Come in, Alderney,” cried Stephen in his Alderney, that any little assistance which I could most cheery voice; come in, man. I haven't have offered as the head of the Hamblin family seen you for a month, have I ? Come in." will be withheld if you choose to ally yourself Alderney turned very red.
with my enemies." “The fact is, Stephen," he stammered, “I " I understand," Alderney replied sadly, thinkhave come—have come—in fact, to tell you that ing of his poor hundred pounds a year, and wonI have heard of your claim, and that 1-in fact dering how that little income was to be supple-I entirely disapprove of it."
mented for the future. “Good-by, Stephen; "Do you, Alderney, and why?"
shake hands before I go, old man. I am more “Because Alison is Anthony's daughter; be- sorry than I can tell you to be obliged to take cause out of gratitude-"
this line; but Anthony and his daughter must Stephen's face clouded over.
come first. You will change your mind yet, and Come, Alderney ; don't be sentimental, and withdraw your claim.” don't be Quixotic. No one would be such a fool "I will do nothing of the kind." as to let go a quarter of a million of money—his “Then, Stephen, I hope to God that you will own, too."
be defeated! That would be better for you than “But it is not your own: it is Alison's." to win, and to feel all the rest of your life that
I say that it is my own. I say that Alison's you were eating the bread of Anthony's orphan.” mother was never married.”
Stephen made an impatient gesture. “ You can not prove it."
"Come, shake hands," Alderney repeated, “ It is for her, on the other hand, to prove holding out his own. the contrary. If there was a marriage, it can be "No," said Stephen, turning his back upon proved with the greatest ease. But there was him; “I only shake hands with my friends." none."
Alderney Codd withdrew.
His life - long For an instant Alderney wavered.
friendship with Stephen was at an end. More Stephen saw his look of irresolution.
than that, he reflected with bitterness that Stephen “I suppose,” he said, “ that you feel you held in his hands the whole scheme for the for
mation of the Great Glass Spoon Company, by has almost stopped. I have not engineered a which he had hoped to make another eoup. Well, new company for a twelvemonth.” Everybody it could not be helped. No doubt Stephen would smiled; Alderney's companies were well known. float that company and do well with it.
"I am comparatively free, and shall be glad to For reasons which will presently appear, Ste- give whatever services I can to the cause of my phen did not float the company.
benefactor's daughter. I never knew her mothAlderney next went into the City, and called er; but we may say, I am sure, in the words of at the office in Great St. Simon Apostle. He the poet, ‘Matre pulchra, filia pulchrior.'” could not have arrived at a more lucky moment, Alderney had touched the right chord. Anfor a great family council, called together in haste, thony Hamblin, the worthy head of the house, was just meeting to consider the best course to had been, in one way or the other, a benefactor pursue. The Dean was there, the Colonel was to everybody in the room. The Dean thought there, the two partners, the family lawyer, and of days before the Deanery came to him, when Gilbert Yorke. Alderney sent in his name, and his boys would certainly not have gone to Marlwas invited to join this Hamblin parliament. borough but for Anthony; the Colonel thought
The proceedings were opened by Augustus, how his two boys, in the Engineers and Artillery, in the private office of Anthony Hamblin, de- would certainly never have got to Woolwich ceased, in a little speech.
had it not been for Anthony; the two partners “You all know," he said, “that our cousin thought of numberless acts of kindness in the Anthony left nc will ; you all know that he main- old days when all were young together; even the tained a profound silence on the subject of his old lawyer owed something to this universal benmarriage. We have now to tell you, Dean, and efactor, this dispenser of kindliness, this secret you, Colonel, that Stephen Hamblin, asserting doer of good deeds. A hush fell upon them for that there was never any marriage at all, is about a moment; then the Dean cleared his throat, to claim the whole estate. We have asked you which had gone suddenly a little husky. together in order to confer on the best manner “We must accept your offer with gratitude, of meeting that claim. Mr. Billiter is so good as Cousin Alderney. Yes, yes, our benefactor's to give us the benefit of his legal opinion. Mr. daughter must not look in vain to her cousins Gilbert Yorke has as good a right to be present for help." as any of us, for he is engaged to Alison—"
“ I concur," said William the Silent. “Pardon me,” said Gilbert, reddening to the “I have just come from seeing my cousin roots of his hair, “ Alison will not hear of any Stephen," Alderney went on. “I thought it engagement, she says, until she can meet the right, before breaking off the friendship which world without having to blush for her mother." has always existed between us, to go and make
"That does her credit,” said Augustus, and some sort of appeal to his better nature. I the Dean applauded. “Very well, cousins, we know,” he added, with a blush, “that our friendthink that an effort may be made to establish the ship has been marked by many a youthful folly, fact of this marriage; and of that fact, I am which one may repent of, but which one-onesure, no one here can entertain the least doubt.” in fact-always looks back to with some degree No one did.
of pleasure.” The Dean looked professionally “Mr. Yorke has very kindly offered," he went grave. “I told him then that I would have on, "to give up his whole time for the search, neither part nor lot with him in this matter." which may possibly be long and tedious. He “Very good," said Augustus approvingly. abandons his practice at the bar—"
“When I considered," Alderney went on, “Pardon me again,” said Gilbert, “my prac- " that I actually had on at that moment the very tice is nothing. I have no practice. All I give coat which Anthony lent me, I could have no up is the waiting all day long in chambers for other feeling but indignation and astonishment. briefs which never come.'
