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Title: The Tenants of Malory, Volume 3
Author: Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan, 1814-1873
Language: English
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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.

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  THE

  TENANTS OF MALORY.

  (Reprinted from the "Dublin University Magazine.")



  THE

  TENANTS OF MALORY.

  A Novel.

  by

  JOSEPH SHERIDAN LE FANU,

  AUTHOR OF "UNCLE SILAS," "GUY DEVERELL," "THE HOUSE
  BY THE CHURCHYARD," ETC. ETC.

  IN THREE VOLUMES.

  VOL. III.

  LONDON:
  TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18, CATHERINE ST., STRAND.
  1867.

  [_The Right of Translation is reserved._]



  LONDON:

  BRADBURY, EVANS, AND CO., PRINTERS, WHITEFRIARS.



  CONTENTS.


   CHAP.                                                PAGE

      I.--A LARK                                           1

     II.--A NEW VOICE                                     13

    III.--CLEVE COMES                                     25

     IV.--LOVE'S REMORSE                                  36

      V.--MRS. MERVYN'S DREAM                             49

     VI.--TOM HAS A "TALK" WITH THE ADMIRAL               63

    VII.--ARCADIAN RED BRICK, LILAC, AND LABURNUM         74

   VIII.--THE TRIUMVIRATE                                 84

     IX.--IN VERNEY HOUSE                                102

      X.--A THUNDER-STORM                                113

     XI.--THE PALE HORSE                                 120

    XII.--IN WHICH HIS FRIENDS VISIT THE SICK            133

   XIII.--MR. DINGWELL THINKS OF AN EXCURSION            152

    XIV.--A SURPRISE                                     164

     XV.--CLAY RECTORY BY MOONLIGHT                      174

    XVI.--AN ALARM                                       187

   XVII.--A NEW LIGHT                                    200

  XVIII.--MR. DINGWELL AND MRS. MERVYN CONVERSE          210

    XIX.--THE GREEK MERCHANT SEES LORD VERNEY            221

     XX.--A BREAK-DOWN                                   238

    XXI.--MR. LARKIN'S TWO MOVES                         251

   XXII.--CONCLUSION                                     264



THE

TENANTS OF MALORY.



CHAPTER I.

A LARK.


"THERE'S some 'Old Tom,' isn't there? Get it, and glasses and cold
water, _here_," said Cleve to his servant, who, patient, polite,
sleepy, awaited his master. "You used to like it--and here are
cigars;" and he shook out a shower upon his drawing-room table cover.
"And where did you want to go at this time of night?"

"To Wright's, to see the end of the great game of billiards--Seller
and Culverin, you know; I've two pounds on it."

"I don't care if I go with you, just now. What's this?--When the devil
did this come?" Cleve had picked up and at one pale glance read a
little note that lay on the table; and then he repeated coolly
enough--

"I say, when did this come?"

"Before one, sir, I think," said Shepperd.

"Get me my coat," and Shepperd disappeared.

"Pestered to _death_," he said, moodily. "See, you have got the things
here, and cigars. I shan't be five minutes away. If I'm longer, don't
wait for me; but finish this first."

Cleve had turned up the collar of his outer coat, and buttoned it
across his chin, and pulled a sort of travelling cap down on his
brows, and away he went, looking very pale and anxious.

He did not come back in five minutes; nor in ten, twenty, or forty
minutes. The "Old Tom" in the bottle had run low; Sedley looked at his
watch; he could wait no longer.

When he got out upon the flagway, he felt the agreeable stimulus of
the curious "Old Tom" sufficiently to render a little pause expedient
for the purpose of calling to mind with clearness the geographical
bearings of Wright's billiard-rooms--whither accordingly he
sauntered--eastward, along deserted and echoing streets, with here and
there a policeman poking into an area, or loitering along his
two-mile-an-hour duty march, and now and then regaled by the unearthly
music of love-sick cats among the roofs.

These streets and squares, among which he had in a manner lost
himself, had in their day been the haunts and quarters of fashion, a
fairy world, always migrating before the steady march of business.
Sedley had quite lost his reckoning. If he had been content to go by
Ludgate-hill, he would have been at Wright's half an hour before.
Sedley did not know these dingy and respectable old squares; he had
not even seen a policeman for the last twenty minutes, and was just
then quite of the Irish lawyer's opinion that life is not long enough
for short cuts.

In a silent street he passed a carriage standing near a lamp. The
driver on the flagway looked hard at him. Sedley was not a romantic
being only; he had also his waggish mood, and loved a lark when it
came. He returned the fellow's stare with a glance as significant,
slackening his pace.

"Well?" said Sedley.

"Well!" replied the driver.

"Capital!" answered Sedley.

"Be you him?" demanded the driver, after a pause.

"No; be _you_?" answered Sedley.

The driver seemed a little puzzled, and eyed Sedley doubtfully; and
Sedley looked into the carriage, which, however, was empty, and then
at the house at whose rails it stood; but it was dark from top to
bottom.

He had thoughts of stepping in and availing himself of the vehicle;
but seeing no particular fun in the procedure, and liking better to
walk, he merely said, nodding toward the carriage--

"Lots of room."

"Room enough, I dessay."

"How long do you mean to wait?"

"As long as I'm paid for."

"Give my love to your mother."

"Feard she won't vally it."

"Take care of yourself--for _my_ sake."

Doubtless there was a retort worthy of so sprightly a dialogue; but
Sedley could not hear distinctly as he paced on, looking up at the
moon, and thinking how beautifully she used to shine, and was no doubt
then shining, on the flashing blue sea at Cardyllian, and over the
misty mountains. And he thought of his pretty cousin Agnes Etherage;
and "Yes," said he within himself, quickening his pace, "if I win that
two pounds at Wright's, I'll put two pounds to it, the two pounds I
should have lost, that is--there's nothing extravagant in that--and
give little Agnes something pretty; I said I would; and though it was
only joke, still it's a promise."

Some tradesmen's bills that morning had frightened him, and as he
periodically did, he had bullied himself into resolutions of economy,
out of which he ingeniously reasoned himself again. "What shall it be?
I'll look in to-morrow at Dymock and Rose's--they have lots of
charming little French trifles. Where the deuce are we now?"

He paused, and looking about him, and then down a stable-lane between
two old-fashioned houses of handsome dimensions, he saw a fellow in a
great coat loitering slowly down it, and looking up vigilantly at the
two or three windows in the side of the mansion.

"A robbery, by George!" thought Sedley, as he marked the prowling
vigilance of the man, and his peculiar skulking gait.

He had no sort of weapon about him, not even a stick; but he is one of
the best sparrers extant, and thinks pluck and "a fist-full of fives"
well worth a revolver.

Sedley hitched his shoulders, plucked off the one glove that remained
on, and followed him softly a few steps, dogging him down the lane,
with that shrewd, stern glance which men exchange in the prize-ring.
But when on turning about the man in the surtout saw that he was
observed, he confirmed Sedley's suspicions by first pausing
irresolutely, and ultimately withdrawing suddenly round the angle.

Sedley had not expected this tactique. For whatever purpose, the man
had been plainly watching the house, and it was nearly three o'clock.
Thoroughly blooded now for a "lark," Sedley followed swiftly to the
corner, but could not see him; so, as he returned, a low window in the
side wall opened, and a female voice said, "Are you there?"

"Yes," replied Tom Sedley, confidentially drawing near.

"Take this."

"All right"--and thereupon he received first a bag and then a box,
each tolerably heavy.

Sedley was amused. A mystification had set in; a quiet robbery, and he
the receiver. He thought of dropping the booty down the area of the
respectable house round the corner, but just then the man in the
surtout emerged from the wing, so to speak, and marching slowly up the
perspective of the lane, seemed about to disturb him, but once more
changed his mind, and disappeared.

"What is to happen next?" wondered Tom Sedley. In a few minutes a door
which opens from the back yard or garden of the house from which he
had received his burthen, opened cautiously, and a woman in a cloak
stepped out, carrying another bag, a heavy one it also seemed, and
beckoning to him, said, so soon as he was sufficiently near--

"Is the carriage come?"

"Yes'm," answered Tom, touching his hat, and affecting as well as he
could the ways of a porter or a cabman.

"When they comes," she resumed, "you'll bring us to where it is, mind,
and fetch the things with you--and mind ye, no noise nor talking, and
walk as light as you can."

"All right," said Tom, in the same whisper in which she spoke.

It could not be a robbery--Tom had changed his mind; there was an air
of respectability about the servant that conflicted with that theory,
and the discovery that the carriage was waiting to receive the party
was also against it.

Tom was growing more interested in his adventure; and entering into
the fuss and mystery of the plot.

"Come round, please, and show me where the carriage stands," said the
woman, beckoning to Tom, who followed her round the corner.

She waited for him, and laid her hand on his elbow, giving him a
little jog by way of caution.

"Hush--not a word above your breath, mind," she whispered; "_I_ see
that's it; well, it needn't come no nearer, mind."

"All right, ma'am."

"And there's the window," she added in a still more cautious whisper,
and pointing with a nod and a frown at a window next the hall door,
through the shutter of which a dim light was visible.

"Ha!" breathed Tom, looking wise, "and all safe _there_?"

"We're never sure; sometimes awake; sometimes not; sometimes quiet;
sometimes quite wild-like; and the window pushed open, for hair!
Hoffle he is!"

"And always was," hazarded Tom.

"Wuss now, though," whispered she, shaking her head ruefully, and she
returned round the angle of the house and entered the door through
which she had issued, and Tom set down his load not far from the same
point.

Before he had waited many minutes the same door re-opened, and two
ladies, as he judged them to be from something in their air and dress,
descended the steps together, followed by the maid carrying the
black-leather bag as before. They stopped just under the door, which
the servant shut cautiously and locked; and then these three female
figures stood for a few seconds whispering together; and after that
they turned and walked up the lane towards Tom Sedley, who touched his
hat as they approached, and lifted his load again.

The two ladies were muffled in cloaks. The taller wore no hat or
bonnet; but had instead a shawl thrown over her head and shoulders,
hood-wise. She walked, leaning upon the shorter lady, languidly, like
a person very weak, or in pain, and the maid at the other side, placed
her arm tenderly round her waist, under her mufflers, and aided her
thus as she walked. They crossed the street at the end of the
stable-lane, and walked at that side toward the carriage. The maid
signed to Tom, who carried his luggage quickly to its destination on
the box, and was in time to open the carriage-door.

"Don't you mind," said the woman, putting Tom unceremoniously aside,
and herself aiding the taller lady into the old-fashioned carriage. As
she prepared to get in, Tom for a moment fancied a recognition;
something in the contour of the figure, muffled as it was, for a
second struck him; and at the same moment all seemed like a dream, and
he stepped backward involuntarily in amazement. Had he not seen the
same gesture. The arm, exactly so, and that slender hand in a
gardening glove, holding a tiny trowel, under the dark foliage of old
trees.

The momentary gesture was gone. The lady leaning back, a muffled
figure, in the corner of the carriage, silent. Her companion, who he
thought looked sharply at him, from within, now seated herself beside
her; and the maid also from her place inside, told him from the
window--

"Bid him drive now where he knows, quickly," and she pulled up the
window.

Tom was too much interested now to let the thread of his adventure go.
So to the box beside the driver he mounted, and delivered the order he
had just received.

Away he drove swiftly, Citywards, through silent and empty streets.
Tom quickly lost his bearings; the gas lamps grew few and far between;
he was among lanes and arches, and sober, melancholy streets, such as
he had never suspected of an existence in such a region.

Here the driver turned suddenly up a narrow way between old brick
walls, with tufts of dingy grass here and there at top, and the worn
mortar lines overlaid with velvet moss. This short passage terminated
in two tall brick piers, surmounted by worn and moss-grown balls of
stone.

Tom jumped down and pushed back the rusty iron gates, and they drove
into an unlighted, melancholy court-yard; and Tom thundered at a tall
narrow hall-door, between chipped and worn pilasters of the same white
stone, surmounted by some carved heraldry, half effaced.

Standing on the summit of the steps he had to repeat his summons, till
the cavernous old mansion pealed again with the echo, before a light
gave token of the approach of a living being to give them greeting.

Tom opened the carriage door, and let down the steps, perhaps a little
clumsily, but he was getting through his duties wonderfully.

The party entered the spacious wainscoted hall, in which was an old
wooden bench, on which, gladly, it seemed, the sick lady sat herself
down. A great carved doorway opened upon a square second hall or
lobby, through which the ray of the single candle glanced duskily, and
touched the massive banisters of a broad staircase.

This must have been the house of a very great man in its day, a Lord
Chancellor, perhaps, one of those Hogarthian mansions in which such
men as my Lord Squanderfield might have lived in the first George's
days.

"How could any man have been such an idiot," thought Sedley, filled
with momentary wonder, "as to build a palace like this in such a
place?"

"Dear me! what a place--what a strange place!" whispered the elder
lady, "where are we to go?"

"Up-stairs, please'm," said the woman with a brass candlestick in her
hand.

"I hope there's fire, and more light, and--and proper comfort there?"

"Oh! yes'm, please; everythink as you would like, please."

"Come, dear," said the old lady tenderly, giving her arm to the
languid figure resting in the hall.

So guided and lighted by the servant they followed her up the great
well staircase.



CHAPTER II.

A NEW VOICE.


THE ladies ascended, led by the maid with the candle, and closely
followed by their own servant, and our friend Tom Sedley brought up
the rear, tugging the box and the bag with him.

At the stair-head was a great gallery from which many doors opened.
Tom Sedley halted close by the banister for orders, depositing his
luggage beside him. The maid set the candle down upon a table, and
opened one of these tall doors, through which he saw an angle of the
apartment, a fire burning in the grate, and a pleasant splendour of
candlelight; he saw that the floor was carpeted, and the windows
curtained, and though there was disclosed but a corner of a large
room, there were visible such pieces of furniture as indicated general
comfort.

In a large arm-chair, at the further side of the fire-place, sat the
lady who had thrilled him with a sudden remembrance. She had
withdrawn the shawl that hung in hood-like fashion over her head, and
there was no longer a doubt. The Beatrice Cenci was there--his
Guido--very pale, dying he thought her, with her white hands clasped,
and her beautiful eyes turned upward in an agony of prayer.

The old lady, Miss Sheckleton, came near, leaned over her, kissed her
tenderly, and caressingly smoothed her rich chestnut hair over her
temples, and talked gently in her ear, and raised her hand in both
hers, and kissed it, and drawing a chair close to hers, she sat by
her, murmuring in her ear with a countenance of such kindness and
compassion, that Tom Sedley loved her for it.

Looking up, Miss Sheckleton observed the door open, and Tom fancied
perceived him in the perspective through it, for she rose suddenly,
shut it, and he saw no more. Tom had not discovered in the glance of
the old lady any sign of recognition, and for the sake of appearances
he had buttoned his gray wrapper close across his throat and breast so
as to conceal the evidences of his ball costume; his shining boots,
however, were painfully conspicuous, but for that incongruity there
was no help.

And now the servant who had let them in told Tom to bring the box and
bag into the servants' room, to which she led him across the gallery.

There was a large fire, which was pleasant, a piece of matting on the
floor, a few kitchen utensils ranged near the fire-place, a deal
table, and some common kitchen chairs. Dismal enough would the room
have looked, notwithstanding its wainscoting, had it not been for the
glow diffused by the fire.

By this fire, on a kitchen chair, and upon his own opera hat, which he
wished specially to suppress, sat Tom Sedley, resolved to see his
adventure one hour or so into futurity, before abandoning it, and
getting home to his bed, and in the meantime doing his best to act a
servant, as he fancied such a functionary would appear in his moments
of ease unbending in the kitchen or the servants' hall. The maid who
had received the visitors in the hall, Anne Evans by name, square,
black-haired, slightly pitted with smallpox, and grave, came and sat
down at the other side of the fire, and eyed Tom Sedley in silence.

Now and then Tom felt uncomfortably about his practical joke, which
was degenerating into a deception. But an hour or so longer could not
matter much; and might he not make himself really useful if the
services of a messenger were required?

Anne Evans was considering him in silence, and he turned a little
more toward the fire, and poked it, as he fancied a groom would poke a
fire for his private comfort.

"Are you servant to the ladies?" at last she asked.

Tom smiled at the generality of the question, but interpreting in good
faith--

"No," said he, "I came with the carriage."

"Servant to the gentleman?" she asked.

"What gentleman?"

"You know well."

Tom had not an idea, but could not well say so. He therefore poked the
fire again, and said, "Go on, miss; I'm listening."

She did not go on, however, for some time, and then it was to say--

"My name is Anne Evans. What may your name be?"

"Can't tell that. I left my name at home," said Tom, mysteriously.

"Won't tell?"

"Can't."

"I'm only by the month. Come in just a week to-morrow," observed Anne
Evans.

"They'll not part with you in a month, Miss Evans. No; they has some
taste and feelin' among them. I wouldn't wonder if you was here for
ever!" said Tom, with enthusiasm; "and what's this place, miss--this
house I mean--whose house is it?"

"Can't say, only I hear it's bought for a brewery, to be took down
next year."

"Oh, criky!" said Tom; "that's a pity."

There was a short pause.

"I saw you 'ide your 'at," said Anne Evans.

"Not 'ide it," said Tom; "only sits on it--always sits on my 'at."

Tom produced it, let it bounce up like a jack-in-a-box, and shut it
down again.

Miss Evans was neither amused nor surprised.

"Them's hopera 'ats--first quality--they used to come in boxes on 'em,
as long as from here to you, when I was at Mr. Potterton's, the
hatter. Them's for gents--they air--and not for servants."

"The gov'nor gives me his old uns," said Tom, producing the best fib
he could find.

"And them French boots," she added, meditatively.

"Perquisite likewise," said Tom.

Miss Anne Evans closed her eyes, and seemed disposed to take a short
nap in her chair. But on a sudden she opened them to say--

"I think you're the gentleman himself."

"The old gentleman?" said Tom.

"No. The young un."

"I'm jest what I tell you, not objectin' to the compliment all the
same," said Tom.

"And a ring on your finger?"

"A ring on my finger--yes. I wear it two days in the week. My
grand-uncle's ring, who was a gentleman, being skipper of a coal
brig."

"What's the lady's name?"

"Can't tell, Miss Evans; dussn't."

"Fuss about nothin'!" said she, and closed her eyes again, and opened
them in a minute more, to add, "but I think you're him, and that's
_my_ belief."

"No, I ain't miss, as you'll see, by-and-by."

"Tisn't nothin' to me, only people _is_ so close."

The door opened, and a tall woman in black, with a black net cap on,
came quietly but quickly into the room.

"You're the man?" said she, with an air of authority, fixing her eyes
askance on Tom.

"Yes'm, please."

"Well, you don't go on no account, for you'll be wanted just now."

"No, ma'am."

"Where's the box and bag you're in charge of?"

"Out here," said Tom.

"Hish, man, quiet; don't you know there's sickness? Walk easy, _can't_
you? _please_, consider."

Tom followed her almost on tip-toe to the spot where the parcels lay.

"Gently now; into this room, please," and she led the way into that
sitting-room into which Tom Sedley had looked some little time since,
from the stair-head.

The beautiful young lady was gone, but Miss Sheckleton was standing at
the further door of the room with her hands clasped, and her eyes
raised in prayer, and her pale cheeks wet with tears.

Hearing the noise, she gently closed the door, and hastily drying her
eyes, whispered, "Set them down _there_," pointing to a sofa, on which
Tom placed them accordingly. "Thanks--that will do. You may go."

When Sedley had closed the door--

"Oh, Mrs. Graver," whispered Anne Sheckleton, clasping her wrists in
her trembling fingers, "is she _very_ ill?"

"Well, ma'am, she _is_ ill."

"But, oh, my God, you don't think we are going to lose her?" she
whispered wildly, with her imploring gaze in the nurse's eyes.

"Oh, no, please God, ma'am, it will all be right. You must not fuss
yourself, ma'am. You must not let her see you like this, on no
account."

"Shall I send for him now?"

"No, ma'am; he'd only be in the way. _I_'ll tell you when; and his
man's here, ready to go, any minute. I must go back to her now,
ma'am. Hish!"

And Mrs. Graver disappeared with a little rustle of her dress, and no
sound of steps. That solemn bird floated very noiselessly round sick
beds, and you only heard, as it were, the hovering of her wings.

And then, in a minute more, in glided Miss Sheckleton, having dried
her eyes very carefully.

And now came a great knocking at the hall door, echoing dully through
the house. It was Doctor Grimshaw, who had just got his coat off, and
was winding his watch, when he was called from his own bed-side by
this summons, and so was here after a long day's work, to make a new
start, and await the dawn in this chamber of pain.

In he came, and Miss Sheckleton felt that light and hope entered the
room with him. Florid, portly, genial, with a light, hopeful step, and
a good, decided, cheery manner, he inspired confidence, and seemed to
take command, not only of the case, but of the ailment itself.

Miss Sheckleton knew this good doctor, and gladly shook his hand; and
he recognised her with a hesitating look that seemed to ask a
question, but was not meant to do so, and he spoke cheerfully to the
patient, and gave his directions to the nurse, and in about half an
hour more told good Anne Sheckleton that she had better leave the
patient.

So, with the docility which an able physician inspires, good Anne
Sheckleton obeyed, and in the next room--sometimes praying, sometimes
standing and listening, sometimes wandering from point to point, in
the merest restlessness--she waited and watched for more than an hour,
which seemed to her longer than a whole night, and at last tapped very
gently at the door, a lull having come for a time in the sick chamber,
and unable longer to endure her suspense.

A little bit of the door was opened, and Anne Sheckleton saw the side
of Mrs. Graver's straight nose, and one of her wrinkled eyes, and her
grim mouth.

"How is she?" whispered Miss Sheckleton, feeling as if she was herself
about to die.

"Pretty well, ma'am," answered the nurse, but with an awful look of
insincerity, under which the old lady's heart sank down and down, as
if it had foundered.

"One word to Dr. Grimshaw," she whispered, with white lips.

"You _can't_, ma'am," murmured the nurse, sternly, and about to shut
the door in her face.

"Wait, _wait_," whispered the voice of kind old Doctor Grimshaw, and
he came into the next room to Miss Sheckleton, closing the door after
him.

"Oh, doctor!" she gasped.

"Well, Miss Sheckleton, I hope she'll do very well; I've just given
her something--a slight stimulant--and I've every confidence
everything will be well. Don't make yourself uneasy; it is not going
on badly."

"Oh, Doctor Grimshaw, shall I send for him? He'd never forgive me; and
I promised her, darling Margaret, to send."

"_Don't_ send--on _no account_ yet. Don't bring him here--he's better
away. I'll tell you when to send."

The doctor opened the door.

"Still quiet?"

"Yes, sir," whispered Mrs. Graver.

Again he closed the door.

"Nice creature she seems. A relation of yours?" asked the Doctor.

"My cousin."

"When was she married?"

"About a year ago."

"Never any tendency to consumption?"

"Never."

"Nothing to make her low or weak? Is she hysterical?"

"No, hardly that, but nervous and excitable."

"I know; very good. I think she'll do very nicely. If anything goes
the least wrong I'll let you know. Now stay quiet in there."

And he shut the door, and she heard his step move softly over the next
room floor, so great was the silence; and she kneeled down and prayed
as helpless people pray in awful peril; and more time passed, and
more, slowly, very slowly. Oh, would the dawn ever come, and the
daylight again?

Voices and moans she heard from the room. Again she prayed on her
knees to the throne of mercy, in the agony of her suspense, and now
over the strange roofs spread the first faint gray of the coming dawn;
and there came a silence in the room, and on a sudden was heard a new
tiny voice crying.

"The little child!" cried old Anne Sheckleton, springing to her feet,
with clasped hands, in the anguish of delight, and such a gush of
tears--as she looked up, thanking God with her smiles--as comes only
in such moments.

Margaret's clear voice faintly said something; Anne could not hear
what.

"A boy," answered the cheery voice of Doctor Grimshaw.

"Oh! he'll be so glad!" answered the faint clear voice in a kind of
rapture.

"Of course he will," replied the same cheery voice. And another
question came, too low for old Anne Sheckleton's ears.

"A _beautiful_ boy! as fine a fellow as you could desire to look at.
Bring him here, nurse."

"Oh! the darling!" said the same faint voice. "I'm so _happy_."

"Thank God! thank God! thank God!" sobbed delighted Anne Sheckleton,
her cheeks still streaming in showers of tears as she stood waiting at
the door for the moment of admission, and hearing the sweet happy
tones of Margaret's voice sounding in her ears like the voice of one
who had just now died, heard faintly through the door of heaven.

For thus it has been, and thus to the end, it will be--the "sorrow" of
the curse is remembered no more, "for joy that a man is born into the
world."



CHAPTER III.

CLEVE COMES.


TOM SEDLEY was dozing in his chair, by the fire, when he was roused by
Mrs. Graver's voice.

"You'll take this note at once, please, to your master; there's a cab
at the door, and the lady says you mustn't make no delay."

It took some seconds to enable Tom to account for the scene, the actor
and his own place of repose, his costume, and the tenor of the strange
woman's language. In a little while, however, he recovered the
context, and the odd passage in his life became intelligible.

Still half asleep, Tom hurried down-stairs, and in the hall, with a
shock, read the address, "Cleve Verney, Esq." At the hall-door steps
he found a cab, into which he jumped, telling the man to drive to
Cleve Verney's lodgings.

There were expiring lights in the drawing-room, the blinds of which
were up, and as the cab stopped at the steps a figure appeared at one
of the windows, and Cleve Verney opened it, and told the driver,
"Don't mind knocking, I'll go down."

"Come up-stairs," said Cleve, as he stood at the open door, addressing
Sedley, and mistaking him for the person whom he had employed.

Up ran Tom Sedley at his heels.

"Hollo! _Sedley_--what brings _you_ here?" said Cleve, when Tom
appeared in the light of the candles. "You don't mean to say the ball
has been going on till now--or is it a scrape?"

"Nothing--only this I've been commissioned to give you," and he placed
Miss Sheckleton's note in his hand.

Cleve had looked wofully haggard and anxious as Tom entered. But his
countenance changed now to an ashy paleness, and there was no
mistaking his extreme agitation.

He opened the note--a very brief one it seemed--and read it.

"Thank God!" he said with a great sigh, and then he walked to the
window and looked out, and returned again to the candles and read the
note once more.

"How did you know I was up, Tom?"

"The lights in the windows."

"Yes. Don't let the cab go."

Cleve was getting on his coat, and speaking like a man in a dream.

"I say, Tom Sedley, how did _you_ come by this note?" he said, with a
sudden pause, and holding Miss Sheckleton's note in his fingers.

"Well, quite innocently," hesitated Sedley.

"How the devil was it, sir? Come, you may as well--by heaven, Sedley,
you _shall_ tell me the truth!"

Tom looked on his friend Cleve, and saw his eyes gleaming sharply on
him, and his face very white.

