תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

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.

I 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. “ You 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 Fouet 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.

yet."

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 had been obliged to assume-ha! ha! Might

CHAPTER XXV. 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 floundering 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

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 flapertinence 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

while. Miss Nethersole would perhaps have one was worth, at compound interest, more than liked, could she be persuaded that it was a Chris- double the amount it represented. Say only tian thing, to have decorated Temple Bar with double. There was a sum of two thousand Anthony Hamblin in bits. I mean that her bit- pounds, at least, waiting for her. She had only terness was so savage, so deeply rooted, that she to ask it. That meant an increase to her income would have caught at any chance of satisfying of eighty pounds a year. Surely it would be a the hunger of her soul. She was a woman who, flying in the face of Providence, and a despising on this subject, was raging. This man had of gifts, were that sum suffered to be lost or robbed her of her sister, and of her money. thrown into the capacious coffers of the HamWorse than that, he had robbed her of her heart. blins. She was no older than he. When he came to And then, by going to the office of the firm, Newbury she was still young, two-and-thirty or by merely claiming it, she would be able to inso; he was handsome; he was gentle in his form the family of the deceased forger, what manmanner, courteous, and attentive; she had not ner of man the head of the House had been. had many opportunities of meeting such a gal- “ It is a Christian duty,” she said, persuading lant gentleman, this daughter of a successful herself. nonconformist tradesman: she mistook his po- Perhaps it was; but it took her several weeks liteness for something more real; and because before she could resolve on actually carrying the he was deferent and courteous, she thought he project into execution. Finally, she arrived at was in love. She was not hard-featured in those the desired pitch of resolution, and came up to days, nor hard-minded ; the honey in her nature town by herself, bringing her precious pièces de still predominated over the vinegar; and although conviction with her. her oval face was rather thin, and her chin a lit- She consulted her solicitor, but more as a tle pointed, she was not yet without womanly matter of form, because she expected little of a charms. It was not absurd for her to suppose low-spirited caitiff who had refused to ask the that she might be loved by man—when is it so magistrates for a warrant because the criminal late as to be absurd ? She was deceived in the was dead. She was right. He behaved in the most cruel way, she said. The man began by meanest manner possible; there was nothing making love to her, and then came and asked for vigorous about the man. After all, as she found her sister-this chit of eighteen, more than a afterward, he was only a member of the Estabdozen years younger than himself. That wrong, lishment. What could be expected from a hangthough she did not say so, was harder to forgive er-on to that dry branch? than the other two. Money she might be robbed “The man is dead," said this creature of of ; she might even lose her sister, and yet in compromises. “You can have no revenge out time get over both those losses. But the con- of him. You can not even prove after this lapse tempt of herself, the quiet way in which the man, of time that the papers are written by him. Even when he at length comprehended her interpreta- if the first part, the form of receipt, was writtion of his suit, put it aside courteously, and yet ten by him, you can not prove that the signature as if it were absurd-these were things which is his. To me the signature looks genuine. The could never be forgotten.

money was paid over the counter. Who is to Twenty years ago? Why, the whole scene say, after fourteen years, who received it? All was as fresh in her mind as if it had been yes- the good you will get, Miss Nethersole, by proterday. Twenty years ago ? Why, it seemed ceeding in this ungrateful and thankless business not a week since; when the man left her, she will be the character of a vindictive woman.” locked the door, and gave way to that fit of de- “What does that matter,” she replied, “prospairing wrath and sorrow which had been ever vided I can show him to the world as he was ? " afterward the great sin of her life to look back She looked thinner, harder, more determined upon, and yet it was not repented.

