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Title: How It All Came Round
Author: Meade, L. T., 1854-1914
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "How It All Came Round" ***

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HOW IT ALL CAME ROUND

BY

MRS. L. T. MEADE

AUTHOR OF "GIRLS OF THE TRUE BLUE," "WILD KITTY,"
"A GIRL OF THE PEOPLE," ETC., ETC.

NEW YORK
HURST & COMPANY
PUBLISHERS


[Illustration: MRS. L. T. MEADE.]



CHAPTER I.

THE RICH CHARLOTTE.


The room had three occupants, two were men, the third a woman. The men
were middle-aged and gray-haired, the woman on the contrary was in the
prime of youth; she was finely made, and well proportioned. Her face was
perhaps rather too pale, but the eyes and brow were noble, and the
sensitive mouth showed indications of heart as well as intellect.

The girl, or rather young woman, for she was past five and twenty, sat
by the fire, a book on her knee. The two men had drawn chairs close to a
table. The elder of these men bore such an unmistakable likeness to the
girl, that even the most casual observer must have guessed the
relationship which existed between them. He was a handsome man,
handsomer even than his daughter, but the same individualities marked
both faces. While, however, in the woman all was a profound serenity and
calm, the man had some anxious lines round the mouth, and some
expression, now coming, now going, in the fine gray eyes, which
betokened a long-felt anxiety.

The other and younger man was shrewd-looking and commonplace; but a very
close observer of human nature might have said, "He may be commonplace,
but do not feel too certain; he simply possesses one of those faces
which express nothing, from which not the cleverest detective in
Scotland Yard could extract any secret."

He was a man with plenty to say, and much humor, and at the moment this
story opens he was laughing merrily and in a heart-whole way, and his
older and graver companion listened with evident enjoyment.

The room in which the three sat bore evidence of wealth. It was a
library, and handsome books lay on the tables, and rare old folios could
have been found by those who cared to look within the carefully locked
bookcases. Some manuscripts were scattered about, and by the girl's
side, on a small table, lay several carefully revised proofs, and even
now she was bending earnestly over a book of reference.

"Well, Jasper," said the elder man, when the younger paused for an
instant in his eager flow of words, "we have talked long enough about
that fine land you have just come from, for even Australian adventures
can keep--I am interested in something nearer home. What do you say to
Charlotte there? She was but a baby when you saw her last."

"She was five years old," replied Jasper. "A saucy little imp, bless
you! just the kind that would be sure to grow into a fine woman. But to
tell the truth I don't much care to look at her, for she makes me feel
uncommonly old and shaky."

"You gave me twenty years to grow into a woman, uncle," answered the
pleasant voice of Charlotte Harman. "I could not choose but make good
use of the time."

"So you have, lass--so you have; I have been growing old and you have
been growing beautiful; such is life; but never mind, your turn will
come."

"But not for a long, long time, Lottie my pet," interrupted the father.
"You need not mind your uncle Jasper. These little speeches were always
his way. And I'll tell you something else, Jasper; that girl of mine has
a head worth owning on her shoulders, a head she knows how to use. You
will not believe me when I say that she writes in this magazine and
this, and she is getting a book ready for the press; ay, and there's
another thing. Shall I tell it, Charlotte?"

"Yes, father; it is no secret," replied Charlotte.

"It is this, brother Jasper; you have come home in time for a wedding.
My girl is going to leave me. I shall miss her, for she is womanly in
the best sense of the word, and she is my only one; but there is a
comfort--the man she is to marry is worthy of her."

"And there is another comfort, father," said Charlotte; "that though I
hope to be married, yet I never mean to leave you. You know that well, I
have often told you so," and here this grave young girl came over and
kissed her father's forehead.

He smiled back at her, all the care leaving his eyes as he did so. Uncle
Jasper had sprung impatiently to his feet.

"As to the lass being married," he said, "that's nothing; all women
marry, or if they don't they ought to. But what was that you said, John,
about writing, writing in a printed book? You were joking surely, man?"

"No, I was not," answered the father. "Go and show your uncle Jasper
that last article of yours, Charlotte."

"Oh, heaven preserve us! no," said uncle Jasper, backing a pace or two.
"I'm willing with all my heart to believe it, if you swear it, but not
the article. Don't for heaven's sake, confront me with the article."

"There's nothing uncommon in my writing for magazines, Uncle Jasper; a
great many girls do write now. I have three friends myself who----"

Uncle Jasper's red face had grown positively pathetic in its agitation.
"What a place England must have become!" he interrupted with a groan.
"Well, lass, I'll believe you, but I have one request to make. Tell me
what you like about your wedding; go into all the raptures you care for
over your wedding dress, and even over the lucky individual for whom you
will wear it; tell me twenty times a day that he's perfection, that you
and you alone have found the eighth wonder of the world, but for the
love of heaven leave out about the books! The other will be hard to
bear, but I'll endeavor to swallow it--but the books, oh! heaven
preserve us--leave out about the printed books. Don't mention the
unlucky magazines for which you write. Don't breathe to me the thoughts
with which you fill them. Oh, if there's an awful creature under the sun
'tis a blue-stocking, and to think I should have come back from England
to find such a horror in the person of my own niece!"



CHAPTER II.

THE POOR CHARLOTTE.


While this light and playful scene was being enacted in a wealthy house
in Prince's Gate, and Charlotte Harman and her father laughed merrily
over the Australian uncle's horror of authors and their works, another
Charlotte was going through a very different part, in a different place
in the great world's centre.

There could scarcely be a greater contrast than between the small and
very shabby house in Kentish Town and the luxurious mansion in
Kensington. The parlor of this house, for the drawing-rooms were let to
lodgers, was occupied by one woman. She sat by a little shabbily covered
table, writing. The whole appearance of the room was shabby: the
furniture, the carpet, the dingy window panes, the tiny pretence of a
fire in the grate. It was not exactly a dirty room, but it lacked all
brightness and freshness. The chimney did not draw well, and now and
then a great gust of smoke would come down, causing the busy writer to
start and rub her smarting eyes. She was a young woman, as young as
Charlotte Harman, with a slight figure and very pale face. There were
possibilities of beauty in the face. But the possibilities had come to
nothing; the features were too pinched, too underfed, the eyes, in
themselves dark and heavily fringed, too often dimmed by tears. It was a
very cold day, and sleet was beginning to fall, and the smoking chimney
had a vindictive way of smoking more than ever, but the young woman
wrote on rapidly, as though for bare life. Each page as she finished it,
was flung on one side; some few fell on the floor, but she did not stop
even to pick them up.

The short winter daylight had quite faded, and she had stood up to light
the gas, when the room door was pushed slightly ajar, and one of those
little maids-of-all-work, so commonly seen in London, put in her untidy
head.

"Ef you please, 'em, Harold's been and hurt Daisy, and they is
quarreling h'ever so, and I think as baby's a deal worse, 'em."

"I will go up to them, Anne, and you may stay down and lay the cloth for
tea--I expect your master in early to-night."

She put her writing materials hastily away, and with a light, quick step
ran upstairs. She entered a room which in its size and general
shabbiness might better have been called an attic, and found herself in
the presence of three small children. The two elder ran to meet her with
outstretched arms and glad cries. The baby sat up in his cot and gazed
hard at his mother with flushed cheeks and round eyes.

She took the baby in her arms and sat down in a low rocking-chair close
to the fire. Harold and Daisy went on their little knees in front of
her. Now that mother had come their quarrel was quite over, and the poor
baby ceased to fret.

Seated thus, with her little children about her there was no doubt at
all that Charlotte Home had a pleasant face; the care vanished from her
eyes as she looked into the innocent eyes of her babies, and as she
nursed the seven-months-old infant she began crooning a sweet old song
in a true, delicious voice, to which the other two listened with
delight:----

  "In the days when we went gipsying,
  A long time ago."

"What's gipsying, mother?" asked Harold, aged six.

"Something like picnicking, darling. People who live in the country, or
who are rich,"--here Mrs. Home sighed--"often, in the bright summer
weather, take their dinner or their tea, and they go out into the woods
or the green fields and eat there. I have been to gypsy teas; they are
great fun. We lit a fire and boiled the kettle over it, and made the
tea; it was just the same tea as we had at home, but somehow it tasted
much better out-of-doors."

"Was that some time ago, mother?" asked little Daisy.

"It would seem a long, long time to you, darling; but it was not so many
years ago."

"Mother," asked Harold, "why aren't we rich, or why don't we live in the
country?"

A dark cloud, caused by some deeper emotion than the mere fact of being
poor, passed over the mother's face.

"We cannot live in the country," she said, "because your father has a
curacy in this part of London. Your father is a brave man, and he must
not desert his post."

"Then why aren't we rich?" persisted the boy.

"Because--because--I cannot answer you that, Harold; and now I must run
downstairs again. Father is coming in earlier than usual to-night, and
you and Daisy may come down for a little bit after tea--that is, if you
promise to be very good children now, and not to quarrel. See, baby has
dropped asleep; who will sit by him and keep him from waking until Anne
comes back?"

"I, mother," said Harold, and, "I, mother," said Daisy.

"That is best," said the gentle-voiced mother; "you both shall keep him
very quiet and safe; Harold shall sit on this side of his little cot and
Daisy at the other."

Both children placed themselves, mute as mice, by the baby's side, with
the proud look of being trusted on their little faces. The mother kissed
them and flew downstairs. There was no time for quiet or leisurely
movement in that little house; in the dingy parlor, the gas had now been
lighted, and the fire burned better and brighter, and Anne with most
praiseworthy efforts, was endeavoring to make some toast, which, alas!
she only succeeded in burning. Mrs. Home took the toasting-fork out of
her hands.

"There, Anne, that will do nicely: I will finish the toast. Now please
run away, and take Miss Mitchell's dinner up to her; she is to have a
little pie to-night and some baked potatoes; they are all waiting, and
hot in the oven, and then please go back to the children."

Anne, a really good-tempered little maid-of-all-work, vanished, and Mrs.
Home made some fresh toast, which she set, brown, hot, and crisp, in the
china toast-rack. She then boiled a new-laid egg, and had hardly
finished these final preparations before the rattle of the latch-key was
heard in the hall-door, and her husband came in. He was a tall man, with
a face so colorless that hers looked almost rosy by contrast; his voice,
however, had a certain ring about it, which betokened that most rare and
happy gift to its possessor, a brave and courageous heart. The way in
which he now said, "Ah, Lottie!" and stooped down and kissed her, had a
good sound, and the wife's eyes sparkled as she sat down by the
tea-tray.

"Must you go out again to-night, Angus?" she said presently.

"Yes, my dear. Poor Mrs. Swift is really dying at last. I promised to
look in on her again."

"Ah, poor soul! has it really come? And what will those four children
do?"

"We must get them into an Orphanage; Petterick has interest. I shall
speak to him. Lottie?"

"Yes, dear."

"Beat up that fresh egg I saw you putting into the cupboard when I came
in; beat it up, and add a little milk and a teaspoonful of brandy. I
want to take it round with me to little Alice. That child has never left
her mother's side for two whole days and nights, and I believe has
scarcely tasted a morsel; I fear she will sink when all is over."

Lottie rose at once and prepared the mixture, placing it, when ready, in
a little basket, which her husband seldom went out without; but as she
put it in his hand she could not refrain from saying----

"I was keeping that egg for your breakfast, Angus; I do grudge it a
little bit."

"And to eat it when little Alice wanted it so sorely would choke me,
wife," replied the husband; and then buttoning his thin overcoat tightly
about him, he went out into the night.



CHAPTER III.

THE STORY.


The children were at last in bed, the drawing-room lodger had finished
her dinner, the welcome time of lull in the day's occupations had come,
and Mrs. Home sat by the dining-room fire. A large basket, filled with
little garments ready for mending, lay on the floor at her feet, and her
working materials were close by; but, for a wonder, the busy fingers
were idle. In vain Daisy's frock pleaded for that great rent made
yesterday, and Harold's socks showed themselves most disreputably out at
heels. Charlotte Home neither put on her thimble nor threaded her
needle; she sat gazing into the fire, lost in reverie. It was not a very
happy or peaceful reverie, to judge from the many changes on her
expressive face. The words, "Shall I, or shall I not?" came often to
her lips. Many things seemed to tear her judgment in divers ways; most
of all the look in her little son's eyes when he asked that eager,
impatient question, "mother, why aren't we rich?" but other and older
voices than little Harold's said to her, and they spoke pleadingly
enough, "Leave this thing alone; God knows what is best for you. As you
have gone on all these years, so continue, not troubling about what you
cannot understand, but trusting to him."

"I cannot; I am so tired sometimes," sighed the poor young wife.

She was still undetermined when her husband returned. There was a great
contrast in their faces--a greater almost in their voices, in the tone
of her dispirited, "Well, Angus," and his almost triumphant answer,----

"Well, Lottie, that hard fight has ended bravely. Thank God!"

"Ah! then the poor soul has gone," said the wife, moving her husband's
chair into the warmest corner.

"She has truly gone; I saw her breathe her last. But there is no need to
apply the word 'poor' to her; she has done with all that. You know what
a weakly, troubled creature she always was, how temptation and doubt
seemed to wrap her round like a mist, and prevent her seeing any of the
shining of the blue sky. Well, it all passed away at the last, and there
was nothing but a steadfast looking into the very face of her Lord. He
came for her, and she just stretched out her arms and went to Him. Thank
God for being privileged to witness such a death; it makes life far more
easy."

A little weariness had crept perceptibly into the brave voice of the
minister as he said these last words. His wife laid her hand
sympathizingly on his. They sat silent for a few moments, then he spoke
on a different subject,----

"How is baby to-night, Lottie?"

"Better, I think; his tooth is through at last. He will have rest now
for a bit, poor little darling."

"We must be careful to keep him from catching another cold. And how is
Anne getting on?"

"As well as we can expect from such an ignorant little mite. And oh!
Angus, the nursery is such a cold, draughty room, and I do--I do wish we
were rich."

The last words were tumbled out with a great irrepressible burst of
tears.

"Why, my Lottie, what has come to you?" said her husband, touched and
alarmed by this rare show of feeling "What is it, dear? You wish we were
rich, so do not I; I am quite content. I go among so very much poorer
people than myself, Lottie, that it always seems to me I have far more
than my fair share of life's good things; but, at any rate my Lottie,
crying won't make us rich, so don't waste your strength over it."

"I can't help it sometimes, Angus; it goes to my heart to see you
shivering in such a great-coat as you have just taken off, and then I
know you want better food, and wine; you are so tired this moment you
can scarcely speak. What a lot of good some port wine would do you!"

"And what a lot of good, wishing for it will do me! Come Lottie, be
sensible; we must not begin to repine for what we have not got, and
cannot get. Let us think of our mercies."

"You make me ashamed of myself, Angus. But these thoughts don't come to
me for nothing; the fact is--yes, I will tell you at last, I have long
been making up my mind. The truth is, Angus, I can't look at the
children--I can't look at you and see you all suffering, and hold my
peace any longer. We are poor, very--very--dreadfully poor, but we ought
to be rich."

"Lottie!"

Such a speech, so uttered, would have called for reproof from Angus
Home, had it passed the lips of another. But he knew the woman he had
married too well not to believe there was reason in her words.

"I am sorry you have kept a secret from me," he said. "What is this
mystery, Lottie?"

"It was my mother, Angus. She begged of me to keep it to myself, and she
only told me when she was dying. But may I just tell you all from the
very beginning?"

"Yes, dear. If it is a romance, it will just soothe me, for though I am,
I own, tired, I could not sleep for a long time to come."

"First, Angus, I must confess to a little bit of deceit I practised on
you."

"Ah, Lottie!" said her husband playfully, "no wonder you cried, with
such a heavy burden on your soul; but confess your sins, wife."

"You know how it has always fretted me, our being poor," said Charlotte.
"Your income is only just sufficient to put bread into our mouths, and,
indeed, we sometimes want even that. I have often lain awake at night
wondering how I could make a little money, and this winter, when it set
in so very severe, set my thoughts harder to work on this great problem
than ever. The children did want so much, Angus--new boots, and little
warm dresses--and so--and so--one day about a month ago, Mrs. Lisle, who
reads and writes so much, called, and I was very low, and she was kind
and sympathizing; somehow, at last out it all came, I did so wish to
earn money. She asked me if I could write a good clear hand, a hand
easily read. I showed her what I could do, and she was good enough to
call it excellent. She said no more then, but the next day she came
early. She brought me a MS. written by a friend of hers; very illegible
it was. She would not tell me the name of her friend, but she said she
was a lady very desirous of seeing herself in print. If I would copy
this illegible writing in my own good clear hand, the lady would give me
five pounds. I thought of the children's boots and their winter dresses,
and I toiled over it. I confess now that it was weary work, and tired me
more than I cared to own. I finished it to-day; this evening, just
before you came home, that task was done; but this morning I did
something else. You know Miss Mitchell is always kind enough to let me
see the _Times_. This morning Anne brought it down as usual, and, as I
ran my eyes over it I was struck by an advertisement, 'A young lady
living at Kensington wished for the services of an amanuensis, for so
many hours daily. Remuneration good.' I could not help it, Angus, my
heart seemed to leap into my mouth. Then and there I put on my bonnet,
and with a specimen of my handwriting in my pocket, went off to answer
the advertisement in person. The house was in Prince's Gate, Kensington:
the name of the young lady who had advertised for my services was
Harman."

"Harman! how strange, wife! your own name before you married."

"Yes, dear; but such a different person from me, so rich, while I am so
poor; so very, very beautiful, and graceful, and gracious: she may have
been a year or so younger than I, she was not much. She had a thoughtful
face, a noble face. I could have drawn tears from her eyes had I
described the little children, but I did not. It was delightful to look
upon her calm. Not for worlds would I disturb it; and, Angus, I found
out another thing--her name was not only Harman, but Charlotte Harman."

There was no doubt at all that the other Charlotte was excited now, the
color had come into her cheeks, her eyes sparkled. Her husband watched
her with undisguised surprise.

"I made a good thing of it Angus," she continued. "I am to go to
Prince's Gate every morning, I am to be there at ten, and give my
services till one o'clock. I am then to have lunch with the young lady,
and for all this, and the enjoyment of a good dinner into the bargain, I
am to receive thirty shillings a week. Does not it sound too good to be
true?"

"And that is how we are to be rich, Lottie. Well, go on and prosper. I
know what an active little woman you are and how impossible it is for
you to let the grass grow under your feet. I do not object to your
trying this thing, if it is not too much for your strength, and if you
can safely leave the children."

"I have thought of the children, Angus; this is so much for their real
interest, that it would be a pity to throw it away. But, as you say,
they must not be neglected. I shall ask that little Alice Martin to come
in to look after them until I am back every day; she will be glad to
earn half-a-crown a week."

"As much in proportion, as your thirty shillings is to you--eh, Lottie?
See how rich we are in reality."

Mrs. Home sighed, and the bright look left her face. Her husband
perceived the change.

"That is not all you have got to tell me," he said.

"No, it is only leading up to what I want to tell you. It is what has
set me thinking so hard all day that I can keep it to myself no longer.
Angus, prepare for a surprise; that beautiful young lady, who bears the
same name I bore before I was married--is--is--she is my near relation."

"Your near relation, Charlotte? But I never knew you had any near
relations."

"No, dear, I never told you; my mother thought it best that you should
not know. She only spoke to me of them when she was dying. She was sorry
afterwards that she had even done that; she begged of me, unless great
necessity arose, not to say anything to you. It is only because it seems
to me the necessity has really come that I speak of what gave my mother
such pain to mention."

"Yes, dear, you have wealthy relations. I don't know that it matters
very greatly. But go on."

"There is more than that, Angus, but I will try to tell you all. You
know how poor I was when you found me, and gave me your love and
yourself."

"We were both poor, Lottie; so much so that we thought two hundred a
year, which was what we had to begin housekeeping on, quite riches."

"Yes, Angus; well, I had been poor all my life, I could never do what
rich girls did, I was so accustomed to wearing shabby dresses, and
eating plain food, and doing without the amusements which seem to come
naturally into the lives of most young girls, that I had ceased to miss
them. I was sent to a rather good school, and had lessons in music and
painting, and I sometimes wondered how my mother had money even to give
me these. Then I met you, and we were married. It was just after our
little Harold was born that my mother died."

"Yes, you went down into Hertfordshire; you were away for six weeks."

"I took Harold with me; mother was so proud of him. Whenever she had an
easy moment, she used to like to have him placed on her knee. She told
me then that she had a little son older than I, who died, and that our
Harold reminded her of him. One night, I remember so well, I was sitting
up with her. She had been going through great pain, but towards the
morning she was easier. She was more inclined, however, to talk than to
sleep. She began again speaking about the likeness between our Harold
and my little brother who died.

"'I shall give you little Edgar's christening robe for Harold,' she
said. 'I never could bear to part with it before but I don't mind his
having it. Open my wardrobe, Charlotte, and you will find it folded away
in a blue paper, in the small wooden box.'

"I did so, and took out a costly thing, yellow, it is true, with age,
but half covered with most valuable lace.

"'Why, mother,' I exclaimed, 'how did you ever get such a valuable dress
as this? Why, this lace would be cheap at a guinea a yard!'

"'It cost a great deal more than that,' replied mother, stroking down
the soft lace and muslin with her thin fingers; 'but we were rich then,
Lottie.'

"'Rich!' I said, 'rich! I never, never thought that you and I had
anything to say to money, mother.'

"'You don't remember your father, child?'

"'No, mother,' I said; 'how could I? I was only two years old when he
died.'

"Mother was silent after that, and I think she went into a doze, but my
curiosity and wonder were excited, and I could not help seeking to know
more.

"'I never knew that we were rich,' I said again the next day. 'Why did
you never tell me before? The next best thing to enjoying riches would
be to hear about them.'

"'I did not want to make you discontented, Lottie. I thought what you
had never known or thought of you would never miss. I feared, my dear,
to make you discontented.'

"'But I have thought of money,' I owned, 'I have thought of it lately a
great deal. When I look at Angus I long to get him every luxury, and I
want my little Harold to grow up surrounded by those things which help
to develop a fine and refined character.

"'But they don't, Lottie; they don't indeed,' answered my dear dying
mother. 'Riches bring a snare--they debase the character, they don't
ennoble it.'

"'Mother,' I said, 'I see plainly that you are well acquainted with this
subject. You will tell me, mother, what you know?'

"'Yes,' replied my mother; 'it won't do you the least good; but as I
have said so much to you I may as well tell the rest.'

"Then, Angus, my mother told me the following story; it is not very
long.

"She was an orphan and a governess when my father found her and married
her--she was my father's second wife. She was much younger than he--he
had grown-up sons--two grown-up sons at the time of his marriage; and
they were very deeply offended at his thinking of a second marriage. So
indignant were they that my father and they came to quite an open
quarrel, and mother said that during the five years that my father lived
she never saw either of her stepsons until just at the close. She was
very happy as my father's wife; he loved her dearly, and as he had
plenty of money she wanted for nothing. My father was an old man, as I
have said, and he was tired of fuss, and also of much society; so though
they were so rich mother lived rather a lonely life--in a large and
beautiful place in Hertfordshire. She said the place was called the
Hermitage, and was one of the largest and best in the neighborhood. At
last my father fell ill, very ill, and the doctors said he must die.
Then for the first time there came hastening back to the Hermitage the
two elder sons--their names were John and Jasper--the eldest John, my
mother said, was very handsome, and very kind and courteous to her. He
was a married man, and he told mother that he had a little daughter much
about my age, who was also called Charlotte. My father and his two sons
seemed quite reconciled in these last days, and they spent most of their
time with him. On the evening, however, before he died, he had mother
and me with him alone. I sat on the bed, a little baby child of two, and
my father held mother's hand. He told mother how much he loved her, and
he spoke a very little about money matters.

"'John will make it all right for you, Daisy,' he said. 'John knows all
about my wishes with regard to you and little Charlotte. I should like
this little Charlotte and his to be friends; they are both called after
my own mother, the best woman I ever met. You will bring up little
Charlotte with every comfort and refinement, dear wife.'

"The next day my father died, and John and Jasper went to London. They
did not even wait for the funeral, though Jasper came back for it. John,
he told mother, was kept by the sudden dangerous illness of his wife.
Jasper said that John felt our father's death most dreadfully. Mother
had liked John, who was always very civil to her, but she could not bear
Jasper: she said he seemed a cleverer man than his brother, but she
never could get over a feeling of distrust towards him. The will was
never read to my mother, but Jasper came back again from London to tell
her of its contents, and then judge of her surprise--her name was not
even mentioned, neither her name nor mine. She had been married without
settlements, and every farthing of all my father's great wealth was left
to his two sons, John and Jasper. Jasper expressed great surprise; he
even said it was a monstrously unfair thing of his father to do, and
that certainly he and his brother would try to rectify it in a measure.
He then went back to London, and mother was left alone in the great
empty house. She said she felt quite stunned, and was just then in such
grief for my father that she scarcely heeded the fact that she was left
penniless. Two days afterwards a lawyer from London came down to see
her. He came with a message from her two stepsons. They were much
concerned for her, and they were willing to help her. They would allow
her, between them, as long as she lived the interest on three thousand
pounds--on one condition. The condition was this: she was never to claim
the very least relationship with them; she was to bring up her daughter
as a stranger to them. They had never approved of their father's
marrying her; they would allow her the money on condition that all
connection between them be completely dropped. The day it was renewed by
either mother or daughter, on that day the interest on the three
thousand pounds would cease to be paid. My mother was too young, too
completely inexperienced, and too bowed down with grief, to make the
least objection. Only one faint protest did she make. 'My husband said,'
she faltered, 'on the very last day of his life, he said that he wished
my little Charlotte and that other Charlotte in London to be friends.'
But the lawyer only shook his head. On this point his clients were firm.
'All communication between the families must cease.'

"That is the story, Angus," continued Charlotte Home, suddenly changing
her voice, and allowing her eyes, which had been lowered during her
brief recital, to rise to her husband's face. "My dear mother died a day
or two afterwards. She died regretting having to own even what she did,
and begging me not to think unkindly of my father, and not to unsettle
your mind by telling you what could do no good whatever.

"'I do not think unkindly of my father, mother,' I answered, 'and I will
not trouble my husband's mind, at least, not yet, never, perhaps, unless
fitting opportunity arises. But I know what I think, mother--what,
indeed, I know. That was not my father's real will; my brothers John and
Jasper have cheated you. Of this I am very sure.'

"Mother, though she was so weak and dying, got quite a color into her
cheeks when I said this. 'No, no,' she said, 'don't harbor such a
thought in your heart--my darling, my darling. Indeed it is utterly
impossible. It was a real, real will. I heard it read, and your
brothers, they were gentlemen. Don't let so base a thought of them dwell
in your heart. It is, I know it is, impossible.'

"I said no more to trouble my dear mother and shortly afterwards she
died. That is six years ago."



CHAPTER IV.

TWO WAYS OF LOOKING AT IT.


After the story was finished the husband and wife sat for a long time
side by side, in absolute silence. Both pairs of eyes were fixed on the
glowing embers in the fire; the wife's reflected back both the lights
and the shadows; they were troubled eyes, troubled with possible joy,
troubled also with the dark feelings of anger. The husband's, on the
contrary, were calm and steady. No strong hope was visiting them, but
despair, even disquietude, seemed miles away. Presently the wife's small
nervous fingers were stretched out to meet her husband's, his closed
over them, he turned his head, met her anxious face, smiled and spoke.

"So it seems on the cards that you might have been rich, Lottie. Well,
it was unjust of your father not to have made some provision for your
mother and you, but--but--he has long been dead, the whole thing is
over. Let it pass."

"Angus! do you know what I should like?" asked his wife.

"No. What?"

"I should like to meet those two men, John and Jasper Harman, face to
face, and ask them without the least preamble or preparation, what they
have done with my father's real will?"

"Dear Lottie, you must get this strange idea out of your head. It is not
right of you to harbor such thoughts of any men."

"I should like to look so hard at them," continued Charlotte, scarcely
heeding her husband's words. "I know their eyes would flinch, they would
be startled, they would betray themselves. Angus, I can't help it, the
conviction that is over me is too strong to be silenced. For years, ever
since my mother told me that story, I have felt that we have been
wronged, nay, robbed of our own. But when I entered that house to-day
and found myself face with my half-brother's daughter, when I found
myself in the house that I had been forbidden to enter, I felt--I knew,
that a great wrong had been committed. My father! Why should I think
ill of my father, Angus? Is it likely that he would have made no
provision for my mother whom he loved, or for me? Is it likely that he
would have left everything he possessed to the two sons with whom he had
so bitterly quarrelled, that for years they had not even met? Is it
likely? Angus, you are a just man, and you will own to the truth. Is it
likely, that with his almost dying breath, he should have assured my
mother that all was settled that she could bring me up well, in comfort
and luxury, that Charlotte Harman and I should be friends? No, Angus! I
believe my father; he was a good and just man always; and, even if he
was not, dying men don't tell lies."

"I grant that it seems unlikely, Lottie; but then, on the other hand,
what do you accuse these men of? Why, of no less a crime than forging a
will, of suppressing the real will, and bringing forward one of their
own manufacture. Why, my dear wife, such an act of villainy would be not
only difficult, but, I should say, impossible."

"I don't know _how_ it was done, Angus, but something was done, of that
I am sure, and what that thing was I shall live, please God, to find
out."

"Then you--you, a clergyman's wife--the wife of a man who lives to
proclaim peace on earth, good-will to men, you go into your brother's
house as a spy!"

Mrs. Home colored. Her husband had risen from his chair.

"You shall not do that," he said; "I am your husband, and I forbid it.
You can only go to the Harmans, if they are indeed the near relations
you believe them to be, on one condition."

"And that?" said Charlotte.

"That you see not only Mr. Harman's daughter, but Mr. Harman himself;
that you tell him exactly who you are.... If, after hearing your story,
he allows you to work for his daughter, you can do so without again
alluding to the relationship. If they wish it dropped, drop it, Lottie;
work for them as you would for any other strangers, doing your best work
bravely and well. But begin openly. Above all things thinking no evil in
your heart of them."

"Then I cannot go on these conditions, Angus, for I cannot feel charity
in my heart towards Mr. Harman. It seemed such a good thing this
morning. But I must give it up."

"And something else will come in it's place, never fear; but I did not
know until to-night that my Lottie so pined for riches."

"Angus, I do--I do--I want Harold to go to a good school, Daisy to be
educated, little Angus to get what is necessary for his health, and
above all, you, my dearest, my dearest, to have a warm overcoat, and
port wine: the overcoat when you are cold, the port wine when you are
tired. Think of having these luxuries, not only for yourself, but to
give away to your poor, Angus, and I am sure we ought to have them."

"Ah, Lottie! you are a witch, you try to tempt me, and all these things
sound very pleasant. But don't dream of what we haven't, let us live for
the many, many things we have."



CHAPTER V.

LOVE IN A DIAMOND.


The next day Angus Home went out early as usual, about his many parish
duties; this was it was true, neither a feast nor a fast day, nor had he
to attend a morning service, but he had long ago constituted himself
chief visitor among the sick and poorest of his flock, and such work
occupied him from morning to night. Perhaps in a nature naturally
inclined to asceticism, this daily mingling with the very poor and the
very suffering, had helped to keep down all ambitions for earthly good
things, whether those good things came in the guise of riches or honors;
but though unambitious and very humble, never pushing himself forward,
doing always the work that men who considered themselves more fastidious
would shun, never allowing his voice to be heard where he believed wiser
men than he might speak, Mr. Home was neither morbid nor unhappy; one of
his greatest characteristics was an utter absence of all
self-consciousness.

The fact was, the man, though he had a wife whom he loved, and children
very dear to him, had grown accustomed to hold life lightly; to him life
was in very truth a pilgrimage, a school, a morning which should usher
in the great day of the future. His mental and spiritual eyes were fixed
expectantly and longingly on that day; and in connection with it, it
would be wrong to say that he was without ambition, for he had a very
earnest and burning desire, not only for rank but for kingship by and
by: he wanted to be crowned with the crown of righteousness.

Angus Home knew well that to wear that crown in all its lustre in the
future, it must begin to fit his head down here; and he also knew that
those who put on such crowns on earth, find them, as their great and
blessed Master did before them, made of thorns.

It is no wonder then that the man with so simple a faith, so Christ-like
a spirit, should not be greatly concerned by his wife's story of the
night before. He did not absolutely forget it, for he pondered over it
as he wended his way to the attic where the orphan Swifts lived. He felt
sorry for Lottie as he thought of it, and he hoped she would soon cease
to have such uncharitable ideas of her half-brothers; he himself could
not even entertain the notion that any fraud had been committed; he felt
rather shocked that his Lottie should dwell on so base a thing.

There is no doubt that this saint-like man could be a tiny bit
provoking; and so his wife felt when he left her without again alluding
to their last night's talk. After all it is wives and mothers who feel
the sharpest stings of poverty. Charlotte had known what to be poor
meant all her life, as a child, as a young girl, as a wife, as a mother,
but she had been brave enough about it, indifferent enough to it, until
the children came; but from the day her mother's story was told her, and
she knew how close the wings of earthly comfort had swept her by,
discontent came into her heart. Discontent came in and grew with the
birth of each fresh little one. She might have made her children so
comfortable, she could do so little with them; they were pretty children
too. It went to her heart to see their beauty disfigured in ugly
clothes; she used to look the other way with a great jealous pang, when
she saw children not nearly so beautiful as hers, yet looked at and
admired because of their bright fresh colors and dainty little
surroundings. But poverty brought worse stings than these. The small
house in Kentish Town was hot and stifling in the months of July and
August; the children grew pale and pined for the fresh country air which
could not be given to them; Lottie herself grew weak and languid, and
her husband's pale face seemed to grow more ethereal day by day. At all
such times as these did Charlotte Home's mind and thoughts refer back
to her mother's story, and again and again the idea returned that a
great, great wrong had been done.

In the winter when this story opens, poverty came very close to the
little household. They were, it is true, quite out of debt, but they
were only so because the food was kept so scanty, the fires so low,
dress so very insufficient to keep at a distance the winter's bitter
cold; they were only out of debt because the mother slaved from morning
to night, and the father ate less and less, having, it is to be feared,
less and less appetite to eat.

Then the wife and mother grew desperate, money must be brought in--how
could it be done? The doctor called and said that baby Angus would die
if he had not more milk--he must have what is called in London
baby-milk, and plenty of it. Such milk in Kentish Town meant money.
Lottie resolved that baby Angus should not die. In answering an
advertisement which she hoped would give her employment, she
accidentally found herself in her own half-brother's house. There was
the wealth which had belonged to her father; there were the riches to
which she was surely born. How delicious were those soft carpets; how
nice those cushioned seats; how pleasant those glowing fires; what an
air of refinement breathed over everything; how grand it was to be
served by those noiseless and well-trained servants; how great a thing
was wealth, after all!

She thought all this before she saw Charlotte Harman. Then the gracious
face, the noble bearing, the kindly and sweet manner of this girl of her
own age, this girl who might have been her dearest friend, who was so
nearly related to her, filled her with sudden bitterness; she believed
herself immeasurably inferior to Miss Harman, and yet she knew that she
might have been such another. She left the house with a mingled feeling
of relief and bitterness. She was earning present money. What might she
not discover to benefit her husband and children by and by?

In the evening, unable to keep her thoughts to herself, she told them
and her story for the first time to her husband. Instantly he tore the
veil from her eyes. Was she, his wife, to go to her own brother's house
as a spy? No! a thousand times no! No wealth, however needed, would be
worth purchasing at such a price. If Charlotte could not banish from her
mind these unworthy thoughts, she must give up so excellent a means of
earning money.

Poor Charlotte! The thoughts her husband considered so mean, so untrue,
so unworthy, had become by this time part of her very being. Oh! must
the children suffer because unrighteous men enjoyed what was rightfully
theirs?

For the first time, the very first time in all her life, she felt
discontented with her Angus. If only he were a little more everyday, a
little more practical; if only he would go to the bottom of this
mystery, and set her mind at rest!

She went about her morning duties in a state of mental friction and
aggravation, and, as often happens, on this very morning when she seemed
least able to bear it, came the proverbial last straw. Anne, the little
maid, put in her head at the parlor door.

"Ef you please, 'em, is Harold to wear 'em shoes again? There's holes
through and through of 'em, and it's most desp'rate sloppy out of doors
this mornin'."

Mrs. Home took the little worn-out shoes in her hand; she saw at a
glance that they were quite past mending.

"Leave them here, Anne," she said. "You are right, he cannot wear these
again. I will go out at once and buy him another pair."

The small maid disappeared, and Charlotte put her hand into her pocket.
She drew out her purse with a sinking heart. Was there money enough in
it to buy the necessary food for the day's consumption, and also to get
new shoes for Harold? A glance showed her but too swiftly there was not.
She never went on credit for anything--the shoes must wait, and Harold
remain a prisoner in the house that day. She went slowly up to the
nursery: Daisy and baby could go out and Harold should come down to the
parlor to her.

But one glance at her boy's pale face caused her heart to sink. He was a
handsome boy--she thought him aristocratic, fit to be the son of a
prince--but to-day he was deadly pale, with that washy look which
children who pine for fresh air so often get. He was standing in rather
a moping attitude by the tiny window; but at sight of his mother he flew
to her.

"Mother, Anne says I'm to have new shoes. Have you got them? I am so
glad."

No, she could not disappoint her boy. A sudden idea darted through her
brain. She would ask Miss Mitchell, the drawing-room boarder, to lend
her the three-and-sixpence which the little shoes would cost. It was the
first time she had ever borrowed, and her pride rose in revolt at even
naming the paltry sum--but, for the sake of her boy's pale face?

"I am going out to buy the shoes," she said, stooping down to kiss the
sweet upturned brow; and she flew downstairs and tapped at the
drawing-room door.

Miss Mitchell was a lady of about fifty; she had been with them now for
nearly a year, and what she paid for the drawing-room and best bedroom
behind it, quite covered the rent of the shabby little house. Miss
Mitchell was Charlotte Home's grand standby; she was a very
uninteresting person, neither giving nor looking for sympathy, never
concerning herself about the family in whose house she lived. But then,
on the other hand, she was easily pleased; she never grumbled, she paid
her rent like clockwork. She now startled Lottie by coming instantly
forward and telling her that it was her intention to leave after the
usual notice; she found the baby's fretful cries too troublesome, for
her room was under the nursery; this was one reason. Another, perhaps
the most truthful one, was, that her favorite curate in St. Martin's
Church over the way, had received promotion to another and more
fashionable church, and she would like to move to where she could still
be under his ministry. Charlotte bowed; there was nothing for it but to
accept the fact that her comfortable lodger must go. Where could she
find a second Miss Mitchell, and how could she possibly now ask for the
loan of three and sixpence?

She left the room. Where was the money to come from to buy Harold's
shoes? for that little pleading face must not be disappointed. This care
was, for the moment, more pressing than the loss of Miss Mitchell. How
should she get the money for her boy? She pressed her hand to her brow
to think out this problem. As she did so, a ring she wore on her
wedding-finger flashed; it was her engagement ring, a plain gold band,
only differing from the wedding-ring, which it now guarded, in that it
possessed one small, very small diamond. The diamond was perhaps the
smallest that could be purchased, but it was pure of its kind, and the
tiny gem now flashed a loving fire into her eyes, as though it would
speak if it could in answer to her inquiry. Yes, if she sold this ring,
the money would be forthcoming. It was precious, it symbolized much to
her; she had no other to act as guard; but it was not so precious as the
blue eyes of her first-born. Her resolve was scarcely conceived before
it was put in practice. She hastened out with the ring; a jeweller
lived not far away; he gave her fifteen shillings, and Charlotte,
feeling quite rich, bought the little shoes and hurried home.

As she almost flew along the sloppy streets a fresh thought came to her.
Yes! she must certainly decline that very excellent situation with Miss
Harman. That sorely wanted thirty shillings a week must be given up,
there was no question about that. Bitter were her pangs of heart as she
relinquished the precious money, but it would be impossible for her to
go to her brother's house in the only spirit in which her husband would
allow her to go. Yes; she must give it up. When the children were at
last fairly started on their walk she would sit down and write to Miss
Harman. But why should she write? She stood still as the thought came to
her to go to Miss Harman in person; to tell her from her own lips that
she must not visit that house, or see her daily. She might or might not
tell her who she really was; she would leave that to circumstances; but
she would at least once more see her brother's house and look into the
eyes of her brother's child. It would be a short, soon-lived-through
excitement. Still she was in that mood when to sit still in inactivity
was impossible; the visit would lead to nothing, but still she would pay
it; afterwards would be time enough to think of finding some one to
replace Miss Mitchell, of trying to buy again her engagement ring, of
purchasing warm clothes for her little ones.



CHAPTER VI.

IN PRINCE'S GATE.


Having arranged her household matters, been informed of another pair of
boots which could not last many days longer, seen to the children's
dinner, and finally started the little group fairly off for their walk
with Anne, Charlotte ran upstairs, put on her neat though thin and worn
black silk, her best jacket and bonnet and set off to Kensington to see
Miss Harman.

She reached the grand house in Prince's Gate about twelve o'clock. The
day had indeed long begun for her, but she reflected rather bitterly
that most likely Miss Harman had but just concluded her breakfast. She
found, however, that she had much wronged this energetic young lady.
Breakfast had been over with some hours ago, and when Mrs. Home asked
for her, the footman who answered her modest summons said that Miss
Harman was out, but had left directions that if a lady called she was to
be asked to wait.

Charlotte was taken up to Miss Harman's own private sitting room, where,
after stirring the fire, and furnishing her with that morning's _Times_,
the servant left her alone.

Mrs. Home was glad of this. She drew her comfortable easy chair to the
fire, placed her feet upon the neat brass rail, closed her eyes, and
tried to fancy herself alone. Had her father lived, such comforts as
these would have been matters of everyday occurrence to her. Common as
the air she breathed would this grateful warmth be then to her thin
limbs, this delicious easy chair to her aching back. Had her father
lived, or had justice been done, in either case would soft ease have
been her portion. She started from her reclining position and looked
round the room. A parrot swung lazily on his perch in one of the
windows. Two canaries sang in a gilded cage in the other. How Harold and
Daisy would love these birds! Just over her head was a very beautifully
executed portrait in oils of a little child, most likely Miss Harman in
her infancy. Ah, yes, but baby Angus at home was more beautiful. A
portrait of him would attract more admiration than did that of the proud
daughter of all this wealth. Tears started unbidden to the poor
perplexed mother's eyes. It was hard to sit quiet with this burning pain
at her heart. Just then the door was opened and an elderly gentleman
with silver hair came in. He bowed, distantly to the stranger sitting by
his hearth, took up a book he had come to seek, and withdrew. Mrs. Home
had barely time to realize that this elderly man must really be the
brother who had supplanted her, when a sound of feet, of voices, of
pleasant laughter, drew near. The room door was again opened, and
Charlotte Harman, accompanied by two gentlemen, came in. The elder of
the two men was short and rather stout, with hair that had once been
red, but was now sandy, keen, deep-set eyes, and a shrewd, rather
pleasant face. Miss Harman addressed him as Uncle Jasper, and they
continued firing gay badinage at one another for a moment without
perceiving Mrs. Home's presence. The younger man was tall and
square-shouldered, with a rather rugged face of some power. He might
have been about thirty. He entered the room by Miss Harman's side, and
stood by her now with a certain air of proprietorship.

"Ah! Mrs. Home," said the young lady, quickly discovering her visitor
and coming forward and shaking hands with her at once, "I expected you.
I hope you have not waited long, John," turning to the young man, "will
you come back at four? Mrs. Home and I have some little matters to talk
over, and I daresay her time is precious. I shall be quite ready to go
out with you at four. Uncle Jasper, my father is in the library; will
you take him this book from me?"

Uncle Jasper, who had been peering with all his might out of his
short-sighted eyes at the visitor, now answered with a laugh, "We are
politely dismissed, eh? Hinton," and taking the arm of the younger man
they left the room.



CHAPTER VII.

IT INTERESTS HER.


"And now, Mrs Home, we will have some lunch together up here, and then
afterwards we can talk and quite finish all our arrangements," said the
rich Charlotte, looking with her frank and pleasant eyes at the poor
one. She rang a bell as she spoke, and before Mrs. Home had time to
reply, a tempting little meal was ordered to be served without delay.

"I have been with my publishers this morning," said Miss Harman. "They
are good enough to say they believe my tale promises well, but they want
it completed by the first of March, to come out with the best spring
books. Don't you think we may get it done? It is the middle of January
now."

"I daresay it may be done," answered Mrs. Home, rising, and speaking in
a tremulous voice. "I have no doubt you will work hard and have it
ready--but--but--I regret it much, I have come to-day to say I cannot
take the situation you have so kindly offered me."

"But why?" said Miss Harman, "why?" Some color came into her cheeks as
she added, "I don't understand you. I thought you had promised. I
thought it was all arranged yesterday."

Her tone was a little haughty, but how well she used it; how keenly Mrs.
Home felt the loss of what she was resigning.

"I did promise you," she said; "I feel you have a right to blame me. It
is a considerable loss to me resigning your situation, but my husband
has asked me to do so. I must obey my husband, must I not?"

"Oh! yes, of course. But why should he object. He is a clergyman, is he
not? Is he too proud--I would tell no one. All in this house should
consider you simply as a friend. Our writing would be just a secret
between you and me. Your husband will give in when you tell him that."

"He is not in the least proud, Miss Harman--not proud I mean in that
false way."

"Then I am not giving you money enough--of course thirty shillings seems
too little; I will gladly raise it to two pounds a week, and if this
book succeeds, you shall have more for helping me with the next."

Mrs. Home felt her heart beating. How much she needed, how keenly she
longed for that easily earned money. "I must not think of it," she said,
however, shaking her head. "I confess I want money, but I must earn it
elsewhere. I cannot come here. My husband will only allow me to do so on
a certain condition. I cannot even tell you the condition--certainly I
cannot fulfil it, therefore I cannot come."

"Oh! but that is exciting. _Do_ tell it to me."

"If I did you would be the first to say I must never come to this house
again."

"I am quite sure you wrong me there. I may as well own that I have taken
a fancy to you. I am a spoiled child, and I always have my own way. My
present way is to have you here in this snug room for two or three hours
daily--you and I working in secret over something grand. I always get my
way so your conditions must melt into air. Now, what are they?"

"Dare I tell her?" thought Mrs. Home. Aloud she said, "The conditions
are these:--I must tell you a story, a story about myself--and--and
others."

"And I love stories, especially when they happen in real life."

"Miss Harman, don't tempt me. I want to tell you, but I had better not;
you had better let me go away. You are very happy now, are you not?"

"What a strange woman you are, Mrs. Home! Yes, I am happy."

"You won't like my story. It is possible you may not be happy after you
have heard it."

"That is a very unlikely possibility. How can the tale of an absolute
stranger affect my happiness?" These words were said eagerly--a little
bit defiantly.

But Mrs. Home's face had now become so grave, and there was such an
eager, almost frightened look in her eyes, that her companion's too
changed. After all what was this tale? A myth, doubtless; but she would
hear it now.

"I accept the risk of my happiness being imperiled," she said. "I choose
to hear the tale--I am ready."

"But I may not choose to tell," said the other Charlotte.

"I would make you. You have begun--begun in such a way that you _must_
finish."

"Is that so?" replied Mrs. Home. The light was growing more and more
eager in her eyes. She said to herself, "The die is cast." There rose up
before her a vision of her children--of her husband's thin face. Her
voice trembled.

"Miss Harman--I will speak--you won't interrupt me?"

"No, but lunch is on the table. You must eat something first."

"I am afraid I cannot with that story in prospect; to eat would choke
me!"

"What a queer tale it must be!" said the other Charlotte. "Well, so be
it." She seated herself in a chair at a little distance from Mrs. Home,
fixed her gaze on the glowing fire, and said, "I am ready. I won't
interrupt you."

The poor Charlotte, too, looked at the fire. During the entire telling
of the tale neither of these young women glanced at the other.

"It is my own story," began Mrs. Home: then she paused, and continued,
"My father died when I was two years old. During my father's lifetime I,
who am now so poor, had all the comforts that you must have had, Miss
Harman, in your childhood. He died, leaving my mother, who was both
young and pretty, nothing. She was his second wife, for five years she
had enjoyed all that his wealth could purchase for her. He died, leaving
her absolutely penniless. My mother was, as I have said, a second wife.
My father had two grown-up sons. These sons had quarrelled with him at
the time of his marrying my young mother; they came to see him and were
reconciled on his deathbed. He left to these sons every penny of his
great wealth. The sons expressed surprise when the will was read. They
even blamed my father for so completely forgetting his wife and youngest
child. They offered to make some atonement for him. During my mother's
lifetime they settled on her three thousand pounds; I mean the interest,
at five per cent., on that sum. It was to return to them at her death,
it was not to descend to me, and my mother must only enjoy it on one
condition. The condition was, that all communication must cease between
my father's family and hers. On the day she renewed it the money would
cease to be paid. My mother was young, a widow, and alone; she accepted
the conditions, and the money was faithfully paid to her until the day
of her death. I was too young to remember my father, and I only heard
this story about him on my mother's deathbed; then for the first time I
learned that we might have been rich, that we were in a measure meant to
enjoy the good things which money can buy. My mother had educated me
well, and you may be quite sure that with an income of one hundred and
fifty pounds a year this could only be done by practising the strictest
economy. I was accustomed to doing without the pretty dresses and nice
things which came as natural to other girls as the air they breathed. In
my girlhood, I did not miss these things; but at the time of my mother's
death, at the time the story first reached my ears, I was married, and
my eldest child was born. A poor man had made me, a poor girl his wife,
and, Miss Harman, let me tell you, that wives and mothers do long for
money. The longing with them is scarcely selfish, it is for the beings
dearer than themselves. There is a pain beyond words in denying your
little child what you know is for that child's good, but yet which you
cannot give because of your empty purse; there is a pain in seeing your
husband shivering in too thin a coat on bitter winter nights. You know
nothing of such things--may you never know them; but they have gone
quite through my heart, quite, quite through it. Well, that is my story;
not much, you will say, after all. I might have been rich, I am poor,
that is my story."

"It interests me," said Miss Harman, drawing a long breath, "it
interests me greatly; but you will pardon my expressing my real
feelings: I think your father was a cruel and unjust man."

"I think my brothers, my half-brothers, were cruel and unjust. I don't
believe that was my father's real will."

"What! you believe there was foul play? This is interesting--if so, if
you can prove it, you may be righted yet. Are your half-brothers
living?"

"Yes."

"And you think you have proof that you and your mother were unjustly
treated?"

"I have no proof, no proof whatever, Miss Harman, I have only
suspicions."

"Oh! you will tell me what they are?"

"Even they amount to very little, and yet I feel them to be certainties.
On the night before my father died he told my mother that she and I
would be comfortably off; he also said that he wished that I and his
son's little daughter, that other Charlotte he called her, should grow
up together as sisters. My father was a good man, his mind was not
wandering at all, why should he on his deathbed have said this if he
knew that he had made such an unjust will, if he knew that he had left
my mother and her little child without a sixpence?"

"Yes," said Miss Harman slowly and thoughtfully, "it looks strange."

After this for a few moments both these young women were silent. Mrs.
Home's eyes again sought the fire, she had told her story, the
excitement was over, and a dull despair came back over her face.
Charlotte Harman, on the contrary, was deep in that fine speculation
which seeks to succor the oppressed, her grey eyes glowed, and a faint
color came in to her cheeks. After a time she said--

"I should like to help you to get your rights. You saw that gentleman
who left the room just now, that younger gentleman, I am to be his wife
before long--he is a lawyer, may I tell him your tale?"

"No, no, not for worlds." Here Mrs. Home in her excitement rose to her
feet. "I have told the story, forget it now, let it die."

"What a very strange woman you are, Mrs. Home! I must say I cannot
understand you."

"You will never understand me. But it does not matter, we are not likely
to meet again. I saw you for the first time yesterday. I love you, I
thank you. You are a rich and prosperous young lady, you won't be too
proud to accept my thanks and my love. Now good-bye."

"No, you are not going in that fashion. I do not see why you should go
at all; you have told me your story, it only proves that you want money
very much, there is nothing at all to prevent your becoming my
amanuensis."

"I cannot, I must not. Let me go."

"But why? I do not understand."

"You will never understand. I can only repeat that I must not come
here."

Mrs. Home could look proud when she liked. It was now Miss Harman's turn
to become the suppliant; with a softness of manner which in so
noble-looking a girl was simply bewitching, she said gently----

"You confess that you love me."

Mrs. Home's eyes filled with tears.

"Because I do I am going away," she said.

She had just revealed by this little speech a trifle too much, the
trifle reflected a light too vivid to Charlotte Harman's mind, her face
became crimson.

"I will know the truth," she said, "I will--I must. This story--you say
it is about you; is it all about you? has it anything to say to me?"

"No, no, don't ask me--good-bye."

"I stand between you and the door until you speak. How old are you, Mrs.
Home?"

"I am twenty-five."

"That is my age. Who was that Charlotte your dying father wished you to
be a sister to?"

"I cannot tell you."

"You cannot--but you must. I will know. Was it--but impossible! it
cannot be--am _I_ that Charlotte?"

Mrs. Home covered her face with two trembling hands. The other woman,
with her superior intellect, had discovered the secret she had feebly
tried to guard. There was a pause and a dead silence. That silence told
all that was necessary to Charlotte Harman. After a time she said
gently, but all the fibre and tune had left her voice,----

"I must think over your story, it is a very, very strange tale. You are
right, you cannot come here; good-bye."



CHAPTER VIII.

THE WOMAN BY THE HEARTH.


Mrs. Home went back to the small house in Kentish Town, and Miss Harman
sat on by her comfortable fire. The dainty lunch was brought in and laid
on the table, the young lady did not touch it. The soft-voiced,
soft-footed servant brought in some letters on a silver salver. They
looked tempting letters, thick and bulgy. Charlotte Harman turned her
head to glance at them but she left them unopened by her side. She had
come in very hungry, from her visit to the publishers, and these letters
which now lay so close had been looked forward to with some impatience,
but now she could neither eat nor read. At last a pretty little
timepiece which stood on a shelf over her head struck four, and a clock
from a neighboring church re-echoed the sound. Almost at the same
instant there came a tap at her room door.

"That is John," said Charlotte. She shivered a little. Her face had
changed a good deal, but she rose from her seat and came forward to meet
her lover.

"Ready, Charlotte?" he said, laying his two hands on her shoulders; then
looking into her face he started back in some alarm. "My dear, my
dearest, something has happened; what is the matter?"

This young woman was the very embodiment of truth. She did not dream of
saying, "Nothing is the matter." She looked up bravely into the eyes she
loved best in the world and answered,----

"A good deal is the matter, John. I am very much vexed and--and
troubled."

"You will tell me all about it; you will let me help you?" said the
lover, tenderly.

"Yes, John dear, but not to-night. I want to think to-night. I want to
know more. To-morrow you shall hear; certainly to-morrow. No, I will not
go out with you. Is my father in? Is Uncle Jasper in?"

"Your father is out, and your uncle is going. I left him buttoning on
his great-coat in the hall."

"Oh! I must see Uncle Jasper; forgive me, I must see him for a minute."

She flew downstairs, leaving John Hinton standing alone, a little
puzzled and a little vexed. Breathless she arrived in the hall to find
her uncle descending the steps; she rushed after him and laid her hand
on his shoulder.

"Uncle Jasper, I want you. Where are you going?"

"Hoity-toity," said the old gentleman, turning round in some surprise,
and even dismay when he caught sight of her face. "I am going to the
club, child. What next. I sent Hinton up to you. What more do you want?"

"I want you. I have a story to tell you and a question to ask you. You
must come back."

"Lottie, I said I would have nothing to do with those books of yours,
and I won't. I hate novels, and I hate novelists. Forgive me, child. I
don't hate you; but if your father and John Hinton between them mean to
spoil a fine woman by encouraging her to become that monster of nature,
a blue-stocking, I won't help them, and that's flat. There now. Let me
go."

"It is no fiction I want to ask you, Uncle Jasper. It is a true tale,
one I have just heard. It concerns me and you and my father. It has
pained me very much, but I believe it can be cleared up. I would rather
ask you than my father about it, at least at first; but either of you
can answer what I want to know; so if you will not listen to me I can
speak to my father after dinner."

Uncle Jasper had one of those faces which reveal nothing, and it
revealed nothing now. But the keen eyes looked hard into the open gray
eyes of the girl who stood by his side.

"What thread out of that tangled skein has she got into her head?" he
whispered to himself. Aloud he said, "I will come back to dinner,
Charlotte, and afterwards you shall take me up to your little snuggery.
If you are in trouble, my dear, you had better confide in me than in
your father. He does not--does not look very strong."

Then he walked down the street; but when he reached his club he did not
enter it. He walked on and on. He puzzling, not so much over his niece's
strange words as over something else. Who was that woman who sat by
Charlotte's hearth that day?



CHAPTER IX.

CHARLOTTE CANNOT BEAR THE DARK.