"Of course I'll tell you, Cleve," said Tom, and with this exordium he
stumbled honestly through his story, which by no means quieted Cleve
Verney.

"You d----d little Paul Pry!" said he. "Well, you have got hold of a
secret now, like the man in the iron mask, and by----you had better
keep it."

A man who half blames himself already, and is in a position which he
hates and condemns, will stand a great deal more of hard language, and
even of execration, than he would under any other imaginable
circumstances.

"You can't blame me half as much as I do myself. I assure you, Cleve,
I'm awfully sorry. It was the merest lark--at first--and then--when I
saw that beautiful--that young lady--"

"Don't talk of that lady any more; I'm her husband. _There_, you have
it all, and if you whisper it to mortal you _may ruin_ me; but one or
other of us shall die for it!"

Cleve was talking in a state of positive exasperation.

"Whisper it!--tell it! You don't in the least understand me, Cleve,"
said Tom, collecting himself, and growing a little lofty; "I don't
whisper or tell things; and as for daring or not daring, I don't know
what you mean; and I hope, if occasion for _dying_ came, I should funk
it as little as any other fellow."

"I'm going to this d----d place now. I don't much care what you do: I
almost wish you'd shoot me."

He struck his hand on the table, looking not at Tom Sedley, but with a
haggard rage through the window, and away toward the gray east; and
without another word to Sedley, he ran down, shutting the hall-door
with a crash that showed more of his temper than of his prudence, and
Tom saw him jump into the cab and drive away.

The distance is really considerable, but in Cleve's intense reverie
time and space contracted, and before he fancied they had accomplished
half the way, he found himself at the tall door and stained pilasters
and steps of the old red-brick house.

Anne Evans, half awake, awaited his arrival on the steps. He ran
lightly up the stairs, under her covert scrutiny; and, in obedience to
Mrs. Graver's gesture of warning, as she met him with raised hand and
her frowning "Hish" at the head of the stairs, he checked his pace,
and in a whisper he made his eager inquiries. She was going on very
nicely.

"I must see Miss Sheckleton--the old lady--where is she?" urged Cleve.

"Here, sir, please"--and Mrs. Graver opened a door, and he found tired
Miss Sheckleton tying on her bonnet, and getting her cloak about her.

"Oh! Cleve, dear"--she called him "Cleve" now--"I'm so delighted;
she's doing _very_ well; the doctor's quite _pleased_ with her, and
it's a boy, Cleve, and--and I wish you joy with all my heart."

And as she spoke, the kind old lady was shaking both his hands, and
smiling up into his handsome face, like sunshine; but that handsome
face, though it smiled down darkly upon her, was, it seemed to her,
strangely joyless, and even troubled.

"And Cleve, dear, my _dear_ Mr. Verney--I'm _so_ sorry; but I must go
immediately. I make his chocolate in the morning, and he sometimes
calls for it at half-past seven. This miserable attack that has kept
him here, and the risk in which he is at every day he stays in this
town, it _is so_ distracting. And if I should not be at home and ready
to see him when he calls, he'd be sure to suspect something; and I
really see nothing but ruin from his temper and violence to all of us,
if he were to find out how it is. So good-bye, and God bless you. The
doctor says he thinks you may see her in a very little time--half an
hour or so--if you are very careful not to let her excite or agitate
herself; and--God bless you--I shall be back, for a little, in an hour
or two."

So that kindly, fluttered, troubled, and happy old lady disappeared;
and Cleve was left again to his meditations.

"Where's the doctor?" asked Cleve of the servant.

"In the sitting-room, please, sir, writing; his carriage is come, sir,
please."

And thus saying, Mistress Anne Evans officiously opened the door, and
Cleve entered. The doctor, having written a prescription, and just
laid down his pen, was pulling on his glove.

Cleve had no idea that he was to see Doctor Grimshaw. Quite another
physician, with whom he had no acquaintance, had been agreed upon
between him and Miss Sheckleton. As it turned out, however, that
gentleman was now away upon an interesting visit, at a country
mansion, and Doctor Grimshaw was thus unexpectedly summoned.

Cleve was unpleasantly surprised, for he had already an acquaintance
with that good man, which he fancied was not recorded in his
recollection to his credit. I think if the doctor's eye had not been
directed toward the door when he entered, that Cleve Verney would have
drawn back; but that would not do now.

"Doctor Grimshaw?" said Cleve.

"Yes, sir;" said the old gentleman.

"I think, Doctor Grimshaw, you know me?"

"Oh, yes, sir; of course I do;" said the Doctor, with an uncomfortable
smile, ever so little bitter, and a slight bow, "Mr. Verney, yes." And
the doctor paused, looking toward him, pulling on his other glove, and
expecting a question.

"Your patient, Doctor Grimshaw, doing very well, I'm told?"

"Nicely, sir--very nicely now. I was a little uncomfortable about her
just at one time, but doing very well now; and it's a boy--a fine
child. Good morning, sir."

He had taken up his hat.

"And Doctor Grimshaw, just one word. May I beg, as a matter of
professional _honour_, that this--all this, shall be held as strictly
_secret_--everything connected with it as strictly confidential?"

The doctor looked down on the carpet with a pained countenance.
"Certainly, sir," he said, drily. "That's all, I suppose? Of course,
Mr. Verney, I shan't--since such I suppose to be the wish of all
parties--mention the case."

"Of _all_ parties, certainly; and it is in tenderness to others, not
to myself, that I make the request."

"I'm sorry it should be necessary, sir;" said Doctor Grimshaw, almost
sternly. "I know Miss Sheckleton and her family; this poor young lady,
I understand, is a cousin of hers. I am _sorry_, sir, upon her
account, that any mystery should be desirable."

"It _is_ desirable, and, in fact, _indispensable_, sir," said Cleve, a
little stiffly, for he did not see what right that old doctor had to
assume a lecturer's tone toward him.

"No one shall be compromised by me, sir," said the doctor, with a sad
and offended bow.

And the Doctor drove home pretty well tired out. I am afraid that
Cleve did not very much care whom he might compromise, provided he
himself were secure. But even from himself the utter selfishness,
which toned a character passionate and impetuous enough to simulate
quite unconsciously the graces of magnanimity and tenderness, was
hidden.

Cleve fancied that the cares that preyed upon his spirits were for
Margaret, and when he sometimes almost regretted their marriage, that
his remorse was principally for her, that all his caution and finesse
were exacted by his devotion to the interests of his young wife, and
that the long system of mystery and deception, under which her proud,
frank, spirit was pining, was practised solely for her advantage.

So Cleve was in his own mind something of a hero--self-sacrificing,
ready, if need be, to shake himself free, for sake of his love and his
liberty, of all the intoxications and enervations of his English life,
and _fortis colonus_, to delve the glebe of Canada or to shear the
sheep of Australia. He was not conscious that all these were the
chimeras of insincerity, that ambition was the breath of his nostrils,
and that his idol was--himself.

And if he mistakes himself, do not others mistake him also, and clothe
him with the nobleness of their own worship? Can it be that the
lights and the music and the incense that surround him are but the
tributes of a beautiful superstition, and that the idol in the midst
is cold and dumb?

Cleve, to do him justice, was moved on this occasion. He did--shall I
say?--yearn to behold her again. There was a revival of tenderness,
and he waited with a real impatience to see her.

He did see her--just a little gleam of light in the darkened room; he
stood beside the bed, clasping that beautiful hand that God had
committed to his, smiling down in that beautiful face that smiled
unutterable love up again into his own.

"Oh! Cleve, darling--oh, Cleve! I'm so happy."

The languid hands are clasped on his, the yearning eyes, and the
smile, look up. It is like the meeting of the beloved after shipwreck.

"And look, Cleve;" and with just ever so little a motion of her hand
she draws back a silken coverlet, and he sees in a deep sleep a little
baby, and the beautiful smile of young maternity falls upon it like a
blessing and a caress. "Isn't it a darling? _Poor_ little thing! how
quietly it sleeps. I think it is the dearest little thing that ever
was seen--_our_ little baby!"

Is there a prettier sight than the young mother smiling, in this the
hour of her escape, upon the treasure she has found? The wondrous
gift, at sight of which a new fountain of love springs up--never,
while life remains, to cease its flowing. Looking on such a sight in
silence, I think I hear the feet of the angels round the bed--I think
I see their beautiful eyes smiling on the face of the little mortal,
and their blessed hands raised over the head of the fair young
mother.



CHAPTER IV.

LOVE'S REMORSE

    "Teach me, ye groves, some art to ease my pain,
    Some soft resentments that may leave no stain
    On her loved name, and then I will complain."


NEXT day, after dinner, Lord Verney said to Cleve, as they two sat
alone, "I saw you at Lady Dorminster's last night. I saw you--about
it. It seems to me you go to too many places, with the House to attend
to; you stay too long; one can look in, you know. Sometimes one meets
a person; I had a good deal of interesting conversation last night,
for instance, with the French Ambassador. No one takes a hint better;
they are very good listeners, the French, and that is the way they
pick up so much information and opinion, and things. I had a cup of
tea, and we talked about it, for half-an-hour, until I had got my
ideas well before him. A very able man, a brilliant person, and
seemed--he appeared to go with me--about it--and very well up upon our
history--and things--and--and--looking at you, it struck me--you're
looking a good deal cut up, about it--and--and as if you were doing
too much. And I said, you know, you were to look about, and see if
there was any young person you liked--that was suitable--and--that
kind of thing; but you know you must not fatigue yourself, and I don't
want to hurry you; only it is a step you ought to take with a view to
strengthen your position--ultimately. And--and--I hear it is too late
to consider about Ethel--that would have been very nice, it struck me;
but that is now out of the question, I understand--in fact, it is
certain, although the world don't know it yet; and therefore we must
consider some other alliance; and I don't see any very violent hurry.
We must look about--and--and--you'll want some money, Cleve, when you
have made up your mind."

"You are always too good," said Cleve.

"I--I mean with your _wife_--about it;" and Lord Verney coughed a
little. "There's never any harm in a little money; the more you get,
the more you can do. I always was of that opinion. Knowledge is power,
and money is power, though in different ways; that was always my idea.
What I want to impress on your mind, however, at this moment,
particularly, is, that there is nothing very pressing as to time; we
can afford a little time. The Onslow motto, you know, _it_ conveys
it, and your mother was connected with the Onslows."

It would not be easy to describe how the words of his noble uncle
relieved Cleve Verney. Every sentence lifted a load from his burthen,
or cut asunder some knot in the cordage of his bonds. He had not felt
so much at ease since his hated conversation with Lord Verney in the
library.

Not very long after this, Cleve made the best speech by many degrees
he had ever spoken--a really forcible reply upon a subject he had very
carefully made up, of which, in fact, he was a master. His uncle was
very much pleased, and gave his hearers to understand pretty
distinctly from what fountain he had drawn his inspiration, and
promised them better things still, now that he had got him fairly in
harness, and had him into his library, and they put their heads
together; and he thought his talking with him a little did him no
harm, Cleve's voice was so good, he could make himself heard--you must
be able to reach their ears or you can hardly hope to make an
impression; and Lord Verney's physician insisted on his sparing his
throat.

So Lord Verney was pleased. Cleve was Lord Verney's throat, and the
throat emitted good speeches, and everyone knew where the head was.
Not that Cleve was deficient; but Cleve had very unusual advantages.

Tom Sedley and Cleve were on rather odd terms now. Cleve kept up
externally their old intimacy when they met. But he did not seek him
out in those moods which used to call for honest Tom Sedley, when they
ran down the river together to Greenwich, when Cleve was lazy, and
wanted to hear the news, and say what he liked, and escape from
criticism of every kind, and enjoy himself indolently.

For Verney now there was a sense of constraint wherever Tom Sedley
was. Even in Tom's manner there was a shyness. Tom had learned a
secret, which he had not confided to him. He knew he was safe in Tom
Sedley's hands. Still he was in his power, and Sedley knew it, and
that galled his pride, and made an estrangement.

In the early May, "when winds are sweet though they unruly be," Tom
Sedley came down again to Cardyllian. Miss Charity welcomed him with
her accustomed emphasis upon the Green. How very pretty Agnes looked.
But how cold her ways had grown.

He wished she was not so pretty--so _beautiful_, in fact. It pained
him, and somehow he had grown strange with her; and she was changed,
grave, and silent, rather, and, as it seemed, careless quite whether
he was there or not, although he could never charge her with positive
unkindness, much less with rudeness. He wished she would be rude. He
would have liked to upbraid her. But her gentle, careless cruelty was
a torture that justified no complaint, and admitted no redress.

He could talk volubly and pleasantly enough for hours with Charity,
not caring a farthing whether he pleased her or not, and thinking only
whether Agnes, who sat silent at her work, liked his stories and was
amused by his fun; and went away elated for a whole night and day
because a joke of his had made her laugh. Never had Tom felt more
proud and triumphant in all his days.

But when Charity left the room to see old Vane Etherage in the study,
a strange silence fell upon Tom. You could hear each stitch of her
tambour-work. You could hear Tom's breathing. He fancied she might
hear the beating of his heart. He was ashamed of his silence. He could
have been eloquent had he spoken from that loaded heart. But he dare
not, and failing this he must be silent.

By this time Tom was always thinking of Agnes Etherage, and wondering
at the perversity of fate. He was in love. He could not cheat himself
into any evasion of that truth--a tyrant truth that had ruled him
mercilessly; and there was she pining for love of quite another, and
bestowing upon him, who disdained it, all the treasure of her heart,
while even a look would have been cherished with gratitude by Sedley.

What was the good of his going up every day to Hazelden, Tom Sedley
thought, to look at her, and talk to Charity, and laugh, and recount
entertaining gossip, and make jokes, and be agreeable, with a heavy
and strangely suffering heart, and feel himself every day more and
more in love with her, when he knew that the sound of Cleve's
footsteps, as he walked by, thinking of himself, would move her heart
more than all Tom Sedley, adoring her, could say in his lifetime?

What a fool he was! Before Cleve appeared she was fancy free; no one
else in the field, and his opportunities unlimited. He had lapsed his
time, and occasion had spread its wings and flown.

"What beautiful sunshine! What do you say to a walk on the Green?"
said Tom to Charity, and listening for a word from Agnes. She raised
her pretty eyes and looked out, but said nothing.

"Yes. I think it would be very nice; and there is no wind. What do
_you_ say, Agnes?"

"I don't know. I'm lazy to-day, I think, and I have this to finish,"
said Agnes.

"But you ought to take a walk, Agnes; it would do you good; and
Thomas Sedley and I are going for a walk on the Green."

"Pray, do," pleaded Tom, timidly.

Agnes smiled and shook her head, looking out of the window, and,
making no other answer, resumed her work.

"You are _very_ obstinate," remarked Charity.

"Yes, and lazy, like the donkeys on the Green, where you are going;
but you don't want me particularly--I mean _you_, Charrie--and Mr.
Sedley, I know, will excuse me, for I really feel that it would tire
me to-day. It would tire me to death," said Agnes, winding up with an
emphasis.

"Well, _I'll_ go and put on my things, and if you _like_ to come you
_can_ come, and if you don't you can stay where you are. But I wish
you would not be a fool. It is a beautiful day, and nothing on earth
to prevent you."

"I don't like the idea of a walk to-day. I know I should feel tired
immediately, and have to bring you back again; and I've really grown
interested in this little bit of work, and I feel as if I must finish
it to-day."

"Why _need_ you finish it to-day? You _are_ such a goose, Agnes," said
Charity, marching out of the room.

Tom remained there standing, his hat in his hand, looking out of the
window--longing to speak, his heart being full, yet not knowing how to
begin, or how to go on if he had begun.

Agnes worked on diligently, and looked out from the window at her side
over the shorn grass and flower-beds, through the old trees in the
foreground--over the tops of the sloping forest, with the back-ground
of the grand Welsh mountains, and a glimpse of the estuary, here and
there, seen through the leaves, stretching far off, in dim gold and
gray.

"You like that particular window," said Tom, making a wonderful
effort; "I mean, why do you like always to sit there?" He spoke in as
careless a way as he could, looking still out of his window, which
commanded a different view.

"This window! oh, my frame stands here always, and when one is
accustomed to a particular place, it puts one out to change."

Then Agnes dropped her pretty eyes again to her worsted, and worked
and hummed very faintly a little air, and Tom's heart swelled within
him, and he hummed as faintly the same gay air.

"I thought perhaps you liked that view?" said Tom Sedley, arresting
the music.

She looked out again.

"Well, it's very pretty."

"The best from these windows; some people think, I believe, the
prettiest view you have," said Tom, gathering force, "the water is
always so pretty."

"Yes, the water," she assented listlessly.

"Quite a romantic view," continued Sedley, a little bitterly.

"Yes, every pretty view _is_ romantic," she acquiesced, looking out
for a moment again. "If one knew exactly what _romantic_ means--it's a
word we use so often, and so vaguely."

"And can't you define it, Agnes?"

"Define it? I really don't think I could."

"Well, that does surprise me."

"You are so much more clever than I, of course it does."

"No, quite the contrary; you are clever--I'm serious, I assure
you--and I'm a dull fellow, and I know it quite well--_I_ can't define
it; but _that_ doesn't surprise me."

"Then we are both in the same case; but I won't allow it's
stupidity--the idea is quite undefinable, and that is the real
difficulty. You can't describe the perfume of a violet, but you know
it quite well, and I really think flowers a more interesting subject
than romance."

"Oh, really! not, surely, than the romance of _that_ view. It _is_ so
romantic!"

"You seem quite in love with it," said she, with a little laugh, and
began again with a grave face to stitch in the glory of her saint in
celestial yellow worsted.

"The water--yes--and the old trees of Ware, and just that tower, at
the angle of the house."

Agnes just glanced through her window, but said nothing.

"I think," said Sedley, "if _I_ were peopling this scene, you know, I
should put my hero in that Castle of Ware--that is, if I could invent
a romance, which, of course, I couldn't." He spoke with a meaning, I
think.

"Why should there be heroes in romances?" asked Miss Agnes, looking
nevertheless toward Ware, with her hand and the needle resting idly
upon the frame. "Don't you think a romance ought to resemble reality a
little; and do you ever find such a monster as a hero in the world?
_I_ don't expect to see one, I know," and she laughed again, but Tom
thought, a little bitterly, and applied once more diligently to her
work, and hummed a few bars of her little air again.

And Tom, standing now in the middle of the room, leaning on the back
of a chair, by way of looking still upon the landscape which they had
been discussing, was really looking, unobserved, on her, and thinking
that there was not in all the world so pretty a creature.

Charity opened the door, equipped for the walk, and bearing an alpaca
umbrella, such as few gentlemen would like to walk with in May Fair.

"Well, you won't come, I see. I think you are very obstinate. Come,
Thomas Sedley. Good-bye, Agnes;" and with these words the worthy girl
led forth my friend Tom, and as they passed the corner of the house,
he saw Agnes standing in the window, looking out sadly, with her
fingertips against the pane.

"She's lonely, poor little thing!" thought he, with a pang. "Why
wouldn't she come? Listlessness--apathy, I suppose. How selfish and
odious any trifling with a girl's affections is;" and then aloud to
Charity, walking by her side, he continued, "You have not seen Cleve
since the great day of Lord Verney's visit, I suppose?"

"No, nothing of him, and don't desire to see him. He has been the
cause of a great deal of suffering, as you see, and I think he has
behaved _odiously_. She's very odd; she doesn't choose to confide in
me. I don't think it's nice or kind of her, but, of course, it's her
own affair; only this is plain to me, that she'll never think of any
one else now but Cleve Verney."

"It's an awful pity," said Tom Sedley, quite sincerely.

They were walking down that steep and solitary road, by which Vane
Etherage had made his memorable descent a few months since, now in
deep shadow under the airy canopy of transparent leaves, and in total
silence, except for the sounds, far below, of the little mill-stream
struggling among the rocks.

"Don't you know Mr. Cleve Verney pretty well?"

"Intimately--that is, I _did_. I have not lately seen so much of him."

"And do you think, Thomas Sedley, that he will ever come forward?"
said blunt Miss Charity.

"Well, I happen to know that Cleve Verney has no idea of anything of
the kind. In fact, I should be deceiving you, if I did not say
distinctly that I know he won't."

Tom was going to say he _can't_, but checked himself. However, I think
he was not sorry to have an opportunity of testifying to this fact,
and putting Cleve Verney quite out of the field of conjecture as a
possible candidate.

"Then I must say," said Miss Charity, flushing brightly, "that Mr.
Verney is a villain."

From this strong position Tom could not dislodge her, and finding that
expostulation involved him in a risk of a similar classification, he
abandoned Cleve to his fate.

Up and down the Green they walked until Miss Flood espied and arrested
Charity Etherage, and carried her off upon a visit of philanthropy in
her pony-carriage, and Tom Sedley transferred his charge to fussy,
imperious Miss Flood; and he felt strangely incensed with her, and
walked the Green, disappointed and bereft. Was not Charity Agnes's
sister? While he walked with her, he could talk of Agnes. He was still
in the halo of Hazelden, and near Agnes. But now he was adrift, in the
dark. He sat down, looking toward the upland woods that indicate
Hazelden, and sighed with a much more real pain than he had ever
sighed toward Malory; and he thought evil of meddling Miss Flood, who
had carried away his companion. After a time he walked away toward
Malory, intending a visit to his old friend Rebecca Mervyn, and
thinking all the way of Agnes Etherage.



CHAPTER V.

MRS. MERVYN'S DREAM.


HE found himself, in a little time, under the windows of the steward's
house. Old Rebecca Mervyn was seated on the bench beside the door,
plying her knitting-needles; she raised her eyes on hearing his step.

"Ha, he's come!" she said, lowering her hands to her knees, and fixing
her dark wild gaze upon him, "I ought to have known it--so strange a
dream must have had a meaning."

"They sometimes have, ma'am, I believe. I hope you are pretty well,
Mrs. Mervyn."

"No, sir, I am not well."

"Very sorry, very sorry indeed, ma'am," said Tom Sedley. "I've often
thought this must be a very damp, unhealthy place--too much crowded up
with trees; they say nothing is more trying to health. You'd be much
better, I'm sure, anywhere else."

"Nowhere else; my next move shall be my last. I care not how soon,
sir."

"Pray, don't give way to low spirits; you really mustn't," said Tom.

"Tell me what it is, sir; for I know you have come to tell me
something."

"No, I assure you; merely to ask you how you are, and whether I can be
of any use."

"Oh! sir; what use?--_no_."

"Do you wish me to give any message to that fellow, Dingwell? Pray
make use of me in any way that strikes you. I hear he is on the point
of leaving England again."

"I'm glad of it," exclaimed the old lady. "Why do I say so? I'm glad
of nothing; but I'm sure it's better. What business could he and Mr.
Larkin, and that Jew, have with my child, who, thank God, is in
Heaven, and out of the reach of their hands, _evil_ hands, I dare
say."

"So I rather think also, ma'am; and Mr. Larkin tried, did he?"

"Larkin;--yes, that was the name. He came here, sir, about the time I
saw you; and he talked a great deal about my poor little child. It is
dead, you know, but I did not tell him so. I promised Lady Verney I'd
tell nothing to strangers--they all grow angry then. Mr. Larkin was
angry, I think. But I do not speak--and you advised me to be
silent--and though he said he was their lawyer, I would not answer a
word."

"I have no doubt you acted wisely, Mrs. Mervyn; you cannot be too
cautious in holding any communication with such people."

"I'd tell you, sir--if I dare; but I've promised, and I _dare_n't.
Till old Lady Verney's gone, I daren't. I know nothing of law
papers--my poor head! How should I? And _she_ could not half
understand them. So I promised. _You_ would understand them. Time
enough--time enough."

"I should be only too happy, whenever you please," said Tom, making
ready tender of his legal erudition.

"And you, sir, have come to tell me something; what is it?"

"I assure you I have nothing particular to say; I merely called to
inquire how you are."

"Nothing more needless, sir; how can a poor lonely old woman be, whose
last hope has perished and left her alone in the world? For twenty
years--more, _more_ than twenty--I have been watching, day and night;
and now, sir, I look at the sea no more. I will never see those
headlands again. I sit here, sir, from day to day, thinking; and, oh,
dear, I wish it was all over."

"Any time you should want me, I should be only too happy, and this is
my address."

"And you have nothing to tell me?"

"No, ma'am, nothing more than I said."

"It was wonderful: I dreamed last night I was looking toward
Pendillion, watching as I used; the moon was above the mountain, and I
was standing by the water, so that the sea came up to my feet, and I
saw a speck of white far away, and something told me it was his sail
at last, and nearer and nearer, very fast it came; and I walked out in
the shallow water, with my arms stretched out to meet it, and when it
came very near, I saw it was Arthur himself coming upright in his
shroud, his feet on the water, and with his feet, hands, and face, as
white as snow, and his arms stretched to meet mine; and I felt I was
going to die; and I covered my eyes with my hands, praying to God to
receive me, expecting his touch; and I heard the rush of the water
about his feet, and a voice--it was _yours_, not his--said, 'Look at
me,' and I did look, and saw you, and you looked like a man that had
been drowned--your face as white as his, and your clothes dripping,
and sand in your hair; and I stepped back, saying, 'My God! how have
you come here?' and you said, 'Listen, I have great news to tell you;'
and I waked with a shock. I don't believe in dreams more I believe
than other people, but this troubles me still."

"Well, thank God, I have had no accident by land or by water," said
Tom Sedley, smiling in spite of himself at the awful figure he cut in
the old lady's vision; "and I have no news to tell, and I think it
will puzzle those Jews and lawyers to draw me into their business,
whatever it is. I don't like that sort of people; you need never be
afraid of me, ma'am, I detest them."

"Afraid of _you_, sir! Oh no. You have been very kind. See, this view
here is under the branches; you can't see the water from this, only
those dark paths in the wood; and I walk round sometimes through that
hollow and on the low road toward Cardyllian in the evening, when no
one is stirring, just to the ash tree, from which you can see the old
church and the churchyard; and oh! sir, I wish I were lying there."

"You must not be talking in that melancholy way, ma'am," said Tom,
kindly; "I'll come and see you again if you allow me; I think you are
a great deal too lonely here; you ought to go out in a boat, ma'am,
and take a drive now and then, and just rattle about a little, and you
can't think how much good it would do you; and--I must go--and I hope
I shall find you a great deal better when I come back"--and with these
words he took his leave, and as he walked along the low narrow road
that leads by the inland track to Cardyllian, of which old Rebecca
Mervyn spoke, whom should he encounter but Miss Charity coming down
the hill at a brisk pace with Miss Flood in that lady's pony-carriage.
Smiling, hat in hand, he got himself well against the wall to let them
pass; but the ladies drew up, and Miss Charity had a message to send
home if he, Thomas Sedley, would be so good as to call at Jones's they
would find a messenger, merely to tell Agnes that she was going to
dine with Miss Flood, and would not be home till seven o'clock.

