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the furniture; "my only room. Here I live. blin, filled with shame and dismay, looked upon My bed is in that cupboard ; at night I drag it the boy with suspicion. Was his sacrifice to be down."
worthless, after all? Did it depend solely on the The boy examined every portion of the furni- discretion of a child so volatile? ture minutely, and then turned to his uncle. “ Living at the East End,” said Nicolas, as if
“ You ok thin, Uncle Anthony. Your ts desirous to change the subject, “ is all very well are gone at the heels; your coat is shabby—the for a man who, like me, takes an interest in the cuffs are frayed; your hat is seedy; and you Docks, in indigo-stores, and shipping; but for don't look happy; and-and-"
you, Uncle Anthony, who never put on a canvas Here this remarkable boy choked, and seized coat, nor wore a cap to keep off the blue dust in his uncle by the hand, and burst into a fit of sob- your life, I can't understand the attraction. All bing and crying.
very well if a man wanted to write a novel of “Don't, boy!” cried Anthony Hamblin, much dull life, and came here to see what dullness more deeply moved by this passion of grief than really means; but you don't write novels, and he had been by the boy's bounce and arrogance. you used to like cheerfulness. Or if you wanted “ Don't, Nicolas; crying will do no good. Tell to find out how poor people lived, and what a me, tell me about Alison."
beastly thing it is to be poor; but you never Nicolas stopped crying almost as suddenly as wanted to know that. Silver-spoon babies never he began.
do. The taste, I suppose, is so different from “Every man," he said presently, by way of pewter that they don't feel a yearning for change, apology to himself for his weakness, and while nor a curiosity to taste any other kind of metal. still mopping up the tears, “has his weak point. And yet if you didn't like the Docks, didn't care You find that out, uncle, when you've got an for poor people, and weren't curious about their enemy, and then you can stick pins into him all ways, what was it drove you away from home ? day long."
It wasn't any row that I know of. You and AliA thought struck him here. He went to the son hadn't quarreled, had you?" door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket. Anthony shook his head dejectedly.
“Now," he said, “the door's locked. You “ As for me," the boy went on, stroking his can't get out till I let you, and I don't intend to chin, “I can't remember that I ever said or did let you till I know what this little game means.” anything that could induce you to run away. I
He sat on the table, one leg dangling and the was always kind to you, I believe." other resting across it; an elbow on the leg, and "Always," echoed Anthony, without the ghost his chin in his hand. He had taken off his hat, of a smile. and with his white eyebrows, the knowing light “ Then,” said young Nick, getting down from in his eyes, and the smile of pride which he nat- the table to get better vantage-ground, standing urally felt in the situation, he looked more like an with his feet well apart, his hands rammed down imp than seemed possible in living boy.
into his pockets as far as they would go, and his Nicolas,” said Anthony, sitting before him shoulders raised—this gave him an expression of like a culprit, “you have, by accident, discovered wonderful sagacity, combined with the deepest a great secret."
cynical knowledge of human nature—“then, Un“ Under Providence, uncle, as the old lady cle Anthony, I am sorry to say that there remains would say, I have."
only one supposition. It pains me to say it, but I “ Is it possible for a boy to keep a secret?” must. Why does a rich man, with a comfortable
“I have lived in his house,” said Nicolas, ad- home and people who are fond of him, suddenly dressing the furniture, which was very unsympa. bolt, leaving his coat behind him too, as if he was thetic in its scantiness—“I have lived in his Joseph in the pit, to prove that his goose was alhouse for thirteen years and more, and he doubts ready cooked and his bucket kicked? Why, my power of keeping a secret !"
I say? O Uncle Anthony ! who would have · Boy,” said the man risen from the dead, thought it of you? Because HE'S DONE SOMEsternly, “no fooling! This is no matter for THING — I don't know what SOMETHING! laughing. Can you and will you keep this se- Somebody must have given you the straight tip cret?"
in good time. You thought you had better bolt “I can, Uncle Anthony," replied young Nick, so as to avoid the row." with a sudden change of manner ;
I can and I Anthony made no reply. Nicolas resumed will !"
his seat on the table. There was something reassuring about the If you like to confide in me," Nicolas went boy's manifest resolution of honestly keeping the on, “I'll give you the best advice in my power. secret. He enjoyed it too much, in fact, to re- Perhaps it isn't too late." veal it, at least immediately. Yet Anthony Ham- Still Anthony was silent; but he rose from
his chair, and began to walk up and down the and be off out of the house; then he ups and room.
tells Alison that she wasn't your heiress after all, “ Everything,” said Nicolas encouragingly, because you never were married." “can be squared for money. Give me money “What?" cried Anthony, with a sudden hot and the name of the party, and I'll undertake to flush on his cheek. square him."