The elder Mr. Harman had retired to his study, and Charlotte and her
uncle sat side by side in that young lady's own private apartment. The
room looked snug and sheltered, and the subdued light from a Queen's
reading-lamp, and from the glowing embers of a half burned-out fire,
were very pleasant. Uncle Jasper was leaning back in an armchair, but
Charlotte stood on the hearthrug. Soft and faint as the light was, it
revealed burning cheeks and shining eyes; but the old face these tokens
of excitement appealed to remained completely in shadow.

Charlotte had told the story she had heard that day, and during its
whole recital her uncle had sat motionless, making no comment either by
word or exclamation.

Mrs. Home's tale had been put into skilful hands. It was well told--all
the better because the speaker so earnestly hoped that its existence
might turn out a myth--that the phantom so suddenly conjured up might
depart as quickly as it had arrived. At last the story came to a
conclusion. There was a pause, and Charlotte said,----

"Well, Uncle Jasper?"

"Well, Lottie?" he answered. And now he roused himself, and bent a
little forward.

"Is the story true, Uncle Jasper?"

"It is certainly true, Charlotte, that my father and your grandfather
married again."

"Yes, uncle."

"It is also highly probable that this young woman is the daughter of
that marriage. When I saw her in this room to-day I was puzzled by an
intangible likeness in her. This accounts for it."

"Then why----" began Charlotte, and then she stopped. There was a whole
world of bitterness in her tone.

"Sit down, child," said her uncle. He pointed to a footstool at his
feet. Whenever he came into this room Charlotte had occupied this
footstool, and he wanted her to take it now, but she would not; she
still kept her place on the hearth.

"I cannot sit," she said. "I am excited--greatly excited. This looks to
me in the light of a wrong."

"Who do you think has committed the wrong, Charlotte?"

Before she answered, Charlotte Harman lit a pair of candles which stood
on the mantelshelf.

"There, now," she said with a sigh of relief, "I can see your face. It
is dreadful to speak to any one in the dark. Uncle Jasper, if I had so
near a relation living all these years why was I never told of it? I
have over and over again longed for a sister, and it seems I had one or
one who might have been to me a sister. Why was I kept in ignorance of
her very existence?"

"You are like all women--unreasonable, Lottie. I am glad to find you so
human, my dear; so human, and--and--womanly. You jump to conclusions
without hearing reasons. Now I will give you the reasons. But I do wish
you would sit down."

"I will sit here," said Charlotte, and she drew a chair near the table.
The room abounded in easy-chairs of all sizes and descriptions, but she
chose one hard and made of cane, and she sat upright upon it, her hands
folded on her lap. "Now, Uncle Jasper," she said, "I am ready to hear
your reasons."

"They go a good way back, my dear, and I am not clever at telling a
story; but I will do my best. Your grandfather made his money in trade;
he made a good business, and he put your father and me both into it. It
is unnecessary to go into particulars about our special business; it was
small at first, but we extended it until it became the great firm of
which your father is the present head. We both, your father and I,
showed even more aptitude for this life of mercantile success than our
father did, and he, perceiving this, retired while scarcely an old man.
He made us over the entire business he had made, taking, however, from
it, for his own private use, a large sum of money. On the interest of
this money he would live, promising, however, to return it to us at his
death. The money taken out of the business rather crippled us, and we
begged of him to allow us to pay him the interest, and to let the
capital remain at our disposal; but he wished to be completely his own
master, and he bought a place in Hertfordshire out of part of the
money. It was a year or two after, that he met his second wife and
married her. I don't pretend," continued Uncle Jasper, "that we liked
this marriage or our stepmother. We were young fellows then, and we
thought our father had done us an injustice. The girl he had chosen was
an insipid little thing, with just a pretty face, and nothing whatever
else. She was not quite a lady. We saw her, and came to the conclusion
that she was common--most unsuited to our father. We also remembered our
own mother; and most young men feel pain at seeing any one put into her
place.

"We expostulated with our father. He was a fiery old man, and hot words
passed between us. I won't repeat what we all said, my dear, or how
bitter John and I felt when we rode away from the old place our father
had just purchased. One thing he said as we were going off.

"'My marrying again won't make any money difference to you two fellows,
and I suppose I may please myself.'"

"I think my grandfather was very unjust," said Charlotte, but
nevertheless a look of relief stole over her face.

"We went back to our business, my dear, and our father married; and when
we wrote to him he did not answer our letters. After a time we heard a
son had been born, and then, shortly after the birth of this child, the
news reached us, that a lawyer had been summoned down to the manor-house
in Hertfordshire. We supposed that our father was making provision for
the child; and it seemed to us fair enough. Then we saw the child's
death in the _Times_, and shortly after the news also came to us that
the same lawyer had gone down again to see our father.

"After this, a few years went by, and we, busy with our own life, gave
little heed to the old man, who seemed to have forgotten us. Suddenly we
were summoned to his deathbed. John, your father, my dear, had always
been his favorite. On his deathbed he seemed to have returned to the old
times, when John was a little fellow. He liked to have him by his side;
in short, he could not bear to have him out of his sight. He appeared to
have forgotten the poor, common little wife he had married, and to live
his early days over again. He died quite reconciled to us both, and we
held his hand as he breathed his last.

"To our surprise, my dear, we found that he had left us every penny of
his fortune. The wife and baby girl were left totally unprovided for. We
were amazed! We thought it unjust. We instantly resolved to make
provision for her and her baby. We did so. She never wanted to the day
of her death."

"She did not starve," interrupted Charlotte, "but you shut her out, her
and her child, from yourselves, and from me. Why did you do this?"

"My dear, you would scarcely speak in that tone to your father, and it
was his wish as well as mine--indeed, far more his wish than mine. I was
on the eve of going to Australia, to carry on a branch of our trade
there; but he was remaining at home. He was not very long married. You
don't remember your mother, Charlotte. Ah! what a fine young creature
she was, but proud--proud of her high birth--of a thousand things. It
would have been intolerable to her to associate with one like my
stepmother. Your father was particular about his wife and child. He
judged it best to keep these undesirable relations apart. I, for one,
can scarcely blame him."

"I _will_ not blame my father," said Charlotte. Again that look of
relief had stolen over her face. The healthy tint, which was scarcely
color, had returned to her cheek; and the tension of her attitude was
also withdrawn, for she changed her seat, taking possession now of her
favorite easy-chair. "But I like Charlotte Home," she said after a
pause. "She is--whatever her mother may have been--quite a lady. I think
it is hard that when she is so nearly related to me she should be so
poor and I so rich. I will speak to my father. He asked me only this
morning what I should like as a wedding present. I know what I shall
like. He will give that three thousand pounds to Charlotte Home. The
money her mother had for her life she shall have for ever. I know my
father won't refuse me."

Charlotte's eyes were on the ground, and she did not see the dark
expression which for a moment passed over Jasper Harman's face. Before
he answered her he poked the fire into a vigorous flame.

"You are a generous girl, Lottie," he said then. "I admire your spirit.
But it is plain, my dear, that money has come as easily to you as the
very air you breathe, or you would not speak of three thousand pounds in
a manner so light as almost to take one's breath away. But
suppose--suppose the money could be given, there is another difficulty.
To get that money for Mrs. Home, who, by the way, has her husband to
provide for her, you must tell this tale to your father--you must not do
that."

"Why not?" asked Charlotte, opening her eyes wide in surprise.

"Simply because he is ill, and the doctors have forbidden him to be in
the least agitated."

"Uncle Jasper--I know he is not well, but I did not hear this; and
why--why should what I have to say agitate him?"

"Because he cannot bear any allusion to the past. He loved his father;
he cannot dwell on those years when they were estranged. My dear,"
continued old Uncle Jasper. "I am glad you came with this tale to me--it
would have done your father harm. The doctors hope soon to make him much
better, but at present he must hear nothing likely to give rise to
gloomy thoughts; wait until he is better, my dear. And if you want help
for this Mrs. Home, you must appeal to me. Promise me that, Lottie."

"I will promise, certainly, not to injure my father, but I confess you
puzzle me."

"I am truly sorry, my dear. I will think over your tale, but now I must
go to John. Will you come with me?"

"No, thanks; I would rather stay here."

"Then we shall not meet again, for in an hour I am off to my club.
Good-night, my dear."

And Charlotte could not help noticing how soft and catlike were the
footsteps of the old Australian uncle as he stole away.



CHAPTER X.

JOHN AND JASPER HARMAN.


Jaspar Harman was sixty years old at this time, but the days of his
pilgrimage had passed lightly over him, neither impairing his frame nor
his vigor. At sixty years of age he could think as clearly, sleep as
comfortably, eat as well--nay, even walk as far as he did thirty years
ago. His life in the Antipodes seemed to have agreed with him. It is
true his hair was turning gray, and his shrewd face had many wrinkles on
it, but these seemed more the effects of climate than of years. He
looked like a man whom no heart-trouble had ever touched and in this
doubtless lay the secret of his perpetual youth. Care might sweep him
very close, but it could not enter an unwelcome guest, to sit on the
hearth of his holy of holies; into the innermost shrine of his being it
could scarcely find room to enter. His was the kind of nature to whom
remorse even for a sin committed must be almost unknown. His affections
were not his strong point. Most decidedly his intellect overbalanced his
heart. But without an undue preponderance of heart he was good-natured;
he would pat a chubby little cheek, if he passed it in the street, and
he would talk in a genial and hearty way to those beneath him in life.
In business matters he was considered very shrewd and hard, but those
who had no such dealings with him pronounced him a kindly soul. His
smile was genial; his manner frank and pleasant. He had one trick,
however, which no servant could bear--his step was as soft as a cat's;
he must be on your heels before you had the faintest clue to his
approach.

In this stealthy way he now left his niece's room, stole down the
thickly carpeted stairs, crept across a tiled hall, and entered the
apartment where his elder brother waited for him.

John Harman was only one year Jasper's senior, but there looked a much
greater difference between them. Jasper was young for his years; John
was old; nay, more--he was very old. In youth he must have been a
handsome man; in age for every one spoke of him as aged, he was handsome
still. He was tall, over six feet; his hair was silver-white; his eyes
very deep set, very dark. Their expression was penetrating, kind, but
sad. His mouth was firm, but had some lines round it which puzzled you.
His smile, which was rare and seldom seen, was a wintry one. You would
rather John Harman did not smile at you; you felt miserable afterwards.
All who knew him said instinctively that John Harman had known some
great trouble. Most people attributed it to the death of his wife, but,
as this happened twenty years ago, others shook their heads and felt
puzzled. Whatever the sorrow, however, which so perpetually clouded the
fine old face, the nature of the man was so essentially noble that he
was universally loved and respected.

John Harmon was writing a letter when his brother entered. He pushed
aside his writing materials, however, and raised his head with a sigh of
relief. In Jasper's presence there was always one element of comfort.
He need cover over no anxieties; his old face looked almost sharp as he
wheeled his chair round to the fire.

"No, you are not interrupting me," he began. "This letter can keep; it
is not a business one. I never transact business at home." Then he
added, as Jasper sank into the opposite chair, "You have been having a
long chat with the child. I am glad she is getting fond of you."

"She is a fine girl," said Jasper; "a fine, generous girl. I like her,
even though she does dabble in literature; and I like Hinton too. When
are they to be married, John?"

"When Hinton gets his first brief--not before," answered John Harman.

"Well, well, he's a clever chap; I don't see why you should wait for
that--he's safe to get on. If I were you, I'd like to see my girl
comfortably settled. One can never tell what may happen!"

"What may happen!" repeated the elder Harman. "Do you allude now to the
doctor's verdict on myself. I did not wish Charlotte acquainted with
it."

"Pooh! my dear fellow, there's nothing to alarm our girl in that
quarter. I'd lay my own life you have many long years before you. No,
Charlotte knows you are not well, and that is all she need ever know. I
was not alluding to your health, but to the fact that that fine young
woman upstairs is, just to use a vulgar phrase, eating her own head off
for want of something better to do. She is dabbling in print. Of course,
her book must fail. She is full of all kinds of chimerical expedients.
Why, this very evening she was propounding the most preposterous scheme
to me, as generous as it was nonsensical. No, no, my dear fellow, even
to you I won't betray confidence. The girl is an enthusiast. Now
enthusiasts are always morbid and unhappy unless they can find vent for
their energies. Why don't you give her the natural and healthy vents
supplied by wifehood and motherhood? Why do you wait for Hinton's first
brief to make them happy? You have money enough to make them happy at
once."

"Yes, yes, Jasper--it is not that. It is just that I want the young man
not to be altogether dependent on his wife. I am fonder of Hinton than
of any other creature in the world except my own child. For his sake I
ask for his short delay to their marriage. On the day he brings me news
of that brief I take the first steps to settle on Charlotte a thousand
a year during my lifetime. I make arrangements that her eldest son
inherits the business, and I make further provision for any other
children she may have."

"Well, my dear fellow, all that sounds very nice; and if Hinton was not
quite the man he is I should say, 'Wait for the brief.' But I believe
that having a wife will only make him seek that said brief all the
harder. I see success before that future son-in-law of yours."

"And you are a shrewd observer of character, Jasper," answered his
brother.

Neither of the men spoke for some time after this, and presently Jasper
rose to go. He had all but reached the door when he turned back.

"You will be in good time in the city to-morrow, John."

"Yes, of course. Not that there is anything very special going on. Why
do you ask?"

"Only that we must give an answer to that question of the trusteeship to
the Rutherford orphans. I know you object to the charge, still it seems
a pity for the sake of a sentiment."

Instantly John Harman, who had been crouching over the fire, rose to his
full height. His deep-set eyes flashed, his voice trembled with some
hardly suppressed anguish.

"Jasper!" he said suddenly and sharply; then he added, "you have but one
answer to that question from me--never, never, as long as I live, shall
our firm become trustees for even sixpence worth. You know my feelings
on that point, Jasper, and they shall never change."

"You are a fool for your pains, then," muttered Jasper, but he closed
the door rather hastily behind him.



CHAPTER XI.

"A PET DAY."


At breakfast the next morning Charlotte Harman was in almost wild
spirits. Her movements were generally rather sedate, as befitted one so
tall, so finely proportioned, so dignified. To-day her step seemed set
to some hidden rhythmic measure; her eyes laughed; her gracious, kindly
mouth was wreathed in perpetual smiles. Her father, on the contrary,
looked more bent, more careworn, more aged even than usual. Looking,
however, into her eyes for light, his own brightened. As he ate his
frugal breakfast of coffee and dry toast he spoke:

"Charlotte, your Uncle Jasper came to me last night with a proposal on
your behalf."

"Yes, father," answered Charlotte. She looked up expectantly. She
thought of Mrs. Home. Her uncle had told the tale after all, and her
dear and generous father would refuse her nothing. She should have the
great joy of giving three thousand pounds to that poor mother for the
use of her little children.

The next words, however, uttered by Mr. Harman caused these dreams to be
dispelled by others more golden. The most generous woman must at times
think first of herself. Charlotte was very generous; but her father's
next words brought dimples into very prominent play in each cheek.

"My darling, Jasper thinks me very cruel to postpone your marriage. I
will not postpone it. You and Hinton may fix the day. I will take that
brief of his on trust."

No woman likes an indefinite engagement, and Charlotte was not the
exception to prove this rule.

"Dearest father," she said, "I am very happy at this. I will tell John.
He is coming over this morning. But you know my conditions? No wedding
day for me unless my father agrees to live with me afterwards."

"Settle it as you please, dear child. I don't think there would be much
sunshine left for me if you were away from me. And now I suppose you
will be very busy. You have _carte blanche_ for the trousseau, but your
book? will you have time to write it, Charlotte? And that young woman
whom I saw in your room yesterday, is she the amanuensis whom you told
me about?"

"She is the lady whom I hoped to have secured, father, but she is not
coming."

"Not coming! I rather liked her look, she seemed quite a lady. Did you
offer her too small remuneration? Not that that would be your way, but
you do not perhaps know what such labor is worth."

"It was not that, dear father. I offered her what she herself considered
a very handsome sum. It was not that. She is very poor; very, very poor
and she has three little children. I never saw such a hungry look in any
eyes as she had, when she spoke of what money would be to her. But she
gave me a reason--a reason which I am not at liberty to tell to you,
which makes it impossible for her to come here."

Charlotte's cheeks were burning now, and something in her tone caused
her father to gaze at her attentively. It was not his way, however, to
press for any confidence not voluntarily offered. He rose from his seat
with a slight sigh.

"Well, dear," he said, "you must look for some one else. We can't talk
over matters to-night. Ask Hinton to stay and dine. There; I must be
off, I am very late as it is."

Mr. Harman kissed his daughter and she went out as usual to button on
his great-coat and see him down the street. She had performed this
office for him ever since--a little mite of four years old--she had
tried to take her dead mother's place. The child, the growing girl, the
young woman, had all in turns stood on those steps, and watched that
figure walking away. But never until to-day had she noticed how aged and
bent it had grown. For the first time the possibility visited her heart
that there might be such a thing for her in the future as life without
her father.

Uncle Jasper had said he was not well; no, he did not look well. Her
eyes filled with tears as she closed the hall door and re-entered the
house. But her own prospects were too golden just now to permit her to
dwell as long, or as anxiously, as she otherwise would have done, on so
gloomy an aspect of her father's case.

Charlotte Harman was twenty-five years of age; but, except when her
mother died, death had never come near her young life. She could
scarcely remember her mother, and, with this one exception, death and
sickness were things unknown. She has heard of them of course; but the
grim practical knowledge, the standing face to face with the foe, were
not her experience. She was the kind of woman who could develop into the
most tender nurse, into the wisest, best, and most helpful guide,
through those same dark roads of sickness and death, but the training
for this was all to come. No wonder that in her inexperience she should
soon cease to dwell on her father's bent figure and drawn, white face. A
reaction was over her, and she must yield to it.

As she returned to the comfortable breakfast-room, her eyes shone
brighter through their momentary tears. She went over and stood by the
hearth. She was a most industrious creature, having trained herself not
to waste an instant; but to-day she must indulge in a happy reverie.

How dark had been those few hours after Mrs. Home had left her
yesterday; how undefined, how dim, and yet how dark had been her
suspicions! She did not know what to think, or whom to suspect; but she
felt that, cost her what it might, she must fathom the truth, and that
having once fathomed it, something might be revealed to her that would
embitter and darken her whole life.

And behold! she had done so. She had bravely grasped the phantom in both
hands, and it had vanished into thin air. What she dreamed was not.
There was no disgrace anywhere. A morbid young woman had conjured up a
possible tale of wrong. There was no wrong. She, Mrs. Home, was to be
pitied, and Charlotte would help her; but beyond this no dark or evil
thing had come into her life.

And now, what a great further good was in store for her! Her father had
most unexpectedly withdrawn his opposition over the slight delay he had
insisted upon to her marriage. Charlotte did not know until now how she
had chafed at this delay; how she had longed to be the wife of the man
she loved. She said, "Thank God!" under her breath, then ran upstairs to
her own room.

Charlotte's maid had the special care of this room. It was a sunshiny
morning, and the warm spring air came in through the open window.

"Yes, leave it open," she said to the girl; "it seems as if spring had
really come to-day."

"But it is winter still, madam, February is not yet over," replied the
lady's maid. "Better let me shut it, Miss Harman, this is only a pet
day."

"I will enjoy it then, Ward," answered Miss Harman. "And now leave me,
for I am very busy."

The maid withdrew, and Charlotte seated herself by her writing table.
She was engaged over a novel which Messrs. M----, of ---- Street, had
pronounced really good; they would purchase the copyright, and they
wanted the MS. by a given date. How eager she had felt about this
yesterday; how determined not to let anything interfere with its
completion! But to-day, she took up her pen as usual, read over the last
page she had written, then sat quiet, waiting for inspiration.

What was the matter with her? No thought came. As a rule thoughts flowed
freely, proceeding fast from the brain to the pen, from the pen to the
paper. But to-day? What ailed her to-day? The fact was, the most natural
thing in the world had come to stop the flow of fiction. It was put out
by a greater fire. The moon could shine brilliantly at night, but how
sombre it looked beside the sun! The great sunshine of her own personal
joy was flooding Charlotte's heart to-day, and the griefs and delights
of the most attractive heroine in the world must sink into
insignificance beside it. She sat waiting for about a quarter of an
hour, then threw down her pen in disgust. She pulled out her watch.
Hinton could not be with her before the afternoon. The morning was
glorious. What had Ward, her maid, called the day?--"a pet day." Well,
she would enjoy it; she would go out. She ran to her room, enveloped
herself in some rich and becoming furs, and went into the street. She
walked on a little way, rather undecided where to turn her steps. In an
instant she could have found herself in Kensington Gardens or Hyde Park;
but, just because they were so easy of access, they proved unattractive.
She must wander farther afield. She beckoned to a passing hansom.

"I want to go somewhere where I shall have green grass and trees," she
said to the cabby. "No, it must not be Hyde Park, somewhere farther
off."

"There's the Regent's," replied the man. "I'll drive yer there and back
wid pleasure, my lady."

"I will go to Regent's Park," said Charlotte. She made up her mind, as
she was swiftly bowled along, that she would walk back. She was just in
that condition of suppressed excitement, when a walk would be the most
delightful safety-valve in the world.

In half an hour she found herself in Regent's Park and, having dismissed
her cab, wandered about amongst the trees. The whole place was flooded
with sunshine. There were no flowers visible; the season had been too
bad, and the year was yet too young; but for all that, nature seemed to
be awake and listening.

Charlotte walked about until she felt tired, then she sat down on one of
the many seats to rest until it was time to return home. Children were
running about everywhere. Charlotte loved children. Many an afternoon
had she gone into Kensington Gardens for the mere and sole purpose of
watching them. Here were children, too, as many as there, but of a
different class. Not quite so aristocratic, not quite so exclusively
belonging to the world of rank and fashion. The children in Regent's
Park were certainly quite as well dressed; but there was just some
little indescribable thing missing in them, which the little creatures,
whom Charlotte Harman was most accustomed to notice, possessed.

She was commenting on this, in that vague and slight way one does when
all their deepest thoughts are elsewhere, when a man came near and
shared her seat. He was a tall man, very slight, very thin. Charlotte,
just glancing at him took in this much also, that he was a clergyman. He
sat down to rest, evidently doing so from great fatigue. Selfish in her
happiness, Charlotte presently returned to her golden dreams. The
children came on fast, group after group; some pale and thin, some rosy
and healthy; a few scantily clothed, a few overladen with finery. They
laughed and scampered past her. For, be the circumstances what they
might, all the little hearts seemed full of mirth and sweet content. At
last a very small nurse appeared, wheeling a perambulator, while two
children ran by her side. These children were dressed neatly, but with
no attempt at fashion. The baby in the shabby perambulator was very
beautiful. The little group were walking past rather more slowly than
most of the other groups, for the older boy and girl looked decidedly
tired, when suddenly they all stopped; the servant girl opened her mouth
until it remained fixed in the form of a round O; the baby raised its
arms and crowed; the elder boy and girl uttered a glad shout and ran
forward.

"Father, father, you here?" said the boy. "You here?" echoed the girl,
and the whole cavalcade drew up in front of Charlotte and the thin
clergyman. The boy in an instant was on his father's knee, and the girl,
helping herself mightily by Charlotte's dress, had got on the bench.

The baby seeing this began to cry. The small nurse seemed incapable of
action, and Charlotte herself had to come to the rescue. She lifted the
little seven months old creature out of its carriage, and placed it in
its father's arms.

He raised his eyes gratefully to her face and placed his arm round the
baby.

"Oh! I'm falling," said the girl. "This seat is so slippy, may I sit on
your knee?"

It seemed the most natural thing in the world for Charlotte to take this
strange, shabbily dressed little girl into her embrace.

The child began to stroke down and admire her soft furs.

"Aren't they lovely?" she said. "Oh, Harold, look! Feel 'em, Harold;
they're like pussies."

Harold, absorbed with his father, turned his full blue eyes round
gravely and fixed them not on the furs, but on the strange lady's face.

"Father," he said in a slow, solemn tone, "may I kiss that pretty lady?"

"My dear boy, no, no. I am ashamed of you. Now run away, children; go on
with your walk. Nurse, take baby."

The children were evidently accustomed to implicit obedience. They went
without a word.

"But I will kiss Harold first," said Charlotte Harman, and she stooped
down and pressed her lips to the soft round cheek.

"Thank you," said the clergyman. Again he looked into her face and
smiled.

The smile on his careworn face reminded Charlotte of the smile on St.
Stephen's face, when he was dying. It was unearthly, angelic; but it was
also very fleeting. Presently he added in a grave tone,----

"You have evidently the great gift of attracting the heart of a little
child. Pardon me if I add a hope that you may never lose it."

"Is that possible?" asked Charlotte.

"Yes; when you lose the child spirit, the power will go."

"Oh! then I hope it never will," she replied.

"It never will if you keep the Christ bright within you," he answered.
Then he raised his hat to her, smiled again, and walked away.

He was a strange man, and Charlotte felt attracted as well as repelled.
She was proud, and at another time and from other lips such words would
have been received with disdain. But this queer, shadowy-looking
clergyman looked like an unearthly visitant. She watched his rather weak
footsteps, as he walked quietly away in the northern direction through
the park. Then she got up and prepared to return home. But this little
incident had sobered her. She was not unhappy; but she now felt very
grave. The child spirit! She must keep it alive, and the Christ must
dwell bright within her.

Charlotte's temperament was naturally religious. Her nature was so frank
and noble that she could not but drink in the good as readily as the
flower receives the dew; but she had come to this present fulness of her
youthful vigor without one trial being sent to test the gold. She
entered the house after her long walk to find Hinton waiting for her.



CHAPTER XII.

FOUR MONTHS HENCE.


Hinton had gone away the day before rather disturbed by Charlotte's
manner. He had found her, for the first time since their betrothal, in
trouble. Wishing to comfort, she had repelled him. He was a strong man,
as strong in his own way as Charlotte was in hers, and this power of
standing alone scarcely pleased him in her. His was the kind of nature
which would be supposed to take for its other half one soft and
clinging. Contrary to the established rule, however, he had won this
proud and stately Charlotte. She thought him perfection: he was anything
but that. But he had good points, there was nothing mean or base about
him. There were no secrets hidden away in his life. His was an honorable
and manly nature. But he had one little fault, running like a canker
through the otherwise healthy fruit of his heart. While Charlotte was
frank and open as the day, he was reserved; not only reserved, but
suspicious. All the men who knew Hinton said what a capital lawyer he
would make; he had all the qualities necessary to insure success in his
profession. Above all things in the world secrets oppressed, irritated,
and yet interested him. Once having heard of any little possible
mystery, he could not rest until it was solved.

This had been his character from a boy. His own brothers and sisters had
confided in him, not because they found him particularly sympathetic, or
particularly clever, not because they loved him so much, but simply
because they could not help themselves. John would have found out all
the small childish matter without their aid; it was better, safer to
take him into confidence. Then, to do him justice, he was true as steel;
for though he must discover, he would scorn to betray.

On the white, untroubled sheet of Charlotte Harmon's heart no secrets
yet had been written. Consequently, though she had been engaged for many
months to John Hinton, she had never found out this peculiarity about
him. Those qualities of openness and frankness, so impossible to his own
nature, had attracted him most of all to this beautiful young woman.
Never until yesterday had there been breath or thought of concealment
about her. But then--then he had found her in trouble. Full of sympathy
he had drawn near to comfort, and she had repelled him. She had heard of
something which troubled her, which troubled her to such an extent that
the very expression of her bright face had changed, and yet this
something was to be a secret from him--true, only until the following
day, but a whole twenty-four hours seemed like for ever to Hinton in his
impatience. Before he could even expostulate with her she had run off,
doubtless to confide her care to another. Perhaps the best way to
express John Hinton's feelings would be to say that he was very cross as
he returned to his chambers in Lincoln's Inn.

All that evening, through his dreams all that night, all the following
morning as he tried to engage himself over his law books, he pondered on
Charlotte's secret. Such pondering must in a nature like his excite
apprehension. He arrived on the next day at the house in Prince's Gate
with his mind full of gloomy forebodings. His face was so grave that it
scarcely cleared up at the sight of the bright one raised to meet it. He
was full of the secret of yesterday; Charlotte, in all the joy of the
secret of to-day, had already forgotten it.

"Oh, I have had such a walk!" she exclaimed; "and a little bit of an
adventure--a pretty adventure; and now I am starving. Come into the
dining-room and have some lunch."

"You look very well," answered her lover, "and I left you so miserable
yesterday!"

"Yesterday!" repeated Charlotte; she had forgotten yesterday. "Oh, yes,
I had heard something very disagreeable: but when I looked into the
matter, it turned out to be nothing."

"You will tell me all about it, dear?"

"Well, I don't know, John. I would of course if there was anything to
tell; but do come and have some lunch, I cannot even mention something
else much more important until I have had some lunch."

John Hinton frowned. Even that allusion to something much more important
did not satisfy him. He must know this other thing. What! spend
twenty-four hours of misery, and not learn what it was all about in the
end! Charlotte's happiness, however, could not but prove infectious, and
the two made merry over their meal, and not until they found themselves
in Charlotte's own special sanctum did Hinton resume his grave manner.
Then he began at once.

"Now, Charlotte, you will tell me why you looked so grave and scared
yesterday. I have been miserable enough thinking of it ever since. I
don't understand why you did not confide in me at once."

"Dear John," she said--she saw now that he had been really hurt--"I
would not give you pain for worlds, my dearest. Yes, I was much
perplexed, I was even very unhappy for the time. A horrid doubt had been
put into my head, but it turned out nothing, nothing whatever. Let us
forget it, dear John; I have something much more important to tell you."

"Yes, afterwards, but you will tell me this, even though it did turn out
of no consequence."

"Please, John dear, I would rather not. I was assailed by a most
unworthy suspicion. It turned out nothing, nothing at all. I would
rather, seeing it was all a myth, you never knew of it."

"And I would rather know, Charlotte; the myth shall be dismissed from
mind, too, but I would rather be in your full confidence."

"My full confidence?" she repeated; the expression pained her. She
looked hard at Hinton; his words were very quietly spoken, but there was
a cloud on his brow. "You shall certainly have my full confidence," she
said after that brief pause; "which will you hear first, what gave me
pain yesterday, or what brings me joy to-day?"

"What gave you pain yesterday."

There is no doubt she had hoped he would have made the latter choice,
but seeing he did not she submitted at once, sitting, not as was her
wont close to his side, but on a chair opposite. Hinton sat with his
back to the light, but it fell full on Charlotte, and he could see every
line of her innocent and noble face as she told her tale. Having got to
tell it, she did so in few but simple words; Mrs. Home's story coming of
a necessity first, her Uncle Jasper's explanation last. When the whole
tale was told, she paused, then said,--

"You see there was nothing in it."

"I see," answered Hinton. This was his first remark. He had not
interrupted the progress of the narrative by a single observation; then
he added, "But I think, if even your father does not feel disposed to
help her, that we, you and I, Charlotte, ought to do something for Mrs.
Home."

"Oh, John dear, how you delight me! How good and noble you are! Yes, my
heart aches for that poor mother; yes, we will help her. You and I, how
very delightful it will be!"

Now she came close to her lover and kissed him, and he returned her
embrace.

"You will never have a secret again from me, my darling?" he said.

"I never, never had one," she answered, for it was impossible for her to
understand that this brief delay in her confidence could be considered a
secret. "Now for my other news," she said.

"Now for your other news," he repeated.

"John, what is the thing you desire most in the world?"

Of course this young man being sincerely attached to this young woman,
answered,--

"You, Charlotte."

"John, you always said you did not like Uncle Jasper, but see what a
good turn he has done us--he has persuaded my father to allow us to
marry at once."

"What, without my brief?"

"Yes, without your brief; my dear father told me this morning that we
may fix the day whenever we like. He says he will stand in the way no
longer. He is quite sure of that brief, we need not wait to be happy for
it, we may fix our wedding-day, John, and you are to dine here this
evening and have a talk with my father afterwards."

Hinton's face had grown red. He was a lover, and an attached one; but so
diverse were the feelings stirred within him, that for the moment he
felt more excited than elated.

"Your father is very good," he said, "he gives us leave to fix the day.
Very well, that is your province, my Lottie; when shall it be?"

"This is the twentieth of February, our wedding-day shall be on the
twentieth of June," she replied.

"That is four months hence," he said. In spite of himself there was a
sound of relief in his tone. "Very well, Charlotte; yes, I will come and
dine this evening. But now I am late for an appointment; we will have a
long talk after dinner."



CHAPTER XIII.

HIS FIRST BRIEF.


Hinton, when he left Charlotte, went straight back to his chambers. He
had no particular work to hurry him there; indeed, when he left that
morning he had done so with the full intention of spending the entire
afternoon with his betrothed. He was, as has been said, although a
clever, yet certainly at present a briefless young barrister.
Nevertheless, had twenty briefs awaited his immediate attention, he
could not have more rapidly hurried back as he now did. When he entered
his rooms he locked the outer door. Then he threw himself on a chair,
drew the chair to his writing table, pushed his hands through his thick
hair, and staring hard at a blank sheet of paper which lay before him
began to think out a problem. His might scarcely have been called a
passionate nature, but it was one capable of a very deep, very real
attachment. This attachment had been formed for Charlotte Harman. Their
engagement had already lasted nearly a year, and now with her own lips
she had told him that it might end, that the end, the one happy end to
all engagements, was in sight. With comfort, nay, with affluence, with
the full consent of all her friends, they might become man and wife.
John Hinton most undoubtedly loved this woman, and yet now as he
reviewed the whole position the one pleasure he could deduct for his own
reflection was in the fact that there was four months' reprieve.
Charlotte had herself postponed their wedding-day for four months.

Hinton was a proud man. When, a year ago, he had gone to Mr. Harman and
asked him for his daughter, Mr. Harman had responded with the very
natural question, "What means have you to support her with?"

Hinton had answered that he had two hundred a year--and--his profession.

"What are you making in your profession?" asked the father.

"Not anything--yet," answered the young man.

There was a tone of defiance and withal of hope thrown into that "yet"
which might have repelled some men, but pleased Mr. Harman. He paused to
consider. He might have got a much, much better match for Charlotte from
a temporal standpoint. Hinton was of no family in particular; he had no
money worthy of the name. He was simply an honest fellow, fairly
good-looking, and with the heart of a gentleman.

"You are doubtless aware," replied Mr. Harman, "that my daughter will
inherit a very large fortune. She has been sought for in marriage before
now, and by men who could give something to meet what she brings, both
with regard to money and position."

"I have heard of Mr. S.'s proposal," answered Hinton. "I know he is
rich, and the son of Lord ----; but that is nothing, for she does not
love him."

"And you believe she loves you?"

"Most certainly she loves me."

In spite of himself Mr. Harman smiled, then after a little more thought,
for he was much taken with Hinton, he came to terms.

He must not have Charlotte while he had nothing to support her with.
Pooh! that two hundred a year was nothing to a girl brought up like his
daughter. For Hinton's own sake it would not be good for him to live on
his wife's money; but when he obtained his first brief then they might
marry.

Hinton was profuse in thanks. He only made on his part one
stipulation--that brief, which was to obtain for him his bride, was in
no way to come to him through Mr. Harman's influence. He must win it by
his own individual exertion.

Mr Harman smiled and grew a trifle red. In his business capacity he
could have put twenty briefs in this young fellow's way, and in his
inmost heart he had resolved to do so; but he liked him all the better
for this one proviso, and promised readily enough.

Hinton had no business connections of his own. He had no influential
personal friends, and his future father-in-law felt bound in honor to
leave him altogether to his own resources. A year had nearly passed
since the engagement, and the brief which was to win him Charlotte was
as far away as ever. But now she told him that this one embargo to their
happiness had been withdrawn. They might marry, and the brief would
follow after. Hinton knew well what it all meant. The rich city
merchant could then put work in his way. Work would quickly pour in to
the man so closely connected with rich John Harman. Yes. As he sat by
his table in his small shabbily furnished room, he knew that his fortune
was made. He would obtain Charlotte and Charlotte's wealth; and if he
but chose to use his golden opportunities, fame too might be his
portion. He was a keen and ardent politician, and a seat in the House
might easily follow all the other good things which seemed following in
his track. Yes; but he was a proud man, and he did not like it. He had
not the heart to tell Charlotte to-day, as she looked at him with all
the love she had so freely given shining in her sweet and tender face,
that he would not accept such terms, that the original bargain must yet
abide in force. He could not say to this young woman when she came to
him, "I do not want you." But none the less, as he now sat by his
writing-table, was he resolved that unless his brief was won before the
twentieth of June it should bring no wedding-day to him. This was why he
rejoiced in the four months' reprieve. But this was by no means his only
perplexity. Had it been, so stung to renewed action was his sense of
pride and independence, that he would have gone at once to seek, perhaps
to obtain work; but something else was lying like wormwood against his
heart. That story of Mrs. Home's! That explanation of Jasper Harman's!
The story was a queer one; the explanation, while satisfying the
inexperienced girl, failed to meet the requirements of the acute lawyer.
Hinton saw flaws in Jasper's narrative, where Charlotte saw none. The
one great talent of his life, if it could be called a talent, was coming
fiercely into play as he sat now and thought about it all. He had
pre-eminently the gift of discovering secrets. He was rooting up many
things from the deep grave of the hidden past now. That look of care on
Mr. Harman's face, how often it had puzzled him! He had never liked
Jasper; indefinite had been his antipathy hitherto, but it was taking
definite form now. There _was_ a secret in the past of that most
respectable firm, and he, John Hinton, would give himself no rest until
he had laid it bare. No wedding-day could come to him and Charlotte
until his mind was at rest on this point. It was against his interest to
ferret out this hidden thing, but that fact weighed as nothing with him.
It would bring pain to the woman he loved; it might ruin her father; but
the pain and the ruin would be inflicted unsparingly by his righteous
young hand, which knew nothing yet of mercy but was all for justice, and
justice untempered with mercy is a terrible weapon. This Hinton was yet
to learn.



CHAPTER XIV.

LODGINGS IN KENTISH TOWN.


After a time, restless from the complexity of his musings, Hinton went
out. He had promised to return to the Harmans for dinner, but their hour
for dinner was eight o'clock, and it still wanted nearly three hours of
that time. As Charlotte had done before that day, he found himself in
the close neighborhood of Regent's Park. He would have gone into the
park, but that he knew that the hour of closing the gates at this early
period of the year must be close at hand; he walked, therefore, by the
side of the park, rather aimlessly it is true, not greatly caring,
provided he kept moving, in what direction his footsteps took him.

At last he found himself on the broad tram line which leads to the
suburb of Kentish Town. It was by no means an interesting neighborhood.
But Hinton, soon lost in his private and anxious musings, went on. At
last he left the public thoroughfare and turned down a private road.
There were no shops here, nor much traffic. He felt a sense of relief at
leaving the roar and bustle behind him. This road on which he had now
entered was flanked at each side by a small class of dwelling-houses,
some shabby and dirty, some bright and neat; all, however, were
poor-looking. It was quite dusk by this time, and the gas had been
already lit. This fact, perhaps, was the reason which drew Hinton's
much-preoccupied attention to a trivial circumstance.

In one of these small houses a young woman, who had previously lit the
gas, stepped to the window and proceeded to paste a card to the pane.
There was a gas lamp also directly underneath, and Hinton, raising his
eyes, saw very distinctly, not only the little act, but also the words
on the card. They were the very common words----

  APARTMENTS TO LET

  INQUIRE WITHIN.

Hinton suddenly drew up short on the pavement. He did not live in his
chambers, and it occurred to him that here he would be within a walk of
Regent's Park. In short, that these shabby-looking little lodgings might
suit him for the next few uncertain months. As suddenly as he had
stopped, and the thought had come to him, he ran up the steps and rang
the bell. In a moment or two a little servant-maid opened the door. She
was neither a clean nor a tidy-looking maid, and Hinton, fastidious on
such matters, took in this fact at a glance. Nevertheless the desire to
find for himself a habitation in this shabby little house did not leave
him.

"I saw a card up in your window. You have rooms to let," he said to the
little maid.

"Oh, yes, indeed, please, sir," answered the servant with a broad and
delighted grin. "'Tis h'our drawing-rooms, please, sir; and ef you'll
please jest come inter the 'all I'll run and tell missis."

Hinton did so; and in another moment the maid, returning, asked him to
step this way.

This way led him into a dingy little parlor, and face to face with a
young woman who, pale, self-possessed, and ladylike, rose to meet him.
Hinton felt the color rising to his face at sight of her. He also
experienced a curious and sudden constriction of his heart, and an
overawed sense of some special Providence leading him here. For he had
seen this young woman before. She was Charlotte Home. In his swift
glance, however, he saw that she did not recognize him. His resolve was
taken on the instant. However uncomfortable the rooms she had to offer,
they should be his. His interest in this Mrs. Home became intensified to
a degree that was painful. He knew that he was about to pursue a course
which would be to his own detriment, but he felt it impossible now to
turn aside. In a quiet voice, and utterly unconscious of this tumult in
his breast, she asked him to be seated, and they began to discuss the
accommodation she could offer.

Her back and front drawing-rooms would be vacant in a week. Yes,
certainly; Mr. Hinton could see them. She rang the bell as she spoke,
and the maid appearing, took Hinton up stairs. The rooms were even
smaller and shabbier than he had believed possible. Nevertheless, when
he came downstairs he found no fault with anything, and agreed to the
terms asked, namely, one guinea a week. He noticed a tremor in the
young, brave voice which asked for this remuneration, and he longed to
make the one guinea two, but this was impossible. Before he left he had
taken Mrs. Home's drawing-rooms for a month, and had arranged to come
into possession of his new quarters that day week.

Looking at his watch when he left the house, he found that time had gone
faster than he had any idea of. He had now barely an hour to jump into a
cab, go to his present most comfortable lodgings, change his morning
dress, and reach the Harmans in time for eight o'clock dinner. Little
more than these sixty minutes elapsed from the time he left the shabby
house in Kentish Town before he found himself in the luxurious abode of
wealth, and every refinement, in Prince's Gate. He ran up to the
drawing-room, to find Charlotte waiting for him alone.

"Uncle Jasper will dine with us, John," she said, "but my father is not
well."

"Not well!" echoed Hinton. Her face only expressed slight concern, and
his reflected it in a lesser degree.

"He is very tired," she said, "and he looks badly. But I hope there is
not much the matter. He will see you after dinner. But he could not eat,
so I have begged of him to lie down; he will be all right after a little
rest."

Hinton made no further remark, and Uncle Jasper then coming in, and
dinner being announced, they all went downstairs.

Uncle Jasper and Charlotte were merry enough, but Hinton could not get
over a sense of depression, which not even the presence of the woman he
loved could disperse. He was not sorry when the message came for him to
go to Mr. Harman. Charlotte smiled as he rose.

"You will find me in the drawing-room whenever you like to come there,"
she said to him.

He left the room suppressing the sigh. Charlotte, however, did not hear
or notice it. Still, with that light of love and happiness crowning her
bright face, she turned to the old Australian uncle.

"I will pour you out your next glass of port, and stay with you for a
few moments, for I have something to tell you."

"What is that, my dear?" asked the old man.

"Something you have had to do with, dear old uncle. My wedding-day is
fixed."

Uncle Jasper chuckled.

"Ah! my dear," he said, "there's nothing like having the day clear in
one's head. And when is it to be, my pretty lass?"

"The twentieth of June, Uncle Jasper. Just four months from to-day."

"Four months off!" repeated Uncle Jasper. "Well, I don't call that very
close at hand. When I spoke to your father last night--for you know I
did speak to him, Charlotte--he seemed quite inclined to put no obstacle
in the way of your speedy marriage."

"Nor did he, Uncle Jasper. You don't understand. He said we might marry
at once if we liked. It was I who said the twentieth of June."

"You, child!--and--and did Hinton, knowing your father had withdrawn all
opposition, did Hinton allow you to put off his happiness for four whole
months?"

"It was my own choice," said Charlotte. "Four months do not seem to me
too long to prepare."

"They would seem a very long time to me if I were the man who was to
marry you, my dear."

Charlotte looked grave at this. Her uncle seemed to impute blame to her
lover. Being absolutely certain of his devotion, she scorned to defend
it. She rose from the table.

"You will find me in the drawing-room, Uncle Jasper."

"One word, Charlotte, before you go," said her uncle. "No, child, I am
not going to the drawing-room. You two lovers may have it to yourselves.
But--but--you remember our talk of last night?"

"Yes," answered Charlotte, pausing, and coming back a little way into
the room. "Did you say anything to my father? Will he help Mrs. Home?"

"I have no doubt he will, my dear. Your father and I will both do
something. He is a very just man, is your father. He was a good deal
upset by this reference to his early days, and to his quarrel with his
own father. I believe, between you and me, that it was that which made
him ill this evening. But, Charlotte, you leave Mrs. Home to us. I will
mention her case again when your father is more fit to bear the subject.
What I wanted to say now, my dear, is this, that I think it would best
please the dear old man if--if you told nothing of this strange tale,
not even to Hinton, my dear."

"Why, Uncle Jasper?"

"Why, my dear child? The reason seems to me obvious enough. It is a
story of the past. It relates to an old and painful quarrel. It is all
over years ago. And then you could not tell one side of the tale without
the other. Mrs. Home, poor thing, not personally knowing your father as
one of the best and noblest of men, imputes very grave blame to him.
Don't you think such a tale, so false, so wrong, had better be buried in
oblivion?"

"Mrs. Home was most unjust in her ignorance," repeated Charlotte. "But,
uncle, you are too late in your warning, for I told John the whole story
already to-day."

Not a muscle of Uncle Jasper's face changed.

"Well, child, I should have said that to you last night. After all, it
is natural. Hinton won't let it go farther, and no harm is done."

"Certainly, John does not speak of my most sacred things," answered
Charlotte proudly.

"No, no, of course he doesn't. I am sorry you told him; but as you say,
he is one with yourself. No harm is done. No, thank you, my dear, no
more wine now. I am going off to my club."



CHAPTER XV.

MR. HARMAN'S CONFIDENCE.


All through dinner, Hinton had felt that strange sense of depression
stealing upon him. He was a man capable of putting a very great
restraint upon his feelings, and he so behaved during the long and weary
meal as to rouse no suspicions, either in Charlotte's breast or in the
far sharper one of the Australian uncle. But, nevertheless, so
distressing was the growing sense of coming calamity, that he felt the
gay laugh of his betrothed almost distressing, and was truly relieved
when he had to change it for the gravity of her father. As he went from
the dining-room to Mr. Harman's study, he reflected with pleasure that
his future father-in-law was always grave, that never in all the months
of their rather frequent intercourse had he seen him even once indulge
in what could be called real gayety of heart. Though this fact rather
coupled with his own suspicions, still he felt a momentary relief in
having to deal to-night with one who treated life from its sombre
standpoint.

He entered the comfortable study. Mr. Harman was sunk down in an
armchair, a cup of untasted coffee stood by his side; the moment he
heard Hinton's step, however, he rose and going forward, took the young
man's hand and wrung it warmly.

The room was lit by candles, but there were plenty of them, and Hinton
almost started when he perceived how ill the old man looked.

"Charlotte has told you what I want you for to-night, eh, Hinton?" said
Mr. Harman.

"Yes; Charlotte has told me," answered John Hinton. Then he sat down
opposite his future father-in-law, who had resumed his armchair by the
fire. Standing up, Mr. Harman looked ill, but sunk into his chair, with
his bent, white head, and drawn, anxious face, and hands worn to
emaciation, he looked twenty times worse. There seemed nearly a lifetime
between him and that blithe-looking Jasper, whom Hinton had left with
Charlotte in the dining-room. Mr. Harman, sitting by his fire, with
firelight and candlelight shining full upon him, looked a very old man
indeed.

"I am sorry to see you so unwell, sir. You certainly don't look at all
the thing," began Hinton.

"I am not well--not at all well. I don't want Charlotte to know. But
there need be no disguises between you and me; of course I show it; but
we will come to that presently. First, about your own affairs. Lottie
has told you what I want you for to-night?"

"She has, Mr. Harman. She says that you have been good and generous
enough to say you will take away the one slight embargo you made to our
marriage--that we may become man and wife before I bring you news of
that brief."

"Yes, Hinton: that is what I said to her this morning: I repeat the same
to you to-night. You may fix your wedding-day when you like--I dare say
you have fixed it."

"Charlotte has named the twentieth of next June, sir; but----"

"The twentieth of June! that is four months away. I did not want her to
put it off as far as that. However, women, even the most sensible, have
such an idea of the time it takes to get a trousseau. The twentieth of
June! You can make it sooner, can't you?"

"Four months is not such a long time, sir. We have a house to get, and
furniture to buy. Four months will be necessary to make these
arrangements."

"No, they won't; for you have no such arrangements to make. You are to
come and live here when you marry. This will be your house when you
marry, and I shall be your guest. I can give you Charlotte Hinton; but I
cannot do without her myself."

"But this house means a very, very large income, Mr. Harman. Is it
prudent that we should begin like this? For my part I should much rather
do on less."

"You may sell the house if you fancy, and take a smaller one; or go more
into the country. I only make one proviso--that while I live, I live
with my only daughter."

"And with your son, too, Mr. Harman," said Hinton, just letting his hand
touch for an instant the wrinkled hand which lay on Mr. Harman's knee.

The old man smiled one of those queer, sad smiles which Hinton had often
in vain tried to fathom. Responding to the touch of the vigorous young
hand, he said--

"I have always liked you, Hinton. I believe, in giving you my dear
child, I give her to one who will make her happy."

"Happy! yes, I shall certainly try to make her happy," answered Hinton,
with a sparkle in his eyes.

"And that is the main thing; better than wealth, or position, or
anything else on God's earth. Happiness comes with goodness, you know,
my dear fellow; no bad man was ever happy. If you and Charlotte get this
precious thing into your lives you must both be good. Don't let the evil
touch you ever so slightly. If you do, happiness flies."

"I quite believe you," answered Hinton.

"Well, about money matters. I am, as you know, very rich. I shall settle
plenty of means upon my daughter; but it will be better for you to enter
into all these matters with my solicitor. When can you meet him?"

"Whenever convenient to you and to him, sir."

"I will arrange it for you, and let you know."

"Mr. Harman, may I say a word for myself?" suddenly asked the young man.

"Most certainly. Have I been so garrulous as to keep you from speaking?"

"Not at all, sir; you have been more than generous. You have been
showing me the rose-color from your point of view. Now it is not all
rose-color."

"I was coming to that; it is by no means all rose-color. Well, say your
say first."

"You are a very rich man, and you are giving me your daughter; so
endowing her, that any man in the world would say I had drawn a prize in
money, if in nothing else."

Mr. Harman smiled.

"I fear you must bear that," he said. "I do not see that you can support
Charlotte without some assistance from me."

"I certainly could not do so. I have exactly two hundred a year, and
that, as you were pleased to observed before, would be, to one brought
up as Charlotte has been, little short of beggary."

"To Charlotte it certainly would be almost beggary."

"Mr. Harman, I have some pride in me. I am a barrister by profession.
Some barristers get high in their profession."

"Undoubtedly _some_ do."

"Those who are brilliant do," continued Hinton. "I have abilities,
whether they are brilliant or not, time will show. Mr. Harman, I should
like to bring you news of that brief before we are married."

"I can throw you in the way of getting plenty of briefs when you are my
son-in-law. I promise you, you will no longer be a barrister with
nothing to do."

"Yes, sir; but I want this before my marriage."

"My influence can give it to you before."

"But that was against our agreement, Mr. Harman. I want to find that
brief which is to do so much for me without your help."

"Very well. Find it before the twentieth of June."

After this the two men were silent for several moments. John Hinton,
though in no measure comforted, felt it impossible to say more just
then, and Mr. Harman, with a face full of care, kept gazing into the
fire. John Hinton might have watched that face with interest, had he not
been otherwise occupied. After this short silence Mr. Harman spoke
again.

"You think me very unselfish in all this; perhaps even my conduct
surprises you."

"I confess it rather does," answered Hinton.

"Will you oblige me by saying how?"

"For one thing, you give so much and expect so little."

"Ay, so it appears at first sight; but I told you it was not all
rose-color; I am coming to that part. Your pride has been roused--I can
soothe it."

"I love Charlotte too much to feel any pride in the matter," replied
Hinton, with some heat.

"I don't doubt your affection, my good fellow; and I put against it an
equal amount on Charlotte's part; also a noble and beautiful woman, and
plenty of money, with money's attendant mercies. I fear even your
affection is outweighed in that balance."

"Nothing can outweigh affection," replied Hinton boldly.

Mr. Harman smiled, and this time stretching out his own hand he touched
the young man's.

"You are right, my dear boy; and because I am so well aware of this, I
give my one girl to a man who is a gentleman, and who loves her. I ask
for nothing else in Charlotte's husband, but I am anxious for you to be
her husband at once."

"And that is what puzzles me," said Hinton: "you have a sudden reason
for this hurry. We are both young; we can wait; there is no hardship in
waiting."

"There would be a hardship to me in your waiting longer now. You are
quite right in saying I have a sudden reason; this time last night I had
no special thought of hurrying on Charlotte's marriage. Her uncle
proposed it; I considered his reasoning good--so good, that I gave
Charlotte permission this morning to fix with you the time for the
wedding. But even then delay would have troubled me but little; now it
does; now even these four short months trouble me sorely."

"Why?" asked Hinton.

"Why? You mentioned my health, and observed that I looked ill; I said I
would come to that presently. I am ill; I look very ill. I have seen
physicians. To-day I went to see Sir George Anderson; he told me,
without any preamble, the truth. My dear fellow, I want you to be my
child's protector in a time of trouble, for I am a dying man."

Hinton had never come face to face with death in his life before. He
started forward now and clasped his hands.

"Dying!" he repeated, in a tone of unbelief and consternation.

"Yes; you don't see it, for I am going about. I shall go about much as
usual to the very last. Your idea of dying men is that they stay in bed
and get weak, and have a living death long before the last great mercy
comes. That will not be my case. I shall be as you see me now to the
very last moment; then some day, or perhaps some night, you will come
into this room, or into another room, it does not a bit matter where,
and find me dead."

"And must this come soon?" repeated Hinton.

"It may not come for some months; it may stay away for a year; but again
it may come to-night or to-morrow."

"Good God!" repeated Hinton.

"Yes, Mr. Hinton, you are right, in the contemplation of such a solemn
and terrible event, to mention the name of your Creator. He is a good
God, but His very goodness makes Him terrible. He is a God who will see
justice done; who will by no means cleanse the guilty. I am going into
His presence--a sinful old man. Well, I bow to His decree. But enough of
this; you see my reasons for wishing for an early marriage for my
child."

"Mr. Harman, I am deeply, deeply pained and shocked. May I know the
nature of your malady?"

"It is unnecessary to discuss it, and does no good; suffice it to know
that I carry a disease within me which by its very nature must end both
soon and suddenly; also that there is no cure for the disease."

"Are you telling me all this as a secret?"

"As a most solemn and sacred secret. My brother suspects something of
it, but no one, no one in all the world knows the full and solemn truth
but yourself."

"Then Charlotte is not to be told?"

"Charlotte! Charlotte! It is for her sake I have confided to you all
this, that you may guard her from such a knowledge."

John Hinton was silent for a moment or two; if he disliked Charlotte
having a secret from him much more did he protest against the knowledge
which now was forced upon him being kept from her. He saw that Mr.
Harman was firmly set on keeping his child in the dark; he disapproved,
but he hardly dared, so much did he fear to agitate the old man, to make
any vigorous stand against a decree which seemed to him both cruel and
unjust. He must say something, however, so he began gently--

"I will respect your most sacred confidence, Mr. Harman; without your
leave no word from me shall convey this knowledge to Charlotte; but
pardon me if I say a word. You know your own child very well, but I also
know Charlotte; she has lived, for all her talent and her five and
twenty years, the sheltered life of a child hitherto--but that is
nothing; she is a noble woman, she has a noble woman's heart; in
trouble, such a nature as hers could rise and prove itself great. Don't
you suppose, when by and by the end really comes, she will blame me, and
even perhaps, you, sir, for keeping this knowledge from her."

"She will never blame her old father. She will see, bless her, that I
did it in love; you will tell her that, be sure you tell her that, when
the time comes; please God, you will be her husband then, and you will
have the right to comfort her."

"I hope to have the right to comfort her, I hope to be her husband;
still, I think you are mistaken, though I can urge the matter no
further."

"No, for you cannot see it with my eyes; that child and I have lived the
most unbroken life of peace and happiness together; neither storm nor
cloud has visited us in one another. The shadow of death must not
embitter our last few months; she must be my bright girl to the very
last. Some day, if you and she ever have a daughter, you will understand
my feelings--at least in part you will understand it."

"I cannot understand it now, but I can at least respect it," answered
the young man.



CHAPTER XVI.

"VENGEANCE IS MINE."


When Hinton at last left him, Mr. Harman sat on for a long time by his
study fire. The fire burnt low but he did not replenish it, neither did
he touch the cold coffee which still remained on his table. After an
hour or so of musings, during which the old face seemed each moment to
grow more sad and careworn, he stretched out his hand to ring his bell.