than ever. The death of the enemy, the solicitor Seeing, therefore, the manifest impossibility thought, had only intensified her desire for reof getting any pleasantness out of revenge upon venge. a dead man, Miss Nethersole at first collapsed “Just so," said the man of law. “But supaltogether : nor was it till many weeks afterward pose you only succeed in showing him to the that a thought came to her which went straight world as the world has always accepted him, and to her very heart and remained there, growing in showing yourself as a revengeful person endaily stronger, and taking every day more defi- deavoring by every means, fair or foul, to comnite shape. Why, she thought, should she lose pass the disgrace of an honorable name?” the money she had paid on the forged receipts ? She closed her thin lips more tightly togethThere were six of them. Their dates were twen- er. ty, nineteen, down to fifteen years old. Each “I am vindictive," she said; “I am revengeful, because I wish to vindicate the memory of Perhaps she is the sister of a young lady who my sister-"

disappeared thirty years ago, a mother-no“By blackening the memory of her husband. that can hardly be." Augustus glanced at the Pardon me, Miss Nethersole; but I am unable card. “Show her up, Jennings. Perhaps she is to enter into those curious subtilties, by which only a person connected with schools, or guilds, you distinguish the duty of a Christian from that or nunneries, or societies of some kind, in search of the avenger of a blood-feud. I can not act of donations which she shall not get.” for you in this matter. I must, I fear, request “Certainly not,” said William the Silent. you to find another solicitor. I wish you a good She was not, however, connected with any morning."

begging enterprise whatever, as she quickly Miss Nethersole closed her black bag with a showed. She entered the room, looked round, snap and went away. But she was not van- and glared upon the partners in silence. quished. A woman who has lived and acted “Pray, madam," asked Augustus, "will you herself for thirty years is not to be moved out of be kind enough to tell us how we can serve her course by the disapproval of a solicitor. . you?”

What did she want with a solicitor? She “You can not serve me." could very well act alone; she knew what she “Then will you be kind enough to tell us had to do, and she could do it, she thought, bet- what gives us the pleasure of seeing you here?” ter without a lawyer's aid than with one. Act. “It is no pleasure at all, either for you or for ing alone, too, she could act quickly.

me." She was staying at the Queen's Hotel, St. “Really! Then will you please tell us, at Martin's le Grand, a central place well removed once, who you are ?" from the soul-destroying gayeties of the West, “I am your late cousin Anthony Hamblin's and within access of several faithful chapels. sister-in-law.” She returned to the room, sat down for a while Both the partners started and gazed at her to collect her thoughts, and presently, after a with curiosity. cup of tea, which brought back her courage, to- “His sister-in-law ? Then you must be gether with her vindictiveness, she made hard you must be the sister of his wife?" cried Auher upper lip, and set out for Great St. Simon gustus, considering rapidly the meaning of the Apostle. It was then five o'clock in the after- relationship. “Permit us, my dear Miss Nethernoon. The clerks were putting things together; sole, to make your acquaintance, to shake hands the porters and servants were yawning, expect- with you. This is my partner and cousin, Mr. Wilant of the close of day; the two partners, Au- liam Hamblin. Anthony's sister-in-law. Good gustus and William, were talking together in the Heavens! The very person, or next to the very room of the former, hats on and umbrellas in person, whom we have been trying to find for so hand ready to go, when Miss Nethersole's card long. Are you really aware, madam, how much was brought in by a clerk in waiting.

depends on the proof of this marriage? Really, “ Miss Rachel Nethersole, Olivet Lodge," this is this is this is providential. Pray, pray, read Augustus. “Do you know her, Cousin Miss Nethersole, take a chair-pray sit down William ?"

and let us converse! Most providential, I am The man of few words shook his head. sure.”

"Nor I.-Ask her, Jennings, what she wants, She obeyed and sat down. But her eyes and whether to-morrow will do ?-Another of were not encouraging. They showed no inclinathe replies to our advertisements, I suppose, tion to respond to the friendly advances of her William, or perhaps a messenger from Mr. brother's cousins. Bragge. That man means work, mind you.” “I do not understand compliments. I come

Miss Nethersole sent up word that to-morrow to—". would not do, and that if the partners refused to “We have been hunting everywhere," Auhear what she had to say to them confidentially, gustus went on, “to find out whom Anthony she would send up the purport of her message married. I assure you, Miss Nethersole, we by word of mouth, a course which she advised have spared no trouble. May I ask, did you them not to adopt.

come in answer to our advertisements, or did “This is a very curious message,” said Au- Mr. Bragge" gustus. “ It looks like threatening us, William. “Neither," she replied surlily; "and as for Is she a young woman, Jennings ?”.

marriage, he married my sister Dora.” “Oh, dear, sir, no! Not at all. She looks “He married her sister Dora!” echoed Aumore than fifty. A lady dressed in black, with a gustus ; "he married Miss Dora Nethersole, black bag."

