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daughter-if she is my daughter-the-thebulk of this fortune to which I am now the undoubted heir. When can the papers be signed?"

"You can come to my office to-morrow morning," said Mr. Billiter, cheerfully; "I will promise to make no allusions to the past, and you can draw a check in advance to meet and pay any outstanding liabilities before you go abroad."

"As I am going abroad," said Stephen, with a simplicity which did him great credit, "it would be quite absurd to pay any of my debts." He put on his hat and walked out of the room; his shoulders were bent, and, though he tried to walk with his old swagger, he had something of the appearance of the whipped hound. This is inevitable under such disagreeable cir

cumstances.

There was a note lying on his table: it was a second letter from Jack Baker, urging immediate repayment of the money. Stephen threw it aside impatiently: Baker's troubles mattered little to him: he had other things to think of.

He sat down presently, and tried to think.

He could not arrange his thoughts. He could not put things together in anything like sequence. They had discovered what he thought could never be found out the forgeries of the receipts: they had found, too, what he never suspected or dreamed of—the existence of a daughter. Anthony told him that his wife was dead. Anthony told him with cold voice, but without a word of reproof, that his wife was buried in the cemetery of Bournemouth. Anthony had not told him, nor had he suspected, that there was a child.

Why had Dora kept that secret from him?

The other four, left alone, congratulated each Why had Anthony kept that secret? He laughed other on the success of their diplomacy.

Then they broke up and went away. Mr. Billiter took up his hat without looking over the screen, and the boy was left alone.

He remained there, not daring to move, for five minutes; then he slowly got up, and danced a little double shuffle round the chair in which Stephen had sat.

"I'm the luckiest boy in all the world!" he cried, though his face was pale at the sudden shock of this discovery. "I know all their little secrets all round. But oh!"-he stopped dancing, and became very grave—“what an awful example, to a future partner in the House, is the history of Stephen Hamblin! If he wasn't Alison's father-and there's another start of the very rummiest—if he wasn't Alison's father, and so it had to be kept dark, I would write that history out fair for use in schools. It should be set to music-I mean, to Latin exercises-and it would be a great deal more useful than the doings of the impostor Balbus. "The Wicked Hamblin," it should be headed. Ahab and Ahaziah-both of them-were saints with rings round their heads, compared to Uncle Stephen. And even-" he hesitated for another historical example—“ even Jehoram was an angel of light."

66

CHAPTER XXXIV.

HOW STEPHEN DEFIED THEM ALL.

STEPHEN HAMBLIN went home to his chambers. The time was four o'clock. He bore with him the manuscript which his cousin had given him. His step was weary, and the lines in his dark face were heavily marked.

aloud as he recalled a thing long since forgotten -how Anthony had gone, himself, and spoken to Rachel Nethersole about her sister, while he and Dora were actually. plotting and planning for their secret marriage at Hungerford. No doubt Anthony was in love, and remained in love long after he, Stephen, had come out of it; no doubt he kept this child as a sort of souvenir of that dead and hopeless passion. Poor old Anthony! he always was a soft-hearted sort of man: little better than a fool, when it came to the commoner emotions of humanity. Why, he himself could always get round Anthony. A daughter.

Alison Hamblin, the girl whom he had been accustomed to hate, to plot against, and to curse, was his daughter; that was a very surprising circumstance. For his own part, he had never felt in the slightest degree a paternal instinct toward her-quite the contrary. He had always regarded her with sentiments of extreme dislike; he hated her like sin, he said, untruthfully, because he was not one of those who hate sin. She came between himself and a possible succession. How could he avoid hating her? Even now, when he was told with one breath that she was his daughter, he was ordered with the other to resign his rights in her favor, or else—

That was it-or else He turned this alternative over and over in his mind. That, at least, was clear enough. The documents were forged: in his own chambers he could acknowledge so much; he had himself-being pressed for money, and being quite sure that his brother would never go to Newbury, where awkward inquiries might be made-written those papers, signed them, and -most fatal error!-presented them himself. Why, if only he had observed the common precaution of getting another man to hand them in

across the counter-if only he had sent a clerk or some other irresponsible person! But to go himself to forget that his name belonged to a great city House, and was sure to attract attention -he must have been mad.

To be sure it was not wise to forge the things at all. But then he was so hard up at the time: he had private expenses which he could not well explain to Anthony; he had lost his own money: he wanted everything he could lay his hands on; that hundred and fifty every year seemed like a little windfall, providentially sent. We need not imagine that Stephen was at all repentant about the crime; he was only sorry that it had been found out. Hardened persons, habitual criminals, go off in two directions: they are very sorry when things are discovered, and they are angry when they think of the necessities of the moment which made the crime absolutely unavoidable. But neither state of mind is at all akin to what the good chaplain of the prison means by a heartfelt repentance.