Almost instantly was the summons answered--a tall footman stood before
him.

"Dennis, has Mr. Jasper left?"

"Yes, sir. He said he was going to his club. I can have him fetched,
sir."

"Do not do so. After Mr. Hinton leaves, ask Miss Harman to come here."

The footman answered softly in the affirmative and withdrew, and Mr.
Harman still sat on alone. He had enough to think about. For the first
time to-day death had come and stared him in the face; very close indeed
his own death was looking at him. He was a brave man, but the sight of
the cold, grim thing, brought so close, so inevitably near, was scarcely
to be endured with equanimity. After a time, rising from his seat, he
went to a bookcase and took down, not a treatise on medicine or
philosophy, but an old Bible.

"Dying men are said to find comfort here," he said faintly to himself.
He put one of the candles on the table and opened the book. It was an
old Bible, but John Harman was not very well acquainted with its
contents.

"They tell me there is much comfort here," he said to himself. He turned
the old and yellow leaves.

"_Vengeance is mine. I will repay._" These were the words on which his
eyes fell.

Comfort! He closed the book with a groan and returned it to the
bookshelf. But in returning it he chose the highest shelf of all and
pushed it far back and well out of sight.

He had scarcely done so before a light quick step was heard at the door,
and Charlotte, her eyes and cheeks both bright, entered.

"My dearest, my darling," he said. He came to meet her, and folded her
in his arms. He was a dying man, and a sin-laden one, but not the less
sweet was that young embrace, that smooth cheek, those bright, happy
eyes.

"You are better, father; you look better," said his daughter.

"I have been rather weak and low all the evening, Lottie; but I am much
better for seeing you. Come here and sit at my feet, my dear love."

"I am very happy this evening," said Charlotte, seating herself on her
father's footstool, and laying her hand on his knee.

"I can guess the reason, my child; your wedding-day is fixed."

"This morning, father, I said it should be the twentieth of June; John
seemed quite satisfied, and four months were not a bit too long for our
preparations; but to-night he has changed his mind; he wants our wedding
to be in April. I have not given in--not yet. Two months seem so short."

"You will have plenty of time to prepare in two months, dear; and April
is a nice time of year. If I were you, I would not oppose Hinton."

Charlotte smiled. She knew in her heart of hearts she should not oppose
him. But being a true woman, she laid hold of a futile excuse.

"My book will not be finished. I like to do well what I do at all."

Her father was very proud of this coming book; but now, patting her
hand, he said softly,--

"The book can keep. Put it out of your head for the present; you can get
it done later."

"Then I shall leave you two months sooner, father; does that not weigh
with you at all?"

"You are only going for your honeymoon, darling; and the sooner you go
the sooner you will return."

"Vanquished on all points," said Charlotte, smiling radiantly, and then
she sat still, looking into the fire.

Long, long afterwards, through much of sorrow--nay, even of
tribulation--did her thoughts wander back to that golden evening of her
life.

"You remind me of my own mother to-night," said her father presently.

Charlotte and her father had many times spoken of this dead mother. Now
she said softly,--

"I want, I pray, I long to make as good a wife as you tell me she did."

"With praying, longing, and striving, it will come Charlotte. That was
how she succeeded."

"And there is another thing," continued Charlotte, suddenly changing her
position and raising her bright eyes to her old father's face. "You had
a good wife and I had a good mother. If ever I die, as my own mother
died, and leave behind me a little child, as she did, I pray that my
John may be as good a father to it as you have been to me."

But in answer to this little burst of daughterly love, a strange thing
happened. Mr. Harman grew very white, so white that he gasped for
breath.

"Water, a little water," he said, feebly; and when Charlotte had brought
it to him and he raised it to his lips, and the color and power to
breathe had come back again, he said slowly and with great pain,--

"Never, never pray that your husband may be like me, Charlotte. To be
worthy of you at all, he must be a much better and a very different
man."



CHAPTER XVII.

HAPPINESS NOT JUSTICE.


Hinton left Mr. Harman's house in a very perplexed frame of mind. It
seemed to him that in that one short day as much had happened to him as
in all the course of his previous life, but the very force of the
thoughts, the emotions, the hopes, the fears, which had visited him,
made him, strong, young and vigorous as he was, so utterly weary, that
when he reached his rooms he felt that he must let tired-out nature have
its way--he threw himself on his bed and slept the sleep of the young
and healthy until the morning.

It was February weather, February unusually mild and genial, and the pet
day of yesterday was followed by another as soft and sweet and mild.
When Hinton awoke from his refreshing slumbers, the day was so well and
thoroughly risen that a gleam of sunshine lay across his bed. He started
up to discover a corresponding glow in his heart. What was causing this
glow? In a moment he remembered, and the gleam of heart sunshine grew
brighter with the knowledge. The fact was, happiness was standing by the
young man's side, holding out two radiant hands, and saying, "Take me,
take me to your heart of hearts, for I have come to dwell with you."
Hinton rose, dressed hastily, and went into his sitting-room. All the
gloom which had so oppressed him yesterday had vanished. He could not
resist the outward sunshine, nor the heart-glow which had come to him.
He stepped lightly, and whistled some gay airs. He ate his breakfast
with appetite, then threw himself into an easy-chair which stood near
the window; he need not go to his chambers for at least an hour, he
might give himself this time to think.

Again happiness stepped up close and showed her beautiful face. Should
he take her; should he receive the rare and lovely thing and shut out
that stern sense of justice, of relieving the oppressed, of seeing the
wronged righted, which had been as his sheet-anchor yesterday, which had
been more or less the sheet-anchor of his life. Here was his position.
He was engaged to marry Charlotte Harman; he loved her with his whole
heart; she loved him with her whole heart; she was a beautiful woman, a
noble woman, a wealthy woman. With her as his wife, love, riches, power
might all be his. What more could the warm, warm feelings of youth
desire? what more could the ambitions of youth aspire to? Yesterday, it
is true, he had felt some rising of that noble pride which scorns to
receive so much and give so little. He had formed a wild, almost
passionate determination to obtain his brief before he obtained his
bride, but Mr. Harman had soothed that pride to sleep. There was indeed
a grave and sad reason why this beautiful and innocent woman whom he had
won should receive all the full comfort his love and protection could
give her as quickly as possible. Her father was dying, and she must not
know of his approaching death. Her father wished to see her Hinton's
wife as soon as possible. Hinton felt that this was reasonable, this was
fair; for the sake of no pride, true or false, no hoped-for brief, could
he any longer put off their wedding. Nay, far from this. Last night he
had urged its being completed two months sooner than Charlotte herself
had proposed. He saw by the brightness in Charlotte's eyes that, though
she did not at once agree to this, her love for him was such that she
would marry him in a week if he so willed it. He rejoiced in these
symptoms of her great love, and the rejoicings of last night had risen
in a fuller tide this morning. Yes, it was the rule of life, the one
everlasting law, the old must suffer and die, the young must live and
rejoice. Yes; Hinton felt very deep sympathy for Mr. Harman last night,
but this morning, his happiness making him more self-absorbed than
really selfish, he knew that the old man's dying and suffering state
could not take one iota from his present delight.

What then perplexed him? What made him stand aloof from the radiant
guest, Happiness, for a brief half hour? That story of Charlotte's; it
would come back to him; he wished now he had never heard it. For having
heard he could not forget: he could not exorcise this grim Thing which
stood side by side with Happiness in his sunny room. The fact was, his
acute mind took in the true bearings of the case far more clearly than
Charlotte had done. He felt sure that Mrs. Home had been wronged. He
felt equally sure that, if he looked into the case, it lay in his power
to right her. Over and over he saw her pale, sad face, and he hoped it
was not going to haunt him. The tale in his mind lay all in Mrs. Home's
favor, all against John and Jasper Harman. Was it likely that their
wealthy father would do anything so monstrously unjust as to leave all
his money to his two eldest sons with whom he had previously quarrelled,
and nothing, nothing at all to his young wife and infant daughter? It
would be a meaningless piece of injustice, unlike all that he had
gleaned of the previous character of the old man. As to John and Jasper,
and their conduct in the affair, that too was difficult to fathom.
Jasper had spent the greater portion of his life in Australia. Of his
character Hinton knew little; that little he felt was repugnant to him.
But John Harman--no man in the City bore a higher character for
uprightness, for integrity, for honor. John Harman was respected and
loved by all who knew him.

Yes, yes: Hinton felt that all this was possible, but also he knew that
never in their close intercourse had he been able to fathom John Harman.
A shadow rested over the wealthy and prosperous merchant. Never until
now had Hinton even approached the cause; but now, now it seemed to him
that he was grappling with the impenetrable mystery, that face to face
he was looking at the long and successfully hidden sin. Strong man as he
was, he trembled as this fear came over him. Whatever the cause,
whatever the sudden and swift temptation, he felt an ever-growing
conviction that long ago John and Jasper Harman had robbed the widow and
fatherless. Feeling this, being almost sure of this, how then should he
act? He knew very well what he could do. He could go to Somerset House
and see the will of old Mr. Harman. It was very unlikely that a forged
will had been attempted. It was, he felt sure, far, far more probable
that the real will was left untampered with, that the deed of injustice
had been done in the hope that no one who knew anything about such
matters would ever inquire into it.

Hinton could go that very day and set his mind at rest. Why then did he
hesitate? Ah! he knew but too well. Never and nearer came that shining
form of Happiness. If he did this thing, and found his suspicions
correct, as he feared much he should, if he then acted upon this
knowledge and gave Mrs. Home her own again, happiness would fly from
him, it might be for ever. To give Mrs. Home her rights he must cruelly
expose a dying old man. Such a shock, coming now, would most probably
kill John Harman. After bringing her father to such shame and dishonor,
would Charlotte ever consent to be his wife? would she not indeed in
very horror fly from his presence? What was Mrs. Home to him, that he
should ruin his whole life for her sake, that he should give up wife,
wealth, and fame? Nothing--a complete stranger. Why should he, for her
sake, pain and make miserable those he loved, above all break the heart
of the woman who was more precious to him than all the rest of the
world? He felt he could not do this thing. He must take that bright
winged happiness and let justice have her day when she could. Some other
hand must inflict the blow, it could not be his hand. He was sorry now
that he had taken Mrs. Home's lodgings. But after all what did it
signify? He had taken them for a month, he could go there for that short
period. His quickly approaching marriage would make it necessary for him
to leave very soon after, and he would try amongst his many friends to
find her a more permanent tenant, for though he had now quite made up
his mind to let matters alone, his heart ached for this woman. Yes, he
would, if possible, help her in little ways, though it would be
impossible for his hand to be the one to give her her own again. Having
come to this determination he went out.



CHAPTER XVIII.

"SUGAR AND SPICE AND ALL THAT'S NICE."


Perhaps for one day Charlotte Harman was selfish in her happiness. But
when she awoke on the morning after her interview with her father, her
finely balanced nature had quite recovered its equilibrium. She was a
woman whom circumstances could make very noble; all her leanings were
towards the good, she had hitherto been unassailed by temptation,
untouched by care. All her life the beautiful and bright things of this
world had been showered at her feet. She had the friends whom rich,
amiable, and handsome girls usually make. She had the devotion of a
most loving father. John Hinton met her and loved her. She responded to
his love with her full heart. Another father might have objected to her
giving herself to this man, who in the fashionable world's opinion was
nothing. But Harman only insisted on a slight delay to their marriage,
none whatever to their engagement, and now, after scarcely a year of
waiting, the embargo was withdrawn, their wedding-day was fixed, was
close at hand. The twentieth of April (Charlotte knew she should not
oppose the twentieth of April) was not quite two months away. Very light
was her heart when she awoke to this happy fact. Happiness, too, was
standing by her bedside, and she made no scruple to press the radiant
creature to her heart of hearts. But Charlotte's was too fine a nature
to be spoiled by prosperity. Independent of her wealth, she must always
have been a favorite. Her heart was frank and generous; she was
thoughtful for others, she was most truly unselfish. Charlotte was a
favorite with the servants; her maid worshipped her. She was a just
creature, and had read too much on social reform to give away
indiscriminately and without thought; but where her sense of justice was
really satisfied, she could give with a royal hand, and there were many
poor whom Ward, her maid, knew, who, rising up, called Miss Harman
blessed.

Charlotte had taken a great interest in Mrs. Home. Her face attracted,
her manner won, before ever her story touched the heart of this young
woman. The greatest pain Charlotte had ever gone through in her life had
followed the recital of Mrs. Home's tale, a terrible foreboding the
awful shadow which points to wrong done, to sin committed by her best
and dearest, had come near and touched her. Uncle Jasper, with his
clever and experienced hand, had driven that shadow away, and in her
first feeling of intense thankfulness and relief, she had almost
disliked the woman who had come to her with so cruel a tale. All
yesterday, in the midst of her own happiness, she had endeavored to shut
Mrs. Home from her thoughts; but this morning, more calm herself, the
remembrance of the poor, pale, and struggling mother rose up again fresh
and vivid within her heart. It is true Mrs. Home believed a lie, a cruel
and dreadful lie; but none the less for this was she to be pitied, none
the less for this must she be helped. Mrs. Home was Charlotte's near
relation, she could not suffer her to want. As she lay in bed, she
reflected with great thankfulness that John Hinton had said, on hearing
the tale, how manifestly it would be his and her duty to help this poor
mother. Yes, by and by they would give her enough to raise her above all
want, but Charlotte felt she could not wait for that distant time. She
must succor Mrs. Home at once. Her father had said last night that, if
she married in two months, there would be no time for her to finish her
book. He was right; she must give up the book; she would devote this
morning to Mrs. Home.

She rose with her determination formed and went downstairs. As usual her
father was waiting for her, as usual he came up and kissed her; and as
they had done every morning for so many years, they sat down opposite
each other to breakfast. Charlotte longed to speak to her father about
Mrs. Home, but he looked, even to her inexperienced eyes, very ill and
haggard, and she remembered her uncle's words and refrained from the
subject.

"You seem so feeble, father, had you not better go into town in the
carriage this morning?" she asked, as he rose from his chair.

To her surprise he assented, even confessed that he had already ordered
the carriage. He had never to her knowledge done such a thing before,
and little as she knew of real illness, nothing as she knew of danger
and death, she felt a sharp pain at her heart as she watched him driving
away. The pain, however, was but momentary, lost in the pressing
interests of other thoughts. Before eleven o'clock she had started off
to see Mrs. Home.

Now it was by no means her intention to go to this newly found relation
empty handed. Mrs. Home might or might not be willing to receive a gift
of money, but Charlotte hoped so to be able to convey it to her as to
save her pride from being too greatly hurt.

Charlotte had a small banking account of her own. She drove now straight
to her bank in the city, and drawing fifty pounds in one note slipped it
into her purse. From the bank she went to a children's West End shop.
She there chose a lovely velvet frock for the fair-haired little Daisy,
two embroidered white dresses for the baby; and going a little farther
she bought a smart tailor suit for the eldest boy. After buying the
pretty clothes she visited a toy shop, where she loaded herself with
toys; then a cake shop to purchase cakes and other goodies; and having
at last exhausted her resources; she desired the coachman to drive to
Mrs. Home's address in Kentish Town. She arrived, after a drive of a
little over half an hour, to find the lady whom she had come to seek,
out. The dirty little maid stared with full round eyes at the beautiful
young lady and at the handsome carriage, and declared she did not know
when her missis would be in.

For a moment Charlotte felt foiled; but she was excited now--she could
not go away, laden as she was with fairy gifts, without making some
effort to dispense these blessings.

"I am a relation of Mrs. Home's and I want to see the children. Are the
children in?" she asked of the little maid.

Rounder and rounder grew that small domestic's eyes.

"They can't be hout without me," she volunteered; "ain't I the nuss and
maid-of-all work? Yes, the children is hin."

Then she opened the dining-room door, and Charlotte, first flying to the
carriage and returning laden with brown paper parcels, followed her into
the little parlor.

The maid, on the swift wings of excitement, flew upstairs. There was the
quick patter of eager little feet, and in a very few moments the door
was pushed open and a boy and girl entered. Charlotte recognized them at
a glance. They were the very handsome little pair whose acquaintance she
had made yesterday in Regent's Park. The girl hung back a trifle shyly,
but the boy, just saying to his sister, "The pretty lady," came up, and
raised his lips for a kiss.

"You don't think me rude?" he said; "you don't mind kissing me, do you."

"I love to kiss you; I am your own cousin," said Charlotte.

"My own cousin! Then I may sit on your knee. Daisy, come here--the
pretty lady is our own cousin."

On hearing this, Daisy too advanced. Neither child had any idea what the
word cousin meant, but it seemed to include proprietorship. They stroked
Charlotte's furs, and both pairs of lips were raised again and again for
many kisses. In the midst of this scene entered the little maid with the
baby. Pretty as Daisy and Harold were, they were nothing to the baby;
this baby of eight months had a most ethereal and lovely face.

"Oh, you beauty! you darling!" said Charlotte, as she clasped the little
creature in her arms, and the baby, too young to be shy, allowed her to
kiss him repeatedly.

"What a lot of lumber!" said Daisy, touching the brown-paper parcels.

This little child's speech brought Charlotte back to the fact of her
cakes and toys. Giving baby to his small nurse, she opened her
treasures. Daisy received her doll with a kind of awed rapture, Harold
rattled his drum and blew his trumpet in a way most distracting to any
weak nerves within reasonable distance, and the baby sucked some rather
unwholesome sweets. No child thought of thanking their benefactor, but
flushed cheeks, bright eyes, eager little voices, were thanks louder and
more eloquent than words.

"I want to see your mother; when will she be in?" asked Charlotte, after
a little quiet had been restored.

"Not all day," answered Harold. "Mother has gone with father to nurse a
poor sick lady; she won't be back till quite night."

"She said we were to be very good; we are, aren't we?" said Daisy.

"Yes, darling; you are quite perfect," replied the inexperienced
Charlotte.

"Did our mother ask you to come and play with us and give us lovely
things?" demanded Harold.

"She does not know I am here, my dear little boy; but now, if you will
show me where I can get a sheet of paper, I will just write your mother
a little note."

The paper was quickly found, and Charlotte sat down, a boy and girl on
each side. It was not easy to say much under such circumstances, so the
words in the little note were few.

"You will give this to your mother when she comes in. See!--I will put
it on the mantelpiece," she said to Harold; "and you must not touch
these parcels until mother opens them herself. Yes; I will come again.
Now, good-by." Her bonnet was decidedly crooked as she stepped into the
carriage, her jacket was also much crumpled; but there was a very sweet
feel of little arms still round her neck, and she touched her hair and
cheeks with satisfaction, for they had been honored by many child
kisses.

"I believe she's just a fairy godmother," said Harold, as he watched the
carriage rolling away.

"I never seed the like in hall my born days," remarked the small
maid-of-all-work.



CHAPTER XIX.

"THE PRETTY LADY"


"Mother, mother, mother!"

"And look!--oh, do look at what I have got!" were the words that greeted
Mrs. Home, when, very tired, after a day of hard nursing with one of her
husband's sick parishioners, she came back.

The children ought to have been in bed, the baby fast asleep, the little
parlor-table tidily laid for tea: instead of which, the baby wailed
unceasingly up in the distant nursery, and Harold and Daisy, having
nearly finished Charlotte's sweeties, and made themselves very
uncomfortable by repeated attacks on the rich plum-cake, were now, with
very flushed cheeks, alternately playing with their toys and poking
their small fingers into the still unopened brown-paper parcels. They
had positively refused to go up to the nursery, and, though the gas was
lit and the blinds were pulled down, the spirit of disorder had most
manifestly got into the little parlor.

"Oh, mother!--what _do_ you think? The lovely lady!--the lady we met in
the park yesterday!--she has been, and she brought us _lots_ of
things--toys, and sweeties, and cakes, and--oh, mother, do look!"

Daisy presented her doll, and Harold blew some very shrill blasts from
his trumpet right up into his mother's eyes.

"My dear children," said Mrs. Home, "whom do you mean? where did you get
all these things? who has come here? Why aren't you both in bed? It is
long past your usual hour."

This string of questions met with an unintelligible chorus of replies,
in which the words "pretty lady," "Regent's Park," "father knew her,"
"we _had_ to sit up," so completely puzzled Mrs. Home, that had not her
eyes suddenly rested on the little note waiting for her on the
mantelpiece she would have been afraid her children had taken leave of
their senses.

"Oh, yes; she told us to give you that," said Harold when he saw his
mother take it up.

I have said the note was very short. Charlotte Home read it in a moment.

"Mother, mother! what does she tell you, and what are in the other
parcels? She said we weren't to open them until you came home. Oh, _do_
tell us what she said, and let us see the rest of the pretty things!"

"Do, do mother; we have been so patient 'bout it!" repeated little
Daisy.

Harold now ran for the largest of the parcels, and raised it for his
mother to take. Both children clung to her skirts. Mrs. Home put the
large parcel on a shelf out of reach, then she put aside the hot and
eager little hands. At last she spoke.

"My little children must have some more patience, for mother can tell
them nothing more to-night. Yes, yes, the lady is very pretty and very
kind, but we can talk no more about anything until the morning. Now,
Harold and Daisy, come upstairs at once."

They were an obedient, well-trained little pair. They just looked at one
another, and from each dimpled mouth came a short, impatient sigh; then
they gave their hands to mother, and went gravely up to the nursery.
Charlotte stayed with her children until they were undressed. She saw
them comfortably washed, their baby prayers said, and each little head
at rest on its pillow, then kissing the baby, who was also by this time
fast asleep, she went softly downstairs.

Anne, the little maid, was flying about, trying to get the tea ready and
some order restored, but when she saw her mistress she could not refrain
from standing still to pour out her excited tale.

"Ef you please, 'em, it come on me hall on a 'eap. She come in that free
and that bounteous, and seemed as if she could eat all the children up
wid love; and she give 'em a lot, and left a lot more fur you, 'em. And
when she wor goin' away she put half-a-crown in my hand. I never seed
the like--never, 'em--never! She wor dressed as grand as Queen Victory
herself, and she come in a carriage and two spanking hosses; and,
please, 'em, I heard of her telling the children as she wos own cousin
to you, 'em."

"Yes, I know the young lady," replied Mrs. Home. "She is, as you say,
very nice and kind. But now, Anne, we must not talk any more. Your
master won't be in for an hour, but I shan't wait tea for him; we will
have some fresh made later. Please bring me in a cup at once, for I am
very tired."

Anne gazed at her mistress in open-eyed astonishment. Any one--any one
as poor as she well knew missis to be--who could take the fact of being
cousin to so beautiful and rich a young lady with such coolness and
apparent indifference quite passed Anne's powers of comprehension.

"It beats me holler--that it do!" she said to herself; then, with a
start, she ran off to her kitchen.

Mrs. Home had taken her first cup of tea, and had even eaten a piece of
bread and butter, before she again drew Charlotte Harman's little note
out of her pocket. This is what her eyes had already briefly glanced
over:--

     DEAR FRIEND AND SISTER--for you must let me call you so--I have
     come to see you, and finding you out asked to see your children. I
     have lost my heart to your beautiful and lovely children. They are
     very sweet! Your baby is more like an angel than any earthly
     creature my eyes have ever rested on. Charlotte, I brought your
     children a few toys, and one or two other little things. You won't
     be too proud to accept them. When I bought them I did not love your
     children, but I loved you. You are my near kinswoman. You won't
     take away the pleasure I felt when I bought those things. Dear
     Sister Charlotte, when shall we meet again? Send me a line, and I
     will come to you at any time. Yours,

     "CHARLOTTE HARMAN."

It is to be regretted that Charlotte Home by no means received this
sweet and loving little note in the spirit in which it was written. Her
pale, thin face flushed, and her eyes burnt with an angry light. This
burst of excited feeling was but the outcome of all she had undergone
mentally since she had left Miss Harman's house a few days ago. She had
said then, and truly, that she loved this young lady. The pride, the
stately bearing, the very look of open frankness in Charlotte's eyes had
warmed and touched her heart. She had not meant to tell to those ears,
so unaccustomed to sin and shame, this tale of long-past wrong. It had
been in a manner forced from her, and she had seen a flush of
perplexity, then of horror, color the cheeks and fill the fine brave
eyes. She had come away with her heart sympathies so moved by this girl,
so touched, so shocked with what she herself had revealed, that she
would almost rather, could her father's money now be hers, relinquish
it, than cause any further pain or shame to Charlotte Harman.

She came home and confided what she had done to her husband. It is not
too much to say that he was displeased--that he was much hurt. The
Charlotte who in her too eagerness for money could so act was scarcely
the Charlotte he had pictured to himself as his wife. Charlotte was
lowered in the eyes of the unworldly man. But just because her husband
was so unworldly, so unpractical, Charlotte's own more everyday nature
began to reassert itself. She had really done no harm. She had but told
a tale of wrong. Those who committed the wrong were the ones to blame.
She, the sufferer--who could put sin at her door? Her sympathy for
Charlotte grew less, her sorrow for herself and her children more. She
felt more sure than ever that injustice had been committed--that she and
her mother had been robbed; she seemed to read the fact in Charlotte
Harman's innocent eyes, Charlotte, in spite of herself, even though her
own father was the one accused, believed her--agreed with her.

All that night she spent in a sort of feverish dream, in which she saw
herself wealthy, her husband happy, her children cared for as they ought
to be. The ugly, ugly poverty of her life and her surroundings had all
passed away like a dream that is told.

She got up in a state of excitement and expectation, for what might not
Charlotte Harman do for her? She would tell the tale to her father, and
that father, seeing that his sin was found out, would restore her to her
rights. Of course, this must be the natural consequence. Charlotte was
not low and mean; she would see that she had her own again. Mrs. Home
made no allowance for any subsequent event--for any influence other than
her own being brought to bear on the young lady. All that day she
watched the post; she watched for the possibility of a visit. Neither
letter nor visit came, but Mrs. Home was not discouraged. That day was
too soon to hear; she must wait with patience for the morrow.

On the morrow her husband, who had almost forgotten her story, asked her
to come and help him in the care of a sick woman at some distance away.
Charlotte was a capital sick-nurse, and had often before given similar
aid to Mr. Home in parish work.

She went, spent her day away, and returned to find that Charlotte had
come--that so far her dream was true. Yes, but only so far, for
Charlotte had come, not in shame, but in the plenitude of a generous
benefactor. She had come laden with gifts, and had gone away with the
hearts of the children and the little maid. Charlotte Home felt a great
wave of anger and pain stealing over her heart. In her pain and
disappointment she was unjust.

"She is a coward after all. She dare not tell her father. She believes
my tale, but she is not brave enough to see justice done to me and mine;
so she tries to make up for it; she tries to salve her conscience and
bribe me with gifts--gifts and flattery. I will have none of it. My
rights--my true and just rights, or nothing! These parcels shall go back
unopened to-morrow." She rose from her seat, and put them all tidily
away on a side-table. She had scarcely done so before her husband's
latch-key was heard in the hall-door. He came in with the weary look
which was habitual to his thin face. "Oh, Angus, how badly you do want
your tea!" said the poor wife. She was almost alarmed at her husband's
pallor, and forgot Charlotte while attending to his comfort.

"What are those parcels, Lottie?" he said, noticing the heaped-up things
on the side-table.

"Never mind. Eat your supper first," she said to him.

"I can eat, and yet know what is in them. They give quite a Christmas
and festive character to the place. And what is that I see lying on that
chair--a new doll for Daisy? Why, has my careful little woman been so
extravagant as to buy the child another doll?"

Mr. Home smiled as he spoke. His wife looked at him gravely. She picked
up the very pretty doll and laid it with the other parcels on the
side-table.

"I will tell you about the parcels and the doll if you wish it," she
answered. "Miss Harman called when I was out, and brought cakes, and
sweeties, and toys to the children. She also brought those parcels. I do
not know what they contain, for I have not opened them. And she left a
note for me. I cannot help the sweeties and cakes, for Harold and Daisy
have eaten them; but the toys and those parcels shall go back
to-morrow."

Mrs. Home looked very proud and defiant as she spoke. Her husband
glanced at her face; then, with a slight sigh, he pushed his supper
aside.

"No, I am not hungry, dear. I am just a little overtired. May I see Miss
Harman's note?"

Charlotte put it at once into his hand.

He read it carefully once--twice. His own spirit was very loving and
Christ-like; consequently the real love and true human feeling in the
little note touched him.

"Lottie," he said, as he gave it back to his wife, "why do you want to
pain that sweet creature?"

Mrs. Home took the note, and flung it into the fire.

"There!" she said, an angry spot on each cheek. "She and hers have
injured me and mine. I don't want gifts from her. I want my rights!"

To this burst of excited feeling Mr. Home answered nothing. After a
moment or two of silence he rang the bell, and when Anne appeared asked
her to take away the tea-things. After this followed an hour of perfect
quiet. Mrs. Home took out her great basket of mending. Mr. Home sat
still, and apparently idle, by the fire. After a time he left the room
to go for a moment to his own. Passing the nursery, he heard a little
movement, and, entering softly, saw Harold sitting up in his little cot.

"Father, is that you?" he called through the semi-light.

"Yes, my boy. Is anything the matter? Why are you not asleep?"

"I couldn't, father dear; I'm so longing for to-morrow. I want to blow
my new trumpet again, and to see the rest of the brown-paper parcels.
Father, do come over to me for a moment."

Mr. Home came, and put his arm round the little neck.

"Did mother tell you that _our_ pretty lady came to-day, and brought
such a splendid lot of things?"

"Whose pretty lady, my boy?"

"_Ours_, father--the lady you, and I, and Daisy, and baby met in the
park yesterday. You said it was rude to kiss her, and _she_ did not
mind. She gave me dozens and dozens of kisses to-day."

"She was very kind to you," said Mr. Home. Then, bidding the child lie
down and sleep, he left him and went on to his own room. He was going to
his room with a purpose. That purpose was quickened into intensity by
little Harold's words.

That frank, fearless, sweet-looking girl was Miss Harman! That letter
was, therefore, not to be wondered at. It was the kind of letter he
would have expected such a woman to write. What was the matter with his
Lottie?

In his perplexity he knelt down; he remained upon his knees for about
ten minutes, then he returned to the little parlor. The answer to his
earnest prayer was given to him almost directly. His wife was no longer
proud and cold. She looked up the moment he entered, and said,--

"You are angry with me, Angus."

"No, my darling," he answered, "not angry, but very sorry for you."

"You must not be sorry for me. You have anxieties enough. I must not add
to them. Not all the Miss Harmans that ever breathe shall bring a cloud
between you and me. Angus, may I put out the gas and then sit close to
you? You shall talk me out of this feeling, for I do feel bad."

"I will talk all night if it makes you better, my own Lottie. Now, what
is troubling you?"

"In the first instance, you don't seem to believe this story about our
money."

"I neither believe it, nor the reverse--I simply don't let it trouble
me."

"But, Angus, that seems a little hard; for if the money was left to me
by my father I ought to have it. Think what a difference it would make
to us all--you, and me, and the children?"

"We should be rich instead of poor. It would make that difference,
certainly."

"Angus, you talk as if this difference was nothing."

"Nothing! It is not quite nothing; but I confess it does not weigh much
with me."

"If not for yourself, it might for the children's sakes; think what a
difference money would make to our darlings."

"My dear wife, you quite forgot when speaking so, that they are God's
little children as well as ours. He has said that not a sparrow falls
without His loving knowledge. Is it likely when that is so, that He will
see His children and ours either gain or suffer from such a paltry thing
as money?"

"Then you will do nothing to get back our own?"

"If you mean that I will go to law on the chance of our receiving some
money which may have been left to us, certainly I will not. The fact is,
Lottie--you may think me very eccentric--but I cannot move in this
matter. It seems to me to be entirely God's matter, not ours. If Mr.
Harman has committed the dreadful sin you impute to him, God must bring
it home to him. Before that poor man who for years has hidden such a sin
in his heart, and lived such a life before his fellow-men, is fit to go
back to the arms of His father, he must suffer dreadfully. I pray, from
my heart I pray, that if he committed the sin he may have the suffering,
for there is no other road to the Father; but I cannot pray that this
awful suffering may be sent to give us a better house, and our children
finer clothes, and that richer food may be put on our table."

Mrs. Home was silent for a moment, then she said,--

"Angus, forgive me, I did not look at it in that light."

"No, my dearest, and because I so pity her, if her father really is
guilty, I do not want you unnecessarily to pain Miss Harman. You
remember my telling you of that fine girl I met in Regent's Park
yesterday, the girl who was so kind and nice to our children. I have
just been up with Harold, and he tells me that your Miss Harman and his
pretty lady are one and the same."

"Is that really so?" answered Mrs. Home. "Yes. I know that Charlotte
Harman is very attractive. Did I not tell you, Angus, that she had won
my own heart? But I confess when I saw those gifts and read her note I
felt angry. I thought after hearing my tale she should have done more.
These presents seemed to me in the light of a bribe."

"Charlotte!"

"Ah! I know you are shocked. You cannot see the thing with my eyes; that
is how they really looked to me."

"Then, my dear wife, may I give you a piece of advice?"

"That is what I am hungering for, Angus."

"Tell the whole story, as frankly--more frankly than you have told it to
me, to God to-night. Lay the whole matter in the loving hands of your
Father, then, Charlotte; after so praying, if in the morning you still
think Miss Harman was actuated by so mean a spirit, treat her as she
deserves. With your own hands deal the punishment to her, send
everything back."

Mrs. Home's face flushed very brightly, and she lowered her eyes to
prevent her husband seeing the look of shame which filled them. The
result of this conversation was the following note written the next
morning to Miss Harman.

     I could not have thanked you last night for what you have done,
     but I can to-day. You have won my children's little hearts. Be
     thankful that you have made my dear little ones so happy. You ask
     to see me again, Miss Harman. I do not think I can come to you, and
     I don't ask you to come here. Still I will see you; name some
     afternoon to meet me in Regent's Park and I will be there.

     Yours,
     CHARLOTTE HOME.

Thus the gifts were kept, and the mother tried to pray away a certain
soreness which would remain notwithstanding all her husband's words. She
was human after all, however, and Charlotte Harman might have been
rewarded had she seen her face the following Sunday morning when she
brought her pretty children down to their father to inspect them in
their new clothes.

Harold went to church that morning, with his mother, in a very
picturesque hat; but no one suspected quite how much it was worth, not
even those jealous mothers who saw it and remarked upon it, and wondered
who had left Mrs. Home a legacy, for stowed carefully away under the
lining was Charlotte Harman's bright, crisp, fifty-pound note.



CHAPTER XX.

TWO CHARLOTTES.


It was a week after; the very day, in fact, on which Hinton was to give
up his present most comfortable quarters for the chances and changes of
Mrs. Home's poor little dwelling. That anxious young wife and mother,
having completed her usual morning duties, set off to Regent's Park to
meet Miss Harman. It was nearly March now, and the days, even in the
afternoon, were stretching, and though it was turning cold the feeling
of coming spring was more decidedly getting into the air.

Mrs. Home had told her children that she was going to meet their pretty
lady, and Harold had begged hard to come too. His mother would have
taken him, but he had a cold, and looked heavy, so she started off for
her long walk alone. Won by her husband's gentler and more Christ-like
spirit, Mrs. Home had written to Miss Harman to propose this meeting;
but in agreeing to an interview with her kinswoman she had effected a
compromise with her own feelings. She would neither go to her nor ask
her to come to the little house in Kentish Town. The fact was she wanted
to meet this young woman on some neutral ground. There were certain
unwritten, but still most stringent, laws of courtesy which each must
observe in her own home to the other. Charlotte Home intended, as she
went to meet Miss Harman on this day of early spring, that very plain
words indeed should pass between them.

By this it will be seen that she was still very far behind her husband,
and that much of a sore and angry sensation was still lingering in her
heart.

"Miss Harman will, of course, keep me waiting," she said to herself, as
she entered the park, and walked quickly towards the certain part where
they had agreed to meet. She gave a slight start therefore, when she saw
that young woman slowly pacing up and down, with the very quiet and
meditative air of one who had been doing so for some little time. Miss
Harman was dressed with almost studied plainness and simplicity. All the
rich furs which the children had admired were put away. When she saw
Mrs. Home she quickened her slow steps into almost a run of welcome, and
clasped her toil-worn and badly gloved hands in both her own.

"How glad I am to see you! You did not hurry, I hope. You are quite out
of breath. Why did you walk so fast?"

"I did not walk fast until I saw you under the trees, Miss Harman. I
thought I should have time enough, for I imagined I should have to wait
for you."

"What an unreasonable thing to suppose of me! I am the idle one, you the
busy. No: I respect wives and mothers too much to treat them in that
fashion." Miss Harman smiled as she spoke.

Mrs. Home did not outwardly respond to the smile, though the gracious
bearing, the loving, sweet face were beginning very slowly to effect a
thaw, for some hard little ice lumps in her heart were melting. The
immediate effect of this was, however, so strong a desire to cry that,
to steel herself against these untimely tears, she became in manner
harder than ever.

"And now what shall we do?" said Charlotte Harman. "The carriage is
waiting for us at the next gate; shall we go for a drive, or shall we
walk about here?"

"I would rather walk here," said Mrs. Home.

"Very well. Charlotte, I am glad to see you. And how are your children?"

"Harold has a cold. The other two are very well."

"I never saw sweeter children in my life. And do you know I met your
husband? He and your children both spoke to me in the park. It was the
day before I came to your house. Mr. Home gave me a very short sermon to
think over. I shall never forget it."

"He saw you and liked you," answered Mrs. Home. "He told me of that
meeting."

"And I want another meeting. Such a man as that has never come into my
life before. I want to see more of him. Charlotte, why did you propose
that we should meet here? Why not in my house, or in yours? I wanted to
come to you again. I was much disappointed when I got your note."

"I am sorry to have disappointed you; but I thought it best that we
should meet here."

"But why? I don't understand."

"They say that rich people are obtuse. I did not want to see your
riches, nor for you to behold the poverty of my land."

"Charlotte!"

"Please don't think me very hard, but I would rather you did not say
Charlotte."

"You would rather I did not say Charlotte?"

Two large tears of surprise and pain filled Miss Harman's gray eyes. But
such a great flood of weeping was so near the surface with the other
woman that she dared not look at her.

"I would rather you did not say Charlotte," she repeated, "for we call
those whom we love and are friendly with by their Christian names."

"I thought you loved me. You said so. You can't take back your own
words."

"I don't want to. I do love you in my heart. I feel I could love you
devotedly; but for all that we can never be friends."

Miss Harman was silent for a moment or two, then she said slowly, but
with growing passion in her voice, "Ah! you are thinking of that
wretched money. I thought love ranked higher than gold all the world
over."

"So it does, or appears to do, for those who all their lives have had
plenty; but it is just possible, just possible, I say, that those who
are poor, poor enough to know what hunger and cold mean, and have seen
their dearest wanting the comforts that money can buy, it is possible
that such people may prefer their money rights to the profession of
empty love."

"Empty love!" repeated Miss Harman. The words stung her. She was growing
angry, and the anger became this stately creature well. With cheeks and
eyes both glowing she turned to her companion. "If you and I are not to
part at once, and never meet again, there must be very plain words
between us. Shall I speak those words?" she asked.

"I came here that our words might be very plain," answered Mrs. Home.

"They shall be," said Charlotte Harman.

They were in a very quiet part of the park. Even the nurses and children
were out of sight. Now they ceased walking, and turned and faced each
other.

They were both tall, and both the poor and the rich young woman had
considerable dignity of bearing; but Charlotte Home was now the composed
one. Charlotte Harman felt herself quivering with suppressed anger.
Injustice was being dealt out to her, and injustice to the child of
affluence and luxury was a new sensation.

"You came to me the other day," she began, "I had never seen you before,
never before in all my life ever heard your name. You, however, knew me,
and you told me a story. It was a painful and very strange story. It
made you not only my very nearest kin, but also made you the victim of a
great wrong. The wrong was a large one, and the victim was to be pitied;
but the sting of it all lay, to me, not in either of the facts, but in
this, that you gave me to understand that he who had dealt you such a
blow was--my father. My father, one of the most noble, upright, and
righteous of men, you made out to me, to me, his only child, to be no
better than a common thief. I did not turn you from my doors for your
base words. I pitied you. In spite of myself I liked you; in spite of
myself I _believed_ you. You went away, and in the agony of mind which
followed during the next few hours I could have gladly fled for ever
from the sight of all the wide world. I had been the very happiest of
women. You came. You went. I was one of the most miserable. I am engaged
to be married, and the man I am engaged to came into the room. I felt
guilty before him. I could not raise my eyes to his, for, again I tell
you, I believed your tale, and my father's bitter shame was mine. I
could not rest. Happen what would I must learn the truth at once. I have
an uncle, my father's brother; he must know all. I sent my lover away
and went to this uncle. I asked to have an interview with him, and in
that interview I told him all you had told to me. He was not surprised.
He acknowledged at once the true and real relationship between us; but
he also explained away the base doubts you had put into my head. My
father, my own beloved father, is all, and more than all, I have ever
thought him. He would scorn to be unjust, to rob any one. You have been
unfortunate; you have been treated cruelly; but the injustice, the
cruelty have been penetrated by one long years now in his grave. In
short, your father has been the wicked man, not mine."

Here Mrs. Home tried to speak, but Miss Harman held up her hand.

"You must hear me out," she said. "I am convinced, but I do not expect
you to be. After my uncle had done speaking, and I had time to realize
all the relief those words of his had given me, I said, still an
injustice has been done. We have no right to our wealth while she
suffers from such poverty. Be my grandfather's will what it may, we must
alter it. We must so act as if he had left money to his youngest child.
My uncle agreed with me; perhaps not so fully as I could wish, still he
did agree; but he made one proviso. My father is ill, I fear. I fear he
is very ill. The one dark cloud hanging over his whole life lay in those
years when he was estranged from his own father. To speak of you I must
bring back those years to his memory. Any excitement is bad for him now.
My uncle said, 'Wait until your father is better, then we will do
something for Mrs. Home.' To this I agreed. Was I very unreasonable to
agree to this delay for my father's sake?"

Here Charlotte Harman paused and looked straight at her companion. Mrs.
Home's full gaze met hers. Again, the innocent candor of the one pair of
eyes appealed straight to the heart lying beneath the other. Unconvinced
she was still. Still to her, her own story held good: but she was
softened, and she held out her hand.

"There is no unreasonableness in _you_, Charlotte," she said.

"Ah! then you will call me Charlotte?" said the other, her face glowing
with delight.

"I call you so now. I won't answer for the future."

"We will accept the pleasant present. I don't fear the future. I shall
win your whole heart yet. Now let us drop all disagreeables and talk
about those we both love. Charlotte, what a baby you have got! Your baby
must be an angel to you."

"All my children are that to me. When I look at them I think God has
sent to me three angels to dwell with me."

"Ah! what a happy thought, and what a happy woman. Then your husband, he
must be like the archangel Gabriel, so just, so righteous, so noble. I
love him already: but I think I should be a little afraid of him. He is
so--so very unearthly. Now you, Mrs. Home, let me tell you, are very
earthly, very human indeed."

Mrs. Home smiled, for this praise of her best beloved could not but be
pleasant to her. She told Miss Harman a little more about her husband
and her children, and Miss Harman listened with that appreciation which
is the sweetest flattery in the world. After a time she said,--

"I am not going to marry any one the least bit unearthly, but I see you
are a model wife, and I want to be likewise. For--did I not tell you?--I
am to be married in exactly two months from now."

"Are you really? Are you indeed?"

Was it possible after this piece of confidence for these two young women
not to be friends?

Charlotte Home, though so poor, felt suddenly, in experience, in all
true womanly knowledge, rich beside her companion. Charlotte Harman, for
all her five and twenty years, was but a child beside this earnest wife
and mother.

They talked; the one relating her happy experience, the other listening,
as though on her wedding-day she was certainly to step into the land of
Beulah. It was the old, old story, repeated again, as those two paced up
and down in the gray March afternoon. When at last they parted there was
no need to say that they were friends.

And yet as she hurried home the poor Charlotte could not help reflecting
that whatever her cause she had done nothing for it. Charlotte Harman
might be very sweet. It might be impossible not to admire her, to love
her, to take her to her heart of hearts. But would that love bring back
her just rights? would that help her children by and by? She reached
her hall door to find her husband standing there.

"Lottie, where have you been? I waited for you, for I did not like to go
out and leave him. Harold is ill, and the doctor has just left."



CHAPTER XXI.

A FRIEND IN NEED.


For many days after that interview in Regent's Park, it seemed that one
of the three, who made the little house in Kentish Town so truly like
heaven, was to be an angel indeed. Harold's supposed cold had turned to
scarlet fever, and the doctor feared that Harold would die.

Immediately after her interview with Charlotte Harman, Mrs. Home went
upstairs to learn from the grave lips of the medical man what ailed her
boy, and what a hard fight for life or death he had before him. She was
a brave woman, and whatever anguish might lie underneath, no tears
filled her eyes as she looked at his flushed face. When the doctor had
gone, she stole softly from the sick-room, and going to the drawing-room
where Hinton was already in possession, she tapped at the door.

To his "Come in," she entered at once, and said abruptly without
preface,--

"I hope you have unpacked nothing. I must ask you to go away at once."

She had her bonnet still on, and, but for the pallor of her face, she
looked cold, even unmoved.

"I have everything unpacked, and I don't want to go. Why should I?"
demanded Hinton, in some surprise.

"My eldest boy has scarlet fever. The other two will probably take it.
You must on no account stay here; you must leave to-night if you wish to
escape infection."

In an instant Hinton was by her side.

"Your boy has scarlet fever?" he repeated. "I know something of scarlet
fever. He must instantly be moved to an airy bedroom. The best bedroom
in the house is mine. Your boy must sleep in my bedroom to-night."

"It is a good thought," said Mrs. Home. "Thank you for suggesting it--I
will move him down at once; the bed is well aired, and the sheets are
fresh and clean. I will have him moved whenever you can go."

She was leaving the room when Hinton followed her.

"I said nothing about going. I don't mean to. I can have a blanket and
sleep on the sofa. I am not going away, Mrs. Home."

"Mr. Hinton, have you no one you care for? Why do you run this risk."

"I have some one I care for very much indeed; but I run no risk. I had
scarlet fever long ago. In any case I have no fear of infection. Now I
know your husband is out; let me go upstairs and help you bring down the
little fellow."

"God bless you," said the wife and mother. Her eyes were beautiful as
she raised them to the face of this good Samaritan.

       *       *       *       *       *

The little patient was moved to the large and comfortable room, and
Hinton found himself in the position of good angel to this poor family.
He had never supposed himself capable of taking such a post with regard
to any one; but the thing seemed thrust upon him. An obvious duty had
come into his life, and he never even for the briefest instant dreamed
of shirking it. He was a man without physical fear. The hardships of
life, the roughing of poverty were not worth a passing thought of
annoyance; but there was one little act of self-denial which he must now
exercise; and it is to be owned that he felt it with a heart-pang. He
had never told Charlotte that he was going to live in the house with
Mrs. Home. He had not meant to keep this fact a secret from her, but
there was still a soreness over him when he thought of this young woman
which prevented her name coming readily to his lips. On this first night
in his new abode he sat down to write to his promised wife; but neither
now did he give his address, nor tell his landlady's name. He had an
obvious reason, however, now for his conduct.

This was what Charlotte received from her lover on the following
morning,--

     "MY DARLING,--Such a strange thing has happened; but one which,
     thank God, as far as I am concerned, need not cause you the least
     alarm. I moved from my old lodgings to-day and went a little
     further into the country. I had just unpacked my belongings and was
     expecting some tea, for I was hot and thirsty, when my landlady
     came in and told me that her eldest child is taken very ill with
     scarlet fever. She has other children, and fears the infection will
     spread. She is a very poor woman, but is one of those who in their
     bearing and manner, you, Charlotte, would call noble. She wanted me
     to leave at once, but this, Charlotte, I could not do. I am staying
     here, and will give her what little help lies in my power. You know
     there is no fear for me, for I had the complaint long ago. But,
     dearest, there is just one thing that is hard. Until this little
     child is better, I must not see you. You have not had this fever,
     Charlotte, and for you, for my own sake, and your father's sake, I
     must run no risk. I will write to you every day, or as much oftener
     as you wish, for I can disinfect my paper; but I will not go to
     Prince's Gate at present."

     "Ever, my own true love,
     "Yours most faithfully,
     "John Hinton."

This letter was posted that very night, but Hinton did not put his new
address on it; he meant Charlotte now for prudential reasons to write to
his chambers. He returned to his lodgings, and for many weary and
anxious nights to come shared their watch with Mr. and Mrs. Home. So
quietly, so absolutely had this young man stepped into his office, that
the father and mother did not think of refusing his services. He was a
good nurse, as truly tender-hearted and brave men almost always are. The
sick child liked his touch. The knowledge of his presence was pleasant.
When nothing else soothed him, he would lie quiet if Hinton held his
little hot hand in his.

One evening, opening his bright feverish eyes, he fixed them full on
Hinton's face and said slowly and earnestly,--

"I did kiss that pretty lady."

"He means a lady whom he met in the Park; a Miss Harman, who came here
and brought him toys," explained Mrs. Home.

"Yes, isn't she a pretty lady?" repeated little Harold.

"Very pretty," answered Hinton, bending low over him.

The child smiled. It was a link between them. He again stole his hand
into that of the young man. But as days wore on and the fever did not
abate, the little life in that small frame began to grow feeble. From
being an impossibility, it grew to be probable, then almost certain,
that the little lad must die. Neither father nor mother seemed alive to
the coming danger; but Hinton, loving less than they did, was not
blinded. He had seen scarlet fever before, he knew something of its
treatment; he doubted the proper course having ever been pursued here.
One evening he followed the doctor from the sick-room.

"The child is very ill," he said.

"The child is so ill," answered the medical man, "that humanly speaking
there is very little hope of his life."

"Good sir!" exclaimed Hinton, shocked at his fears being put into such
plain language. "Don't you see that those parents' lives are bound up in
the child's, and they know nothing? Why have you told them nothing? Only
to-night his mother thought him better."

"The fever is nearly over, and in consequence the real danger beginning;
but I dare not tell the mother, she would break down. The father is of
different stuff, he would bear it. But there is time enough for the
mother to know when all is over."

"I call that cruel. Why don't you get in other advice?"

"My dear sir, they are very poor people. Think of the expense, and it
would be of no use, no use whatever."

"Leave the expense to me, and also the chance of its doing any good. I
should never have an easy moment if I let that little lad die without
having done all in my power. Two heads are better than one. Do you
object to consulting with Dr. H----?"

"By no means, Mr. Hinton. He is a noted authority on such cases."

"Then be here in an hour from now, doctor, and you shall meet him."

Away flew Hinton, and within the specified time the great authority on
such cases was standing by little Harold's bedside.

"The fever is over, but the child is sinking from exhaustion. Give him a
glass of champagne instantly," were the first directions given by the
great man.

Hinton returned with a bottle of the best his money could purchase in
ten minutes.

A tablespoonful was given to the child. He opened his eyes and seemed
revived.

"Ah! that is good. I will stay with the little fellow to-night," said
Dr. H----. "You, madam," he added, looking at Mrs. Home, "are to go to
bed. On no other condition do I stay."

Hinton and Dr. H---- shared that night's watch between them, and in the
morning the little life was pronounced safe.



CHAPTER XXII.

EMPTY PURSES.


It was not until Harold's life was really safe that his mother realized
how very nearly he had been taken from her. But for Hinton's timely
interposition, and the arrival of Doctor H---- at the critical moment,
the face she so loved might have been cold and still now, and the spirit
have returned to God who gave it.

Looking at the little sleeper breathing in renewed health and life with
each gentle inspiration, such a rush of gratitude and over-powering
emotion came over Mrs. Home that she was obliged to follow Hinton into
his sitting-room. There she suddenly went down on her knees.

"God bless you," she said. "God most abundantly bless you for what you
have done for me and mine. You are, except my husband, the most truly
Christian man I ever met."

"Don't," said Hinton, moved and even shocked at her position. "I
loved--I love the little lad. It is nothing, what we do for those we
love."

"No; it is, as you express it, nothing to save a mother's heart from
worse than breaking," answered Charlotte Home. "If ever you marry and
have a son of your own, you will begin to understand what you have done
for me. You will be thankful then to think of this day."

Then with a smile which an angel might have given him, the mother went
away, and Hinton sat down to write to Charlotte. But he was much moved
and excited by those earnest words of love and approval. He felt as
though a laurel wreath had been placed on his head, and he wondered
would his first brief, his first sense of legal triumph, be sweeter to
him than the look in that mother's face this morning.

"And it was so easily won," he said to himself. "For who but a brute
under the circumstances could have acted otherwise?"

In writing to Charlotte he told her all. It was a relief to pour out his
heart to her, though of course he carefully kept back names.

By return of post he received her answer.

"I must do something for that mother. You will not let me come to her.
But if I cannot and must not come, I can at least help with money. How
much money shall I send you?"

To this Hinton answered,--

"None. She is a proud woman. She would not accept it."

As he put this second letter in the post, he felt that any money gift
between these two Charlottes would be impossible. During little Harold's
illness he had put away all thoughts of the possibility of Mrs. Home
being entitled to any of his Charlotte's wealth. The near and likely
approach of death had put far from his mind all ideas of money. But now,
with the return of the usual routine of life in this small and humble
house, came back to Hinton's mind the thoughts which had so sorely
troubled him on the night on which Charlotte had told him Mrs. Home's
story. For his own personal convenience and benefit he had put away
these thoughts. He had decided that he could not move hand or foot in
the matter. But in the very house with this woman, though he might so
resolve not to act, he could not put the sense of the injustice done to
her away from his heart. He pondered on it and grew uneasy as to the
righteousness of his own conduct. As this uneasiness gathered strength,
he even avoided Mrs. Home's presence. For the first time, too, in his
life Hinton was beginning to realize what a very ugly thing
poverty--particularly the poverty of the upper classes--really is. To
make things easier for this family in their time of illness, he had
insisted on having what meals he took in the house, in the room with Mr.
and Mrs. Home. He would not, now that Harold was better, change this
custom. But though he liked it, it brought him into direct contact with
the small shifts necessary to make so slender a purse as their's cover
their necessary expenses. Mr. Home noticed nothing; but Mrs. Home's thin
face grew more and more worn, and Hinton's heart ached as he watched it.
He felt more and more compunctions as to his own conduct. These
feelings were to be quickened into activity by a very natural
consequence which occurred just then.

Little Harold's life was spared, and neither Daisy nor the baby had
taken the fever. So far all was well. Doctor H----, too, had ceased his
visits, and the little invalid was left to the care of the first doctor
who had been called in. Yes, up to a certain point Harold's progress
towards recovery was all that could be satisfactory. But beyond that
point he did not go. For a fortnight after the fever left him his
progress towards recovery was rapid. Then came the sudden standstill.
His appetite failed him, a cough came on, and a hectic flush in the pale
little face. The child was pining for a change of air, and the father's
and mother's purse had been already drained almost to emptiness by the
expenses of the first illness. One day when Doctor Watson came and felt
the feeble, too rapid pulse he looked grave. Mrs. Home followed him from
the room.

"What ails my boy, doctor? He is making no progress, none whatever."

"Does he sleep enough?" asked Doctor Watson suddenly.

"Not well; he coughs and is restless."

"Ah! I am sorry he has got that cough. How is his appetite?"

"He does not fancy much food. He has quite turned against his beef-tea."

Doctor Watson was silent.

"What is wrong?" asked Mrs. Home, coming nearer and looking up into his
face.

"Madam, there is nothing to alarm yourself with. Your boy has gone
through a most severe illness; the natural consequences must follow. He
wants change. He will be fit to travel by easy stages in a week at
latest. I should recommend Torquay. It is mild and shielded from the
spring east winds. Take him to Torquay as soon as possible. Keep him
there for a month, and he will return quite well."

"Suppose I cannot?"

"Ah! then----" with an expressive shrug of the shoulders and raising of
the brows, "my advice is to take him if possible. I don't like that
cough."

Doctor Watson turned away. He felt sorry enough, but he had more acute
cases than little Harold Home's to trouble him, and he wisely resolved
that to think about what could not be remedied, would but injure his own
powers of working. Being a really kind-hearted man he said to himself,
"I will make their bill as light as I can when I send it in." And then
he forgot the poor curate's family until the time came round for his
next visit. Meanwhile Mrs. Home stood still for a moment where he had
left her, then went slowly to her own room.

"Mother, mother, I want you," called the weak, querulous voice of the
sick child.

"Coming in a moment, darling," she said. But for that one moment, she
felt she must be alone.

Locking her door she went down on her knees. Not a tear came to her
eyes, not a word to her lips. There was an inward groan, expressing
itself in some voiceless manner after this fashion,--

"My God, my God, must I go through the fiery furnace?" Then smoothing
her hair, and forcing a smile back to her lips, she went back to her
little son.

All that afternoon she sat with him, singing to him, telling him
stories, playing with him. In the evening, however, she sought an
opportunity to speak to her husband alone.

