페이지 이미지

welcomed her: held out his arms: tried, at least, to kiss her: and, without a murmur, should have submitted to any endearments which the girl might offer. To be sure, the style and title of daughter no more commanded his affection than that of niece: his heart, which had long since ceased to feel any warmth toward Alison's mother, by no means leaped up at the meeting with Dora's daughter. Quite the reverse. He felt that the whole thing was a gêne; he would very much have preferred Alison to have continued Anthony's daughter.

You can not, however, by wishing, reverse the current of affairs. That is an axiom in the First Book of Fate; and the wise man makes the best of materials in his hands. The materials in Stephen's hands were a girl ready to acknowledge him as her father, and do her best to enact the part of Christian daughter; a sister-in-law who had been deeply wronged, and who, for the sake of that daughter, was ready to forgive and forget the past; a little knot of conspirators, eager to get rid of him, to push him off the scene, to land him, once and for all, across the Channel.

Very good but one thing they had forgotten. Not only did Miss Nethersole forgive, which they either did not know or took care not to mention, but in striking at him they would strike at Alison. Yes, and at themselves; at the family name, at everything held dear by the Hamblins.

The more he turned the matter over in his mind, the more he became convinced that to strike the flag at once was impolitic and-still more-useless. A change of front was not only possible, but advisable.

"Why," asked this just man, "should I abandon what is mine because they threaten? What can they do? What can they prove? Would they dare to try it? And since the woman sends me that message, why, there is nothing more to be feared. I will stay."

After dinner he thought the thing over again, and became so convinced that his best course was to take advantage of Rachel Nethersole's forgiving disposition that he sent for a cab and drove to Clapham, to "my own place," he said to himself. “And I dare say," he continued, being now very cheerful over the new prospects "I dare say that the time will come when I may endure the girl's affectionate ways as Anthony used to. Pretend to like them, too. It's awkward becoming a father when you least expect it. A grown-up girl, too, with a temper of her own, one with whom you have had rows; it is a very embarrassing position, and requires a great deal of presence of mind. This afternoon I was a fool. I've been a fool all day, I think. Things came upon me too unexpectedly. A man can't

stand a big fortune, and a grown-up daughter, and threatenings of criminal proceedings all at once. However, I have cooled down, and shall play my next card very much better, as my dear friends and cousins will shortly discover."

It was somewhat unfortunate that he chose that evening to carry out his purpose, because it was the time which the partners, accompanied by Mr. Billiter, had chosen for their family council.

Gilbert Yorke, Alderney Codd, Mrs. Cridland, and Miss Nethersole all assisted on this occasion, the importance of which was realized by no one so much as by Alderney Codd. The fur coat was necessarily discarded owing to the return of summer, but its place was worthily taken by broadcloth of the best and newest, while the condition of wristbands, front, and collar showed what an excellent thing a little steady occupation is for a man. True, his work was over; there was no more employment for him in rummaging among registers; but he had not yet realized that the suspension of work meant cessation of income. At present he was entirely filled with a sort of holy joy on account of Anthony's rehabilitation, and he had thought of a beautiful verse from Horace which he intended to quote as soon as he could find an opportunity. It was not entirely novel, but then Alderney's scholarship was not entirely fresh-overripe, perhaps. The effort to lug in the lines somehow proved unsuccessful for the first half-hour or so, during which Augustus was explaining the new position of affairs, how Stephen had resolved on leaving his daughter in undisputed possession-taking only an annuity out of the estate. These dry details gave no opportunity for Horatian sentiment.

Augustus Hamblin took the opportunity of reminding Alison - this was a precautionary measure, in case she should allow herself to fall in love, so to speak, with her father, and then find out about the receipts, and be humiliated— that the discovery of her parent need not lead to any alteration in her own feelings concerning him, because he was going away for good. The observance of the fifth commandment, he explained, binding upon all Christians, would in her case be effected by the pious memory of the man who had stood in loco parentis, in the place of a parent to her. Here Alderney thought he saw his chance and struck in, “Quis desiderio," but was interrupted by a gesture from his cousin, who went on to set forth that in her real father Alison had before her an example which her friends would not advise her to follow, and, although filial piety would not dwell upon his faults, it was impossible to hide them altogether; and, in fact; it had always been a thorn in the side of the family generally that this member of it had turned out so ill.