So Tom Sedley undertook it; smiled and bowed his adieus, and then
walked faster toward the town, and instead of walking direct to Mrs.
Jones's, sauntered for a while on the Green, and bethought him what
mistakes such messengers as Mrs. Jones could provide sometimes make,
and so resolved himself to be Miss Charity's Mercury.

Sedley felt happier, with an odd kind of excited and unmeaning
happiness, as he walked up the embowered steep toward Hazelden, than
he had felt an hour or two before while walking down it. When he
reached the little flowery platform of closely-mown grass, on which
stands the pretty house of Hazelden, he closed the iron gate gently
and looked toward the drawing-room windows that reach the grass, and
felt a foolish flutter at his heart as he saw that the frame stood in
Agnes's window without its mistress.

"Reading now, I suppose," whispered Tom, as if he feared to disturb
her. "She has changed her place and she is reading;" and he began to
speculate whether she sat on the ottoman, or on the sofa, or in the
cushioned arm-chair, with her novel in her hands. But his sidelong
glances could not penetrate the panes, which returned only reflections
of the sky or black shadow, excepting of the one object, the deserted
frame which stood close to their surface.

There was a time, not long ago either, when Tom Sedley would have run
across the grass to the drawing-room windows, and had he seen Agnes
within would have made a semi-burglarious entry through one of them.
But there had come of late, on a sudden, a sort of formality in his
relations with Agnes; and so he walked round by the hall-door, and
found the drawing-rooms empty, and touching the bell, learned that
Miss Agnes had gone out for a walk.

"I've a message to give her from Miss Charity; have you any idea which
way she went?"

He found himself making excuses to the servant for his inquiry. A
short time since he would have asked quite frankly where she was,
without dreaming of a reason; but now had grown, as I say, a reserve,
which has always the more harmless incidents of guilt. He was
apprehensive of suspicion; he was shy even of this old servant, and
was encountering this inquiry by an explanation of his motives.

"I saw her go by the beech-walk, sir," said the man.

"Oh! thanks; very good."

And he crossed the grass, and entered the beech-walk, which is broad
and straight, with towering files of beech at each side, and a thick
screen of underwood and evergreens, and turning the clump of
rhododendrons at the entrance of the walk, he found himself, all on a
sudden, quite close to Agnes, who was walking toward him.

She stopped. He fancied she changed colour: had she mistaken him for
some one else?

"Well, Agnes, I see the sun and the flowers prevailed, though we
couldn't; and I'm glad, at all events, that you have had a little
walk."

"Oh! yes, after all, I couldn't really resist; and is Charity coming?"

"No, you are not to expect her till tea-time. She's gone with Miss
Flood somewhere, and she sent me to tell you."

"Oh! thanks;" and Agnes hesitated, looking towards home, as if she
intended returning.

"You may as well walk once more up and down; it does look so jolly,
doesn't it?" said Tom; "pray do, Agnes."

"Well, yes, once more I will; but that is all, for I really am a
little tired."

They set out in silence, and Tom, with a great effort, said,--

"I wonder, Agnes, you seem so cold, I mean so unfriendly, with me; I
think you do; and you must be quite aware of it; you must, _indeed_,
Agnes. I _think_ if you knew half the pain you are giving me--I really
do--that you wouldn't."

The speech was very inartificial, but it had the merit of going direct
to the point, and Miss Agnes began,--

"I haven't been at all unfriendly."

"Oh! but you _have_--_indeed_ you have--you are quite _changed_. And I
don't know what I have done--I wish you'd tell me--to deserve it;
because--even if there was--another--anything--no matter what--I'm an
old friend, and I think it's very unkind; _you_ don't perceive it,
perhaps, but you are awfully changed."

Agnes laughed a very little, and she answered, looking down on the
walk before her, as Sedley thought, with a very pretty blush; and I
believe there was.

"It is a very serious accusation, and I don't deserve it. No, indeed,
and even if it were true, it rather surprises me that it should in the
least interest you; because we down here have seen so little of you
that we might very reasonably suspect that you had begun to forget
us."

"Well, I _have_ been an _awful_ fool, it is quite true, and you have
punished me, not more than I deserve; but I think you might have
remembered that you had not on earth a better friend--I mean a more
earnest one--particularly _you_, Agnes, than I."

"I really don't know what I have done," pleaded she, with another
little laugh.

"I was here, you know, as intimate almost as a brother. I don't say,
of course, there are not many things I had no right to expect to hear
anything about; but if I had, and been thought worthy of confidence, I
would at all events have spoken honestly. But--may I speak quite
frankly, Agnes? You won't be offended, will you?"

"No; I shan't--I'm quite sure."

"Well, it was only this--you _are_ changed, Agnes, you know you are.
Just this moment, for instance, you were going home, only because _I_
came here, and you fancied I might join you in your walk; and this
change began when Cleve Verney was down here staying at Ware, and used
to walk with you on the Green."

Agnes stopped short at these words and drew back a step, looking at
Sedley with an angry surprise.

"I don't understand you--I'm certain I don't. I can't conceive what
you mean," she said.

Sedley paused in equal surprise.

"I--I beg pardon; I'm awfully sorry--you'll never know _how_ sorry--if
I have said anything to vex you; but I _did_ think it was some
influence or something connected with that time."

"I really don't pretend to understand you," said Agnes, coldly, with
eyes, however, that gleamed resentfully. "I do recollect perfectly Mr.
Cleve Verney's walking half-a-dozen times with Charity and me upon the
Green, but what that can possibly have to do with your fancied wrongs,
I cannot imagine. I fancied you were a friend of Mr. Verney's."

"So I was--so I am; but no such friend as I am of yours--_your_
friend, Agnes. There's no use in saying it; but, Agnes, I'd die for
you--I would indeed."

"I thought it very strange, your coming so very seldom to inquire for
papa, when he was so poorly last year, when you were at Cardyllian.
_He_ did not seem to mind it; but considering, as you say, how much
you once used to be here, it did strike me as very unkind--I may as
well say what I really thought--not only unkind, but rude. So that if
there has been any change, you need not look to other people for the
cause of it."

"If you knew how I blame myself for that, I think, bad as it was,
you'd forgive me."

"I think it showed that you did not very much care what became of us."

"Oh! Agnes, you did not think that--you never thought it. Unless _you_
are happy, I _can't_ be happy, nor even then unless I think you have
forgiven me; and I think if I could be sure you liked me ever so
little, even in the old way, I should be one of the happiest fellows
in the world. I don't make any excuses--I was the stupidest fool on
earth--I only throw myself on your mercy, and ask you to forgive me."

"I've nothing to forgive," said Agnes, with a cruel little laugh, but
changing colour.

"Well--well, _forget_--oh, _do_! and shake hands like your old self.
You've no idea how miserable I have been."

Lowering her eyes, with a very beautiful blush and a smile--a little
shy, and so gratified--and a little silvery laugh, Agnes relented, and
did give her hand to Tom Sedley.

"Oh, Agnes! Oh, Agnes! I'm so happy and so grateful! Oh, Agnes, you
won't take it away--just for a moment."

She drew her hand to remove it, for Tom was exceeding his privilege,
and kissing it.

"_Now_ we are friends," said Agnes, laughing.

"Are we _quite_ friends?"

"Yes, quite."

"You must not take your hand away--one moment more. Oh, Agnes! I can
never tell you--never, how I love you. You are my darling, Agnes, and
I can't live without you."

Agnes said something--was it reproof or repulse? He only knew that the
tones were very sad and gentle, and that she was drawing her hand
away.

"Oh, darling, I adore you! You would not make me miserable for life.
There is nothing I won't do--nothing I won't try--if you'll only say
you like me--ever so little. Do sit down here just for a
moment"--there was a rustic seat beside them--"only for a moment."

She did sit down, and he beside her. That "moment" of Tom Sedley's
grew as such moments will, like the bean that Jack sowed in his
garden, till it reached--Titania knows whither! I know that Miss
Charity on her return surprised it still growing.

"I made the tea, Agnes, fancying you were in your room. I've had such
a search for you. I really think you might have told Edward where you
were going. Will you drink tea with us, Thomas Sedley, this evening?
though I am afraid you'll find it perfectly cold."

If Miss Charity had been either suspicious or romantic, she would have
seen by a glance at the young people's faces what had happened; but
being neither, and quite pre-occupied with her theory about Cleve
Verney, and having never dreamed of Tom Sedley as possibly making his
_début_ at Hazelden in the character of a lover--she brought her
prisoners home with only a vague sense now and then that there was
either something a little odd in their manner or in her own
perceptions, and she remarked, looking a little curiously at Tom, in
reference to some query of hers,--

"I've asked you that question twice without an answer, and now you say
something totally unmeaning."



CHAPTER VI.

TOM HAS A "TALK" WITH THE ADMIRAL.


"WILL _you_ tell her?" whispered Sedley to Agnes.

"Oh, no. Do _you_," she entreated.

They both looked at Charity, who was preparing the little dog's supper
of bread and milk in a saucer.

"I'll go in and see papa, and you shall speak to her," said Agnes.

Which Tom Sedley did, so much to her amazement that she set the saucer
down on the table beside her, and listened, and conversed for half an
hour; and the poodle's screams, and wild jumping and clawing at her
elbow, at last reminded her that he had been quite forgotten.

So, while its mistress was apologising earnestly to poor Bijou, and
superintending his attentions to the bread and milk, now placed upon
the floor, in came Agnes, and up got Charity, and kissed her with a
frank, beaming smile, and said,--

"I'm _excessively_ glad, Agnes. I was always _so_ fond of Thomas
Sedley; and I _wonder_ we never thought of it before."

They were all holding hands in a ring by this time.

"And what do you think Mr. Etherage will say?" inquired Tom.

"Papa! why of _course_ he will be _delighted_," said Miss Charity. "He
likes you _extremely_."

"But you know, Agnes might do so much better. She's such a treasure,
there's no one that would not be proud of her, and no one could help
falling in love with her, and the Ad---- I mean Mr. Etherage, may
think me so presumptuous; and, you know, he may think me quite too
poor."

"If you mean to say that papa would object to you because you have
only four hundred a year, you think most meanly of him. I know _I_
should not like to be connected with anybody that I thought so meanly
of, because that kind of thing I look upon as really _wicked_; and I
should be sorry to think papa was wicked. I'll go in and tell him all
that has happened this moment."

In an awful suspense, pretty Agnes and Tom Sedley, with her hand in
both his, stood side by side, looking earnestly at the double door
which separated them from this conference.

In a few minutes they heard Vane Etherage's voice raised to a pitch
of testy bluster, and then Miss Charity's rejoinder with shrill
emphasis.

"Oh! gracious goodness! he's very angry. What shall we do?" exclaimed
poor little Agnes, in wild helplessness.

"I _knew_ it--I _knew_ it--I _said_ how it would be--he can't endure
the idea, he thinks it such audacity. I knew he must, and I really
think I shall lose my reason. I could not--I _could_ not live. Oh!
Agnes, I _could_n't if he prevents it."

In came Miss Charity, very red and angry.

"He's just in one of his odd tempers. I don't mind one _word_ he says
to-night. He'll be quite different, you'll _see_, in the morning.
We'll sit up here, and have a good talk about it, till it's time for
you to go; and you'll see I'm quite right. I'm _surprised_," she
continued, with severity, "at his talking as he did to-night. I
consider it quite worldly and _wicked_! But I contented myself with
telling him that he did not think one word of what he said, and that
he _knew_ he didn't, and that he'd tell me so in the morning; and
instead of feeling it, as I thought he would, he said something
intolerably rude."

Old Etherage, about an hour later, when they were all in animated
debate, shuffled to the door, and put in his head, and looked
surprised to see Tom, who looked alarmed to see him. And the old
gentleman bid them all a glowering good night, and shortly afterwards
they heard him wheeled away to his bed-room, and were relieved.

They sat up awfully late, and the old servant, who poked into the room
oftener than he was wanted towards the close of their sitting, looked
wan and bewildered with drowsiness; and at last Charity, struck by the
ghastly resignation of his countenance, glanced at the French clock
over the chimney-piece, and ejaculated--

"Why, merciful goodness! is it possible? A quarter to one! It _can't
possibly be_. Thomas Sedley, _will_ you look at your watch, and tell
us what o'clock it really is?"

His watch corroborated the French clock.

"_If_ papa heard this! I really can't the least _conceive_ how it
happened. I did not think it could have been _eleven_. Well, it is
_undoubtedly_ the _oddest_ thing that _ever_ happened in this house!"

In the morning, between ten and eleven, when Tom Sedley appeared again
at the drawing-room windows, he learned from Charity, in her own
emphatic style of narration, what had since taken place, which was not
a great deal, but still was uncomfortably ambiguous.

She had visited her father at his breakfast in the study, and promptly
introduced the subject of Tom Sedley, and he broke into this line of
observation--

"I'd like to know what the deuce Tom Sedley means by talking of
business to girls. I'd like to know it. I say, if he has anything to
say, why doesn't he _say_ it, that's what _I_ say. Here I _am_. What
has he to _say_. I don't object to hear him, be it sense or be it
nonsense--out with it! That's my maxim; and be it sense or be it
nonsense, I won't have it at second-_hand_. That's _my_ idea."

Acting upon this, Miss Charity insisted that he ought to see Mr.
Etherage; and, with a beating heart, he knocked at the study door, and
asked an audience.

"Come in," exclaimed the resonant voice of the Admiral. And Tom Sedley
obeyed.

The Admiral extended his hand, and greeted Tom kindly, but gravely.

"Fine day, Mr. Sedley; very fine, sir. It's an odd thing, Tom Sedley,
but there's more really fine weather up here, at Hazelden, than
anywhere else in Wales. More sunshine, and a _deal_ less rain. You'd
hardly believe, for you'd fancy on this elevated ground we should
naturally have _more_ rain, but it's _less_, by several inches, than
anywhere else in Wales! And there's next to no damp--the hygrometer
tells _that_. And a curious thing, you'll have a southerly wind up
here when it's blowing from the east on the estuary. You can see it,
by Jove! Now just look out of that window; did you ever see such
sunshine as that? There's a clearness in the air up here--at the
_other_ side, if you go up, you get _mist_--but there's something
about it here that I would not change for any place in the world."

You may be sure Tom did not dispute any of these points.

"By Jove, Tom Sedley, it would be a glorious day for a sail round the
point of Penruthyn. I'd have been down with the tide, sir, this
morning if I had been as I was ten years ago; but a fellow doesn't
like to be lifted into his yacht, and the girls did not care for
sailing; so I sold her. There wasn't such a boat--take her for
everything--in the _world_--_never_!"

"The _Feather_; wasn't she, sir?" said Tom.

"The _Feather_! that she was, sir. A name pretty well known, I venture
to think. Yes, the _Feather_ was her name."

"I _have_, sir; yes, indeed, often heard her spoken of," said Tom, who
had heard one or two of the boatmen of Cardyllian mention her with a
guarded sort of commendation. I never could learn, indeed, that there
was anything very remarkable about the boat; but Tom would just then
have backed any assertion of the honest Admiral's with a loyal
alacrity, bordering, I am afraid, upon unscrupulousness.

"There are the girls going out with their trowels, going to poke among
those flowers; and certainly, I'll do them justice to say, their
garden prospers. I don't see such flowers _any_where; do you?"

"_Nowhere!_" said Tom, with enthusiasm.

"By, there they're at it--grubbing and raking. And, by-the-by, Tom,
what was that? Sit down for a minute."

Tom felt as if he was going to choke, but he sat down.

"What was that--some nonsense Charity was telling me last night?"

Thus invited, poor Sedley, with many hesitations, and wanderings, and
falterings, did get through his romantic story. And Mr. Etherage did
not look pleased by the recital; on the contrary, he carried his head
unusually high, and looked hot and minatory, but he did not explode.
He continued looking on the opposite wall, as he had done as if he
were eyeing a battle there, and he cleared his voice.

"As I understand it, sir, there's not an income to make it at all
prudent. I don't want my girls to marry; I should, in fact, miss them
very much; but if they do, there ought to be a settlement, don't you
see? there should be a settlement, for _I_ can't do so much for them
as people suppose. The property is settled, and the greater part goes
to my grand-nephew after me; and I've invested, as you know, all my
stock and money in the quarry at Llanrwyd; and if she married you, she
should live in London the greater part of the year. And I don't see
how you could get on upon what you both have; I don't, sir. And I must
say, I think you ought to have spoken to me before paying your
addresses, sir. I don't think that's unreasonable; on the contrary, I
think it _reasonable, perfectly_ so, and only right and fair. And I
must go further, sir; I must say this, I don't see, sir, without a
proper competence, what pretensions you had to address my child."

"None, sir; none in the world, Mr. Etherage. I know, sir, I've been
thinking of my presumption ever since. I betrayed myself into it, sir;
it was a kind of surprise. If I had reflected I should have come to
you, sir; but--but you have no idea, sir, how I adore her." Tom's eye
wandered after her through the window, among the flowers. "Or what it
would be to me to--to have to"----

Tom Sedley faltered, and bit his lip, and started up quickly and
looked at an engraving of old Etherage's frigate, which hung on the
study wall.

He looked at it for some time steadfastly. Never was man so affected
by the portrait of a frigate, you would have thought. Vane Etherage
saw him dry his eyes stealthily two or three times, and the old
gentleman coughed a little, and looked out of the window, and would
have got up, if he could, and stood close to it.

"It's a beautiful day, certainly; wind coming round a bit to the
south, though--south by east; that's always a squally wind with us;
and--and--I assure you I like you, Tom; upon my honour I do, Tom
Sedley--better, sir, than any young fellow I know. I think I _do_--I
am _sure_, in fact, I do. But this thing--it wouldn't do--it really
wouldn't; no, Tom Sedley, it wouldn't _do_; if you reflect you'll see
it. But, of course, you may get on in the world. Rome wasn't built in
a day."

"It's very kind of you, sir; but the time's so long, and so many
chances," said Sedley, with a sigh like a sob; "and when I go away,
sir, the sooner I die, the happier for me."

Tom turned again quickly toward the frigate--the _Vulcan_--and old
Etherage looked out of the window once more, and up at the clouds.

"Yes," said the admiral, "it will; we shall have it from south by
east. And, d'ye hear, Tom Sedley? I--I've been thinking there's no
need to make any fuss about this--this thing; just let it be as if you
had never said a word about it, do you mind, and come here just as
usual. Let us put it out of our heads; and if you find matters
improve, and still wish it, there's nothing to prevent your speaking
to me; only Agnes is perfectly free, you understand, and you are not
to make any change in your demeanour--a--or--I mean to be more with my
daughters, or anything _marked_, you understand. People begin to talk
here, you know, in the club-house, on very slight grounds!
and--and--you understand now; and there mustn't be any nonsense; and I
like you, sir--I like you, Thomas Sedley; I do--I do, indeed, sir."

And old Vane Etherage gave him a very friendly shake by the hand, and
Tom thanked him gratefully, and went away reprieved, and took a walk
with the girls, and told them, as they expressed it, _everything_; and
Vane Etherage thought it incumbent on him to soften matters a little
by asking him to dinner; and Tom accepted; and when they broke up
after tea, there was another mistake discovered about the hour, and
Miss Charity most emphatically announced that it was _perfectly
unaccountable_, and must _never_ occur again; and I hope, for the sake
of the venerable man who sat up, resigned and affronted, to secure the
hall-door and put out the lamps after the party had broken up, that
these irregular hours were kept no more at Hazelden.



CHAPTER VII.

ARCADIAN RED BRICK, LILAC, AND LABURNUM.


AS time proceeds, renewal and decay, its twin principles of mutation,
are everywhere and necessarily active, applying to the moral as well
as to the material world. Affections displace and succeed one another.
The most beautiful are often the first to die. Characteristics in
their beginning, minute and unsubstantial as the fairy brood that
people the woodland air, enlarge and materialize till they usurp the
dominion of the whole man, and the people and the world are changed.

Sir Booth Fanshawe is away at Paris just now, engaged in a great
negotiation, which is to bring order out of chaos, and inform him at
last what he is really worth _per annum_. Margaret and her cousin,
Miss Sheckleton, have revisited England; their Norman retreat is
untenanted for the present.

With the sorrow of a great concealment upon her, with other sorrows
that she does not tell, Margaret looks sad and pale.

In a small old suburban house, that stands alone, with a rural
affectation, on a little patch of shorn grass, embowered in lilacs and
laburnums, and built of a deep vermillion brick, the residence of
these ladies is established.

It is a summer evening, and a beautiful little boy, more than a year
old, is sprawling, and babbling, and rolling, and laughing on the
grass upon his back. Margaret, seated on the grass beside him,
prattles and laughs with him, and rolls him about, delighted, and
adoring her little idol.

Old Anne Sheckleton, sitting on the bench, smiling happily, under the
window, which is clustered round with roses, contributes her quota of
nonsense to the prattle.

In the midst of this comes a ring at the bell in the jessamine-covered
wall, and a tidy little maid runs out to the green door, opens it, and
in steps Cleve Verney.

Margaret is on her feet in a moment, with the light of a different
love, something of the old romance, in the glad surprise, "Oh,
darling, it is you!" and her arms are about his neck, and he stoops
and kisses her fondly, and in his face for a moment, is reflected the
glory of that delighted smile.

"Yes, darling. Are you better?"

"Oh, yes--ever so much; I'm always well when you are here; and look,
see our poor little darling."

"So he is."

"We have had such fun with him--haven't we, Anne? I'm sure he'll be so
like you."

"Is this in his favour, cousin Anne?" asked Cleve, taking the old
lady's hand.

"Why should it not?" said she gaily.

"A question--well, I take the benefit of the doubt," laughed Cleve.
"No, darling," he said to Margaret, "you mustn't sit on the grass; it
is damp; you'll sit beside our Cousin Anne, and be prudent."

So he instead sat down on the grass, and talked with them, and
prattled and romped with the baby by turns, until the nurse came out
to convey him to the nursery, and he was handed round to say what
passes for "Good night," and give his tiny paw to each in turn.

"You look tired, Cleve, darling."

"So I am, my Guido; can we have a cup of tea?"

"Oh, yes. I'll get it in a moment," said active Anne Sheckleton.

"It's too bad disturbing you," said Cleve.

"No trouble in the world," said Anne, who wished to allow them a word
together; "besides, I must kiss baby in his bed."

"Yes, darling, I _am_ tired," said Cleve, taking his place beside her,
so soon as old Anne Sheckleton was gone. "That old man"----

"Lord Verney, do you mean?"

"Yes; he has begun plaguing me again."

"What is it about, darling?"

"Oh, fifty things; he thinks, among others, I ought to marry," said
Cleve, with a dreary laugh.

"Oh, I thought he had given up that," she said, with a smile that was
very pale.

"So he did for a time; but I think he's possessed. If he happens to
take up an idea that's likely to annoy other people, he never lets it
drop till he teases them half to death. He thinks I should marry
_money_ and political connection, and I don't know what all, and I'm
quite tired of the whole thing. What a vulgar little box this
is--isn't it, darling? I almost wish you were back again in that place
in France."

"But I can see you so much oftener here, Cleve," pleaded Margaret,
softly, with a very sad look.

"And where's the good of seeing me here, dear Margaret? Just consider,
I always come to you anxious; there's always a risk, besides, of
discovery."

"Where you are is to me a paradise."

"Oh, darling, do _not_ talk rubbish. This vulgar, odious little
place! No place can be _either_--_quite_, of course--where _you_ are.
But you must see what it is--a paradise"--and he laughed
peevishly--"of red brick, and lilacs, and laburnums--a paradise for
old Mr. Dowlas, the tallow-chandler."

There was a little tremor in Margaret's lip, and the water stood in
her large eyes; her hand was, as it were, on the coffin-edge; she was
looking in the face of a dead romance.

"Now, you really must not shed tears over _that_ speech. You are too
much given to weeping, Margaret. What have I said to vex you? It
merely amounts to this, that we live just now in the future; we can't
well deny _that_, darling. But the time will come at last, and my
queen enjoy her own."

And so saying he kissed her, and told her to be a good little girl;
and from the window Miss Sheckleton handed them tea, and then she ran
up to the nursery.

"You _do_ look very tired, Cleve," said Margaret, looking into his
anxious face.

"I _am_ tired, darling," he said, with just a degree of impatience in
his tone; "I said so--horribly tired."

"I wish so much you were liberated from that weary House of Commons."

"Now, my wise little woman is talking of what she doesn't
understand--not the least; besides, what would you have me turn to? I
should be totally without resource and pursuit--don't you see? We must
be reasonable. No, it is not that in the least that tires me, but I'm
really overwhelmed with anxieties, and worried by my uncle, who wants
me to marry, and thinks I can marry whom I please--that's all."

"I sometimes think, Cleve, I've spoiled your fortunes," with a great
sigh, said Margaret, watching his face.

"Now, where's the good of saying that, my little woman? I'm only
talking of my uncle's teasing me, and wishing he'd let us both alone."

Here came a little pause.

"Is that the baby?" said Margaret, raising her head and listening.

"I don't hear our baby or any one else's," said Cleve.

"I fancied I heard it cry, but it wasn't."

"You must think of me more, and of that child less, darling--you must,
indeed," said Cleve, a little sourly.

I think the poor heart was pleased, thinking this jealousy; but I fear
it was rather a splenetic impulse of selfishness, and that the baby
was, in his eyes, a bore pretty often.

"Does the House sit to-night, Cleve, darling?"

"Does it, indeed? Why it's sitting now. We are to have the second
reading of the West India Bill on to-night, and I must be
there--yes--in an hour"--he was glancing at his watch--"and heaven
knows at what hour in the morning we shall get away."

And just at this moment old Anne Sheckleton joined them. "She's coming
with more tea," she said, as the maid emerged with a little tray, "and
we'll place our cups on the window-stone when we don't want them. Now,
Mr. Verney, is not this a charming little spot just at this light?"

"I almost think it is," said Cleve, relenting. The golden light of
evening was touching the formal poplars, and the other trees, and
bringing out the wrinkles of the old bricks duskily in its flaming
glow.

"Yes, just for about fifteen minutes in the twenty-four hours, when
the weather is particularly favourable, it _has_ a sort of Dutch
picturesqueness; but, on the whole, it is not the sort of cottage that
I would choose for a permanent dove-cot. I should fear lest my pigeons
should choke with dust."

"No, there's no dust here; it is the quietest, most sylvan little lane
in the world."

"Which is a wide place," said Cleve. "Well, with smoke then."

"Nor smoke either."

"But I forgot, love does not die of smoke or of anything else," said
Cleve.

"No, of course, love is eternal," said Margaret.

"Just so; the King never dies. Les roix meurent-ils? Quelquefois,
madame. Alas, theory and fact conflict. Love is eternal in the
abstract; but nothing is more mortal than a particular love," said
Cleve.

"If you think so, I wonder you ever wished to marry," said Margaret,
and a faint tinge flushed her cheeks.

