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She was in black, and she had a black bag with And there's the cabinet with the glass doors; I her-a lady with sharp chin, and a mouth that always wondered what you kept in that cabinet, looked a little bit like the useful end of a pair uncle. Once I thought it was piles of money ; of scissors. She set eyes on me first, and stared. then I thought it must be skeletons; then I thought It isn't manners, but I don't mind it much, be- very likely it was specimens of indigo. Well, to cause it isn't every day that people get a chance make quite sure, I opened the doors and found of seeing an albino. So I nodded to encourage what it is you do keep there. Fie, uncle ! I thought her, and then she looked at the old lady, who better of you. A decanter full of sherry and a was fast asleep with her mouth open ; then she couple of glasses ! also a box of cigars, and half saw Alison, who rose to meet her. You are a dozen boxes of cigarettes. Call that business? Alison Hamblin ?' she asked ; 'you are more When I had satisfied myself upon that point, I like your uncle than your father. I am your went and sat down in your chair, just to feel aunt, Rachel Nethersole, Let us try to be what it was like to be a rich man ; and then I friends.' Then kissing set in, and I was intro- made myself a little speech, nobody being there duced, and Gilbert did a lot of talking."
to hear. I was getting along first rate, thinking “ Poor Alison !” said Anthony, hoarsely. what a clever sort of a man I was going to turn
The boy was glad to see these signs of emo- out, when I heard footsteps, and, as I didn't wish tion, and turned his head.
to be caught, and look as much like a fool as it “ You see, uncle, Miss Nethersole didn't know is possible for this young man to look, I nipped everything. You and I know better than that.” behind your old screen-you remember it, uncle
“How do you know? What do you know?" -and sat down and listened. Mean, wasn't it?
“I know now as much as you do,” replied Wait till you hear what I found out, then you will the boy. “I wish I had known it five months jump for joy-and-oh! Jerusalem! ago. You and your writing-mastering !”
“ There was Mr. Augustus first, and then “Does anybody else know?”
Mr. William-he's had his wig put into black on “We all know everything—except that one your account-and then Mr. Billiter. Last came thing that you and I know. And you've got to Gilbert Yorke, looking mighty important. A tell that to-night. Let me go on.
regular procesh, only they didn't sing a hymn. “Miss Nethersole agreed to stay, and they While they were disposing themselves in attifetched in her things. Presently we had some- tudes round the table like head-masters before a thing hot-a kidney it was—for supper. I needed caning, or like ambassadors and plenipotentates it. Evenings like that tell upon the strongest at least, in marches Uncle Stephen.” man. Three women to be comforted all at once “What did they want with him ?". is a large order."
“Now, uncle, do not interrupt. That spoils Nicolas shook his white locks en philosophe, every man's style. Cæsar, when he was writing and went on :
his 'Commentaries ' for the Third Form, would “ After supper-Aunt Rachel did pretty well never allow any interruption; nor would Cornewith the kidneys, but I had to lead the way, as lius Nepos when he hammered out his biograusual—we all sat round, while Alison held her phies for the Second. Mr. Augustus it was who new relation's hand-you know their silly way, went for him. • It's all found out,' he says ; and we began to talk about you. The new aunt there was never any marriage, and you are the does not like you, uncle, and I saw her make heir to the whole estate !''Oh, my gum !' said faces while Alison and the old lady went on Uncle Stephen, turning very red; then I supabout your having been such a good man. I pose you are all going to apologize, are you?' crammed my handkerchief in my mouth. O 'Devil a bit,' said Mr. Augustus. Are you inJiminy!