"Angus, you know how nearly we lost our boy a week ago?"

The curate paused, and looked at her earnestly, surprised at her look
and manner.

"Yes, my dearest," he said. "But God was merciful."

"Oh! Angus," she said; and now relief came to her, for as she spoke she
began to weep. "You are good, you are brave, you could have let him go.
But for me--for me--it would have killed me. I should have died or gone
mad!"

"Lottie dear--my darling, you are over-strung. The trial, the fiery
trial, was not sent. Why dwell on what our loving Father has averted?"

"Oh, Angus! but has He--has He," then choking with pent-up emotion, she
told what the doctor had said to-day, how necessary the expensive change
was for the little life. "And we have no money," she said in conclusion,
"our purse is very nearly empty."

"Very nearly empty indeed," answered Angus Home.

He was absolutely silent after this news, no longer attempting to
comfort his wife.

"Angus, God is cruel if for the sake of wanting a little money our boy
must die."

"Don't," said the curate--God was so precious to him that these words
smote on him even now with a sense of agony--"don't," he repeated, and
he raised his hand as though to motion away an evil spirit.

"He is cruel if He lets our boy die for want of money to save him,"
repeated the mother in her desperation.

"He won't do that, Lottie--He will never do that, there is not the least
fear."

"Then how are we to get the money?"

"I don't know, I cannot think to-night. I will go up to Harold now."

He turned and left the room with slow steps. As he mounted the stairs
his back was so bent, his face so gray and careworn, that though
scarcely forty he looked like an old man.

This was Harold's one precious hour with his father, and the little
fellow was sitting up in bed and expecting him.

"Father," he said, noticing the anxious look on his face, which was
generally as serene and peaceful as the summer sea, "what is the matter?
You are ill; are you going to have the scarlet fever too?"

"No, my dear, dear boy. I am quite well, quite well at least in body. I
have a care on my mind that makes me look a little sad, but don't notice
it, Harold, it will pass."

"_You_ have a care on your mind!" said Harold in a tone of surprise. "I
know mother often, often has, but I did not think you had cares,
father."

"How can I help it, boy, sometimes?"

"I thought you gave your cares to God. I don't understand a bit how you
manage it, but I remember quite well your telling mother that you gave
your cares away to God."

The father turning round suddenly, stooped down and kissed the boy.

"Thank you, my son, for reminding me. Yes, I will give this care too to
God, it shall not trouble me."

Then the two began to talk, and the son's little wasted hand was held in
the father's. The father's face had recovered its serenity, and the
little son, though he coughed continually, looked happy.

"Father," he said suddenly, "there's just one thing I'm sorry for."

"What's that, my boy?"

"There were a whole lot of other things, father; about my never having
gone to live in the country, and those gypsy teas that mother told me
of. You light a fire outside, you know, father, and boil the kettle on
it, and have your tea in the woods and the fields. It must be just
delicious. I was sorry about that, for I've never been to one, never
_even_ to one all my life long; and then there's the pretty lady--I do
want to see my pretty lady once again. I was sorry about those things
all day, but not now. 'Tisn't any of those things makes me so sorry
now."

"What makes you sorry, Harold?"

"Father, I'm just a little bit jealous about Jesus. You see there's
always such a lot of us little children dying and going to heaven, and
He can't come for us all, so He has to send angels. Now I don't want an
angel, I want Him to come for me Himself."

"Perhaps He will, Harold," said his father, "perhaps Jesus will be so
very loving to His little lamb that He will find time to come for him
Himself."

"Oh, father! when you are giving Him your new care to-night, will you
just ask Him not to be so dreadfully busy, but to try and come Himself?"

"Yes, Harold," said the father.

After this promise little Harold went to sleep very happily.



CHAPTER XXIII.

"THY WILL BE DONE."


"You always give your cares to God," little Harold had said to his
father.

That father, on his knees with his head bowed between his hands, and a
tempest of agony, of entreaty in his heart, found suddenly that he could
not give this care away to God. For a moment, when the boy had spoken,
he had believed that this was possible, but when little Harold had
himself spoken so quietly of dying and going to Jesus, the father's
heart rose suddenly in the fiercest rebellion. No; if it meant the
slaying of his first-born he could not so quietly lay it in the hands of
God and say, "Thy will be done." This unearthly man, who had always
lived with a kind of heaven-sent radiance round his path, found himself
suddenly human after all. His earthly arms clung tightly round the
earthly form of his pretty little lad and would not unclasp themselves.
It was to this man who had so serenely and for many years walked in the
sunshine of God's presence, with nothing to hide his glory from his
eyes, as though he had come up to a high, a blank, an utterly
impenetrable wall, which shut away all the divine radiance. He could
neither climb this wall, nor could he see one glimpse of God at the dark
side where he found himself. In an agony this brave heart tried to pray,
but his voice would not rise above his chamber, would not indeed even
ascend to his lips. He found himself suddenly voiceless and dumb, dead
despair stealing over him. He did not, however, rise from his knees, and
in this position his wife found him when, late that night, she came up
to bed. She had been crying so hard and so long that by very force of
those tears her heart was lighter, and her husband, when he raised his
eyes, hollow from the terrible struggle within, to her face, looked now
the most miserable of the two. The mute appeal in his eyes smote on the
wife's loving heart, instantly she came over and knelt by his side.

"You must come to bed, Angus dear. I have arranged with Mr. Hinton, and
he will sit up with our little lad for the next few hours."

"I could not sleep, Lottie," answered the husband. "God is coming to
take away our child and I can't say, 'Thy will be done.'"

"You can't!" repeated the wife, and now her lips fell apart and she
gazed at her husband.

"No Lottie; you called God cruel downstairs, and now He looks cruel to
me. I can't give Him my first-born. I can't say 'Thy will be done;' but
oh!" continued the wretched man, "this is horrible, this is blasphemous.
Oh! has God indeed forsaken me?"

"No, no, no!" suddenly almost shrieked the wife; "no, no!" she repeated;
and now she had flung her arms round her husband and was straining him
to her heart. "Oh, my darling! my beloved! you were never, never, never,
so near to me, so dear to me, as now. God does not want you to say that,
Angus. Angus, it is _not_ God's will that our child should die, it is
Satan's will, not God's. God is love, and it can't be love to torture
us, and tear our darling away from us like that. The will of God is
righteousness, and love, and happiness; not darkness, and death, and
misery. Oh, Angus! let us both kneel here and say, 'Thy will be done,'
for I believe the will of God will be to save the child."

A great faith had suddenly come to this woman. She lifted her voice, and
a torrent of eloquent words, of passionate utterances, rent the air and
went up to God from that little room, and the husband stole his hand
into the wife's as she prayed. After this they both slept, and Lottie's
heart was lighter than it had ever been in all her life before.

The next morning this lightness, almost gayety of heart, was still
there. For the time she had really changed places with her husband; for,
believing that the end would be good, she felt strong to endure.

Mr. and Mrs. Home went downstairs to find Hinton regarding them
anxiously. He had not spent a long night with the sick child without
gathering very clearly how imminent was the peril still hanging over the
family. Harold's night had been a wretched one, and he was weaker this
morning. Hinton felt that a great deal more must be done to restore
Harold to health; but he had not heard what Dr. Watson had said, and was
therefore as yet in the dark and much puzzled how best to act. Seeing
the mother's face serene, almost calm, as she poured out the tea, and
the father's clouded over, he judged both wrongly.

"She is deceived," he said of the one. "He knows," he said of the other.
Had he, however, reversed the positions it would have been nearer the
truth.

He went away with a thousand schemes in his head. He would visit the
doctor. He would--could he--might he, risk a visit to Charlotte? He was
resolved that in some way he must save the boy; but it was not reserved
for his hand to do the good deed on this occasion. After breakfast he
went out, and Mr. Home, feeling almost like a dead man, hurried off to
the daily service.

For a brief moment Charlotte was alone. The instant she found herself
so, she went straight down on her knees, and with eyes and heart raised
to heaven, said, aloud and fervently,--

"Thy holy, loving, righteous Will be done."

Then she got up and went to her little son. In the course of the morning
the boy said to his mother,--

"How much I should like to see that pretty lady."

"It would not be safe for her to come to you, my darling," said Mrs.
Home. "You are not yet quite free from infection, and if you saw her
now she might get ill. You would not harm your pretty lady, Harold?"

"No, indeed, mother, not for worlds. But if I can't see her," he added,
"may I have her toys to play with?"

The mother fetched them and laid them on the bed.

"And now give me what was in the brown paper parcels, mother. The dear,
dear, dainty clothes! Oh! didn't our baby look just lovely in his velvet
frock? Please, mother, _may_ I see those pretty things once again?"

Mrs. Home could not refuse. The baby's pelisse, Daisy's frock, and
Harold's own hat were placed by his side. He took up the hat with a
great sigh of admiration. It was of dark purple plush, with a plume of
ostrich feathers.

"May I put it on, mother?" asked the little lad.

He did so, then asked for a glass to look at himself.

"Ah?" he said, half crying, half frightened at his wasted pale little
face under this load of finery, "I don't like it now. My pretty, pretty
lady's hat is much too big for me now. I can't wear it. Oh! mother,
wouldn't she be disappointed?"

"She shan't be," said the mother, "for I will draw in the lining, and
then it will fit you as well as possible."

"But oh! mother, do be careful. I saw her put in a nice little bit of
soft paper; I saw her put it under the lining my own self. You will
crush that bit of paper if you aren't careful, mother."

The mother did not much heed the little eager voice, she drew in a cord
which ran round the lining, then again placed the hat on Harold's head.

"Now it fits, darling," she said.

"But I think the bit of paper is injured," persisted the boy. "How funny
I should never have thought of it until now. I'll take it out, mother,
and you can put it by with the other things."

The little fingers poked under the lining and drew out something thin
and neatly folded.

"Look, look, mother!" he said excitedly; "there's writing. Read it,
mother; read what she said."

Mrs. Home read,--

     "For Harold, with his lady's love."

She turned the paper. There, staring her in the face, lay a fresh, crisp
Bank of England note for fifty pounds.



CHAPTER XXIV.

"YOU KEPT A SECRET FROM ME."


Hinton, when he went away that morning, was, as I have said, very
undecided how best to act. He saw very clearly the fresh danger arising
to Harold. Was he but rescued from the dangerous fever to fall a prey to
lingering, or, perhaps, rapid consumption? Even his unprofessional eye
saw the danger the boy was in; and the boy himself, lying awake during
most of the weary hours of the night, had confided to his friend some
thoughts which it seemed to Hinton could only come to such a child as
the precursor of death. He now loved the boy for his own sake, and he
was determined, even more determined than during the height of the
fever, to do something to again save his life.

After a brief pause for rapid thought, he determined to visit Dr.
Watson. That busy man was at home and saw Hinton at once.

"Little Home is no better," said Hinton, going straight, as his wont
was, to the very heart of his subject.

"He will never be any better unless he has change," replied the doctor.
"Neither I nor any other man can now do more for him. He requires, nay,
he is dying for want of nature's remedies, complete change, fresh, mild
sea-air. I told his mother so most plainly yesterday. I recommended
Torquay within a week from now, if she wishes to save his life."

"Torquay is an expensive place, and a very long way from London,"
replied Hinton. "It seems almost cruel to tell Mrs. Home to do that for
her child which must be utterly impossible."

"There is no other chance for his life," replied the doctor. "I should
be doing less than my duty, did I for a moment conceal that fact."

Hinton paused for a moment to think, then he abruptly changed the
subject.

"I want to visit a friend this morning--a friend who has never had
scarlet fever. It is rather important that we should meet; but I must
not risk danger. You know I have been a good deal with the little boy.
Is there a risk to my friend in our meeting now?"

"Change all your clothes," replied the doctor; "wear nothing you have in
the Homes' house. Perhaps it would also be a wise precaution to take a
Turkish bath. If you do all this you may meet your friend without the
slightest risk of evil consequences."

Hinton thanked the doctor, and as the result of this conversation
entered the dining-room in Prince's Gate just as Charlotte was sitting
down to her solitary luncheon.

It was over three weeks since these two had met, and the long three
weeks had seemed like for ever to the loving heart of the woman, who was
so soon now to be Hinton's wife. She expressed her joy at this
unexpected meeting, not so much by words, but so effectually with eyes
and manner, that Hinton, as he folded his arms round her, could not help
a great throb of thankfulness rising up from his heart.

They sat down to lunch, and then afterwards Hinton told her the story of
little Harold Home. In telling this tale, however, he omitted again both
name and address. He had not meant when beginning his tale to keep these
things any longer a mystery from her, but as the words dropped from him,
and Charlotte's eyes were fixed on his face, and Charlotte's lips
trembled with emotion, some undefined sensation prompted him to keep
back these particulars.

Hinton, in coming to Charlotte, relied on her help, but he meant her
just now to bestow it as on a stranger. As he had expected, his tale
aroused her warmest enthusiasm and interest.

"John," she said, "something must be done. The boy must not die!"

"He must go to Torquay," replied Hinton. "That is most manifest. But the
difficulty will be how. They are very proud people. The difficulty will
be how to induce them to accept aid from outsiders."

"Do you think they will be proud, John, when their child's life depends
on their accepting some aid from others? I don't think they will allow
so false an emotion to sacrifice his little precious life. It seems to
me, that were I in that mother's place, I would lick the dust off the
most menial feet that ever walked, to save my child."

"Perhaps you are right," said Hinton: "there is no doubt that one woman
can best read the heart of another. What I propose is, that I take the
little boy down to Torquay for a few weeks; I can make an excuse to the
mother on my own score, and it will not seem so hard for her to send her
boy. And the little lad loves me, I believe."

"Would it not be best for the mother to take her child herself?"

"It undoubtedly would. But it would be placing her under deeper
obligation. I want to make it as light as possible to her."

"Then, John, you will give me one happiness? I will provide the money
for this expedition."

"You shall, my dearest," answered Hinton, stooping down and kissing her.

He meant her to help Charlotte Home in this way, and he did not notice
the slight sigh scarcely allowed to escape her lips. The fact was,
Charlotte Harman had grown very hungry, almost starved, for her lover
during his three weeks' absence, and now the thought that he was going
still farther away from her, and their wedding-day drawing so quickly
on, could not but excite a pang; the selfish part of her rose in revolt,
and struggled to rebel, but with a firm hand she kept it well under, and
Hinton never noticed her strangled little sigh. They talked for a long
time of their plans, and Charlotte mentioned what money she had of her
very own, and which could be immediately at Hinton's disposal. In the
midst of this conversation, the postman's knock was heard, and a moment
later a servant brought Charlotte a letter. She did not recognize the
handwriting, and laid it for a moment unopened by her side. Then some
confused remembrance of having seen it before, caused her to tear open
the envelope. This was what her eyes rested on.

     Charlotte--my sister and friend--I have found the little piece of
     paper you put into my Harold's hat. I never knew it was there until
     to-day. Thank God I did not know, for had I seen it after your
     visit, I should certainly, in my mad, ungracious, evil pride, have
     returned it to you.

     Dear Charlotte--God nearly broke my heart since I saw you. He
     nearly took my boy away. In that process my pride has gone, though
     my love and tenderness and gratitude to you remain, for with this
     fifty pounds you are saving my child's little life. Thank you for
     it. God will bless you for it. You will never--never regret this
     deed. It will come back to you, the remembrance of it, in the midst
     of your own wealth and affluence, or if dark days visit you, you
     will let your thoughts wander to it as a place of safe anchorage
     in the storm. It will, all your life long, be a source to you of
     rejoicing that you saved a father's and mother's hearts from
     breaking, and kept a precious little life in this world.

     I can add no more now, my dear. For this money must be spent, and
     at once. Oh! precious, valuable gold, which is to keep Harold with
     me! I will write to you when we come back from Torquay; do not come
     to see me before, it would not be safe for you.

     Ever, my dear friend, because of you, the happiest and most
     grateful mother on God's earth,

     CHARLOTTE HOME.

Charlotte Harman's face was very white when, after reading this letter,
she raised her eyes to Hinton's. What had been written with all joy and
thankfulness was received with pain. Why had Hinton kept this thing from
her? Why had he not told her where he had been staying?

"You kept a secret from me," she said, and her eyes filled with heavy
tears.

Then as he tried to comfort her, being very compunctious himself at
having failed utterly to trust one so brave and noble, she suddenly drew
herself from his embrace.

"John," she said, with some pride in her voice, "did you in any degree
keep this thing from me because you believed Mrs. Home's story about my
grandfather's will?"

"I had a thousand nameless reasons for not telling you, Charlotte. My
principal one after the child got ill was my fear that you would come to
the house, and so run the risk of infection."

"Then you do not at all believe Mrs. Home's story?"

"I have not investigated it, my darling. I have done nothing but simply
listen to what you yourself told me. _You_ do not believe it?"

"Certainly not! How could I? It implicates my father."

"We will not think of it, Charlotte."

"We must think of it, for justice must be done to this woman and to her
children; and besides, I wish to clear it up, for I will not have my
father blamed."

Hinton was silent. Charlotte gazed at him eagerly, his silence
dissatisfied her. His whole manner carried the conviction that his faith
in her father was by no means equal to hers.

"Is it possible to see wills?" she asked suddenly.

"Certainly, dear; anybody can see any will by paying a shilling, at
Somerset House."

"Would my grandfather's will be kept at Somerset House?"

"Yes. All wills are kept there."

"Then," said Charlotte, rising as she spoke, "before our wedding-day I
will go to Somerset House and read my grandfather's will."



CHAPTER XXV.

THEY RECALL TOO MUCH.


Mr. Harman had a hard task before him. He was keeping two things at bay,
two great and terrible things, Death and Thought. They were pursuing
him, they were racing madly after him, and sometimes the second of these
his enemies so far took possession of him as to grasp him by the
heartstrings. But though he knew well that in the end both one and the
other would conquer and lay him low, yet still he was in a measure
victor. That strong nourishment, those potent medicines were keeping the
life in him; while his still eager absorption in business prevented that
time for reflection which was worse than death. His medical man, knowing
nothing of his inner history, had begged of him to rest, to give up
business, assuring him that by so doing he would prolong his short span
of life. But Harman had answered, and truly, "If I give up business I
shall be in my grave in a fortnight;" and there was such solemn
conviction in his voice and manner, that the physician was fain to bow
to the dictum of his patient. Except once to his brother Jasper, and
once to Hinton, Mr. Harman had mentioned to no one how near he believed
his end to be. The secret was not alluded to, the master of the house
keeping up bravely, bearing his pains in silence and alone, and that
subtle element of rejoicing began to pervade this quiet, luxurious home
which precedes a wedding. Only one in the dwelling ever thought of
funeral gloom.

Little Harold Home had gone to Torquay with his mother. Hinton was once
more free to go in and out of the house in Prince's Gate, and he and
Charlotte were necessarily much occupied with each other. There seemed
to these two so much to be done, and the time seemed so short until the
twentieth of April, that had the very sun stood still for them, they
would have felt no undue sensation of surprise.

When people are about to step into the Garden of Eden even nature must
sympathize, and marriage seemed that to Charlotte and Hinton. After
their wedding tour it was arranged that they were to come to the house
in Prince's Gate. For some time Mr. Harman had begged them to make it
their home; but though Hinton could not oppose, he had a hope of some
day settling down in a smaller house. He liked the power which wealth
could give, but he was so unused to luxuries, that they were in
themselves almost repellent to him. Charlotte, on the contrary, was
perfectly happy to live in the old place. Home to this womanly heart was
wherever her loved ones were; and she also acceded joyfully to another
question which otherwise might have appeared a little either strange or
selfish. Her father begged of her not to extend her wedding tour beyond
a week. "Come back to me," said the old man, "at the end of a week; let
me feel that comfort when you say good-by on your wedding-day."

Charlotte had promised, with her arms round his neck and her bright hair
touching his silver locks. And now April had set in, and the days flew
fast. All was bustle and confusion, and milliners and dressmakers worked
as though there had never been a bride before, and Charlotte, too,
believed there had never been so happy, so fortunate, so altogether
blessed a woman as herself.

One of those spring days, for the weather was particularly lovely, Mr.
Harman came home earlier than usual and went to his study. For no
special reason he had found it impossible to settle to any active work
that morning. He had hastened home, and now taking his accustomed
medicine, lay back in his armchair to rest. The medicine he had taken
was partly of a sedative character, but to-day it failed in all soothing
effects. That bloodhound Thought was near, and with a bound it sprang
forward and settled its fangs into his heartstrings.

Mr. Harman could not sit still, he rose and began to pace his room.
Stay--how could he quiet this monster of remorse and reflection? Would
death do it by and by? He shook his head as this idea came to him. Were
death but an annihilation he could, would, how gladly, welcome it, but
all his firmest convictions pointed to a God and a future. A future to
him meant retribution. He found it absolutely impossible to comfort his
heart with so false a doctrine as that of annihilation. In the midst of
his meditations his brother Jasper entered.

"Good Heavens! John, you do look bad!" he exclaimed almost
involuntarily, noticing the anguish on the fine old face.

"I'm a very miserable man," answered John Harman, and he sank down into
a chair as he spoke.

"I would not think so much about my health," said Jasper; "doctors are
the most mistaken fools under the sun. I knew a man out in Australia,
and the first medical man in Sydney told him he had not a week to live.
He came home and made his will and bid all his relations good-by. Well,
what were the consequences? The week came to an end, but not the man; my
dear John, that man is alive now, and what is more, he is in the
enjoyment of perfect health. The doctor was all wrong; they are mortal
like ourselves, man, and by no means infallible. I would not take my
death for granted, if I were you; I would determine to take out a fresh
lease of life when Charlotte is married. Determination does wonders in
such cases."

"I am not thinking of my death," answered Mr. Harman; "were death but
all, I could almost welcome it. No, it is not death, it is memory.
Jasper," he added, turning fiercely on his brother, "you were as the
very devil to me once, why do you come to preach such sorry comfort
now?"

Jasper Harman had an impenetrable face, but at these words it turned a
shade pale. He went to the fire and stirred it, he put on more coal, he
even arranged in a rather noisy way one or two of the chimney ornaments.

"If only that trustee had not died just then--and if only--only you had
not tempted me," continued the elder man.

"You forget, John," suddenly said Jasper, "what the alternative would
have been just then, absolute ruin, ruin coupled with disgrace!"

"I do not believe in the disgrace, and as to the ruin, we could have
started afresh. Oh! to start even now with but sixpence in my pocket,
and with clean hands! What would have been the old disgrace compared to
the present misery?"

"Take comfort, John, no one knows of it; and if we are but careful no
one need ever know. Don't excite yourself, be but careful, and no one
need ever know."

"God knows," answered the white-headed elder brother. And at these words
Jasper again turned his face away. After a time, in which he thought
briefly and rapidly, he turned, and sitting down by John, began to
speak.

"Something has come to my knowledge which may be a comfort to you. I did
not mention it earlier, because in your present state of health I know
you ought not to worry yourself. But as it seems you are so
over-sensitive, I may as well mention that it will be possible for you
to make reparation without exposing yourself."

"How?" asked Mr. Harman.

"I know where Daisy Harman's daughter lives--you know we completely lost
sight of her. I believe she is poor; she is married to a curate, all
curates are poor; they have three children. Suppose, suppose you
settled, say, well, half the money her mother had for her lifetime, on
this young woman. That would be seventy-five pounds a year; a great
difference seventy-five pounds would make in a poor home."

"A little of the robbery paid back," said Mr. Harman with a dreary
smile. "Jasper, you are a worse rogue than I am, and I believe you study
the Bible less. God knows I don't care to confront myself with its
morality, but I have a memory that it recommends, nay, commands, in the
case of restoring again, or of paying back stolen goods, that not half
should be given, but the whole, multiplied fourfold!"

"Such a deed, as Quixotic as unnecessary, could not be done, it would
arouse suspicion," said Jasper decidedly.

After this the two brothers talked together for some time. Jasper quiet
and calm, John disturbed and perplexed, too perplexed to notice that the
younger and harder man was keeping back part of the truth. But
conversation agitated John Harman, agitated him so much that that
evening some of the veil was torn from his daughter's eyes, for during
dinner he fainted away. Then there was commotion and dismay, and the
instant sending for doctors, and John Hinton and Jasper Harman both felt
almost needless alarm.

When the old man came to himself he found his head resting on his
daughter's shoulder. During all the time he was unconscious she had eyes
and ears for no one else.

"Leave me alone with the child," he said feebly to all the others. When
they were gone, he looked at her anxious young face. "There is no cause,
my darling, no cause whatever; what does one faint signify? Put your
arms round me, Charlotte, and I shall feel quite well."

She did so, laying her soft cheek against his.

"Now you shall see no one but me to-night," she said, "and I shall sit
with you the whole evening, and you must lie still and not talk. You are
ill, father, and you have tried to keep it from me."

"A little weak and unfit for much now, I confess," he said in a tone of
relief. He saw she was not seriously alarmed, and it was a comfort to
confide so far in her.

"You are weak and tired, and need rest," she said: "you shall see no one
to-night but me, and I will stay with you the whole evening!"

"What!" said her father, "you will give up Hinton for me, Lottie!"

"Even that I will do for you," she said, and she stooped and kissed his
gray head.

"I believe you love me, Lottie. I shall think of that all the week you
are away. You are sure you will only remain away one week?"

"Father, you and I have never been parted before in all my life; I
promise faithfully to come back in a week," she answered.

He smiled at this, and allowing her still to retain his hand in hers,
sank into a quiet sleep. While he slept Charlotte sat quietly at his
feet. She felt perplexed and irresolute. Her father's fainting fit had
alarmed her, and now, looking into his face, even to her inexperience,
the ravages which disease, both mental and physical, had brought there
could not but be apparent to her. She had to acknowledge to herself that
her father, only one year her Uncle Jasper's senior, looked a very old,
nay, she could not shut her eyes to the fact, a very unhappy man. What
brought that look on his face? A look which she acknowledged to herself
she had seen there all her life, but which seemed to be growing in
intensity with his added years. She closed her own eyes with a pang as a
swift thought of great anguish came over her. This thought passed as
quickly as it came; in her remorse at having entertained it she stooped
down and kissed the withered old hand which still lay in hers.

It was impossible for Charlotte really to doubt her father; but occupied
as she was with her wedding preparations, and full of brightness as her
sky undoubtedly looked to her just now, she had not forgotten Hinton's
manner when she had asked him what faith he put in Mrs. Home's story.
Hinton had evaded her inquiry. This evasion was as much as owning that
he shared Mrs. Home's suspicions. Charlotte must clear up her beloved
father in the eyes of that other beloved one. If on all hands she was
warned not to agitate him, there was another way in which she could do
it: she could read her grandfather's will. But though she had made up
her mind to do this, she had an unaccountable repugnance to the task.
For the first time in all her open, above-board life she would be doing
something which she must conceal from her father. Even John Hinton
should not accompany her to Somerset House. She must find the will and
master its contents, and the deed once done, what a relief to her! With
what joy would she with her own lips chase away the cloud which she felt
sure rested over her beloved father in her lover's heart!

"It is possible that, dearly as we love each other, such a little doubt
might divide us by and by," she said to herself. "Yes, yes, it is right
that I should dissipate it, absolutely right, when I feel so very, very
sure."

At this moment her father stirred in his sleep, and she distinctly heard
the words drop from his lips----

"I would make reparation."

Before she had even time to take these words in, he had opened his eyes
and was gazing at her.

"You are better now," she said, stooping down and kissing him.

"Yes, my darling; much, much better." He sat up as he spoke, and made an
effort to put on at least a show of life and vigor. "A man of my age
fainting, Charlotte, is nothing," he said; "really nothing whatever. You
must not dwell on it again."

"I will not," she said.

Her answer comforted him and he became really brighter and better.

"It is nice to have you all to myself, my little girl; it is very nice.
Not that I grudge you to Hinton; I have a great regard for Hinton; but,
my darling, you and I have been so much to each other. We have never in
all our lives had one quarrel."

"Quarrel, father! of course not. How can those who love as we do
quarrel?"

"Sometimes they do, Lottie. Thank God, such an experience cannot visit
you; but it comes to some and darkens everything. I have known it."

"You have, father?" In spite of herself, Charlotte felt her voice
trembling.

"I had a great and terrible quarrel with my father, Charlotte; my father
who seemed once as close to me as your father is to you. He married
again, and the marriage displeased me, and such bitter words passed
between us, that for years that old man and I did not speak. For years,
the last years of his life, we were absolutely divided. We made it up in
the end; we were one again when he died; but what happened then has
embittered my whole life--my whole life."

Charlotte was silent, though the color was coming into her cheeks and
her heart began to beat.

"And to-day, Lottie," continued Mr. Harman, "to-day your uncle Jasper
told me about my father's little daughter. You have never heard of her;
she was a baby-child when I saw her last. There were many complications
after my father's death; complications which you must take on trust, for
I cannot explain them to you. They led to my never seeing that child
again. Lottie, though she was my little half-sister, she was quite
young, not older than you, and to-day Jasper told me about her. He knows
where she lives; she is married and has children, and is poor. I could
never, never bring myself to look on her face; but some day, not when I
am alive, but some day you may know her; I should like you to know her
some day, and to be kind to her. She has been hardly treated, into that
too I cannot go; but I must set it right. I mean to give her money; you
will not be quite so rich; you won't mind that?"

"Mind it! mind it! Oh, father!" And Charlotte suddenly began to weep;
she could not help that sudden, swift shower, though she struggled hard
to repress it, seeing how her father trembled, and how each moment he
looked more agitated.

"Do you know," she said, checking her sobs as soon as she possibly
could, "that Uncle Jasper, too, has told me that story; he asked me not
to speak of it to you, for you would only be upset. He said how much you
took to heart, even still, that time when your father was angry with
you."

"And I angry with him, Lottie; and I with him. Don't forget that."

"Yes, dear father, he told me the tale. I longed to come to you with
it, for it puzzled me, but he would not let me. Father, I, too, have
seen that little sister; she is not little now, she is tall and
noble-looking. She is a sweet and brave woman, and she has three of the
most lovely children I ever saw; her children are like angels. Ah! I
shall be glad to help that woman and those children. I cannot thank you
enough for doing this."

"Don't thank me, child; in God's name don't thank me."

"If you could but see those children."

"I would not see them; I would not; I could not. Charlotte, you don't
know what bygone memories are to an old man like me. I could never see
either the mother or the children. Lottie, tell me nothing more about
them; if you love me never mention their names to me. They recall too
much, and I am weak and old. I will help them; yes, before God I promise
to help them; but I can never either see or speak of them, they recall
too much."



CHAPTER XXVI.

HAD HE SEEN A GHOST?


At this time Jasper Harman was a very perplexed man. Unlike his brother
John, he was untroubled by remorse. Though so outwardly good-tempered
and good-natured, his old heart was very hard; and though the arrows of
past sins and past injustices might fly around him, they could not visit
the inner shrine of that adamantine thing which he carried about instead
of a heart of flesh within him.

What the painful process must be which would restore to Jasper Harman
the warm living heart of a little child, one must shudder even to
contemplate. At present that process had not begun. But though he felt
no remorse whatever, and stigmatized his brother as an old fool, he had
considerable anxiety.

There was an ugly secret in the back parts of these two brothers' lives;
a secret which had seemed all these years safe and buried in the grave,
but over which now little lights were beginning to pour. How could
Jasper plaster up the crevices and restore the thing to its silent
grave? Upon this problem he pondered from morning to night.

He did not like that growing anxiety of his brother's; he could not tell
to what mad act it would lead him; he did not like a new look of fear
which, since her father's fainting fit, he had seen on Charlotte's
smooth brow; he did not like Mrs. Home coming and boldly declaring that
an injustice had been done; he felt that between them these foolish and
miserable people would pull a disgraceful old secret out of its grave,
unless he, Jasper Harman, could outwit them. What a blessing that that
other trustee was dead and buried, and that he, Jasper Harman, had
really stood over his grave. Yes, the secret which he and his brother
had guarded so faithfully for over twenty years might remain for ever
undiscovered if only common sense, the tiniest bit of common sense, was
exercised. Jasper paced his room as he thought of this. Yes, there could
be no fear, unless--here he stood still, and a cold dew of sudden terror
stole over him--suppose that young woman, that wronged young woman,
Charlotte Home, should take it into her head to go and read her father's
will. The will could not be put away. For the small sum of one shilling
she might go and master the contents, and then the whole fraud would be
laid bare. Was it likely that Mrs. Home would do this? Jasper had only
seen her for a moment, but during that brief glance he read
determination and fixity of purpose in her eyes and mouth. He must trust
that this thought would not occur to her; but what a miserable
uncertainty this was to live in! He did not know that the graver danger
lay still nearer home, and that his own niece Charlotte was already
putting the match to this mine full of gunpowder. No, clever as he
thought himself, he was looking for the danger at the front door, when
it was approaching him by the back.

After many days of most anxious thought he resolved to go and see the
Homes, for something must be done, and he could feel his way better if
he knew something of his opponents.

Getting Mr. Home's address in the Post Office Directory, for he would
not betray himself by questioning Charlotte, he started off one evening
to walk to Kentish Town. He arrived in the dusk, and by good fortune or
otherwise, as he liked best to term it, the curate was at home, and so
far disengaged as to be able to give him a little leisure time.

Jasper sent in his card, and the little maid, Anne, showed him into the
small parlor. There was a musty, unused smell in the dingy little room,
for Mrs. Home was still at Torquay, and the curate during her absence
mostly occupied his study. The maid, however, turned on the gas, and as
she did so a small girl of four slipped in behind her. She was a very
pretty child, with gray eyes and black eyelashes, and she stared in the
full, frank manner of infancy at old Jasper. She was not a shy child,
and felt so little fear of this good-natured, cherry-cheeked old man,
that when Anne withdrew she still remained in the room.

Jasper had a surface love for children; he would not take any trouble
about them, but they amused him, and he found pleasure in watching their
unsophisticated ways. His good-natured, smiling face appealed to a
certain part of Daisy Home, not a very high part certainly, but with the
charming frankness of babyhood, the part appealed to gave utterance to
its desire.

"Have 'ou brought me a present?" she demanded, running up to old Jasper
and laying her hand on his knee.

"No, my dear," he replied quickly. "I'm so sorry; I forgot it."

"Did 'ou?" said Daisy, puckering her pretty brows; "Then 'ou're not like
our pretty lady; she did not forget; she brought lots and lots and
lots."

"I am very sorry," replied Jasper; "I will think of it next time." And
then Mr. Home coming in, the two went into the little study.

"I am your wife's half-brother," said Jasper, introducing himself
without preface, for he had marked out his line of action before he
came.

"Indeed!" replied Mr. Home. He was not a man easily surprised, but this
announcement did bring a slight color into his face. "You are Mr.
Harman," he repeated. "I am sorry my wife is away. She is staying at
Torquay with our eldest boy, who has been ill. She has seen your
daughter."

"Not my daughter, sir, my niece--a fine girl, but Quixotic, a little
fanciful and apt to take up whims, but a fine girl for all that."

"I, too, have seen Miss Harman," answered Mr. Home. "I met her once in
Regent's Park, and, without knowing anything about us, she was good to
our children. You must pardon me, sir, if in expressing the same opinion
about her we come to it by different roads. It seems to me that the
fine traits in Miss Harman's character are _due_ to her Quixotic or
unworldly spirit."

For a moment Jasper Harman felt puzzled, then he chuckled inwardly. "The
man who says that, is unworldly himself, therefore unpractical. So much
the better for my purpose." Aloud he said, "Doubtless you put the case
best, sir; but I will not take up your valuable time discussing my
niece's virtues. I have come to talk to you on a little matter of
business. Your wife has told you her story?"

"My wife has certainly concealed nothing from me," replied Mr. Home.

"She has mentioned her father's very curious will?"

"His very unjust will," corrected Mr. Home.

"Yes, sir, I agree with you, it was unjust. It is to talk to you about
that will I have come to you to-night."

"Sit nearer to the fire," replied Mr. Home, poking up the handful in the
grate into as cheerful a blaze as circumstances would permit.

"It was, as you say, an unjust will," proceeded old Jasper, peering hard
with his short-sighted eyes at the curate, and trying to read some
emotion beneath his very grave exterior. Being unable to fathom the
depths of a character which was absolutely above the love of money, he
felt perplexed, he scarcely liked this great self-possession. Did this
Home know too much? "It was an unjust will," he repeated, "and took my
brother and myself considerably by surprise. Our father seemed fond of
his young wife, and we fully expected that he would leave her and her
child well provided for. However, my dear sir, the facts could not be
disputed. Her name was not mentioned at all. The entire property was
left principally to my elder brother John. He and I were partners in
business. Our father's money was convenient, and enabled us to grow
rich. At the time our father died we were very struggling. Perhaps the
fact that the money was so necessary to us just then made us think less
of the widow than we should otherwise have done. We did not, however,
forget her. We made provision for her during her life. But for us she
must have starved or earned her own living."

"The allowance you made was not very ample," replied Mr. Home, "and such
as it was it ceased at her death."

"Yes, sir; and there I own we--my brother and I--were guilty of an act
of injustice. I can only exonerate us on the plea of want of thought.
Our father's widow was a young woman--younger than either of us. The
child was but a baby. The widow's death seemed a very far off
contingency. We placed the money we had agreed to allow her the interest
on, in the hands of our solicitor. We absolutely forgot the matter. I
went to Australia, my brother grew old at home. When, five or six years
ago, we heard that Mrs. Harman was dead, and that our three thousand
pounds could return to us, we had absolutely forgotten the child. In
this I own we showed sad neglect. Your wife's visit to my niece, through
a mere accident, has recalled her to our memory, and I come here
to-night to say that we are willing, willing and anxious, to repay that
neglect, and to settle on your wife the sum of three thousand pounds;
that sum to be hers unconditionally, to do what she pleases with."

When Jasper ceased to speak, Mr. Home was quite silent for a moment,
then he said, "My wife is away at present. I would rather not trouble
her with money matters during her short holiday. When she returns I will
tell her what you say and communicate to you the result."

There was neither exultation nor annoyance in the quiet manner in which
these few words were spoken. Uncle Jasper found it impossible to
understand this man. He spoke as indifferently as if three thousand
pounds were nothing to him and yet, to judge from appearances, his whole
yearly income seemed hardly to represent the interest on so much
capital. Did this quiet manner but hide deep designs? Jasper Harman
fidgeted in his chair as this thought occurred to him.

"There is just one thing more to add," he said. "I will leave you my
club address. Kindly communicate with me there. I should like, while
carrying out my elder brother's wish, to act entirely on it without
troubling him in any way. He is, I am sorry to say, very ill, so ill
that the least, the very least, agitation is dangerous to him. He feels
with me the unintentional injustice done to your wife, but he cannot
bear the subject alluded to.

"Would it not rather be an ease to his mind to feel that what he looks
on and perhaps dwells on as a sin has been expiated, as far as his own
earthly act can expiate it?" inquired the clergyman gently.

"He shall know it, but from my lips. I should like him best to hear it
from me," said Jasper Harman.

A few moments after, he went away, Mr. Home accompanying him to the hall
door. The strong light of the gas lamp fell on his ruddy face and sandy
hair. He bade his host good-bye, and hurried down the street, never
observing that a man, much larger and much rougher than himself, was
bearing down upon him. It was raining, and the large man had an umbrella
up. The two came full tilt against each other. Jasper felt his breath
taken away, and could only gasp out a word of remonstrance and apology.

But the other, in a full, round, cheery voice, replied, "I'm home from
the Colonies, stranger--you need not mention a tiff like that to _me_.
Bless you! I guess you got the worst of it."

He passed on with a laugh, never noticing that he had left Jasper
standing in the middle of the road, gasping indeed now, but from a
different cause. He put his hand to his heart. He felt his breath come
too fast for comfort. What had come to him? Had he seen a ghost?



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE CHILDREN'S GREAT-UNCLE.


It was a few days after this that, the morning being very bright and
sunshiny, the little maid, Anne, determined to give Daisy and the baby a
long morning in the park. Mrs. Home was expected back in a few days.
Harold was very much better, and Anne, being a faithful and loving
little soul, was extremely anxious that Daisy and the baby should show
as rosy faces as possible to greet their mother's return. Hinton, who
still occupied the drawing-rooms, was absent as usual for the day. Mr.
Home would not come in until tea time. So Anne, putting some dinner for
the children and herself, in the back of the perambulator, and the house
latch-key in her pocket, started off to have what she called to Daisy, a
"picnic in the park."

The baby was now nearly ten months old. His beauty had increased with
his growing months, and many people turned to look at the lovely little
fellow as Anne gayly wheeled him along. He had a great deal of hair,
which showed in soft golden rings under his cap, and his eyes, large and
gentle as a gazelle's, looked calmly out of his innocent face. Daisy,
too, was quite pretty enough to come in for her share of admiration,
and Anne felt proud of both her little charges.

Reaching the park, she wheeled the perambulator under the shade of a
great tree, and sitting down herself on a bench, took little Angus in
her arms. Daisy scampered about and inquired when her namesakes, the
starry daisies of the field, would be there for her to gather.

As the little child played and shouted with delight, and the baby and
small maid looked on, a stout, florid-faced man of foreign appearance,
passing slowly by, was attracted by the picturesque group. Daisy had
flung off her shabby little hat. Her bright hair was in wild confusion.
Her gray eyes looked black beneath their dark lashes. Running full tilt
across the stranger's path, she suddenly stumbled and fell. He stooped
to pick her up. She hardly thanked him, but flew back to Anne. The
foreign-looking man, however, stood still. Daisy's piquant little face
had caused him to start and change color.

"Good gracious! what a likeness," he exclaimed, and he turned and sat
down on the bench beside Anne and the baby.

"I hope the little thing didn't get hurt by that fall," he said to the
small maid.

Anne, who was accustomed to having all admiration bestowed on her baby,
replied briefly that missy was right enough. As she spoke she turned
baby Angus round so that the stranger might see his radiant little face.
The dark eyes, however, of the pretty boy had no attraction for the man.
He still watched Daisy, who had resumed her amusements at a little
distance.

Anne, who perceived that Daisy had attracted the stranger's admiration,
was determined to stay to watch the play out. She pretended to amuse
little Angus, but her eyes took furtive glances at the foreign-looking
man. Presently Daisy, who was not at all shy, came up.

"You never thanked me for picking you up from the ground," said the
stranger to the little girl.

Four year old Daisy turned up her eyes to his face.

"I wor _so_ busy," she apologized. "T'ank 'ou now."

The light on her face, her very expression, caused this rough-looking
man's heart to beat strangely. He held out his hand. Daisy put her soft
little palm into his.

"Come and sit on my knee," he said.

Daisy accepted the invitation with alacrity. She dearly liked
attention, and it was not often, with baby by, that she came in for the
lion's share.

"What a funny red beard you have!" she said, putting up a small finger
to touch it delicately.

This action, however, scandalized Anne, who, awaking to a sudden sense
of her responsibilities, rose to depart.

"Come along, Miss Daisy," she exclaimed; "'tis time we was a-moving
home, and you mustn't trouble the gentleman no further, missy."

"I s'ant go home, and I will stay," responded Daisy, her face growing
very red as she clung to her new friend. The man put his arm round her
in delight.

"Sit down, my girl," he said, addressing Anne, "the little miss is not
troubling me. Quite the contrary, she reminds me of a little lassie I
used to know once, and she had the same name too, Daisy. Daisy Wilson
was her name. Now this little kid is so like her that I shouldn't a bit
wonder if she was a relation--perhaps her daughter. Shall I tell you
what your two names are, little one?"

Daisy nodded her head and looked up expectantly. Anne, hoping no harm
was done, and devoured with curiosity, resumed her seat.

"Your mamma's name was Daisy Wilson. You are her dear little daughter,
and your name is Daisy Harman. Well, I'm right, ain't I?" The man's face
was now crimson, and he only waited for Daisy's reply to clasp her to
his breast. But Daisy, in high delight at his mistake, clapped her
pretty hands.

"No, no," she said, "you're quite wrong. Guess again, guess again."

Instantly his interest and excitement died out. He pushed the child a
trifle away, and said,--

"I made a mistake. I can't guess."

"I'm Daisy Home," replied Daisy, "and my mamma was never no Daisy
Wilson. Her name is Sarlotte Home."

The stranger put Daisy gently from his lap, and the discovery which was
to affect so many people might never have been made but for Anne, who
read the _Family Herald_, was burning with anxiety and wonder. Many
kinds of visions were flashing before her romantic young eyes. This man
might be very rich--very, very rich. He must have something to say to
them all. She had long ago identified herself with the Home family. This
man was coming to give them gold in abundance. He was not so beautiful
to look at, but he might be just as valuable as the pretty lady of
Harold's dreams. That pretty lady had not come back, though Anne had
almost prayed for her return. Yes, she was sure this man was a relation.
It was highly probable. Such things were always happening in the _Family
Herald_. Raising her shrill, high-pitched voice, she exclaimed,--

"Miss Daisy, you're too young to know, or may be you furgets. But I
think the gen'leman is near right. Yer mamma's name wos Harman afore she
married yer papa, missy, and I ha' seen fur sure and certain in some old
books at the house the name o' Daisy Wilson writ down as plain as could
be, so maybe that wor yer grandma's name afore she married too."

At these words the stranger caught Daisy up and kissed her.

"I thought that little face could only belong to one related to Daisy
Wilson," he said. "Little one, put yer arms round me. I'm your
great-uncle--your great-uncle! I never thought that Daisy Wilson could
have a daughter married, and that that daughter could have little ones
of her own. Well, well, well, how time does fly! I'm your grandmother's
brother--Sandy Wilson, home from Australia, my little pet; and when
shall I see you all? It does my old heart good to see my sister over
again in a little thing like you."

"My great-uncle?" repeated Daisy. She was an affectionate little thing,
and the man's agitation and delight so far touched her baby heart as to
induce her to give him one very slight, dainty kiss. Then she sidled
down to the ground.

"Ef you please, sir," said Anne again, who felt absolutely certain that
she had now made the fortune of her family, and who thought that that
fact ought to be recognised--"ef you please, sir, 'tis but right as you
should know as my missis's mother have long bin dead. My missis as is
her living model is away, and won't be back afore Thursday. She's down
by the seaside wid Master Harold wot' ad the scarlet fever, and wor like
to die; and the fam'ly address, please sir, is 10, Tremins Road, Kentish
Town."

At the news of his sister's death so curtly announced by Anne, the man's
rough, weatherbeaten face grew white. He did not touch Daisy again, or
even look at little Angus; but going up to Anne, he slipped a sovereign
into her hand.

"Take those children safely home now," he said; "the day is turning
chilly, and--and--thank you for what you told me of, my good lass. I'll
come and see your missis on Thursday night."

Then, without another word, he hurried away.

Quickly this big, rough man, who had nearly knocked down Jasper Harman
the night before, hurried through the park. The exultation had died out
of his face; his heart had ceased to beat wildly. Little Daisy's pretty
figure was still before his eyes; but, weatherbeaten and lifebeaten man
that he was, he found himself looking at it through a mist of tears.
"'Tis a bit of a shock," he said to himself. "I'll take it quietly, of
course. Sandy Wilson learned long ago to take everything quietly; but
it's a rare bit of a shock. I never guessed as my little Daisy would
die. Five and twenty years since we met, and all that time I've never
once clasped the hand of a blood-relation--never had one belonging to
me. I thought I was coming back to Daisy, and Daisy has died. She was
very young to die--quite five years younger than me. A pretty, pretty
lass; the little 'un is her image. How odd I should have knocked up
against Daisy's grandchild, and should find her out by the likeness.
Well, well, I'll call at 10, Tremins Road. I'll call, of course; not
that I care much now, as my little sister Daisy Wilson is dead."

He pressed his hand before his eyes; they felt weak and dim. The rough
man had got a considerable shock; he did not care to look at London
sights again to-day; he returned to the Commercial Hotel in the Strand,
where for the present he was staying.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

CUT OFF WITH A SHILLING.


Never was a little maid-of-all-work more excited than Anne on the night
on which her mistress was expected home from Torquay. A secret--quite a
great secret--had been burning a hole in her heart ever since Monday,
and to-night she expected this secret to result in something grand. Anne
felt that the days of poverty for the family were over; the days for
scraping and toiling were at an end. The uncle from Australia would
give her missis everything that money could buy; he must be a very rich
man indeed, for had he not given her a sovereign? Whoever before had
even dreamed of giving little hard-worked Anne a sovereign? It meant
unheard-of wealth to this childish soul of sixteen; it filled her with
delight, and, carefully put away in a little gingham bag, it lay golden
and warm now against her heart.

But Anne's honest little heart had another and less selfish cause for
rejoicing. It was she who was bringing this uncle and niece to meet
again; but for her prompt interference Daisy and her great-uncle would
never have discovered their relationship; but for her the uncle, so
blessed with riches, would not have known where to seek for his niece.
In a big place like London was it likely, was it at all likely, that
they would meet? No, no, he would look for his poor dead sister for a
little while, and then go back to Australia, and perhaps give his money
to some one else. Anne felt that the family owed her a great deal; but
she had full confidence in them, and felt sure that in their rise in
life they would not forget her. Missis could keep plenty of servants
now; she would have a cook and a housemaid, and probably some one to
help in the nursery. This was what a family whom Anne thought immensely
wealthy, did in a house just round the corner. In that case she, Anne,
would be promoted to the proud position of head nurse--head nurse with
wages--well, say wages as high as £13 a year. Even to think of being
raised to so dazzling a height made Anne's head a trifle giddy. On the
strength of it, and all the riches in prospect, she became quite
reckless in preparing missis's tea. She put out the best table-linen,
and all the silver the house possessed, and she filled a great dish with
water-cresses, and had hot buttered scones and a seed-cake and
eggs--rather fresh for London--and finally half a pound of sliced ham.

She was standing contemplating her well-laden board when the cab drove
up, and out stepped her master and mistress and little Harold--Harold
looking white and thin even yet, but still with an altogether improved
expression on his little face. Anne was so excited, knowing all that was
to come, that she caught Harold up in her arms and kissed him, which
proceeding he bore with more patience than appreciation. Then ensued
bustle and confusion and pleasant excitement. Charlotte Home felt so
well and rested from her change, her husband was so delighted to have
her back, and little Harold was so manifestly better, that Anne flew
about nearly wild with delight. "They'll be a deal, deal 'appier
by-and-by, and 'tis hall 'long of HAnne," she kept whispering to
herself.

And now, tea being over, and Harold tucked up comfortably once more in
his own little cot in the nursery, the small maid began to be devoured
with impatience for the expected ring. It came at last; Anne with her
own hands unfastened the door, showed the rich uncle into the
dining-room, and danced upstairs to find her mistress. Charlotte Home
was unpacking a trunk in her own room.

"What do you say, Anne? A gentleman is downstairs, and wants to see me?
But I am so dreadfully busy. What does he want? Do you think he has come
about the drawing-rooms? They will be vacant next week."

"I don't think 'tis about the drawing-rooms, 'em," answered Anne as
demurely as she could speak. "I 'avent put no card hup yet. Please, 'em,
he looks a most benevolent gen'leman, and he axed fur you, yer hown
self, 'em, most partic'lar bad."

"I wish he had not come this evening, everything is in such confusion.
Anne, are you sure your master is out?"

"Yes, 'em, sure and certain; and ef you please, 'em, it wor fur you as
the strange gen'leman axed."

"Well, I suppose I must go down. He may have heard of the drawing-rooms
through Mr. Hinton, and it would not do to lose a good lodger."

Charlotte went to the looking-glass to smooth her hair. She felt
travel-stained and dusty; she was only a worn, pale-looking woman at the
best of times. She ran downstairs, and Anne's heart beat as she heard
the dining-room door shut behind her.

Mr. Wilson--Sandy Wilson as he preferred to be called--had got himself
up with due care for his interview with his niece. He had a perfectly
new and shining broadcloth suit on, a diamond pin was in his necktie,
and a very massive gold chain could be seen dangling from his vest
pocket. His full face, always florid, was now flushed with extra color
from agitation. Yes, Daisy might be dead, but the next best thing was to
see Daisy's child. When the door opened he came forward eagerly, with
outstretched hands. A pale, slight, cold-looking woman had come in. He
drew back in dismay. She showed but too plainly by one swift glance that
she thought him a stranger, and a vulgar one. He owned to himself that
he looked at her with a kind of shock. This Daisy Wilson's Daughter?
This pale, dark, thin woman the child of that little, bright,
curly-locked, golden-headed sister, whose face was as the sun, whose
gay, rounded figure he had seen flitting before his eyes during all the
weary years of his exile? It could scarcely be possible. Perhaps it was
not possible?

"I have come to see Mrs. Home," he began.

"And I am Mrs. Home," answered the distinct, quiet voice.

No, there was no hope; his Daisy's daughter was not in the least like
her. Well, she was at least her child. He must take what comfort he
could out of the relationship without the likeness.

"You are Daisy's Wilson's child?" he said, and now again his hands were
outstretched, and the smiles had returned to his face.

But Mrs. Home, completely in the dark, rather startled than otherwise,
made no gesture of welcome. Her hands were not held out, her lips
remained unsmiling.

"My mother's name was Wilson," she admitted. "Yes, it was Daisy Wilson.
I did not recognize it at first, as of course she was never called it to
me."

"Ay, ay, likely enough; but she was never anything else to me, just
always little bright Daisy Wilson. I thought I'd find her before me,
something as she used to be, a bit stoutened, perhaps, but not greatly
altered. I have pictured her for the last six and twenty years just as I
saw her last the bonniest bit of a thing the sun ever shone on."

"You knew my mother then?" said Charlotte.

"Knew her, lass, knew her! good heavens, what next? Did Daisy never
speak to you about me? I don't believe it. Before I left it was 'Sandy,
Sandy,' from morning to night. It was not in her to forget. Tell me,
lass, did you never hear of your mother's big brother, Sandy Wilson who
went to Australia?"

Charlotte's eyes began to dilate.

"My mother often spoke of this brother," she said slowly. "My mother
would have liked to have met you, had you known him. She never fretted
for any one so much, except when my father died. My mother's brother is
dead for many, many years. They are together now."

"In spirit, lass, in spirit, I doubt not, but not otherwise. Why, is it
possible you don't know me? Aren't you prepared? Did not your little
lass tell you? I am your mother's brother, I am alive, as you see; I am
Sandy Wilson."

"You!" Charlotte looked at him half incredulous, half pained; but then a
sudden joy came over her, she forgot the vulgarity in the love for her
dead mother which still shone out of those honest blue eyes. She glanced
up again; those eyes were her mother's eyes; instantly they acted as
open sesame to her heart. She held out her own hands now and her eyes
filled with tears. "Forgive me, Uncle Sandy; if you are indeed he. I did
not know you, I could not know you; I have believed you dead for many,
many years. But you have a look of my mother. She would welcome you
to-night, so I must in her name."

"Will you kiss me in her name, my lassie? Ah! that's good; 'tis long
since I kissed one of my own. Yes, I've come back. I never did die, you
see, though I knew that the report had reached England. I let it be, I
did not trouble to contradict it."

"But it was wrong of you, Uncle Sandy. You said you loved my mother, and
that report of your death gave her terrible pain."

"I am sorry for it, lass; I never guessed about the pain, though I might
have thought of it, sweet soul; but I knew she was married to a very
rich man. I was poor, so poor as to know what hunger meant, I thought
she could do without me. I went up into the bush and stayed there until
I had made my fortune. After a time I got accustomed to knowing that
every one in England would think me dead. I used to laugh in my sleeve
at the surprise I meant to give Daisy when I walked in rich some day.
Well, well, what an old fool I made of myself! I never once thought of
_her_ dying. She is dead, and I am left; there's no one to welcome me
back, after all."

"She has been dead for over six years now; but come to the fire, uncle.
I welcome you in my mother's name, and my children will love you. Now
you must sit there and I will ring for Anne to bring in some tea."

After this the uncle and niece talked together for some time. Anne
brought in the tea, and looked at them with eyes rendered round and
large from excitement. They both nodded to her, for both felt pleased.
Uncle Sandy had discovered that his niece had a voice like her mother,
if not a face. It was delicious to him to sit so close to his own flesh
and blood, and Charlotte, who had heard of Uncle Sandy during all her
early days, who had seen her mother's eyes filling with tears when she
mentioned him, felt now that for her mother's sake she could not make
enough of this newly recovered relation. His rough, honest, kindly
nature was finding its way too, very straight, to her heart. There was
nothing innately common or vulgar about Uncle Sandy. Charlotte was a
keen observer of character, and she detected the ring of the true metal
within.

"To think I should have mistaken my uncle for some one going to see
after the drawing-rooms!" she said after a pause.

"Ay, lass, you looked fairly dazed when I came up with my hand stretched
out, hoping for a kiss," he said; "but no wonder: I never reckoned that
that little maid-servant of yours would have told you nothing--nothing
whatever. But what is that about drawing-rooms? You don't mean to tell
me that you, Daisy Wilson's child, let lodgings?"

The color flew into Charlotte's pale, proud face.

"We do not need all the room in this house, so I generally have some one
in the drawing-room," she answered--"the drawing-room and the bedroom
beyond."