"I thought so, and yet I did wish to marry," said Cleve. "It is
perishable, but I can't live without it," and he patted her cheek, and
laughed a rather cold little laugh.

"No, love never dies," said Margaret, with a gleam of her old fierce
spirit. "But it may be killed."

"It is terrible to kill anything," said Cleve.

"To kill love," she answered, "is the worst murder of all."

"A veritable murder," he acquiesced, with a smile and a slight shrug;
"once killed, it never revives."

"You like talking awfully, as if I might lose your love," said she,
haughtily; "as if, were I to vex you, you never could forgive."

"Forgiveness has nothing to do with it, my poor little woman. I no
more called my love into being than I did myself; and should it die,
either naturally or violently, I could no more call it to life, than I
could Cleopatra or Napoleon Bonaparte. It is a principle, don't you
see? that comes as direct as life from heaven. We can't create it, we
can't restore it; and really about love, it is worse than mortal,
because, as I said, I am sure it has _no_ resurrection--no, it has no
resurrection."

"That seems to me a reason," she said, fixing her large eyes upon him
with a wild resentment, "why you should cherish it _very_ much while
it lives."

"And _don't_ I, darling?" he said, placing his arms round her neck,
and drawing her fondly to his breast, and in the thrill of that
momentary effusion was something of the old feeling when to lose her
would have been despair, to gain her heaven, and it seemed as if the
scent of the woods of Malory, and of the soft sea breeze, was around
them for a moment.

And now he is gone, away to that tiresome House--lost to her, given up
to his ambition, which seems more and more to absorb him; and she
remains smiling on their beautiful little baby, with a great misgiving
at her heart, to see Cleve no more for four-and-twenty hours more.

As Cleve went into the House, he met old Colonel Thongs, sometime whip
of the "outs."

"You've heard about old Snowdon?"

"No."

"In the Cabinet, by Jove!"

"Really?"

"Fact. Ask your uncle."

"By Jove, it _is_ very unlooked for; no one thought of him; but I dare
say he'll do very well."

"We'll soon try that."

It _was_ a _very_ odd appointment. But Lord Snowdon was gazetted; a
dull man, but laborious; a man who had held minor offices at different
periods of his life, and was presumed to have a competent knowledge of
affairs. A dull man, owing all to his dulness, quite below many, and
selected as a negative compromise for the vacant seat in the Cabinet,
for which two zealous and brilliant competitors were contending.

"I see it all," thought Cleve; "that's the reason why Caroline Oldys
and Lady Wimbledon are to be at Ware this autumn, and I'm to be
married to the niece of a Cabinet minister."

Cleve sneered, but he felt very uneasy.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE TRIUMVIRATE.


THAT night Lord Verney waited to hear the debate in the
Commons--waited for the division,--and brought Cleve home with him in
his brougham.

He explained to Cleve on the way how much better the debate might have
been. He sometimes half regretted his seat in the Commons; there were
so many things unsaid that ought to have been said, and so many things
said that had better have been omitted. And at last he remarked--

"Your uncle Arthur, my unfortunate brother, had a great natural talent
for speaking. It's a talent of the Verney's--about it. We all have it;
and _you_ have got it also; it is a gift of very decided importance in
debate; it can hardly be over-estimated in that respect. Poor Arthur
might have done very well, but he didn't, and he's gone--about it; and
I'm very glad, for your own sake, you are cultivating it; and it
would be a very great misfortune, I've been thinking, if our family
were not to marry, and secure a transmission of those hereditary
talents and--and things--and--what's your opinion of Miss Caroline
Oldys? I mean, quite frankly, what sort of wife you think she would
make."

"Why, to begin with, she's been out a long time; but I fancy she's
gentle--and foolish; and I believe her mother bullies her."

"I don't know what you call bullying, my good sir; but she appears to
me to be a very affectionate mother; and as to her being
foolish--about it--I can't perceive it; on the contrary, I've
conversed with her a good deal--and things--and I've found her very
superior indeed to any young woman I can recollect having talked to.
She takes an interest in things which don't interest or--or--interest
other young persons; and she likes to be instructed about
affairs--and, my dear Cleve, I think where a young person of
merit--either rightly or wrongly interpreting what she conceives to be
your attentions--becomes decidedly _épris_ of you, she ought to
be--a--_considered_--her feelings, and things; and I thought I might
as well mention my views, and go--about it--straight to the point; and
I think you will perceive that it is reasonable, and that's the
position--about it; and you know, Cleve, in these circumstances you
may reckon upon me to do anything in reason that may still lie in my
power--about it."

"You have always been too kind to me."

"You shall find me so still. Lady Wimbledon takes an interest in you,
and Miss Caroline Oldys will, I undertake to say, more and more
decidedly as she comes to know you better."

And so saying, Lord Verney leaned back in the brougham as if taking a
doze, and after about five minutes of closed eyes and silence he
suddenly wakened up and said--

"It is, in fact, it strikes me, high time, Cleve, you should
marry--about it--and you must have money, too; you want money, and you
shall have it."

"I'm afraid money is not one of _Caroline's_ strong points."

"You need not trouble yourself upon that point, sir; if _I_'m
satisfied I fancy _you_ may. I've quite enough for both, I presume;
and--and so, we'll let that matter rest."

And the noble lord let himself rest also, leaning stiffly back with
closed eyes, and nodding and swaying silently with the motion of the
carriage.

I believe he was only ruminating after his manner in these periods of
apparent repose. He opened his eyes again, and remarked--

"I have talked over this affair carefully with Mr. Larkin--a most
judicious and worthy person--about it--and you can talk to him, and so
on, when he comes to town, and I should rather wish you to do so."

Lord Verney relapsed into silence and the semblance, at least, of
slumber.

"So Larkin's at the bottom of it; I knew he was," thought Cleve, with
a pang of hatred which augured ill for the future prospects of that
good man. "He has made this alliance for the Oldys and Wimbledon
faction, and I'm Mr. _Larkin's parti_, and am to settle the management
of everything upon him; and what a judicious diplomatist he is--and
how he has put his foot in it. A blundering hypocritical coxcomb--D--n
him."

Then his thoughts wandered away to Larkin, and to his instrument, Mr.
Dingwell, "who looks as if he came from the galleys. We have heard
nothing of him for a year or more. Among the Greek and Malay
scoundrels again, I suppose; the Turks are too good for him."

But Mr. Dingwell had not taken his departure, and was not thinking of
any such step _yet_, at least. He had business still on his hands, and
a mission unaccomplished.

Still in the same queer lodgings, and more jealously shut up during
the daytime than ever, Mr. Dingwell lived his odd life, professing to
hate England--certainly in danger there--he yet lingered on for a set
purpose, over which he brooded and laughed in his hermitage.

To so chatty a person as Mr. Dingwell solitude for a whole day was
irksome. Sarah Rumble was his occasional resource, and when she
brought him his cup of black coffee he would make her sit down by the
wall, like a servant at prayers, and get from her all the news of the
dingy little neighbourhood, with a running commentary of his own
flighty and savage irony, and he would sometimes entertain her,
between the whiffs of his long pipe, with talk of his own, which he
was at no pains to adapt to her comprehension, and delivered rather
for his own sole entertainment.

"The world, the flesh, and the devil, ma'am. The two first we know
pretty well--hey? the other we take for granted. I suppose there _is_
somebody of the sort. We are all pigs, ma'am--unclean animals--and
this is a sty we live in--slime and abomination. Strong delusion is,
unseen, circling in the air. Our ideas of beauty, delights of sense,
vanities of intellect--all a most comical and frightful cheat--egad!
What fun we must be, ma'am, to the spirits who _have_ sight and
intellect! I think, ma'am, we're meant for their pantomime--don't you?
Our airs, and graces, and dignities, and compliments, and beauties,
and dandies--our metal coronets, and lawn sleeves, and whalebone
wigs--fun, ma'am, lots of fun! And here we are, a wonderful work of
God. Eh? Come, ma'am--a word in your ear--all _putrefaction_--pah!
nothing clean but fire, and that makes us roar and vanish--a very odd
position we're placed in; hey, ma'am?"

Mr. Dingwell had at first led Sarah Rumble a frightful life, for she
kept the door where the children were peremptorily locked, at which he
took umbrage, and put her on fatigue duty, more than trebling her work
by his caprices, and requiting her with his ironies and sneers,
finding fault with everything, pretending to miss money out of his
desk, and every day threatening to invoke Messrs. Levi and Goldshed,
and invite an incursion of the police, and showing in his face, his
tones--his jeers pointed and envenomed by revenge--that his hatred was
active and fiendish.

But Sarah Rumble was resolute. He was not a desirable companion for
childhood of either sex, and the battle went on for a considerable
time; and poor Sarah in her misery besought Messrs. Levi and Goldshed,
with many tears and prayers, that he might depart from her; and Levi
looked at Goldshed, and Goldshed at Levi, quite gravely, and Levi
winked, and Goldshed nodded, and said, "A bad boy;" and they spoke
comfortably, and told her they would support her, but Mr. Dingwell
must remain her inmate, but they'd take care he should do her no harm.

Mr. Dingwell had a latch-key, which he at first used sparingly and
timidly; with time, however, his courage grew, and he was out more or
less every night. She used to hear him go out after the little
household was in bed, and sometimes she heard him lock the hall-door,
and his step on the stairs when the sky was already gray with the
dawn.

And gradually finding company such as he affected out of doors, I
suppose, he did not care so much for the seclusion of his
fellow-lodgers, and ceased to resent it almost, and made it up with
Sarah Rumble.

And one night, having to go up between one and two for a match-box to
the lobby, she encountered Mr. Dingwell coming down. She was dumb with
terror, for she did not know him, and took him for a burglar, he being
somehow totally changed--she was too confused to recollect exactly,
only that he had red hair and whiskers, and looked stouter.

She did not know him in the least till he laughed. She was near
fainting, and leaned with her shoulder to the corner of the wall; and
he said--

"I've to put on these; you keep my secret, mind; you may lose me my
life, else."

And he took her by the chin, and gave her a kiss, and then a slap on
the cheek that seemed to her harder than play, for her ear tingled
with it for an hour after, and she uttered a little cry of fright, and
he laughed, and glided out of the hall-door, and listened for the
tread of a policeman, and peeped slily up and down the court; and
then, with his cotton umbrella in his hand, walked quietly down the
passage and disappeared.

Sarah Rumble feared him all the more for this little rencontre and the
shock she had received, for there was a suggestion of something
felonious in his disguise. She was, however, a saturnine and silent
woman, with few acquaintances, and no fancy for collecting or
communicating news. There was a spice of danger, too, in talking of
this matter; so she took counsel of the son of Sirach, who says, "If
thou hast heard a word, let it die with thee, and, behold, it will not
burst thee."

Sarah Rumble kept his secret, and henceforward, at such hours kept
close, when in the deep silence of the night she heard the faint creak
of his stealthy shoe upon the stair, and avoided him as she would a
meeting with a ghost.

Whatever were his amusements, Messrs. Goldshed and Levi grumbled
savagely at the cost of them. They grumbled because grumbling was a
principle of theirs in carrying on their business.

"No matter how it turns out, keep always grumbling to the man who led
you into the venture, especially if he has a claim to a share of the
profits at the close."

So whenever Mr. Larkin saw Messrs. Goldshed and Levi, he heard
mourning and imprecation. The Hebrews shook their heads at the
Christian, and chaunted a Jeremiad, in duet, together, and each
appealed to the other for the confirmation of the dolorous and bitter
truths he uttered. And the iron safe opened its jaws and disgorged the
private ledger of the firm, which ponderous and greasy tome was laid
on the desk with a pound, and opened at this transaction--the matter
of Dingwell, Verney, &c.; and Mr. Levi would run his black nail along
the awful items of expenditure that filled column after column.

"Look at that--look here--look, will you?--look, I say: you never
sawed an account like that--never--all this here--look--down--and
down--and down--and down--"

"Enough to frighten the Bank of England!" boomed Mr. Goldshed.

"Look down thish column," resumed Levi, "and thish, and thish, and
thish--there's nine o' them--and not one stiver on th' other side.
Look, look, look, look, _look_! Daam, it'sh all a quaag, and a
quickshand--nothing but shink and shwallow, and give ush more"--and as
he spoke Levi was knocking the knuckles of his long lean fingers
fiercely upon the empty columns, and eyeing Larkin with a rueful
ferocity, as if he had plundered and half-murdered him and his
partner, who sat there innocent as the babes in the wood.

Mr. Larkin knew quite well, however, that so far from regretting their
investment, they would not have sold their ventures under a very high
figure indeed.

"And that beast Dingwell, talking as if he had us all in quod, by ----,
and always whimperin', and whinin', and swearin' for more--why you'd
say, to listen to his rot, 'twas _him_ had _us_ under his knuckle--you
would--the lunatic!"

"And may I ask what he wants just at present?" inquired Mr. Larkin.

"What he always wants, and won't be easy never till he gets it--a walk
up the mill, sir, and his head cropped, and six months' solitary, and
a touch of corporal now and again. I never saw'd a cove as wanted a
teazin' more; that's what he wants. What he's looking for, of course,
is different, only he shan't get it, nohow. And I think, looking at
that book there, as I showed you this account in--considering what me
and the gov'nor here has done--'twould only be fair you should come
down with summut, if you goes in for the lottery, with other gentlemen
as pays their pool like bricks, and never does modest, by no chance."

"He has pushed that game a little too far," said Mr. Larkin; "I have
considered his feelings a great deal too much."

"Yesh, but _we_ have feelinsh. The _Gov'nor_ has feelinsh; I have
_feelinsh_. Think what state our feelinsh is in, lookin' at that there
account," said Mr. Levi, with much pathos.

Mr. Larkin glanced toward the door, and then toward the window.

"We are quite _alone_?" said he, mildly.

"Yesh, without you have the devil in your pocket, as old Dingwell
saysh," answered Levi, sulkily.

"For there are subjects of a painful nature, as you know, gentlemen,
connected with this particular case," continued Mr. Larkin.

"Awful painful; but we'll sta-an' it," said Goldshed, with unctuous
humour; "we'll sta-an' it, but wishes it over quick;" and he winked
at Levi.

"Yesh, he wishes it over quick," echoed Levi; "the gov'nor and me, we
wishes it over quick."

"And so do I, _most_ assuredly; but we must have a little patience. If
deception does lurk here--and you know I warned you I suspected it--we
must not prematurely trouble Lord Verney."

"He might throw up the sponge, he might, I _know_," said Levi, with a
nod.

"I don't know what course Lord Verney might think it right in such a
case to adopt; I only know that until I am in a position to reduce
suspicion to certainty, it would hardly consist with right feeling
to torture his mind upon the subject. In the meantime he
is--a--growing"----

"Growing warm in his berth," said Goldshed.

"Establishing himself, I should say, in his position. He has been
incurring, I need hardly tell you, enormous expense in restoring (I
might say _re-building_) the princely mansions of Ware, and of Verney
House. He applied much ready money to that object, and has charged the
estates with nearly sixty thousand pounds besides." Mr. Larkin lowered
his tones reverentially at the mention of so considerable a sum.

"I know Sirachs, did nigh thirty thoushand o' that," said Mr.
Goldshed.

"And that tends to--to--as I may say, _steady_ him in his position;
and I may mention, in confidence, gentlemen, that there are other
measures on the _tapis_" (he pronounced taypis) "which will further
and still more decidedly fix him in his position. It would pain us all
deeply, gentlemen, that a premature disclosure of my uneasiness should
inspire his lordship with a panic in which he might deal ruinously
with his own interests, and, in fact, as you say, Mr. Levi, throw up
the--the"----

"Sponge," said Levi, reflectively.

"But I may add," said Mr. Larkin, "that I am impatiently watching the
moment when it may become my duty to open my suspicions fully to Lord
Verney; and that I have reason to know that that moment cannot now be
distant."

"Here's Tomlinshon comin' up, gov'nor," said Mr. Levi, jumping off the
table on which he had been sitting, and sweeping the great ledger into
his arms, he pitched it into its berth in the safe, and locked it into
that awful prison-house.

"I said he would," said Goldshed, with a lazy smile, as he unlocked a
door in the lumbering office table at which he sat. "Don't bring out
them overdue renewals; we'll not want them till next week."

Mr. Tomlinson, a tall, thin man, in faded drab trousers, with a cotton
umbrella swinging in his hand, and a long careworn face, came striding
up the court.

"You won't do _that_ for him?" asked Levi.

"No, not to-day," murmured Mr. Goldshed, with a wink. And Mr.
Tomlinson's timid knock and feeble ring at the door were heard.

And Mr. Larkin put on his well-brushed hat, and pulled on his big
lavender gloves, and stood up at his full length, in his black glossy
coat, and waistcoat and trowsers of the accustomed hue, and presents
the usual lavender-tinted effect, and a bland simper rests on his lank
cheeks, and his small pink eyes look their adieux upon Messrs.
Goldshed and Levi, on whom his airs and graces are quite lost; and
with his slim silk umbrella between his great finger and thumb, he
passes loftily by the cotton umbrella of Mr. Tomlinson, and fancies,
with a pardonable egotism, that that poor gentleman, whose head is
full of his bill-book and renewals, and possible executions, and
preparing to deceive a villanous omniscience, and to move the
compassion of Pandemonium--is thinking of _him_, and mistaking him,
possibly, for a peer, or for some other type of British aristocracy.

The sight of that unfortunate fellow, Tomlinson, with a wife, and a
seedy hat, and children, and a cotton umbrella, whose little business
was possibly about to be knocked about his ears, moved a lordly pity
in Mr. Larkin's breast, and suggested contrasts, also, of many kinds,
that were calculated to elate his good humour; and as he stepped into
the cab, and the driver waited to know "where," he thought he might as
well look in upon the recluse of Rosemary Court, and give him, of
course with the exquisite tact that was peculiar to him, a hint or two
in favour of reason and moderation; for really it _was quite_ true
what Mr. Levi had said about the preposterous presumption of a person
in Mr. Dingwell's position affecting the airs of a dictator.

So being in the mood to deliver a lecture, to the residence of that
uncomfortable old gentleman he drove, and walked up the flagged
passage to the flagged court-yard, and knocked at the door, and looked
up at the square ceiling of sickly sky, and strode up the narrow
stairs after Mrs. Rumble.

"How d'ye do, sir? Your _soul_, particularly, quite well, I trust.
Your spiritual concerns flourishing to-day?" was the greeting of Mr.
Dingwell's mocking voice.

"Thanks, Mr. Dingwell; I'm very well," answered Mr. Larkin, with a bow
which was meant to sober Mr. Dingwell's mad humour.

Sarah Rumble, as we know, had a defined fear of Mr. Dingwell, but also
a vague terror; for there was a great deal about him ill-omened and
mysterious. There was a curiosity, too, active within her, intense and
rather ghastly, about all that concerned him. She did not care,
therefore, to get up and go away from the small hole in the carpet
which she was darning on the lobby, and through the door she heard
faintly some talk she didn't understand, and Mr. Dingwell's voice, at
a high pitch, said--

"D---- you, sir, do you think I'm a fool? Don't you think I've _your
letter_, and a copy of my own? If we draw swords, egad, sir, mine's
the longer and sharper, as you'll feel. Ha, ha, ha!"

"Oh, lawk!" gasped Sarah Rumble, standing up, and expecting the clash
of rapiers.

"Your face, sir, is as white and yellow--you'll excuse me--as an old
turban. I beg your pardon; but I want you to understand that I see
you're frightened, and that I won't be bullied _by_ you."

"I don't suppose, sir, you meditate totally ruining yourself," said
Mr. Larkin, with dignity.

"I tell you, sir, if anything goes wrong with me, I'll make a clean
breast of it--_everything_--ha, ha, ha!--upon my honour--and we two
shall grill together."

Larkin had no idea he was going in for so hazardous and huge a game
when he sat down to play. His vision was circumscribed, his prescience
small. He looked at the beast he had imported, and wished him in a
deep grave in Scutari, with a turbaned-stone over his head, the scheme
quashed, and the stakes drawn.

But wishing would not do. The spirit was evoked--in nothing more
manageable than at first; on the contrary, rather more insane. Nerve
was needed, subtlety, patience, and he must manage him.

"Why the devil did you bring me here, sir, if you were not prepared to
treat me properly? You know my circumstances, and you want to practise
on my misfortunes, you vile rogue, to mix me up in your fraudulent
machinations."

"Pray, sir, not so loud. Do--_do_ command yourself," remonstrated
Larkin, almost affectionately.

"Do you think I'm come all this way, at the risk of my life, to be
_your_ slave, you shabby, canting attorney? I'd better be where I was,
or in kingdom come. By Allah! sir, you _have_ me, and I'm your
_master_, and you shan't buy my soul for a piastre."

There came a loud knock at the hall-door, and if it had been a shot
and killed them both, the debaters in the drawing-room could not have
been more instantaneously breathless.

Down glided Sarah Rumble, who had been expecting this visit, to pay
the taxman.

And she had hardly taken his receipt, when Mr. Larkin, very pink,
endeavouring to smile in his discomfiture, and observing with a balmy
condescension, "A sweet day, Mrs. Rumble," appeared in the hall, shook
his ears a little, and adjusted his hat, and went forth, and Rosemary
Court saw him no more for some time.



CHAPTER IX.

IN VERNEY HOUSE.


MR. LARKIN got into his cab, and ordered the cabman, in a loud voice,
to drive to Verney House.

"Didn't he know Verney House? He thought every cabman in London knew
Verney House! The house of Lord Viscount Verney, in ---- Square. Why it
fills up a whole side of it!"

He looked at his watch. He had thirty-seven minutes to reach it in. It
was partly to get rid of a spare half hour, that he had paid his
unprofitable visit to Rosemary Court.

Mr. Larkin registered a vow to confer no more with Mr. Dingwell. He
eased his feelings by making a note of this resolution in that
valuable little memorandum book which he carried about with him in his
pocket.

"_Saw Mr. Dingwell this day--as usual impracticable and ill-bred to a
hopeless degree--waste of time and worse--resolved that this gentleman
being inaccessible to reason, is not to be argued, but DEALT with,
should occasion hereafter arise for influencing his conduct._"

Somewhere about Temple Bar, Mr. Larkin's cab got locked in a string of
vehicles, and he put his head out of window, not being sorry for an
opportunity of astonishing the citizens by calling to the driver--

"I say, my good fellow, can't you get on? I told Lord Verney to expect
me at half-past one. Do, pray, get me out of this, _any_ way, and you
shall have a gratuity of half-a-crown. Verney House is a good way from
this. _Do_ try. His lordship will be as much obliged to you as I am."

Mr. Larkin's assiduities and flatteries were, in truth, telling upon
Lord Verney, with whom he was stealing into a general confidence which
alarmed many people, and which Cleve Verney hated more than ever.

With the pretty mansion of Hazelden, the relations, as Lord Verney
would have said of the House of Ware, were no longer friendly. This
was another instance of the fragility of human arrangements, and the
vanity of human hopes. The altar had been erected, the swine
sacrificed, and the augurs and haruspices on both sides had predicted
nothing but amity and concord. Game, fruit, and venison, went and
came,--"Much good may it do your good heart." "It was ill-killed,"
&c. Master Shallow and Master Page could not have been more courteous
on such occasions. But on the _fête champêtre_ had descended a sudden
procella. The roses were whirling high in the darkened air, the
flatteries and laughter were drowned in thunder, and the fiddles and
glasses smashed with hailstones as large as potatoes.

A general election had come and gone, and in that brief civil war old
Vane Etherage was found at the wrong side. In Lord Verney's language
neighbour meant something like vassal, and Etherage who had set up his
banner and arrayed his power on the other side, was a rebel--the less
forgivable that he had, as was authentically demonstrated, by this
step himself inflicted that defeat in the county which had wounded
Lord Verney to the quick.

So silence descended upon the interchange of civil speeches; the
partridges and pheasants, winged from Ware in a new direction, and old
Vane Etherage stayed his friendly hand also; and those tin cases of
Irish salmon, from the old gentleman's fisheries, packed in ice, as
fresh as if they had sprung from the stream only half an hour before,
were no longer known at Ware; and those wonderful fresh figs, green
and purple, which Lord Verney affected, for which Hazelden is famous,
and which Vane Etherage was fond of informing his guests were
absolutely unequalled in any part of the known world! England could
not approach them for bulk and ripeness, nor foreign parts--and he had
eaten figs wherever figs grow--for aroma and flavour, no longer
crossed the estuary. Thus this game of beggar-my-neighbour began. Lord
Verney recalled his birds, and Mr. Etherage withdrew his figs. Mr.
Etherage lost his great black grapes; and Lord Verney sacrificed his
salmon, and in due time Lord Verney played a writ, and invited an
episode in a court of law, and another, more formidable, in the Court
of Chancery.

So the issues of the war were knit again, and Vane Etherage was now
informed by his lawyers there were some very unpleasant questions
mooted affecting the title to the Windermore estate, for which he
payed a trifling rent to the Verneys.

So, when Larkin went into Verney House, he was closeted with its noble
master for a good while, and returning to a smaller library--devoted
to blue books and pamphlets--where he had left a despatch-box and
umbrella during his wait for admission to his noble client, he found
Cleve busy there.

"Oh, Mr. Larkin. How d'ye do? Anything to say to me?" said the
handsome young man, whose eye looked angry though he smiled.

"Ah, thanks. No--_no_, Mr. Verney. I hope and trust I see you well;
but no, I had not any communication to make. Shall I be honoured, Mr.
Verney, with any communication from you?"

"I've nothing to say, thanks, except of course to say how much obliged
I am for the very particular interest you take in my affairs."

"I should be eminently gratified, Mr. Verney, to merit your
approbation; but I fear, sir, as yet I can hardly hope to have merited
your thanks," said Mr. Larkin, modestly.

"You won't let me thank you; but I quite understand the nature and
extent of your kindness. My uncle is by no means so reserved, and he
has told me very frankly the care you have been so good as to take of
me. He's more obliged even than I am, and so, I am told, is Lady
Wimbledon also."

Cleve had said a great deal more than at starting he had at all
intended. It would have been easy to him to have dismissed the
attorney without allusion to the topic that made him positively
hateful in his eyes; but it was not easy to hint at it, and quite
command himself also, and the result illustrated the general fact that
total abstinence is easier than moderation.

Now the effect of this little speech of Cleve's upon the attorney, was
to abash Mr. Larkin, and positively to confound him, in a degree quite
unusual in a Christian so armed on most occasions with that special
grace called presence of mind. The blood mounted to his hollow cheeks,
and up to the summit of his tall bald head; his eyes took their
rat-like character, and looked dangerously in his for a second, and
then down to the floor, and scanned his own boots; and he bit his lip,
and essayed a little laugh, and tried to look innocent, and broke down
in the attempt. He cleared his voice once or twice to speak, but said
nothing; and all this time Cleve gave him no help whatsoever, but
enjoyed his evident confusion with an angry sneer.

