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start, I would prove a marriage somehow, if it 'made me assume, apparently, an attitude of was only a Scotch marriage.”
hostility.'” “Too late, Jack," said Stephen. “We have " Think so? Yes. Perhaps that will be had one row. I got into a rage, and so did she. better.” Stephen made the correction in penShe's got a temper like mine-got it from her cil. “Made me assume an apparent attitude grandmother. These things very often pass of hostility. Nothing really was further from over part of a generation. The temper passed my thoughts, my wish, or my intention. Will over her father. She reminded me of my mother. you do me the justice of believing that I, for my Gad! what blazing rows we used to have in the own part, am most anxious, most desirous, to do old days !”
my utmost to prove the truth, that you may rely “Come, Hamblin. I will make a little com- upon my most sincere coöperation in any serious promise with you. Make it up, if you can, with effort to ascertain the truth; and that, in the the girl. If things go against you, you can then discovery of any fact which may convince me, get my thousand out of her, with whatever you yourself, and our cousins of your title to the eswant for yourself. Your own affairs may be tate, I am ready to withdraw my claim at once? straighter then, no doubt.”
I beg you to believe that I should refuse to take “Oh, my own affairs-yes-yes. They are any advantage of legal technicalities. At the pulling round,” said Stephen, forcing a smile. same time, in justice to my own birth, to my po
“Very well, then. If the thing goes in your sition, to my brother's position, I ask that the favor, you can let all the world see what a mag- truth should be fairly and fearlessly investigated. manimous creature you've been. Don't you see? The future of the Hamblin House must not be If the worst happens, you can always reckon on open to the questions or the doubts of any who getting a slice of the cake ; if the best, then it wish to throw a stone, or cast a slur. I am will be all in your own hands, to do what you aware, very sorrowfully I own it, that the investiplease with.”
gation which I ask-it is all I ask-may possibly “I think you are right,” said Stephen, with prove disastrous to yourself. At all events, you an effort. “I am sure you are right, Jack. I are a Hamblin. You would not wish to be rich ought never to have quarreled with the little at the expense of others, whose rights you were spitfire, but she would have it. We always did usurping ? hate each other, you know. I wonder if she “• For the moment, I think I had better not ever suspected what I knew? Perhaps she did. attempt to see you. I send you this letter by the Girls are more crafty than any one who doesn't hand of a personal friend, Mr. Bunter Baker.'” know the nature of women would believe possi “ Hallo!” cried Jack; “I say, you don't mean ble.”
me to take it?" He got up and found writing materials.
“• Who will be able, I trust,'" Stephen read “I suppose it will be better to write to her on quickly, “'to persuade you, as I, with my than to call upon her. Yes, certainly better. I unhappy impetuosity, am unable to do, that I am used to be able to pitch a very decent letter in a friend and not an enemy, that I am most anxthe old days. Let me try my hand again.” ious not to be regarded as an enemy. Sooner
This letter took him some time to write. He or later, this question, which in everybody's wrote it, in fact, at least three times, and even mind-'" then he was not satisfied with it. At last he " I say,” said Jack, “ I suppose it isn't, realbrought the third draft to his friend, and sub- ly?" mitted it for consideration.
“No," replied Stephen; “I don't suppose “ Listen, Jack,” he said. “I think this will anybody outside the Hamblin lot troubles his do as well as a longer letter. Of course, we head about it. But, you see, it has been very shall keep a copy, and send one to the cousins. much in my head, which is the great thing.
Where are we?_everybody's mind must have "• MY DEAR ALISON: I have for some time been raised. Was it not better that it should be been trying to write to you. The memory of raised by myself, in a spirit of inquiry, without hard words, and, perhaps, bitter thoughts, on animosity, or would you have preferred that it one or the other side, has hitherto prevented me. should be raised later on, perhaps when your I have no desire to excuse myself. In fact, I children's fortunes might be blighted and their can find no excuse. My unfortunate temper pride brought low ?'” alone is to blame. To that, and to that alone, “ That's devilish good,” said Jack. I would ascribe the misfortune that I have been “Yes; I think I can manage the palter on made to appear to you in a light of hostil- occasion,” said Stephen. “Well—You will be
told, perhaps, that my action in the case was · Don't like that,” said Jack slowly; say dictated by a selfish desire to obtain, wrongfully.