terested now, uncle ?” “That was yesterday. And, as if there wasn't “Go on, boy-go on.” enough to tell you, something else more impor- Anthony Hamblin was pacing the little room, tant still happened to-day. Now, then, listen showing every sign of agitation. with all your might. As it was a half-holiday I “Then Uncle Stephen looked surprised. You came up to town after dinner to see what news hardened villain !' says your cousin, looking like there was in the City. Mighty little doing, as I a judge on the bench, there was no marriage of found out from a little conversation with the sen- your brother, but there was of yourself. And ior clerks. However, as I was coming on to see who was your wife ? and where is your daughyou, I thought I would just drop in and look at ter?' •What daughter ?' says Stephen. 'Aliyour old room. Nobody has ever used it ; your son,' says Augustus. Well, Stephen was a bit name is on the door; the furniture is untouched; staggered at that, as you may suppose. And there's your old blotting-pad, covered all over don't you think,' says Augustus, that we are with heads in ink, in front of your own old chair. going to sit down quietly and see you chuck the money. Quite the other way about and contra- with crape home yesterday-ho! ho !—and there's riwise. You've got to give it up, and go away on the black band round my hat-ho! ho! ho !a pound a week for the rest of your life.' ‘Am and there's the tablet in the church-ho! ho ! I?' says Stephen. •You are,' says Augustus. ho! ho! What a game it will be! You'll have *Don't you wish you may get it?' says Stephen. to pay the bill for everything but your own funer• I do,' says Augustus, or else' 'Else what?' al. I wish we could hire a mourning-coach for says Stephen. ·Else,' says Augustus, “we shall us to go home in—I wonder if my pocket-money have to remind you of six little bits of paper would run to it?”. bearing a dead woman's signature. Her sister The boy, who was half hysterical by this time, will prosecute for forgery-for-ge-ry, Stephen; broke into inextinguishable laughter, which natuand it means fourteen years' quod, with skilly rally led to choking and to tears. and cold water. How will you like that, Cousin “Come, Uncle Anthony." He wiped his Stephen ?' Then they all chimed in, like a cho- eyes, and put his uncle's hat on for him. “What rus in a play, 'How will you like that, Cousin a shocking bad hat !” He took him by the hand Stephen ?' I thought of joining in myself, but and led him unresisting into the street. “ I've didn't. Stephen took it quite comfortably. He's got three shillings in my pocket, that will take us a desperate wicked chap, that Stephen. Fancy to Clapham Common. We will walk up to the going about with six forgeries on your conscience door. I will smuggle you into the study. Then
-a most awful wicked chap. He never said he I will go away and bring you—" His voice broke was sorry; never said he wished he hadn't done again into a sob. “Poor Alison !” he cried ; it-not at all. He only growled; and then he then he brushed away his tears. “First thing said something about going abroad on a pension; you must do, is to put on a pair of new boots. and then he put on his hat and walked out of the Any other man but myself would be ashamed to room."
be seen walking in company with such beasts of “ Is it possible ?"
boots. I always used to keep you respectable “So now you see. You ran away: you left in the old time, and I mean to again, remember me, your little comforts, and your home, in order that." to save Alison from finding that her father wasn't you at all, but the other fellow, and from learning what a desperate bad lot he is. And now she
CHAPTER XXXVI. will learn it all, and there will be the most ter- HOW YOUNG NICK ACHIEVED GREATNESS. rific row that ever was heard of. Stephen Hamblin will very likely be charged with forgery- WHEN Stephen Hamblin saw his daughter that's a very pretty thing to happen in the family fairly out of the room, and got through those -and Alison Hamblin will learn that he is her manifestations of joy of which we have spoken, father. That's what has been brought about by he began, once more, to reconsider everything. your running away, to say nothing of the awful Now, the message which Miss Nethersole sent expense in crape."
him, by means of his daughter, was nothing short Anthony stood irresolute.
of an evangel, a blessed gospel, to him. It re“What shall I do?” he cried. “The very lieved him, at one stroke, of all anxiety on the worst has come to pass the very thing that one side where his armor was weak; and, even most I dreaded. I thought to avert this blow, while he thought of the opportuneness of this I thought that my own death would do it. I truly Christian message, a way occurred to him thought that sorrow was better than disgrace; by which he might, even without it, face the and Alison has had the sorrow, and now will world and challenge his enemies to do their have the disgrace."
worst. dhe need not, if you will return, because “Augustus and the crew," he thought, “ rethen Uncle Stephen will be coopered, and Aunt joiced to have that trump card in reserve. They Rachel can be squared. You can stop the prose- knew that I did not suspect its existence, and cution. Come, Uncle Anthony; they won't mind was not prepared to answer it. They played it your boots.”
fairly well, considering. But not so well-no, “ It isn't the boots I am thinking of,” said not so well as I mean to play my trump card, Anthony, gravely.