"I hope Mr. Cleve Verney," at length Mr. Larkin began, "where duty and
expediency pull in opposite directions, I shall always be found at the
right side."

"The winning side at all events," said Cleve.

"The _right_ side, I venture to repeat. It has been my misfortune to
be misunderstood more than once in the course of my life. It is our
duty to submit to misinterpretation, as to other afflictions,
patiently. I hope I have done so. My first duty is to my client."

"_I_'m no client of yours, sir."

"Well, conceding that, sir, to your _uncle_--to Lord _Verney_, I will
say--to his views of what the interests of his house demand, and to
his feelings."

"Lord Verney has been good enough to consult _me_, hitherto, upon this
subject; a not quite unnatural confidence, I venture to think; more
than you seem to suspect. He seems to think, and so do I, that I've a
voice in it, and has not left me absolutely in the hands--in a matter
of so much importance and delicacy--of his country lawyer."

"I had no power in this case, sir; not even of mentioning the subject
to you, who certainly, in one view, are more or less affected by it."

"Thank you for the concession," sneered Cleve.

"I make it unaffectedly, Mr. Cleve Verney," replied Larkin,
graciously.

"My uncle, Lord Verney, has given me leave to talk to you upon the
subject. I venture to decline that privilege. I prefer speaking to
him. He seems to think that _I_ ought to be allowed to advise a little
in the matter, and that with every respect for _his_ wishes; _mine_
also are entitled to be a little considered. Should I ever talk to
you, Mr. Larkin, it shan't be to ask your advice. I'm detaining you,
sir, and I'm also a little busy myself."

Mr. Larkin looked at the young man a second or two a little puzzled;
but encountering only a look of stern impatience, he made his best
bow, and the conference ended.

A few minutes later, in came our old friend, Tom Sedley.

"Oh! Sedley! Very glad to see you here; but I thought you did not want
to see my uncle just now; and this is the most likely place, except
the library, to meet him in."

"He's gone; I saw him go out this moment. I should not have come in
otherwise; and you mustn't send me away, dear Cleve, I'm in such awful
trouble. Everything has gone wrong with us at Hazelden. You know that
quarrying company--the slates, that _odious_ fellow, Larkin, led him
into, before the election and all the other annoyances began."

"You mean the Llanrwyd company?"

"Yes; so I do."

"But that's quite ruined, you know. Sit down."

"I know. He has lost--frightfully--and Mr. Etherage must pay up ever
so much in calls beside; and unless he can get it on a mortgage of the
Windermore estate, he can't possibly pay them--and I've been trying,
and the result is just this--they won't lend it anywhere till the
litigation is settled."

"Well, what can I do?" said Cleve, yawning stealthily into his hand,
and looking very tired. I am afraid these tragic confidences of Tom
Sedley's did not interest Cleve very much; rather bored him, on the
contrary.

"They won't lend, I say, while this litigation is pending."

"Depend upon it they won't," acquiesced Cleve.

"And in the meantime, you know, Mr. Etherage would be ruined."

"Well, I see; but, I say again, what can I do?"

"I want you to try if anything can be done with Lord Verney," said
Tom, beseechingly.

"Talk to my uncle? I wish, dear Tom, you could teach me how to do
that."

"It can't do any harm, Cleve--it can't," urged Tom Sedley, piteously.

"Nor one particle of good. You might as well talk to that picture--I
do assure you, you might."

"But it could be no pleasure to him to ruin Mr. Etherage!"

"I'm not so sure of that; between ourselves, forgiving is not one of
his weaknesses."

"But I say it's quite impossible--an old family, and liked in the
county--it would be a scandal for ever!" pleaded Tom Sedley,
distractedly.

"Not worse than that business of Booth Fanshawe," said Cleve, looking
down; "no, he never forgives anything. I don't think he perceives he's
taking a revenge; he has not _mind_ enough for repentance," said
Cleve, who was not in good humour with his uncle just then.

"Won't you try? you're such an eloquent fellow, and there's really so
much to be said."

"I do assure you, there's no more use than in talking to the
chimney-piece; if you make a point of it, of course, I will; but, by
Jove, you could hardly choose a worse advocate just now, for he's
teasing me to do what I _can't_ do. If you heard my miserable story,
it would make you laugh; it's like a thing in a _petite comédie_, and
it's breaking my heart."

"Well, then, you'll try--won't you try?" said Tom, overlooking his
friend's description of his own troubles.

"Yes; as you desire it, I'll try; but I don't expect the slightest
good from it, and possibly some mischief," he replied.

"A thousand thanks, my dear Cleve; I'm going down to-night. Would it
be too much to ask you for a line, or, if it's _good_ news, a telegram
to Llwynan."

"I may safely promise you that, I'm sorry to say, without risk of
trouble. You mustn't think me unkind, but it would be cruel to let
you hope when there is not, really, a chance."

So Tom drove away to his club, to write his daily love letter to Agnes
Etherage, in time for post; and to pen a few lines for old Vane
Etherage, and try to speak comfortably to that family, over whose
pretty home had gathered so awful a storm.



CHAPTER X.

A THUNDER-STORM

    "That night a child might understand
    The de'il had business on his hand."


I ENDED my last chapter with mention of a metaphoric storm; but a
literal storm broke over the city of London on that night, such as its
denizens remembered for many a day after. The lightning seemed, for
more than an hour, the continuous pulsations of light from a
sulphurous furnace, and the thunder pealed with the cracks and
rattlings of one long roar of artillery. The children, waked by the
din, cried in their beds in terror, and Sarah Rumble got her dress
about her, and said her prayers in panic.

After a while the intervals between the awful explosions were a little
more marked, and Miss Rumble's voice could be heard by the children,
comforting and reassuring in the brief lulls; although had they known
what a fright their comforter was herself in, their confidence in her
would have been impaired.

Perhaps there was a misgiving in Sarah Rumble's mind that the
lightnings and thunders of irate heaven were invoked by the presence
of her mysterious lodger. Was even she herself guiltless, in hiding
under her roof-tree that impious old sinner, whom Rosemary Court
disgorged at dead of night, as the churchyard does a ghost--about
whose past history--whose doings and whose plans, except that they
were wicked--she knew no more than about those of an evil spirit, had
she chanced, in one of her spectre-seeing moods, to spy one moving
across the lobby.

His talk was so cold and wicked; his temper so fiendish; his nocturnal
disguises and outgoings so obviously pointed to secret guilt; and his
relations with the meek Mr. Larkin, and with those potent Jews, who,
grumbling and sullen, yet submitted to his caprices, as genii to those
of the magician who has the secret of command,--that Mr. Dingwell had
in her eyes something of a supernatural horror surrounding him. In the
thunderstorm, Sarah Rumble vowed secretly to reconsider the religious
propriety of harbouring this old man; and amid these qualms, it was
with something of fear and anger that, in a silence between the peals
of the now subsiding storm, she heard the creak of his shoe upon the
stair.

That even on such a night, with the voice of divine anger in the air,
about his ears, he could not forego his sinister excursion, and for
once at these hours remain decorously in his rooms! Her wrath overcame
her fear of him. She would _not_ have her house burnt and demolished
over her head, with thunderbolts, for _his_ doings.

She went forth, with her candle in her hand, and stood at the turn of
the banister, confronting Mr. Dingwell, who, also furnished with a
candle, was now about midway down the last flight of stairs.

"Egeria, in the thunder!" exclaimed the hard, scoffing tones of Mr.
Dingwell; whom, notwithstanding her former encounter with him, she
would hardly have recognised in his ugly disguise.

"A hoffle night for anyone to go out, sir," she said, rather sternly,
with a courtesy at the same time.

"Hoffle, is it?" said Mr. Dingwell, amused, with mock gravity.

"The hofflest, sir, I think I hever 'ave remembered."

"Why, ma'am, it isn't _raining_; I put my hand out of the window.
There's none of that hoffle rain, ma'am, that gives a fellow
rheumatism. I hope there's no unusual fog--is there?"

"_There_, sir;" exclaimed she, as another loud peal rattled over
Rosemary Court, with a blue glare through the lobby window and the
fanlight in the hall. She paused, and lifted her hand to her eyes till
it subsided, and then murmured an ejaculation.

"I like thunder, my dear. It reminds me of your name, dear Miss
Rumble;" and he prolonged the name with a rolling pronunciation.
"Shakespeare, you know, who says everything better than anyone else in
the world, makes that remarkable old gentleman, King Lear, say,
'Thunder, _rumble_ thy bellyfull!' Of course, _I_ would not say _that_
in a drawing-room, or to you; but kings are so refined they may say
things _we_ can't, and a genius like Shakespeare hits it off."

"I would not go out, sir, on such a night, without I was very sure it
was about something _good_ I was a-going," said Miss Rumble, very
pale.

"You labour under electro-phobia, my dear ma'am, and mistake it for
piety. I'm not a bit afraid of that sort of artillery, ma'am. Here we
are, two or three millions of people in this town; and two or three
million of shots, and we'll see by the papers, I venture to say, not
three shots tell. Don't you think if Jupiter really meant mischief he
could manage something better?"

"I know, sir, it ought to teach us"--here she winced and paused; for
another glare, followed by another bellow of the thunder, "long,
loud, and deep," interposed. "It should teach us some godly fear, if
we has none by nature."

Mr. Dingwell looked at his watch.

"Oh! Mr. Dingwell, it is hoffle. I wish you would only see it, sir."

"_See_ the _thunder_--eh?"

"My poor mother. She always made us go down on our knees, and say our
prayers--she would--while the thunder was."

"You'd have had rather long prayers to-night. How your knees must have
ached--egad! I don't wonder you dread it, Miss Sarah."

"And so I _do_, Mr. Dingwell, and so I should. Which I think all other
sinners should dread it also."

"Meaning _me_."

"And take warning of the wrath to come."

Here was another awful clap.

"Hoffle it is, Mr. Dingwell, and a warnin' to _you_, sent special,
mayhap."

"Hardly fair to disturb all the town for _me_, don't you think?"

"You're an old man, Mr. Dingwell."

"And you're an old woman, Miss Sarah," said he--not caring to be
reminded of his years by other people, though he playfully called
himself on occasions an old "boy"--"as old as Abraham's wife, whose
namesake you are, though you have not lighted on an Abraham yet, nor
become the mother of a great nation."

"Old enough to be good enough, as my poor mother used to say, sir; I
am truly; and sorry I am, Mr. Dingwell, to see you, on this hoffle
night, bent on no good. I'm afraid, sir--oh, sir, sir, oughtn't you
think, with them sounds in your ears, Mr. Dingwell?"

"The most formidable thunder, my dear Sarah, proceeds from the silvery
tongue of woman. I can stand any other. _It_ frightens me. So, egad,
if you please, I'll take refuge in the open air, and go out, and
patter a prayer."

And with a nod and a smirk, having had fooling enough, he glided by
Miss Rumble, who made him an appalled courtesy, and, setting down his
candle on the hall-table, he said, touching his false whiskers with
his finger tips, "Mind, not a word about these--upon my soul----you'd
_better_ not."

She made another courtesy. He stopped and looked at her for an answer.

"Can't you _speak_?" he said.

"No, sir--sure--not a word," she faltered.

"Good girl!" he said, and opened the door, with his latch-key in his
pocket, on pitchy darkness, which was instantaneously illuminated by
the lightning, and another awful roar of thunder broke over their
heads.

"The voice of heaven in warning!" she murmured to herself, as she
stood by the banisters, dazzled by the gleam, and listening to the
reverberation ringing in her ears. "I pray God he may turn back yet."

He looked over his shoulder.

"Another shot, Miss Rumble--missed again, you see." He nodded, stepped
out upon the flags, and shut the door. She heard his steps in the
silence that followed, traversing the court.

"Oh dear! but I wish he _was_ gone, right out--a hoffle old man he is.
There's a weight on my conscience like, and a fright in my heart,
there is, ever since he camed into the 'ouse. He is so presumptious.
To see that hold man made hup with them rings and whiskers, like a
robber or a play-actor! And defyin' the blessed thunder of heaven--a
walking hout, a mockin' and darin' it, at these hours--Oh _law_!"

The interjection was due to another flash and peal.

"I wouldn't wonder--no more I would--if that flash was the death o'
'im!"



CHAPTER XI.

THE PALE HORSE.


SALLY RUMBLE knocked at the usual hour at the old man's door next
morning.

"Come in, ma'am," he answered, in a weary, peevish voice. "Open the
window-shutter, and give me some light, and hand me my watch, please."

All which she did.

"I have not closed my eyes from the time I lay down."

"Not ailing, sir, I hope?"

"Just allow me to count, and I'll tell you, my dear."

He was trying his pulse.

"Just as I thought, egad. The pale horse in the Revelation, ma'am,
he's running a gallop in my pulse; it has been threatening the last
three days, and now I'm in for it, and I should not be surprised, Miss
Sally, if it ended in a funeral in our alley."

"God forbid, sir."

"Amen, with all my heart. Ay, the pale horse; my head's splitting;
oblige me with the looking-glass, and a little less light will answer.
Thank you--very good. Just draw the curtain open at the foot of the
bed; please, hold it nearer--thank you. Yes, a ghost, ma'am--ha,
ha--at last, I do suppose. My eyes, too--I've seen pits, with the
water drying up, hollow--ay, ay; sunk--and--now--did you see? Well,
look at my tongue--here"--and he made the demonstration; "you never
saw a worse tongue than _that_, I fancy; that tongue, ma'am, is
eloquent, _I_ think."

"Please God, sir, you'll soon be better."

"Draw the curtain a bit more; the light falls oddly, or--does it?--my
face. Did you ever see, ma'am, a face so nearly the colour of a
coffin-plate?"

"Don't be talking, sir, please, of no such thing," said Sally Rumble,
taking heart of grace, for women generally pluck up a spirit when they
see a man floored by sickness. "I'll make you some whey or
barley-water, or would you like some weak tea better?"

"Ay; will you draw the curtain close again, and take away the
looking-glass? Thanks. I believe I've drunk all the water in the
carafe. Whey--well, I suppose it's the right thing; _caudle_ when
we're coming _in_, and _whey_, ma'am, when we're going _out_. Baptism
of Infants, Burial of the Dead! My poor mother, how she did put us
through the prayer-book, and Bible--Bible. Dear me."

"There's a very good man, sir, please--the Rev. Doctor Bartlett,
though he's gone rather old. He came in, and read a deal, and prayed,
every day with my sister when she was sick, poor thing."

"Bartlett? What's his Christian name? You need not speak loud--it
plays the devil with my head."

"The Reverend Thomas Bartlett, please, sir."

"Of Jesus?"

"What, sir, please?"

"Jesus _College_."

"Don't know, I'm sure, sir."

"Is he old?"

"Yes, sir, past seventy."

"Ha--well I don't care a farthing about him," said Mr. Dingwell.

"Will you, please, have in the apothecary, sir? I'll fetch him
directly, if you wish."

"No--_no_ apothecary, _no_ clergyman; I don't believe in the Apostles'
Creed, ma'am, and I do believe in the jokes about apothecaries. If I'm
to go, I'll go quietly, if you please."

Honest Sally Rumble was heavy at heart to see this old man, who
certainly did look ghastly enough to suggest ideas of the undertaker
and the sexton, in so unsatisfactory a plight as to his immortal part.
Was he a Jew?--there wasn't a hair on his chin--or a Roman
Catholic?--or a member of any one of those multitudinous forms of
faith which she remembered in a stout volume, adorned with woodcuts,
and entitled "A Dictionary of all Religions," in a back parlour of her
grand-uncle, the tallow-chandler?

"Give me a glass of cold water, ma'am," said the subject of her
solicitude.

"Thank you--that's the best drink--_slop_, I think you call it--a sick
man can swallow."

Sally Rumble coughed a little, and fidgeted, and at last she said:
"Please, sir, would you wish I should fetch any other sort of a
minister?"

"Don't plague me, pray; I believe in the prophet Rabelais and _je m'en
vais chercher un grand peutêtre_--the two great chemists, Death, who
is going to analyse, and Life, to re-combine me. I tell you, ma'am, my
head is bursting; I'm very ill; I'll talk no more."

She hesitated. She lingered in the room, in her great perplexity; and
Mr. Dingwell lay back, with a groan.

"I'll tell you what you may do: go down to your landlord's office,
and be so good as to say to either of those d----d Jew fellows--I
don't care which--that I am as you see me; it mayn't signify, it may
blow over; but I've an idea it is serious; and tell them I said they
had better know that I am _very ill_, and that I've taken no step
about it."

With another weary groan Mr. Dingwell let himself down on his pillow,
and felt worse for his exertion, and very tired and stupid, and odd
about the head, and would have been very glad to fall asleep; and with
one odd pang of fear, sudden and cold, at his heart, he thought, "I'm
going to die--I'm going to die--at last--I'm going to die."

The physical nature in sickness acquiesces in death; it is the
instructed mind that recoils; and the more versed about the unseen
things of futurity, unless when God, as it were, prematurely glorifies
it, the more awfully it recoils.

Mr. Dingwell was not more afraid than other sinners who have lived for
the earthy part of their nature, and have taken futurity pretty much
for granted, and are now going to test by the stake of _themselves_
the value of their loose guesses.

No; he had chanced a great many things, and they had turned out for
the most part better than he expected. Oh! no; the whole court, and
the adjoining lanes, and, in short, the whole city of London, must
go as he would--lots of company, it was not to be supposed it was
anything very bad--and he was so devilish tired, _over_-fatigued--
queer--worse than sea-sickness--that headache--fate--the change--an
end--what was it? At all events, a rest, a sleep--sleep--could not be
very bad; lots of sleep, sir, and the chance--the chance--oh, yes,
things go pretty well, and I have not had my good luck yet. I wish I
could sleep a bit--yes, let kingdom-come be all sleep--and so a groan,
and the brain duller, and more pain, and the immense fatigue that
demands the enormous sleep.

When Sarah Rumble returned, Mr. Dingwell seemed, she thought, a great
deal heavier. He made no remark, as he used to do, when she entered
the room. She came and stood by the bed-side, but he lay with his eyes
closed, not asleep; she could see by the occasional motion of his
lips, and the fidgety change of his posture, and his weary groanings.
She waited for a time in silence.

"Better, sir?" she half-whispered, after a minute or two.

"No," he said, wearily.

Another silence followed, and then she asked, "Would you like a drink,
Mr. Dingwell, sir?"

"Yes--water."

So he drank a very little, and lay down again.

Miss Sarah Rumble stayed in the room, and nearly ten minutes passed
without a word.

"What did he say?" demanded Mr. Dingwell so abruptly that Sarah Rumble
fancied he had been dreaming.

"Who, sir, please?"

"The Jew--landlord," he answered.

"Mr. Levi's a-coming up, sir, please--he expected in twenty minutes,"
replied she.

Mr. Dingwell groaned; and two or three minutes more elapsed, and
silence seemed to have re-established itself in the darkened chamber,
when Mr. Dingwell raised himself up with a sudden effort, and he
said--

"Sarah Rumble, fetch me my desk." Which she did, from his
sitting-room.

"Put your hand under the bolster, and you'll find two keys on a ring,
and a pocket-book. _Yes._ Now, Sarah Rumble, unlock that desk. Very
good. Put out the papers on the coverlet before me; first bolt the
door. Thank you, ma'am. There are a parcel of letters among those,
tied across with a red silk cord--just so. Put them in my hand--thank
you--and place all the rest back again neatly--_neatly_, if you
please. Now lock the desk; replace it, and come here; but first give
me pen and ink, and bolt the door--try it again."

And as she did so he scrawled an address upon the blank paper in which
these letters were wrapt.

The brown visage of his grave landlady was graver than ever, as she
returned to listen for further orders.

"Mrs. Sarah Rumble, I take you for an honest person; and as I may die
this time, I make a particular request of _you_--take this little
packet, and slip it between the feather-bed and the mattress, as near
the centre as your arm will reach--thank you--remember it's there. If
I die, ma'am, you'll find a ten-pound note wrapped about it, which I
give to you; you need not thank--that will do. The letters addressed
as they are you will deliver, without showing them, or _saying one
word to anyone_ but to the gentleman himself, into whose hands you
must deliver them. You understand?"

"Yes, sir, please; I'm listening."

"Well, _attend_. There are two Jew gentlemen--your landlord, Mr. Levi,
and the _old_ Jew, who have been with me once or twice--you know
_them_; that makes _two_; and there is Mr. Larkin, the tall gentleman
who has been twice here with them, with the lavender waistcoat and
trousers, the eye-glass with the black ribbon, the black frock
coat--heigho! oh, dear, my head!--the red grizzled whiskers, and bald
head."

"The religious gentleman, please, sir?"

"Exactly; the religious gentleman. Well, _attend_. The two Jews and
the religious gentleman together make _three_; and those three
gentlemen are _robbers_."

"_What_, sir?"

"_Robbers_--robbers! Don't you know what '_robbers_' means? They are
all three _robbers_. Now, I don't think they'll want to fiddle with my
money till I'm dead."

"Oh, Lord, sir!"

"'Oh, Lord!' of course. That will do. They won't touch my money till
I'm dead, if they trust you; but they _will_ want my desk--at least
Larkin will. I shan't be able to look after things, for my head is
very bad, and I shall be too drowsy--soon knocked up; so give 'em the
desk, if they ask for it, and these keys from under the pillow; and if
they ask you if there are any other papers, say _no_; and don't you
tell them one word about the letters you've put between the beds here.
If you betray me--you're a religious woman--yes--and believe in
God--may God d--n you; and He will, for you'll be accessory to the
villany of those three miscreants. And now I've done what in me lies;
and that is all--my last testament."

And Mr. Dingwell lay down wearily. Sarah Rumble knew that he was very
ill; she had attended people in fever, and seen them die. Mr. Dingwell
was already perceptibly worse. As she was coming up with some whey, a
knock came to the door, and opening it she saw Mr. Levi, with a very
surly countenance, and his dark eyes blazing fiercely on her.

"How'sh Dingwell now?" he demanded, before he had time to enter, and
shut the door; "_worse_, is he?"

"Well, he's duller, sir."

"In his bed? Shut the door."

"Yes, sir, please. Didn't get up this morning. He expected you two
hours ago, sir."

Levi nodded.

"What doctor did you fetch?" he asked.

"No doctor, please, sir. I thought you and _him_ would choose."

Levi made no answer; so she could not tell by his surly face, which
underwent no change, whether he approved or not. He looked at his
watch.

"Larkin wasn't here to-day?"

"Mr. Larkin? No, sir, please."

"Show me Dingwell's room, till I have a look at him," said the Jew,
gloomily.

So he followed her up-stairs, and entered the darkened room without
waiting for any invitation, and went to the window, and pulled open a
bit of the shutter.

"What's it for?" grumbled Dingwell indistinctly from his bed.

"So you've bin and done it, you have," said the Jew, walking up with
his hands in his pockets, and eyeing him from a distance as he might a
glandered horse.

Dingwell was in no condition to retort on this swarthy little man, who
eyed him with a mixture of disgust and malignity.

"How long has he been thish way?" said the Jew, glowering on Sarah
Rumble.

"Only to-day in bed, please, sir; but he has bin lookin' awful bad
this two or three days, sir."

"Do you back it for _fever_?"

"I think it's _fever_, sir."

"I s'pose you'd twig fever fasht enough? Seen lotsh of fever in your
time?"

"Yes, sir, please."

"It _ish_ fever, ten to one in fifties. Black death going, ma'am--_my_
luck. Look at him there, d----n him, he'sh got it."

Levi looked at him surlily for a while with eyes that glowed like
coals.

"This comsh o' them cursed holes you're always a-going to; there's
always fever and everything there, you great old buck goat."

Dingwell made an effort to raise himself, and mumbled, half awake--

"Let me--I'll talk to him--how dare you--when I'm
better--_quiet_"--and he laid down his head again.

"When you _are_, you cursed sink. Look at all we've lost by you."

He stood looking at Dingwell savagely.

"He'll _die_," exclaimed he, making an angry nod, almost a butt, with
his head toward the patient, and he repeated his prediction with a
furious oath.

"See, you'll send down to the apothecary's for that chloride of lime,
and them vinegars and things--or--no; you must wait here, for Larkin
will come; and don't you let him go, mind. Me and Mr. Goldshed will be
here in no time. Tell him the doctor's coming; and us--and I'll send
up them things from the apothecary, and you put them all about in
plates on the floor and tables. Bad enough to lose our money, and
cursed bad; but I won't take this--come out o' this room--if _I_ can
help."

And he entered the drawing-room, shutting Dingwell's door, and
spitting on the floor, and then he opened the window.

"He'll _die_--do you _think_ he'll die?" he exclaimed again.

"He's in the hands of God, sir," said Sally Rumble.

"He won't be long there--he'll die--I say he _will_--he will;" and the
little Jew swore and stamped on the floor, and clapped his hat on his
head, and ran down the stairs, in a paroxysm of business and fury.



CHAPTER XII.

IN WHICH HIS FRIENDS VISIT THE SICK.


MR. LEVI, when Sarah Rumble gave him her lodger's message, did not, as
he said, "vally it a turn of a half-penny." He could not be very ill
if he could send his attendant out of doors, and deliver the terms in
which his messages were to be communicated. Mr. Levi's diagnosis was
that Mr. Dingwell's attack was in the region of the purse or
pocket-book, and that the "dodge" was simply to get the partners and
Mr. Larkin together for the purpose of extracting more money.

Mr. Larkin was in town, and he had written to that gentleman's hotel;
also he had told Mr. Goldshed, who took the same view, and laughed in
his lazy diapason over the weak invention of the enemy.

Levi accordingly took the matter very easily, and hours had passed
before his visit, which was made pretty late in the afternoon, and he
was smiling over his superior sagacity in seeing through Dingwell's
little dodge, as he walked into the court, when an officious little
girl, in her mother's bonnet, running by his knee, said, pompously--

"You'd better not go there, sir."

"And why so, chickabiddy?" inquired Mr. Levi, derisively.

"No, you'd better not; there's a gentleman as has took the fever
there."

"Where?" said Mr. Levi, suddenly interested.

"In Mrs. Rumble's."

"_Is_ there?--how do you know?"

"Lucy Maria Rumbles, please, sir, she told me, and he's _very bad_."

The fashion of Levi's countenance was changed as he turned from her
suddenly, and knocked so sharply at the door that the canary, hanging
from the window in his cage over the way, arrested his song, and was
agitated for an hour afterwards.

So Mr. Levi was now thoroughly aroused to the danger that had so
suddenly overcast his hopes, and threatened to swallow in the
bottomless sea of death the golden stake he had ventured.

It was not, nevertheless, until eight o'clock in the evening, so hard
a thing is it to collect three given men [what then must be the office
of whip to Whig or Tory side of the House?] that the two Jews and Mr.
Larkin were actually assembled in Mr. Dingwell's bed-room, now reeking
with disinfectants and prophylactic fluids.

