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A NOVEL

BY

ALISON REID.

IN THREE VOLS.

VOL. I.

LONDON:
HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS,
SUCCESSORS TO HENRY COLBURN,
13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.

1860.
The right of Translation is reserved.

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Billing, Printer, 103 Hatton Garden, London, and Guildford, Surrey.

THE WAY OF THE WORLD.

CHAPTER I.

“Funeral torches at your gateway
Threw a dreadful light within.”

MRS. BROWNING.

If we had been a noble family of the olden times, withered crones, muttering in the chimney corner, would have said that there was a curse upon the house. Perhaps there was. We are all old families, I suppose; only some of us have preserved our ancestral archives, and some of us have not. The voice of a brother's blood crying from the ground may have gone up to heaven, for centuries apparently unheard. The curse in a dead man's

VOL. I.

B

have been silently appealing to Eternal Justice for vengeance against the murderer, even to his third and fourth generations. I do not know. But the curse, if curse there was, did fall at last ;, and those who bent, prostrate to the blow were stalwart men and lovely women, while I was a hardly-conscious child.

My father died by his own hand. It is not for his daughter to judge him, to apportion praise or pity as it seems due, to weigh his errors against his temptations, and his faults and follies against the noble and gentle qualities which I love to think upon even now. Men played high in those days. Tremendous chances were staked at the gaming-tablewon sometimes, oftener lost. It was not my father's fault that he left that mad contest a loser. Had he been a worse man than he was, with a cooler head and a colder heart, perhaps fortune might have been with him instead of against him—we might have been enriched by the ill-gotten hoards that our beggary helped to swell. It was fated otherwise. My father risked all, lost all, and in the desperate madness of ruin he died, and the death-shot came from his own hand.

I shall never forget that night. The recollection is so vivid, so absorbing, that it seems to have stamped out from my mind the memory of my previous life. Only in my

dreams do I sometimes retrace the images that must have been familiar to my earliest childhood. But that night is my first waking reality. I remember it now-still, cloudless, and starlit it was. I remember a confused parley at the door, and strange voices speaking in muffled, awe-stricken whispers.

I remember heavy footsteps tramping up the stairs—rough, foreign-looking men; and oh! my God! how well I remember the ghastly burden which they bore. Heavy, shapeless, and indistinct, with the blood-spotted sheet they had flung over it, hardly veiling the awful mystery of death. I remember the hand that hung lifeless and drooping, beautiful and white as a woman's, with the flashing jewel on the slender finger, lighted up by the dim, swinging lamp with an unearthly splendour. I remember the dark hair, as it hung in damp, heavy

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