Alison, solemnly, that is not saying, or generous emprise, naturally found the case. It is quite the contrary. My first employment in the invention of new braveries. thought was in your interest, my first action was He was still, though now past thirty, on that for your safety. You have to thank your friends, level of civilization where men take the same my cousins, and no others, for the turn that has view of maidens as the peacock takes of the peabeen given to the thing. Read this carefully, hens, and imagine that, by spreading gorgeous and, if you find any point or points of objection, plumage, and strutting with braggart air, they do not be satisfied with the counsel of your pres- can awaken the admiration of the weaker sex. ent advisers, but have the courage and the confi He expected to be received by a small, timid dence to ask explanations of me,
girl, who might possibly show temper, but who " • Your affectionate uncle,
would begin, at least, by being enormously afraid “STEPHEN HAMBLIN.' of him. This was unfortunate at the outset. He
was unprepared, too, for the magnificence of the And, anyhow, it will show it is an act of house, which surpassed anything of which he had kindness on my part. They will think I am not ever dreamed. The private houses of rich men afraid. For that matter," he added, with a dash and gentlemen were not, as a rule, thrown open of gasconade, “I am not the least afraid. Let to this successful speculator in silk. A club them do their level worst."
drawing-room was Jack's most exalted idea of a “ Level worst !” To bid a man do that is to well-furnished apartment. throw the glove in earnest, and to throw it with He was shown into the study, whither in a the superiority of the better position. Jack Baker few moments Alison came to him. And then felt it. He was going as ambassador into the Jack's cheek paled, and his heart sank, for, inenemy's camp, not with the sneaking conscious- stead of the insignificant and spiteful little animal ness of defeat, but in the proud position of one he had dreamed of, the poor creature whom who holds an olive-branch in one hand, and with Stephen Hamblin generally spoke of as "that the other invites the enemy to do his level worst. little devil,” there stood before him a young lady, He forgot, for the moment, the mysterious old whose beauty, dignity, and self-possession overwoman whose visit had disquieted him, and he whelmed him and crushed him. only saw himself clothed in the grandeur of a She bowed and looked again at the card : plenipotentiary, dictating terms to a sulky and “Mr. J. Bunter Baker.” It is the day of double plain young woman, easily reduced to reason, names. Smith is nothing unless he is differenand open, like most of her sex, to the influences tiated by a prænomen other than the Christian of terror, respect, and awe, which are induced by name. Jones belongs to the Porkington Joneses. the voice, and the presence, and the majesty of a Jack Baker, as we have seen already, on arriving Man
at success, remembered that he, too, had a secIn fact, Jack Baker, armed with this letter, ond name, given him by his godfather, a most did pay that visit the very next day. He went respectable clerk in a wholesale tea-warehouse. to Clapham Common in his own private hansom, Mr. Bunter was now no more, but his name hoping devoutly that Miss Hamblin might be served to give his godson additional importance, sitting at the window when he drove to the door. and in his own eyes, at least, to elevate him in Of course his horse was showy, and his tiger the social scale. sinall. Of course, too, he was attired with the “• Mr. J. Bunter Baker,'” she repeated. greatest magnificence permitted to City men by "1-I am Mr. Bunter Baker," he replied. a very liberal fashion.
No young fellow had Here he was so unlucky as to drop his hat, more gold about him; no one wore better gloves; which, on recovering, he placed on the table. no one was more daring in the matter of neck May I ask, Mr. Baker," she went on, what ties; no one more shiny of hat, neat of boot, or is the meaning of your visit ?" original in waistcoat. To men of this generation “I come,” he replied, “ with a letter to you very few things are permitted in dress compared from Mr. Stephen Hamblin." with what young men used to be allowed in the “My uncle can have nothing to write to me,” good old days when ribbons, lace, gorgeous doub- said Alison, “ that I would wish to hear. I can lets, slashed sleeves, pearl-embroidered pourpoint, not receive any communications from him. Is silk stockings, sword-belt, sash, diamond buckles, that all you have to say to me?". and red-heeled shoes set off to advantage a young Jack Baker began to wish he had not confellow who could boast a reasonably fine figure sented to act as ambassador. But he plucked up and shapely leg. Yet the present fashion allows courage. something for the imagination to work upon; “ My friend, Miss Hamblin," he said, “who is and the imagination of Jack Baker, which was a gentleman of extraordinarily sensitive nature, not occupied with thoughts of heroic deed, brave as perhaps you know, has been rendered ex
tremely unhappy by the position in which he finds hope is, that I may never again see him, never himself unavoidably placed toward you."
again speak to him." · Why,” cried Alison," he has deliberately in “Now, that's very hard,” said Jack. “And sulted the memory and character of my father. what is the good of standing in your own light? Unavoidably?"