The party were in sore dismay, for the interesting patient had begun
to maunder very preposterously in his talk. They listened, and heard
him say--

"That's a lie--I say, I'd nail his tongue to the table. Bells won't
ring for it--lots of bells in England; you'll not find 'em _here_,
though."

And then it went off into a mumbling, and Mr. Goldshed, who was
listening disconsolately, exclaimed, "My eyesh!"

"Well, how do you like it, guv'nor? I said he'd walk the plank, and so
he will," said Levi. "He will--he will;" and Levi clenched his white
teeth, with an oath.

"_There_, Mr. Levi, _pray_, pray, none of _that_," said Mr. Larkin.

The three gentlemen were standing in a row, from afar off observing
the patient, with an intense scrutiny of a gloomy and, I may say, a
savage kind.

"He was an unfortunate agent--no energy, except for his pleasures,"
resentfully resumed Mr. Larkin, who was standing furthest back of the
three speculators. "Indolent, impracticable enough to ruin fifty
cases; and now here he lies in a fever, contracted, you think, Mr.
Levi, in some of his abominable haunts."

Mr. Larkin did not actually say "d---- him," but he directed a very
dark, sharp look upon his acquaintance in the bed.

"Abawminable, to be sure, abawminable. Bah! It's all true. The hornies
has their eye on him these seven weeks past--curse the beasht,"
snarled Mr. Levi, clenching his fists in his pockets, "and every
da--a--m muff that helped to let me in for this here rotten business."

"Meaning _me_, sir?" said Mr. Larkin, flushing up to the top of his
head a fierce pink.

Levi answered nothing, and Mr. Larkin did not press his question.

It is very easy to be companionable and good-humoured while all goes
pleasantly. It is failure, loss, and disappointment, that try the
sociable qualities; even those three amiable men felt less amicable
under the cloud than they had under the sunshine.

So they all three looked in their several ways angrily and
thoughtfully at the gentleman in the typhus fever, who said rather
abruptly--

"She killed herself, sir; foolish 'oman! Capital dancing, gentlemen!
Capital dancing, ladies! Capital--capital--admirable dancing. God
help us!" and so it sunk again into mumbling.

"Capital da-a-ancing, and who pays the piper?" asked Mr. Goldshed,
with a rather ferocious sneer. "It has cost us fifteen hundred to two
thousand!"

"And a doctor," suggested Levi.

"Doctor, the devil! I say; I've paid through the nose," or, as he
pronounced that organ through which his metallic declamation droned,
_noshe_. "It's Mr. Larkin's turn now; it's all da-a-am rot; a warm
fellow like you, Mr. Larkin, putting all the loss on me; how can I
sta-a-an' that--sta-a-an' all the losses, and share the
profits--ba-a-ah, sir; that couldn't pay nohow."

"I think," said Mr. Larkin, "it may be questionable how far a
physician would be, just in this imminent stage of the attack, at all
useful, or even desirable; but, Miss Rumble, if I understand you, he
is quite _compos_--I mean, quite, so to speak, in his senses, in the
early part of the day."

He paused, and Miss Rumble from the other side of the bed contributed
her testimony.

"Well, that being so," began Mr. Larkin, but stopped short as Mr.
Dingwell took up his parable, forgetting how wide of the mark the sick
man's interpolations were.

"That's a vulture over there--devilish odd birds," said Mr. Dingwell's
voice, with an unpleasant distinctness; "you just tie a turban on a
stick," and then he was silent.

Mr. Larkin cleared his voice and resumed--

"Well, as I was saying, when the attack, whatever it is, has developed
itself, a medical man may possibly be available; but in the mean time,
as he is spared the possession of his faculties, and we all agree,
gentlemen, whatever particular form of faith may be respectively ours,
that some respect is due to futurity; I would say, that a clergyman,
at all events, might make him advantageously a visit to-morrow, and
afford him an opportunity at least of considering the interests of his
soul."

"Oh! da--a--m his shoul, it's his _body_. We must try to keep him
together," said Mr. Goldshed, impatiently. "If he dies the money's all
lost, every shtiver; if he don't, he's a sound speculation; we must
raise a doctor among us, Mr. Larkin."

"It is highly probable indeed that before long the unfortunate
gentleman may require medical advice," said Mr. Larkin, who had a high
opinion of the "speculation," whose pulse was at this moment
unfortunately at a hundred and twenty. "The fever, my dear sir, if
such it be, will have declared itself in a day or two; in the meantime,
nursing is all that is really needful, and Miss Rumble, I have
no doubt, will take care that the unhappy gentleman is properly
provided in that respect."

The attorney, who did not want at that moment to be drawn into a
discussion on contributing to expenses, smiled affectionately on Miss
Rumble, to whom he assigned the part of good Samaritan.

"He'll want some one at night, sir, please; I could not undertake
myself, sir, for both day and night," said brown Miss Rumble, very
quietly.

"_There!_ That'sh it!" exclaimed Levi, with a vicious chuckle, and a
scowl, extending his open hand energetically toward Miss Rumble, and
glaring from Mr. Larkin to his partner.

"Nothing but _pay_; down with the dust, Goldshed and Levi. Bleed like
a pair o' beashtly pigs, Goldshed and Levi, _do_! There's death in
that fellow's face, I say. It's all bosh, doctors and nurses; throwing
good money after bad, and then, five pounds to bury him, drat him!"

"Bury? ho, no! the parish, the workhoushe-authorities shall bury him,"
said Mr. Goldshed, briskly.

"Dead--dead--dead, as a Mameluke--dead as a Janizary--eh?
eh?--bowstrung!" exclaimed, Mr. Dingwell, and went off into an
indistinct conversation in a foreign language.

"Stuff a stocking down his throat, will you?" urged Mr. Levi; a duty,
however, which no one undertook.

"I see that cove's booked; he looks just like old Solomon's looked
when _he_ had it. It isn't no use; all rot, throwing good money arter
bad, I say; let him be; let him die."

"I'll _not_ let him die; no, he shan't. I'll _make_ him pay. I made
the Theatre of Fascination pay," said Mr. Goldshed serenely, alluding
to a venture of his devising, by which the partnership made ever so
much money in spite of a prosecution and heavy fines and other
expenses.

"I say 'tisn't my principle to throw up the game, by no
means--_no_--with my ball in hand, and the stakes in the
pocket--_never_!"

Here Mr. Goldshed wagged his head slowly with a solemn smile, and Mr.
Dingwell, from the bed, said with a moan--

"Move it, will you? That way--I wish you'd help--b-bags, sir--sacks,
sir--awfully hard lying--full of ears and--ay--_noses_--egad!--why
not? cut them all off, I say. D--n the Greeks! Will you move it? _Do_
move that sack--it hurts his ribs--ribs--_I_ never got the bastinado."

"Not but what you deserved it," remarked Mr. Levi.

And Mr. Dingwell's babbling went on, but too indistinctly to be
unravelled.

"I say," continued Mr. Goldshed, sublimely, "if that 'ere speculative
thing in the bed there comes round, and gets all square and right,
I'll make him pay. I'm not funked--who's afraid--wiry old brick!"

"I think so," acquiesced Mr. Larkin with gentle solemnity; "Mr.
Dingwell is certainly, as you say, wiry. There are many things in his
favour, and Providence, Mr. Goldshed--Providence is over us all."

"Providence, to be sure," said Mr. Goldshed, who did not disdain help
from any quarter. "Where does he keep his money, ma'am?"

"Under his bolster, please, sir--under his head," answered Sarah
Rumble.

"Take it out, please," said Mr. Goldshed.

She hesitated.

"_Give_ the man hish money, woman, ca-a-ant you?" bawled Mr. Levi
fiercely, and extending his arm toward the bed.

"You had better--_yes_, ma'am, the money belongs to Messrs. Goldshed
and Levi," said Mr. Larkin, interposing in the character of the _vir
pietate gravis_.

Sally Rumble, recollecting Mr. Dingwell's direction, "Let 'em have the
money, too, if they press for it," obeyed, and slid her hand under his
bolster, and under his head, from the other side where she was
standing; and Dingwell, feeling the motion, I suppose, raised his head
and stared with sunken eyes dismally at the three gentlemen, whom he
plainly did not recognise, or possibly saw in the shapes of foxes,
wolves, or owls, which Æsop would have metaphorically assigned them,
and with a weary groan he closed his wandering eyes again, and sank
down on the pillow.

Miss Rumble drew forth a roll of bank-notes with a string tied round
them.

"Take the money, Levi," said Goldshed, drawing a step backward.

"Take it yourself, guv'nor," said Levi, waving back Miss Sally Rumble,
and edging back a little himself.

"Well," said Goldshed, quietly, "I see you're afraid of that
infection."

"I believe you," answered Levi.

"So am I," said Goldshed, uneasily.

"And no wonder!" added Mr. Larkin, anticipating himself an invitation
to accept the questionable trust.

"Put them notes down on the table there," said Mr. Goldshed.

And the three gentlemen eyed the precious roll of paper as I have seen
people at a chemical lecture eye the explodable compounds on the
professor's table.

"I tell you what, ma'am," said Goldshed, "you'll please get a dry
bottle and a cork, and put them notes into it, and cork it down,
ma'am, and give it to Mr. Levi."

"And count them first, please, Miss Rumble--shan't she, Mr. Goldshed?"
suggested Mr. Larkin.

"What for?--isn't the money ours?" howled Mr. Levi, with a ferocious
stare on the attorney's meek face.

"Only, Mr. Goldshed, with a view to distinctness, and to prevent
possible confusion in any future account," said Mr. Larkin, who knew
that Dingwell had got money from the Verneys, and thought that if
there was anything recovered from the wreck he had as good a right to
his salvage as another.

Mr. Goldshed met his guileless smile with an ugly sneer, and said--

"Oh, count them, to be sure, for the gentleman. It isn't a ha'penny to
me."

So Miss Rumble counted seventy-five pounds in bank notes and four
pounds in gold, which latter Mr. Goldshed committed to her in trust
for the use of the patient, and the remainder were duly bottled and
corked down according to Mr. Goldshed's grotesque precaution, and in
this enclosure Mr. Levi consented to take the money in hand, and so it
was deposited for the night in the iron safe in Messrs. Goldshed and
Levi's office, to be uncorked in the morning by old Rosenthal, the
cashier, who would, no doubt, be puzzled by the peculiarity of the
arrangement, and with the aid of a cork-screw, lodged to the credit of
the firm.

Mr. Goldshed next insisted that Dingwell's life, fortunately for that
person, was too important to the gentlemen assembled there to be
trifled with; and said that sage--

"We'll have the best doctor in London--six pounds' worth of _him_--d'y
see? And under him a clever _young_ doctor to look in four times a
day, and we'll arrange with the young 'un on the principal of no cure
no pay--that is, we'll give fifty pounds this day six weeks, if the
party in bed here is alive at that date."

And upon this basis I believe an arrangement was actually completed.
The great Doctor Langley, when he called, and questioned Miss Rumble,
and inspected the patient, told Mr. Levi, who was in waiting, that the
old gentleman had been walking about in a fever for more than a week
before he took to his bed, and that the chances were very decidedly
against his recovery.

A great anxiety overcame Mr. Larkin like a summer cloud, and the
serene sunshine of that religious mind was overcast with storm and
blackness. For the recovery of Mr. Dingwell were offered up, in one
synagogue at least, prayers as fervent as any ever made for that of
our early friend Charles Surface, and it was plain that never was
patriarch, saint, or hero, mourned as the venerable Mr. Dingwell would
be, by at least three estimable men, if the fates were to make away
with him on this critical occasion.

The three gentlemen, as they left his room on the evening I have been
describing, cast their eyes upon Mr. Dingwell's desk, and hesitated,
and looked at one another, darkly, for a moment in silence.

"There'sh no reason why we shouldn't," drawled Mr. Goldshed.

"I object to the removal of the desk," said Mr. Larkin, with a shake
of his head, closing his eyes, and raising his hand as if about to
pronounce a benediction on the lid of it. "If he's spared it might
become a very serious thing--I decidedly object."

"Who want'sh to take the man's desk!" drawled Mr. Goldshed, surlily.

"Who want'sh to take it?" echoed Levi, and stared at him with an angry
gape.

"But there will be no harm, I shay, in looking what paper'sh there,"
continued Mr. Goldshed. "Does he get letters?"

"Only two, sir, please, as I can remember, since he came here."

"By po-sht, or by ha-a-an'?" inquired Goldshed.

"By 'and, sir, please; it was your Mr. Solomons as fetched 'em here,
sir."

He lifted up the desk, swayed it gently, and shook it a little,
looking at it as if it were a musical box about to strike up, and so
set it down again softly. "There'sh papersh in that box," he hummed
thoughtfully to himself.

"I think I may speak here," said Mr. Larkin, looking up sadly and
loftily, as he placed his hat upon his bald head, "with some little
authority as a professional man--if in no higher capacity--and I may
take upon myself to say, that by no possibility can the contents of
that desk affect the very simple and, in a certain sense, direct
transactions in which our clients' interests, and in a degree ours
also, are involved, and I object on higher grounds still, I hope, to
any irregularity as respects that desk."

"If you're confident, Mr. Larkinsh, there'sh nothing in it can affect
the bushiness we're on, I would not give you a cancel' Queen's head
for the lot."

"Perfectly confident, my dear Mr. Goldshed."

"He'sh perfectly confident," repeated Mr. Levi in his guv'nor's ear,
from over his shoulder.

"Come along then," said Mr. Goldshed, shuffling slowly out of the
room, with his hands in his pockets.

"It's agreed then, gentlemen, there's no tampering with the desk?"
urged Mr. Larkin, entreatingly.

"Shertainly," said Mr. Goldshed, beginning to descend the stairs.

"Shertainly," repeated Mr. Levi, following him.

And the three gentlemen, in grave and friendly guise, walked away
together, over the flagged court. Mr. Larkin did not half like taking
the arms of these gentlemen, but the quarter of the town was not one
where he was likely to meet any of either the spiritual or the
terrestrial aristocracy with whom he desired specially to stand well.
So he moved along conscious, not unpleasantly, of the contrast which a
high-bred gentleman must always present in juxtaposition with such
persons as Goldshed and Levi. They walked through the dingy corridor
called Caldwell Alley, and through Ive's Lane, and along the market,
already flaring and glaring with great murky jets of gas wavering in
the darkening stalls, and thence by the turn to the left into the
more open street, where the cab-stand is, and then having agreed to
dine together at the "Three Roses" in Milk Lane in half an hour, the
gentlemen parted--Messrs. Goldshed and Levi to fly in a cab to meet
their lawyer at their office, and Mr. Larkin to fly westward to his
hotel, to inquire for a letter which he expected. So smiling they
parted; and, so soon as Mr. Larkin was quite out of sight, Mr. Levi
descended from their cab, and with a few parting words which he
murmured in Mr. Goldshed's ear, left him to drive away by himself,
while he retraced his steps at his leisure to Rosemary Court, and
finding the door of Miss Rumble's house open with Lucy Maria at it,
entered and walked straight up to Mr. Dingwell's drawing-room, with a
bunch of small keys in his hand, in his coat-pocket.

He had got just two steps into the room towards the little table on
which the patient's desk stood, when from the other side of that piece
of furniture, and the now open desk, there rose up the tall form of
Mr. Jos. Larkin, of the Lodge.

The gentlemen eyed one another for a few seconds in silence, for the
surprise was great. Mr. Larkin did not even set down the parcel of
letters, which he had been sorting like a hand at whist, when Mr.
Levi had stepped in to divert his attention.

"I thought, Mr. Larkinsh, I might as well drop in just to give you a
lift," said Levi, with an elaborate bow, a politeness, and a great
smile, that rather embarrassed the good attorney.

"Certainly, Mr. Levi, I'm always happy to see you--always happy to see
_any_ man--I have never done anything I am ashamed of, nor shrunk from
any duty, nor do I mean to do so now."

"Your hands looksh pretty full."

"Yes, sir, _pretty_ tolerably full, sir," said Mr. Larkin, placing the
letters on the desk; "and I may add so do _yours_, Mr. Levi; those
keys, as you observe, might have given one a lift in opening this
desk, had I not preferred the _other_ course," said Mr. Larkin,
loftily, "of simply requesting Mr. Dingwell's friend, the lady at
present in charge of his papers, to afford me, at her own discretion,
such access to the papers possibly affecting my client as I may
consider necessary or expedient, as his legal adviser."

"You have changed your view of your duty, rather; haven't you, Mr.
Larkinsh?"

"No, sir, _no_; simply my action on a point of expediency. Of course,
there was some weight, too, sir, in the suggestions made by a
gentleman of Mr. Goldshed's experience and judgment; and I don't
hesitate to say that his--his ideas had their proper weight with me.
And I may say, once for all, Mr. Levi, I'll not be hectored, or
lectured, or _bullied_ by you, Mr. Levi," added Mr. Larkin, in a new
style, feeling, perhaps, that his logical and moral vein was not quite
so happy as usual.

"Don't frighten ush, Larkins, pray don't, only just give me leave to
see what them letters is about," said Levi, taking his place by him;
"did you put any of them in your pocket?"

"No, sir; upon my _soul_, Mr. Levi, I did no such thing," said Mr.
Larkin, with a heartiness that had an effect upon the Jew. "The
occasion is so serious that I hardly regret having used the
expression," said Mr. Larkin, who had actually blushed at his own
oath. "There was just one letter possibly worth looking at."

"That da-a-am foolish letter you wrote him to Constantinople?"

"I wrote him _no_ foolish letter, sir. I wrote him no letter, sir, I
should fear to have posted on the market cross, or read from the
pulpit, Mr. Levi. I only wonder, knowing all you do of Mr. Dingwell's
unfortunate temper, and reckless habits of assertion, that you should
attach the smallest weight to an expression thrown out by him in one
of his diabolical and--and--lamentable frenzies. As to my having
abstracted a letter of his--an imputation at which I smile--I can,
happily, cite evidence other than my own." He waved his hand toward
Miss Rumble. "This lady has happily, I will say, been in the room
during my very brief examination of my client's half-dozen papers.
Pray, madam, have I taken one of these--or, in fact, put it in my
pocket?"

"No, sir, please," answered Miss Rumble, who spoke in good faith,
having, with a lively remembrance of Mr. Dingwell's description of the
three gentlemen who had visited the sick that day, as "three robbers,"
kept her eye very steadily upon the excellent Mr. Larkin, during the
period of his search.

Mr. Levi would have liked to possess that letter. It would have proved
possibly a useful engine in the hands of the Firm in future dealings
with the adroit and high-minded Mr. Larkin. It was not to be had,
however, if it really existed at all; and when some more ironies and
moralities had been fired off on both sides, the gentlemen subsided
into their ordinary relations, and ultimately went away together to
dine on turtle, sturgeon, salmon, and I know not what meats, at the
famous "Three Roses" in Milk Lane.



CHAPTER XIII.

MR. DINGWELL THINKS OF AN EXCURSION.


IF Mr. Dingwell had been the most interesting, beautiful, and, I will
add, wealthy of human beings, instead of being an ugly and wicked old
bankrupt, Messrs. Goldshed, Levi, and Larkin could not have watched
the progress of his complaint with greater trepidation, or hailed the
first unequivocal symptoms of his recovery with more genuine delight.
I doubt if any one of them would have experienced the same intense
happiness at the restoration of wife, child, or parent.

They did not, it is true, re-assemble in Mr. Dingwell's apartments in
Rosemary Court. There was not one of those gentlemen who did not set a
proper value upon his own life; and they were content with the
doctor's report. In due course, the oracle pronounced Mr. Dingwell out
of danger, but insisted on change of air.

Well, that could be managed, of course. It _must_ be managed, for did
not the doctor say, that without it the patient might not ultimately
recover. If it could have been dispensed with, the risk would have
been wisely avoided. But Mr. Dingwell's recovery depended on it, and
Mr. Dingwell must be _made_ to recover.

Whither should they send him? Stolen treasure or murdered body is
jealously concealed by the malefactor; but not more shrinkingly than
was Mr. Dingwell by those gentlemen who had him in charge. Safe enough
he was while he remained in his dingy seclusion in Rosemary Court,
where he lay as snugly as Asmodeus in the magician's phial, and secure
against all but some such accident as the irruption of the student Don
Cleophas Leandro Peres Zambullo, through the skylight. But where was
to be found a rural habitation--salubrious and at the same time
sufficiently secret. And if they did light upon one resembling that
where the water-fiends played their pranks--

    "On a wild moor, all brown and bleak,
      Where broods the heath-frequenting grouse,
    There stood a tenement antique--
      Lord Hoppergollop's country house.

    "Here silence reigned with lips of glue,
      And undisturbed, maintained her law,
    Save when the owl cried--'Whoo! whoo! whoo!'
      Or the hoarse crow croaked--'Caw! caw! caw!'"

If I say they did find so eligible a mansion for their purpose, was it
likely that their impracticable and incorrigible friend, Mr. Dingwell,
would consent to spend six weeks in the "deserted mansion" as
patiently as we are told Molly Dumpling did?

I think not. And when the doctor talked of country air, the patient
joked peevishly about the "grove of chimneys," and "the sweet shady
side of Pall Mall."

"I think, Mrs. Rumble," said he, one day, "I'm not going to die this
bout at all events. I'm looking better, I think--eh?"

"Looking very bad, sir, please. I can't see no improvement," said
Sarah Rumble.

"Well, ma'am, you try to keep my spirits up, thank you. I'm shut up
too much--that's the sole cause of it _now_. If I could creep out a
bit at night."

"God forbid, sir."

"Thank you, ma'am, again. I say if I could get out a little I should
soon get my strength back again; but sitting in this great padded
chair I might as well be in bed; can't go out in the daytime you
know--too many enemies. The owl's been moulting, ma'am--devilish
sick--the moulting owl. If the old bird could flutter out a bit. I'm
living like a _monk_, I was going to say--egad, I wish I was. Give me
those d---- bitters; they haven't done me a bit of good--thanks."

"If you was to go to the country, sir," insinuated Miss Sarah Rumble.

"Yes, if I _was_, as you express it, I should die in a week. If air
could have killed me, the curious atmosphere of this charming court
would have killed me long ago. I'm not one of those air-plants, ma'am.
What I want is a little fillip, ma'am--a little amusement--anything
out of this prison; and I'm not going to squat on a moor, or to roost
in a wood, to please a pack of fellows that don't care if I were on
the treadmill, provided they could take me out whenever they want me.
My health, indeed! They simply want me out of the way. My health!
Their consideration for me is truly affecting. We'll not mind the
bitters, yet. It's time for my claret."

He drank it, and seemed to doze for a little. Mrs. Rumble quickly
settled the medicine bottles and other things that had been put out of
their places, every now and then looking at the sunken face of the old
man, in his death-like nap--his chin sunk on his breast, the stern
carving of his massive forehead, the repulsive lines of a grim
selfishness, and a certain evil shadow, made that face in its repose
singularly unlovely.

Suddenly he waked.

"I say, Mrs. Rumble, I've been thinking--what about that old clergyman
you mentioned--that Mr. Bartlett. I think I _will_ see him--suppose he
lectures me; his hard words won't break my bones, and I think he'd
amuse me; so you may as well get him in, any time--I don't care when."

Sarah Rumble was only too glad to give her wicked tenant a chance,
such as it was, and next day, at about one o'clock, a gentle-looking
old clergyman, with thin white hair, knocked at his door, and was
admitted. It was the Rev. Thomas Bartlett.

"I can't rise, sir, to receive you--you'll excuse me; but I'm still
very ill," said Mr. Dingwell.

"Pray don't stir, sir," said the clergyman.

"I _can't_," said Mr. Dingwell. "Will _you_ kindly sit in that chair,
near the fire? What I have to say is private, and if you please we'll
speak very low. My head isn't recovered yet."

"Certainly," said the old gentleman, placing himself as Dingwell
wished.

"Thank you very much, sir. Now I can manage it. Isn't your name
Thomas, sir--the Reverend Thomas Bartlett?" said Mr. Dingwell, looking
at him shrewdly from under his white eyebrows.

"That's my name, sir."

"_My_ name's Dingwell. You don't remember? I'll try to bring it to
your mind. About twenty-nine years ago you were one of the curates at
St. Wyther's in the Fields?"

"Yes, sir, I was," answered the clergyman, fixing his eyes in turn
inquisitively on him.

"I was the witness--do you remember me, now--to the ceremony, when
that unfortunate fellow, Verney, married Miss--I have a note of her
name--hang it!--Rebecca, was it?--_Yes, Rebecca_--it was Rebecca
Mervyn. You married Verney to Miss Mervyn, and _I_ witnessed it."

"I remember very well, sir, that a gentleman did accompany Mr. Verney;
and I remember the marriage extremely well, because there occurred
very distressing circumstances respecting that Mr. Verney not very
long after, which fixed that marriage in my mind; but having seen you
once only, sir, I can't pretend to recollect your face."

"There has been some time, too, sir, since then," said Mr. Dingwell,
with a cynical sneer, and a shrug. "But I think I should have
recognized you; that's perhaps owing to my having a remarkably
retentive memory for faces; however it's of no great consequence here.
It isn't a matter of identification at all. I only want to know, as
Verney's dead, whether you can tell what has become of that poor lady,
or can find any clue to her whereabouts--there was a baby--a little
child--if they are still living."

"She did write to me twice, sir, within a few years after the
marriage. He treated her very ill, sir," said the clergyman.

"Infamously, I fancy," said Dingwell; "and how long ago was that,
sir?"

"Oh! a long time; twenty--ay, five--ay, eight-and-twenty years since,"
said the old gentleman.

Dingwell laughed.

His visitor stared.

"Yes, it's a good while," said Mr. Dingwell; "and looking over that
gulf, sir, you may fill your glass, and sing--

    "'Many a lad I liked is dead,
    And many a lass grown old.'

Eight-and-twenty years! Gad, sir, she's had time to grow gray; and to
be dead and buried; and to serve a handsome period of her term in
purgatory. I forgot, though; _you_ don't follow me there. I was
thinking of the French curé, who made part of my journey here with
me."

"No, sir; Church of England, thank God; the purest faith; the most
scriptural, I believe, on earth. You, sir, I assume, are of the same
Church," said he.

"Well, I can't say I am, sir; nor a Catholic, nor a Quaker," said the
invalid.

"I hope, sir, there's no tendency to rationalism?"

"No, sir, I thank you; to no ism whatsoever invented by any other man;
Dingwellism for Dingwell; Smithism for Smith. Every man has a right to
his opinion, in my poor judgment."

"And pray, sir, if neither Romanist nor Protestant, what _are_ you?"
inquired the clergyman, as having a right to ask.

"_Porcus de gruge epicuri_, at your service," said the sick man, with
a feeble smirk.

"I had hoped, sir, it might have been for some profitable purpose you
had sent for me," said the disappointed pastor.

"Well, sir, I was baptized in the Church of England, although I don't
subscribe the Articles; so I served in your regiment, you see, though
I don't wear the uniform any longer."