"Steady, steady! Wait a bit. I thought Anthony laughed. He was at last moved to when it came to the old lady and me being orlaugh. The boy's importance and confidence dered into the street that would fetch you as nowere too absurd.
thing ever fetched you before. It shows your “ You, boy! What could you do?" proper feeling, uncle, and I like you the better
“Now, here's prejudice again !” he expostu- for it. Let me go on. Then he goes to the lated. “After knowing me intimately for thir- partners, and tells them that he-Uncle Stephen teen years, my uncle can't trust me for a confi- —was the real heir to everything ; and then he dential piece of work because I've got a jacket goes to the Court of Probate, and demands leton instead of a coat! I thought better of you, ters to carry on the estate. 'O Jeminy !' says Uncle Anthony."
the judge-crafty old man that !— here's artfulAnthony stopped in his walk, and regarded ness!'-said he'd be blowed if he'd write him his youthful adviser meditatively.
any letter at all—said he didn't believe you were “Boy,” he said gravely, “I can not tell you dead, but only gone away somewhere on a lark, the reasons of my disappearance ; that is impose as had happened to his own brothers more than sible. Nor can I ever reappear again ; that is once—said Alison was to go on enjoying the esequally impossible."
tate, and eating as much as ever she possibly “Quite impossible ? O Uncle Anthony ! could, till such time as it was proved, first, that surely money will square it !”
you were really dead and gone, whereas here you “No; money can not do everything." still live and kick; and, second, that Alison was Can't anything be done?"
not your heiress, whereas everybody always knew “Nothing."
that she was." “Think of Alison, uncle-think how she's “ Tried to rob Alison of her inheritance !" cried her eyes out."
murmured Anthony, with livid face. “The scoun“ Poor child ! poor child !"
drel !" He turned his face to the window, and there “Now, you see, uncle,” pursued Nicolas, was silence for a space.
" here we are in a cleft stick, on the horns of a “Think of ME!" said Nicolas. “Think of dilemma, and in a quandary such as you never my ruined prospects if you don't come back. thought was coming out of it, I'm sure. What's How do I know that Mr. Augustus will take me to be done?” into the House?”
“Tell me more about Alison." “I think he will," said Anthony; "at any " Alison's very jolly,” the boy replied—“eats rate, I hope he will. Nothing can be done, Nico- hearty and sleeps well. That fellow Gilbert las. You have found me. I shall go away from Yorke is always about the place since Uncle here, for fear that some one else may find me. Stephen first showed the horns. He seems to But you must keep the secret."
consider that Alison looks pretty in black. I “I will keep it if you promise to let me know don't. That is to say, you know, it's a matter of always where to find you. Let me write to you ; opinion. A dark girl wants the relief of a bit of and I say, uncle-O Lord ! what a game we will color. However, Alison is a fine girl, dress her have—what a game! I didn't tell you how Un- how you like ; and, if she'd wait for me, I might cle Stephen is going on."
think of her in ten years' time. After all, she'd “No. What is Stephen doing?"
be gone off a good deal by the time I was fourAnthony stopped now to listen.