Why, I look on this letter—though he didn't say " There were reasons, Miss Hamblin," Jackso, mind, and it's entirely between you and me, went on, trying to speak grandly, “why he was and not to go any further"—he really, Alison bound to go on against his wish. Had his cous- thought, was a most vulgar young man—"as the ins listened to him at the outset there would have foundation of a friendly arrangement.” been, probably, no publicity-no litigation." “I will consent to no friendly arrangement."
“I know nothing of any motives,” said Ali “We will suppose, for a moment,” continued son; "I judge only by his actions. My uncle is Jack, gradually feeling his way, “ that my friend my enemy. I want to have no communication Mr. Stephen Hamblin is anxious to put an end of any kind with him. I mistrust him, and I sus to this unnatural contest between two very near pect him.”
relations." " At least you will read his letter.” Jack “ It is very easy for him to put an end to it,” produced it, and tendered it with a winning smile. said Alison; “ he has only to withdraw his preBut Alison was very far from thinking of his tensions. He has only to cease insulting my famanner of smiling. “Do not let me go away ther's memory.” and tell my friend, Mr. Stephen Hamblin, that
Pardon me. That is not at all his intention you refused to receive a letter from him, even or his object. You are a lady, Miss Hamblin, after I told you that it was conciliatory." and you do not feel, as men do, the necessity of
“ Conciliatory!” she echoed, “ as if I did not securing for every man his right. Prove your well to be angry.
Well, sir, I will read your let- right, and Stephen Hamblin retires. Until you ter.”
do, he is the heir at law. But”-he raised his She took it, and sat down without inviting her finger, for Alison was going to burst in with an visitor to take a chair, which was rude. Jack, indignant denial—“suppose that he was to meet therefore, remained standing. He felt conscious you half way. Suppose that he was ready to that he was not looking to advantage. To stand say: 'Let us arrange this dispute. Let your without your hat in your hands, without the aid friends agree upon a present settlement for you. even of an umbrella or walking-stick, before a Let me succeed without opposition : I shall not lady, while she reads a letter, makes one feel like marry; you will be my sole heiress.' Now, could a schoolboy about to say a lesson which he does anything be more agreeable and comfortable for not know.
all parties ?" “He offers,” said Alison, “to withdraw his Alison rose. claim as soon as anything has been discovered “This is quite idle,” she said grandly; “I which will convince him that he is wrong. That will make no such arrangement.” is very noble in him, considering that we shall Jack Baker confessed to himself on the spot force him to withdraw as soon as that has been that all his previously conceived ideas of feminine discovered. Why did he write me this letter, beauty would have to be modified. He had never sir ? You say you are his friend. Have you seen seen any one at all comparable with this magnifithe letter?"
cently beautiful creature on the stage, which, in “I have; I think it is a most friendly letter. common with many young City men, he confiNothing could be more so, I am sure; most cred- dently believed to be the natural home and haritable to the writer."
bor of the highest types of English beauty; nor " Thank you, Why did he write it?”
behind the bar, where those fair ones who can “Pure good feeling," said Jack. "He is a not play burlesques delight to display their loveman of wonderful good feeling ; that, when you liness for all to behold who possess the “price of come to think of it, is his strong point.”
half a pint.” Nor could any music-hall in LonWhy did he write it?" asked Alison again, don show such a face, such deep black eyes, such but this time of herself ; “what does he expect splendid black hair, such lips, such a warm, rosy to get by writing it?"
cheek, such a figure. It was a new lesson for " What can he get?" said the ambassador him; he felt an unaccustomed glow about the craftily. “He knows very well that the estate is pericardium ; a yearning all over; a consciousas good as his own already. He wants to make ness of higher things than he had as yet imfriends with you."