"I thought, sir, you might have wished some conversation upon
religious subjects."

"And haven't we had it, sir?--sorry we don't agree. I'm too old to
turn out of my own way; but, though I can't learn yours, I shall be
happy to teach you something of mine, if you wish it."

"I think, sir, as I have other calls to make," said the old clergyman,
much offended, and rising to take his leave as he spoke. "I had
better wish you a good afternoon."

"Pray, sir, stay a moment; I never knew a clergyman in such a hurry
before to leave a sick man; as no man knows, according to your theory,
when he's going to be converted--and how should I? The mildew of death
is whitening each of us at this moment; the last golden sands are
running out. D-- it, give me a chance."

This incongruous harangue was uttered so testily--even fiercely--that
the good clergyman was puzzled, and began to doubt in what state his
fever might have left Mr. Dingwell's brain.

"Don't you see, sir? Do sit down--a little patience won't do either of
us any harm."

"Certainly, sir," hesitated the clergyman, looking hard at him, "but I
have not a great deal of time."

"Nor I a great deal of strength; I shan't keep you long, sir."

The Rev. Thomas Bartlett sat down again, and glanced meekly an
invitation to Mr. Dingwell to begin.

"Nine-and-twenty years, sir, since you married that unlucky pair. Now,
I need not say by what particular accidents, for the recollection is
painful, I was in after-life thrown into the society of that
unfortunate ill-used dog, poor Arthur Verney; I knew him intimately.
I was the only friend he had left, and I was with him when he died,
infamously neglected by all his family. He had just got his
half-yearly payment of a beggarly annuity, on which he subsisted;
_he_--the rightful Viscount Verney, and the head of his family--ha,
ha, ha! By Jove, sir, I can't help laughing, though I pity him. Having
that little sum in his hand, said he to me, 'You take charge of this
for my son, if you can find him; and I rely on your friendship to look
him up if ever you revisit England; this is for him; and he was
baptized by the Rev. Thomas Bartlett, as my wife wrote to tell me just
eight-and-twenty years ago, and he, no doubt, can enable you to trace
him.' That's what _he_ said--what say _you_, sir?"

"Old Lady Verney placed the child in charge of the gentleman who then
managed the Verney property. I heard all about it from a Mr. Wynne
Williams, a Welsh lawyer. The child died when only a year old; you
know _he_ would have been the heir apparent."

"Poor Arthur said _no_, sir. I asked him--a Scotch marriage, or some
of those crooked wed-locks on which they found bigamies and
illegitimacies. 'No,' Arthur said, 'he has no technical case, and he
may be miserably poor; this is all I can do, and I charge you with
it.' It was very solemn, sir. Where does that lawyer live?"

"At this moment I can't recollect, sir--some place near which the
Verneys have estates."

"Cardyllian?"

"The very place, sir."

"I know it, sir; I've been there when I was a boy. And his name was
_Wynne_ Williams?"

"I _think_ it was," said the clergyman.

"And you have nothing more to say about the poor child?" asked Mr.
Dingwell.

"There _is_ nothing more, I fancy, sir," said Mr. Bartlett. "Can I
give you any more information?"

"Not any, sir, that I can think of at present. Many thanks, Mr.
Bartlett, for your obliging call. Wait a moment for the servant."

And Mr. Dingwell, thinking fiercely, rang his hand-bell long and
viciously.

"Ha! Mrs. Rumble; you'll show this gentleman out. Good-bye, sir, and
many thanks."

"Good day, sir."

"Ha, ha, ha! It's a good subject, and a fertile!" muttered Mr.
Dingwell, so soon as he was alone.

For the rest of that evening Mr. Dingwell seemed to find ample
amusement in his own thoughts, and did not trouble Mrs. Rumble with
that contemptuous and cynical banter, which she was obliged to accept,
when he pleased, for conversation.

The only thing she heard him say was--"I'll go _there_."

Now Malory had already been proved to be a safe hiding place for a
gentleman in Mr. Dingwell's uncomfortable circumstances. The air was
unexceptionable, and Lord Verney was easily persuaded to permit the
old man to sojourn, for a few weeks, in the Steward's House, under the
care of old Mrs. Mervyn's servant, aided by one provided by Messrs.
Goldshed and Levi.

There were two rooms in the steward's house which old Mrs. Mervyn
never used, and some furniture removed from the Dower House adjoining,
rendered them tolerably comfortable. A letter from old Lady Verney
opened and explained the request, which amounted to a command, that
she would permit the invalid, in whom Lord Verney took an interest, to
occupy, for a fortnight or so, the spare rooms in the Steward's House.

So all was made ready, and the day fixed for Mr. Dingwell's arrival.



CHAPTER XIV.

A SURPRISE.


MR. DINGWELL, already much more like himself, having made the journey
by easy stages, was approaching Malory by night, in a post-chaise.
Fatigue, sickness, or some other cause, perhaps, exasperated his
temper specially that night.

Well made up in mufflers, his head was frequently out at the window.

"The old church, by Jove!" he muttered, with a dismal grin, as going
slowly down the jolty hill: beneath the ancient trees, the quaint
little church of Llanderris and its quiet churchyard appeared at the
left of the narrow road, white in the moonlight.

"A new crop of fools, fanatics, and hypocrites come up, since I
remember them, and the old ones gone down to enrich that patch of
ground and send up their dirty juice in nettles, and thistles, and
docks. 'In sure and certain hope.' Why should not they, the swine! as
well as their masters, cunning, and drunken, and sneaks. I'd like to
pay a fellow to cut their epitaphs. Why should I spare them a line of
truth. Here I am, plain Mr. Dingwell. They don't care much about me;
and when my Lord Verney went down the other day, to show them what a
fool they have got for a master, amid congenial rejoicings, I don't
hear that they troubled their heads with many regrets for my poor
friend Arthur. Ha! There's the estuary, and Pendillion. These things
don't change, my Lord Verney. Pity Lord Verney doesn't wear as well as
Pendillion. There is Ware, over the water, if we had light to see
it--to think of that shabby little whey-faced fool! Here we are; these
are the trees of Malory, egad!"

And with a shrug he repeated Homer's words, which say--"As are the
generations of leaves, such are those of men."

Up the avenue of Malory they were driving, and Dingwell looked out
with a dismal curiosity upon the lightless front of the old house.

"Cheerful reception!" he muttered. "Suppose we pick a hole in your
title--a hole in your _pocket_--hey!"

Dingwell's servant was at the door of the steward's house as they drew
up, and helped the snarling old invalid down.

When he got to the room the servant said--

"There's coffee, and everythink as you desired."

"I'll take breath first, if you please--coffee afterwards."

"Mrs. Mervyn hopes, sir, as how you'll parding her to-night, being so
late, and not in good 'ealth herself, which she would been hup to
receive you hotherwise," said the man, delivering his message
eloquently.

"Quite time enough to-morrow, and to-morrow--and to-morrow; and I
don't care if our meeting creeps away, as that remarkable person,
William Shakespeare, says--'in this petty pace.' This is more
comfortable, egad! than Rosemary Court. I don't care, I say, if it
creeps in that pretty pace, till we are both in heaven. What's Hecuba
to me, or I to Hecuba? So help me off with these things."

Lord Verney, on whom, in his moods, Mr. Dingwell commented so fully,
was dispensing his hospitalities just then, on the other side of the
estuary, at his princely mansion of Ware. The party was, it is true,
small--very small, in fact. Lady Wimbledon had been there, and the
Hon. Caroline Oldys, but they were now visiting Cardyllian at the
Verney Arms.

Mr. Jos. Larkin, to his infinite content, was at Ware, and deplored
the unchristian feelings displayed by Mr. Wynne Williams, whom he had
by this time formally supplanted in the management of Lord Verney's
country affairs, and who had exhibited "a nasty feeling," he "might
say a petulance quite childish," last Sunday, when Mr. Larkin had
graced Cardyllian Church with his personal devotions, and refused to
vacate, in his favour, the small pew which he held as proprietor of
Plasdwllyn, but which Mr. Larkin chose to think he occupied in virtue
of his former position of solicitor to Lord Verney.

Cleve Verney being still in London, received one morning from his
uncle the following short and astounding note, as he sat at
breakfast:--

     "MY DEAR CLEVE--The time having arrived for taking that step,
     which the stability of our house of Verney has long appeared to
     demand, all preliminaries being satisfactorily adjusted, and the
     young lady and Lady Wimbledon, with a very small party of their
     relations, as you may have observed by the public papers, at
     present at the hotel of Cardyllian, nothing remains
     unaccomplished by way of preparation, but your presence at Ware,
     which I shall expect on Friday next, when you can meet Miss
     Caroline Oldys in those new and more defined relations which our
     contemplated alliance suggests. That event is arranged to take
     place on the Wednesday following. Mr. Larkin, who reports to me
     the substance of a conversation with you, and who has my
     instructions to apprise you fully of any details you may desire
     to be informed of, will see you on the morning of to-morrow, in
     the library at Verney House, at a quarter-past eleven o'clock. He
     leaves Ware by the mail train to-night. You will observe that the
     marriage, though not strictly private, is to be conducted without
     _éclat_, and has not been anywhere announced. This will explain
     my not inviting you to bring down any friend of yours to Ware for
     the occasion."

So it ends with the noble lord's signature, and a due attestation of
the state of his affections towards Cleve.

With the end of his uncle's letter, an end of that young gentleman's
breakfast--only just begun--came also.

Cleve did not start up and rap out an oath. On the contrary, he sat
very still, with something, almost a smile, on his pale, patient face.
In a little while he folded the letter up gently, and put it in his
pocket. Then he did get up and go to the window looking out upon the
piece of ground at the rear of Verney House, and the sooty leaves and
sparrows that beautified it. For a long time he enjoyed that view,
and then took a swift walk for nearly half an hour in the
streets--drowsy, formal streets--in that quarter of the town,
involving little risk of interruption.

His wife--what a hell was now in that word! and why? Another man would
have found in it a fountain of power and consolation. His wife, his
little boy, were now in France. He thought of them both sourly enough.
He was glad they were so far off. Margaret would have perceived the
misery of his mind. She would have been poking questions at him, and
he would neither have divulged nor in anything have consulted her. In
the motive of this reserve, which harmonised with his character, may
have mingled a suspicion that _his_ interest and hers might not, in
this crisis, have required quite the same treatment.

It was about eleven o'clock as he entered Verney House again. In a
quarter of an hour more that villanous attorney, to whose vulgar
machinations he attributed his present complicated wretchedness, would
be with him.

Without any plan, only hating that abominable Christian, and resolved
to betray neither thought nor emotion which could lead him to suspect,
ever so faintly, the truth, he at length heard him announced, as a man
who has seen his death-warrant hears the approach of the executioner.
Mr. Larkin entered, with his well-brushed hat in his hand, his bald
head shining as with a glory, a meek smile on his lips, a rat-like
shrinking observation in his eyes.

"Oh! Mr. Larkin," said Mr. Cleve Verney, with a smile. "My uncle said
you would look in to-day. We have often talked the matter over
together, you know, my uncle and I, and I'm not sure that you can tell
me very much that I don't know already. Sit down, pray."

"Thanks. I think it was chiefly to let you know what he can do for
_you_. I need not say to you, my dear Mr. Verney, how generous Lord
Verney is, and what an uncle, Mr. Verney, he has been to _you_."

Here was a little glance of the pink eyes at the ceiling, and a
momentary elevation of his large hand, and a gentle, admiring shake of
the bald head.

"No; of course. It is entirely as his attorney, sir, acquainted with
details which he has directed you to mention to me, that he speaks of
your call here. I had a letter this morning."

"Quite so. It was to mention that although he could not, of course, in
prudence, under the circumstances, think of _settling_ anything--which
amounts, in fact, to an alienation--a step which in justice to himself
and the integrity of the family estates, he could not concede or
contemplate; he yet--and he wishes it at the same time to be
understood, strictly, as his present intention--means to make you an
allowance of a thousand pounds a year."

"Rather a small allowance, don't you think, for a man with a seat in
the House to marry on?" observed Cleve.

"Pardon me; but he does not contemplate your immediate marriage, Mr.
Verney," answered Larkin.

"Rather a sudden change of plan, considering that he fixed Wednesday
next, by his letter," said Cleve, with a faint sneer.

"Pardon me, again; but that referred to his own marriage--Lord
Verney's contemplated marriage with the Honourable Miss Oldys."

"Oh!" said Cleve, looking steadily down on the table. "Oh! to be
sure."

"That alliance will be celebrated on Wednesday, as proposed."

Mr. Larkin paused, and Cleve felt that his odious eyes were reading
his countenance. Cleve could not help turning pale, but there was no
other visible symptom of his dismay.

"Yes; the letter was a little confused. He has been urging me to
marry, and I fancied he had made up his mind to expedite my affair;
and it is rather a relief to me to be assured it is his own, for I'm
in no particular hurry--quite the reverse. Is there anything more?"

"I meant to ask _you_ that question, Mr. Verney. I fancied you might
possibly wish to put some questions to me. I have been commissioned,
within certain limits, to give you any information you may desire."
Mr. Larkin paused again.

Cleve's blood boiled. "Within certain limits, more in my uncle's
confidence than I am, that vulgar, hypocritical attorney!" He fancied
beside that Mr. Larkin saw what a shock the news was, and that he
liked, with a mean sense of superiority, making him feel that he
penetrated his affectation of indifference.

"It's very thoughtful of you; but if anything strikes me I shall talk
to my uncle. There are subjects that would interest me more than those
on which he would be at all likely to talk with you."

"Quite possibly," said Mr. Larkin. "And what shall I report to his
lordship as the result of our conversation?"

"Simply the truth, sir."

"I don't, I fear, make myself clear. I meant to ask whether there was
anything you wished me to add. You can always reckon upon me, Mr.
Verney, to convey your views to Lord Verney, if there should ever
happen to be anything you feel a delicacy about opening to his
lordship yourself."

"Yes, I shall write to him," answered Cleve, drily.

And Cleve Verney rose, and the attorney, simpering and bowing grandly,
took his departure.



CHAPTER XV.

CLAY RECTORY BY MOONLIGHT.


As the attorney made his astounding announcement, Cleve had felt as if
his brain, in vulgar parlance, _turned_! In a moment the world in
which he had walked and lived from his school-days passed away, and a
chasm yawned at his feet. His whole future was subverted. A man who
dies in delusion, and awakes not to celestial music and the light of
paradise, but to the trumpet of judgment and the sight of the abyss,
will quail as Cleve did.

How he so well maintained the appearance of self-possession while Mr.
Larkin remained, I can't quite tell. Pride, however, which has carried
so many quivering souls, with an appearance of defiance, through the
press-room to the drop, supported him.

But now that scoundrel was gone. The fury that fired him, the iron
constraint that held him firm was also gone, and Cleve despaired.

Till this moment, when he was called on to part with it all, he did
not suspect how entirely his ambition was the breath of his nostrils,
or how mere a sham was the sort of talk to which he had often treated
Margaret and others about an emigrant's life and the Arcadian liberty
of the Antipodes.

The House-of-Commons life--the finest excitement on earth--the growing
fame, the peerage, the premiership in the distance--the vulgar fingers
of Jos. Larkin had just dropped the extinguisher upon the magic lamp
that had showed him these dazzling illusions, and he was left to grope
and stumble in the dark among his debts, with an obscure wife on his
arm, and a child to plague him also. And this was to be the end! A
precarious thousand a-year--dependent on the caprice of a narrow,
tyrannical old man, with a young wife at his ear, and a load of debts
upon Cleve's shoulders, as he walked over the quag!

It is not well to let any object, apart from heaven, get into your
head and fill it. Cleve had not that vein of insanity which on
occasion draws men to suicide. In the thread of his destiny that fine
black strand was not spun. So blind and deep for a while was his
plunge into despair, that I think had that atrabilious poison, which
throws out its virus as suddenly as latent plague, and lays a
_felo-de-se_ to cool his heels and his head in God's prison, the
grave--had a drop or two, I say, of that elixir of death been mingled
in his blood, I don't think he would ever have seen another morrow.

But Cleve was not thinking of dying. He was sure--in rage, and
blasphemy, and torture, it might be--but still he _was_ sure to live
on. Well, what was now to be done? Every power must be tasked to
prevent the ridiculous catastrophe which threatened him with ruin;
neither scruple, nor remorse, nor conscience, nor compunction should
stand in the way. We are not to suppose that he is about to visit the
Hon. Miss Caroline Oldys with a dagger in one hand and a cup of poison
in the other, nor with gunpowder to blow up his uncle and Ware, as
some one did Darnley and the house of Kirk of Field. Simply his mind
was filled with the one idea, that one way or another the thing _must_
be stopped.

It was long before his ideas arranged themselves, and for a long time
after no plan of operations which had a promise of success suggested
itself. When at length he did decide, you would have said no wilder or
wickeder scheme could have entered his brain.

It was a moonlight night. The scene a flat country, with a monotonous
row of poplars crossing it. This long file of formal trees marks the
line of a canal, fronting which at a distance of about a hundred yards
stands a lonely brick house, with a few sombre elms rising near it; a
light mist hung upon this expansive flat. The soil must have been
unproductive, so few farmsteads were visible for miles around. Here
and there pools of water glimmered coldly in the moonlight; and
patches of rushes and reeds made the fields look ragged and neglected.

Here and there, too, a stunted hedge-row showed dimly along the level,
otherwise unbroken, and stretching away into the haze of the horizon.
It is a raw and dismal landscape, where a murder might be done, and
the scream lose itself in distance unheard--where the highwayman,
secure from interruption, might stop and plunder the chance wayfarer
at his leisure--a landscape which a fanciful painter would flank with
a distant row of gibbets.

The front of this square brick house, with a little enclosure, hardly
two yards in depth, and a wooden paling in front, and with a green
moss growing damply on the piers and the door-steps, and tinging the
mortar between the bricks, looks out upon a narrow old road, along
which just then were audible the clink and rattle of an approaching
carriage and horses.

It was past one o'clock. No hospitable light shone from the windows,
which on the contrary looked out black and dreary upon the vehicle and
steaming horses which pulled up in front of the house.

Out got Cleve and reconnoitred.

"Are you quite sure?"

"Clay Parsonage--yes, sir," said the driver.

Cleve shook the little wooden gate, which was locked; so he climbed
the paling, and knocked and rang loud and long at the hall-door.

The driver at last reported a light in an upper window.

Cleve went on knocking and ringing, and the head of the Rev. Isaac
Dixie appeared high in the air over the window-stool.

"What do you want, pray?" challenged that suave clergyman from his
sanctuary.

"It's I--Cleve Verney. Why do you go to bed at such hours? I must see
you for a moment."

"Dear me! my dear, valued pupil! Who could have dreamed?--I shall be
down in one moment."

"Thanks--I'll wait;" and then to the driver he said--"I shan't stay
five minutes; mind, you're ready to start with me the moment I
return."

Now the hall-door opened. The Rev. Isaac Dixie--for his dress was a
compromise between modesty and extreme haste, and necessarily very
imperfect--stood in greater part behind the hall-door; a bed-room
candlestick in his fingers, smiling blandly on his "distinguished
pupil," who entered without a smile, without a greeting--merely
saying:--

"Where shall we sit down for a minute, old Dixie?"

Holding his hand with the candle in it across, so as to keep his
flowing dressing-gown together; and with much wonder and some
misgivings, yet contriving his usual rosy smile, he conducted his
unexpected visitor into his "study."

"I've so many apologies to offer, my very honoured and dear friend;
this is so miserable, and I fear you are cold. We must get something;
we must, really, manage something--some little refreshment."

Dixie placed the candle on the chimney-piece, and looked inquiringly
on Cleve.

"There's some sherry, I know, and I _think_ there's some brandy."

"There's no one up and about?" inquired Cleve.

"Not a creature," said the Rector; "no one can hear a word, and these
are good thick walls."

"I've only a minute; I know you'd like to be a bishop, Dixie?"

Cleve, with his muffler and his hat still on, was addressing the
future prelate, with his elbow on the chimney-piece.

"_Nolo episcopari_, of course, but we _know_ you would, and there's no
time now for pretty speeches. Now, listen, you shall be _that_, and
you shall reach it by two steps--the two best livings in our gift. I
always keep my word; and when I set my heart on a thing I bring it
about, and so sure as I do any good, I'll bend all my interest to that
one object."

The Rev. Isaac Dixie stared hard at him, for Cleve looked strangely,
and spoke as sternly as a villain demanding his purse. The Rector of
Clay looked horribly perplexed. His countenance seemed to ask, "Does
he mean to give me a mitre or to take my life, or is he quite right in
his head?"

"You think I don't mean what I say, or that I'm talking nonsense, or
that I'm mad. I'm not mad, it's no nonsense, and no man was ever more
resolved to do what he says." And Cleve who was not given to swearing,
did swear a fierce oath. "But all this is not for nothing; there's a
condition; you must do me a service. It won't cost you much--less
trouble, almost, than you've taken for me to-night, but you _must_ do
it."

"And may I, my dear and valued pupil, may I ask?" began the rev.
gentleman.

"No, you need not ask, for I'll tell you. It's the same sort of
service you did for me in France," said Cleve.

"Ah! ah!" ejaculated the clergyman, very uneasily. "For no one but
_you_, my dear and admirable pupil, could I have brought myself to
take that step, and I trust that you will on reconsideration----"

"You _must_ do what I say," said Cleve, looking and speaking with the
same unconscious sternness, which frightened the Rector more than any
amount of bluster. "I hardly suppose you want to break with me
finally, and you don't quite know all the consequences of that step, I
fancy."

"Break with _you_? my admirable patron! desert my dear and brilliant
pupil in an emergency? _Certainly_ not. Reckon upon me, my dear Mr.
Verney, when_ever_ you need my poor services, to the _uttermost_. To
_you all_ my loyalty is due, but unless you made a very special point
of it, I should hesitate for any other person living, _but_ yourself,
to incur a second time----"

"Don't you think my dear, d--d old friend, I understand the length,
and breadth, and depth, of your friendship; I know how strong it
_is_, and I'll make it _stronger_. It _is_ for _me_--yes, in my own
case you must repeat the service, as you call it, which you once did
me, in another country."

The Rev. Isaac Dixie's rosy cheeks mottled all over blue and yellow;
he withdrew his hand from his dressing-gown, with an unaffected
gesture of fear; and he fixed a terrified gaze upon Cleve Verney's
eyes, which did not flinch, but encountered his, darkly and fixedly,
with a desperate resolution.

"Why, you look as much frightened as if I asked you to commit a crime;
you marvellous old fool, you hardly think me mad enough for _that_?"

"I hardly know, Mr. Verney, what I think," said Dixie, looking with a
horrible helplessness into his face.

"Good God! sir; it can't be anything _wrong_?"

"Come, come, sir; you're more than half asleep. Do you _dare_ to think
I'd commit myself to any man, by such an idiotic proposal? No one but
a lunatic could think of _blasting_ himself, as you--but you _can't_
suppose it. Do listen, and understand if you can; my wife, to whom you
married me, is _dead_, six months ago she _died_; I tell you she's
_dead_."

"Dear me! I'm very much pained, and I will say _shocked_; the deceased
lady, I should not, my dear pupil, have alluded to, of course; but
need I say, I never heard of that affliction?"

"How on earth could you? You don't suppose, knowing all you do, I'd
put it in the papers among the _deaths_?"

"No, dear me, of course," said the Rev. Isaac Dixie, hastily bringing
his dressing-gown again together. "No, certainly."

"I don't think that sort of publication would answer you or me. You
forget it is two years ago and more, a _good deal_ more. _I_ don't
though, and whatever _you_ may, _I_ don't want my uncle to know
anything about it."

"But, you know, I only meant, you hadn't told me; my dear Mr. Verney,
my honoured pupil, you will see--don't you perceive how much is
involved; but _this_--_could_n't you put this upon some one else?
Do--_do_ think."

"No, in _no_ one's power, but _yours_, Dixie;" and Cleve took his
hand, looking in his face, and wrung it so hard that the rev.
gentleman almost winced under the pressure, of administering which I
dare say Cleve was quite unconscious. "No one but _you_."

"The poor--the respected lady--being deceased, of course you'll give
me a note to that effect under your hand; you'll have no objection,
in this case, to my taking out a special licence?"

"Special devil! are you mad? Why, anyone could do it with that. No,
it's just because it is a little _irregular_, nothing more, and exacts
implicit mutual confidence, that I have chosen you for it."

Dixie looked as if the compliment was not an unmixed pleasure.

"I still think, that--that having performed the other, there is some
awkwardness, and the penalties are awful," said he with increasing
uneasiness, "and it does strike me, that if my dear Mr. Verney could
place his hand upon some other humble friend, in this particular case,
the advantages would be obvious."

"Come, Dixie," said Cleve, "I'm _going_; you must say yes or no, and
so decide whether you have seen the last of me; I can't spend the
night giving you my reasons, but they are conclusive. If you act like
a man of sense, it's the last service I shall ever require at your
hands, and I'll reward you _splendidly_; if you don't, I not only
cease to be your friend, but I become your _enemy_. I can strike when
I like it--you know _that_; and upon my soul I'll smash you. I shall
see my uncle to-morrow morning at Ware, and I'll tell him distinctly
the entire of that French transaction."

"But--but pray, my dear Mr. Verney, do say, _did_ I refuse--_do_ I
_object_? you may command me, of course. I have incurred I may say a
risk for you already, a risk in _form_."

"Exactly, _in form_; and you don't increase it by this kindness, and
you secure my eternal gratitude. Now you speak like a man of sense.
You must be in Cardyllian to-morrow evening. It is possible I may ask
_nothing_ of you; if I do, the utmost is a technical irregularity, and
secrecy, which we are both equally interested in observing. You shall
stay a week in Cardyllian mind, and I, of course, frank you there and
back, and while you remain--it's my business. It has a political
aspect, as I shall explain to you by-and-bye, and so soon as I shall
have brought my uncle round, and can avow it, it will lead the way
rapidly to _your_ fortune. Shall I see you in Cardyllian to-morrow
evening?"

"Agreed, sir!--agreed, my dear Mr. Verney. I shall be there, my dear
and valued pupil--_yes_."

"Go to the Verney Arms; I shall probably be looking out for you there;
at all events I shall see you before night."

Verney looked at his watch, and repeated "I shall see you to-morrow;"
and without taking leave, or hearing as it seemed the Rev. Isaac
Dixie's farewell compliments and benedictions, he walked out in gloomy
haste, as if the conference was not closed, but only suspended by the
approaching parenthesis of a night and a day.

From the hall-table the obsequious divine took the key of the little
gate, to which, in slippers and dressing-gown, he stepped blandly
forth, and having let out his despotic pupil, and waved his adieu, as
the chaise drove away, he returned, and locked up his premises and
house, with a great load at his heart.



CHAPTER XVI.

AN ALARM.


Cleve reached the station, eight miles away from the dismal swamp I
have described, in time to catch the mail train. From Llwynan he did
not go direct to Ware, but drove instead to Cardyllian, and put up at
the Verney Arms early next morning.