presently. It is not only forgiveness, but justifi“ Is it the feeling that you will look such an cation.” ass?” asked the boy with ready sympathy. “No T his message of Rachel's, too, showed him one could look a bigger donkey—that's true if how wrong he had been in his treatment of Alihe was to try with all his might. But never mind son. He should not have met her approaches that; the servants are all in mourning still-ho! with coldness: he should not have received her ho and the old lady's got a new cap trimmed timid advances with a snub: he should have welcomed her: held out his arms: tried, at least, stand a big fortune, and a grown-up daughter, to kiss her: and, without a murmur, should have and threatenings of criminal proceedings all at submitted to any endearments which the girl once. However, I have cooled down, and shall might offer. To be sure, the style and title of play my next card very much better, as my dear daughter no more commanded his affection than friends and cousins will shortly discover." that of niece: his heart, which had long since It was somewhat unfortunate that he chose ceased to feel any warmth toward Alison's that evening to carry out his purpose, because it mother, by no means leaped up at the meeting was the time which the partners, accompanied by with Dora's daughter. Quite the reverse. He Mr. Billiter, had chosen for their family council. felt that the whole thing was a gêne; he would Gilbert Yorke, Alderney Codd, Mrs. Cridland, very much have preferred Alison to have con- and Miss Nethersole all assisted on this occasion, tinued Anthony's daughter.
the importance of which was realized by no one You can not, however, by wishing, reverse the so much as by Alderney Codd. The fur coat current of affairs.' That is an axiom in the First was necessarily discarded owing to the return of Book of Fate ; and the wise man makes the best summer, but its place was worthily taken by of materials in his hands. The materials in broadcloth of the best and newest, while the conStephen's hands were a girl ready to acknowl- dition of wristbands, front, and collar showed edge him as her father, and do her best to enact what an excellent thing a little steady occupation the part of Christian daughter; a sister-in-law is for a man. True, his work was over; there who had been deeply wronged, and who, for the was no more employment for him in rummaging sake of that daughter, was ready to forgive and among registers; but he had not yet realized that forget the past; a little knot of conspirators, the suspension of work meant cessation of ineager to get rid of him, to push him off the come. At present he was entirely filled with a scene, to land him, once and for all, across the sort of holy joy on account of Anthony's rehabiliChannel.
tation, and he had thought of a beautiful verse Very good: but one thing they had forgotten. from Horace which he intended to quote as soon Not only did Miss Nethersole forgive, which they as he could find an opportunity. It was not eneither did not know or took care not to mention, tirely novel, but then Alderney's scholarship was but in striking at him they would strike at Ali- not entirely fresh-overripe, perhaps. The effort son. Yes, and at themselves; at the family name, to lug in the lines somehow proved unsuccessful at everything held dear by the Hamblins. for the first half-hour or so, during which Augus
The more he turned the matter over in his tus was explaining the new position of affairs, mind, the more he became convinced that to how Stephen had resolved on leaving his daughstrike the flag at once was impolitic and still ter in undisputed possession-taking only an anmore-useless. A change of front was not only nuity out of the estate. These dry details gave possible, but advisable.
no opportunity for Horatian sentiment. “Why,” asked this just man, “should I aban- Augustus Hamblin took the opportunity of don what is mine because they threaten ? What reminding Alison — this was a precautionary can they do? What can they prove? Would measure, in case she should allow herself to fall they dare to try it? And since the woman sends in love, so to speak, with her father, and then me that message, why, there is nothing more to find out about the receipts, and be humiliatedbe feared. I will stay."
that the discovery of her parent need not lead to After dinner he thought the thing over again, any alteration in her own feelings concerning and became so convinced that his best course him, because he was going away for good. The was to take advantage of Rachel Nethersole's observance of the fifth commandment, he exforgiving disposition that he sent for a cab and plained, binding upon all Christians, would in drove to Clapham, to “my own place," he said her case be effected by the pious memory of the to himself. “And I dare say," he continued, be- man who had stood in loco parentis, in the place ing now very cheerful over the new prospects of a parent to her. Here Alderney thought he “ I dare say that the time will come when I may saw his chance and struck in, “ Quis desiderio," endure the girl's affectionate ways as Anthony but was interrupted by a gesture from his cousin, used to. Pretend to like them, too. It's awk- who went on to set forth that in her real father ward becoming a father when you least expect it. Alison had before her an example which her A grown-up girl, too, with a temper of her own, friends would not advise her to follow, and, alone with whom you have had rows; it is a very though filial piety would not dwell upon his faults, embarrassing position, and requires a great deal it was impossible to hide them altogether; and, of presence of mind. This afternoon I was a in fact; it had always been a thorn in the side of fool. I've been a fool all day, I think. Things the family generally that this member of it had came upon me too unexpectedly. A man can't turned out so ill.