"How much goes to a 'reasonable' annuity?" he thought, reflecting on the proposal; "the estate is worth twelve thousand a year, at the very least. I shall be reasonable on two. Yes, two thousand will do for me.

"As for that woman, Rachel Nethersole, she must be five-and-fifty. Perhaps she will go off suddenly some of these old cats do when they are not too venomous. Then I could get back to England. "Things might be worse. Considering what a tremendous pull they've got, things might be I suppose that fighting is out of the question. A man can't fight, unless he is obliged, with the prospect of a-a-suit of yellow and gray, and no tobacco, and no drink, and no companionship. Hang it all!

worse.

"Gad!" he brightened up a little; "there are plenty of fellows knocking about the Continent under a cloud: good fellows, too, who have got hard up, and done something which has been found out. One pull for me that I shall know their little histories and they won't know mine. I know them all already. I shall meet the Honorable Major Guy Blackborde, who cheated at Monaco when I was there, and was turned out of the army and Captain de Blewdeville, who got into the little mess at the Burleigh Club when I was a member, and had to go. By Gad! I shall enjoy it. And, with two thousand a year, one will be cock of the walk.

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what he should start with. Two thousand a year, say. That means more than a hundred and fifty a month, five thousand francs a month; a great deal may be done with that. Then there was still seven hundred or so left out of Jack Baker's thousand. Of course he was not going to pay that away. Then there was the furniture of his chambers, which was good, with the pictures and statuettes, which were not good, having been taken chiefly with money advances: furniture and pictures could be sold by private contract; altogether, he would begin the new life, outre mer, with a thousand pounds of capital, in addition to two thousand a year income. That was better than in the old days. And, if things went wrong, there was always his daughter, he thought, to fall back upon.

Lastly, there was one thing more: he might marry. A man of his means was an eligible parti; there were plenty of widows with good incomes on the Continent; if their reputations were a little cracked, what matter? so was his.

It will be seen that this was the meditation of a perfectly selfish man. Stephen Hamblin rose to great heights of selfishness. He had divested himself as much, perhaps, as man can do so, who is not Cæsar, Kaiser, Czar, of any consideration for any other human being whatever. He was unto himself a god.

He laughed, thinking of matrimony. And then he remembered the manuscript which his cousin had placed in his hands. He opened it and read it.

We

"The Journal of a Deserted Wife." We have read this tearful document. have seen how it affected a man of middle age, and a very young man, both of whom carried their hearts ever in the right place. This man was not affected at all, although he was the person chiefly interested in it. He read it right through slowly and carefully, without betraying the slightest emotion. When he had quite finished it, he tossed the paper on the table. "That's done with," he said. "Hang it ! it was done with twenty years ago. Rachel seems to have developed a fine thirst for revenge. Luckily, she thought it was Anthony; luckier still, that Anthony got drowned. I suppose it was this document that he was going to communicate to me when he made that appointment which he never kept. It would have been deucedly unpleasant. I should have had to get away at once, while he informed the magistrate that it was not he, but his brother, who had married Dora Nethersole.

"So Anthony took the child; and I never knew there was a child at all. Just like Dora, not to tell me. A little mystery; something to

"Did you get any notes?" asked Jack.

"

What notes?"

hide; something to make her important. How the reverses of fortune with anger, not with deshe did exasperate me! And what a relief it spondency. was to feel free! and what an almighty ass I was not to let Anthony marry her at the very beginning, when he wanted to! That was my infernal conceit. I wanted to cut out the model brother; and the end of it is that I've got a daughter who turns up, after twenty years, and cuts me out."

Stephen's mind was full of more important things.

"My notes of last night and this morning." "Oh! yes—yes." He searched among the letters on the table. "Excuse me, I had forgotHe took up the manuscript again, and read ten them-ah! you asked me to pay into the the concluding paragraph. bank the thousand pounds you advanced me, do you?"

“She knew she was going to die, and she couldn't take the trouble to write and tell me so. Her husband wasn't to know it. Must needs write to Anthony. It's all of a piece. That is what she called wifely obedience. As for the letters she did write to me at that time, they were dismal enough, but not a word about dying.