agined ; a sudden weariness of Topsy and Lottie "I am much obliged to him,” replied Alison ; and their drink-dispensing friends : he choked ; “I can never be friends with him. He is, and he blushed; he stammered; he was penetrated will always be, my most bitter enemy. My only with the majesty of a beauty far beyond his
dreams; he was so deeply struck with the shock you may tell your principal, as you call him, that of this revelation that he actually forgot himself I have torn up his letter.” and his own peacockery. Then he suddenly re She did so, in fact. No actress on the stage membered his mission.
ever did a little piece of business more effectively, “Surely,” he pleaded, with a last effort,“ sure because it was done so quietly. ly it would be better to come to an arrangement
The fragments of the letter lay at his feet. than to carry on a long and fruitless opposition. “ Humph !” said Jack doubtfully. “Well, It can't do anybody good : nothing will come of we've taken the precaution to keep a copy. That it except disappointment. All this time they've will be proof of our intentions. Good morning, been searching and advertising and offering re- Miss Hamblin"; he bowed in his very best style. wards—and what's come? Nothing."
“ I would meet with another failure, willingly, for He put this out as a feeler, but Alison's face the pleasure of seeing you again.” showed no change, so that he was sure nothing He smiled his sweetest, while she looked at had been found.
him in speechless indignation. What did the “Not the least discovery–has there, now ?”
man mean? When she had found some words She did not reply.
in which to express her sense of his impertinence, " Why, if we could have a little agreement he was gone. come to, all your troubles would stop at once.” “Now," murmured Jack the experienced, “ if
“No, sir,” said Alison. “On the contrary, it was any of the bar lot, I should understand all the trouble would begin. You can not under- that standoffishness. I'm up to their gag, anystand, I suppose, that my father's honor is dear how. They'd like to get the chance of Mr. J. to me. My Uncle Stephen can not understand. Bunter Baker, wouldn't they? Just. But with Nothing, nothing !"-she stamped with her foot a bit o' muslin like this Hamblin girl, I suppose and looked so resolute that Jack trembled — it's different. Perhaps I took her a little aback “nothing would ever persuade me to sacrifice at first, though she can't really mean that she the good name of my father. I will make no don't want to see me again. Gad! that's too such bargain as you suggest ; I would rather, be- ridiculous. A girl's a girl all the world over. lieve me, sir, I would far rather go out from this And it must be mighty dull down here all by house a beggar."
herself. I'll find another opportunity and call Her black eyes burned with so fierce a light, again. Give her line for a bit, J. Double B.” and her lips were set so firm after she said this, He sought the shelter of his cab, and drove that the ambassador felt singularly small. back to town, seeking solace for his wounded
“In that case," he said, “I have nothing heart in cigars. And in the evening he met more to say. You quite understand that this last Stephen at the club, and they dined together. proposal is my own suggestion, not Mr. Ham- Jack was radiant and boisterous. blin's, though I am quite satisfied of his desire to " By Jupiter Omnipotent and Christopher be on good terms with his niece and to benefit Columbus !” he cried, in an ecstasy. her."
never told me what she is like—that niece of “That I do not believe,” said Alison. “Good yours, Hamblin. Kept it for a surprise. She's morning, sir."
splendid, she is; she's magnificent; she's a godShe looked superb. Jack Baker thought of dess, that's what she is. Hang me, if she isn't a his balance at the bank and his ventures on the goddess! And you to call that gorgeous creahigh-seas, and took heart.
ture a little devil! Little ? why, she's five feet “In any case, Miss Hamblin,” he said, with eight if she's an inch. And her face, and her an ingratiating smile, “ I am not my principal in figure! Come, Hamblin, I can make allowance this affair, and I hope you will not consider me for the feelings of a man who has any one standas rowing in the same boat with him. Of course, ing between him and such an almighty pile, but I can hardly discuss his conduct with you, as he little devil'- I say—it really is— Here, waiter !" is my friend. But I can not, I am sure, regret (this young man habitually bawled as loudly in a it, since it has enabled me to introduce myself to club dining-room as he had been accustomed to a young lady who—I must say—who—" here he do in the City shilling dining-places years before). broke down, because she stared at him with cold · Waiter, come here. Bring me a bottle of Perand wondering eyes. “And I hope, Miss Ham- rier Fouct Sec—not the Très sec. It's the least blin, that when we meet in the City-I mean in I can do for her, to drink her health in Perrier the streets, and in society, and at dinners, and so fouet." on, that you will let me consider myself a friend. "I suppose uncles are not expected to fall in And if I might be permitted to call again—" love with their nieces," said Stephen carelessly.