"Are your rooms free now, Charlotte?"

"No; but in a week they will be."

"Suppose you let the old uncle have them? I will pay any rent you like
to ask. The fact is, I have lost my whole heart to that little Daisy of
yours. I want to be near the child. I won't spoil her more than I can
help."

"Then I _was_ called down to my drawing-room lodger," answered Charlotte
with a faint sweet smile.

"Yes, and I don't expect he will want to leave in a hurry. The fact is I
have been so utterly friendless and homeless for such a number of years,
that it is _nearly_ as good as finding Daisy to be with her child. But,
my dear lass, you will forgive a frank old man asking you a frank
question. It's all moonshine about the house being too big for you.
These houses are not so very monstrous, to judge by the looks of them.
You have three children, so you tell me; if you let two rooms you must
be a bit crippled, put as good a face on it as you will."

"We also want the money. The want of the help this brings in, in the
matter of rent, is our true reason for letting," replied Charlotte. "You
see, Uncle Sandy, my husband is a clergyman--a clergyman and curate.
Such men are never over-burdened with money."

Sandy Wilson had small, penetrating, but very bright blue eyes; they
were fixed now earnestly on his niece. He took a glance round the little
parlor where they sat. He was an old Australian, accustomed to bush
life, but even he noticed how threadbare was the carpet, how poor and
meagre the window curtains. Charlotte herself, too, how thin and worn
she was! Could those pale and hollow cheeks mean insufficient food?

"How old are you, niece Charlotte?" he suddenly demanded.

"I was twenty-five my last birthday."

"Forgive me, my lass, you look very old for that; I should have taken
you for thirty. The fact is you are poor, nothing ages like poverty. And
the greater fact remains that it was full time for old Uncle Sandy to
come home and prove himself of some use in the world."

"We are poor," answered Charlotte; "we certainly are very poor. But
poverty is not the greatest of troubles."

"No, but it puzzles me why you should be poor. When I left my little
sister, she had been married about three months to that rich old Mr.
Harman. He seemed devoted to her. He had surrounded her with wealth; and
he assured me when I came to bid her good-bye, and she put her dear arms
round my neck, that my little darling should never want for anything. He
was a good old man, ages too old of course for my bright little Daisy.
But it seemed better than leaving her as a governess. It was my one
comfort when parting with Daisy, to feel that she could never want for
anything that money could get her."

"My mother has told me that during my father's life she lived as a rich
woman," answered Charlotte.

"That means she did not afterwards. Did the old gentleman die bankrupt?
I don't see how he could, for he had retired from business."

"No, my father died a very wealthy man."

"Then he did not leave her well off! You don't surely mean to tell me,
Charlotte Home, that that old man dared to do anything but leave a large
sum of money to your pretty young mother and to you? Why, be told me
with his own lips that he would make most ample provision for her."

At these words Charlotte's white face grew yet whiter, and a piteous
look of terror came into her eyes, but all she said was,--

"Nevertheless, after my father's death we were poor."

"Oh! the scoundrel! 'Tis well he's out of Sandy Wilson's power. To think
of my Daisy not profiting by his wealth at least. How much did he leave
to your mother, Charlotte?

"Nothing."

"Nothing!" Here Uncle Sandy sprang to his feet. "Mr. Harman left my
Daisy nothing--nothing whatever! Then he did die bankrupt?"

"No, Uncle Sandy, he died rich."

"And her name was not mentioned in the will?"

"No."

"Ah! there was a will. Have you seen it?"

"No; why should I? It all happened long, long ago."

"And your mother never saw the will?"

"I don't think she did."

"Then to whom, may I ask, did he leave all his wealth?"

"You forget, Uncle Sandy, that my father was married before. He had two
sons by his first marriage. These sons came in for his fortune. They
were--they said they were, sorry for my mother, and they settled on her
one hundred and fifty pounds a year for her life."

"Ay, I suppose you have got that pittance now?"

"No, it was only for my mother. When she died six years ago it ceased."

Sandy Wilson began to pace up and down the little parlor.

"Nothing left to Daisy. Daisy's name not mentioned in the will. Brothers
sorry--pretend to be. Give my Daisy a pittance for her life--nothing to
the child. Charlotte," he suddenly stopped in front of his niece, "don't
you think you are a good bit of a fool?"

"Perhaps I am, Uncle Sandy. But I never recognized the fact before."

"You believe that story about the will?"

"I tell you the tale as my own mother told it to me."

"Ay, Daisy was always too credulous, a foolish little thing, if you
like. But you--you are of different metal. You believe that story?"

"I--I--Don't ask me, Uncle Sandy."

"You do not believe it?"

"If you will have it so, I do not believe it."

"Ay, my lass, shake hands on that. You are not a fool. Oh! it was full
time Sandy Wilson came home. Sandy can see to your rights, late as it is
in the day."

Mrs. Home was silent. The old Australian was stamping his feet on the
hearthrug. His face was now crimson from excitement and anger.

"Charlotte," he repeated, "why don't you speak to me? I have come back
to see to your rights. Do you hear me, niece?"

Charlotte put her hand into his.

"Thank you, Uncle Sandy." Then she added, "You can do nothing. I mean
you can take no legal steps without my knowledge and sanction."

"Well, it is not likely you will withhold your sanction from getting
back what is your own. Charlotte, where are these half-brothers of
yours? Why, they were a good bit older than Daisy. They must be old men
now. Where are they, Charlotte? Are they alive?"

"They are alive. I will tell you about them to-morrow. I want to think
to-night."

"And so do I want to think. I will run away now, my dear niece. I am
staggered by this tale, perfectly staggered. I will look in to-morrow
evening, and you shall tell me more. Ay, I guess they never reckoned
that Sandy Wilson would turn up. They thought with the rest of you that
old Sandy--sharp old Sandy was safe in his grave, and they said to
themselves that dead men tell no tales. If I remember aright, your
father told me I should be one of the trustees to my sister. He _did_
mention it; though, just like me, I never thought of it until this
minute. Is it likely that he would speak of trustees if he meant to cut
off that poor darling with a shilling? Oh! it's preposterous,
preposterous. But I'll sleep over it. We'll think how best to expose the
villains!"

"Uncle Sandy, you will promise me one thing: you will do nothing until
you see me again?"

"Well, child, I can scarcely do much. I don't want to be long away from
you, niece Charlotte. I'll look in to-morrow, about six o'clock. See
that little Daisy is up, and introduce me to your husband. Oh! it was
plain to be seen that Sandy Wilson was wanting in this country. Bless my
old heart, what a Providence is over everything! Oh, the scoundrels! But
Sandy will expose them. My Daisy cut off with a shilling!"



CHAPTER XXIX.

"SOMETHING BETTER FOR THE CHILDREN THAN MONEY."


After her newly found uncle had left her, Charlotte Home sat on by the
fire; her face was very pale; she looked a quite broken-down and
troubled woman. Little Anne, almost on tiptoe, crept into the room. She
was all quivering with excitement. She expected her mistress to turn to
her--almost to fling her arms around her neck--to thank her with the
warmest expressions for what she had done.

"Anne," rehearsed the little maid, imagining Charlotte's words, "you
have saved us all; you are our lifelong benefactor. Henceforth partake
of our wealth. Be not only our servant, but our friend."

This was how matters would have been managed in the _Family Herald_.
Anne raised expectant eyes to her mistress's face, but one glance at it
scattered her golden visions. She softly lifted up the tea-tray and
withdrew. Her faith and hope had gone down to zero. She was a very
dispirited little girl as she returned to her kitchen. That uncle from
Australia was not a rich uncle. Missis would never look so miserable if
he was rich. As a poor relation he was no use whatever; and Anne had
done nothing for the family she loved. Oh, how _very_ disappointing life
was after all!

Meanwhile what now troubled Charlotte Home had very little to do with
Uncle Sandy's possible gold. She was solving another problem, and the
task was a difficult one.

For the past month Charlotte had been making up her mind to a certain
line of action. Before she left Torquay her resolution was formed. She
had been over four weeks there, and during those four weeks she and her
boy had lived on Charlotte Harman's money. That money had saved the life
of her child. When she first saw it and thanked for it, and each
succeeding day, each succeeding hour, as she saw the color which was
health, and the appetite which was life, returning to her darling, the
conviction was growing upon her, that her hand could never inflict a
blow upon the woman who had done so much for her. Her children wanted
money, and her husband wanted money, and she herself too! A little dip
into this world's softnesses, she owned, would be very pleasant; but,
for all that, her hand must be still; her lips could not speak to cause
pain and agony to one who had done so much for her. Miss Harman was
going to be married. Was it possible that on the eve of her marriage
she, Charlotte Home, could deal to her so cruel a blow? No, it was not
possible. For Charlotte's sake, her father and uncle might keep their
ill-gotten wealth. Mrs. Home believed more and more firmly that she and
hers were robbed of their money. But now she could do nothing. She had
been so treated by her enemy's daughter that to appear against that
daughter's father would be impossible. As this conviction came to her,
and she resolved to act upon it, and to let all chance of recovering her
lost wealth go, a wonderful peace and calm stole over her. She almost
used to fancy she heard the voice of God saying to her,--

"I will provide for your children, I can give them riches. There are
better things to be won for those little ones than what money can give.
There is such a thing as a heavy purse and a poor and empty heart.
Suppose I fill those hearts with goodness, and greatness, and
generosity, and love; is not that a better portion for these creatures
who are to live for all eternity than the gold which lasts only for a
time?"

Yes, Charlotte felt that it was a better portion. And such peace and
contentment came to this woman during the last week at Torquay that she
thought it the happiest week of her whole life. But now--now she sat by
her own hearth in troubled maze. She had come back to find her resolve
sorely shaken. With no one to help her, she had resolved to let her
chance of riches go. She came back to find an unexpected deliverer come
to her. A strong, brave, practical man had appeared. This man was her
own uncle--her beloved mother's brother. He knew how to act. While she
alone must stumble in the dark, he would know what to do. He would--he
could get her back her own. It seemed hard to reject such help; and yet
her resolve was scarcely shaken, and the temptation, though severe, was
not allowed to prevail. The voice of God was still talking to the woman,
and she was not turning from Him.

Since the life of her child had been given back to her, a great softness
and sweetness had come to Mrs. Home; she had tasted of a mother's
bitterest cup, but God had not asked her to drink it to the dregs. Her
dark eyes, always beautiful, had now grown very lovely, being filled
with a tenderness which not only took in her own child, but, for his
sake, all the other children in the world.

Yes, Charlotte loved God as she had never loved Him before, and it was
becoming impossible for her to do that which might pain Him. After a
time her husband came in, and the two sat and talked for some time. They
had a great deal to say, and the hours flew on as each poured out a full
heart to the other.

After a time Charlotte told of her visit from the uncle whom she had
supposed for so many years to be dead. Mr. Home was interested, and
asked many questions. Charlotte repeated, almost word for word, what
Uncle Sandy had said. Her husband regarded her attentively. After a time
he spoke.

"Lottie, you remember when first you told me that queer story about your
father's will?"

"Yes," she said.

"I own I did not believe it; I own I thought very little about it. I ask
your pardon, my dear. I now believe you are right."

"Oh, Angus!" a great flood of color came up to her face. "Oh! why," she
added in a voice of pain, "why do you say this to me now?"

"Partly from what your uncle said to-night; partly for another reason.
The fact is, my dear wife, while you were away I had a visit from your
half-brother, Mr. Jasper Harman.".

"Angus!"

"Yes, he came here one evening. He told a tale, and he made a
proposition. His tale was a lame one; his proposition scarcely came well
from his lips. He evidently thought of me as of one unworldly and
unpractical. I believe I am unpractical, but he never guessed that in my
capacity as clergyman I have had much to do with sinners. This man has a
conscience by no means void of offence. He is hardened. Charlotte, when
I saw him, I instantly believed your story."

Mr. Home then told his wife the whole of his interview with Jasper
Harman, and the proposal he had made to settle on Charlotte and on her
children the three thousand pounds which had been her mother's for that
mother's lifetime.

"I gave him no answer, my Lottie," he said in conclusion. "I told him
you were away--that I would tell you all on your return."

"Then the decision is to rest with me, Angus?"

"Yes, I think it must."

"You do not mind whether I decline or accept?"

"I trust you absolutely. You shall do as you think best."

After this Mrs. Home was silent for a moment or two; then she got up,
went on her knees by her husband's side, and laying her head against his
breast, said,--

"We will be poor, my darling--poor and blessed. I will not touch their
gold."

"My Lottie!" he answered. He did not quite understand her, but his heart
began to beat.

"I will tell you all in a few words, Angus. I longed for money--be my
reason base or noble, I longed for money. A month ago how sorely we
needed it! God saw our need and sent it to us. He sent it through a
channel and by a means which tried my proud heart. I accepted the
gracious boon, and, when I accepted it, instantly I loved the giver; I
loved--I love Charlotte Harman. She is innocent of all wrong. Angus, I
cannot disturb her peace. My uncle has come home. My uncle, with his
knowledge and his worldly skill, could now win my cause for me, and get
back for me and mine what is ours. I will not let him. These old men may
keep their ill-gotten wealth, for I cannot break the daughter's heart. I
made my resolve at Torquay, Angus; and, though I own I have been tempted
to-night--yes, I believe I have been tempted--still I must let this
money go. I will leave those wicked men to God; but I cannot take their
punishment into my own hands. And, Angus, dearest, neither can I take
that small sum of money; for, though I cannot prosecute, neither can I
accept a bribe. This money comes as a bribe. Is it not so?"

"Yes, Lottie, I fear it is so."

"I am right not to take it?"

"You are absolutely right."

"Then we will not touch it. I and mine can live without it."

"You and yours can live well and nobly without it, my most precious
wife."

"Ah! there is rest and peace in my heart; and the little house, though
so poor and shabby, seems very home-like. Angus, I am so tired after all
this! I will go to bed."

Long after his wife had left him, the husband remained up. He had gone
down on his knees, and he remained there for some hours. He had to thank
God for his Charlotte, but even while he thanked a weight was heavy on
his heart. Sin was very terrible to this man, and he feared that a very
grievous sin had been committed. Long, long, into the night he cried to
God for these sinners.



CHAPTER XXX.

SHE COULD NOT POSTPONE HER ENGAGEMENT.


Mr. Harman felt himself growing weaker and weaker. The disease which was
to lay him in his grave was making slow, but steady progress. It was
just possible that, had his mind been at rest, the weakness of body, the
pain of body, the slow decay might have been, not removed, but at least
arrested. Had Mr. Harman been a very happy man, he might have lived,
even with so fatal a malady, for many years. He had lived a life of
almost perfect physical health for over sixty years, and during all that
time he had been able to keep mental pains at bay; but in his present
weakness he found this impossible. His whole nervous system became
affected, and it was apparent even to his daughter's eyes, that he was a
very unhappy man. For her sake, however, he still did wonders. He
dragged himself up to breakfast morning after morning, when he would
have given worlds to remain in bed. He still went every day to his
office in the city, though, when there, he sat in his office chair dull
and unmindful of what was going on. Jasper did the work. Jasper was
here, there, and everywhere; but it had come to such a pass with John
Harman, that he now almost disliked gold. Still, for Charlotte's sake,
he went there. Charlotte on the verge of her marriage must suspect
nothing. In the evenings he sat with his daughter, he looked with
apparent interest at the many presents which came pouring in, he made
her show herself to him in each of the new dresses, and he even went
himself with her to choose her wedding wreath and veil. But all these
things had become such a weariness to the man that, dearly as he loved
this one precious daughter, he began to look forward with almost a sense
of relief to the one week of her absence. During that week he need
disguise nothing, he need not go to the office, he need not put on this
forced cheerfulness. He might stay in bed all day long if he pleased.

That week was near now, for it was the twelfth of April. In another
eight days the wedding morning would dawn.

Charlotte was very busy. What young woman is not busy at such a time?
Friends poured in, presents arrived at all hours. There were dressmakers
and milliners to see and consult, from morning to night. Then Hinton
took up some of his bride-elect's time, and the evening hours were given
to her father. Seeing how much he liked having her all to himself after
dinner each night, Charlotte had begged her lover not to come to see her
at this particular time.

"You will have me for all the rest of my life, John," she would say,
"and I think it does my father good to be quite alone with me. It
reminds him of old times." Then, when Hinton acceded to her request, she
often added, "My father puzzles me. Is it the parting from me makes him
look so ill and sad? I often fear that there is more the matter with him
than he lets appear. I wish he would consult a good doctor."

Hinton dared not tell her that he had consulted the very best. He could
only try to turn her attention, and in this he believed that he
succeeded much better than he really did. For when the night came after
those quiet evenings, Charlotte found that she could not sleep. Was it
excitement at her coming happiness, or was it anxiety?

Anxiety was new to this happy nature--new to this prosperous life. She
shuddered at the grim thing, as it visited her night after night, in the
solitude of her luxurious room. But shut her eyes to it, fight against
it, as she would, it could not be got to depart from her. The fact was,
a dreadful thing had happened to this frank and loving nature, she was
beginning to suspect the father whom she loved. These suspicions had
first come into play on the night when he had fainted in her presence.
Some words he had used that night, some expressions which had fallen
from his lips, had aroused a new and dreadful thought, that thought
would not go to sleep, would not depart. Was it possible that her father
had done something wrong long ago in his life, and that the remembrance
of that wrong--that sin--was what ailed him now? Was it possible that
her uncle Jasper, who always appeared so frank and open, had deceived
her? Was it possible that Hinton knew that she was deceived? These
thoughts did not trouble her much in the daytime, but at night they rose
to agonies. They kept sleep far away: so much so, that in the morning
she often came downstairs heavy-eyed and weary. She blamed herself,
then, for her mean suspicions; she said to herself, as she gave her
father his morning cup of coffee, that no face could be more incapable
of concealing a wrong than that noble old face opposite to her, and she
tried to atone for her feelings by extra tenderness of voice and manner.
But though this revulsion of feeling came with the morning, the night
brought back the same agony. She now disliked even to think of Mrs.
Home, she never spoke of her to John Hinton. He watched for her to do
so, but the name of this young woman which had so intensely interested
her never passed her lips. When Hinton told her that little Harold was
better, and that on a certain day he and his mother would be in Kentish
Town once more, she colored slightly and changed the subject. Hinton
rather wondered at this. Uncle Jasper also remarked it. It was now a
week to the wedding-day, and Charlotte was nerving herself for an
effort. She had firmly resolved that before she really gave herself to
Hinton, she would read her grandfather's will. She felt that nothing
else would completely set her mind at rest. She dreaded doing this as
much as she longed for it. Each day as it dawned she had put off the
task, but when the day just a week before her wedding came, she felt
that she must overcome what she called a weakness. She would learn the
worst that very day. She had little or no idea how to carry out her
design. She only knew that the will was kept at Somerset House, that if
she went there and allowed herself to go through certain forms she
should see it. She had never seen a will in her life, she scarcely knew
even what it would look like. Nevertheless, she could consult no one.
She must just go to the place and trust to circumstances to do the rest.

On the thirteenth of April she resolved, as she put on her dress and
hurried down to meet her father at breakfast, that before that night
came she would carry out her design. Her father seemed better that
morning. The day was a specially lovely one, and Charlotte said to
herself that, before that time to-morrow, her heart would be at rest;
she would not even allow herself to glance at a darker alternative.
Indeed, happy in having at last firmly made up her mind; she became
suddenly scarcely at all fearful, scarcely anything but completely
hopeful. She resolved that nothing should turn her from her purpose
to-day.

Her father kissed her, told her he felt certainly better, and went off
to the city.

Immediately after, her uncle Jasper came in.

"Lottie, child! I can take you to the private view of Mrs. ----'s
pictures; I have just got an invitation. You know how wild you are to
see them. Be ready at two o'clock. I will call for you then."

"I am very sorry, but I cannot go with you this afternoon, Uncle
Jasper."

"Oh! You have made an engagement with Hinton. Can't you put it off? This
is the last day for the pictures. You can go with Hinton to-morrow."

"It is not an engagement with John, Uncle Jasper. It is something else,
and I cannot put it off."

All the time a rather loud voice within was saying to her, "Go and see
the pictures. Put off the reading of the will. Be happy for one more
day." But because this voice, which became so loud, frightened her, she
would not yield to it.

"I am very sorry," she repeated; "I should have liked it greatly. But I
cannot go."

"Well! it is a pity, and I took some trouble about it. However, it can't
be helped."

"No, it can't be helped," repeated Charlotte.

Uncle Jasper went, feeling some annoyance, and also a little curiosity.

"Strange cattle--women," he said to himself. "I confess I don't
understand 'em. Charlotte, wild to get to that private view two days
ago, now won't go because of a whim. Well! I'm glad I never took a wife.
I rather pity Hinton. I would not be tied even to that fine creature,
Lottie, forever."

Jasper Harman had scarcely turned the corner of the street, before a cab
drew up at the house, and Hinton came in. Charlotte had not yet left the
breakfast-room.

"Ah! my dearest, I am afraid you might be out I must hurry away at once;
but I just called to say that I have had a telegram from Webster. You
know how I have longed for you two to meet. Well, he is coming to town
to-day, and I want to bring him here at three o'clock. You will be sure
to be at home."

"I am afraid I can't, John; I have an engagement."

"Oh! but you must put it off, you really _must_ see Webster. He is my
greatest friend, and is to be my best man. You really must, Lottie! and
he telegraphs that he is coming up from Oxford on purpose."

"I am ever so sorry. Could not you telegraph to him to put off his visit
until to-morrow?"

"No, my dear; he has started before this."

"I am very sorry; I am unfortunate," repeated Charlotte. A certain
degree of obstinacy, altogether foreign to her nature, had crept into
her voice.

Hinton looked at her in undisguised astonishment.

"You don't mean to say that you are not going to see Webster, when he is
coming up to town on purpose?"

"John, dear, I will see him at five o'clock, I shall be home then. But I
have an engagement at three."

"I cannot bring Webster here at five, he must be on his way back then.
You must put off your engagement."

"I really cannot. Uncle Jasper has just been here, and he asked me to go
with him to see the private views at Mrs. ----'s studio. He took some
trouble to get the invitation for us both, but I could not go with him,
nor can I stay in. Mr. Webster must wait to make my acquaintance on our
wedding-day, John."

"And I am to tell him that?"

"Say everything as nice and polite as you can. Say that I am most truly
sorry."

Hinton turned his back on his promised bride; there was a cloud on his
brow, he felt both hurt and angry.

"Lottie! what is your engagement?" This was said while pretending to
look down the street.

Charlotte came close and put her hand a little timidly on his shoulder.
"I know you will be vexed," she said "but I cannot tell you."

Hinton held up his hand to a passing hansom.

"Yes, I am vexed," he said, "but I cannot wait any longer now. You know
I hate secrets, and I think you might have obliged me, Charlotte."

"I wish I could," she said, and now her eyes filled with tears.

Hinton scarcely kissed her before he rushed away, and Charlotte sank
down on the nearest chair. The unaccountable feeling which had prompted
her to refuse both her uncle and her lover, and to fix just that hour of
three o'clock to visit Somerset House, was too strange and strong to be
overcome. But the hope which had brightened her breakfast hour had now
all departed. Her heart felt like lead within her breast, she dared not
fully contemplate the realization of her worst fears. But they thronged
like legion round her path.



CHAPTER XXXI.

WHERE HAD THE MONEY CARES VANISHED TO?


Hinton felt thoroughly angry; perhaps he had some cause. Webster, his
college chum, his greatest friend, was coming up to town. He had heard
many times and often of Hinton's promised bride, and he was coming to
town, Hinton knew well at some personal inconvenience, to see her, and
she refused to see him.

Hinton, as well as Uncle Jasper, considered it a whim of Charlotte's. He
was surprised. Nay, he was more than surprised. He was really angry.
Here was the woman, who in a week's time now must stand up before God
and promise solemnly to obey him for all the remainder of her life,
refusing to attend to his most natural desire. She had an engagement,
and she would not tell him what it was; she made a secret of it. Be the
secret little or great, she knew how he disliked all such concealments.

Was it possible that he was deceived in Charlotte after all? No, no, he
was too really loyal to her, too sincerely attached to her: her
frankness and sweetness were too natural, too complete, for him really
to doubt her; but he owned that he was disappointed--he owned that he
had not the greatness which she under similar circumstances would have
exercised. She was keeping him in the dark--in the dark he could not
trust. He recalled, with feelings of anything but pleasure, her last
secret. She thought little of it. But Hinton knew how differently he had
received it; he did not like to be reminded of it now. During the last
few weeks he had managed almost completely to banish it from his
thoughts; but now it came back to his memory with some force; it
reminded him of Mrs. Home. Was it possible that he was acting wrongly
in not searching into her rights? Was it possible that things had
already come to such a pass with him, that he would not do the right
because he feared the consequences? Had riches and wealth and worldly
honor already become dearer to his soul than righteousness and judgment
and truth?

These condemnatory thoughts were very painful to the young man; but they
turned his feelings of indignation from Charlotte to himself.

It was nearly a month now since he had left Mrs. Home. When he went away
he had provided her with another lodger. He remembered that by this time
she must have come back from Torquay. As this thought came to him he
stopped suddenly and pulled out his watch. Webster would not be at
Paddington before two o'clock. He had nothing very special to do that
morning, he would jump into a hansom and go and see Mrs. Home and
Harold. He put his ideas into execution without an instant's delay, and
arrived at Kentish Town and drew up at the well-known door at quite an
early hour. Daisy and the baby were already out, but Harold, still
something of an invalid, stood by the dining-room window. Harold, a
little weary from his journey, a little spoiled by his happy month at
Torquay was experiencing some of that flatness, which must now and then
visit even a little child when he finds he must descend from a pedestal.
For a very long time he had been first in every one's thoughts. He had
now to retire from the privileges of an invalid to the everyday
position, the everyday life of a healthy child. While at Torquay his
mother had no thought for any one but him; but now, this very morning,
she had clasped the baby in such an ecstasy of love to her heart, that
little spoiled Harold felt quite a pang of jealousy. It was with a shout
therefore of almost ecstasy that he hailed Hinton. He flew to open the
door for him himself, and when he entered the dining-room he instantly
climbed on his knee. Hinton was really fond of the boy, and Harold
reflected with satisfaction that he was altogether his own friend, that
he scarcely knew either Daisy or the baby.

In a moment entered the happy, smiling mother.

"Ah! you have come to see your good work completed," she said. "See what
a healthy little boy I have brought back with me."

"We had just a delicious time," said Harold, "and I'm very strong again
now, ain't I, mother? But it wasn't Mr. Hinton gave us the money to go
to Torquay, it was my pretty lady."

"Do you know," said Mrs. Home, "I think you were scarcely, for all your
great, great, and real kindness, scarcely perfect even in that respect.
I never knew until a few days ago, and then it was in a letter from
herself, that you are so soon to marry Charlotte Harman."

"Yes, we are to be married on the twentieth," answered Hinton, "Has she
written to you? I am glad."

"I had one letter from her. She wrote to ask about my boy, and to tell
me this of you."

"She takes a great interest in you," said Hinton.

"And I in her. I believe I can read character fairly well, and in her I
see----"

"What?" asked the lover, with a smile.

"In brow, eyes, and lips I see truth, honor, love, bravery. Mr. Hinton,
you deserve it all, but, nevertheless, you are drawing a great prize in
your wife."

"I believe I am," answered the young man, deeply moved.

"When _can_ I see my pretty lady again?" asked Harold, suddenly. "If you
are going to marry her, do you mean to take her quite, quite away? When
may I see her?"

"Before very long, I hope, my dear boy," answered Hinton.

"He has talked of her so often," said the mother. "I never saw any one
who in so short a time so completely won the heart of a little child; I
believe the thought of her helped to make him well. Ah! how thankful I
am when I look at him; but Mr. Hinton, there is another thing which
gives me great joy just now."

"And that?" said Hinton.

"Last night something very wonderful happened. I was at home not two
hours, when I was surprised by a visit from one whom I had never seen
before and whom I had supposed to be in his grave for over twenty years.
My dear mother had one brother who went to Australia shortly after her
marriage. From Australia the news reached her of his death. He was not
dead; he came back again. I had a visit from that uncle last night."

"How strange!" said Hinton.

"Yes; I have not heard his story yet. He met my little Daisy in Regent's
Park, and found out who she was through her likeness to my mother. Is it
not all like a romance? I had not an idea who the dear old man was when
he came to visit me last night; but how glad I am now to feel that my
own mother's brother is still alive!"

Hinton asked a few more questions; then after many promises of effecting
a meeting very soon between Charlotte and little Harold he went away. He
was puzzled by Mrs. Home. The anxious woman he had thought of, whose sad
face often haunted him, was gone, and another peaceful, happy, almost
beautiful in her serenity, had come in her place. Her joy at Harold's
recovery was both natural and right; but where had the money cares
vanished to? Surely Charlotte's fifty pounds could not have done more
than pay the Torquay trip. As to her delight over her Australian uncle's
return, he rather wondered at it, and then forgot it. He little guessed,
as he allowed it to vanish from his mind, how it was yet to influence
the fate of more lives than his.



CHAPTER XXXII.

JASPER'S TERROR.


Uncle Jasper, too, left Charlotte on that special morning with some
displeasure, some surprise, and some anxiety. Remorse, as I have said,
did not visit the man. Long ago, a very long time ago now, he and his
brother John had touched an evil thing. For both men the natural
consequences followed; but how differently? John wanted to fling the
base defilement from his soul; Jasper wanted so to bury it there, so
deftly, so cleverly to hide it within his very heart of hearts, that it
should not appear to dishonor him in the eyes of his fellow-men. Of the
final judgment and its disclosure he never thought. It was his inability
to cover up the secret; it was his ever-growing knowledge that the
garment was neither long enough nor broad enough to wrap it round, that
caused his anxiety from day to day. In spite of his cheerful and ruddy
face he was feeling quite worn and old. If this continues, if these
people will insist on pulling the house down over their heads, I shall
fall ill like John, he reflected. He was very angry with these stupid
and silly people, who were bringing such shame and dishonor on
themselves. He often found himself wishing that his niece Charlotte had
not been the fine and open character she was. Had Charlotte been
different he might have ventured to confide in her. He felt that with
Charlotte on his side all might yet be well. This, however, was
absolutely impossible. To tell Charlotte would be to tell the world. Bad
as her father was in keeping this ugly secret quiet, Charlotte would be
ten times, twenty times, worse. What an unfortunate thing it was that
Charlotte had put that advertisement in the papers, and that Mrs. Home
had answered it! Mrs. Home of all people! Well, well, it came of that
dreadful meddling of women in literature. _He_, Jasper, had known no
peace since the day that Charlotte had wished for an amanuensis to help
her with her silly book.

Jasper on this particular morning, as he hurried off from the Harman
house, felt less and less comfortable. He was sure, by Charlotte's
manner, that her engagement was something very particular. He feared she
was going to meet Mrs. Home. He came, with all his surmises, very far
short of the real truth, but he was in that state of mind when the
guilty fly, with no man pursuing. It had been an awful moment for old
Jasper Harman when, a week ago, he had suddenly knocked up against that
solitary, foreign-looking man. He had heard his voice and seen his face,
and he had felt his own heart standing still. Who _was_ this man? Was he
a ghost? the ghost of the long-dead trustee? Jasper began to hope that
it was but an accidental likeness in voice and manner. For was not this
man, this Alexander Wilson, named in his father's will, dead and buried
for many a day? Had not he, Jasper, not, indeed, seen him die, but had
he not stood on his grave? Had not he travelled up some hundreds of
miles in that wild Australian country for the sole purpose of standing
on that special grave? And had not he read name and age, and date of
death, all fully corroborating the story which had been sent to him?
Yes, Jasper hoped that it was but a very remarkable likeness--a ghost of
the real man. How, indeed, could it be anything but a ghost when he had
stood upon the man's very grave? He hoped this. He had brought himself
almost to believe it; but for all that, fear and uneasiness were
becoming more and more his portion, and he did not like to dwell even in
thought upon that night's adventures. He walked on fast. He disliked
cabs, and never took them. One of his great secrets of health was
exercise, and plenty of it; but he was rather in a hurry; he had an
appointment in town for a comparatively early hour, and he wanted to
call at his club for letters. He reached his destination, entered the
building, and found a little pile awaiting him. He turned slowly into
the reading-room to read them. One after the other he tore them open.
They were not very interesting, and a rapid glance of his quick, deep
eye was sufficient to enable him to master the contents. In ten minutes
he had but one letter left to read, and that was in a strange
handwriting. "Another begging epistle," he said to himself. He felt
inclined to tear it up without going to the trouble of opening it. He
had very nearly slipped it into his pocket, to take its chance at some
future time, for he remembered that he was already late. Finally he did
neither; he opened the letter and read it where he sat. This was what
his eyes rested on--

     10, TREMINS ROAD, KENTISH TOWN.
     SIR:--

     According to your wish I write to you at your club. My wife
     returned from Torquay last night, and I told her of your visit and
     your proposal. She desires me to say, and this I do, both from her
     and myself, that she will not accept your offer, for reasons which
     we neither of us care to explain. We do not wish for the three
     thousand pounds you are willing to settle on my wife.

     I remain, sir,
     Yours faithfully,
     ANGUS HOME.

     _To_ JASPER HARMAN, ESQ.

This letter fell from the hands of Jasper. His lips came a little apart,
and a new look of terror came into his eyes. So absorbed was he, so
thoroughly frightened by this letter, that he forgot where he was. He
neither saw the looks of surprise, nor heard the words of astonishment
made by those about him. Finally he gathered up envelope and paper and
hurried out. As he walked down the street he looked by no means so young
as he had done when he got up that morning. His hat was put on crooked,
his very gait was uncertain. Jasper had got a shock. Being utterly
unable to read the minds of the people who had written to him, he could
but imagine one meaning to their words. They were not so unworldly as he
had hoped. They saw through his bribe; they would not accept it,
because--because--_they knew better_. Mrs. Home had read that will. Mrs.
Home meant to prosecute. Yes, yes, it was all as plain as that the sun
was shining overhead. Mrs. Home meant to go to law. Exposure, and
disgrace, and punishment were all close at hand. There was no doubt of
it, no doubt whatever now. Those were the reasons which neither Mr. nor
Mrs. Home cared to explain. Turning a corner he came suddenly full tilt
against Hinton. The young man turned and walked down the street with
him.

"You are on your way to Charlotte?" remarked the old man.

"No: I have been to her already. She has an engagement this afternoon.
Did she not tell you? She said you wanted her to go somewhere with you,
and this same engagement prevented it. No, I am not going to Prince's
Gate, but I am off to Paddington in about an hour to meet a friend."

Hinton spoke cheerfully, for his passing annoyance with Charlotte had
absolutely vanished under Mrs. Home's words of loving praise. When Mrs.
Home spoke as she had done of his brave and noble Charlotte the young
man had felt quite ashamed of having doubted her even for a brief
moment.

Jasper had, however, been told of little Harold's illness, and Hinton,
knowing this, continued,--

"I have just come from the Homes. You know whom I mean? Their little boy
was the one I helped to nurse through scarlet fever. Mother and boy have
come back from Torquay like different creatures from the pleasant
change. Mrs. Home looked absolutely bright. Charlotte will like to hear
of her; and by the way, a curious thing, a little bit of a romance has
happened to her. An uncle from Australia, whom she had supposed to be
dead and in his grave for over twenty years, walked in alive and hale
last night. She did not know him at first, but he managed to prove his
identity. He----good heavens! Mr. Harman, what is the matter? You are
ill; come in here."

Hinton led Jasper into a chemist's shop, which they happened to be
passing at the moment, for his ruddy face had suddenly become ghastly
white, and he had to clutch the young man's arm to keep himself from
falling.

"It is nothing," he explained, when he had been given a restorative.
"Yes, I felt faint. I hope I am not going to be taken bad like my
brother. What do you say? a hansom? Well, yes, perhaps I had better have
one."

Jasper was bowled rapidly out of sight and Hinton walked on. No dust had
been thrown in his eyes as to the cause of Jasper's agitation. He had
observed the start of almost terror with which he had turned on him when
he had first mentioned the long-lost Australian uncle of Mrs. Home's. He
had often seen how uneasy he was, however cleverly he tried to hide it,
when the Homes were mentioned. What did it all mean? Hinton felt very
uncomfortable. Much as he loved Charlotte, it was not nice to marry into
a family who kept concealed an ugly secret. Hinton was more and more
convinced that there was a secret, and that this uncle who was supposed
to be dead was in some way connected with it. Hinton was too acute, too
clever, to put down Jasper's agitation to any other cause. Instantly he
began to see a reason for Mrs. Home's joy in the recovery of this
long-lost relation. It was a reason unworthy of her, unworthy and
untrue; but nevertheless it took possession of the mind of this young
man. The uncle ceased to be an object of little interest to him. He
walked on, feeling downcast and perplexed. This day week would be his
wedding-day, and Charlotte--Charlotte, beautiful and noble, nothing
should part them. But what was this secret? Could he, dare he, fathom
it? No, because of Charlotte he must not--it would break Charlotte's
heart; because of Charlotte's father he must not, for it would cause his
death; and yet, because of Jasper, he longed to, for he owned to himself
that he disliked Jasper more and more.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE READING OF THE WILL.


Charlotte's depression did not remain with her all through the day. She
was a healthy creature, healthy both in body and mind. It was impossible
for her, with the bright spring sun shining, and with her wedding-day
but one week absent, not to turn again to hope. She saw that she had
vexed Hinton. She still felt that queer and uncomfortable desire to be
at Somerset House, just at the very hour when her lover had pleaded for
her society. But she reflected that when she told him the story, when
she proudly cleared her father in his eyes, he would most abundantly
forgive her.

"He hates secrets," she said to herself; "and it is the last, the very
last, little, tiny secret I shall ever have from my darling."

By this it will be seen that she had ceased to fear her grandfather's
will. She had ordered the carriage immediately after lunch, and now
asked the coachman to drive to the Strand. As she lay back at her ease
she reflected how soon now her anxiety would be over.

"Dear father," she whispered to her heart, "how extra loving and tender
I must be to him to-night! I believe him now--fully and absolutely
believe him now. I am only doing this for John's sake."

When she reached the Strand she desired the coachman to stop. She would
not have him drive to Somerset House. Her secret was a secret, even the
old coachman, who had known her from her birth, must not guess it. She
told him that she had some business to transact, but that he might meet
her at a certain part of the Embankment in an hour.

The carriage rolled out of sight. Now she was alone. She was not
accustomed to walking the London streets by herself. Certainly she had
never been in the Strand before alone. She had dressed herself with
studied plainness, and now, with her veil drawn tightly over her face,
she hurried on. She had consulted the map, and knew exactly where
Somerset House was. She also had obtained a little, a very little
information as to how she was to act for the pursuit of her purpose,
from a young barrister who had visited at her home with Hinton some few
weeks before. She considered that she had gained her knowledge with
considerable skill; and now, with a beating heart, she proceeded to act
on it. She turned into the great square which Somerset House encloses,
found the particular building where wills are kept, and entered. She was
now in a large room, or entrance-hall. There were many desks about, and
some clerks, who did not seem particularly busy. Charlotte went up to
one of the desks, a clerk lent an attentive ear, she told her errand.

"Ah! you want to read a will," said the gentleman. "You must first
produce the proper stamp. Yes, yes, you can certainly see any will you
desire. Just go through that door to your right, walk down the passage;
you will see a door with such a direction written on it; ask for a
search stamp. It will cost you a shilling. Bring it back to me."

Charlotte did as she was desired. The clerk she had appealed to,
attracted by her appearance and manner, was willing to be both helpful
and polite.

"Whose will do you want, madam?"

"I want my grandfather's will. His name was Harman."

"What year did he die?"

"Twenty-three years ago."

"Ah! just so. This is 1880. So he died in the year 1857. Do you see
those catalogues to your left? Go up to those marked 1857. Look under
letter H, until you find Harman. Bring the book open at that name to
me."

Charlotte was clever at carrying out her instructions. She quickly
returned with the book opened at the desired name. The clerk wrote Mr.
Harman's name and a number of a folio on a small piece of blue paper.
This he gave to Charlotte.

"Take this piece of paper to room number 31, along the passage," he
said. "You will have the will very soon now."

She bowed, thanked him, and went away. At room 31 she was desired to
wait in the reading-room. She found it without difficulty. It was a
small room, with a long table in the middle, and benches round it. At
one end sat a clerk at a desk. Charlotte seated herself at the table.
There were other people about, some reading wills, some others waiting
like herself. She happened just then to be the only woman in the room.
She drew up her veil, pressed her hand to her pale face, and waited with
what patience she could. She was too much excited to notice how she was
looked at and her appearance commented upon. Sitting there and waiting
with what courage she could muster, her fear returned. What stealthy
thing was this she was doing in the dark? What march was she stealing on
her father, her beloved and honored father? Suddenly it appeared to her
that she had done wrong. That it would be better, more dignified, more
noble, to ask from his own lips the simple truth, than to learn it by
such underhand means as these. She half rose to go away; but at this
moment a clerk entered, gave a piece of folded paper to the man at the
desk, who read aloud the one word,--

"Harman."

Charlotte felt herself turning deadly white as she stood up to receive
it. But when she really held her grandfather's will in her hand all
desire not to read it had left her. She opened the folio with her
shaking fingers, and began to read as steadily as she could. Her eyes
had scarcely, however, turned over the page, and most certainly her mind
had failed to grasp the meaning of a single word, before, for some
unaccountable reason, she raised her head. A large man had come in and
had seated himself opposite to her. He was a man on an immense scale,
with a rough, red, kind face, and the longest, most brilliantly colored
beard Charlotte had ever seen. His round, bright blue eyes were fixed
earnestly on the young lady. She returned his glance, in her own
peculiar full and open way, then returned to her interrupted task. Ah!
what a task it was after all. Hard to understand, how difficult to
follow! Charlotte, unused to all law phraseology, failed to grasp the
meaning of what she read. She knit her pretty brows, and went over each
passage many times. She was looking for certain names, and she saw no
mention of them. Her heart began to leap with renewed joy and hope. Ah!
surely, surely her grandfather had been unjust, and her own beloved
father was innocent. Mrs. Home's story was but a myth. She had read for
such a long, long time, and there was no mention of her or of her
mother. Surely if her grandfather meant to leave them money he would
have spoken of it before now. She had just turned another page, and was
reading on with a light heart, when the clerk again entered. Charlotte
raised her head, she could not tell why. The clerk said something to the
clerk at the desk, who, turning to the tall foreign-looking man said,--

"The will of the name of Harman is being read just now by some one in
the room."

"I will wait then," answered the man in his deep voice.

Charlotte felt herself turning first crimson, then pale. She saw that
the man observed her. A sudden sense of fright and of almost terror
oppressed her. Her sweet and gracious calm completely deserted her. Her
fingers trembled so that she could scarcely turn the page. She did not
know what she feared. A nightmare seemed pressing on her. She felt that
she could never grasp the meaning of the will. Her eyes travelled
farther down the page. Suddenly her finger stopped; her brain grew
clear, her heart beat steadily. This was what she read,--

     "I will and bequeath all the residue of my real and personal
     estate and effects to the said John Harman, Jasper Harman, and
     Alexander Wilson, in trust to sell and realize the same, and out of
     the proceeds thereof to invest such a sum in public stocks or
     funds, or other authorized securities, as will produce an annual
     income of £1,200 a year, and to hold the investment of the said sum
     in trust to pay the income thereof to my dear wife for her life:
     and after her decease to hold the said investment in trust for my
     daughter Charlotte to her sole and separate use, independently of
     any husband with whom she may intermarry."

Charlotte Harman was not the kind of woman who faints. But there is a
heart faintness when the muscles remain unmoved, and the eyes are still
bright. At that moment her youth died absolutely. But though she felt
its death pang, not a movement of her proud face betrayed her. She saw,
without looking at him, that the red-faced man was watching her. She
forced herself to raise her eyes, and saying simply, "This is Mr.
Harman's will," handed it to him across the table. He took it, and began
to devour the contents with quick and practised eyes. What she had taken
so long to discover he took it in at a glance. She heard him utter a a
smothered exclamation of pain and horror. She felt not the least
amazement or curiosity. All emotion seemed dead in her. She drew on her
gloves deliberately, pulled down her veil, and left the room. That dead,
dead youth she was dragging away with her had made her feel so cold and
numb that she never noticed that the red faced man had hastily folded up
the will, had returned it to the clerk at the desk, and was following
her. She went through the entrance hall, glancing neither to the left or
right. The man came near. When they both got into the square he came to
her side, raised his hat and spoke.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

TRUSTEES.


"Madam," said the stranger, "you will pardon my intruding on you, but I
saw it in your face. You are interested in that will you have just
read."

"Yes," answered Charlotte simply.

At another time she would have given an indignant retort to what she
would have considered a liberty. Now she turned her eyes with a mute
appeal in them to this stranger, for she recognized kindness in his
tones.

"It was my grandfather's will," she said, responding yet farther to the
full, kind gaze he gave her back.

"Ah! then that sets me right," said Sandy Wilson, for it was he. "That
sets me right, young lady. Now I saw you got a considerable bit of a
shock just then. You ain't, you'll forgive me for saying so, but you
ain't quite fit to meet any of your people for a bit; you may want them
not to guess, but any one with half an eye can see you're not the young
lady you were even when I entered that reading-room not half an hour
back. I'm a rough, plain man, but I'm very much interested in that will
too, and I'd like to have a little bit of a talk with you about it, if
you'll allow me. Suppose, miss, that you and I just take a turn round
the square for a few moments."

Charlotte's answer to this was to turn her face again towards the
particular building where she had read the will, and her companion,
turning with her, began to talk eagerly.

"You see, miss, it was quite a little bit of luck brought you and me
together to-day. The gentleman who made that will was your grandfather;
your name is----"

"Harman," answered Charlotte.

"Ah! yes, I see; and I--I am Alexander Wilson. I don't suppose you ever
saw me before; but I, too, am much interested in that will. I have been
abroad, and--and--supposed to be dead almost ever since that will was
made. But I was not dead, I was in Australia; I came home a week ago,
and found out my one living relation, my niece, my sister's child. She
is married and is a Mrs. Home now, but she is the Charlotte named in Mr.
Harman's will, the Charlotte to whom, and to her mother before her, Mr.
Harman left £1,200 a year."

"Yes," said Charlotte Harman. She found difficulty in dragging this one
word from her lips.

"Madam, I find my niece very poor; very, very poor. I go and look at her
father's will. I see there that she is entitled to wealth, to what she
would consider riches. I find also that this money is left for her
benefit in the hands of trustees; two of the trustees are called Harman,
the other, madam, is--is I--myself; I--Alexander Wilson, am the other
trustee, supposed to be dead. I could not hitherto act, but I can act
now. I can get that wronged woman back her own. Yes, a monstrous piece
of injustice has been done. It was full time for Sandy Wilson to come
home. Now the first thing I must do is to find the other trustees; I
must find the Harmans, wherever they are, for these Harmans have robbed
my niece."

"I can give you their addresses," answered Charlotte, suddenly pausing
in her walk and turning and facing her companion. "John Harman, the
other trustee, who, as you say, has robbed Mrs. Home, is my father. I am
his only child. His address is Prince's Gate, Kensington."

"Good heavens!" said Wilson, shocked and frightened by her manner; "I
never guessed that you were his child--and yet you betray him."

"I am his only child. When do you wish to see him?"

To this question Wilson made no answer for a few moments. Though a just
man, he was a kind one. He could read human nature with tolerable
accuracy. It was despair, not want of feeling, which put those hard
tones into that young voice. He would not, he could not, take advantage
of its bewilderment.

"Miss Harman," he said after a pause, "you will pardon me, but I don't
think you quite know what you are saying; you have got a considerable
bit of a shock; you were not prepared for this baseness--this baseness
on your father's part."

Here her eyes, turned with a sudden swift flash of agony upon him, said
as plainly as eyes could speak--

"Need you ask?"

"No, you could not have guessed it," continued Sandy, replying to this
mute, though beautiful appeal, almost with tears. "You are Mr. Harman's
only child. Now I daresay you are a good bit of an idol with him. I know
how I'd worship a fine lassie like you if I had her. Well, well, miss: I
don't want to pain you, but when young things come all on a heap on a
great wrong like you have done to-day, they're apt, whatever their
former love, to be a bit, just a bit, too hard. They do things, in their
first agony, that they are sorry enough for by and by. Now, miss, what I
want to say is this, that I won't take down your father's address to-day
nor listen indeed to anything you may tell me about him. I want you to
sleep it over, miss. Of course something must be done, but if you will
sleep it over, and I, Sandy Wilson sleep it over too, we'll come
together over the business with our heads a deal clearer than we could
when we both felt scared, so to speak, as we doubtless do just at
present. I won't move hand or foot in the matter until I see you again,
Miss Harman, When do you think you will be able to see me again?"

"Will this hour to-morrow do?"

"Yes; I shall be quite at your service. And as we may want to look at
that will again, suppose we meet just here, miss?"

"I will be here at this hour to-morrow," said Charlotte, and as she
spoke she pulled out her watch to mark the exact time. "It is a quarter
past four now," she said; "I will meet you here at this hour to-morrow,
at a quarter past four."

"Very well, young lady, and may God help you! If I might express a wish
for you, it is that you may have a good hard cry between now and then.
When I was told, and quite sudden like too, that my little sister, Daisy
Wilson, was dead nothing took off the pressure from my heart and brain
like a good hearty cry. So I wish you the same. They say women need it
more than men."



CHAPTER XXXV.

DAN'S WIFE


Charlotte watched Wilson out of the square, then she slowly followed
him. The numbness of that dead youth was still oppressing her heart and
brain. But she remembered that the carriage must be waiting for her on
the Embankment, also that her father--she gasped a little as the thought
of her father came to her--that her father would have returned from the
city; that he might ask for her, and would wonder and grow uneasy at her
absence. She must go home, that was her first thought. She hurried her
steps, anxious to take the first turning which would lead to the
Embankment.

She had turned down a side street and was walking rapidly, when she
heard her name called suddenly and eagerly, and a woman, very shabbily
dressed, came up to her.

"Oh, Miss Harman--Miss Harman--don't you know me?"

Charlotte put her hand to her brow.

"Yes," she said, "I know you now; you are Hester Wright. Is your husband
out of prison yet?"

"He is, Miss, and he's dying; he's dying 'ard, 'ard; he's allers saying
as he wants to see either you or his master. We are told that the master
is ill; but oh! miss, miss, ef you would come and see him, he's dreadful
anxious--dreadful, dreadful anxious. I think it's jest some'ut on his
mind; ef he could tell it, I believe as he'd die easy. Oh! my beautiful,
dear young lady, every one has a good word for you. Oh! I was going to
make bold to come to Prince's Gate, and ask you to come to see him.
You'll never be sorry, miss, if you can help a poor soul to die easy."

"You say he is really dying?" said Charlotte.

"Yes, indeed, indeed, miss; he never held up his head since he saw the
inside of the prison. He's dying now of a galloping waste, so the
doctors say. Oh! Miss Harman, I'll bless you for ever if you'll come and
see him."

"Yes, I will come," said Charlotte. "Where do you live?"

"Away over at Poplar, miss. Poor place enough, and unfit for one like
you, but I'll come and fetch you my own self, and not a pin's worth of
harm shall come to you; you need have no cause to fear. When shall I
come for you, my dear, dear young lady?"

"The man is dying, you say," said Charlotte. "Death doesn't wait for our
convenience; I will come with you now. My carriage is waiting quite
near, I must go and give directions to the coachman: you can come with
me: I will then get a cab and drive to see your husband."

After this the two women--the rich and the poor--walked on side by side,
quickly and in silence. The heart of the one was dry and parched with
the sudden fire of that anguish and shame, the heart of the other was so
soothed, so thankful, that soft tears came, to be wiped stealthily away.

"Ain't she an angel?" she said to herself, knowing nothing, guessing
less, of the storm which raged within her companion's soul; "and won't
my poor Dan die easy now?"



CHAPTER XXXVI.

AN OLD WEDDING-RING.


Once in Charlotte's life before now, she had remembered her father doing
what she considered a strangely hard thing. A valet in whom he had
always reposed full confidence had robbed him of one hundred pounds. He
had broken open his master's desk at night and taken from thence notes
to that amount. The deed had been clumsily done, and detection was very
easy. The name of this valet was Wright. He was young and good-looking,
and had been lately married; hitherto he had been considered all that
was respectable. When his crime was brought home to him, he flew to seek
Charlotte, then a very young girl; he flung himself on his knees in her
presence, and begged of her to ask her father to show mercy to him.
Scarcely half a dozen words of passionate, terrified entreaty had passed
his trembling lips, before there came a tap at the door and the young
wife rushed in to kneel by his side. Together they implored; their words
were poor and halting, but the agony of their great plea for mercy went
straight to the young generous heart they asked to intercede for them.
Charlotte promised to do what she could. She promised eagerly, with hope
in her tones.

Never afterwards did she forget that day. Long indeed did the faces of
those two continue to haunt her, for she had promised in vain; her
father was obdurate to all her entreaties; even her tears, and she had
cried passionately, had failed to move him. Nothing should save Wright
from the full penalty of his crime. He was arrested, convicted, and sent
to prison.

From that moment the Harmans lost sight of the couple. Charlotte had
tried, it is true, to befriend Hester Wright, but the young woman with
some pride had refused all assistance from those whom she considered
strangely hard and cruel. It was some years now since anything had been
heard of either of them. Charlotte, it is true, had not forgotten them,
but she had put them into a back part of her memory, for her father's
conduct with regard to Wright had always been a sore puzzle to her. And
now, on this day of all days, she was driving in a cab by the side of
Hester Wright to see her dying husband. She had sent a message home by
the coachman which would allay all immediate anxiety on her account, and
she sat back in the cab by the side of the poor and sad woman with a
sense of almost relief, for the present. For an hour or two she had
something outside of herself and her home to turn her thoughts to. After
what seemed a very long drive, they reached the shabby court and
shabbier house where the Wrights lived.

Charlotte had heard of such places before, but had never visited them.
Shabby women, and dirty and squalid children surrounded the young lady
as she descended to the pavement. The children came very close indeed,
and some even stroked her dress. One mite of three years raised, in the
midst of its dirt and neglect, a face of such sweetness and innocence,
that Charlotte suddenly stooped down and kissed it. That kiss, though it
left a grimy mark on her lips, yet gave the first faint touch of
consolation to her sorely bruised heart. There was something good still
left on God's earth, and she had come to this slum, in the East end of
London, to see it shine in a baby's eyes.

"Ef you please, Miss, I think we had better keep the cab," said Hester
Wright; "I don't think there's any cabstand, not a long way from yere."

Charlotte spoke to the cabby, desired him to wait, then she followed
Hester into the house.

"No, I have no children," said the woman in answer to a question of the
young lady's; "thank God fur that; who'd want to have young 'uns in a
hole like this?"

By this time they had reached their destination. It was a cellar; Hester
was not so very far wrong in calling it a hole. It was damp, dirty, and
ill-smelling, even to the woman who was accustomed to it; to Charlotte
it was horrible beyond words. For a time, the light was so faint she
could distinguish nothing, then on some straw in a corner she saw a man.
He was shrunken, and wasted, and dying, and Charlotte, prepared as she
was for a great change, could never have recognized him. His wife,
taking Charlotte's hand in hers, led her forward at once.

"You'd never ha' guessed, Dan, as I'd have so much luck," she said. "I
met our young lady in the street, and I made bold to 'ax her and come
and see you, and she come off at once. This is our Miss Harman, Dan
dear."

"Our Miss Harman," repeated the dying man, raising his dim eyes. "She's
changed a goodish bit."

"Don't call me yours," said Charlotte. "I never did anything for you."

"Ay, but you tried," said the wife. "Dan and me don't furget as we heerd
you cryin' fit to break yer heart outside the study door, and him
within, wid a heart as hard as a nether mill-stone, would do nought. No,
you did yer werry best; Dan and me, we don't furget."

"No, I don't furget," said the man. "It wor a pity as the old man were
so werry 'ard. I wor young and I did it rare and clumsy; it wor to pay a
debt, a big, big debt. I 'ad put my 'and to a bit of paper widhout
knowing wot it meant, and I wor made to pay for it, and the notes they
seemed real 'andy. Well, well, I did it badly, I ha' larnt the right way
since from some prison pals. I would not be found out so easy now."

He spoke in an indifferent, drawling kind of voice, which expressed no
emotion whatever.

"You are very ill, I fear," said Charlotte, kneeling by his side.

"Ill! I'm dying, miss dear."

Charlotte had never seen death before. She noticed now the queer shade
of grey in the complexion, the short and labored breath. She felt
puzzled by these signs, for though she had never seen death, this
grayness, this shortness of breath, were scarcely unfamiliar.

"I'm dying," continued the man. "I don't much care; weren't it fur Hetty
there, I'd be rayther glad. I never 'ad a chance since the old master
sent me to prison. I'd ha' lived respectable enough ef the old master
'ad bin merciful that time. But once in prison, always in prison fur a
friendless chap like me. I never wanted to steal agen, but I jest 'ad
to, to keep the life in me. I could get no honest work hanywhere; then
at last I took cold, and it settled yere," pointing to his sunken chest,
"and I'm going off, sure as sure!"