and-twenty. Worst of girls, that is no last.” “He-well, first of all he came to Clapham, “Then she doesn't fret much. She has forand took up his quarters there; smoked your gotten her father.” cigars in your study, slept in your bed, and took “Well, she does—that's the uncomfortable your place at dinner. Oh, it was beautiful at part. You never know when she won't break the go-off! My poor Alison ! my dear child! out again. Spoiled a really good pudding yesterMy dear Flora !'—that to the old lady, you know; day by crying in the middle of a plateful—her and to me it was, “Nicolas, my boy-Nicolas, my pipes always burst when you least expect it. son,' till we began to think that Black Stephen And then the old lady chimes in. A man can't hadn't got horns and a tail, after all. Wait a bit, enjoy his meals if he's rained on that way. It's though! All of a sudden his manner changes. all your fault. If we'd had a regular funeral, First he orders me and the old lady to pack up with mourners and hat-bands and that, as we
had every right to expect in a respectable family, “Second, when you come back to the House we should have got through our crying and because, of course, you will; Uncle Stephen a-done with it, once for all. How's a man, I can't be endured much longer-you will take me should like to know, to feel comfortable over his into it. I'm not a fool, Uncle Anthony" (the grub when first it's Alison, and then it's the old boy became here almost solemn in his earnestlady, crying in chorus? Might as well sit down ness)—“no albino ever was a fool yet, so far as to dinner, with your umbrella up, in a shower- universal history-books (with dates) can inform bath. It was a roll jam-pudding, too!” the class. I'm always trying to learn things that
"I wish I could trust you,” said Anthony, will make me fit for City life. There's nothing laying his hands on the boy's shoulders. “Will in all the world I would rather have, after a bit, you promise not to betray me?”
than a partnership in the House. Not at first, "I promise faithfully, uncle. I will say no- you know; I am content to work my way right thing, on two conditions, which I'll tell you pres- up from the very bottom, only let me have the ently. But are you going to let Alison be dished chance." out of all her money?"
“My dear boy,” said Anthony, his kind eyes No, I am not. That is the one thing, the softening, and laying his hands on the lad's only thing, that will force me out of my seclu- shoulders, “I shall never be able to give you the sion. That is the one thing. If Stephen wins chance. I shall not be there." his case, he will find that he has reckoned with- “But promise, uncle." out-his dead brother.”
“I promise, if I am there." "You will come back again, in that case, and “That's quite enough," said Nicolas, resumin spite of everything?
ing his habitual manner. “Some fellows-sus“I will, in spite of everything."
picious fellows—would require a stamped agreeNicolas breathed freely. This was good ment. Between man and man, I
say, if men's news, indeed. In any case Alison was safe. words are worth anything, a verbal agreement is And if Alison was provided for, then he himself enough.” would not be forgotten. The bright eyes be- “ You may come to see me sometimes, if you neath those long white eyebrows twinkled with like," said Anthony. “Come on half-holidays,
when no one suspects you. Come and tell me " Very well, uncle. Then we understand one about Alison." another. If things go wrong, you'll turn up at "I will, uncle," said the boy; "and about the the right moment, frustrate his politics, make him old lady and myself. Oh, I'll keep you lively! sing out like bricks, and confound his knavish And you shall tell me how you like writing-mastricks. But, I say, why not tell me just now tering. And remember your promise — fain where you were married ?-just for curiosity, and larks—no bolting! Here's your key." because we are both enjoying the same jolly Nicolas shook hands with head erect, but his game.”
hands were a little shaky, and outside the house “No, Nicolas, I shall not tell you that. I he put his knuckles into his eyes for a moment. shall tell you no more; and now you must go." Then, because a boy in the street who was pass
"Well, if you won't let me square the other ing by laughed at him, he chucked that boy's hat side, and if you won't tell me all about your mar- into a passing cab, and gave him one to rememriage, I suppose I must. Still” (he got off the ber him by on the left ear. The necessity of retable again, and put on his hat slowly), “I don't covering the cap prevented the boy from retaliathalf like it. · You have promised to interfere at ing, although he was bigger. After that, Nicolas the last moment, just when Uncle Stephen thinks went on his way in a serene and even joyous he's going to grab it all. That's satisfactory so frame of mind. Presently, thinking over the far; but how do I know that you won't bolt convivial side of the new discovery, over all the yourself the moment you are out of my sight?" possibilities of this delightful game of hide-and
“ If I trust my secret in your keeping,” said seek, and how it would light up and illumine the Anthony, “is not that a sufficient guarantee?" summer months, and how it would eventually
“Well, no," said Nicolas ; " because the truth glorify and immortalize himself, he grew more is that you didn't trust it. I found it-I took it; than joyous—he became rapturous. He could you couldn't help yourself."