'Things being so," Augustus concluded, "we could not but feel that for you and your fortune to be at the mercy of a man who has never shown even the most common prudence in money matters would be a very disastrous thing. And it was with the greatest joy that we received from him an assurance that he was willing to accept an annuity, and not to take upon himself the responsibilities of paternity. In other words, my dear child, you will be in exactly the same position as if you were really Anthony's daughter."

"I have seen him," said Alison, quietly. "He has told me that he does not want a daughter. He can never feel any affection for me; it is better that we should part."

"Much better," said Augustus.

"I confess that it would be impossible for me to practice the same respect and obedience toward him as to my dear fath-I mean my uncle Anthony-"

"Always your father, Alison," said Gilbert. “Quis desiderio," by Alderney again, when the door was thrown open, and the new father appeared.

He was acting elaborately; he had thrown aside the dark and down look with which he received Alison in the afternoon; he had assumed an expression of candor mixed with some kind of sorrowful surprise, as if he was thinking of the past; his dark eyes were full, as if charged with repentance.

"Alison," he said, looking about the room, "I see you are with my cousins, my very good friends, and Mr. Billiter, my well-wisher from youth upward. I have disturbed a family gathering. May I ask, my child, what poison concerning your father they have poured into your ears? Miss Nethersole! Is it possible?”

Aunt Rachel shook her head violently, and pushed her chair back. But Stephen thought of the message.

Alison sprang to her feet, but was silent. She tried to speak, but could not. Gilbert held her hand.

"Stephen," cried Augustus, "what is the meaning of this language? You have already forgotten the interview of this morning. Must we tell your daughter all?"

"All that you please," said Stephen, airily; "you are free to tell Alison whatever you like." He took her hand and drew her gently from Gilbert. "Alison, my daughter, let me repeat your own words: 'We have thought hard things, we have said hard things of each other. That was because we did not know the truth. Now we know it, let us not be separated.'

"I was wrong this afternoon, because I had not yet realized what it meant to me, this gift of a daughter. I have thought it over since, and

have resolved that it will be better for me, and for you too, if I renounce my scheme of living abroad, and instead, become your father, guardian, and best friend. As for my former life, it has been, I admit, devoted to pleasure; that is all finished. I was then a man without ties, and therefore, to a certain extent, a selfish man. Now I have you, my daughter, I have some one else in the world to live for. My brother Anthony acted, no doubt, for the best, but he acted wrongly toward me. Had I known, had I suspected, that you were my child, my course would have been different indeed; perhaps it would have been as blameless as that of my cousin, Alderney Codd."

Alderney jumped in his chair and changed color. It was to be hoped that Stephen was not going to begin revelations at this inconvenient time.

"I say so much, Alison," Stephen went on, while Mrs. Cridland sat clutching Miss Nethersole's hand in affright, and the partners with the old lawyer stood grouped together-Gilbert retained his position behind Alison-"I say so much because you ought to know both sides. It matters little, now, why my cousins have become my enemies. You see that they are. I come here to-night proposing new relations. I take blame for the things I said this afternoon, Forgive me, my child. Your father asks for his daughter's forgiveness."

"Oh!" cried Alison, moved to tears by this speech of the père prodigue, “do not speak so. Do not talk of forgiveness. There is nothing to forgive."

"Together, my dear, we can face our enemies, and bid them do their worst."

He drew her to his side and laid her hand on his arm, in a manner as paternal and as true to nature as an amateur heavy father at private theatricals.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

"Why, in Heaven's name-" began Augustus, but was stopped by Stephen, who went on without taking the least notice of him.

"Miss Nethersole," he said, "I owe to you an explanation of a very important kind. I have read to-day the journal of my late wife, with feelings of the deepest sorrow. My neglect was not willful, but accidental; the reduction of my wife's allowance was due to a heavy pecuniary loss; our separation was by mutual consent; I never received any letters from her at all. I concluded that she had carried her threat into execution and left me. When I had my remittances returned from Lulworth, I concluded that she had gone away from me altogether."