"He ain't like to live another twenty-four hours, so the doctor do say,"
interrupted the wife.

"No, that's jest it. Yesterday a parson called. I used ter see the jail
chaplain, and I never could abide him, but this man, he did speak hup
and to the point. He said as it wor a hawful thing to die unforgiven. He
said it over and over, until I wor fain to ax him wot I could do to get
furgiven, fur he did say it wor an hawful thing to die without having
parding."

"Oh, it must be, it must be!" said Charlotte, suddenly clasping her
hands very tightly together.

"I axed him how I could get it from God h'Almighty, and he told me, to
tell him, the parson, first of all my whole story, and then he could
_adwise_ me; so I hup and telled him heverything, hall about that theft
as first tuk me to prison and ruined me, and how 'ard the old master
wor, and I telled him another thing too, for he 'ad sech a way, he
seemed to draw yer werry 'art out of you. Then he axed me ef I'd
furgiven the old master, and I said no, fur he wor real, real 'ard; then
he said so solemn-like, 'That's a great, great pity, fur I'm afraid as
God can't furgive you, till you furgives.' Arter that he said a few more
words, and prayed awhile, and then he went away. I could not sleep hall
night, and to-day I called Hetty there, over, and she said as she'd do
her werry best to bring either the old master yere, or you miss, and you
see you are come; 'tis an awful thing to die without parding, that's why
I axed you to come."

"Yes," said Charlotte very softly.

"Please, miss, may a poor dying feller, though he ain't no better nor a
common, common thief, may he grip, 'old of yer and?"

"With all my heart."

"There now, it don't seem so werry 'ard. _Lord Jesus, I furgives Mr.
Harman._ Now I ha' said it. Wife dear, bring me hover that little box,
that as I allers kep' so close."

His wife brought him a tiny and very dirty cardboard box.

"_She_ kep' it when I wor locked up; I allers call it my bit o' revenge.
I'll give it back now. Hetty, open it."

Hetty did so, taking from under a tiny bit of cotton-wool a worn,
old-fashioned wedding-ring.

"There, miss dear," said Wright, handing it to her, "that wor the old
master's wife's ring. I knew as he set more prize to it nor heverything
else he had, he used to wear it on a bit of ribbon round his neck. One
day he did not put it on, he furgot it, and I, when I found he meant to
be so werry, werry 'ard, I took it and hid it, and took it away wid me.
It comforted me when I wor so long in prison to think as he might be
fretting fur it, and never guess as the lad he were so 'ard on had it. I
never would sell it, and now as I has furgiven him, he may have it back
agen. You tell him arter I'm dead, tell him as I furgives him, and
yere's the ring back agen."

Charlotte slipped the worn little trinket on her finger.

"I will try and give my father your message," she said. "I may not be
able at once, but I will try. I am glad you have forgiven him; we all
stand in sore, sore need of that, not only from our fellow-men, but much
more from our God. Now good-bye, I will come again." She held out her
hand.

"Ah, but miss dear, I won't be yere fur no coming again, I'll be far
away. Hetty knows that, poor, poor, gal! Hetty'll miss me, but only fur
that I could be real glad, fur now as I ha' furgiven the old master, I
feels real heasy. I ain't nothing better nor a common thief, but fur
hall that, I think as Jesus 'ull make a place for me somehow nigh of
hisself."

"And, miss," said Hester, "I'm real sorry, and so will Dan be when I
tell him how bad the old master is."

"My father is not well; but how do you know?" said Charlotte.

"Well, miss, I went to the house to-day, a-looking fur you and the
servant she told me, she said as there worn't never a hope, as the old
master were safe to die."

"Then maybe I can tell himself hup in heaven as I quite furgives him,"
said Dan Wright.

Charlotte glanced from one speaker to the other in a kind of terrible
astonishment. Suddenly she knew on whose brow she had seen that awful
grayness, from whose lips she had heard that short and hurried breath. A
kind of spasm of great agony suddenly contracted her heart. Without a
word, however, she rose to her feet, gave the wife money for her present
needs, bade the dying husband good-bye, and stepped into the cab which
still waited for her. It was really late, and all daylight had faded as
she gave the direction for her own luxurious home.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THREE FACTS.


Dinner was more than half over when she reached Prince's Gate. She was
glad of this. She went straight up to her own room and sent for her
maid.

"Ward, I am very tired and not very well. I shall not go down again
to-night, nor do I wish to see any one. Please bring up a cup of strong
tea here, and a little dry toast, and then you may leave me. I shall not
want you again to-night."

"You won't see Mr. Harman again to-night, miss. Am I to take him that
message?"

"Yes; say that I have a headache and think I had better stay quiet. I
will be down to breakfast as usual."

Ward went away, to return in a few moments with the tea and toast.

"If you please, Miss Harman, they have just sent the wedding dress and
veil from ----. Are you too tired to be fitted to-night?"

Charlotte gave a little involuntary shudder.

"Yes, I am much too tired," she said; "put everything away, I do not
want even to look at them. Thank you, Ward, this tea looks nice. Now you
need not come in again. Good-night."

"Good night, Miss Harman," said the maid, going softly to the door and
closing it behind her.

Charlotte got up at once and turned the key. Now, at last, thank God,
she was quite alone. She threw off her bonnet and cloak and going
straight to her bed flung herself upon it. In this position she lay
still for over an hour. The strong tension she had put on herself gave
way during that hour, for she groaned often and heavily, though tears
were very far from her eyes. At the end of about an hour she got up,
bathed her face and hands in cold water, drank a cup of tea, and put
some coals on a fire in the grate. She then pulled out her watch. Yes;
she gave a sigh of relief--it was not yet ten o'clock, she had the best
part of twelve hours before her in which to prepare to meet her father
at breakfast. In these hours she must think, she must resolve, she must
prepare herself for action. She sat down opposite the little cheerful
fire which, warm though the night was, was grateful to her in her
chilled state of mind and body. Looking into its light she allowed
thought to have full dominion over her. Hitherto, from the moment she
had read those words in her grandfather's will until this present
moment, she had kept thought back. In the numbness which immediately
followed the first shock, this was not so difficult. She had heard all
Sandy Wilson's words, but had only dimly followed out their meaning. He
wanted to meet her on the morrow. She had promised to meet him, as she
would have promised also to do anything else, however preposterous, at
that moment. Then she had felt a desire, more from the force of habit
than from any stronger motive, to go home. She had been met by Hester
Wright, and Hester had taken her to see her dying husband. She had stood
by the deathbed and looked into the dim and terrible eyes of death, and
felt as though a horrible nightmare was oppressing her, and then at last
she had got away, and at last, at last she was at home. The luxuries of
her own refined and beautiful home surrounded her. She was seated in the
room where she had slept as a baby, as a child, as a girl; and now, now
she must wake from this semi-dream, she must rouse herself, she must
think it out. Hinton was right in saying that in a time of great trouble
a very noble part of Charlotte would awake; that in deep waters such a
nature as hers would rise, not sink. It was awakening now, and putting
forth its young wings, though its birth-throes were causing agony. "I
_will_ look the facts boldly in the face," she said once aloud, "even my
own heart shall not accuse me of cowardice." There were three facts
confronting this young woman, and one seemed nearly as terrible as the
other. First, her father was guilty. During almost all the years of her
life he had been not an honorable, but a base man; he had, to enrich
himself, robbed the widow and the fatherless; he had grown wealthy on
their poverty; he had left them to suffer, perhaps to die. The will
which he had thought would never be read was there to prove his
treachery. Believing that his fellow-trustee was dead, he had betrayed
his sacred trust. Charlotte could scarcely imagine a darker crime. Her
father, who looked so noble, who was so tender and good to her, who bore
so high a character in the eyes of the world, was a very bad man. This
was her first fact. Her second seemed, just because of the first, even a
shade darker. This father, whom she had loved, this poor, broken-down,
guilty father, who, like a broken idol, had fallen from his high estate
in her heart, was _dying_. Ah! she knew it now; that look on his old
face could only belong to the dying. How blind she had been! how
ignorant! But the Wrights' words had torn the veil from her eyes; the
guilty man was going fast to judgment. The God whom he had sinned
against was about to demand retribution. Now she read the key to his
unhappiness, his despair. No wonder, no wonder, that like a canker it
had eaten into his heart. Her father was certainly dying; God himself
was taking his punishment into His own hands. Charlotte's third fact,
though the most absolutely personal of the whole, scarcely tortured her
as the other two did to-night. It lay so clearly and so directly in her
path, that there was no pausing how best to act. The way for action was
too clear to be even for an instant disobeyed. Into this fire she must
walk without hesitation or pause. Her wedding-day could not be on the
twentieth; her engagement must be broken off; her marriage at an end.
What! she, the daughter of a thief, ally herself to an upright,
honorable man! Never! never! Whatever the consequences and the pain to
either, Hinton and she must part. She did not yet know how this parting
would be effected. She did not know whether she would say farewell to
her lover telling him all the terrible and bitter disgrace, or with a
poor and lame excuse on her lips. But however she did it, the thing must
be done. Never, never, never would she drag the man she loved down into
her depths of shame.

To-night she scarcely felt the full pain of this. It was almost a
relief, in the midst of all the chaos, to have this settled line of
action around which no doubt must linger. Yes, she would instantly break
off her engagement. Now she turned her thoughts to her two former facts.
Her father was guilty. Her father was dying. She, in an underhand way,
for which even now she hated herself had discovered her father's
long-buried crime. But she had not alone discovered it. Another had also
gone to see that will in Somerset House; another with eyes far more
practised than hers had read those fatal words. And that other, he could
act. He would act; he would expose the guilty and dying old man, for he
was _the other trustee_.

Charlotte was very ignorant as to how the law would act with regard to
such a crime as her father's. Doubtless there would be a public trial, a
public disgrace. He would be dragged into the prisoner's dock; his old
white head would be bowed low there, and he was a dying man.

In the first shock and horror of finding that the father she had always
almost worshipped could be guilty of such a terrible crime, a great rush
of anger and almost hardness had steeled her heart against him; but now
tenderer feelings came back. Pity, sad-eyed and gentle, knocked at her
heart, and when she let in pity, love quickly resumed its throne. Yes;
whatever his crime, whatever his former life, she loved that old man.
That white-headed, broken-hearted man, so close to the grave, was her
father, and she his only child. When she spoke to Sandy Wilson to-day
she had felt no desire to save the guilty from his rightful fate. But
now her feelings were different. A great cry arose in her heart on his
behalf. Could she screen him? could she screen him from his fate? In her
agony she rose and flung herself on her knees. "My God, help me; my God,
don't forsake me; save my father. Save him, save him, save him."

She felt a little calmer after this broken prayer, and something to do
occurred to her with its instant power of tranquillizing. She would find
out the doctor whom her father consulted. She would ask Uncle Jasper.
She would make him tell her, and she would visit this man early in the
morning, and, whatever the consequence, learn the exact truth from his
lips. It would help her in her interview later on with Mr. Wilson.
Beyond this little immediate course of action, there was no light
whatever; but she felt so far calmed, that, about two o'clock, she lay
down and sleep came to her--healthy and dreamless sleep, which was sent
direct from God to put strength into the brave heart, to enable it to
suffer and endure. Many weeks before Mr. Home had said to Charlotte
Harman, "You must keep the Christ bright within you." Was His likeness
to shine henceforth through all the rest of her life, in those frank
eyes, that sweet face, that noble woman's heart, because of and through
that great tribulation? We have heard tell of the white robes which they
wear who go through it. Is it not worth while for so sacred a result to
heat the furnace seven times?



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE DOCTOR'S VERDICT.


In her terrible anger and despair Charlotte had almost forgotten Uncle
Jasper; but when she came down to breakfast the following morning and
saw him there, for he had come to Prince's Gate early, and was standing
with her father on the hearthrug, she suddenly remembered that he too
must have been guilty; nay, worse, her father had never tried to deceive
her, and Uncle Jasper had. She remembered the lame story he had told
her about Mrs. Home; how fully she had believed that story, and how it
had comforted her heart at the time! Now she saw clearly its many flaws,
and wondered at her own blindness. Charlotte had always been considered
an open creature--one so frank, so ingenuous, that her secrets, had she
ever tried to have any, might be read like an open book; but last night
she had learned to dissemble. She was glad when she entered the cheerful
breakfast-room to find that she was able to put her hardly learned
lesson in practice. Knowing what she did, she could yet go up and kiss
her father, and allow her uncle to put his lips to her cheek. She
certainly looked badly, but that was accounted for by the headache which
she confessed still troubled her. She sat down opposite the tea-urn, and
breakfast was got through in such a manner that Mr. Harman noticed
nothing particular to be wrong. He always drove to the City now in his
own private carriage, and after he had gone Charlotte turned to Jasper.

"Uncle Jasper," she said, "you have deceived me."

"Good heavens! how, Charlotte?" said the old uncle.

"My father is _very_ ill. You have given me to understand that there was
nothing of serious consequence the matter with him."

Uncle Jasper heaved a slight but still audible sigh of relief. Was this
all? These fears he might even yet quiet.

"I have not deceived you, Charlotte," he said, "for I do not believe
your father to be seriously ill."

He fixed his keen gray eyes on her face as he spoke. She returned his
gaze without shrinking.

"Still you do think him ill?" she said.

"Well, any one to look at him must admit that he is not what he was."

"Just so, Uncle Jasper. So you have told me very many times, when you
have feared my troubling him on certain matters. Now it has come to me
from another source that he is very ill. My eyes have been opened, and I
see the fact myself. I wish to learn the simple and exact truth. I wish
to see the doctor he has consulted."

"How do you know he has consulted any?"

"Has he?"

Uncle Jasper was silent for a moment. He felt in a difficulty. Did
Charlotte know the worst, she might postpone her marriage, the last
thing to be desired just now; and yet where had she got her information?
It was awkward enough, though he felt a certain sense of relief in thus
accounting for the change in her appearance since yesterday morning. He
got up and approached her side softly.

"My dear, I do own that your father is ill. I own, too, that I have, by
his most express wish, made as light of the matter to you as I could.
The fact is, Charlotte, he is anxious, very anxious, about himself. He
thinks himself much worse than I believe him to be; but his strongest
desire is, that now, on the eve of your marriage, you should not be
alarmed on his account. I firmly believe you have no cause for any
special fear. Ought you not to respect his wishes, and rest satisfied
without seeking to know more than he and I tell you? I will swear,
Charlotte, if that is any consolation to you, that I am not immediately
anxious about your father."

"You need not swear, Uncle Jasper. Your not being anxious does not
prevent my being so. I am determined to find out the exact truth. If he
thinks himself very ill he has, of course, consulted some medical man.
If you will not tell me his name I will myself ask my father to do so
to-night."

"By so doing you will shock him, and the doctor does not wish him to be
shocked."

"Just so, Uncle Jasper, and you can spare him that by telling me what
you know."

"My dear niece, if you _will_ have it?"

"I certainly am quite resolved, uncle."

"Well, well, you approach this subject at your peril. If you _must_ see
the doctor you must. Wilful woman over again. Would you like me to go
with you?"

"No, thank you; I prefer to go alone. What is the doctor's name?"

"Sir George Anderson, of B---- Street."

"I will go to him at once," said Charlotte.

She left the room instantly, though she heard her uncle calling her
back. Yes, she would go to Sir George at once. She pulled out her watch,
ran upstairs, put on some out-door dress, and in ten minutes from the
time she had learned the name of the great physician was in a hansom
driving to his house. This rapid action was a relief to her. Presently
she arrived at her destination. Yes, the doctor was at home. He was
engaged for the present with another patient, but if Charlotte liked to
wait he would see her in her turn. Certainly she would wait. She gave
her card to the man who admitted her, and was shown into a room, very
dark and dismal, where three or four patients were already enduring a
time of suspense waiting for their interviews. Charlotte, knowing
nothing of illness, knew, if possible, still less of doctors' rooms. A
sense of added depression came over her as she seated herself on the
nearest chair, and glanced, from the weary and suffering faces of those
who waited anxiously for their doom, to the periodicals and newspapers
piled on the table. A gentleman seated not far off handed her the last
number of the _Illustrated London News_. She took it, turning the pages
mechanically. To her dying day she never got over the dislike to that
special paper which that half hour created.

One by one the patients' names were called by the grave footman as he
came to summon them. One by one they went away, and at last, at last,
Charlotte's turn came. She had entered into conversation with a little
girl of about sixteen, who appeared to be in consumption, and the little
girl had praised the great physician in such terms that Charlotte felt
more than ever that against his opinion there could be no appeal. And
now at last she was in the great man's presence, and, healthy girl that
she was, her heart beat so loud, and her face grew so white, that the
practised eyes of the doctor might have been pardoned for mistaking her
for a _bona-fide_ patient.

"What are you suffering from?" he asked of her.

"It is not myself, Sir George," she said, then making a great effort to
control her voice--"I have come about my father--my father is one of
your patients. His name is Harman."

Sir George turned to a large book at his side, opened it at a certain
page, read quietly for a moment, then closing it, fixed his keen eyes on
the young lady.

"You are right," he said, "your father, Mr. Harman, is one of my
patients. He came to see me no later than last week."

"Sir," said Charlotte, and her voice grew steadier and braver as she
spoke, "I am in perfect health, and my father is ill. I have come here
to-day to learn from your lips the exact truth as to his case."

"The exact truth?" said the doctor. "Does your father know you have come
here, Miss--Miss Harman?"

"He does not, Sir George. My father is a widower, and I am his only
child. He has endeavored to keep this thing from me, and hitherto has
partially succeeded. Yesterday, through another source, I learned that
he is very seriously ill. I have come to you to know the truth. You will
tell it to me, will you not?"

"I certainly _can_ tell it to you."

"And you will?"

"Well, the fact is, Miss Harman, he is anxious that you should not know.
I am scarcely prepared to fathom your strength of character. Any shock
will be of serious consequence to him. How can I tell how you will act
when you know all?"

"You are preparing me for the worst now, Sir George. I solemnly promise
you in no way to use my knowledge so as to give my father the slightest
shock."

"I believe you," answered the doctor. "A brave woman can do wonders.
Women are unselfish; they can hide their own feelings to comfort and
succor another. Miss Harman, I am sorry for you, I have bad news for
you."

"I know it, Sir George. My father is very ill."

"Your father is as seriously ill as a man can be to be alive; in short,
he is--dying."

"Is there no hope?"

"None."

"Must he die soon?" asked Charlotte, after a brief pause.

"That depends. His malady is of such a nature that any sudden shock, any
sudden grief will probably kill him instantly. If his mind is kept
perfectly calm, and all shocks are kept from him, he may live for many
months."

"Oh! terrible!" cried Charlotte.

She covered her face. When she raised it at last it looked quite haggard
and old.

"Sir George," she said, "I do not doubt that in your position as a
doctor you have come across some secrets. I am going to confide in you,
to confide in you to a certain measure."

"Your confidence shall be sacred, my dear young lady."

"Yesterday, Sir George, I learned something, something which concerns my
father. It concerns him most nearly and most painfully. It relates to an
old and buried wrong. This wrong relates to others; it relates to those
now living most nearly and most painfully."

"Is it a money matter?" asked the doctor.

"It is a money matter. My father alone can set it right. I mean that
during his lifetime it cannot possibly in any way be set right without
his knowledge. Almost all my life, he has kept this thing a secret from
me and--and--from the world. For three and twenty years it has lain in a
grave. If he is told now, and the wrong cannot be repaired without his
knowledge, it will come on him as a--disgrace. The question I ask of you
is this: can he bear the disgrace?"

"And my answer to you, Miss Harman, is, that in his state of health the
knowledge you speak of will instantly kill him."

"Then--then--God help me! what am I to do? Can the wrong never be
righted?"

"My dear young lady, I am sincerely sorry for you. I cannot enter into
the moral question, I can only state a fact. As your father's physician
I forbid you to tell him."

"You forbid me to tell him?" said Charlotte. She got up and pulled down
her veil. "Thank you," she said, holding out her hand. "I have that to
go on--as my father's physician you forbid him to know?"

"I forbid it absolutely. Such a knowledge would cause instant death."



CHAPTER XXXIX

PUZZLED.


The old Australian Alexander Wilson, had left his niece, Charlotte Home,
after his first interview with her, in a very disturbed state of mind.
More disturbed indeed was he than by the news of his sister's death. He
was a rich man now, having been successful in the land of his
banishment, and having returned to his native land the possessor of a
moderate fortune. He had never married, and he meant to live with Daisy
and share his wealth with her. But in these day-dreams he had only
thought of his money as giving some added comforts to his rich little
sister, enabling her to have a house in London for the season, and,
while living in the country, to add more horses to her establishment and
more conservatories to build and tend. His money should add to her
luxuries and, consequently, to her comforts. He had never heard of this
unforgotten sister for three and twenty years, the strange dislike to
write home having grown upon him as time went on but though he knew
nothing about her, he many a time in his own wild and solitary life
pictured her as he saw her last. Daisy never grew old to him. Death and
Daisy were not connected. Daisy in his imagination was always young,
always girlish always fresh and beautiful. He saw her as he saw her last
in her beautiful country home standing by her rich husband's side,
looking more like his daughter than his wife. No, Sandy never dreamed
that Daisy would or could die, but in thinking of her he believed her to
be a widow. That husband, so old, when he went away, must be dead.

On his arrival in England, Sandy went down into Hertfortshire. He
visited the place where he had last seen his sister. It was in the hands
of strangers--sold long ago. No one even remembered the name of Harman.
Then he met little Daisy Home, and learned quite by accident that his
Daisy was dead, and that the pretty child who reminded him of her was
her grandchild. He went to visit Charlotte Home, and there made a fresh
discovery. Had his Daisy been alive she would have wanted far more from
his well-filled purse than horses and carriages. She would have needed
not the luxuries of life, but the necessities. He had imagined her rich,
while she had died in poverty. She had died poor, and her child, her
only child, bore evident marks of having met face to face with the
sorest of all want, that which attacks the gently born. Her face, still
young, but sadly thin and worn, the very look in her eyes told this fact
to Sandy.

Yes; his pretty Daisy, whom he had imagined so rich, so bountifully
provided for, had died a very poor and struggling woman. Doubtless this
sad and dreadful fact had shortened her days. Doubtless but for this
monstrous injustice she would be alive now, ready to welcome her
long-lost brother back to his native land.

All that night Sandy Wilson lay awake. He was a hale and hearty man, and
seldom knew what it was to toss for any time on his pillow; but so
shocked was he, that this night no repose would visit him. An injustice
had been done, a fraud committed, and it remained for him to find out
the evil thing, to drag it to the light, to set the wronged right once
more. Charlotte Home was not at all the character he could best
understand. She was not in the least like her mother. She told the tale
of her wrongs with a strange and manifest reluctance. She believed that
a fraud had been committed. She was fully persuaded that not her
long-dead father but her living half-brothers were the guilty parties.
In this belief Sandy most absolutely shared. He longed to drag these
villains into the glaring light of justice, to expose them and their
disgraceful secret to the shameful light of day. But in this longing he
saw plainly that Charlotte did not share. He was puzzled, scarcely
pleased that this was so. How differently little Daisy would have acted
had she been alive. Dear little innocent Daisy, who all alone could do
nothing, would in his strong presence have grown so brave and fearless.
She would have put the case absolutely and once for all into his hands.
Now this her daughter did not seem disposed to do. She said to him, with
most manifest anxiety, "You will do nothing without me. You will do
nothing until we meet again."

This he had promised readily enough, for what _could_ he do in the short
hours which must elapse between now and their next meeting? As he was
dressing, however, on the following morning, a sudden idea did occur to
him, and on this idea he resolved to act before he saw Charlotte at six
o'clock in the evening. He would go to Somerset House and see Mr.
Harman's will. What Daisy first, and now Charlotte, had never thought of
doing during all these years he would do that very day. Thus he would
gain certain and definite information. With this information it would be
comparatively easy to know best how to act.

He went to Somerset House. He saw the will; he saw the greatness of the
robbery committed so many years ago; he saw and he felt a wild kind of
almost savage delight in the fact that he could quickly and easily set
the wrong right, for he was one of the trustees. He saw all this, and
yet--and yet--he went away a very unhappy and perplexed man, for he had
seen something else--he had seen a woman's agony and despair. Sandy
Wilson possessed the very softest soul that had ever been put into a big
body. He never could bear to see even a dog in pain. How then could he
look at the face of this girl which, all in a moment, under his very
eyes, had been blanched with agony? He could not bear it. He forgot his
fierce longing for revenge, he forgot his niece Charlotte's wrongs, in
this sudden and passionate desire to succor the other Charlotte, the
daughter of the bad man who had robbed his own sister, his own niece; he
became positively anxious that Miss Harman should not commit herself;
he felt a nervous fear as each word dropped from her lips; he saw that
she spoke in the extremity of despair. How could he stop the words which
told too much? He was relieved when the thought occurred to him to ask
her to meet him again--again when they both were calmer. She had
consented, and he found himself advising her, as he would have advised
his own dear daughter had he been lucky enough to have possessed one. He
promised her that nothing, nothing should be done until they met again,
and so afraid was he that in his interview that evening with his niece,
Mrs. Home, he might be tempted to drop some word which might betray ever
so little that other Charlotte, that instead of going to Tremin's Road
as he had intended, he wrote a note excusing himself and putting off his
promised visit until the following evening.



CHAPTER XL.

CHARLOTTE'S PLEA.


When at last the time drew near for him to bend his steps in the
direction of Somerset House he had by no means made up his mind how to
act. His sympathies were still with Miss Harman. Her face had haunted
him all night long; but he felt that every sense of justice, every sense
of right, called upon him to befriend Mrs. Home. His dearly loved dead
sister seemed to call to him from her grave and to ask him to rescue
those belonging to her, to give again to these wronged ones what was
rightfully theirs. In any case, seeing the wrong as he so plainly did,
he would have felt called upon to take his sister's part in the matter.
But as circumstances now stood, even had Mrs. Home been no relation to
him whatever, he still must have acted for her and her alone. For was he
not the _other trustee_? and did not the very law of the land of his
birth demand that he should see that the terms of the will were carried
out?

He arrived at the square of Somerset House, and found Miss Harman
waiting for him.

She came up to him at once and held out her hand. His quick eye
detected at a glance that she was now quite calm and collected, that
whatever she might have done in the first agony of her despair
yesterday, to-day she would do nothing to betray herself. Strange to
say, he liked her far less well in this mood than he had done yesterday,
and his heart and inclination veered round again to his wronged niece
and her children with a sense of pleasure and almost triumph.

They began to walk up and down, and Miss Harman, finding that her
companion was silent, was the first to speak.

"You asked me to meet you here to-day. What do you want to say to me?"

Good heavens! was she going to ride the high horse over him in this
style? Sandy's small eyes almost flashed as he turned to look at her.

"A monstrous wrong has been done, Miss Harman," he answered. "I have
come to talk about that."

"I know," replied Charlotte. "I have thought it all out. I know exactly
what has been done. My grandfather died and left a sum of twelve
hundred a year to my--to his wife. He left other moneys to my father
and his brother. My father and his brother, my uncle, disregarded the
claims of the widow and the orphan child. They appropriated the
money--they--_stole it_--giving to my grandfather's widow a small sum
during her life, which small sum they did not even allow to be retained
by her child."

"That is pretty much the case, young lady. You have read the will with
tolerable accuracy."

"I do not know in the least how the deed was done," continued Charlotte.
"How such a crime could be committed and yet lie hidden all these years
remains a terrible and mysterious thing to me. But that it was done, I
can but use my own eyes in reading my grandfather's will to see."

"It was done easily enough, Miss Harman. They thought the other trustee
was dead. Your father and his brother were false to their trust, and
they never reckoned that Sandy Wilson would come back all alive and
blooming one fine morning--Sandy, whose duty it is to see this great
wrong put right."

"Yes, it is your duty," said Charlotte; and now, again, she grew very
white; her eyes sought the ground and she was silent.

"It is my most plain duty," repeated Wilson, shuffling with his great
feet as he walked by her side.

"I should like to know what steps you mean to take," continued
Charlotte, suddenly raising her eyes to his face.

"Steps! Good gracious! young lady, I have not had time to go into the
law of the thing. Besides, I promised to do nothing until we met again.
But one thing is plain enough, and obvious enough--my niece, that young
woman who might have been rich, but who is so poor--that young woman
must come in for her own again. It is three-and-twenty years since her
father died. She must receive from your father that money with all back
interest for the last three and twenty years. That means a goodish bit
of money I can tell you."

"I have no doubt it does," replied Charlotte. "Mrs. Home shall have it
all."

"Well, I hope so, young lady, and soon, too. It seems to me she has had
her share of poverty."

"She has had, as you say, her share of that evil. Mr. Wilson," again
raising her eyes to his face, "I know Mrs. Home."

"You know her? You know my niece Charlotte personally? She did not tell
me that."

"Yes, I know her. I should like to see her now."

"You would?--I am surprised! Why?"

"That I might go down on my knees to her."

"Well, good gracious! young lady, I supposed you might feel sorry, but I
did not know you would humble yourself to that extent. It was not _your_
sin."

"Hush! It was my father's sin. I am his child. I would go lower than my
knees--I would lie on the ground that she might walk over me, if the
better in that position I might plead for mercy."

"For mercy? Ay, that's all very well, but Charlotte must have her
rights. Sandy Wilson must see to that."

"She shall have her rights! And yet I would see her if I could, and if I
saw her I would go on my knees and plead for mercy."

"I don't understand you, Miss Harman."

"I do not suppose you do. Will you have patience with me while I explain
myself?"

"I have come here to talk to you and to listen to you," said Wilson.

"Sir, I must tell you of my father, that man whom you (and I do not
wonder) consider so bad--so low! When I read that will yesterday--when I
saw with my own eyes what a fraud had been committed, what a great,
great evil had been done, I felt in my first misery that I almost hated
my father! I said to myself, 'Let him be punished!' I would have helped
you then to bring him to punishment. I think you saw that?"

"I did, Miss Harman. I can see as far through a stone wall as most
people. I saw that you were a bit stunned, and I thought it but fair
that you should have time to calm down."

"You were kind to me. You acted as a good man and a gentleman. Then I
scarcely cared what happened to my father; now I do."

"Ay, ay, young lady, natural feelings must return. I am very sorry for
you."

"Mr. Wilson, I hope to make you yet more sorry. I must tell you more.
When I saw you yesterday I knew that my father was ill--I knew that he
was in appearance an old man, a broken down man, a very unhappy man; but
since I saw you yesterday I have learned that he is a dying man--that
old man against whom I hardened my heart so yesterday is going fast to
judgment. The knowledge of this was kept from me, for my father so loved
me, so guarded me all my life that he could not bear that even a pin's
point of sorrow should rest upon me. After seeing you yesterday, and
leaving you, I visited some poor people who, not knowing that the truth
was hidden from me, spoke of it as a well known fact. I went away from
them with my eyes opened. I only wondered they had been closed so long.
I went away, and this morning I did more. I visited one of the greatest
and cleverest doctors in London. This doctor my father, unknown to me,
had for some time consulted. I asked him for his candid opinion on my
father's case. He gave it to me. Nothing can save my father. My father
must die! But he told me more; he said that the nature of his complaint
was such that any shock must instantly kill him. He said without that
shock he may live for months; not many months, but still for a few.
Hearing this, I took the doctor still further into my confidence. I told
him that a wrong had been committed--that during my father's lifetime
that wrong could not be set right without his knowledge. I said that he
must know something which would disgrace him. His answer was this: 'As
his medical man, I forbid him to know; such a knowledge will cause
certain and instant death.'"

Charlotte paused. Wilson, now deeply interested, even appalled, was
gazing at her earnestly.

"I know Charlotte Home," continued Miss Harman; "and, as I said just
now, I would see her now. Yes, she has needed money; she has longed for
money; she has been cruelly wronged--most cruelly treated! Still, I
think, if I pleaded long enough and hard enough, she would have mercy;
she would not hurry that old man to so swift a judgment; she would spare
him for those few, few months to which his life is now limited. It is
for those months I plead. He is a dying man. I want nothing to be done
during those months. Afterwards--afterwards I will promise, if necessary
sign any legal paper you bring to me, that all that should have been
hers shall be Charlotte Home's--I restore it all! Oh, how swiftly and
how gladly! All I plead for are those few months."

Wilson was silent.

Charlotte suddenly looking at him almost lost her self-control.

"Must I go down on my knees to you, sir? I will if it is necessary. I
will here--even here do so, if it is necessary."

"It is not, it is not, my dear Miss Harman. I believe you; from my soul
I pity you! I will do what I can. I can't promise anything without my
niece's permission; but I am to see her this evening."

"Oh, if you plead with her, she will have mercy; for I know her--I am
sure of her! Oh! how can I thank you?--how can I thank you both?"

Here some tears rose to Charlotte's eyes, and rolled fast and heavily
down her cheeks. She put up her handkerchief to wipe them away.

"You asked me to cry yesterday, but I could not; now I believe I shall
be able," she said with almost a smile. "God bless you!"

Before Wilson could get in another word she had left him and, hurrying
through the square, was lost to sight.

Wilson gazed after her retreating form; then he went into Somerset
House, and once more long and carefully studied Mr. Harman's will.



CHAPTER XLI.

NO WEDDING ON THE TWENTIETH.


Charlotte was quite right in saying that now she could cry; a great
tension had been removed, an immediate agony lightened. From the time
she had left the doctor's presence until she had met Sandy Wilson, most
intolerable had been her feelings. She would sink all pride when she saw
him; for her father's sake, she would plead for mercy; but knowing
nothing of the character of the man, how could she tell that she would
be successful? How could she tell that he might not harden his heart
against her plea? When she left him, however, she knew that her cause
was won. Charlotte Home was to be the arbitrator of her fate; she had
never in all her life seen such a hunger for money in any eyes as she
had done in Charlotte's, and yet she felt a moral certainty that with
Charlotte she was safe. In the immediate relief of this she could cry,
and those tears were delicious to her. Returning from her drive, and in
the solitude of her own room, she indulged in them, weeping on until no
more tears would flow. They took the maddening pressure of heart and
brain, and after them she felt strong and even calm. She had washed her
face and smoothed her hair, and though she could not at once remove all
trace of the storm through which she had just passed, she still looked
better than she had done at breakfast that morning, when a tap came to
her door, and Ward, her maid, waited outside.

"If you please, Miss Harman, the dressmaker has called again. Will you
have the wedding dress fitted now?"

At the same instant and before Charlotte could reply, a footman appeared
at the head of the stairs--"Mr. Hinton had arrived and was waiting for
Miss Harman, in her own sitting-room."

"Say, I will be with him directly," she answered to the man, then she
turned to Ward. "I will send you with a message to the dressmaker this
evening; tell her I am engaged now."

The two messengers left, and Charlotte turned back into her room. She
had to go through another fire. Well! the sooner it was over the better.
She scarcely would give herself time for any thought as she ran quickly
down the stairs and along the familiar corridor, and in a moment found
herself in Hinton's presence. They had not met since yesterday morning,
when they had parted in apparent coldness; but Hinton had long forgotten
it, and now, when he saw her face, a great terror of pity and love came
over him.

"My darling! my own darling!" he said. He came up to her and put his
arms round her. "Charlotte, what is it? You are in trouble? Tell me."

Ah! how sweet it was to feel the pressure of his arms, to lay her head
on his breast. She was silent for quite a minute, saying to herself, "It
is for the last time."

"You are in great trouble, Charlotte? Charlotte, what is it?" questioned
her lover.

"Yes, I am in great trouble," she said then, raising her head and
looking at him. Her eyes were clear and frank and open as of old, and
yet at that moment she meant to deceive him; she would not tell him the
real reason which induced her to break off her engagement. She would
shelter her father in the eyes of the man she loved, at any cost.

"You are in great trouble," he repeated, seeing that she paused.

"Yes, John--for myself--for my father--for--for you. Dear John, we
cannot be married on the twentieth, we must part."

"Charlotte!" he stepped back a pace or two in his astonishment, and her
arms fell heavily to her sides. "Charlotte!" he repeated; he had failed
to understand her. He gave a short laugh.

She began to tremble when she heard him laugh, and seeing a chair near,
she sunk into it. "Yes, John, we must part," she repeated.

He went down on his knees then by her side, and looked into her face.
"My poor darling, you are really not well; you are in trouble, and don't
know what you are saying. Tell me all your trouble, Charlotte, but don't
mind those other words. It is impossible that you and I can part. Have
we not plighted our troth before God? We cannot take that back.
Therefore we cannot part."

"In heart we may be one, but outwardly we must part," she repeated, and
then she began to cry feebly, for she was all unstrung. Hinton's words
were too much for her.

"Tell me all," he said then, very tenderly.

"John, a dark thing was kept from me, but I have discovered it. My
father is dying. How can I marry on the twentieth, when my father is
dying?"

Hinton instantly felt a sense of relief. Was this all the meaning of
this great trouble? This objection meant, at the most, postponement,
scarcely that, when Charlotte knew all.

"How did you learn that about your father?" he said.

"I went to see some poor people yesterday, and they told me; but that
was not enough. To-day I visited the great doctor. My father has seen
Sir George Anderson; he told me all. My father is a dying man. John, can
you ask me to marry when my father is dying?"

"I could not, Charlotte, if it were not his own wish."

"His own wish?" she repeated.

"Yes! some time ago he told me of this; he said the one great thing he
longed for was to see you and me--you and me, my own Charlotte--husband
and wife before he died."

"Why did he keep his state of health as a secret from me?"

"I begged of him to tell you, but he wanted you to be his own bright
Charlotte to the end."

Then Hinton told her of that first interview he had with her father. He
told it well, but she hardly listened. Must she tell him the truth after
all? No! she would not. During her father's lifetime she would shield
him at any cost. Afterwards, ah! afterwards all the world would know.

When Hinton had ceased speaking, she laid her hand on his arm.
"Nevertheless, my darling, I cannot marry next week. I know you will
fail to understand me. I know my father will fail to understand me. That
is hard--the hardest part, but I am doing right. Some day you will
acknowledge that. With my father dying I cannot stand up in white and
call myself a bride. My marriage-day was to have been the entrance into
Paradise to me. With a funeral so near, and so certain, it cannot be
that. John--John--I--cannot--I cannot. We must not marry next week."

"You put it off, then? You deny your dying father his dearest wish? That
is not like you, Charlotte."

"No, it is unlike me. Everything, always, again, will be unlike me. If
you put it so, I deny my father his dearest wish."

"Charlotte, I fail to understand you. You will not marry during your
father's lifetime. But it may be very quiet--very--very quiet, I can
manage that; and you need not leave him, you can still be altogether his
daughter, and yet make him happy by letting him feel that you are also
my wife; that I have the right to shield you, the right to love and
comfort you. Come, Charlotte! come, my darling! we won't have any
outward festivity, any outward rejoicing. This is but natural, this can
be managed, and yet we may have that which is above and beyond it
all--one another. We may be one in our sorrow instead of our joy."

"Oh! if it could be," she sobbed; and now again she laid her head on his
shoulder.

"It shall be, Charlotte; we will marry like that on the twentieth. I
will manage it with your father."

"No John! no, my dearest, my best beloved, I cannot be your wife. Loving
you as I never--never--loved you before, I give you up; it is worse than
the agony of death to me. But I give you up."

"You postpone our marriage during your father's lifetime?"

"I postpone it--I do more--I break it off. Oh! John, don't look at me
like that; pity me--pity me, my heart will break."

But he had pushed her a little away from him. Pale as death he rose to
his feet. "Charlotte! you are deceiving me; you have another reason for
this?"

"If you will have it so," she said.

"You are keeping a secret from me."

"I do not say so, but you are likely enough to think this," she
repeated.

"Can you deny it?"

"I will not try, I know we must part."

"If this is so, we must. A secret between husband and wife is fatal."

"It would be, but I admit nothing, we cannot be husband and wife."

"Never, Charlotte?"

"Never!" she said.

Hinton thought for a moment, and then he came up and again took her
hand. "Lottie, tell me that secret; trust me; I know there is a secret,
tell it to me, all of it, let me decide whether it must part us."

"I cannot, my darling--my darling--I can say nothing, explain nothing,
except that you and I must part."

"If that is so, we must," he said.

He was pained, shocked, and angry, beyond words. He left the room and
the house without even another look.



CHAPTER XLII.

"I LOVE HIM," SHE ANSWERED.


That evening Charlotte came softly into her father's study and sat down
by his side. She had not appeared at dinner-time, sending another
excuse. She was not very well, she said; she would see her father later
in the evening. But as she could not eat, she did not care to come to
dinner. She would like to see her father quite alone afterwards.
Charlotte had worded this verbal message with great care, for she wished
to prepare her father for something of extra importance. Even with the
tenderest watching it was impossible to avoid disturbing him a little,
and she wished to prepare him for the very slight but unavoidable shock
she must give. Jasper dined at Prince's Gate as usual. But after dinner
he went away. And Charlotte, when she knew this, instantly went down to
her father. She was now perfectly calm. For the time being had forgotten
herself absolutely. Nothing gives outward composure like
self-forgetfulness, like putting yourself in your fellow-man's place.
Charlotte had done this when she stepped up to her old father's side.
She had dressed herself, too, with special thought for him. There was a
muslin frock, quite clear and simple, which he had loved. It was a soft
Indian fabric, and clung to her fine figure in graceful folds. She had
made Ward iron it out, and had put it on. Of late she had considered it
too girlish, but to-night she appeared in it knowing it would please the
eyes for which it was worn.

Mr. Harman was chilly and sat by the fire. As usual the room was softly
but abundantly lit by candles. Charlotte loved light, and, as a rule,
hated to talk to any one without looking at that person fully. But
to-night an opposite motive caused her to put out one by one all the
candles.

"Does not the room look cosy with only the firelight?" she said. And
then she sat down on a low stool at her father's feet.

"You are better now, my love. Tell me you are better," he said, taking
her hand in his.

"I am well enough to sit and talk to you, father," she said.

"But what ailed you, Lottie? You could not come to dinner either
yesterday or to-day; and I remember you looked ill this morning. What is
wrong?"

"I felt troubled, and that has brought on a headache. But don't let us
talk about me. I mean, I suppose we must after a little, but not at
first."

"Whom shall we talk about first? Who is more important? Is it Hinton?
You cannot get _me_ to think that Charlotte."

"You are more important. I want to talk about you."

Now she got hold of his hand, and, turning round, gazed firmly into his
face.

"Father, you have troubled me. You have caused my headache."

Instantly a startled look came into his eyes; and she, reading him
now--as, alas! she knew how to do but too well--hastened to soothe it.

"You wanted to send me away, to make me less your own, if that were
possible. Father, I have come here to-night to tell you that I am not
going away--that I am all your own, even to the end."

"My own to the end? Yes, you must always be that. But what do you mean?"

She felt the hand she held trembling, and hastened to add,--

"Why did you keep the truth from me? Why did you try to deceive me, your
nearest and dearest, as to your state of health? But I know it all now.
I am not going away from you."

"You mean--you mean, Charlotte, you will not marry Hinton next week?"

"No, father."

"Have you told him?"

"Yes."

"Charlotte, do you know the worst about me?"

"I know all about you. I went to see Sir George Anderson this morning. I
forced from him the opinion he has already given to you. He says that I
cannot keep you long. But while I can, we will never part."

Mr. Harman's hand had now ceased to tremble. It lay warm and quiet in
his daughter's clasp. After a time he said--

"Put your arms round me darling."

She rose to her feet, clasped her hands round his neck, and laid her
head on his shoulder. In this position he kissed first her bright hair,
then her cheek and brow.

"But I want my little girl to leave me," he said. "Illness need not make
me selfish. You can still be my one only dear daughter, and yet be
Hinton's wife."

"I am your only dear daughter," she repeated. "Never mind about my being
any man's wife." She tried to smile as she resumed her seat at his feet.

Mr. Harman saw the attempt at a smile, and it instantly strengthened him
to proceed.

"Charlotte, I am not sorry that you know that which I had not courage
either to tell you or to cause another to tell you. I am--yes, I am
dying. Some day before long I must leave you, my darling. I must go away
and return no more. But before I die I want to see you Hinton's wife. It
will make me happier to see this, for you love him, and he can make you
happy. You do love him, Charlotte?"

"Yes, I love him," she answered.

"Then we will not postpone the marriage. My child shall marry the man
she loves, and have the strength of his love in the dark days that must
follow; and in one week you will be back with me, no less my child
because you are Hinton's wife."

"Father, I cannot."

"Not if I wish it, dear--if I have set my heart on it?"

"I cannot," she repeated.

She felt driven to her wits' end, and pressed her hands to her face.

"Charlotte, what is the meaning of this? There is more here than meets
the eye. Have you and Hinton quarrelled?"

"No, except over this. And even over this it takes two to make a
quarrel. I cannot marry next week; I have told him so. He is vexed, and
you--you are vexed. Must I break my heart and leave you? You have always
given me my own way; give it now. Don't send me away from you. It would
break my heart to marry and leave you now."

"Is this indeed so, Charlotte?" he said. "Would you with your whole
heart rather put it off?"

"With my whole, whole heart, I would rather," she said.

"I will not urge it. I cannot; and yet it destroys a hope which I
thought might cheer me on my dying bed."

"Never mind the hope, father; you will have me. I shall not spend that
week away from you."

"No, that week did seem long to look forward to."

"Ah! you are glad after all that I am to be with you," she said. "You
will let me nurse you and care for you. You will not force yourself to
do more than you are able. Now that I know all, I can take such care of
you, and the thought of that will make me happier by and by."

"It is a relief that you know the worst," said Mr. Harman, but he did
not smile or look contented; he, as well as Hinton, felt that there was
more in this strange desire of Charlotte's than met the eye.



CHAPTER XLIII.

"YOU DON'T WANT MONEY?"


Sandy Wilson having again very carefully read Mr. Harman's will, felt
much puzzled how to act. He was an honest, upright, practical man
himself. The greatness of the crime committed quite startled him. He had
no sympathy for the wicked men who had done the deed, and he had the
very keenest sympathy for those against whom the deed was done. His
little orphan and widowed sister and her baby child were the wronged
ones. The men who had wronged her he had never seen. He said to himself
that he had no sympathy, no sympathy whatever for Mr. Harman. What if he
was a dying man, was that fact to screen him? Was he to be allowed to go
down to his grave in peace, his gray head appearing to be to him a crown
of glory, honored by the world, cheered for his great success in life?
Was all this to be allowed to continue when he was worthy not of
applause but of hisses, of the world's most bitter opprobrium?

And yet Sandy felt that, little or indeed no pity as he had for this
most wicked man, even if Charlotte had not come to him and pleaded with
eyes, voice, and manner he could scarcely have exposed Mr. Harman. He
could scarcely, after hearing that great doctor's verdict, have gone up
to the old man and said that which would hurry him without an instant's
time for repentance, to judgment.

Alexander Wilson believed most fully in a judgment to come. When he
thought of it now, a certain sense of relief came over him. He need not
trouble so sorely; he might leave this sinner to his God. It is to be
feared that he thought more of God's justice than of His loving mercy
and forgiveness, as he decided to leave John Harman in His hands.

That evening at six o'clock he was to be again with Charlotte Home. For
Charlotte Harman's sake, he had denied himself that pleasure the night
before; but this evening the solitary man might enjoy the keen pleasure
of being with his very own. Mrs. Home was his nearest living
relation--the child of his own loved sister. He did not know yet whether
he could love her at all as he had loved his little Daisy; but he felt
quite sure that her children would twine themselves round his heart; for
already the remembrance of Daisy Home was causing it to beat high with
pleasure.

As the hour approached for his visit, he loaded himself with presents
not only for the children, but for the whole family. He said to himself
with much delight, that however much Mr. Harman's will might be tied up
for the present, yet Sandy Wilson's purse was open. He had far less idea
than Charlotte Harman what children really liked, but he loaded himself
with toys, cakes, and sweeties; and for his special pet Daisy over and
above the other two he bought the very largest doll that a Regent Street
shop could furnish him with. This doll was as heavy as a baby, and by no
means so beautiful to look at as its smaller companions. But Sandy was
no judge in such matters.

With his presents for the adults of the party he was more fortunate. For
his niece he purchased a black silk, which in softness, lustre, and
quality could not be surpassed; for Mr. Home he bought two dozen very
old port; for Anne, a bright blue merino dress.

These goods were packed into a four-wheeler, and, punctually at six
o'clock, that well-laden cab drew up at 10, Tremins Road. Three eager
pairs of eyes watched the unpacking, for the three pretty children,
dressed in their best, were in the dining-room; Mr. Home was also
present, and Charlotte had laid her tea-table with several unwonted
dainties in honor of her uncle's visit. Anne, the little maid, was
fluttering about; that well-laden cab had raised her spirits and her
hopes. She flew in and out, helping the cabby to bring the numerous
parcels into the hall.

"Ah! Annie, my girl, here's something for you," said Uncle Sandy,
tossing her dress to her. After which, it is to be feared, Anne went off
her head for a little bit.

The children, headed by their mother, came into the little hall to meet
and welcome their uncle. He entered the dining-room with Daisy riding on
his shoulder. Then before tea could even be thought of, the presents
must be discussed. The cakes, the sweeties, the toys were opened out;
the children scampered about, laughed, shouted, and kissed the old
Australian. Never in all his life had Uncle Sandy felt so happy.

Over an hour passed in this way, then the mother's firm voice was heard.
The little heads were raised obediently. Good-night kisses were given,
and Harold, Daisy, and little Angus were led off to their nursery by the
highly flushed and excited Anne.

The tea which followed and the quiet talk were nearly as pleasant, and
Uncle Sandy so enjoyed himself, that for a time he completely forgot old
Harman's will, his own half promise, Charlotte Harman's despair.

It was all brought back to him, however, and by the Homes themselves.
The tea things had been removed, the gas was lit, the curtains drawn,
and Charlotte Home had insisted on her old uncle seating himself in the
one easy-chair which the room possessed. She herself stood on the
hearthrug, and glancing for a moment at her husband she spoke.

"Uncle Sandy, it is so good to have you back again, and Angus and I are
so truly glad to welcome my dear mother's brother to our home, that we
think it hard to have to touch on anything the least gloomy to-night.
Just a word or two will be sufficient, and then we must drop the subject
for ever."

Uncle Sandy raised his wrinkled old face.

"Ah," he said. "If there's anything unpleasant, have it cut by all
means--out and over--that's my own motto."

"We spoke the other night," continued Charlotte, "about my dear mother.
I told you that she was poor--that she had to do with poverty, from the
hour of my father's death until the end of her own life. It is all over
for her now, she is at rest. If plenty of money could be found for her
she would not need it. When I told you the story you expressed a doubt
that all was not right; you said it was absolutely impossible that my
father could have left my mother nothing; you said that either the will
was tampered with or not acted on. Well, Uncle Sandy, I agree with you.
I had long felt that something was not right."

"Ay, ay, my girl; I said before, you had a brain in your head and a head
on your shoulders. Trust Uncle Sandy not to know a clever woman when he
sees her."

"Well, uncle, I can say all the rest in a very few words. You said you
could investigate the matter; that you could discover whether any foul
play had been committed. I asked you not to do so until I saw you again;
I now ask you not to do so at all; to let the whole matter rest always.
In this I have my husband's sanction and wish."

"Yes, Lottie has my full approval in this matter," said Mr. Home, coming
forward and laying his hand on his wife's shoulder. "We don't want
money, we would rather let the matter rest."

"You don't want money!" said Uncle Sandy, gazing hard from the ethereal
worn-looking man, to the woman, tall and thin, in her rusty dress, with
every mark of poverty showing in thin cheek, in careworn eyes, in
labor-stained hands. "You don't want money!" he repeated. "Niece
Charlotte, I retract what I said of you--I thought you were not quite a
fool. As to you, Home, I don't pretend to understand you. You don't want
money?"

Mr. Home smiled. Charlotte bent down and kissed her old uncle's brow.

"Nevertheless, you will do what we wish, even though you don't
understand," she said.

Uncle Sandy took her hand.

"Sit down near me, Niece Charlotte," he said. "And as to you, Home, you
have a long story to hear. After you have heard it, it will be time
enough to discuss your proposition. The fact is, Charlotte, I disobeyed
you in part. You asked me to do nothing in this matter until we met
again. I did nothing to compromise you; but, nevertheless, I was not
idle, I wanted to set my own mind at rest. There was an easy way of
doing this which I knew of, and which I wondered had not occurred to
you. Charlotte, I went yesterday to Somerset House; doubtless, you know
nothing of what took me there. I can soon enlighten you. In a certain
part of that vast pile, all wills are obliged to be kept. Anyone who
likes may go there, and, by paying the sum of one shilling, read any
will they desire. I did so. I went to Somerset House and I saw your
father's will."

"Yes," said Charlotte. Whatever her previous resolution, she no doubt
felt keenly excited now. "Yes," she repeated, "you read my father's
will."

"I read it. I read it in a hurry yesterday; to-day I saw it again and
read it carefully. There is no flaw in it; it is a will that must stand,
that cannot be disputed. Charlotte, you were right in your forebodings.
Niece Charlotte, you and your mother, before you, were basely robbed,
cruelly wronged; your dead father was just and upright; your living
brothers are villains; your father left, absolutely to your mother
first, and to you at her death, the sum of twelve hundred a year. He
left to you both a large enough sum of money to realize that large
yearly income. You were robbed of it. Do you know how?"

"No," said Charlotte. She said that one little word almost in a whisper.
Her face was deadly pale.

"That money was left in your father's will in trust; it was confided to
the care of three men, whose solemn duty it was to realize it for your
mother first, afterwards for you and your children. Those men were
called trustees; two of them, Charlotte, were your half-brothers, John
and Jasper Harman; the other was your mother's only living brother,
Sandy Wilson. These trustees were false to you: two of them by simply
ignoring the trust and taking the money to themselves; the other, by
pretending to be dead when he ought to have been in England attending to
his duty. The Harmans, the other trustees, so fully believed me to be
dead that they thought their sin would never be found out. But they
reckoned without their host, for Sandy has returned, and the missing
trustee can act now. Better late than never--eh, Niece Charlotte?"

"My poor mother!" said Charlotte, "my poor, poor mother!"

She covered her face with her hands. The suddenness and greatness of the
crime done had agitated her. She was very much upset. Her husband came
again very near and put his hand on her shoulder. His face, too, was
troubled.

"It was a terrible sin," he said, "a terrible sin to lie on these men's
breasts for three and twenty years. God help these sinners to
repentance!"

"Yes, God help them," repeated Uncle Sandy, "and also those they have
wronged. But now look up, Charlotte, for I have not told you all. A man
never sins for himself alone; if he did it would not so greatly matter,
for God and the pangs of an evil conscience would make it impossible for
him to get off scot free; but--I found it out in the bush, where, I can
tell you, I met rough folks enough--the innocent are dragged down with
the guilty. Now this is the case here. In exposing the guilty the
innocent must suffer. I don't mean you, my dear, nor my poor little
wronged Daisy. In both your cases the time for suffering, I trust, is
quite at an end, but there is another victim." Here Uncle Sandy paused,
and Charlotte, having recovered her composure, stood upright on the
hearthrug ready to listen. "When I went to Somerset House yesterday, I
had, in order to obtain a sight of Mr. Harman's will, to go through a
little ceremony. It is not necessary to go into it. I had to get certain
papers, and take orders to certain rooms. All this was the little form
imposed on me by the Government for my curiosity. At last I was told to
go to a room, called the reading room, and asked to wait there until the
will was brought to me. It was a small room, and I sat down prepared to
wait patiently enough. There were about half-a-dozen people in the room
besides myself, some reading wills, others waiting until they were
brought. One woman sat at the table exactly opposite to me. She was the
only woman in the room at the time, and perhaps that fact made me first
notice her; but when I looked once, I could not have been old Sandy
Wilson without wanting to look again. I have a weakness for fine women,
and this woman was fine, in the sense that makes you feel that she is
lovable. She was young, eager-looking. I have no doubt her features were
handsome, but it was her open, almost childlike expression which
attracted most. She was essentially a fine creature, and yet there was a
peculiar childish innocence about her, that made old Sandy long to
protect her on the spot. I was looking at her, and hoping she would not
notice it and think old Sandy Wilson a bore, when a man came into the
room and said something to the clerk at the desk. The clerk turned to me
and said, 'The will of the name of Harman is being read at this moment
by some one else in the room.' Instantly this girl looked up, her eyes
met mine, her face grew all one blaze of color, though she was a pale
enough lass the moment before, and a frightened expression came into her
eyes. She looked down again at once, and went on reading in a hurried,
puzzled way, as if she was scarcely taking in much. Of course I knew she
had the will, and I did not want to hurry or confuse her, so I
pretended to turn my attention to something else. It must have been
quite a couple of minutes before I looked again, and then--I confess
that I am not easily startled, but I did have to smother an
exclamation--the poor girl must have discovered the baseness and the
fraud in those two minutes. Had she been any other but the plucky lass
she is, she would have been in a dead faint on the floor, for I never,
never in all my pretty vast experience, saw a living face so white. I
could not help looking at her then, for I was completely fascinated. She
went on reading for half a minute longer; then she raised her eyes and
gazed straight and full at me. She had big, open gray eyes, and a moment
before, they were full of innocence and trust like a child's, now there
was a wild anger and despair in them. She was quite quiet however, and
no one else in the room noticed her. She pushed the will across the
table to me and said, "That is Mr. Harman's will," then she put on her
gloves quite slowly and drew down her veil, and left the room as
sedately and quietly as you please. I just glanced my eye over the will.
I took in the right place and saw the shameful truth. I was horrified
enough, but I could not wait to read it all. I gave the will back
intending to go to it another time, for I felt I must follow that girl
at any cost. I came up to her in Somerset House square. I did not care
what she thought; I must speak to her; I did. Poor lass! I think she was
quite stunned. She did not resent the liberty old Sandy had taken. When
I asked her to wait and let me talk to her she turned at once--I have
not lived in the bush so long without being, I pride myself, sharp
enough in reading character. I saw the girl, proud girl enough at
ordinary times, was in that state of despair which makes people do
desperate things. She was defiant, and told more than I expected. She
was Miss Harman--Charlotte Harman, by the way, she said. Yes; her father
had stolen that money; would I like to see him? he lived in such a
place; his name was so-and-so. Yes; she was his only child. Her manner
was so reckless, so defiant, and yet so full of absolute misery, that I
could do nothing but pity her from my very heart. I forgot you, Niece
Lottie, and your rights, and everything but this fine creature stricken
so low through another's sins. I said, 'Hush, you shall say no more
to-day. You are stunned, you are shocked, you must have time to think; I
won't remember a thing you say about your father now. Go home and come
back again to-morrow,' I said; 'sleep over it, and I will sleep over it,
and I will meet you here to-morrow, when you are more calm.' She agreed
to this and went away. I felt a little compunction for my own softness
during that evening and night, Niece Charlotte, I felt that I was not
quite true to you; but then you had not seen her face, poor brave young
thing, poor young thing!"