no longer walk, but began to dance. He danced “ Well—well!” said Anthony impatiently. behind and beside nervous old gentlemen, so that
“Now, then, for my conditions. I keep your they were fain to stop and beg him to pass on; secret, Uncle Anthony, faithfully, if you promise he danced beside grave matrons and elderly sinme two things. They are—first, don't bolt." gle women as if he were their frisky son ; he
“I will not, unless I have cause for suspect- mingled in the ranks of girls' schools, and danced ing you."
among the girls, as if he were a frivolous pupil ;
he chanced upon a pale and unhappy two-by
CHAPTER XXIII. two belonging to a commercial academy, and danced among the spiritless boys as if he dared HOW ADVERTISING PROVED A DISAPPOINTthe usher to box his ears; he overtook a heavilyladen and very stout old lady going home from shopping, and danced all round her, whistling The advertisements were all put into the paloudly the while. This figure, if it is executed pers, and the cousins waited impatiently for the properly, with the back presented to the victim's result. face, and plenty of double-shuffle, is really ex- There were no results at all after a week. pressive, and disconcerts old ladies excessively. "They are searching the registers," said GilIt was a favorite feat, I believe, with the Mo- bert. hocks and Scourers of old. This old lady, for They waited another week; there were no her part, was so much put out by it that she results still. Give me time to look through the dropped all the things she was carrying—her London registers,” said Alderney Codd hopebag, her basket, her parcels, her gloves, her fully. shawi, her umbrella, her spectacles, and her Alison shook her head. She was not santhimble—anything that could possibly tumble guine of success, even in her brightest moods, from her. These spread as they fell till the when she continually thought about that story of whole pavement was strewed with the wreck. the ship's captain who went off his head and She is still, I believe, engaged in picking up her signed articles as an able-seaman. property. But long before she realized the ex- “He may come back," she said, foolishly tent of the calamity, the boy, whose good spirits dwelling on this dream-fortunately, it was not prompted him to so great activity, was out of often that she permitted herself so great a hapsight, still dancing and still whistling as he went. piness. “He may come back. Perhaps he will
He arrived at Clapham about half-past five. come back. I shall never give up that hope. He was boisterous, he was joyful in that house What is the good of trying to discover what he of subdued melancholy. He boldly suggested wanted to conceal? You had better give it up, champagne instead of tea; he spoke vaguely Gilbert, and give the other man all the money, about great things in the way of festivities to and let me go away somewhere and be forgotcome; he declined altogether to learn his lessons ten." for the next day; he led his mother to think that “Give it up!” he cried; "why, we have only he was going to have something—the measles, a just begun." fit, or perhaps the mumps, which are said some- " It is useless," she replied despondently; times to begin with an accession of supernatural “you are only making yourself and me more unand unaccountable hilarity.
happy than we need be. Give it up, and me too, When he got Alison quite by herself for a and go back to your chambers and your lawmoment he assumed a mysterious manner, and work.” winked and nodded.
Alison's despondent view was not the only “How are they getting on for you, Alison ?" disheartening thing about the work which Gilhe asked.
bert had set himself to do. It was impossible Nothing has been found yet, I am sorry to to deny the difficulty which presented itself at
the very beginning. Why was all mention of Well, I am not a man who promises rashly; the marriage, if there was a marriage, suppressed only, the moment you think the game is up, you in the diaries ? Even a courtship takes time. give me the tip straight away."
Why was even the courtship concealed and sup“Give you the tip?"
pressed? Why did a man who was frank and “ Tip it to me. Then you shall see-hey! candid as the day in everything else, keep a presto! up goes Uncle Stephen, horns and tail guarded silence in what was probably his only and all, blown to little smithereens, and Alison love-affair ? and, silence or not, what opportunity comes home in triumph! Ring the bells! beat could be found for love-making? What room the drums! and hooray for writing - masters was there in that busy life, so faithfully recorded all !”
in the diaries, for love, courtship, and wedlock ? For several days after that the boy main- Many young men live in chambers; whatever tained, with Alison, a running fire of obscure their occupations during the day, they have at allusions to writing-masters. He talked about least their evenings free; they are not generally the great amount of their gains, their enviable supposed to record in diaries the menus plaisirs position in the social scale, their enjoyable work, of those evenings. Other young men live at their content and happiness. What did he home, but do not always, as their mothers would mean?