"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."

"I did," said Stephen, frankly—“ I did; and the hardest, the most cruel, the most unjust accusation ever made against any man was made against me this morning by my own cousin. —Alison, you shall hear it, unless, indeed, they have already told you."

"What we have spared your daughter," said Augustus, solemnly, "you, too, would do well to spare her."

heir to the great estate; everything, including his daughter, was his, and in his power. The difficulty about the Letters of Administration could not any longer stand in his way; the crime was forgiven for the daughter's sake; and what, in Heaven's name, would be the end of the great Hamblin estate, grown up and increased through so many generations, developed by patient industry and carefulness to its present goodly proportions, fallen into the hands of a profligate, a black sheep, a prodigal son, who would waste, dissipate, lavish, squander, and scatter in a few years what it had cost so many to produce?

"It is a sad pity," said Mr. Billiter, speaking the thoughts of all.

"Spare her!" Stephen repeated. "It was out of no consideration for me. Rachel Nethersole, I drew that hundred and fifty pounds a year for six years after my wife's death. She could not, poor thing, receive any of it. But how was I to know that? Who told me of her death? What did I know?” "This is truly wonderful!" said Mr. Billiter self—” again.

"Dora, before we parted to meet no more, signed a number of receipts. It was understood that she was not to be troubled in the matter. I heard no more. I went on presenting the receipts. I drew the money. That money, Rachel Nethersole, has been strictly and honorably laid up ever since, to be returned to you when occasion should serve. I first laid it up for Dora, but, after six years, I heard from Anthony that she was dead, and then resolved to hand it over to you. But my life has been, as I said before, a selfish one. The money was there, but the occasion never came. At the same time, Rachel, I thank you most heartily for the message of forgiveness sent me by Alison. Although there was nothing to forgive, I accept the message as a token of good will.”

Rachel stared at him, as one dumfounded. “Am I," she asked, "out of my senses? Is this true?"

Mr. Billiter laughed in his hard, dry way. "Quite as true, madame," he said, "as any other of the statements you have heard. Pray go on, Stephen."

"No; I shall not go on. I have said all I had to say to Alison, my daughter, and to Miss Nethersole, my sister-in-law. To them explanations were due. To you, my cousins, and to you, lawyer of the devil, I have nothing to say except that, as this is my house, you will best please me, its owner, by getting out of it at once."

The position was ludicrous. They who had come to tell Alison gently how her father, having been such a very bad specimen of father or citizen, had acquiesced in their proposal and was going to the Continent for life, never again to trouble anybody, stood looking at each other foolishly, the tables turned upon them. They were quite powerless. The master of the situa


[ocr errors]

"Stephen," said Alderney, "if you are really going to take over the whole estate for your

"I certainly am," Stephen replied with a short laugh.

"Then there are one or two things that you must do. As a man of honor and generosity, you must do them. There is Flora Cridland, for instance; you must continue to behave toward her as Anthony did."

"Go on, Alderney."

"Here is Gilbert Yorke, engaged to Alison." "Go on."

His face expressed no generous determination to do anything at all.

"Well," said Alderney, his nose becoming suffused with a pretty blush, "if you can not understand what you have to do, I can not tell you."

"I know what you mean. I am to continue to give my cousin, Flora Cridland, a lavish allowance for doing nothing. Flora, you know my sentiments. I am to take, with my daughter, all the hangers on and lovers who may have hoped to catch an heiress. Mr. Yorke, at some future time you may have an interview with me, in order to explain your pretensions. Lastly, Alderney, I am to lend you as much money as Anthony did, am I?"

"I was not thinking of myself," said Alderney meekly. "I only thought, as the poet says, Suave est ex magno tollere acervo.' It is delightful to help yourself from a big pile. However-"

But Alison broke away from her father's arm, and caught the protective hands of Gilbert.