"They hand me over this precious journal in order to soften the hardness of my heart, I suppose. Well, my heart is pretty tough by this time. The tears of a woman-especially if the tears are twenty years old-are not likely to trouble it. What does soften a man's heart is to be caught in a cleft stick, as I have been caught to have the ball in my hands, and be compelled to drop it. Good Heavens! here I am, the undoubted owner of a quarter of a million of money, besides all the land and houses, and I've got to go away for life on an annuity, or else—or elsewhy, it seems almost worth fighting for. One might get off; these things are not easy to prove; the evidence would rest entirely on the clerk who knew me. But then there are the papers, they are in my handwriting; and it would be a deuced uncomfortable thing to stand in the dock under such a charge, and, more uncomfortable still, to get quodded-hang it! one might be in for fourteen-no-no—I can't fight. I must submit. I will go to-morrow."

The idea of the convict garb made his hands to tremble. He sought and found consolation in a small glass of brandy neat.

"My last appearance to-night in the club, I suppose, or anywhere else. I feel as if I were going to die and be buried. Well, there are one or two places I know of in Paris, and Naples, and Vienna. A man with a couple of thousand a year may get along anywhere."

"

"I did last night. This morning-Hamblin," breaking in with a sudden eagerness of manner, "you haven't paid it into my bank yet, have you? "No, certainly not; I have been busy all day." Good-don't; pay it to me in notes and

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gold."

"What is the matter, Jack?" For his voice and manner both betokened something disastrous.

Mr. Bunter Baker tried to laugh, but the effort was not successful.

1"l

"A check in the flow of prosperity," he said "just a slight check. As I said in my letter, there has been a most unprecedented and most sudden fall. All my calculations were upset, and I had the biggest thing on, too. Hamblin, if it had turned up trumps, I might have gone out of business to-day with a hundred thousand pounds. As it is-well-as it is-all the trade know already, and all the world will know to-morrow. I am-for the moment only-compelled to suspend—”

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He was interrupted by a knock at the door. When things have blown over, I shall come back It was his friend Jack Baker. again and carry on the same old game. That thousand will come in mighty handy. I saw the directors to-day, and had it out with them. They said nasty things, but, as I told them, they couldn't expect me to be a prophet. I wanted prices to go up. I always do. I did my little best to keep them up. And, after all, they've been paying sixteen per cent. for the last eight

The honest Jack looked down on his luck. He showed it by a red cheek, a twitching lip, an anxious eye, an apparel slightly disordered. Stephen, on the contrary, showed few outward and visible signs of discomfiture. His cheek was paler than usual, his eyes were hard and glittering, but he was not dismayed nor cast down; he met

years, and can afford a little loss. They take the risk and share the profits. I don't grumble, why should they?"

He sat down and hurled this question at Stephen as if he was personally concerned in the success of the Bank.

"I knew there would be a smash some day," he went on; "at least, I thought there might be. I went for big things, and they came off one after the other, beautiful; and for bigger, and they came off; and then I went for the very biggest thing possible, and it hasn't come off. Very well, then. You can let me have that thousand back, Hamblin, can you?"

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'You remember, Jack, the conditions on for the first time knocking at Stephen Hamblin's which it was borrowed?"

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'Nonsense!" This was something like news. "It has been ascertained that my brother never married. Do not ask me any questions, because the rest is family business. My brother never married, as I always told you. Therefore-"

"Therefore, the three thousand are mine," cried Jack with great delight, clapping Stephen on the shoulder. "When shall you be ready to part?"

"That I can not say. But I suppose there will be no further opposition to my raising money on the estate. Meantime, my dear boy, I can not let you have your original thousand back, because it is all spent." Stephen looked quite youthful and expansive as he uttered this genial string of falsehoods. "However, as I suppose a little ready money would be handy just now—”

"It would," said Jack; “lend me what you can."

"I will give you," replied Stephen, taking his check-book, "seventy-five. That will be something for you to go on with. Another hundred, if you want it, in a week or two. pend upon me, my dear fellow. blin never forgets a friend."

You can deStephen Ham

They shook hands warmly. That was the sort of sentiment which went home to the heart of Jack.

"No more," he said, "does J. Double B., especially," pocketing the check, “when he's got some of the ready to remember him by."

Fully satisfied with the advance, and the assurance of further help, Jack took his leave. After all, he had done pretty well with his venture. Three thousand to come in after he had made his composition with creditors was not a bad sum to begin again upon. And he always had his reputation for luck to fall back upon.

door.

He had lit a cigar, and was making a few calculations in pencil, when she opened the door and timidly stole in.

He put down the cigar, and rose with surprise, and a feeling of pain and shame, Before him, with crossed hands and down-dropped eyes, stood his daughter.

"You here, Alison, of all places in the world? I thought at least I should have been spared this." "I have just now learned the truth," she said, with trembling voice; "my cousin Augustus told me-what you know-what they have found out."

"Did they invite you to come here and see me?"

"No; I thought you would like to see me, and say something—if only that you may forgive me for the hard things I have said and thought about you."