Here Uncle Sandy paused and looked hard from his niece to her husband.
Charlotte's eyes were full of tears, Mr. Home was smiling at him. There
was something peculiar in this man's rare smiles which turned them into
blessings. They were far more eloquent than words, for they were fed
from some illumination of strong approval within. Uncle Sandy, without
understanding, felt a warm glow instantly kindling in his heart.

Charlotte said, "Go on," in a broken voice.

"To-day, at the appointed hour, I met her again," proceeded the
Australian. "She was changed, she was composed enough now, she was on
her guard, she did not win my sympathy so much as in her despair. She
was quite open, however, as to the nature of the crime committed, and
told me she knew well what a sin her father had been guilty of. Suddenly
she startled me by saying that she knew you, Charlotte. She said she
wished she could see you now. I asked her why. She said, 'That I might
go down on my knees to her.' I was surprised at such words coming from
so proud a creature. I said so. She repeated that she would go down on
her knees that she might the better plead for mercy. I was beginning to
harden my old heart at that, and to think badly of her, when she stopped
me, by telling me a strange and sad thing. She said that she had
discovered something, something very terrible, between that hour and
yesterday. Her father had been ill for some time, but the worst had been
kept from her. She said yesterday that a poor person let her know quite
accidentally that he was not only ill but dying. She went alone that
morning to consult a doctor, one of those first-rate doctors whose word
is law. Mr. Harman, it seemed, unknown to her, was one of this man's
patients. He told her that he was hopelessly ill; that he could only
live for a few months, and that any shock might end his days in a
moment. She then told this doctor in confidence something of what she
had discovered yesterday. He said, 'As his medical man, I forbid you to
tell to your father this discovery you have made; if you do so he will
die instantly.' Miss Harman told me this strange tale, and then she
began to plead with me. She begged of me to show mercy; not to do
anything in this matter during the few months which still remained of
her father's life. Afterwards, she promised to restore all, and more
than all of what had been stolen. I hesitated; I scarcely knew how to
proceed. She saw it and exclaimed, 'Do you want me to go on my knees to
you? I will this moment, and here.' Then I said I could do nothing
without consulting you, I could do nothing without your consent.
Instantly the poor thing's whole face changed--I never saw such a change
from despair to relief. She held out her hand to me; she said she was
safe; she said she knew you; and that with you she was safe. She said
she never saw any one in her life seem to want money so badly as you;
but for all that, with you she was quite safe. She looked so thankful.
'I can cry now,' she said as she went away." Uncle Sandy paused again,
and again looked at his niece and her husband. "I told her that I would
come to you to-night," he said, "that I would plead her cause, and I
have, have I not?"

"Well and nobly," answered Mrs. Home. "Angus, think of her trusting me!
I am so glad she could trust me. Indeed she is safe with us."

"How soon can you go to her in the morning, Lottie?" asked the curate.

"With the first dawn I should like to go, I only wish I could fly to her
now. Oh, Angus! what she must suffer; and next Tuesday is to be her
wedding-day. How my heart does ache for her! But I am glad she trusts
me."

Here Mrs. Home become so excited that a great flood of tears came into
her eyes. She must cry them away in private. She left the room, and the
curate, sitting down, told to Uncle Sandy how Charlotte Harman had saved
little Harold's life.



CHAPTER XLIV.

LOVE BEFORE GOLD.


For the first time in all her life, Mrs. Home laid her head on her
pillow with the knowledge that she was a rich woman. Those good things
which money can buy could be hers; her husband need want no more; her
children might be so trained, so nurtured, so carefully tended that
their beauty, their beauty both physical and moral, would be seen in
clearest lustre. How often she had dreamed of the possibility of such a
time arriving, and now at last it had come. Ever since her dying mother
had told her own true history, she had dwelt upon this possible moment,
dwelt upon it with many murmurings, many heart frettings. Could it be
realized, she would be the happiest of women. Then she had decided to
give it all up, to put the golden dream quite out of her life and,
behold! she had scarcely done so before it had come true, the dream was
a reality, the riches lay at her feet. In no way through her
interference had this come about. Yes, but in the moment of her victory
the woman who had so longed for money was very miserable; like Dead Sea
apples was the taste of this eagerly desired fruit. She was enriched
through another's anguish and despair, through the wrecking of another's
happiness, and that other had saved the life of her child. Only one
thing comforted Charlotte Home during the long hours of that weary
night; Charlotte Harman had said.--

"With her I am safe; dearly as she loves money, with her I am quite
safe."

Mrs. Home thought the slow moments would never fly until she was with
the sister friend, who in her own bitter humiliation and shame could
trust her. In the morning, she and her husband had a talk together. Then
hurrying through her household duties, she started at a still very early
hour for Prince's Gate. She arrived there before ten o'clock, and as she
mounted the steps and pulled the ponderous bell she could not help
thinking of her last visit; she had felt sore and jealous then, to-day
she was bowed down by a sense of unworthiness and humility. Then, too,
she had gone to visit this rich and prosperous young woman dressed in
her very best, for she said to herself that whatever her poverty, she
would look every inch the lady; she looked every inch the lady to-day,
though she was in her old and faded merino. But that had now come to her
which made her forget the very existence of dress. The grand footman,
however, who answered her modest summons, being obtuse and uneducated,
saw only the shabby dress; he thought she was a distressed workwoman, he
had forgotten that she had ever come there before. When she asked for
Miss Harman, he hesitated and was uncertain whether she could see his
young lady; finally looking at her again, he decided to trust her so
far as to allow her to wait in the hall while he went to inquire.
Charlotte gave her name, Mrs. Home, and he went away. When he returned
there was a change in his manner. Had he begun to recognize the lady
under the shabby dress; or had Charlotte Harman said anything? He took
Mrs. Home up to the pretty room she had seen before, and left her there,
saying that Miss Harman would be with her in few moments. The room
looked just as of old. Charlotte, as she waited, remembered that she had
been jealous of this pretty room. It was as pretty to-day, bright with
flowers, gay with sunshine; the same love-birds were in the same cage,
the same canary sang in the same window, the same parrot swung lazily
from the same perch. Over the mantelpiece hung the portrait in oils of
the pretty baby, who yet was not so pretty as hers. Charlotte remembered
how she had longed for these pretty things for her children, but all
desire for them had left her now. There was the rustling of a silk dress
heard in the passage, and Charlotte Harman carelessly, but richly
attired, came in. There was, even in their outward appearance, the full
contrast between the rich and the poor observable at this moment, for
Charlotte Harman, too, had absolutely forgotten her dress, and had
allowed Ward to put on what she chose. When they were about to reverse
positions, this rich and this poor woman stood side by side in marked
contrast. Charlotte Harman looked proud and cold; in the moment when she
came to plead, she held her head high. Charlotte Home, who was to grant
the boon, came up timidly, almost humbly. She took the hands of this
girl whom she loved, held them firmly, then gathering sudden courage,
there burst from her lips just the last words she had meant at this
moment to say.

"How much I love you! how much I love you!"

As these fervent, passionate words were almost flung at her, Charlotte
Harman's eyes began suddenly to dilate. After a moment she said under
her breath, in a startled kind of whisper?

"You know all?"

"I know everything."

"Then you--you will save my father?"

"Absolutely. You need fear nothing from me or mine; in this we are but
quits. Did not you save Harold?"

"Ah," said Charlotte Harman; she took no notice of her friend and guest,
she sat down on the nearest chair and covered her face. When she raised
her head, Mrs. Home was kneeling by her side.

"Charlotte," said Miss Harman--there was a change in her, the proud look
and bearing were gone--"Charlotte," she said, "you and I are one age,
but you are a mother; may I lay my head on your breast just for a
moment?"

"Lay it there, my darling. As you have got into my heart of hearts, so
would I comfort you."

"Ah, Charlotte, how my heart has beat! but your love is like a cool hand
laid upon it, it is growing quiet."

"Charlotte, you are right in reminding me that I am a mother. I must
treat you as I would my little Daisy. Daisy trusts me absolutely and has
no fear; you must trust me altogether, and fear nothing."

"I do. I fear nothing when I am with you. Charlotte, next Tuesday was to
have been my wedding-day."

"Yes, dear."

"But it is all on an end now; I broke off my engagement yesterday. And
yet, how much I love him! Charlotte, don't look at me so pityingly."

"Was I doing so? I was wondering if you slept last night."

"Slept! No, people don't sleep when their hearts beat as hard as mine
did, but I am better now."

"Then, Charlotte, I must prescribe for you, as a mother. For the next
two hours you are my child and shall obey me; we have a great deal to
say to each other; but first of all, before we say a single word, you
must lie on this sofa, and I will hold your hand. You shall try and
sleep."

"But can you spare the time from your children?"

"You are my child now; as long as you want me I will stay with you. See,
I am going to draw down the blinds, and I will lock the door; you must
not be disturbed."

It was thus that these two spent the morning. When Charlotte Harman
awoke some hours later, quiet and refreshed, they had a long, long talk.
That talk drew their hearts still closer together; it was plain that
such a paltry thing as money could not divide these friends.



CHAPTER XLV.

THE FATE OF A LETTER.


Hinton had left the Harmans' house, after his strange interview with
Charlotte, with a stunned feeling. It is not too much to say of this
young man that he utterly failed to realize what had befallen him. He
walked like one in a dream, and when he reached his lodgings in Jermyn
Street, and sat down at last by his hearth, he thought of himself in a
queer way, as if he were some one else; a trouble had come to some one
else; that some one was a friend of his so he was called on to pity him.
Gradually, however, it dawned upon him that the friend was unpleasantly
close, that the some one else reigned as lord of his bosom. It was
he--he himself he was called on to pity. It was on his hitherto so
prosperous, young head that the storm had burst. Next Tuesday was to
have been his wedding-day. There was to be no wedding. On next Tuesday
he was to have won a bride, a wife; that other one dearer than himself
was to give herself to him absolutely. In addition to this he was to
obtain fortune: and fortune was to lead to far dearer, far nobler fame.
But now all this was at an end; Tuesday was to pass as any other
day--gray, neutral-tinted, indifferent, it was to go over his head. And
why? This was what caused the sharpest sting of the anguish. There
seemed no reason for it all. Charlotte's excuse was a poor one; it had
not the ring of the true metal about it. Unaccustomed to deceive, she
had played her part badly. She had given an excuse; but it was no
excuse. In this Hinton was not blinded, even for a moment. His
Charlotte! There, seemed a flaw in the perfect creature. His Charlotte
had a second time turned away her confidence from him. Yes, here was the
sting; in her trouble she would not let him comfort her. What was the
matter? What was the mystery? What was the hidden wrong?

Hinton roused himself now. As thought and clearness of judgment came
more vividly back to him, his anger grew and his pity lessened. His mind
was brought to bear upon a secret, for there _was_ a hidden secret. His
remembrance travelled back to all that had happened since the day their
marriage was fixed--since the day when he first saw a troubled look on
Charlotte's face--and she had told him, though unwillingly, that queer
story of Mrs. Home's. Yes, of course, he knew there was a mystery--a
strange and dark mystery; like a coward he had turned away from
investigating it. He had seen Uncle Jasper's nervous fear; he had seen
Mrs. Home's poverty; he had witnessed Mr. Harman's ill-concealed
disquietude--all this he had seen, all this he had known. But for
Charlotte's sake, he had shut his eyes; Charlotte's sake he had
forbidden his brain to think or his hands to work.--

And now--now--ah! light was dawning. Charlotte had fathomed what he had
feared to look at. Charlotte had seen the dread reality. The secret was
disgraceful. Nothing else could so have changed his one love. Nothing
but disgrace, the disgrace of the one nearest to her, could bring that
look to her face. Scarcely had he thought this before a memory came to
him. He started to his feet as it came back. Charlotte had said, "Before
our wedding-day I will read my grandfather's will." Suppose she had done
so, and her grandfather's will had been--what? Hinton began to see
reason now in her unaccountable determination not to see Webster. She
had doubtless resolved on that very day to go to Somerset House and read
that fatal document. Having made up her mind she would not swerve from
her purpose. Then, though she was firm in her determination, her face
had been bright, her brow unfurrowed, she had still been his own dear
and happy Charlotte. He had not seen her again until she knew all. She
knew all, and her heart and spirit were alike broken. As this fact
became clear to Hinton, a sense of relief and peace came over him; he
began once more to understand the woman he loved. Beside the darkness of
misunderstanding _her_, all other misunderstandings seemed light. She
was still his love, his life; she was still true to herself, to the
beautiful ideal he had enthroned in his heart of hearts. Poor darling!
she would suffer; but he must escape. Loving him as deeply, as devotedly
as ever, she yet would give him up, rather than that he should share in
the downfall of her house. Ah! she did not know him. She could be great;
but so also could he. Charlotte should see that her love was no light
thing for any man to relinquish: she would find that it weighed heavier
in the balance than riches, than fame; that disgrace even could not
crush it down. Knowing all, he would go to her; she should not be alone
in her great, great trouble; she should find out in her hour of need the
kind of man whose heart she had won. His depression left him as he came
to this resolve, and he scarcely spent even an anxious night. On the
next day, however, he did not go to Charlotte; but about noon he sat
down and wrote her the following letter:--

     MY DARLING:

     You gave me up yesterday. I was--I don't mind telling you this
     now--stunned, surprised, pained. Since then, however, I have
     thought much; all my thought has been about you. Thought sometimes
     leads to light, and light has come to me. Charlotte, a contract
     entered into by two takes two to undo. I refuse to undo this
     contract. Charlotte, I refuse to give you up. You are my promised
     wife; our banns have been read twice in church already. Have you
     forgotten this? In the eyes of both God and man you are almost
     mine. To break off this engagement, unless I, too, wished it, would
     be, whatever your motive, a _sin_. Charlotte, the time has come,
     when we may ruin all the happiness of both our lives, unless very
     plain words pass between us. I use very plain words when I tell you
     that I most absolutely refuse to give you up. That being so,
     _whatever_ your motive, you are committing a sin in refusing to
     give yourself to me. My darling, it is you I want, not your
     money--you--not--not--But I will add no more, except one thing.
     Charlotte, I went this morning to Somerset House, and I _read your
     grandfather's will_.

     Now, what hour shall I come to you? Any hour you name I will fly
     to you. It is impossible for you to refuse what I demand as a
     right. But know that, if you do refuse, I will come
     notwithstanding.

     Yours ever,
     JOHN HINTON.

This letter, being directed, was quickly posted, and in due time reached
its address at Prince's Gate.

Then a strange thing happened to it. Jasper Harman, passing through the
hall, saw the solitary letter waiting for his niece. It was his habit to
examine every letter that came within his reach; he took up this one for
no particular reason, but simply from the force of this long
established habit. But having taken it in his hand, he knew the
writing. The letter was from Hinton, and Charlotte had told him--had
just told him--that her engagement with Hinton was broken off, that her
wedding was not to be. Old Jasper was beset just now by a thousand
fears, and Charlotte's manner and Charlotte's words had considerably
added to his alarm. There was a mystery; Charlotte could not deny that
fact. This letter might elucidate it--might throw light where so much
was needed. Jasper Harman felt that the contents of Hinton's letter
might do him good and ease his mind. Without giving himself an instant's
time for reflection, he took the letter into the dining-room, and,
opening it, read what was meant for another. He had scarcely done so
before Charlotte unexpectedly entered the room. To save himself from
discovery, when he heard her step, he dropped the letter into the fire.
Thus Charlotte never got her lover's letter.

Hinton, bravely as he had spoken, was, nevertheless, pained at her
silence. After waiting for twenty-four hours he, however, resolved to be
true to his word. He had said to Charlotte, "If you refuse what I demand
as a right, nevertheless I shall exercise my right. I will come to you."
But he went with a strange sinking of heart, and when he got to Prince's
Gate and was not admitted he scarcely felt surprised.



CHAPTER XLVI.

"THE WAY OF TRANSGRESSORS."


It is one of those everlasting truths, which experience and life teach
us every day, that sin brings its own punishment, virtue its own reward:
peace, the great divine reward of conscience to the virtuous; misery and
despair, and that constant apprehension which dreads discovery, and yet
which in itself is worse than discovery, to the transgressors.

"The way of transgressors is hard."

That Bible text was proving itself once more now in the cases of two old
men. John Harman was sinking into his grave in anguish at the thought of
facing an angry God: Jasper Harman was preparing to fly from what, alas!
he dreaded more, the faces of his angry fellow-creatures.

Yes; it had come to this with Jasper Harman; England had become too hot
to hold him; better fly while he could. Ever since the day Hinton had
told him that he had really and in truth heard of the safe arrival of
the other trustee, Jasper's days and nights had been like hell to him.
In the morning, he had wondered would the evening find him still a free
man; in the evening, he had trembled at what might befall him before the
morning dawned. Unaccustomed to any mental anguish, his health began to
give way; his heart beat irregularly, unevenly, he lost his appetite; at
night he either had bad dreams or he could not sleep. This change began
to tell upon his appearance; his hair grew thinner and whiter, he
stooped as he walked, there was very little apparent difference now
between him and John.

He could not bear the Harmans' house, for there he might meet Hinton. He
dreaded his office in the City, for there the other trustee might follow
him and publicly expose him. He liked his club best; but even there he
felt scarcely safe, some one might get an inkling of the tale, there was
no saying how soon such a story, so strange, so disgraceful, pertaining
to so well-known a house as that of Harman Brothers, might get bruited
about. Thus it came to pass that there was no place where this wretched
old man felt safe; it became more and more clear to him day by day that
England was too hot to hold him. All these growing feelings culminated
in a sudden accession of terror on the day that Charlotte, with her
strangely changed face, had asked him the truth with regard to her
father's case, when, with the persistence of almost despair, she had
insisted on knowing the very worst; then had quickly followed the
announcement that her marriage had been broken off by herself; that it
was postponed, her father thought, simply for the short remaining span
of his own life; but Charlotte had taken little pains to conceal from
Uncle Jasper that she now never meant to marry Hinton. What was the
reason of it all? Jasper Harman, too, as well as Hinton, was not
deceived by the reason given. There was something more behind. What was
that something more?

In his terror and perplexity, Jasper opened Hinton's letter. One
sentence in that letter, never meant for him, burnt into the unhappy man
as the very fire of hell.

"I went this morning to Somerset House, and I read your grandfather's
will."

Then Jasper's worst fears had come true; the discovery was made; the
hidden sin brought to the light, the sinners would be dragged any moment
to punishment.

Jasper must leave England that very night. Never again could he enter
his brother's house. He must fly; he must fly at once and in secret, for
it would never do to take any one into his confidence. Jasper Harman had
a hard and evil heart; he was naturally cold and unloving; but he had
one affection, he did care for his brother. In mortal terror as he was,
he could not leave that dying brother without bidding him good-bye.

John Harman had not gone to the City that day, and when Charlotte left
the room, Jasper, first glancing at the grate to make sure that Hinton's
letter was all reduced to ashes, stole, in his usual soft and gliding
fashion, to John's study. He was pleased to see his brother there, and
alone.

"You are early back from the City, Jasper," said the elder brother.

"Yes; there was nothing to keep me this afternoon, so I did not stay."

The two old men exchanged a few more commonplaces. They were now
standing by the hearth. Suddenly John Harman, uttering a half-suppressed
groan, resumed his seat.

"It is odd," he said, "how the insidious something which men call Death
seems to grow nearer to me day by day. Now, as we stood together, I felt
just a touch of the cold hand; the touch was but a feather weight, but
any instant it will come down like a giant on its prey. It is terrible
to stand as I do, looking into the face of Death; I mean it is terrible
for one like me."

"You are getting morbid, John," said Jasper; "you always were given to
look on the dismals. If you must die, as I suppose and fear you must,
why don't you rouse yourself and enjoy life while you may?"

To this John Harman made no answer. After a moment or two of silence,
during which Jasper watched him nervously, he said;--

"As you have come back so early from the City, can you give me two hours
now? I have a great deal I want to say to you."

"About the past?" questioned Jasper.

"About the past."

Jasper Harman paused and hesitated; he knew well that he should never
see his brother again; that this was his last request. But dare he stay?
Two hours were very precious, and the avenger might even now be at the
door. No; he could not waste time so precious in listening to an old,
old tale.

"Will two hours this evening do equally well, John?"

"Yes, if you prefer it. I generally give the evening to Charlotte; but
this evening, if it suits you better."

"I will go now, then," said Jasper.

"Charlotte has told you of her resolve?"

"Yes, and I have spoken to her; but she is an obstinate minx."

"Do not call her so; it is because of her love for me. I am sorry that
she will not marry at once; but it is not, after all, a long
postponement and it is I own, a relief, not to have to conceal my state
of health from her."

"It is useless arguing with a woman," said Jasper. "Well, good-bye,
John."

"Good-bye," said the elder Harman, in some surprise that Jasper's hand
was held out to him.

Jasper's keen eyes looked hard into John's for a moment. He wrung the
thin hand and left the room. He had left for ever the one human being he
loved, and even in his throat was a lump caused by something else than
fear. But in the street and well outside that luxurious home, his love
sank out of sight and his fear returned; he must get out of England that
very night, and he had much to do.

He pulled out his watch. Yes, there was still time. Hailing a passing
hansom he jumped into it, and drove to his bank. There, to the
astonishment of the cashier, he drew all the money he kept there. This
amounted to some thousands. Jasper buttoned the precious notes into a
pocket-book. Then he went to his lodgings and began the task of tearing
up letters and papers which he feared might betray him. Hitherto, all
through his life he had kept these things precious; but now they all
went, even to his mother's portrait and the few letters she had written
to him when a boy at school. Even he sighed as he cast these treasures
into the fire and watched them being reduced to ashes; but though they
had gone with him from place to place in Australia, and he had hoped
never to part from them, he must give them up now, for, innocent as they
looked, they might appeal against him. He must give up all the past,
name and all, for was he not flying from the avengers? flying because of
his sin? Oh! surely the way of transgressors was hard!



CHAPTER XLVII.

CHARLOTTE HARMAN'S COMFORT.


Jasper Harman did not come to his brother's house that night, but about
the time he might be expected to arrive there came a note from him
instead. It was plausibly written, and gave a plausible excuse for his
absence. He told John of sudden tidings with regard to some foreign
business. These tidings were really true. Jasper said that a
confidential clerk had gone to the foreign port where they dealt to
inquire into this special matter, but that he thought it best, as the
stakes at issue were large, to go also himself, to inquire personally.
He would not be long away, &c. &c. He would write when to expect his
return. It was a letter so cleverly put together, as to cause no alarm
to any one. John Harman read it, folded it up, and told Charlotte that
they need not expect Jasper in Prince's Gate for at least a week. The
week passed, and though Jasper had neither come nor written, there was
no anxiety felt on his account. In the mean time affairs had outwardly
calmed down in Prince's Gate. The agitation, which had been felt even by
the humblest servant in the establishment had ceased. Everything had
returned to its accustomed groove. The nine days' wonder of that put off
wedding had ceased to be a wonder. It still, it is true, gave zest to
conversation in the servants' hall, but upstairs it was never mentioned.
The even routine of daily life had resumed its sway, and things looked
something as they did before, except that Mr. Harman grew to all eyes
perceptibly weaker, that Charlotte was very grave and pale and quiet,
that old Uncle Jasper was no longer in and out of the house, and that
John Hinton never came near it. The luxurious house in Prince's Gate was
unquestionably very dull; but otherwise no one could guess that there
was anything specially amiss there.

On a certain morning, Charlotte got up, put on her walking things, and
went out. She had not been out of doors for a week, and a sudden longing
to be alone in the fresh outer world came over her too strongly to be
rejected. She called a hansom and once more drove to her favorite
Regent's Park. The park was now in all the full beauty and glory of its
spring dress, and Charlotte sat down under the green and pleasant shade
of a wide spreading oak-tree. She folded her hands in her lap and gazed
straight before her. She had lived through one storm, but she knew that
another was before her. The sky overhead was still gray and lowering;
there was scarcely even peace in this brief lull in the tempest. In the
first sudden fierceness of the storm she had acted nobly and bravely,
but now that the excitement was past, there was coming to her a certain
hardening of heart, and she was beginning to doubt the goodness of God.
At first, most truly she had scarcely thought of herself at all, but it
was impossible as the days went on for her not to make a moan over her
own altered life. The path before her looked very dark, and Charlotte's
feet had hitherto been unaccustomed to gloom. She was looking forward to
the death, the inevitable and certainly approaching death of her father.
That was bad, that was dreadful; but bad and dreadful as it would be to
say good-bye to the old man, what must follow would be worse; however
she might love him, however tenderly she might treat him, during his few
remaining days or weeks of life, when all was over and he could return
no more to receive men's praise or blame, then she must disgrace him,
she must hold him up for the world's scorn. It would be impossible even
to hope that the story would not be known, and once known it would heap
dishonor on the old head she loved. For Charlotte, though she saw the
sin, though the sin itself was most terrible and horrible to her, was
still near enough to Christ in her nature to forgive the sinner. She had
suffered; oh, how bitterly through this man! but none the less for this
reason did she love him. But there was another cause for her heartache;
and this was more personal. Hinton and she were parted. That was right.
Any other course for her to have pursued would have been most distinctly
wrong. But none the less did her heart ache and feel very sore; for how
easily had Hinton acquiesced in her decision! She did not even know of
his visit to the house. That letter, which would have been, whatever its
result, like balm to her wounded spirit, had never reached her. Hinton
was most plainly satisfied that they should meet no more. Doubtless it
was best, doubtless in the end it would prove the least hard course; but
none the less did hot tears fall now; none the less heavy was her
heart. She was wiping away a tear or two, and thinking these very sad
thoughts, when a clear little voice in her ear startled her.

"My pretty lady!" said the sweet voice, and looking round Charlotte saw
little Harold Home standing by her side. Charlotte had not seen Harold
since his illness. He had grown taller and thinner than of old, but his
loving eyes were fixed on her face, and now his small brown hands beat
impatiently upon her knees.

"Daisy and Angus are just round the corner," he whispered. "Let us play
a game of hide and seek, shall we?"

He pulled her hand as he spoke, and Charlotte got up to humor him at
once. They went quickly round to the other side of the great oak-tree,
Harold sitting down on the grass pulled Charlotte to his side.

"Ah! don't speak," he said, and he put his arms round her neck.

She found the feel of the little arms strangely comforting, and when a
moment or two afterwards the others discovered them and came close with
peals of merry laughter, she yielded at once to Harold's eager request.

"May they go for a walk for half an hour, and may I stay with you,
pretty lady?"

"Yes," she answered, stooping down to kiss him.

Anne promised to return at the right time, and Charlotte and Harold were
alone. The boy, nestling close to her side, began to chatter
confidentially.

"I'm _so_ glad I came across you," he said; "you looked very dull when I
came up, and it must be nice for you to have me to talk to, and 'tis
very nice for me too, for I am fond of you."

"I am glad of that, Harold," said Charlotte.

"But I don't think you are quite such a pretty lady as you were,"
continued the boy, raising his eyes to her face and examining her
critically. "Mr. Hinton and I used to think you were perfectly lovely!
You were so _bright_--yes, bright is the word. Something like a dear
pretty cherry, or like my little canary when he's singing his very, very
best. But you ain't a bit like my canary to-day; you have no sing in you
to-day; ain't you happy, my pretty lady?"

"I have had some trouble since I saw you last, Harold," said Charlotte.

"Dear, dear!" sighed Harold, "everybody seems to have lots of trouble. I
wonder why. No; I don't think Mr. Hinton would think you pretty to-day.
But," as a sudden thought and memory came over him--"I suppose you are
married by this time? Aren't you married to my Mr. Hinton by this time?"

"No, dear," answered Charlotte.

"But why?" questioned the inquisitive boy.

"I am afraid I cannot tell you that, Harold."

Harold was silent for about half a minute. He was sitting down on the
grass close to Charlotte, and his head was leaning against her shoulder.
After a moment he continued with a sigh,--

"I guess _he's_ very sorry. He and I used to talk about you so at night
when I had the fever. I knew then he was fond of you, nearly as fond as
I am myself."

"I am glad little Harold Home loves me," said Charlotte, soothed by the
pretty boy's talk, and again she stooped down to kiss him.

"But everybody does," said the boy. "There's father and mother, and my
Mr. Hinton and me, myself, and above all, the blessed Jesus."

A strange feeling, half pleasure, half surprise, came over Charlotte.

"How do you know about that last?" she whispered.

"Of course I know," replied Harold. "I know quite well. I heard father
and mother say it; I heard them say it quite plainly one day; 'She's one
of those blessed ones whom Jesus Christ loves very much.' Oh dear! I
wish the children weren't back so dreadfully soon."

Yes, the children and Anne had returned, and Harold had to say good-bye,
and Charlotte herself had to retrace her steps homewards. But her walk
had not been for nothing, and there was a new peace, a new quiet, and a
new hope in her heart. The fact was, she just simply, without doubt or
difficulty, believed the child. Little Harold Home had brought her some
news. The news was strange, new, and wonderful; she did not doubt it.
Faithful, and therefore full of faith, was this simple and upright
nature. There was no difficulty in her believing a fact. What Harold
said was a fact. She was one of those whom Jesus loved. Straight did
this troubled soul fly to the God of consolation. Her religion, from
being a dead thing, began to live. She was not friendless, she was not
alone, she had a friend who, knowing absolutely all, still loved. At
that moment Charlotte Harman put her hand into the hand of Christ.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

THE CHILDREN'S ATTIC.


It was one thing for Alexander Wilson to agree to let matters alone for
the present, and by so doing to oblige both Charlotte Home and Charlotte
Harman, but it was quite another thing for him to see his niece, his own
Daisy's child, suffering from poverty. Sandy had been accustomed to
roughing it in the Australian bush. He had known what it was to go many
hours without food, and when that food could be obtained it was most
generally of the coarsest and commonest quality. He had known, too, what
the cold of lying asleep in the open air meant. All that an ordinary man
could endure had Sandy pulled through in his efforts to make a fortune.
He had never grumbled at these hardships, they had passed over him
lightly. He would, he considered, have been less than man to have
complained. But nevertheless, when he entered the Home's house, and took
possession of the poorly-furnished bedroom, and sat down day after day
to the not too abundant meals; when he saw pretty little Daisy cry
because her mother could not give her just what was most nourishing for
her breakfast, and Harold, still pale and thin, having to do without the
beef-tea which the doctor had ordered for him; when Sandy saw these
things his heart waxed hot, and a great grumbling fit took possession of
his kindly, genial soul. This grumbling fit reached its culminating
point, when one day--mother, children, and maid all out--he stole up
softly to the children's nursery. This small attic room, close to the
roof, low, insufficiently ventilated, was altogether too much for Sandy.
The time had come for him to act, and he was never the man to shirk
action in any way. Charlotte Harman was all very well; that dying father
of hers, whom he pronounced a most atrocious sinner, and took pleasure
in so thinking him, he also was well enough, but everything could not
give way to them. Though for the present Mr. Harman's money could not be
touched for the Home's relief, yet Sandy's own purse was open, and that
purse, he flattered himself, was somewhat comfortably lined. Yes, he
must do something, and at once. Having examined with marked disgust the
children's attic, he marched down the street. Tremins Road was long and
narrow, but leading out of it was a row of fine new houses. These houses
were about double the size of number ten, were nicely finished, and
though many of them were already taken, two or three had boards up,
announcing that they were still to let. Sandy saw the agent's name on
the board, and went off straight to consult with him. The result of this
consultation was that in half an hour he and the agent were all over the
new house. Sandy went down to the basement, and thought himself
particularly knowing in poking his nose into corners, in examining the
construction of the kitchen-range, and expecting a copper for washing
purposes to be put up in the scullery. Upstairs he selected a large and
bright room, the windows of which commanded a peep of distant country.
Here his pretty little Pet Daisy might play happily, and get back her
rosy cheeks, and sleep well at night without coming downstairs
heavy-eyed to breakfast. Finally he took the house on the spot, and
ordered in paperers and painters for the following Monday.

He was asked if he would like to choose the papers. "Certainly," he
replied, inwardly resolving that the nursery should be covered with
pictures. He appointed an hour on Monday for his selections. This day
was Saturday. He then went to the landlord of No. 10, Tremins Road, and
made an arrangement for the remainder of the Homes' lease. This
arrangement cost him some money, but he reflected again with
satisfaction that his purse was well lined. So far he had conducted his
plans without difficulty. But his next step was not so easy; without
saying a word to either Charlotte or her husband, he had deprived them
of one home, while providing them with another. No doubt the new home
was vastly superior to the old. But still it came into his mind that
they might consider his action in the light of a liberty; in short, that
this very peculiar and unworldly couple might be capable of taking huff
and might refuse to go at his bidding. Sandy set his wits to work over
this problem, and finally he concocted a scheme. He must come round this
pair by guile. He thought and thought, and in the evening when her
husband was out he had a long talk with his niece. By a few judiciously
chosen words he contrived to frighten Charlotte about her husband's
health. He remarked that he looked ill, worn, very much older than his
years. He said, with a sigh, that when a man like Home broke down he
never got up again. He was undermining his constitution. When had he had
a change?

"Never once since we were married," answered the wife with tears in her
eyes.

Sandy shook his head very sadly and gravely over this, and after a
moment of reflection brought out his scheme.

Easter was now over, there was no special press of parish work. Surely
Homes' Rector would give him a holiday, and allow him to get away from
Monday to Saturday night? Why not run away to Margate for those six
days, and take his wife and three children with him? No, they need take
no maid, for he, Uncle Sandy, having proposed this plan must be
answerable for the expense. He would put them all up at a good hotel,
and Anne could stay at home to take care of him. Of course to this
scheme there were many objections raised. But, finally, the old
Australian overruled them each and all. The short leave was granted by
the Rector. The rooms at the hotel which commanded the best sea-view
were taken by Sandy, and the Homes left 10 Tremins Road, little guessing
that they were not to return there. When he had seen father, mother, and
three happy little children off by an early train, Sandy returned
quickly to Tremins Road. There he called Anne to him, and unfolded to
the trembling and astonished girl his scheme.

"We have to be in the new house as snug as snug by Saturday night, my
girl," he said in conclusion. "We have to bring away what is worth
moving of this furniture, and it must all be clean and fresh, for a
clean new house. And, look here, Anne, you can't do all the work; do you
happen to know of a good, hard-working girl, who would come and help
you, and stay altogether if Mrs. Home happened to like her, just a
second like yourself, my lass?"

"Oh, please, sir, please, sir," answered Anne, "there's my own sister,
she's older nor me, and more knowing. She's real 'andy, and please, sir,
she'd like it real awful well."

"Engage her by all means," said Wilson, "go at once for her. See; where
does she live? I will pay the cab fare."

"Oh, was anything so exactly like the _Family Herald_," thought Anne as
she drove away.

Uncle Sandy then went to a large West End furniture shop, and chose some
sensible and nice furniture. The drawing-room alone he left untouched,
for he could not pretend to understand how such a room should be rigged
out--that must be Charlotte's province. But the nice large dining-room,
the bedrooms, the stairs and hall, were made as sweet and gay and pretty
as the West End shopman, who had good taste and to whom Uncle Sandy gave
carte blanche, could devise. Finally, on Saturday, he went to a
florist's and from there filled the windows with flowers, and Anne had
orders to abundantly supply the larder and store-room; and now at last,
directions being given for tea, the old man went off to meet his niece,
her husband and her children, to conduct them to their new home.

"Oh, we did have such a time," said Harold, as, brown as a berry, he
looked up at his old great-uncle. "Didn't we, Daisy?" he added,
appealing to his small sister, who clung to his hand.

"Ess, but we 'onted 'oo, Uncle 'Andy," said the small thing, looking
audaciously into his face, which she well knew this speech would please.

"You're just a dear, little, darling duck," said Sandy, taking her in
his arms and giving her a squeeze. But even Daisy could not quite
monopolize him at this moment. All the success of his scheme depended on
the next half-hour, and as they all drove back to Kentish Town, Sandy on
the box-seat of the cab, and the father, mother, and three children
inside, his heart beat so loud and hard, that he had to quiet it with
some sharp inward admonitions.

"Sandy Wilson, you old fool!" he said to himself more than once; "you
have not been through the hardships of the Australian bush to be afraid
of a moment like this. Keep yourself quiet; I'm ashamed of you."

At last they drew up at the address Sandy had privately given. How
beautiful the new house looked! The hall door stood open, and Anne's
smiling face was seen on the threshold. The children raised a shout at
sight of her and the flowers, which were so gay in the windows. Mr. Home
in a puzzled kind of way was putting out his head to tell the cabby that
he had made a mistake, and that he must just turn the corner. Charlotte
was feeling a queer little sensation of surprise, when Uncle Sandy, with
a face almost purple with emotion, flung open the door of the cab, took
Daisy in his arms, and mounting her with an easy swing on to his
shoulder said to Charlotte,--

"Welcome, in the name of your dear, dead mother, Daisy Wilson, to your
new home, Niece Lottie."

The children raised a fresh shout.

"Oh, come, Daisy," said Harold; she struggled to the ground and the two
rushed in. Anne came down and took the baby, and Mr. and Mrs. Home had
no help for it but to follow in a blind kind of way. Uncle Sandy pushed
his niece down into one of the hall chairs.

"There!" he said; "don't, for Heaven's sake, you two unpractical,
unworldly people, begin to be angry with me. That place in Tremins Road
was fairly breaking my heart, and I could not stand it, and
'tis--well--I do believe 'tis let, and you _can't_ go back to it, and
this house is yours, Niece Charlotte, and the furniture. As to the rent,
I'll be answerable for that, and you won't refuse your own mother's
brother. The fact was, that attic where the children slept was too much
for me, so I had to do something. Forgive me if I practised a little bit
of deception on you both. Now, I'm off to an hotel to-night, but
to-morrow, if you're not too angry with your mother's brother, I'm
coming back for good. Kept a fine room for myself, I can tell you. Anne
shall show it to you. Trust Sandy Wilson to see to his own comforts. Now
good-bye, and God bless you both."

Away he rushed before either of the astonished pair had time to get in a
word.

"But I do think they'll forgive the liberty the old man took with them,"
were his last waking thoughts as he closed his eyes that night.



CHAPTER XLIX.

HE WEPT.


Mr. Harman was beginning to take the outward circumstances of his life
with great quietness. What, three months before, would have caused both
trouble and distress, now, was received with equanimity. The fact was,
he felt himself day by day getting so near eternity, that the things of
time, always so disproportionately large to our worldly minds, were
assuming to him their true proportions.

John Harman was being led by a dark road of terrible mental suffering to
his God; already he was drawing near, and the shadow of that forgiveness
which would yet encircle him in its perfect rest and peace was at hand.

Days, and even weeks, went by, and there was no news of Jasper. John
Harman would once have been sorely perplexed, but now he received the
fact of his brothers absence with a strange quietness, even apathy.
Charlotte's postponed marriage, a little time back, would have also
fretted him, but believing surely that she would be happy after his
death, he did not now trouble; and he could not help owning to himself
that the presence of his dearly loved daughter was a comfort too great
to be lightly dispensed with. He was too much absorbed with himself to
notice the strangeness of Hinton's absence, and he did not perceive, as
he otherwise would have done, that Charlotte's face was growing thin and
pale, and that there was a subdued, almost crushed manner about the
hitherto spirited creature, which not even his present state of health
could altogether account for.

Yes, John Harman lived his self-absorbed life, going day by day a little
further into the valley of the shadow of death. The valley he was
entering looked very dark indeed to the old man, for the sin of his
youth was still unforgiven, and he could not see even a glimpse of the
Good Shepherd's rod and staff. Still he was searching day and night for
some road of peace and forgiveness; he wanted the Redeemer of all the
world to lay His hand upon his bowed old head. The mistake he was still
making was this--he would not take God's way of peace, he must find his
own.

One evening, after Charlotte had left him, he sat for a long time in his
study lost in thought. After a time he rose and took down once more from
the shelf the Bible which he had opened some time before; then it had
given him the reverse of comfort, and he scarcely, as he removed it from
the place where he had pushed it far back out of sight, knew why he
again touched it. He did, however, take it in his hand, and return with
it to his chair. He drew the chair up to the table and laid the old
Bible upon it. He opened it haphazard; he was not a man who had ever
studied or loved the Bible; he was not acquainted with all its contents
and the story on which his eyes rested came almost with the freshness of
novelty.

"Two men went up into the Temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the
other a publican.

"The publican would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but
smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me, a sinner.

"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the
other."

John Harman read the story twice.

"This man went down to his house justified rather than the other."

The other! he fasted, and gave alms, and thanked God that he was not as
this publican--this publican, who was a sinner.

But the Bible words were clear enough and plain enough. He, the sinner,
was justified.

John Harman covered his face with his hands. Suddenly he fell on his
knees.

"God be merciful to me a sinner," he said.

He said the few words twice aloud, in great anguish of spirit, and as he
prayed he wept.

Afterwards he turned over the Bible pages again. This time he read the
story of Zacchæus.

"If I have taken anything from any man, I restore him fourfold."

It was very late when Mr. Harman at last went to bed, but he slept
better that night than he had done for years. He was beginning to see
the possible end.



CHAPTER L.

HOME'S SERMON.


It was impossible for the Homes to refuse Uncle Sandy's kindness. Their
natural pride and independence of character could not stand in the way
of so graciously and gracefully offered a gift. When the old man came to
see them the next day, he was received with all the love and gratitude
he deserved. If he could give well, Charlotte and her husband knew how
to receive well. He now told his niece plainly that he had come to pass
the remainder of his days with her and hers; and father, mother, and
children welcomed him with delight.

Charlotte was now a very happy woman. The new and pretty house was
delightful to her. She began to understand what it was not to have to
look twice at a pound, for Uncle Sandy's purse was for ever at her
command. When she went with her old uncle to choose the furniture for
the new drawing room, she laughed so merrily and seemed so gay that
Uncle Sandy informed her that she had already lost five years of her
age. Harold and Daisy used to look into her face at this time, and say
to one another, "Isn't our mother pretty?" For, indeed, the peace in her
heart, and the little unexpected glow of worldly prosperity which had
come into her life, had wonderfully softened and beautified her face.
Her eyes, when she looked at her children's blooming faces, were often
bright as stars. At all times now they were serene and happy. She had
one little cross, however, one small shadow in her happy time. She
wanted to be much--daily, if possible--with Charlotte Harman. Her heart
yearned over Charlotte, and she would have almost neglected her children
to give her one ray of comfort just now. But Charlotte herself had
forbidden this daily intercourse.

"I love you, Charlotte," she had said, "and I know that you love me. But
at present we must not meet. I cannot leave my father to go to see you,
and you must not come here, for I cannot risk the chance of seeing you.
He may question me, and I shall not be able to answer his questions. No,
Charlotte, we must not meet."

Charlotte Home felt much regret at this. Failing Charlotte Harman, she
turned her attention to Hinton. She was fully resolved that no stone
should remain unturned by her to enable those two yet to marry, and she
thought she might best effect her object by seeing the young man. She
wrote to him, asking him to call, telling him that she had much of
importance to tell him; but both from his private address and also from
his chambers the letters were, in due course of time, returned. Hinton
was not in town, and had left no clue to his whereabouts. Thus she was
cut off from helping, in any way, those who were in great darkness, and
this fact was an undoubted sorrow to her. Yes, Mrs. Home was full of
pity for Charlotte, full of pity for Charlotte's lover. But it is to be
feared that both she and Uncle Sandy retained a strong sense of
indignation towards the one who had caused the anguish--towards the one,
therefore, on whom the heaviest share of the punishment fell. Very
terrible was it for Charlotte, very terrible for Hinton. But were they
asked to tell their true feeling towards old John Harman, they might
have whispered, "Serve him right." There was one, however, besides his
daughter, whose warmest sympathies, whose most earnest and passionate
prayers were beginning day by day and night by night, to centre more and
more round the suffering and guilty man, and that one was the curate,
Home. Angus Home had never seen John Harman, but his sin and his
condition were ever before him. He was a dying man, and--he was a
sinner. With strong tears and lamentation did this man cry to God for
his fellow man. His tears and his prayers brought love for the sinner.
Angus Home would have gladly died to bring John Harman back to God.

One Saturday night he sat up late over his sermon. He was not an
eloquent preacher, but so earnest was his nature, so intense his
realization of God's love and of the things unseen, that it was
impossible for his words not to be winged with the rare power of
earnestness. He was neither gifted with language nor with imagination;
but he could tell plain truths in such a way that his hearers often
trembled as they listened. At such times he looked like an avenging
angel. For the man, when he felt called on to rebuke sin, was very
jealous for his God. Then, again, he could whisper comfort; he could
bring down Heaven, and looked, when he spoke of the land which is very
far off, as though even now, and even here, his eyes were seeing the
King in His beauty. Nevertheless, so little was that real power of his
understood, so much better were empty words gracefully strung together
preferred, that Home was seldom asked to preach in the large parish
church. His congregation were generally the very poorest of his flock.
These very poor folks learned to love their pastor, and for them he
would very gladly spend and be spent. He was to preach to-morrow in a
small iron building to these poor people. He now sat up late to prepare
his sermon. He found himself, however, sadly out of tune for this work.
He took his Bible in hand and turned page after page; he could find no
suitable text; he could fix his attention on no particular line of
argument. He unlocked a drawer, and took from thence a pile of old
sermons; should he use one of these? He looked through and through his
store. None pleased, none satisfied him. Finally, overcome by a sudden
feeling, he forgot his sermon of to-morrow. He pushed his manuscripts
aside, and fell on his knees. He was in terror about the soul of John
Harman, and he prayed for him in groans that seemed almost as though
they must rend the heavens in their pleadings for a reply. "Lord, spare
the man. Lord, hear me; hear me when I plead with Thee. It was for
sinners such as he Thou didst die. Oh, spare! oh, save!--save this great
sinner. Give me his soul, Lord. Lord, give me his soul to bring to Thee
in Heaven." He went up to bed in the early hours of the May morning
quite exhausted. He had absolutely forgotten his sermon. He had not
prepared a word for his congregation for the next day. Before he went to
church he remembered this. There was no help for it now. He could but
put two of his already prepared sermons in his pocket and set out. He
was to read the service as well as to preach the sermon. There were
about sixty poor people present. Charlotte and the children went to the
parish church. There was not a really well-dressed person in all his
congregation. He had just finished reading the Absolution when a slight
stir near the door attracted his attention. He raised his eyes to see
the verger leading up the centre aisle an old man with bowed head and
silver hair, accompanied by a young woman. The young woman Home
recognized at a glance. She was Charlotte Harman; the old man then was
her father. He did not ask himself why they had come here or how, but
instantly he said to his own heart, with a great throb of ecstatic joy,
"God has heard my prayer; that soul is to be mine." When he mounted the
pulpit stairs he had absolutely forgotten his written sermons. For the
first time he stood before his congregation without any outward aid of
written words, or even notes. He certainly did not need them, for his
heart was full. Out of that heart, burning with love so intense as to be
almost divine, he spoke. I don't think he used any text, but he told
from beginning to end the old, old tale of the Prodigal Son. He told it
as, it seemed to his congregation, that wonderful story had never been
told since the Redeemer Himself had first uttered the words. He
described the far country, the country where God was not; and the people
were afraid and could scarcely draw their breath. Then he told of the
Father's forgiveness and the Father's welcome home; and the
congregation, men and women alike, hid their faces and wept. Added to
his earnestness God had given to him the great gift of eloquence to-day.
The people said afterwards they scarcely knew their pastor. There was
not a dry eye in his church that morning.



CHAPTER LI.

A SINNER.


Home went back to his new and pretty house and sat down with his wife
and children, and waited. He would not even tell Charlotte of these
unlooked-for additions to his small congregation. When she asked him if
he had got on well, if his sermon had been a difficulty, he had
answered, with a light in his eyes, that God had been with him. After
this the wife only took his hand and pressed it. She need question no
further: but even she wondered at the happy look on his face.

He had two more services for that day, and also schools to attend, and
through all his duties, which seemed to come without effort or
annoyance, he still waited. He knew as well as if an angel had told him
that he should see more of Mr. Harman. Had he been less assured of this
he would have taken some steps himself to secure a meeting; he would
have gone to the daughter, he would have done he knew not what. But
having this firm assurance, he did not take any steps; he believed what
God wished him to do was quietly to wait.

When he went out on Monday morning he left word with his wife where he
might be found without trouble or delay, if wanted.

"Is any one ill in the congregation?" she inquired.

"Some one is ill, but not in the congregation," he answered.

He came home, however, late on Monday night, to find that no one had
sent, no one in particular had inquired for him. Still his faith was not
at all shaken; he still knew that Harman's soul was to be given to him,
and believing that he would like to see him, he felt that he should yet
be summoned to his side.

On Tuesday morning prayers were to be read in the little iron church.
Never full even on Sundays, this one weekday service was very miserably
attended. Home did not often take it, the duty generally devolving on
the youngest curate in the place. He was hurrying past to-day, having
many sick and poor to attend to, when he met young Davenport--a curate
only just ordained.

"I am glad I met you," said the young man, coming up at once and
addressing the older clergyman with a troubled face. "There would not
have been time to have gone round to your place. See, I have had a
telegram; my father is ill. I want to catch a train at twelve o'clock to
go and see him; I cannot if I take this service. Will it be possible for
you to do the duty this morning?"

"Perfectly possible," answered Home heartily. "Go off at once, my dear
fellow; I will see to things for you until you return."

The young man was duly grateful, and hurried away at once, and Home
entered the little building. The moment he did so he saw the reason of
it all. Mr. Harman was in the church; he was in the church and alone.
His daughter was not with him. There was no sermon that day, and the
short morning prayers were quickly over. The half-dozen poor who had
come in went out again; but Mr. Harman did not stir. Home took off his
surplice, and hurried down the church. He meant now to speak to Mr.
Harman, if Mr. Harman did not speak to him; but he saw that he would
speak. As he approached the pew the white-headed old man rose slowly and
came to meet him.

"Sir, I should like to say a few words to you."

"As many as you please, my dear sir; I am quite at your service."

Home now entered the pew and sat down.

"Shall we talk here or in the vestry?" he inquired, after a moment's
silence.

"I thought perhaps you would come to my house later on," said Mr.
Harman. "I have a long story to tell you; I can tell it best at home. I
am very ill, or I would come to you. May I expect you this evening?"

"I will certainly come," answered Home. "What is your address?"

Mr. Harman gave it. Then, after a pause, he added--

"I seek you as a minister."

"And I come to you as a servant of God," replied the curate, now fixing
his eyes on his companion.

Mr. Harman's gaze did not quail before that steady look. With an
unutterable sadness he returned it fully. Then he said,

"I came here on Sunday."

"I saw you," answered Home.

"Ah! can it be possible that you preached to me?"

"To you, if you think so. I spoke to every sinner in the congregation."

"You spoke of a land where God is not; you described the terrible
country well."

"An arid land?" answered Home.

"Ay, a thirsty land."

"Those that find it so generally find also that they are being led back
to a land where God is."

"You believe, then, in the forgiveness of sin?"

"If I did not I should go mad."

"My good sir, you are not much of a sinner."

"I am a sinner, sir; and if I were not--if I dared to lift up my eyes to
a holy, a righteous God, and say, 'I am pure'--I yet, if I did not
believe as fully as I am now sitting by your side in the perfect
forgiveness of sin, I yet should go mad; for I have seen other men's
sins and other men's despair; I should lose my reason for their sakes,
if not for my own."

"Should you, indeed? You see now before you a despairing man and a dying
man."

"And a sinner?" questioned Home.

"Ay, ay, God knows, a sinner."

"Then I see also before me a man whose despair can be changed to peace,
and his sin forgiven. What hour shall I call upon you this evening?"

Mr. Harman named the hour. Then he rose feebly; Home gave him his arm
and conducted him to his carriage; afterwards he re-entered the church
to pray.



CHAPTER LII.

A HIDDEN SIN.


Nine o' clock in the evening was the hour named by Mr. Harman, and
punctually at that hour Home arrived at Prince's Gate. He was a man who
had never been known to be late for an appointment; for in little things
even, this singular man was faithful to the very letter of the trust.
This nice observance of his passed word, in a great measure counteracted
his otherwise unpractical nature. Home was known by all his
acquaintances to be a most dependable man.

Mr. Harman had told Charlotte that he was expecting a friend to visit
him. He said he should like to see that friend alone; but, contrary to
his wont, he did not mention his name. This cannot be wondered at, for
Mr. Harman knew of no connection between the Homes and Charlotte. He had
chosen this man of God, above his fellow-men, because he had been
haunted and impressed by his sermon, but he scarcely himself even knew
his name. It so happened, however, that Charlotte saw Mr. Home entering
her father's study. It is not too much to say that the sight nearly took
her breath away, and that she felt very considerable disquietude.

"Sit here," said Mr. Harman to his guest.

The room had been comfortably prepared, and when Home entered Mr. Harman
got up and locked the door; then, sitting down opposite to Home, and
leaning a little forward, he began at once without preface or preamble.

"I want to tell you without reservation the story of my life."

"I have come to listen," answered Home.

"It is the story of a sin."

Home bent his head.

"It is the story of a successfully hidden sin--a sin hidden from all the
world for three and twenty years."

"A crushing weight such a sin must have been," answered the clergyman.
"But will you just tell me all from the beginning?"

"I will tell you all from the beginning. A hidden sin is, as you say,
heavy enough to crush a man into hell. But I will make no more preface.
Sir, I had the misfortune to lose a very noble mother when I was young.
When I was ten years old, and my brother (I have one brother) was eight,
our mother died! We were but children, you will say; but I don't, even
now that I am a dying, sinful old man, forget my mother. She taught us
to pray and to shun sin. She also surrounded us with such high and holy
thoughts--she so gave us the perfection of all pure mother love, that we
must have been less than human not to be good boys during her lifetime.
I remember even now the look in her eyes when I refused on any childish
occasion to follow the good, and then chose the evil. I have a
daughter--one beloved daughter, something like my mother. I have seen
the same high and honorable light in her eyes, but never since in any
others. Well, my mother died, and Jasper and I had only her memory to
keep us right. We used to talk about her often, and often fretted for
her as, I suppose, few little boys before or since have fretted for a
mother. After her death we were sent to school. Our father even then was
a rich man: he was a self-made man; he started a business in a small way
in the City, but small beginnings often make great endings, and the
little business grew, and grew, and success and wealth came almost
without effort. Jasper and I never knew what poverty meant. I loved
learning better than my brother did, and at the age of eighteen, when
Jasper went into our father's business, I was sent to Oxford. At
twenty-two I had taken my degree, and done so, not perhaps brilliantly,
but with some honor. Any profession was now open to me, and my father
gave me full permission to choose any walk in life I chose; at the same
time he made a proposal. He was no longer so young as he had been; he
had made his fortune; he believed that Jasper's aptitude for business
excelled his own. If we would become partners in the firm which he had
made, and which was already rising into considerable eminence, he would
retire altogether. We young men should work the business in our own way.
He was confident we should rise to immense wealth. While making this
proposal our father said that he would not give up his business to
Jasper alone. If both his sons accepted it, then he would be willing to
retire, taking with him a considerable sum of money, but still leaving
affairs both unencumbered and flourishing. 'You are my heirs
eventually.' he said to us both; 'and now I give you a week to decide.'
At the end of the allotted time we accepted the offer. This was
principally Jasper's doing, for at that time I knew nothing of business,
and had thought of a profession. Afterwards I liked the counting-house,
and became as absorbed as others in the all-engrossing accumulation of
wealth. Our father had taken a very large sum of money out of the
business, and it was impossible for us not to feel for a time a
considerable strain; but Jasper's skill and talent were simply
wonderful, and success attended all our efforts.