“Sir!” The tone of her voice froze him. “I never said that Alison was ugly or small.” “I have already wished you good morning. Stay, “You called her a little devil, that's all I know.
Well, old man, here's her jolly good health and versation at bars, admiration of actresses, talk a lover, and I shouldn't mind if it was me, J. about ballet people, might all lose their charm, Double B, yours truly."
compared with the society of the one perfect Well”—Stephen listened with natural im- woman he had ever seen. Perhaps it was as patience to this enthusiasm—“well, how did you well for Gilbert Yorke's tranquillity that he could get on, and what did she say?"
not tell how this rising young City merchant “ No use, my boy, thinking of anything friend- thought more about Alison than his speculations, ly in that quarter. But keep your copy of the more about her deep dark eyes than about his letter, which may be useful later on. I did my silks. best for you : I said you were a man of the most sensitive feelings—ho! ho !-and I said that you were most unhappy about the position you
CHAPTER XXV. had been obliged to assume-ha! ha! Might just as well have tried the hostile line, because
HOW MISS NETHERSOLE BECAME AN INSTRUshe's as savage as she is beautiful. She will
MENT. want a man, not a thread-paper, for a husband, that girl.
J. Double B would about meet the Now, while Gilbert and Alderney Codd were case, I think. By the way, I found out one foundering in the dark, groping here and there thing : whoever the old woman was who called with uncertain steps and finding nothing; while at their office, they haven't made any discovery Mr. Theodore Bragge was “following up” one yet.”
clew after another, and asking continually for “If she won't be friendly, she needn't,” said more checks; while Nicolas was hugging to his Stephen. “Anyhow, I've done the regular thing, bosom the new and delightful secret, with which and it will be worse for her in the long run. Let he intended one day to make such a coup as her go to—"
would make the ears of them who heard of it to “No, Hamblin, don't couple any more the tingle, and set the hearts of all boys wherever name of such an angelic creature with that of the English tongue is spoken, aflame; while the the devil. I wonder what you were like before partners were doubtful and despondent; while the the thatch came off your pretty brows? She cousins daily became as uncertain over the event reminded me of you at once. Here's her health as the English public once were over the identity again, and, if there was any better wine in the of a certain claimant-Miss Nethersole, this time club, I would drink it in that."
an Instrument without knowing it, voluntarily "She takes after my mother, the Señora,” communicated the very fact which they were all said Stephen. “ All the Hamblins are like each anxious to find. other; but she has got her grandmother's com We have seen how this lady, her enemy beplexion, like me. She can't help being like me, ing dead, and her lawyer stubbornly refusing to though she would rather not, I dare say. Let ask for the indictment of a dead man, betook her go, Jack.”
herself to her country villa, and sat down to en
joy comfortably the settled gloom which may News came, presently, to the cousinhood that arise in woman's heart equally from love, disapStephen had written a letter, and had hinted at pointment, or the baffling of revenge. The foran arrangement. The family were divided in geries were put away with her plate in a box, opinion, For while some thought that Alison which for greater safety she kept screwed to the showed the proper Hamblin spirit in rejecting floor under her own bed. And for a time she all overtures short of absolute submission, others submitted herself to the inevitable, and tried to thought that perhaps she had no right to possess be resigned under the Ruling which had torn her any portion of the Hamblin spirit at all, until enemy from her grasp. “ things" were proved ; so that in fact the re You can not, to be sure, execute any revenge fusal to make any compromise was a sort of im- upon a dead man which shall have the true fiapertinence in her. Undoubtedly the feeling was vor about it. You may—as many great mongrowing stronger in the family that Stephen was archs, gourmets in revenge, have done—hang up very likely right. Gilbert Yorke, however, agreed the limbs cut into neat joints upon gibbets, or with Alison that a compromise was an impossi- stick them on pikes, or paint them beautifully bility. It was remarkable, considering that she with tar, and then sling them up with chains on was so resolute never to marry unless her father's a gibbet to dangle in the wind; and yet, after all, name was cleared, how Alison comforted and nothing satisfies. You may gaze with pleasure guided herself by the opinion of this young man. on the gallows-tree, but there is always the un
But his vision of perfect beauty abided with easy feeling that the man himself, who has joined Jack Baker, so that he began to feel how con- the majority, may be laughing at you all the