And, in addition to the coat”-he drew out a “Well,” said Mr. Billiter, with a twinkle of leather pocket-book full of papers—“I had with his ferret-like eyes—"well, there's a very pret- me, come back to me after many days, an actual ty fortune depending upon the success of that I. O. U. of my own, given by me to Anthony search. Don't fire up, young man; lovers never twenty years ago_twenty-years-ago"-he redo think of fortunes. We all know that; and peated this with great pathos—" for five-andMiss Hamblin is a most beautiful and well-con- twenty pounds." He handed it to Augustus ditioned young lady, and we give you credit for with pride. “Stephen found it among the paentirely disinterested feelings."
pers. It is not often that one's good deeds re“ Allow me, too,” said Alderney, “to offer turn in such a manner. Gentlemen, I give you my own humble services. In the present de- my word that at this moment I only regret that pressed state of the City, my usual financial work the document represents so small a sum. I wish
it had been for ten times the amount. However, der the high opinion we had formed of his virtue at the time I did my best."
and accept the consequences. You, gentlemen There was a beautiful confusion between self- -he turned to the partners—"you are more interest and the finest kind of generosity which deeply concerned than even Alison herself.” moved all present.
• We are,” said Augustus. But the House “Very good,” said Augustus. “Now let us would stand even such a shock as that which consider the position from a common-sense point you contemplate.” He meant if Stephen should of view. Here is Mr. Billiter to correct us if we withdraw his money. are led astray by an over-natural prejudice in “Then we return to the question," said Mr. favor of poor Anthony. We have this fact Billiter, “What are we to do?" against us: there is not anywhere the slightest Nobody spoke for a time. Then Alderney mention of marriage or love-affair in Anthony's lifted up his voice : letters or diaries. Yet the latter are kept with · Advertise!” he said. “Go on advertisthe greatest care, and in the most minute de- ing!” tail.”
Augustus groaned. “ As there must have been at least love- “We advertised everywhere when Anthony passages of some kind,” said the Colonel, “ does was drowned. One would like to avoid the not that prove intentional omission?”
agony column of the ‘Times' if we could." “I think it may. We need not, therefore, be There is no possible avoidance of publicity,” discouraged at the outset by this omission. As said Mr. Billiter. “The Court of Probate will the Colonel says, there must have been love- be asked for letters. We shall have to oppose. passages, probably letters. These are all prob- We shall have to state why we oppose. The ably destroyed; concealment was intentional.” court does not sit with closed doors. There will
Men in my profession,” said Mr. Billiter, be a great deal of talk about it before we have “are not likely to believe blindly in anybody. done, I fear. Of course it is disagreeable to quiet It is the seamy side which we generally have people to be talked of in every newspaper in the placed before us. At the same time, I knew kingdom." Anthony Hamblin from his childhood upward. Alderney was already at work with paper I seem, like yourselves, to have known him most and pencil. intimately—say from hour to hour. And if I " It is nothing less than horrible,” said Auwere going to choose a man in whose virtue and gustus, “that our name—the name of Anthony honor I would believe, that man would be An- Hamblin-should be mixed up in such a vulgar thony Hamblin."
difficulty as an uncertain marriage.” “I concur," said William the Silent, for the He spoke as if the fierce sunlight of fame second time.
should shine upon every action of a Hamblin “Having said so much,” Mr. Billiter went on, and make it known to the people. “I come to the next point. Are we ready to “ Nothing in the world like an advertisement," carry this investigation throughout ? Are we said Alderney, working away. “You spend a prepared for whatever may turn up? Of course, guinea in the “Times,' and another guinea in something will. It is impossible that a child the 'Guardian.' All the parish clerks in all the should be born, a mother die, a man marry, parishes in the country are immediately set to without leaving some trace or other, which we work in hope of getting the reward. You ought shall be able to light upon after careful investi- to stimulate them by offering a high reward. gation !Are you prepared, young man "— he Now, then, will this do?fixed his bright eyes upon Gilbert, who bore the “ • Two HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD!' shock without Ainching —“to face all conse- That is not too much, is it? No! *Two Hunquences ?”
dred Pounds Reward.—Wanted, the Certificate “I am !” Gilbert replied. “The truth can of Marriage of Anthony Hamblin, merchant of not be so bad for Alison to bear as the present Great St. Simon Apostle, City of London, and uncertainty, when every chance allusion, every Clapham Common, with some person unknown. thought, any accident, puts the doubt before her, It is believed that the marriage took place in or and makes a fresh demand upon her faith in her near London, about twenty to twenty-three years father. Let us, in Heaven's name, learn the ago. The above reward will be paid on receivtruth!”
ing a certified copy of the register.' That sounds “Good !” said the Dean.
well,” said Alderney. “Two hundred pounds Very well, then," observed Mr. Billiter dry- will make them work. But that is not enough. ly, “we are all agreed, we think, that Anthony We must have another advertisement to find out Hamblin will come well out of it; we hope he Alison's mother. Here it is: will. If he does not, we are prepared to surren- “Two HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.