“Things being so,” Augustus concluded, “we have resolved that it will be better for me, and could not but feel that for you and your fortune for you too, if I renounce my scheme of living to be at the mercy of a man who has never shown abroad, and instead, become your father, guareven the most common prudence in money mat- dian, and best friend. As for my former life, it ters would be a very disastrous thing. And it has been, I admit, devoted to pleasure; that is was with the greatest joy that we received from all finished. I was then a man without ties, and him an assurance that he was willing to accept therefore, to a certain extent, a selfish man. Now an annuity, and not to take upon himself the re- I have you, my daughter, I have some one else in sponsibilities of paternity. In other words, my the world to live for. My brother Anthony actdear child, you will be in exactly the same posi- ed, no doubt, for the best, but he acted wrongly tion as if you were really Anthony's daughter." toward me. Had I known, had I suspected, that
“I have seen him," said Alison, quietly. “He you were my child, my course would have been has told me that he does not want a daughter. different indeed; perhaps it would have been as He can never feel any affection for me; it is bet- blameless as that of my cousin, Alderney Codd." ter that we should part."
Alderney jumped in his chair and changed “Much better," said Augustus
color. It was to be hoped that Stephen was not “I confess that it would be impossible for me going to begin revelations at this inconvenient to practice the same respect and obedience to time. ward him as to my dear fath-I mean my uncle "I say so much, Alison,” Stephen went on, Anthony,”
while Mrs. Cridland sat clutching Miss Nether“ Always your father, Alison," said Gilbert. sole's hand in affright, and the partners with the
“Quis desiderio," by Alderney again, when old lawyer stood grouped together-Gilbert rethe door was thrown open, and the new father tained his position behind Alison—"I say so appeared.
much because you ought to know both sides. He was acting elaborately; he had thrown It matters little, now, why my cousins have beaside the dark and down look with which he re- come my enemies. You see that they are. I ceived Alison in the afternoon; he had assumed come here to-night proposing new relations. I an expression of candor mixed with some kind of take blame for the things I said this afternoon, sorrowful surprise, as if he was thinking of the Forgive me, my child. Your father asks for his past; his dark eyes were full, as if charged with daughter's forgiveness." repentance.
“Oh!” cried Alison, moved to tears by this “Alison," he said, looking about the room, speech of the père prodigue, “ do not speak so. “I see you are with my cousins, my very good Do not talk of forgiveness. There is nothing to friends, and Mr. Billiter, my well-wisher from forgive.” youth upward. I have disturbed a family gather “Together, my dear, we can face our eneing. May I ask, my child, what poison concern- mies, and bid them do their worst." ing your father they have poured into your ears? He drew her to his side and laid her hand on Miss Nethersole! Is it possible?"
his arm, in a manner as paternal and as true to Aunt Rachel shook her head violently, and nature as an amateur heavy father at private pushed her chair back. But Stephen thought of theatricals. the message.
“ This is truly wonderful,” said Mr. Billiter. Alison sprang to her feet, but was silent. “Let them do their worst,” continued SteShe tried to speak, but could not. Gilbert held phen. her hand.
“Why, in Heaven's name" began Augus“Stephen,” cried Augustus, "what is the tus, but was stopped by Stephen, who went on meaning of this language? You have already without taking the least notice of him. forgotten the interview of this morning. Must “Miss Nethersole,” he said, “I owe to you we tell your daughter all ? "
an explanation of a very important kind. I have “All that you please,” said Stephen, airily; read to-day the journal of my late wife, with feel"you are free to tell Alison whatever you like." ings of the deepest sorrow. My neglect was not He took her hand and drew her gently from Gil- willful, but accidental ; the reduction of my wife's bert. “Alison, my daughter, let me repeat your allowance was due to a heavy pecuniary loss; our own words: We have thought hard things, we separation was by mutual consent; I never rehave said hard things of each other. That was ceived any letters from her at all. I concluded because we did not know the truth. Now we that she had carried her threat into execution and know it, let us not be separated.'