"Two years after I joined the business, I married my Charlotte's mother.
I was a wealthy man even then. Though of no birth in particular, I was
considered gentlemanly. I had acquired that outward polish which a
university education gives; I was also good-looking. With my money, good
looks, and education, I was considered a match for the proud and very
poor daughter of an old Irish baronet. She had no money; she had nothing
but her beautiful face, her high and honorable spirit, her blue blood.
You will say, 'Enough!' Ay, it was more than enough. She made me the
best, the truest of wives. I never loved another woman. She was a little
bit extravagant. She had never known wealth until she became my wife,
and wealth, in the most innocent way in the world, was delightful to
her. While Jasper saved, I was tempted to live largely. I took an
expensive house--there was no earthly good thing I would not have given
to her. She loved me; but, as I said, she was proud. Pride in birth and
position was perhaps her only fault. I was perfect in her eyes, but she
took a dislike to Jasper. This I could have borne, but it pained me when
I saw her turning away from my old father. I dearly loved and respected
my father, and I wanted Constance to love him, but she never could be
got to care for him. It was at that time, that that thing happened which
was the beginning of all the after darkness and misery.

"My father, finding my proud young wife not exactly to his taste, came
less and less to our house. Finally, he bought an old estate in
Hertfordshire, and then one day the news reached us that he had engaged
himself to a very young girl, and that he would marry at once. There was
nothing wrong in this marriage, but Jasper and I chose to consider it a
sin. We had never forgotten our mother, and we thought it a dishonor to
her. We forgot our father's loneliness. In short, we were unreasonable
and behaved as unreasonably as unreasonable men will on such occasions.
Hot and angry words passed between our father and ourselves. We neither
liked our father's marriage nor his choice. Of course, we were scarcely
likely to turn the old man from his purpose, but we refused to have
anything to do with his young wife. Under such circumstances we had an
open quarrel. Our father married, and we did not see him for years. I
was unhappy at this, for I loved my father. Before his second marriage,
he always spent from Saturday to Monday at our house, and though my own
wife not caring for him greatly marred our pleasure, yet now that the
visits had absolutely ceased I missed them--I missed the gray head and
the shrewd, old, kindly face; and often, very often, I almost resolved
to run down into Hertfordshire and make up my quarrel. I did not do so,
however; and as the years went on, I grew afraid to mention my father's
name to either my wife or brother. Jasper and I were at this time deeply
absorbed in speculation; our business was growing and growing; each
thing we embarked in turned out well; we were beginning quite to recover
from the strain which our father's removal of so large a sum of money
had caused. Jasper was a better man of business than I was. Jasper,
though the junior partner, took the lead in all plans. He proposed that
an Australian branch of our business should be opened. It was done, and
succeeded well.

"About this time we heard that a little son had arrived at the Hermitage
in Hertfordshire. He did not live long. We saw his birth announced in
_The Times_. It may have been some months later, though, looking back on
it, it seems but a few days, that the birth was followed by the death. A
year or two passed away, and my wife and I were made happy by the
arrival of our first child. The child was a daughter. We called her
Charlotte, after my much-loved mother. Time went on, until one day a
telegram was put into my hand summoning my brother and myself to our
father's deathbed. The telegram was sent by the young wife. I rushed off
at once; Jasper followed by the next train.

"The hale old man had broken up very suddenly at last, and the doctor
said he had but a few days to live. During those few days, Jasper and I
scarcely left his bedside; we were reconciled fully and completely, and
he died at last murmuring my own mother's name and holding our hands.

"It was during this visit that I saw the little wife for the first time.
She was a commonplace little thing, but pretty and very young; it was
impossible to dislike the gentle creature. She was overpowered with
grief at her husband's death. It was impossible not to be kind to her,
not to comfort her. There was one child, a girl of about the age of my
own little Charlotte. This child had also been named Charlotte. She was
a pale, dark-eyed child, with a certain strange look of my mother about
her. She was not a particle like her own. My father loved this little
creature, and several times during those last days of his he spoke of
her to me.

"'I have called her after your own mother,' he said. 'I love my second
wife; but the Charlotte of my youth can never be forgotten. I have
called the child Charlotte; you have called your daughter Charlotte.
Good! let the two be friends.'

"I promised readily enough, and I felt pity and interest for the little
forlorn creature. I also, as I said, intended to be good to the mother,
who seemed to me to be incapable of standing alone.

"Immediately after my father's death and before the funeral, I was
summoned hastily to town. My wife was dangerously ill. A little dead
baby had come into the world, and for a time her life was despaired of;
eventually she got better; but for the next few days I lived and thought
only for her. I turned over all business cares to Jasper. I was unable
even to attend our father's funeral. I never day or night left
Constance's bedside. I loved this woman most devotedly, most
passionately. During all those days when her life hung in the balance,
my time seemed one long prayer to God. 'Spare her, spare her precious
life at any cost, at any cost.' Those were the words, forever on my
lips. The prayer was heard; I had my wife again. For a short time she
was restored to me. I have often thought since, was even that precious
life worth the price I paid for it?"

Here Mr. Harman paused. Some moisture had gathered on his brow; he took
out his handkerchief to wipe it away. A glass of water stood by his
side; he drank a little.

"I am approaching the sin," he said addressing the clergyman. "The
successfully buried sin is about to rise from its grave; pardon me if I
shrink from the awful sight."

"God will strengthen you, my dear sir," answered Home. "By your
confession, you are struggling back into the right path. What do I say?
Rather you are being led back by God himself. Take courage. Lean upon
the Almighty arm. Your sin will shrink in dimensions as you view it; for
between you and it will come forgiveness."

Mr. Harman smiled faintly, After another short pause, he continued.

"On the day on which my dear wife was pronounced out of danger, Jasper
sent for me. My brother and I had ever been friends, though in no one
particular were we alike. During the awful struggle through which I had
just passed. I forgot both him and my father. Now I remembered him and
my father's death, and our own business cares. A thousand memories came
back to me. When he sent for me I left my wife's bedside and went down
to him. I was feeling weak and low, for I had not been in bed for many
nights, and a kind of reaction had set in. I was in a kind of state when
a man's nerves can be shaken, and his whole moral equilibrium upset. I
do not offer this as an excuse for what followed. There is no excuse for
the dark sin; but I do believe enough about myself to say that what I
then yielded to, I should have been proof against at a stronger physical
moment. I entered my private sitting-room to find Jasper pacing up and
down like a wild creature. His eyes were bloodshot, his hair tossed. He
was a calm and cheerful person generally. At this instant, he looked
like one half bereft of reason. 'Good heavens! what is wrong?' I said. I
was startled out of myself by his state of perturbation.

"'We are ruined; that is what is wrong,' answered Jasper.

"He then entered into particulars with which I need not trouble you. A
great house, one of the greatest and largest houses in the City, had
come to absolute grief; it was bankrupt. In its fall many other houses,
ours amongst them, must sink.

"I saw it all quite plainly. I sat down quiet and stunned; while Jasper
raved and swore and paced up and down the room, I sat still. Yes we
were, beggars, nothing could save the house which our father had made
with such pride and care.

"After a time I left Jasper and returned to my wife's room. On the way I
entered the nursery and paid my pretty little Charlotte a visit. She
climbed on my knee and kissed me, and all the time I kept saying to
myself, 'The child is a beggar, I can give her no comforts; we are
absolutely in want.' It was the beginning of the winter then, and the
weather was bitterly cold. The doctor met me on the threshold of my
wife's room; he said to me, 'As soon as ever she is better, you must
either take or send her out of England. She may recover abroad; but to
winter in this climate, in her present state, would certainly kill her.'
How bitter I felt; for was I not a beggar? How could I take my wife
away? I sat down again in the darkened room and thought over the past.
Hitherto the wealth, which was so easily won, seemed of comparatively
small importance. It was easy with a full purse to wish, then to obtain.
I had often wondered at Constance's love for all the pretty things with
which I delighted to surround her, her almost childish pleasure in the
riches which had come to her. She always said to me at such times:

"'But I have known such poverty; I hate poverty, and I love, I love the
pretty things of life.'

"This very night, as I sat by her bedside, she opened her lovely eyes
and looked at me and said:

"'John, I have had such a dream so vivid, so, so terrible. I thought we
were poor again--poorer than I ever was even with my father; so poor,
John, that I was hungry, and you could give me nothing to eat. I begged
you to give me food. There was a loaf in a shop window, such a nice
crisp loaf; and I was starving. When you said you had no money, I begged
of you to steal that loaf. You would not, you would not, and at last I
lay down to die. Oh! John, say it was a dream.'

"'Of course it was only a dream, my darling!' I answered, and I kissed
her and soothed her, though all the time my heart felt like lead.

"That evening Jasper sent for me again. His manner now was changed. The
wildness and despair had left it. He was his old, cool, collected self.
He was in the sort of mood when he always had an ascendency over me--the
sort of mood when he showed that wonderful business faculty for which I
could not but admire him.

"'Sit down, John,' he said, 'I have a great deal to say to you. There is
a plan in my head. If you will agree to act with me in it, we may yet be
saved.'

"Thinking of my Constance lying so ill upstairs, my heart leaped up at
these words.

"'What is your plan?' I said. 'I can stay with you for some time. I can
listen as long as you like.'

"'You hate poverty?' said Jasper.

"'Yes,' I said, thinking of Constance, 'I hate it.'

"'If you will consent to my scheme; if you will consent before you leave
this room, we need not sink with Cooper, Cooper and Bennett.'

"'I will listen to you,' I said.

"'You have always been so absorbed lately in your wife,' continued
Jasper, 'that you have, I really believe, forgotten our father's death:
his funeral was last Thursday. Of course you could not attend it. After
the funeral I read the will.'

"'Yes,' I said, 'I had really forgotten my father's will. He left us
money?' I said. 'I am glad; it will keep us from absolute want.
Constance need not be hungry after all.'

"My brother looked at me.

"'A little money has been left to us,' he said, 'but so little that it
must go with the rest. In the general crash those few thousands must
also go. John, you remember when our father took that very large sum out
of the business, he promised that we should be his heirs. It was a loan
for his lifetime.'

"'He had not married then,' I said.

"'No,' answered Jasper, 'he had not married. Now that he has married he
has forgotten all but this second wife. He has left her, with the
exception of a few thousands, the whole of that fine property. In short,
he has left her a sum of money which is to realize an income of twelve
hundred a year.'

"'Yes,' I said, wearily.

"Jasper looked at me very hard. I returned his gaze.

"'That money, if left to us, would save the firm. _Quite absolutely save
the firm in this present crisis_,' he said, slowly and emphatically.

"'Yes,' I said again. I was so innocent, so far from what I since
became, at that moment, that I did not in the least understand my
brother. 'The money is not ours,' I said, seeing that his eyes were
still fixed on me with a greedy intense light.

"'If my father were alive now,' said Jasper, rising to his feet and
coming to my side, 'if my father were alive now, he would break his
heart, to see the business which he made with such pride and skill, come
to absolute grief. If my father were still alive; if that crash had come
but a fortnight ago, he would say, 'Save the firm at any cost.'

"'But he is dead,' I said, 'we cannot save the firm. What do you mean,
Jasper? I confess I cannot see to what you are driving.'

"'John,' said my brother, 'you are stupid. If our father could speak to
us now, he would say, 'Take the money, all the money I have left, and
save the firm of Harman Brothers.'

"'You mean,' I said, 'you mean that we--we are to _steal_ that money,
the money left to the widow, and the fatherless?'

"I understood the meaning now. I staggered to my feet. I could have
felled my brother to the ground. He was my brother, my only brother; but
at that moment, so true were my heart's instincts to the good and
right, that I loathed him. Before however, I could say a word, or utter
a reproach, a message came to me from my wife. I was wanted in my wife's
room instantly, she was excited, she was worse. I flew away without a
word.

"'Come back again, I will wait for you here,' called after me my
brother.

"I entered Constance's room. I think she was a little delirious. She was
still talking about money, about being hungry and having no money to buy
bread. Perhaps a presentiment of _the_ evil news had come to her. I had
to soothe, to assure her that all she desired should be hers. I even
took my purse out and put it into her burning hand. At last she believed
me; she fell asleep with her hand in mine. I dared not stir from her;
and all the time as I sat far into the night, I thought over Jasper's
words. They were terrible words, but I could not get them out of my
head, they were burning like fire into my brain. At last Constance
awoke; she was better, and I could leave her. It was now almost morning.
I went to my study, for I could not sleep. To my surprise, Jasper was
still there. It was six hours since I had left him, but he had not
stirred.

"'John,' he said, seeing that I shrank from him, 'you must hear me out.
Call my plan by as ugly a name as you like, no other plan will save the
firm. John, will you hear me speak?'

"'Yes, I will hear you,' I said. I sank down on the sofa. My head was
reeling. Right and wrong seemed confused. I said to myself, My brain is
so confused with grief and perplexity that it is no matter what Jasper
says just now, for I shall not understand him. But I found to my
surprise, almost to my horror, that I understood with startling
clearness every word. This was Jasper's plan. There were three trustees
to the will; I was one, my brother Jasper another, a third was a man by
the name of Alexander Wilson. He was brother to my father's second wife.
This Alexander Wilson I had never seen. Jasper had seen him once. He
described him to me as a tall and powerful man with red hair. 'He is the
other trustee,' said my brother, 'and he is dead.'

"'Dead!' I said, starting.

"'Yes, he is without doubt dead; here is an account of his death.'

"Jasper then opened an Australian paper and showed me the name, also
the full account of a man who answered in all particulars to the
Alexander Wilson named as a third trustee. Jasper then proceeded to
unfold yet further his scheme.

"That trustee being dead, we were absolute masters of the situation, we
could appropriate that money. The widow knew nothing yet of her
husband's will; she need never know. The sum meant for her was, under
existing circumstances, much too large. She should not want, she should
have abundance. But we too should not want. Were our father living he
would ask us to do this. We should save ourselves and the great house of
Harman Brothers. In short, to put the thing in plain language, we
should, by stealing the widow's money, save ourselves. By being
faithless to our most solemn trust, we could keep the filthy lucre. I
will not say how I struggled. I did struggle for a day; in the evening I
yielded. I don't excuse myself in the very least. In the evening I fell
as basely as a man could fall. I believe in my fall I sank even lower
than Jasper. I said to him, 'I cannot bear poverty, it will kill
Constance, and Constance must not die; but you must manage everything. I
can go into no details; I can never, never as long as I live, see that
widow and child. You must see them, you must settle enough, abundance on
them, but never mention their names to me. I can do the deed, but the
victims must be dead to me.'

"To all this Jasper promised readily enough. He promised and acted. All
went, outwardly, smoothly and well; there was no hitch, no outward flaw,
no difficulty, the firm was saved; none but we two knew how nearly it
had been engulfed in hopeless shipwreck. It recovered itself by means of
that stolen money, and flew lightly once again over the waters of
prosperity. Yes, our house was saved, and from that hour my happiness
fled. I had money, money in abundance and to spare; but I never knew
another hour, day or night, of peace. I had done the deed to save my
wife, but I found that, though God would give me that cursed wealth, He
yet would take away my idol for whom I had sacrificed my soul. Constance
only grew well enough to leave England. We wintered abroad, and at
Cannes, surrounded by all that base money could supply, she closed her
eyes. I returned home a widower, and the most wretched man on the face
of the earth. Soon after, the Australian branch of our business growing
and growing, Jasper found it well to visit that country. He did so, and
stayed away many years. Soon after he landed, he wrote to tell me that
he had seen the grave of Alexander Wilson; that he had made many
inquiries about him, and that now there was not the least shadow of
doubt that the other trustee was dead. He said that our last fears of
discovery might now rest.

"Years went by, and we grew richer and richer; all we put our hands to
prospered. Money seemed to grow for us on every tree. I could give my
one child all that wealth could suggest. She grew up unsullied by what
was eating into me as a canker. She was beautiful alike in mind and
body; she was and is the one pure and lovely thing left to me. She
became engaged to a good and honorable man. He had, it is true, neither
money nor position, but I had learned, through all these long years of
pain, to value such things at their true worth. Charlotte should marry
where her heart was. I gave her leave to engage herself to Hinton.
Shortly after that engagement, Jasper, my brother, returned from
Australia. His presence, reminding me, as it did, day and night, of my
crime, but added to my misery of soul. I was surprised, too, to see how
easily what was dragging me to the very gate of hell seemed to rest on
him. I could never discover, narrowly as I watched him, that he was
anything but a happy man. One evening, after spending some hours in his
presence, I fainted away quite suddenly. I was alone when this fainting
fit overtook me. I believe I was unconscious for many hours. The next
day I went to consult a doctor. Then and there, in that great
physician's consulting-room, I learned that I am the victim of an
incurable complaint; a complaint that must end my life, must end it
soon, and suddenly. In short, the doctor said to me, not in words, but
by look, by manner, by significant hand pressure, and that silent
sympathy which speaks a terrible fact. 'Prepare to meet thy God.' Since
the morning I left the doctor's presence I have been trying to prepare;
but between God and me stands my sin. I cannot get a glimpse of God. I
wait, and wait, but I only see the awful sin of my youth. In short, sir,
I am in the far country where God is not."

"To die so would be terrible," said Mr. Home.

"To die so will be terrible, sir; in, short, it will be hell."

"Do not put it in the future tense, Mr. Harman, for you that day is
past."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that even now, though you know it not, you are no longer in the
far country. You are the prodigal son if you like, but you are on the
road back to the Father. You are on the homeward road, and the Father is
looking out for you. When you come to die you will not be alone, the
hand of God will hold yours, and the smile of a forgiving God will say
to you, as the blessed Jesus said once to a poor sinful woman, who yet
was not _half_ as great a sinner as you are, 'Thy sins, which are many,
are forgiven thee.'"

"You believe then in the greatness of my sin?"

"I believe, I _know_ that your sin was enormous; but so also is your
repentance."

"God knows I repent," answered Mr. Harman.

"Yes; when you asked me to visit you, and when you poured out that story
in my ears, your long repentance and anguish of heart were beginning to
find vent."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that you will make reparation."

"Ay, indeed I am more than willing. Zacchæus restored fourfold."

"Yes, the road for you, straight to the bosom of the Father, is very
prickly and full of sharp thorns. You have held a high character for
honor and respectability. You have a child who loves you, who has
thought you perfect. You must step down from your high pedestal. You
must renounce the place you have held in your child's heart. In short,
you must let your only child, and also the cold, censorious world, see
you as God has seen you for so long."

"I don't mind the world, but--my child--my only child," said Mr. Harman,
and now he put up his trembling hands and covered his face. "That is a
very hard road," he said after a pause.

"There is no other back to the Father," answered the clergyman.

"Well, I will take it then, for I _must_ get back to Him. You are a man
of God. I put myself in your hands. What am I to do?"

"You put yourself not into my hands, sir, but into the loving and
merciful hands of my Lord Christ. The course before you is plain. You
must find out those you have robbed; you must restore all, and ask these
wronged ones' forgiveness. When they forgive, the peace of God will
shine into your heart."

"You mean the widow and the child. But I do not know anything of them; I
have shut my eyes to their fate."

"The widow is dead, but the child lives; I happen to know her; I can
bring her to you."

"Can you? How soon?"

"In an hour and a half from now if you like. I should wish you to rest
in that peace I spoke of before morning. Shall I bring her to-night?"

"Yes, I will see her; but first, first, will you pray with me?"

Mr. Home knelt down at once. The gray-headed and sinful man knelt by his
side. Then the clergyman hurried away to fetch his wife.



CHAPTER LIII.

THE PRINCE OF PEACE.


It was very nearly midnight when Mr. Home, entering the sitting-room
where his wife waited up for him, asked her to come with him at once.

"There is a hansom at the door," he said, "put on your bonnet and come.
I will tell you all as we drive along; come at once, we have not a
moment to lose."

Charlotte Home, accustomed as Home's wife to imperative demands, only
thought of a night's nursing of some specially poor patient. She rose
without a word, and in two minutes they were driving, as fast as a fleet
horse could take them to Prince's Gate.

"Charlotte," said her husband, taking her hand, "God has heard my
prayer, God has given me the man's soul."

"Whose soul, my dearest?"

"The soul of John Harman. Charlotte, I have prayed as I never prayed
before in all my life for that guilty and troubled sinner's soul. I have
been in an agony for it; it has seemed to me at times that for this lost
and suffering brother I could lay down my very life. On Sunday last I
went to conduct service in the small iron church. I tried the night
before to prepare a sermon; no thought would come to me. I tried at last
to look up an old one; no old sermon would commend itself. Finally I
dropped all thought of the morrow's sermon and spent the greater part of
the night in prayer. My prayer was for this sinner, and it seemed to me,
that as I struggled and pleaded, God the Father and God the Son drew
nigh. I went to bed with a wonderfully close sense of their presence. At
morning prayers the next day, Miss Harman and her father entered the
church. You may well look at me in surprise, Charlotte, but when I saw
them I felt quiet enough; I only knew that God had sent them. For the
first time in my life I preached without note or written help. I felt,
however, at no loss for words; my theme was the Prodigal Son. I thought
only of Mr. Harman; I went home and continued to pray for him. On
Tuesday morning--that is, this morning--he was again at the church.
After the prayers were over he waited to speak to me: he asked me to
visit him at his own house this evening. I went there; I have been with
him all the evening; he told me his life story, the bitter story of his
fall. I am now come for you, for he must confess to you--you are the
wronged one."

"I am going to see John Harman, my half-brother who has wronged me?"
said Mrs. Home; "I am going to him now without preparation? Oh! Angus, I
cannot, not to-night, not to-night."

"Yes, dear, it must be to-night; if there is any hardness left in your
heart it will melt when you see this sinner, whom God has forgiven."

"Angus, you are all tenderness and love to him; I cannot aspire to your
nature, I cannot. To this man, who has caused such misery and sin, I
feel hard. Charlotte I pity, Charlotte I love; but this man, this man
who deliberately could rob my dead mother! It is against human nature to
feel very sorry for him."

"You mean to tell me, Charlotte, that you refuse to forgive him?"

"No; eventually you will conquer me; but just now, I confess, my heart
is not full of pity."

Mr. Home thought for a moment. He was pained by his wife's want of
sympathy. Then he reflected that she had not seen Mr. Harman. It was
plain, however, that they must not meet until her spirit towards him had
changed.

"Do not stop at Prince's Gate," he called out to the cabby, "drive on
until I ask you to stop."

During the drive that followed, he told his wife Mr. Harman's story. He
told it well, for when he had finished, Charlotte turned to him eyes
which had shed some tears.

"Does Charlotte know of this?" she said.

"I do not think so. Will you come to Mr. Harman now?"

"Yes. I will come on one condition!"

"What is that?"

"That I may see Charlotte afterwards."

"I am sure that can be managed."

Then Mr. Home desired the cabby to stop at Prince's Gate. A
sleepy-looking servant waited up for them. He manifested no surprise at
sight of the lady and gentleman at such an hour. Mr. Home took his
wife's hand, and the servant led them straight to his master's study.

"I have told her the story," said Mr. Home; "she is your father's child,
she comes to----" Here the clergyman paused and looked at his wife, he
wanted the word "forgive" to come from her own lips. Mrs. Home had grown
white to her very lips. Now instead of replying, she fell upon her knees
and covered her face.

"Charlotte," said Mr. Harman, "can you do what this clergyman wants? Can
you forgive the sin?" There was no answer; Mrs. Home was sobbing aloud.
"I have robbed you, I have robbed you most cruelly. My dying father
asked me to be good to you; I have been worse than cruel. You see before
you an old, old man, as great a sinner as can be found on God's earth.
Can you forgive me? Dare I ask it? At last, at last I make full
reparation; I repent me, in dust and ashes; I repent, and I restore all
fourfold." But here Charlotte Home had risen suddenly to her feet. She
came up close to Mr. Harman, and taking his hand raised it to her lips.

"My husband has told me all. I, I quite forgive you," she said.

Mr. Harman glanced at the clergyman. "Your husband?" he said.

"Yes; she is my wife," answered Mr. Home. "Sir, you heard my wife say
that she quite forgives. You may go to rest to-night, with a very
peaceful heart; the peace of God which passes all understanding may
encompass your pillow to-night. It is late and you have gone through
much, may I go with you to your room? There will be many explanations
yet to make; but though a clergyman, I am also in some measure a
physician. I see you can go through no more emotion to-night, rest
satisfied that all explanations can wait till to-morrow."

"I will go with you," answered Mr. Harman, "but may I first thank your
wife?" Charlotte Home's bonnet had fallen off as she knelt on the floor,
now suddenly a withered and trembling hand was placed on her head. "God
bless you! Even from a sinner like me, such words from a full heart must
be heard."

"Ay," said Mr. Home, in a loud, exultant voice, "the Prince of peace and
forgiveness has come into this house to-night."



CHAPTER LIV.

CHARLOTTE'S ROOM.


Mr. Home and Mr. Harman went away together, and Charlotte was left alone
in the study. By the profound stillness which now reigned in the house
she guessed that every one had gone to bed. The servant who had admitted
them at so late an hour had looked sleepy as he had done so. Doubtless
Mr. Harman had desired him not to wait longer. Charlotte felt there was
no use in ringing a bell. She scarcely knew her way about this great
house. Nevertheless she must find Charlotte; she could not wait until
the morning to throw her arms round her neck. She took one of the
candles from the mantelpiece and began her tour through the silent
house. She felt strangely timid as she commenced this midnight
pilgrimage. The softly-carpeted stairs echoed back no footfall; she
passed door after door. At last she recognized Charlotte's own private
sitting-room, she had been there two or three times, but had never seen
the room where her friend slept. A corridor, however, ran directly from
this sitting-room, and Charlotte saw a closed door at the further end.
"That must be the room," she said to herself, and she went straight
towards it. The door was closed, but Charlotte heard a faint sound
within. Instantly on hearing it she knocked lightly, but distinctly.
There was a quick sound of hurried and surprised feet, and Charlotte
Harman opened the door. Her eyes were heavy and red, as though she had
been weeping. Her face was pale. She had not begun to undress.

"Charlotte; Charlotte Home!" she exclaimed. "Oh, what is wrong? My
father!"

"Nothing is wrong, dear Charlotte, dear, dear Charlotte; but may I come
in? I have a great deal to tell you."

"Oh, I shall be glad! but how astonished I am to see you. I could not
sleep. Yes, come in, you shall keep me company. Charlotte, you have been
crying. Charlotte, there _is_ something wrong."

"You may well be surprised to see me here," said Mrs. Home, "but,
strange as it may seem, things are more right than wrong. My husband
came first, then he brought me."

"Yes, I saw Mr. Home early in the evening. I saw him go into my father's
study. When he went away I went there myself; but the door was locked,
and my father called out from within, 'Not to-night, my child; don't sit
up for me, come to me in the morning, I would rather be alone to-night.'
He never before refused to see me to say good-night. I went to my room.
I could not rest. Everything seems very dark. I have been crying, and
now you have come. Oh, Charlotte! what is the meaning of it all?"

"The meaning is good, Charlotte; but good or bad, you have to thank
yourself for it. Why did you take your father to my husband's church on
Sunday?"

"He came to me on Sunday morning," answered Miss Harman. "He said he
would like to go to church with me. He never did go to church with
me--never, for many months. I asked him where he would go. He said he
would leave it to me. Then it flashed across me that he did not know Mr.
Home, also that I had never heard Mr. Home preach. I resolved to go to
his church. We drove to Kentish Town. I made a few inquiries. I found
out the little church where your husband told the people of his
congregation how best to live, how best to die. Ah, Charlotte! he _did_
preach to us. What a man he is!"

"He realizes the absolute daily presence of God more perfectly than any
man I ever met," answered the wife. "My dear, it was God himself led you
to my husband's church on Sunday. Your father went there again to-day.
After the service he stopped to speak to Angus. He asked him to come to
him this evening. This evening he told my husband all; all the story of
his sin, his repentance. Angus heard all, and when it was over he sent
for me. I saw your father. Charlotte, your father may have been a
sinner, but with such sinners, as he was once, the New Jerusalem will be
filled by and by. Ah! thank God for the peace I saw on his face before I
left him. Do you know that he put his hand on my head and blessed me.
Angus is with him now, and I have come to you."

"My father has told all!" said Charlotte Harman. Her face could scarcely
grow any whiter. She made no further exclamation, but sat quiet.
Charlotte Home, having told her story, watched her face. Suddenly, with
tears springing to her eyes, she turned to the wife and mother who stood
by her side.

"Charlotte, how hard my heart has been! I have passed through some
dreadful weeks. Oh! how heavy was my burden, how heavy was my heart! My
heart was growing very hard; but the hardness has gone now. Now,
Charlotte, I believe, I believe fully what your little Harold said to me
some weeks ago."

"What did he say to you, dearest?"

"He said that Jesus Christ loved me very much. Yes, I believe Jesus does
love me very much. Oh, Charlotte! do you know that I am tired and
rested, and I want to sleep altogether. Will you lie down beside me? You
will not leave me to-night?"

"No, darling; I will not leave you to-night."



CHAPTER LV.

HOW SANDY WILSON SPEAKS OUT HIS MIND.


Early in the morning, the father and daughter met. Not very many words
passed between them. Mr. Harman knew that Mrs. Home had told Charlotte
all. Now, coming to his side, she put her arms about him, and knelt,
looking into his face.

"Charlotte, you know what I have been," he said.

"Father, I know what you are now," she answered.

After these few words, she would scarcely allow him to speak again, for
he was very weak, too weak to leave his bed; but later on, in the course
of the day, they had a long talk together, and Charlotte told her father
of her own suffering during the past weeks. There was no longer need of
concealment between them, and Charlotte made none. It was a very few
days later that two trustees of the late Mr. Harman's will saw each
other for the first time.

Sandy Wilson had often looked forward to the moment when he could speak
out his mind as to the enormity of the crime committed by Mr. Harman.
Hitherto, this worthy man had felt that in this respect circumstances
had been hard on him. _His_ Daisy, his pretty little gentle sister, had
been treated as hardly, as cruelly, as woman could be treated, and yet
the robber--for was he not just a common robber?--had got off scot free;
he was to get off scot free to the very end; he was to be let die in
peace; and afterwards, his innocent child, his only daughter, must bear
the brunt of his misdeeds. She must be put to grief and shame, while he,
the one on whose head the real sin lay, escaped. Sandy felt that it
would have been some slight relief to his wounded feelings if he could
find some one to whom he could thoroughly and heartily abuse Mr. Harman.
But even this satisfaction was denied him. Mr. Home was a man who would
listen to abuse of none; and even Charlotte, though her eyes did flash
when his name was mentioned, even she was simply silent, and to all the
rest of the world Sandy must keep the thing a secret.

There was no doubt whatever that when, the day after Mr. Harman's
confession, the Homes came to Uncle Sandy and told him, not only all,
but also that at any moment he might receive a summons to visit Mr.
Harman, he felt a sense of exultation; also that his exultation was
caused, not by the fact that his niece would now get back her own, for
he had supplied her immediate need for money, but by the joyful sense
that at last, at last, he, Sandy, could speak out his full mind. He
could show this bad man, about whom every one was so strangely, so
absurdly silent, what _he_ thought of his conduct to his dear little
sister. He went away to Prince's Gate, when at last the summons came,
bristling over with a quite delightful sense of power. How well he would
speak! how cleverly he would insert the arrow of remorse into that cruel
heart! As he entered the house he was met by Miss Harman. She held out
her hand to him without a word, and led him to the door of her father's
study. Her eyes, however, as she looked at him for a moment, were
eloquent. Those eyes of hers had exercised a power over him in Somerset
House; they were full of pleading now. He went into Mr. Harman's
presence softened, a little confused, and with his many excellent, to
the point, and scathing remarks running riot in his brain.

Thus it came to pass that Sandy said no word of reproach to the
broken-down man who greeted him. Nay, far from reproaching, he felt
himself sharing in the universal pity. Where God's hand was smiting
hard, how could man dare to raise his puny arm?

The two trustees, meeting for the first time after all these years,
talked long over that neglected, that unfulfilled trust, and steps were
put in train to restore to Charlotte Home what had for so many years
been held back from her. This large sum, with all back interest, would
make the once poor Charlotte very rich indeed. There would still be,
after all was settled, something left for Charlotte Harman, but the
positions of the two were now virtually reversed.

"There is one thing which still puzzles me," said Mr. Harman before they
parted. "Leaving my terrible share in this matter alone, my brother and
I could never have carried out our scheme if you had not been supposed
to be dead. How is it you gave no sign of your existence for three and
twenty years? My brother even wrote me word from Australia that he had
himself stood on your grave."

"He stood on the grave of Sandy Wilson, but never on mine," answered the
other trustee. "There was a fellow bearing my name, who was with me in
the Bush. He was the same age. He was like me too in general outline;
big, with red hair and all that kind of thing. His name was put into the
papers, and I remember wondering if the news would reach home, and if my
little Daisy--bless her!--would think it was me. I was frightfully poor
at the time, I had scarcely sixpence to bless myself with, and somehow,
your father, sir, though he did eventually trust me, as circumstances
proved, yet he gave me to understand that in marrying the sister he by
no means intended to take the brother to his bosom. I said to myself, 'A
poor lost dog like Sandy may as well appear to be dead to those at home.
I love no one in England but my little Daisy, and she does not need me,
she has abundance without me.' So I ceased to write. I had gone to a
part of the country where even an English paper reached us but once or
twice a year. I heard nothing of the old home; and by degrees I got out
of the habit of writing. I was satisfied to be considered dead. I did
wrong, I confess."

"By coming back, by proclaiming your existence, you could have exposed
me years ago," said Mr. Harman; "how I dreaded exposure; how little I
knew, when it did come, that it would fall lightly in comparison
with----"

"What?" asked Wilson.

"The awful frown of God's displeasure. Man, to be shut away from God
through your own sin is to be in hell. I have dwelt there for three and
twenty years. Until two nights ago, I have known no peace; now, I know
God can forgive even such a sin as mine."

"I believe you have suffered, Mr. Harman," answered Wilson. "For the
matter of that, we are all poor sinners. God have mercy upon us all!"

"Amen," said Mr. Harman.

And that was all the reproof Sandy ever found in his heart to give to
his fellow trustee.



CHAPTER LVI.

MRS. HOME'S DREAM.


Still, there was a weight on Charlotte Home's mind. Much had been given
to her, so much that she could scarcely believe herself to be the same
woman, who a few short months ago had pawned her engagement ring to buy
her little son a pair of shoes. She was now wealthy beyond her wildest
dreams; she was wealthy not only in money but in friends. Charlotte
Harman was her almost daily companion. Charlotte Harman clung to her
with an almost passionate love. Uncle Sandy, too, had made himself, by
his cheerfulness, his generosity, his kindness of nature, a warm place
in her affections; and Mr. Harman saw her more than once, and she found
that she could love even Mr. Harman. Then--how well, how beautiful her
children looked! How nice it was to see them surrounded by those good
things of life which, despise them as some people will, still add charms
to those who possess them! Above all, how happy her dear husband was!
Angus Home's face was like the sun itself, during the days which
followed Mr. Harman's confession. This sunshine with him had nothing to
say to the altered and improved circumstances of his life; but it had a
great deal to say to the altered circumstances of his mind. God had
most signally, most remarkably, heard his prayer. He had given to him
the soul for which he pleaded. Through all eternity that suffering, and
once so sinful, soul was safe. Mr. Home rejoiced over that redeemed soul
as one who finds great spoil. Added love to God filled his grateful
heart; his faith in God became more and more, day by day, a mighty
power. Thus Charlotte Home was surrounded by as much sunshine as often
visits a human being in this mortal life; yet still this unreasonable
woman was discontented. The fact was, success had made her bold. She had
obtained what her heart had pined for. She wanted another little drop of
bliss to complete her overflowing cup. Charlotte Home was unselfish in
her joy. There was a shadow on another's brow. She wanted that shadow to
depart; in short, she wanted Hinton and Charlotte to meet; not only to
meet, but as quickly as possible to marry. Charlotte's heart was still
with this lover whom she had given up, and who seemed to have forsaken
her. Mrs. Home saw this, though on the subject of Hinton Charlotte still
refused to speak. She said once, and only once, to her friend:

"We have parted, we have most absolutely parted. There is no use now
looking back on the past; he must never share my disgrace. Yes, my dear
and beloved father has repented nobly: but the disgrace remains. He must
never share it. He sees the wisdom of this himself, so we will not speak
of him, dear Charlotte; I can bear it best so."

This little speech was made with great firmness; but there was a
strained look about the lips, and a sorrow about the eyes which Mrs.
Home understood very well. She must not speak, but no one could prevent
her acting. She resolved to leave no stone unturned to bring these two
together again. In doing this she would act for the good of two whom she
loved, for Hinton was also very dear to her. She could never forget
those nights when he sat by the bed of her almost dying child. She could
never forget the prompt interference which saved that child's life. She
had learned enough of his character, during those few weeks which they
had spent together, to feel sure that no disgrace such as Charlotte
feared would influence him to cause her pain. It is true she could not
in any measure account for his absence and his silence; but she was
quite wise enough and quite clever enough to believe that both could be
satisfactorily accounted for. She could, however, do nothing without
seeing Hinton. How could she see him? She had written to his chambers,
she had written to his lodgings; from both addresses had the letters
been returned. She thought of advertising. She lay awake at night trying
to devise some scheme. At last one night she had a dream; so far
curious, in that it conducted her to the desired end. She dreamt that
Hinton came to Waterloo station, not to remain in London, but to pass
through to another part of England. There was nothing more in her dream;
nevertheless, she resolved to go to that station on the next day. Her
dream had not even pointed to any particular hour. She looked in
_Bradshaw_, saw when a great express from the south was due, and started
off on what might truly be called a wild-goose chase.

Nevertheless, instinct, if nothing higher, had guided Charlotte Home;
for the first person she saw stepping out of a carriage of this very
train was Hinton. She saw Hinton, he also saw her.

"You must come with me," she said, going up to him and laying her hand
on his arm. "You must come with me, and at once, for God has sent me to
you."

"But I cannot," he answered, "I am catching another train at Euston. I
am going on special business to Scotland. It is important. I cannot put
it off. I am ever so sorry; but I must jump into a cab at once." He held
out his hand as he spoke.

Mrs. Home glanced into his face. His face was changed; it was pale and
worn. There was a hard look about both eyes and mouth, which both
altered and considerably spoiled his expression.

"I will not keep you if you still wish to go, after hearing my story,"
answered Mrs. Home; "but there will be room for two in your hansom. You
do not object to my driving with you to Euston?"

Hinton could not say he objected to this, though in his heart he felt
both annoyed and surprised.

As they were driving along, Mrs. Home said,--

"Have you heard anything lately of Mr. Harman?"

To this Hinton replied, "I have not; and pardon me, Mr. Harman does not
interest me."

"Ah!" said Mrs. Home, "he interests me very much. He--he told my husband
a strange tale--a tale about himself."

"Did he confess his guilt? I know that he is a very sinful man."

"He has been a great sinner, but he has repented. He has confessed that
early and terrible sin of his youth. He has not only confessed, but he
is taking steps to make full reparation."

"Indeed! then you will come into your rights? Let me congratulate you."

"You knew of his sin? You knew what his sin was Mr. Hinton?"

"Yes, I knew."

"Charlotte had hoped to keep that disgrace from you."

"Ah!"

"She gave you another reason for breaking off her engagement?"

"Yes, a weak and futile one. She could not expect me to believe it. I
did what she had but done before me. I went to Somerset House and saw
that will which has been so greatly abused."

"She never knew that."

"Pardon me, she did."

"I fear I must be rude enough to contradict you. She said most
distinctly that you were fully satisfied with the reasons she had given
for breaking off the engagement, that perhaps you might never now learn
what her father had done."

Hinton looked at his companion in some perplexity.

"But I wrote to her," he said. "I wrote a letter which, it seemed to me,
any woman who had a spark even of kindness would have answered. In that
letter, I told her that I held her to her promise; that I knew all; that
even if she did not write to me I would call and try to see her. She
never replied to my letter, and when, after waiting for twenty-four
hours, I went to the house, she absolutely refused to see me."

"She never knew you called," answered Mrs. Home, "and she never got your
letter."

"Good heavens! how do you know?"

"I know her too well; but I will ask her directly."

Hinton was silent.

After a short pause, Mrs. Home broke out passionately,--

"How dare you insinuate doubts of so noble a creature?"

"I could only believe facts."

"Has a letter never gone astray? Has a letter never failed to reach the
hands it was meant for? Mr. Hinton, I am ashamed of you."

"If you can prove that she never got it?"

"I know she never got it. She is changed; her heart is half broken. But
I will prove it. I will go to her at once. Are you still going to
Scotland?"

"I need not go until I hear from you. You have astonished me greatly."

"Then drive to my house. Ah! you do not know our new address; it is ----;
wait for me there, I will be with you in an hour or so."



CHAPTER LVII.

JOHN.


Hinton went to Mrs. Home's house. The children were out, Mr. Home was
not visible. Anne, now converted into a neat parlor-maid, received him
with broad grins of pleasure. She ushered him into the pretty,
newly-furnished drawing-room, and asked him to wait for her mistress.

"Missis 'ull be back afore long," she said, lingering a little to
readjust the blinds, and half hoping, half expecting, Hinton to make
some surprised and approving remark on the changed circumstances of the
Homes' surroundings.

He made none, however; and Anne, with a slight sigh, left him alone.
When she did so he rose to his feet and began to pace quickly up and
down the room. After a time, half an hour or so, he pulled out his
watch. Yes, he had already lost that express to the north. A good piece
of business would probably be also lost. But what matter! beyond
ascertaining the fact that he had missed his train, he did not give the
affair another thought. To tell the truth, his mind was agitated, his
heart was full; hope once more peeped upon the horizon of his being. A
month ago--for it was quite a month ago now--he had received as sharp
and cruel a shock as falls on most men. Fortune, love, and trust had all
been dashed from the lips which were already so close to the charmed cup
that its very flavor was apparent. The cup had never reached the lips
of Hinton. Fortune was gone, love was gone; worst of all, yes, hardest
of all, trust was gone. The ideal he had worshipped was but an ideal.
The Charlotte he had loved was unworthy. She had rejected him, and
cruelly. His letter was unanswered. He himself was refused admittance.
Then his pride had risen in revolt. If she could so treat him, he would
sue no longer. If she could so easily give him up, he would bow to her
decision. She was not the Charlotte of his love and his dream. But what
matter! Other men had come to an ideal and found it but a clay idol. He
would recover: he would not let his heart break. He found, however, that
he could not stay in London. An uncle of his, his only living near
relation, was a solicitor in the south of England. Hinton went to visit
his uncle. He received him warmly and kindly. He not only promised him
work, but kept his word. Hinton took chambers in a fashionable part of
the town, and already was not idle. But he was a changed man. That
shattered trust was making his spirit very hard. The cynical part of him
was being fostered. Mrs. Home, when she looked into his face, was quite
right in saying to herself that his expression had not improved. Now,
however, again, as he paced up and down, soft thoughts were visiting
him. For what doubts, what blessed doubts had Mrs. Home not insinuated?
How irregularly his heart beat; how human he felt once more! Ah! what
sound was that? A cab had drawn up at the door. Hinton flew to the
window; he saw the soft fawn shade of a lady's dress, he could not see
the lady. Of course, it was Mrs. Home returning. What news did she
bring? How he longed to fly to meet her! He did not do so, however; his
feet felt leaden weighted. He leant against the window, with his back to
the door. His heart beat harder and harder; he clenched his hands hard.
There was a quick step running up the stairs, a quick and springing
step. The drawing-room door was opened and then shut. He heard the
rustle of soft drapery, then a hand was laid on his arm. The touch of
that hand made him tremble violently. He turned his head, and--not
Charlotte Home--but _his_ Charlotte, beautiful and true, stood by his
side. Their eyes met.

"John!" she said.

"My own, my darling!" he answered.

In an instant they were clasped in each other's arms. That swift
glance, which each had given the other, had told all.

       *       *       *       *       *

"John, I never got your letter."

"No!"

"John, you doubted me."

"I did, I confess it; I confess it bitterly. But not now, not after one
glance into your eyes."

"John, what did you say in that letter?"

"That I held you to your sacred promise; that I refused to give you up."

"But--but--you did not know my true reason. You did not know
why--why----"

"Yes, I knew all. Before I wrote that letter I went to Somerset house. I
read your grandfather's will."

"Ah! did you--did you indeed? Oh! what a dreadful time I have gone
through."

"Yes, but it is over now. Mrs. Home told me how your father had
repented. The sin is forgiven. The agony is past. What God forgets don't
let us remember. Lottie, cease to think of it. It is at an end, and so
are our troubles. I am with you again. Oh! how nearly I had lost you."

Charlotte's head was on her lover's shoulder. His arm was round her.
"Charlotte, I repeat what I said in that letter which never reached you.
I refuse to absolve you from your promise. I refuse to give you up. Do
you hear? I refuse to give you up."

"But, John, I am poor now."

"Poor or rich, you are yourself, and you are mine. Charlotte, do you
hear me? If you hear me answer me. Tell me that you are mine."

"I am yours, John," she said simply, and she raised her lips to kiss
him.



CHAPTER LVIII.

BRIDE AND BRIDEGROOM.


A month after--just one month after, there was a very quiet wedding; a
wedding performed in the little church at Kentish Town. The ceremony was
thought by the few who witnessed it to be, even for that obscure part, a
very poor one. There were no bridesmaids, or white dresses, or, indeed,
white favors in any form. The bride wore the plainest gray travelling
suit. She was given away by her gray-headed father; Charlotte Home stood
close behind her; Mr. Home married the couple, and Uncle Sandy acted as
best man. Surely no tamer ending could come to what was once meant to be
such a brilliant affair. Immediately after the ceremony, the bride and
bridegroom went away for two days and Mrs. Home went back to Prince's
Gate with Mr. Harman, for she had promised Charlotte to take care of her
father until her return.

Many changes were contemplated. The grand house in Prince's gate was to
be given up, and the Hintons were to live in that large southern town
where Hinton was already obtaining a young barrister's great
ambition--briefs. Mr. Harman, while he lived, was to find his home with
his son and daughter.

Mr. Harman was now a peaceful and happy man, and so improved was his
health--so had the state of his mind affected his body, that though he
could never hope for cure of his malady, yet Sir George Anderson assured
him that with care he might live for a very much longer time than he had
thought possible a few months before. Thus death stood back, not
altogether thrust aside, but biding its time.

On the morning of Charlotte's wedding-day there arrived a letter from
Jasper.

"So you have told all?" he said to his brother. "Well, be it so. From
the time I knew the other trustee was not dead and had reached England,
I felt that discovery was at hand. No, thank you; I shall never come
back to England. If you can bear poverty and public disgrace, I cannot.
I have some savings of my own, and on these I can live during my
remaining days. Good-bye--we shall never meet again on earth! I repent,
do you say, of my share? Yes, the business turned out badly in the end.
What a heap of money those Homes will come in for! Stolen goods don't
prosper with a man! So it seems. Well, I shall stay out of England."

Jasper was true to his word. Not one of those who knew him in this tale
ever heard of him again.

Yes, the Homes were now very rich; but both Mr. and Mrs. Home were
faithful stewards of what was lent them from the Lord. Nor did the
Hintons miss what was taken from them. It is surely enough to say of
Charlotte and her husband that they were very happy.

But as sin, however repented of, must yet reap its own reward, so in
this instance the great house of Harman Brothers ceased to exist. To pay
that unfulfilled trust the business had to be sold. It passed into the
hands of strangers, and was continued under another name. No one now
remembers even its existence.

THE END.



L. T. MEADE SERIES.

UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME.

By MRS. L. T. MEADE.


  Daddy's Girl.
  Dr. Ramsey's Patient.
  Gay Charmer, A.
  Girl in Ten Thousand, A.
  Girls of the True Blue.
  Merry Girls of England.
  Miss Nonentity.
  Palace Beautiful.
  Polly, a New-Fashioned Girl.
  Rebels of the School.
  Sweet Girl Graduate, A.
  Very Naughty Girl, A.
  Wild Kitty.
  World of Girls.
  Young Mutineers, The.

_Price Post-Paid, 50c. each, or any three books for $1.25._

HURST & COMPANY PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK.



REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD OBTAIN A CATALOGUE OF OUR PUBLICATIONS

_A postal to us will place it in your hands_

1. You will possess a comprehensive and classified list of all the best
standard books published, at prices less than offered by others.

2. You will find listed in our catalogue books on every topic: Poetry,
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Biography, Drama, etc., besides Dictionaries and Manuals, Bibles,
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Juvenile and Nursery Literature in immense variety.

3. You will be able to purchase books at prices within your reach; as
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4. You will save considerable money by taking advantage of our SPECIAL
DISCOUNTS, which we offer to those whose purchases are large enough to
warrant us in making a reduction.

HURST & CO., _Publishers_, 395, 397, 399 Broadway, New York.



THE FAMOUS ALGER BOOKS

By Horatio Alger, Jr.
The Boy's Writer

A series of books known to all boys; books that are good and wholesome,
with enough "ginger" in them to suit the tastes of the younger
generation. The Alger books are not filled with "blood and thunder"
stories of a doubtful character, but are healthy and elevating, and
parents should see to it that their children become acquainted with the
writings of this celebrated writer of boys' books. We publish the titles
named below:

  Adrift in New York.
  A Cousin's Conspiracy.
  Andy Gordon.
  Andy Grant's Pluck.
  Bob Burton.
  Bound to Rise.
  Brave and Bold.
  Cash Boy.
  Chester Rand.
  Do and Dare.
  Driven from Home.
  Erie Train Boy.
  Facing the World.
  Five Hundred Dollars.
  Frank's Campaign.
  Grit.
  Hector's Inheritance.
  Helping Himself.
  Herbert Carter's Legacy.
  In a New World.
  Jack's Ward.
  Jed, the Poor House Boy.
  Joe's Luck.
  Julins, the Street Boy.
  Luke Walton.
  Making His Way.
  Mark Mason.
  Only an Irish Boy.
  Paul, the Peddler.
  Phil, the Fiddler.
  Ralph Raymond's Heir.
  Risen from the Ranks.
  Sam's Chance.
  Shifting for Himself.
  Sink or Swim.
  Slow and Sure.
  Store Boy.
  Strive and Succeed.
  Strong and Steady.
  Struggling Upward.
  Tin Box.
  Tom, the Bootblack.
  Tony, the Tramp.
  Try and Trust.
  Wait and Hope.
  Walter Sherwood's Probation.
  Young Acrobat.
  Young Adventurer.
  Young Outlaw.
  Young Salesman.

Any of these books will be mailed upon receipt of =35c., or three copies
for $1.00=. Do not fail to procure one or more of these famous volumes.

A Complete Catalogue of Books
Will Be Sent Upon Request.

HURST & CO., Publishers, NEW YORK



HENTY SERIES

An entirely new edition of these famous Books for Boys, by G. A. Henty.
This author has reached the hearts of the younger generation by cleverly
amalgamating historical events into interesting stories. Every book
illustrated. 42 titles. Price, 35c.

  Among Malay Pirates. A Story of Adventure and Peril.
  Bonnie Prince Charlie. A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden.
  Boy Knight, The. A Tale of the Crusades.
  Bravest of the Brave, The. With Peterborough in Spain.
  By England's Aid; or, The Freeing of the Netherlands (1585-1604).
  By Pike and Dyke. A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic.
  By Right of Conquest; or with Cortez in Mexico.
  By Sheer Pluck. A Tale of the Ashanti War.
  Captain Bayley's Heir. A Tale of the Gold Fields of California.
  Cat of Bubastes, The. A Story of Ancient Egypt.
  Cornet of Horse, The. A Tale of Marlborough's Wars.
  Dragon and the Raven: or, The Days of King Alfred.
  Facing Death. A Tale of the Coal Mines.
  Final Reckoning, A. A Tale of Bush Life in Australia.
  For Name and Fame; or, Through Afghan Passes.
  For the Temple. A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem.
  Friends, Though Divided. A Tale of the Civil War in England.
  Golden Canon, The.
  In Freedom's Cause. A Story of Wallace and Bruce.
  In the Reign of Terror. Adventures of a Westminster Boy.
  In Times of Peril. A Tale of India.
  Jack Archer. A Tale of the Crimea.
  Lion of St. Mark, The. A Story of Venice in the Fourteenth Century.
  Lion of the North, The. A Tale of Gustavus Adolphus and Wars of
    Religion.
  Lost Heir, The.
  Maori and Settler. A Story of the New Zealand War.
  One of the 28th. A Tale of Waterloo.
  Orange and Green. A Tale of the Boyne and Limerick.
  Out on the Pampas. A Tale of South America.
  St. George for England. A Tale of Cressy and Poitiers.
  Sturdy and Strong; or, How George Andrews Made His Way.
  Through the Fray. A Story of the Luddite Riots.
  True to the Old Flag. A Tale of the American War of Independence.
  Under Drake's Flag. A Tale of the Spanish Main.
  With Clive in India; or, The Beginnings of an Empire.
  With Lee in Virginia. A Story of the American Civil War.
  With Wolfe in Canada; or, The Winning of a Continent.
  Young Buglers, The. A Tale of the Peninsular War.
  Young Carthaginian, The. A Story of the Times of Hannibal.
  Young Colonists, The. A Story of Life and War in South Africa.
  Young Franc-Tireurs, The. A Tale of the Franco-Prussian War.
  Young Midshipman, The. A Tale of the Siege of Alexandria.

ANY OF THESE BOOKS WILL BE MAILED UPON
RECEIPT OF 35c., OR THREE COPIES FOR $1.00

Be sure you have one of our complete catalogues;
sent anywhere when requested.

HURST & CO. Publishers NEW YORK



Mirthful Books Worth Reading!

PECK'S BOOKS OF HUMOR

No author has achieved a greater national reputation for books of
genuine humor and mirth than GEORGE W. PECK, author of "Peck's Bad Boy
and His Pa."

We are fortunate to be able to offer, within everyone's reach, three of
his latest books. The titles are:

  Peck's Uncle Ike,
  Peck's Sunbeams,
  Peck's Red-Headed Boy.

CLOTH Binding, 60c., Postpaid.

PAPER Binding, 30c., Postpaid.

By failing to procure any one of these books you lose an opportunity to
"laugh and grow fat." When you get one you will order the others.

Send for our Illustrated Catalogue of Books.

HURST & CO., Publishers, 395-399 Broadway, New York.



HELEN'S BABIES

By John Habberton

Interesting!   Entertaining!   Amusing!

A book with a famous reputation. It is safe to say that no book,
illustrating the doings of children, has ever been published that has
reached the popularity enjoyed by "HELEN'S BABIES." Brilliantly written,
Habberton records in this volume some of the cutest, wittiest and most
amusing of childish sayings, whims and pranks, all at the expense of a
bachelor uncle. The book is elaborately illustrated, which greatly
assists the reader in appreciating page by page, Habberton's
masterpiece.

Published as follows:

Popular Price Edition, Cloth, 60c., Postpaid.
Quarto Edition, with Six Colored Plates, Cloth, $1.25, Postpaid.

We guarantee that you will not suffer from "the blues" after reading
this book.

_Ask for our complete catalogue. Mailed upon request._

HURST & CO., Publishers, 395-399 Broadway, New York.



Elegant Gift Books

HURST'S PRESENTATION SERIES

A Distinctive Cover Design on Each Book

A beautiful series of Young People's Books to suit the tastes of the
most fastidious. The publishers consider themselves fortunate in being
able to offer such a marvelous line of choice subjects, made up into
attractive presentation volumes. Large type, fine heavy paper, numerous
pictures in black, inserted with six lithographic reproductions in ten
colors by eminent artists, bound in extra English cloth, with three ink
and gold effects.

Price, postpaid, $1.00 per volume.

  Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.
  Anderson's Fairy Tales.
  Arabian Nights.
  Black Beauty.
  Child's History of England.
  Grimm's Fairy Tales.
  Gulliver's Travels.
  Helen's Babies.
  Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare.
  Mother Goose, Complete.
  Palmer Cox's Fairy Book.
  Peck's Uncle Ike and the Red-Headed Boy.
  Pilgrim's Progress.
  Robinson Crusoe.
  Swiss Family Robinson.
  Tales from Scott for Young People.
  Tom Brown's School Days.
  Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Books sure to be a delight to every boy and girl who becomes the proud
possessor of any or all of them.

Write for our Complete Catalogue.

HURST & CO., Publishers, 395-399 Broadway, New York.





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