"Oh, come, Alison!" cried the man, impatiently, "we do not want sentiment, you and I. Be reasonable. You don't suppose I jump for joy because you are my daughter. You don't suppose that I expect you to fly into my arms because they say I am your father. Don't let us be fools."

The tears came into the girl's eyes. She had been a fool; she had deluded herself into the belief, as she drove into town, that he would be touched by the discovery; she thought they would exchange words of regret and reconciliation; she looked for some words of endearment; and this was the way in which she was met.

"Sit down, then, and talk. But don't begin to cry, and don't talk sentiment. First of all, what did Augustus tell you?"

"That you are my father, and that you did not know that you had a child at all."

"Good-that is true. What else did he tell

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"He did not tell you why?" Stephen inter- that she was to blame. Let all the blame, if there

rupted.

"No."

"Since he did not, I shall not," he said, with the air of a man who had been doing good by stealth. "Sufficient that it is so. I am going to travel, and to forget in travel, if possible, all the annoyances I have had in this business. I hardly blame you, Alison. It would be absurd to blame you, altogether, for the attitude you assumed. When I became quite certain that my brother had never married, I resolved to befriend you. I made two distinct offers to you, which you refused with scorn and contumely. You remember that I do not, I say, reproach you; that is all over. Now that I learn the truth, I recognize the fact that my brother desired that you should never find it out, and that he wished you to inherit his property. Therefore, I retire."

This was very grand, and Alison was greatly affected.

"But it is all yours," she said.

"It is all mine, until I have signed a deed of transfer to you," he replied, waving his hand as one who confers a kingdom.

She could not reply.

"I will tell you more," her father went on. "I believe the reason why my brother kept this thing a secret was, that I married the girl with whom he was in love. He spoke to her sister, Miss Nethersole, about her: I, meantime, spoke to the young lady herself. As Miss Nethersole refused to listen to the match proposed by the elder brother, on some religious ground, I believe, the younger brother thought it was no use for him to try that way. So he persuaded the girl into a secret marriage, and the day after they were married they eloped.

"Well "—he went on, carefully folding up the "Journal of a Deserted Wife," and putting it into his breast-pocket, to prevent the chance of her seeing it-" we were not suited to each other. Put it, if you please, that I was too young to be married that I have never been what is called a marrying man: we were unhappy together. I said that it would be well to part for a time: I left her—it was by her own wish and choice-at the seaside: you were born: she told me nothing about it: she fell ill she wrote to my brother when she became worse: she died: he told me of the death, but not of the birth: I forgot all about my marriage: it was just exactly as if I had never been married at all."

This was a rendering of the history which had, somehow, a false ring about it; it was too smooth and specious. But Alison tried to believe it.

"Mind," he said, "I do not attach any blame to my wife; I should be unwilling for you to think

is any, fall on me. Some, perhaps, on my brother, but not much. No doubt, poor Anthony acted for the best, and persuaded himself that the wisest thing for you was to bring you up in ignorance of your parentage; later on, he became fond of you, and grew more unwilling still to part with you. So he invented the fiction of your being his daughter. It was clever of him, but it has led us all into strange paths. Things would have been different with me, and with you, too, if we had known all along what we were to each other."

"

66

And now," asked Alison, can there never be anything between us but formal friendship?" "Never," said Stephen, shaking his head and putting his hands into his pockets, as if he was afraid that his daughter might offer to fondle them. "Never. Do not let us pretend to try. Why, we could not begin ail at once to bill and coo to each other. I could never endure, for instance, such endearments as you used to lavish on your supposed father.”

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'Ah!" He started. Gilbert Yorke was the young man who had been present at the family council. "Ah! you will marry him! That makes it doubly impossible for us ever to be friends. You are going to marry a man-well, never mind. No more sentiment, Alison. You have got a father, and I have got a daughter. It is a relationship which begins to-day. Let it end to-day."

It was harsh, but Alison, somehow, felt a little relieved. She would have liked a few words of sympathy, of hope, of kindness. She could not contemplate without a shudder the simple operation of kissing her "uncle," Stephen the Black. And she was humiliated to find that one whom she had always regarded as the Awful Example was actually her father.

"By the way," he went on pleasantly, "I think I have got one or two things here which you might like to have." He opened a desk and began to rummage among the papers. 'I know that Anthony sent the things to me when Dora died. I put them away, and I haven't looked at them since. Ah! here they are."

He handed to Alison a small packet containing a portrait of a sweet-faced girl, with light hair and blue eyes, very different from her own; and another containing one or two books of devotion: this was all that remained of Dora Hamblin.

"Now go, Alison," said Stephen. cry over them at home if you like.

"You may

Good-by.

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