“No," she said, with brightening eyes, “Gilbert will not need to ask your permission; he has my promise. And he had the encouragement of my-my uncle Anthony."

"Right, girl," said Rachel Nethersole; “you are right. If he turns you out, you shall come to me." She too crossed over to her niece, and

a pretty group was formed of Alison in the middle, Gilbert at her right, and Rachel at her left. Stephen's face darkened; but he forced himself to be genial.

"Well,” he said, with a smile, “one can not expect daughters like mine to become obedient in a moment. Marry whom you please, Alison. Your husband, however, must look to please me before any settlements are arranged. Rachel Nethersole, I am sorry to see that your usual common sense has failed you on this occasion."

Rachel shook her head. She mistrusted the man by instinct.

nothing to suspect or to disbelieve. I did not know for six years and more of the death of my wife-"

He did not hear the door open behind him: he hardly observed how Alison, with panting breast and parted lips, sprang past him: he did not hear the cry of astonishment from all, but he felt his dead brother's hand upon his shoulder: he turned and met his dead brother face to face, and he heard him say: "Stephen, that is not true; you knew it a week after her death."

All the pretense went out of him: all the confidence: all the boastfulness; he shrunk to

"If I could believe you," she murmured-"if gether: his cheek became pallid: his shoulders only I could believe you—” fell and were round: his features became mean : he trembled.

There happened, then, a strange sound in the hall outside-shuffling steps-a woman's shriek -the voice of young Nick, shrill and strident, ordering unknown persons to be silent; in fact, they were William the under-gardener, and Phoebe the under-housemaid, and he was entering the house with his captive when they rushed up the steps and Phoebe screamed, thinking in the twilight of the June night that she was looking upon the face of a ghost.

[ocr errors]

'Silence, all of you!” cried young Nick, excitedly, trying not to speak too loud; "you chattering, clattering, jabbering bundle of rags, hold your confounded tongue! Take her away, William, stop her mouth with the handle of the spade-choke her, if you can! Now, then."

They hardly noticed the noise in the study. It happened just when Miss Nethersole was expressing her doubts as to Stephen's perfect veracity. Everybody was discomfited. Mrs. Cridland was miserably wiping her eyes, thinking of the days of fatness, gone for ever: Miss Nethersole was uncomfortably suspicious that the man had not told her anything like the truth: the two partners were silent and abashed-they felt like conspirators who had been found out: Gilbert was hot and angry, yet for Alison's sake he was keeping control of his temper. Stephen himself was uncomfortable, trying to devise some method of restoring confidence, cursing Alderney for forcing his hand. Alderney was ready to sit down and cry: Mr. Billiter was apparently saying to himself for the third time:

"This is truly wonderful!"

And then Alison broke from Gilbert and Rachel, and, standing like a startled deer, cried: "I hear a step-I hear a step!" And for a moment she stood with her hands outspread, listening.

Stephen took no notice of his daughter's extraordinary gesture. He addressed himself to Rachel, having his back to the door.

"Go," said Anthony, pointing to the door"go! I know all that you have done and said— go; let me never see you more, lest I forget the promise which I made by the death-bed of our mother."

Stephen passed through them all without a


In the general confusion, no one noticed Alderney.

He waited a moment and then crept furtively out, and caught Stephen at the door.

[ocr errors]


Courage," he said; Anthony will come round. All is not yet lost."

"You stand by a fallen friend, Alderney?” said Stephen, bitterly. "Nay, man, go back and get what you can. I am ruined."

“Dives eram dudum,” replied the Fellow of the College. "Once I was rich. Fecerunt me tria nudum—three things made me naked: Alea, vina, Venus. You are no worse off, Stephen, than you were."

As Stephen walked rapidly away across the common, it was some consolation to think that at this, the darkest moment of his life, he could reckon on the friendship of one man in the world-and on the promise made at a death-bed by another. As for the game-he had played for a high stake-he stood to win by long odds and he lost.

"Oh, my dear! my dear!" cried Alison, forgetting her father altogether, as she clung to Anthony, and kissed him a thousand times. "Oh, my dear! I said you would come back to me some time-somehow. I said you would come back."