wish, spend the evening at home; nor do they
always truthfully explain in the morning where down like the long grass after a thunderstorm, they have been and what they did the night be- was the humiliation which fell upon their cousin, fore: deception, suppressio veri, is practiced. and the bitter tears which these doubts wrung Anthony Hamblin did not have chambers, nor from her when she knew that they could not see did he spend his evenings abroad. Not at all: them. he devoted himself, with the devotion of a French- Compromise! No; nothing that could show man, to his mother. He never showed the least belief in her uncle's theory; nothing that should inclination to any kind of profligacy, wasteful- allow the bare possibility of that theory; nothing ness, or fastness. He was that very rare crea- that did not admit to the full her father's honor, ture, a young man who is “steady," and yet not her mother's honor, and all that these involved. a prig in morals. Had he been, for instance, a Nothing is more certain than that, if you adyoung man of the present day, he would have vertise long enough, you are sure to get somemade himself an athlete, and kept himself in thing out of it. I was once assured by a stranger, constant training. The only athletics in his day whom I afterward discovered to be connected were those games which a late lamented dean with the advertising interests, that for twelve once stigmatized as “immoral, because athletic" thousand pounds he would undertake to float --whist and cricket. Billiards there was also, anything, from a quack pill or a saline mixture to but the dean never heard of that game. Foot- a daily paper. Thinking over this assertion, I ball was for boys; young men scorned to run had a dream, in which I thought I was a milraces; no one would have gone a yard out of lionaire, that my money was all divided into the way to see the longest jump, the highest little heaps of twelve thousand pounds each, and jump, the farthest shy, the fastest run. Anthony that I was devoting the whole of my vast wealth,
I Hamblin, up to the age of three- or four-and- by means of giving this philanthropic stranger thirty, went home every evening to dinner, and one of these heaps at a time, to floating pills, staid at home. He was the constant companion, papers, theatres, saline draughts, books, music, the solace, the prop of his mother. He was pas- pictures, and artistic furniture. I woke up before sionate in his love for her. Stephen it was who I reached the last heap, and I do not know how early broke away from the domestic coop-Ste- far I advanced the world. phen it was who lived in chambers, paid duty- As for the Hamblin advertisements, the first visits, borrowed money, squandered and scat- result of them was to bring Mrs. Duncombe to tered. It was Anthony who cheered the last light. years of his mother's life, and for her sake, and She called herself at the office in Bedford not because he was a passionless young prig, Row, and sent up her name, with a great air of was content to forego his own pleasures-the mystery, in a folded piece of paper, which, she ordinary and innocent gayeties of early man- instructed the clerk, was not to be opened, on hood.
any account, by anybody except Mr. Billiter himHow, then, could he find the time to get mar- self. ried ?
She was a florid lady, between middle and These doubts, when they arose, Gilbert pushed elderly age, with a fat, good-natured face, much into the background. Before Alison he was con- resembling an overblown cabbage - rose. She fident, brave, and cheerful. Everything, he de- looked about her with suspicion. A lawyer's ofclared, would happen just exactly as they fice has something fearsome about it, even to wished.
those who “ought to know better”; to a woman As regards the rest of the family, there was of Mrs. Duncombe's social standing it is simply division. The two partners remained stanch. terrible. The appearance of the sharp-visaged So did the Colonel and the Dean, and the rest of old gentleman who received her, with his bright the male cousins who belonged to the genera- eyes and pointed chin, did not reassure her. tion of Anthony. The younger members, accus- “Oh,” said Mr. Billiter, looking her all over tomed in these latter days to the contemplation with suspicion, “you are Mrs. Duncombe, are of a laxer code of morals, generally took the you? You are the lady for whom we advertised, more gloomy view; one or two openly declared are you? And you are come for your reward, I themselves of the Black Hamblin faction. Fe- suppose. Very well. Of course we do not pay male cousins called on Alison, and hinted at com- anything until we are satisfied that there is no promise, while there was yet time. If these imposture. So you will be good enough to sit hints were such as she could take hold of, Alison down and answer a few questions." astonished those cousins, as she had gratified Mrs. Duncombe obeyed, though she regarded young Nick, by the mightiness of her wrath and the very chairs with distrust. Still she obeyed. the free hanging of her tongue. What they did Her breath was short too, and getting up the not see, when they retired, confused and beaten stairs had tired her.