left me. When I had my remittances returned “I was wrong this afternoon, because I had from Lulworth, I concluded that she had gone not yet realized what it meant to me, this gift of away from me altogether.” a daughter. I have thought it over since, and “But, man,” said Rachel Nethersole, puzzled
with this glib show of explanation, "you went on tion was Stephen. He was quite certainly the drawing her allowance from me."
heir to the great estate; everything, including “I did,” said Stephen, frankly"I did ; and his daughter, was his, and in his power. The the hardest, the most cruel, the most unjust ac- difficulty about the Letters of Administration cusation ever made against any man was made could not any longer stand in his way; the crime against me this morning by my own cousin. was forgiven for the daughter's sake ; and what, -Alison, you shall hear it, unless, indeed, they in Heaven's name, would be the end of the great have already told you."
Hamblin estate, grown up and increased through “What we have spared your daughter," said so many generations, developed by patient inAugustus, solemnly, “ you, too, would do well to dustry and carefulness to its present goodly prospare her."
portions, fallen into the hands of a profligate, a “Spare her!” Stephen repeated. “It was black sheep, a prodigal son, who would waste, out of no consideration for me. Rachel Nether- dissipate, lavish, squander, and scatter in a few sole, I drew that hundred and fifty pounds a year years what it had cost so many to produce ? for six years after my wife's death. She could “ It is a sad pity,” said Mr. Billiter, speaking not, poor thing, receive any of it. But how was the thoughts of all. I to know that? Who told me of her death? " Stephen,” said Alderney, “ if you are really What did I know?"
going to take over the whole estate for your“This is truly wonderful !” said Mr. Billiter self—" again.
“I certainly am," Stephen replied with a “Dora, before we parted to meet no more, short laugh. signed a number of receipts. It was understood " Then there are one or two things that you that she was not to be troubled in the matter. I must do. As a man of honor and generosity, heard no more. I went on presenting the re- you must do them. There is Flora Cridland, for ceipts. I drew the money. That money, Rachel instance; you must continue to behave toward Nethersole, has been strictly and honorably laid her as Anthony did." up ever since, to be returned to you when occa “Go on, Alderney." sion should serve. I first laid it up for Dora, but, “Here is Gilbert Yorke, engaged to Alison." after six years, I heard from Anthony that she “Go on.” was dead, and then resolved to hand it over to His face expressed no generous determination you. But my life has been, as I said before, a to do anything at all. selfish one. The money was there, but the oc- "Well," said Alderney, his nose becoming casion never came. At the same time, Rachel, suffused with a pretty blush, “ if you can not I thank you most heartily for the message of for- understand what you have to do, I can not tell giveness sent me by Alison. Although there was you." nothing to forgive, I accept the message as a “I know what you mean. I am to continue token of good will."
to give my cousin, Flora Cridland, a lavish alRachel stared at him, as one dumfounded. lowance for doing nothing. Flora, you know my
“Am I," she asked, “out of my senses? Is sentiments. I am to take, with my daughter, all this true?”
the hangers on and lovers who may have hoped Mr. Billiter laughed in his hard, dry way. to catch an heiress. Mr. Yorke, at some future
“Quite as true, madame," he said, “as any time you may have an interview with me, in orother of the statements you have heard. Pray der to explain your pretensions. Lastly, Aldergo on, Stephen.”
ney, I am to lend you as much money as Anthony “No; I shall not go on. I have said all I did, am I?" had to say to Alison, my daughter, and to Miss “I was not thinking of myself,” said AlderNethersole, my sister-in-law. To them explana- ney meekly. “I only thought, as the poet says, tions were due. To you, my cousins, and to you, •Suave est ex magno tollere acervo.' It is delawyer of the devil, I have nothing to say ex- lightful to help yourself from a big pile. Howcept that, as this is my house, you will best please ever—" me, its owner, by getting out of it at once."
But Alison broke away from her father's The position was ludicrous. They who had arm, and caught the protective hands of Gilbert. come to tell Alison gently how her father, having "No," she said, with brightening eyes, "Gilbeen such a very bad specimen of father or citi- bert will not need to ask your permission; he zen, had acquiesced in their proposal and was has my promise. And he had the encouragegoing to the Continent for life, never again to ment of my-my uncle Anthony." trouble anybody, stood looking at each other “Right, girl," said Rachel Nethersole ; "you foolishly, the tables turned upon them. They are right. If he turns you out, you shall come were quite powerless. The master of the situa. to me." She too crossed over to her niece, and