Ten minutes later, when the confusion was over, young Nick touched his uncle on the arm, and whispered:

"It's all right about that desk in the office, of "I repeat, Rachel," he said "that you have course? Very good. And now, if I was you, I

would sneak up stairs and change my boots, and put on another coat. I'll amuse Alison while you are gone.... Old lady," he stood in the full light of the gas, with his right hand modestly thrust into his bosom, and his left hand on his thigh-" old lady, and everybody here present,

I give notice that I am about to change my name. Henceforth I mean to be known as Nicolas Cridland-Hamblin, Esquire, about to become, as soon as I leave school, a clerk in the firm of Anthony Hamblin and Company, Indigo Merchants, Great St. Simon Apostle, City."




kitchen over, gave his nurse's daughter a peashooter, and had shooting-matches with her; and on another occasion, when he went to call on his old nurse, turned everything there topsyturvy, romped about, threw the daughter's cat out of the window, and, finally, walking with them down the street, sang and was generally uproarious, seizing fruit from the open shops, and behaving so as to make them quite afraid that he would get into trouble." He was sent again to a private tutor's, and there, though he never seemed to learn his lessons, he was always foremost. His health, however, failed, and again he had to be taken home. In the latter part of this time his father's conversation gave him an interest in politics and political economy, and by the time he was seventeen he had composed a letter to Sir Robert Peel on free trade. His father, a cultivated man who had been at Cambridge, and used to recite Shakespeare to his family, wished his son to be an East India merchant like himself. Buckle entered the office much against his will, but when he was a little over eighteen he was released by his father's death, which occurred on the 22d of January, 1840. His last words were to bid his son "be a good boy to his mother." Buckle was taken fainting from the room. He always repaid her self-sacrificing devotion with the tenderest attachment; he never really recovered from the shock of her death. She was a very remarkable woman. Miss Shirreff said, after meeting her in 1854:

R. BUCKLE'S reputation is unique in more ways than one; after a long preparation he burst upon the world with a masterpiece, and this masterpiece was received with instant acclamation by the public, and depreciated so far as possible by most of those to whom the public generally looks for guidance. The most singular thing of all is that during the period of preparation he deliberately abstained from any partial or tentative work, and that he entered upon the work of preparation with an utterly undisciplined, not to say unexercised intelligence. He was a very delicate child, and had hardly mastered his letters at eight, and was quite indifferent to childish games. Dr. Birkbeck was of opinion that he ought to be spared in every possible way, and never made to do anything but what he chose, His great delight was to sit for hours by the side of his mother to hear the Scriptures read. Up to the age of eighteen he read hardly anything but the "Arabian Nights," "Don Quixote," Bunyan, and Shakespeare, whom he began at fifteen. He was sent to school for a short time to give him a change from home, with strict directions that he was never to be punished or forced to learn; nevertheless, out of curiosity, he learned enough to bring home the first prize for mathematics before he was fourteen. Being asked what reward he would have for this feat, he chose to be taken away from school. He knew hardly anything, and was proud of showing off what he knew. He would stand on the kitchen-table, and recite the Creed and the Lord's Prayer in Latin Apart from her being the mother of such a son, and French, translating sentence by sentence. He would play with his cousin at "Parson and she was a very interesting person to know. It is cuClerk," always preaching himself, according to lives seem to have produced no impression; they rious how many people there are on whom their own his mother, with extraordinary eloquence for a may have seen and felt much, but they have not rechild. This is more like a precocious child of flected upon their experience, and they remain apfour than a clever and backward child of four-parently unconscious of the influences that have been teen. The same may be said of his less intellec- at work around and upon them. With Mrs. Buckle tual amusements. "On one occasion, for in- it was exactly the reverse. The events, the persons, stance, he turned every chair and table in the the books that had affected her at particular times or in a particular manner, whatever influenced her actions or opinions remained vividly impressed on her mind, and she spoke freely of her own experience,

Life and Writings of Henry Thomas Buckle. By Alfred Henry Huth. New York: D. Appleton & Co.

« 이전계속 »