Cousin William, of-of-of-what town, mad“Very odd,” said Augustus, "extremely odd. am ? "

“Of Newbury, in Wiltshire.”

Augustus Hamblin made a note of the place, "Of Newbury, in Wiltshire,” he repeated. and waited for more information. “Of course, of Newbury, in Wiltshire-we are “As for the reasons why Anthony Hamblin getting on famously. Why, Miss Nethersole, concealed his marriage,” Miss Nethersole went you have been of more use to us in five minutes on, “I think I can find you at least six. They than all our advertisements, and circulars, and are here." secret-service people, in four months. Anthony She opened her bag, and drew forth a little Hamblin was married to Dora, Miss Dora Nether- bundle of papers, carefully tied up. sole, of Newbury, in Wiltshire. Were you your- From the bundle she extracted half a dozen self present at the marriage, madam? But of documents, all written on half sheets of notecourse you were. No doubt you were a brides- paper, and on one side. She selected one and maid."

handed it across the table to Augustus. “Of course I was not. Mr. Hamblin pre- “Have the goodness to read that,” she said. ferred to elope with my sister. That was his Augustus read: idea of Christian wedlock. He carried her away with him. Naturally, I never saw her again." "Received, this day, January the first, 18,

“But you know that they were married ? of Messrs. Child and Company, the sum of one You have proof that they were married? You hundred and fifty pounds sterling. . can tell us where they were married ?

“£150 os, od. “Sir!” Her voice was more than severe.

“ DORA HAMBLIN." “Do I know that they were married ? Know that they were married? You are speaking of The signature, in a sloping Italian hand, ran my sister-my sister, sir."

across a receipt-stamp. “That is the reason why I say that you have, “Very well,” said Augustus, returning the no doubt, proof of the marriage. You know paper, “there is nothing remarkable about a where it took place, for instance.”

stamped and signed receipt." “That is not what I came to speak about," “ Read the next,” she said. she replied. “It is clear to me that your cousin It was the same as the first, but dated a year Anthony Hamblin was even more wicked than I later. believed him to be. It seems now that he hid She gave him a third, a fourth, and up to an this marriage from you, his partners." She eighth. Augustus read them all, handed them looked as if this additional proof of wickedness to his cousin, who also read them, and gave them gratified her beyond measure.

back to Miss Nethersole. “Pardon me," said Augustus," he did tell us “You looked at the dates ?" she asked, with later on of his marriage; he informed us that a wintry smile. The moment of her triumph, your sister, his wife, was dead. He did not wish such as it was, was about to begin. to speak of his wife, whose early death, doubt. “We did." less, was too recent a sorrow, and we respected “I paid that hundred and fifty pounds to my his silence. There is no wickedness there, so sister for eight long years," she said. “It was far as I can understand. You, of course, have my allowance to her. Her husband starved her, no reason to conceal the fact of the marriage. while he took the allowance." Where did it take place?"

“Anthony Hamblin starved his wife?" "I do not know," said Miss Nethersole simply. “He neglected her, and starved her. He

"You do not know?" Both partners stared was a murderer, because she died of his negblankly. “You do not know?”

lect.” "I do not !" She pulled the strings of her “Good Heavens !" cried Augustus, “ do you black bag impatiently. “ They eloped.'

know what you are saying ?” "Oh!" cried Augustus. “They eloped, did “He was more than a murderer, because, they ?-Can you understand this, William?” while my sister died less than two years after her

The taciturn partner shook his head. An- marriage, these drafts were drawn by him, and thony Hamblin elope! As well expect an arch- the signatures forged, for six years later.” bishop to elope.

“Let me look at them again," said Augustus, “They eloped," she went on, “and my sister with troubled face. wrote next day to say that she was married. It S he handed them across the table, but one by was not my business to ask where or when. She one. They were all in the same handwriting, had left me, and was no more my sister." except the signature. After examining them "Where did she write from?"

once more, with greater care, Augustus rose and “From a place called Lulworth, in Dorset- opened his private safe; from this he extracted a shire."

book, full of letters and papers pasted in, and

« הקודםהמשך »