By ten o'clock he was seen, sauntering about the streets, talking with
old friends, and popping into the shops and listening to the gossip of
the town. Cleve had a sort of friendliness that answered all
electioneering purposes perfectly, and _that_ was the measure of its
value.

Who should he light upon in Castle Street but Tom Sedley! They must
have arrived by the same train at Llwynan. The sight of Tom jarred
intensely upon Cleve Verney's nerves. There was something so strange
in his looks and manner that Sedley thought him ill. He stopped for a
while to talk with him at the corner of Church Street, but seemed so
obviously disposed to escape from him, that Sedley did not press his
society, but acquiesced with some disgust and wonder in their new
relations.

Tom Sedley had been with Wynne Williams about poor Vane Etherage's
affairs. Honest Wynne Williams was in no mood to flatter Lord Verney,
the management of whose affairs he had, he said, "resigned." The fact
was that he had been, little by little, so uncomfortably superseded in
his functions by our good friend Jos. Larkin, and the fashion of Lord
Verney's countenance was so manifestly changed, that honest Wynne
Williams felt that he might as well do a proud thing, and resign, as
wait a little longer for the inevitable humiliation of dismissal.

"I'm afraid my friend the admiral is in bad hands; worse hands than
Larkin's he could hardly have fallen into. I could tell you things of
that fellow, if we had time--of course strictly between ourselves, you
know--that would open your eyes. And as to his lordship--well, I
suppose most people know something of Lord Verney. I owe him nothing,
you know; it's all ended between us, and I wash my hands of him and
his concerns. You may talk to him, if you like; but you'll find you
might as well argue with the tide in the estuary there. I'd be
devilish glad if I could be of any use; but you see how it is; and to
tell you the truth, I'm afraid it must come to a regular smash, unless
Lord Verney drops that nasty litigation. There are some charges, you
know, upon the property already; and with that litigation hanging over
it, I don't see how he's to get money to pay those calls. It's a bad
business, I'm afraid, and an awful pity. Poor old fellow!--a little
bit rough, but devilish good-hearted."

Tom Sedley went up to Hazelden. The Etherage girls knew he was coming,
and were watching for him at the top of the steep walk.

"I've been talking, as I said I would, to Wynne Williams this
morning," he said, after greetings and inquiries made and answered,
"and he had not anything important to advise; but he has promised to
think over the whole matter."

"And Wynne Williams is _known_ to be _the_ cleverest lawyer _in the
world_," exclaimed Miss Charity, exulting. "I was afraid, on account
of his having been so lately Lord Verney's adviser, that he would not
have been willing to consult with you. And _will_ he use his
influence, which must be very great, with Lord Verney?"

"He has none; and he thinks it would be quite useless my talking to
him."

"Oh! Is it possible? Well, if he said _that_, I _never_ heard _such_
nonsense in the course of my life. I think old Lord Verney was one of
the _very nicest_ men I _ever_ spoke to in the course of my life; and
I'm certain it is all that horrid Mr. Larkin, and a great mistake; for
Lord Verney is quite a gentleman, and would not do anything so
_despicable_ as to worry and injure papa by this horrid business, if
only you would make him understand it; and I _do_ think, Thomas
Sedley, you _might_ take that trouble for papa."

"I'll go over to Ware, and try to see Lord Verney, if you think my
doing so can be of the least use," said Tom, who knew the vanity of
arguing with Miss Charity.

"Oh, _do_," said pretty Agnes, and that entreaty was, of course, a
command; so without going up to see old Etherage, who was very much
broken and ill, his daughters said; and hoping possibly to have some
cheering news on his return, Tom Sedley took his leave for the
present, and from the pier of Cardyllian crossed in a boat to Ware.

On the spacious steps of that palatial mansion, as Mr. Larkin used to
term it, stood Lord Verney, looking grandly seaward, with compressed
eyes, like a near-sighted gentleman as he was.

"Oh! is she all right?" said Lord Verney.

"I--I don't know, Lord Verney," replied Tom Sedley. "I came to"--

"Oh--aw--Mr.--Mr.--how d'ye do, sir," said Lord Verney, with marked
frigidity, not this time giving him the accustomed finger.

"I came, Lord Verney, hoping you might possibly give me five minutes,
and a very few words, about that unfortunate business of poor Mr. Vane
Etherage."

"I'm unfortunately just going out in a boat--about it; and I can't
just now afford time, Mr.--a--Mr."--

"_Sedley_ is my name," suggested Sedley, who knew that Lord Verney
remembered him perfectly.

"Sedley--Mr. Sedley; yes. As I mentioned, I'm going in a boat. I'm
sorry I can't possibly oblige you; and it is very natural you, who are
so intimate, I believe, with Mr. Etherage, should take that side of
the question--about it; but _I_'ve no reason to call those proceedings
unfortunate; and--and I don't anticipate--and, in fact, people usually
look after their own concerns--about it." Lord Verney, standing on the
steps, was looking over Sedley's head, as he spoke, at the estuary and
the shipping there.

"I'm sure, Lord Verney, if you knew how utterly ruinous, how really
_deplorable_, the consequences of pursuing this thing--I mean the
lawsuit against him--may be--I am _sure_--you would stop it all."

Honest Tom spoke in the belief that in the hesitation that had marked
the close of the noble lord's remarks there was a faltering of
purpose, whereas there was simply a failure of ideas.

"I can't help your forming opinions, sir, though I have not invited
their expression upon my concerns and--and affairs. If you have
anything to communicate about those proceedings, you had better see
Mr. Larkin, my attorney; he's the proper person. Mr. Etherage has
taken a line in the county to wound and injure me, as, of course, he
has a perfect right to do; he has taken that line, and I don't see any
reason why I should not have what I'm entitled to. There's the
principle of government by party, you're aware; and we're not to ask
favours of those we seek to wound and injure--about it; and that's my
view, and idea, and fixed opinion. I must wish you good morning, Mr.
Sedley. I'm going down to my boat, and I decline distinctly any
conversation upon the subject of my law business; I decline it
_distinctly_, Mr. Sedley--about it," repeated the peer peremptorily;
and as he looked a good deal incensed, Tom Sedley wisely concluded it
was time to retire; and so his embassage came to an end.

Lord Verney crossed the estuary in his yacht, consulting his watch
from time to time, and reconnoitering the green and pier of
Cardyllian through his telescope with considerable interest. A little
group was assembled near the stair, among whose figures he saw Lady
Wimbledon. "Why is not Caroline there?" he kept asking himself, and
all the time searching that little platform for the absent idol of his
heart.

Let us deal mercifully with this antiquated romance; and if Miss
Caroline Oldys forebore to say, "Go up, thou baldhead," let us also
spare the amorous incongruity. Does any young man love with the
self-abandonment of an old one? Is any romance so romantic as the
romance of an old man? When Sancho looked over his shoulder, and saw
his master in his shirt, cutting capers and tumbling head-over-heels,
and tearing his hair in his love-madness, that wise governor and man
of proverbs forgot the grotesqueness of the exhibition in his awe of
that vehement adoration. So let us. When does this noble frenzy
exhibit itself in such maudlin transports, and with a self-sacrifice
so idolatrously suicidal, as in the old? Seeing, then, that the spirit
is so prodigiously willing, let us bear with the spectacle of their
infirmities, and when one of these sighing, magnanimous, wrinkled
Philanders goes by, let us not hiss, but rather say kindly, "_Vive la
bagatelle!_" or, as we say in Ireland, "More power!"

He was disappointed. Miss Caroline Oldys had a very bad headache, Lady
Wimbledon said, and was in her room, in care of her maid, _so_
miserable at losing the charming sail to Malory.

Well, the lover was sorely disappointed, as we have said; but there
was nothing for it but submission, and to comfort himself with the
assurances of Lady Wimbledon that Caroline's headaches never lasted
long, and that she was always better for a long time, when they were
over. This latter piece of information seemed to puzzle Lord Verney.

"Miss Oldys is always better after an attack than before it," said
Cleve, interpreting for his uncle.

"Why, of _course_. That's what Lady Wimbledon means, as I understand
it," said Lord Verney, a little impatiently. "It's very sad; you must
tell me all about it; but we may hope to find her, you say, quite
recovered when we return?"

Cleve was not of the party to Malory. He returned to the Verney Arms.
He went up to Lady Wimbledon's drawing-room with a book he had
promised to lend her, and found Miss Caroline Oldys.

Yes, she was better. He was very earnest and tender in his
solicitudes. He was looking ill, and was very melancholy.

Two hours after her maid came in to know whether she "pleased to want
anything?" and she would have sworn that Miss Caroline had been
crying. Mr. Cleve had got up from beside her, and was looking out of
the window.

A little later in the day, old Lady Calthorpe, a cousin of Lady
Wimbledon's, very feeble and fussy, and babbling in a querulous
treble, was pushed out in her Bath-chair, Cleve and Miss Caroline
Oldys accompanying, to the old castle of Cardyllian.

On the step of the door of the Verney Arms, as they emerged, whom
should they meet, descending from the fly that had borne him from
Llwynan, but the Rev. Isaac Dixie. That sleek and rosy gentleman, with
flat feet, and large hands, and fascinating smile, was well pleased to
join the party, and march blandly beside the chair of the viscountess,
invigorating the fainting spirit of that great lady by the balm of his
sympathy and the sunshine of his smile.

So into the castle they went, across the nearly obliterated moat,
where once a drawbridge hung, now mantled with greenest grass, under
the grim arches, where once the clanging portcullis rose and fell, and
into the base court, and so under other arches into the inner court,
surrounded by old ivy-mantled walls.

In this seclusion the old Lady Calthorpe stopped her chair to enjoy
the sweet air and sunshine, and the agreeable conversation of the
divine, and Cleve offered to guide Miss Caroline Oldys through the
ruins, an exploration in which she seemed highly interested.

Cleve spoke low and eloquently, but I don't think it was about the
architecture. Time passed rapidly, and at last Miss Oldys whispered--

"We've been too long away from Lady Calthorpe. I must go back. She'll
think I have deserted her."

So they emerged from the roofless chambers and dim corridors, and
Cleve wished from the bottom of his heart that some good or evil angel
would put off his uncle's nuptials for another week, and all would be
well--_well_!

Yes--what was "well," if one goes to moral ideals for a standard? We
must run risks--we must set one side of the book against the other.
What is the purpose and the justification of all morality but
happiness? The course which involves least misery is alternatively the
moral course. And take the best act that ever you did, and place it in
that dreadful solvent, the light of God's eye, and how much of its
motive will stand the test? Yes--another week, and all will be well;
and has not a fertile mind like his, resource for any future
complication, as for this, that may arise?

Captain Shrapnell was not sorry to meet this distinguished party as
they emerged, and drew up on the grass at the side, and raised his hat
with a reverential smile, as the old lady wheeled by, and throwing a
deferential concern suddenly into his countenance, he walked a few
paces beside Cleve, while he said--

"You've heard, of course, about your uncle, Lord Verney?"

"No?" answered Cleve, on chance.

"_No?_--Oh?--Why it's half an hour ago. I hope it's nothing serious;
but his groom drove down from Malory for the doctor here. Something
wrong with his head--suddenly, I understand, and Old Lyster took his
box with him, and a bottle of leeches--that looks serious, eh?--along
with him."

Shrapnell spoke low, and shook his head.

"I--I did not hear a word of it. I've been in the castle with old Lady
Calthorpe. I'm very much surprised."

There was something odd, shrewd old Shrapnell fancied in the
expression of Cleve's eye, which for a moment met his. But Cleve
looked pale and excited, as he said a word in a very low tone to Miss
Oldys, and walked across the street accompanied by Shrapnell, to the
doctor's shop.

"Oh!" said Cleve, hastily stepping in, and accosting a lean, pale
youth, with lank, black hair, who paused in the process of braying a
prescription in a mortar as he approached. "My uncle's not well, I
hear--Lord Verney--at Malory?"

The young man glanced at Captain Shrapnell.

"The doctor told me not to mention, sir; but if _you'd_ come into the
back-room"----

"I'll be with you in a moment," said Cleve Verney to Shrapnell, at the
same time stepping into the sanctum, and the glass door being shut, he
asked, "What _is_ it?"

"The doctor thought it must be apoplexy, sir," murmured the young man,
gazing with wide open eyes, very solemnly, in Cleve's face.

"So I fancied," and Cleve paused, a little stunned; "and the doctor's
there, at Malory, _now_?"

"Yes, sir; he'll be there a quarter of an hour or more by this time,"
answered the young man.

Again Cleve paused.

"It was not _fatal_--he was still living?" he asked very low.

"Yes, sir--sure."

Cleve, forgetting any form of valediction, passed into the shop.

"I must drive down to Malory," he said; and calling one of those pony
carriages which ply in Cardyllian, he drove away, with a wave of his
hand to the Captain, who was sorely puzzled to read the true meaning
of that handsome mysterious face.



CHAPTER XVII.

A NEW LIGHT.


It was all over Cardyllian by this time that the viscount was very
ill--dying perhaps--possibly dead. Under the transparent green shadow
of the tall old trees, down the narrow road to Malory, which he had so
often passed in other moods, more passionate, hardly perhaps less
selfish, than his present, was Cleve now driving, with brain and heart
troubled and busy--"walking, as before, in a vain shadow, and
disquieting himself in vain." The daisies looked up innocently as the
eyes of children, into his darkened gaze. Had fate after all taken
pity on him, and was here by one clip of the inexorable shears a
deliverance from the hell of his complication?

As Cleve entered the gate of Malory he saw the party from Cardyllian
leaving in the yacht on their return. Lady Wimbledon, it turned out,
had remained behind in charge of Lord Verney. On reaching the house,
Cleve learned that Lord Verney was _alive_--was better in fact.

Combining Lady Wimbledon's and the doctor's narratives, what Cleve
learned amounted to this. Lord Verney, who affected a mysterious
urgency and haste in his correspondence, had given orders that his
letters should follow him to Malory that day. One of these letters,
with a black seal and black-bordered envelope, proved to be a
communication of considerable interest. It was addressed to him by the
clergyman who had charge of poor old Lady Verney's conscience, and
announced that his care was ended, and the Dowager Lady, Lord Verney's
mother, was dead.

As the doctor who had attended her was gone, and no one but servants
in the house, he had felt it a duty to write to Lord Verney to apprise
him of the melancholy event.

The melancholy event was no great shock to Lord Verney, her mature son
of sixty-four, who had sometimes wondered dimly whether she would live
as long as the old Countess of Desmond, and go on drawing her jointure
for fifty years after his own demise. He had been a good son; he had
nothing to reproach himself with. She was about ninety years of age;
the estate was relieved of £1,500 per annum. She had been a religious
woman too, and was, no doubt, happy. On the whole the affliction was
quite supportable.

But no affliction ever came at a more awkward time. Here was his
marriage on the eve of accomplishment--a secret so well kept up to
yesterday that no one on earth, he fancied, but half a dozen people,
knew that any such thing was dreamed of. Lord Verney, like other
tragedians in this theatre of ours, was, perhaps, a little more
nervous than he seemed, and did not like laughter in the wrong place.
He did not want to be talked over, or, as he said, "any jokes or
things about it." And therefore he wished the event to take mankind
unawares, as the Flood did. But this morning, with a nice calculation
as to time, he had posted four letters, bound, like Antonio's
argosies, to different remote parts of the world--one to Pau, another
to Lisbon, a third to Florence, and a fourth for Geneva, to friends
who were likely to spread the news in all directions--which he cared
nothing about, if only the event came off at the appointed time. With
the genius of a diplomatist, he had planned his remaining dispatches,
not very many, so as to reach their less distant destinations at the
latest hour, previous to that of his union. But the others were
actually on their way, and he supposed a month or more must now pass
before it could take place with any decorum, and, in the meantime,
all the world would be enjoying their laugh over his interesting
situation.

Lord Verney was very much moved when he read this sad letter; he was
pathetic and peevish, much moved and irritated, and shed some tears.
He withdrew to write a note to the clergyman, who had announced the
catastrophe, and was followed by Lady Wimbledon, who held herself
privileged, and to her he poured forth his "ideas and feelings" about
his "poor dear mother who was gone, about it;" and suddenly he was
seized with a giddiness so violent that if a chair had not been behind
him he must have fallen on the ground.

It was something like a fit; Lady Wimbledon was terrified; he looked
so ghastly, and answered nothing, only sighed laboriously, and moved
his white lips. In her distraction, she threw up the window, and
screamed for the servants; and away went Lord Verney's open carriage,
as we have seen, to Cardyllian, for the doctor.

By the time that Cleve arrived, the attack had declared itself
gout--fixed, by a mustard bath "nicely" in the foot, leaving, however,
its "leven mark" upon the head where it had flickered, in an angrily
inflamed eye.

Here was another vexation. It might be over in a week, the doctor
said; it might last a month. But for the present it was quite out of
the question moving him. They must contrive, and make him as
comfortable as they could. But at Malory he must be contented to
remain for the present.

He saw Cleve for a few minutes.

"It's very unfortunate--your poor dear grandmother--and this gout; but
we must bow to the will of Providence; we have every consolation in
her case. She's, no doubt, gone to heaven, about it; but it's
indescribably untoward the whole thing; you apprehend me--the
marriage--you know--and things; we must pray to heaven to grant us
patience under these cross-grained, unintelligible misfortunes that
are always persecuting some people, and never come in the way of
others, and I beg you'll represent to poor Caroline how it is. I'm not
even to write for a day or two; and you must talk to her, Cleve, and
try to keep her up, for I do believe she does like her old man, and
does not wish to see the poor old fellow worse than he is; and, Cleve,
I appreciate your attention and affection in coming so promptly;" and
Lord Verney put out his thin hand and pressed Cleve's. "You're very
kind, Cleve, and if they allow me I'll see you to-morrow, and you'll
tell me what's in the papers, for they won't let me read; and there
will be this funeral, you know--about it--your poor dear grandmother;
she'll of course--she'll be buried; you'll have to see to that, you
know; and Larkin, you know--he'll save you trouble, and--and--hey! ha,
ha--hoo! Very pleasant! Good gracious, what torture! Ha!--Oh, dear!
Well, I think I've made everything pretty clear, and you'll tell
Caroline--its only a flying gout--about it--and--and things. So I must
bid you good-bye, dear Cleve, and God bless you."

So Cleve did see Caroline Oldys at the Verney Arms, and talked a great
deal with her, in a low tone, while old Lady Wimbledon dozed in her
chair, and, no doubt, it was all about his uncle's "flying gout."

That night our friend Wynne Williams was sitting in his snuggery, a
little bit of fire was in the grate, the air being sharp, his
tea-things on the table, and the cozy fellow actually reading a novel,
with his slippered feet on the fender.

It was half-past nine o'clock, a rather rakish hour in Cardyllian,
when the absorbed attorney was aroused by a tap at his door.

I think I have already mentioned that in that town of the golden age,
hall-doors stand open, in evidence of "ancient faith that knows no
guile," long after dark.

"Come in," said Wynne Williams; and to his amazement who should enter,
not with the conventional smile of greeting, but pale, dark, and
wo-begone, but the tall figure of Mrs. Rebecca Mervyn.

Honest Wynne Williams never troubled himself about ghosts, but he had
read of spectral illusions, and old Mrs. Mervyn unconsciously
encouraged a fancy that the thing he greatly feared had come upon him,
and that he was about to become a victim to that sort of
hallucination. She stood just a step within the door, looking at him,
and he, with his novel, on his knee, stared at her as fixedly.

"She's dead," said the old lady.

"_Who?_" exclaimed the attorney.

"The Dowager Lady Verney," she continued, rather than answered.

"I was so much astonished, ma'am, to see you here; you haven't been
down in the town these twelve years, I think. I could scarce believe
my eyes. Won't you come in, ma'am? Pray do." The attorney by this time
was on his legs, and doing the honours, much relieved, and he placed a
chair for her. "If it's any business, ma'am, I'll be most happy, or
any time you like."

"Yes, she's dead," said she again.

"Oh, come in, ma'am--_do_--so is Queen Anne," said the attorney,
laughing kindly. "I heard _that_ early to-day; we _all_ heard it, and
we're sorry, of course. Sit down, ma'am. But then she was not very far
from a hundred, and we're all mortal. Can I do anything for you,
ma'am?"

"She was good to me--a proud woman--hard, they used to say; but she
was good to me--yes, sir--and so she's gone, at last. She was
frightened at them--there was something in them--my poor head--you
know--_I_ couldn't see it, and I did not care--for the little child
was gone; it was only two months old, and she was ninety years; it's a
long time, and now she's in her shroud, poor thing! and I may speak to
you."

"Do, ma'am--pray; but it's growing late, and hadn't we better come to
the point a bit?"

She was sitting in the chair he had placed for her, and she had
something under her cloak, a thick book it might be, which she held
close in her arms. She placed it on the table and it turned out to be
a small tin box with a padlock.

"Papers, ma'am?" he inquired.

"Will you read them, sir, and see what ought to be done--there's the
key?"

"Certainly, ma'am;" and having unlocked it, he disclosed two little
sheaves of papers, neatly folded and endorsed.

The attorney turned these over rapidly, merely reading at first the
little note of its contents written upon each. "By Jove!" he
exclaimed; he looked very serious now, with a frown, and the corners
of his mouth drawn down, like a man who witnesses something horrible.

"And, ma'am, how long have you had these?"

"Since Mr. Sedley died."

"I know; that's more than twenty years, I think; did you show them to
anyone?"

"Only to the poor old lady who's gone."

"Ay, I see."

There was a paper endorsed "Statement of Facts," and this the attorney
was now reading.

"Now, ma'am, do you wish to place these papers in my hands, that I may
act upon them as the interests of those who are nearest to you may
require?"

She looked at him with a perplexed gaze, and said, "_Yes_, sir,
certainly."

"Very well, ma'am; then I must go up to town at once. It's a very
serious affair, ma'am, and I'll do my duty by you."

"Can you understand them, sir?"

"N--_no_--that is, I must see counsel in London; I'll be back again in
a day or two. Leave it all to me, ma'am, and the moment I know
anything for certain, you shall know all about it."

The old woman asked the question as one speaks in their sleep,
without hearing the answer. Her finger was to her lip, and she was
looking down with a knitted brow.

"Ay, she was proud--I _promised_--proud--she was--very high--it will
be in Penruthyn, she told me she would be buried there--Dowager Lady
Verney! I wish, sir, it had been I."

She drew her cloak about her and left the room, and he accompanied her
with the candle to the hall-door, and saw her hurry up the street.

Now and then a passenger looked at the tall cloaked figure gliding
swiftly by, but no one recognised her.

The attorney was gaping after her in deep abstraction, and when she
was out of sight he repeated, with a resolute wag of his head--

"I _will_ do my duty by you--and a serious affair, upon _my soul_! A
_very_ serious affair it is."

And so he closed the door, and returned to his sitting-room in deep
thought, and very strange excitement, and continued reading those
papers till one o'clock in the morning.



CHAPTER XVIII.

MR. DINGWELL AND MRS. MERVYN CONVERSE.


CLEVE was assiduous in consoling Miss Caroline Oldys, a duty specially
imposed upon him by the voluntary absence of Lady Wimbledon, who spent
four or five hours every day at Malory, with an equally charitable
consideration for the spirits of Lord Verney, who sat complaining in
pain and darkness.

Every day he saw more or less of the Rev. Isaac Dixie, but never
alluded to his midnight interview with him at Clay Rectory. Only once,
a little abruptly, he had said to him, as they walked together on the
green----

"I say, you must manage your duty for two Sundays more--you _must_
stay here for the funeral--that will be on Tuesday week."

Cleve said no more; but he looked at him with a fixed meaning in his
eye, with which the clergyman somehow could not parley.

At the post-office, to which Miss Oldys had begged his escort, a
letter awaited him. His address was traced in the delicate and
peculiar hand of that beautiful being who in those very scenes had
once filled every hour of his life with dreams, and doubts, and hopes;
and now how did he feel as those slender characters met his eye? Shall
I say, as the murderer feels when some relic of his buried crime is
accidentally turned up before his eyes--chilled with a pain that
reaches on to doomsday--with a tremor of madness--with an insufferable
disgust?

Smiling, he put it with his other letters in his pocket, and felt as
if every eye looked on him with suspicion--with dislike; and as if
little voices in the air were whispering, "It is from his wife--from
his wife--from his wife."

Tom Sedley was almost by his side, and had just got his
letters--filling him, too, with dismay--posted not ten minutes before
from Malory, and smiting his last hope to the centre.

"Look at it, Cleve," he said, half an hour later. "I thought all these
things might have softened him--his own illness and his mother's
death; and the Etherages--by Jove, I think he'll ruin them; the poor
old man is going to leave Hazelden in two or three weeks, and--and
he's _utterly_ ruined I think, and all by that d--d lawsuit, that
Larkin knows perfectly well Lord Verney can never succeed in; but in
the meantime it will be the ruin of that nice family, that were so
happy there; and look--here it is--my own letter returned--so
insulting--like a beggar's petition; and this note--not even signed by
him."

"Lord Verney is indisposed; he has already expressed his fixed opinion
upon the subject referred to in Mr. Sedley's statement, which he
returns; he declines discussing it, and refers Mr. Sedley again to his
solicitor."

So, disconsolate Sedley, having opened his griefs to Cleve, went on to
Hazelden, where he was only too sure to meet with a thoroughly
sympathetic audience.

A week passed, and more. And now came the day of old Lady Verney's
funeral. It was a long procession--tenants on horseback, tenants on
foot--the carriages of all the gentlemen round about.

On its way to Penruthyn Priory the procession passed by the road,
ascending the steep by the little church of Llanderris, and full in
view, through a vista in the trees, of the upper windows of the
steward's house.

Our friend Mr. Dingwell, whose journey had cost him a cold, got his
clothes on for this occasion, and was in the window, with a
field-glass, which had amused him on the road from London.

He had called up Mrs. Mervyn's servant girl to help him to the names
of such people as she might recognise.

As the hearse, with its grove of sable plumes, passed up the steep
road, he was grave for a few minutes; and he said--

"That was a good woman. Well for _you_, ma'am, if you have ever
one-twentieth part of her virtues. She did not know how to make her
virtues pleasant, though; she liked to have people afraid of her; and
if you have people afraid of you, my dear, the odds are they'll hate
you. We can't have everything--virtue and softness, fear and love--in
this queer world. An excellent--severe--most ladylike woman. What are
they stopping for now? Oh! There they go again. The only ungenteel
thing she ever did is what she has begun to do now--to rot; but she'll
do it _alone_, in the _dark_, you see; and there _is_ a right and a
wrong, and she did some good in her day."

The end of his queer homily he spoke in a tone a little gloomy, and he
followed the hearse awhile with his glass.

In two or three minutes more the girl thought she heard him sob; and
looking up, with a shock, perceived that his face was gleaming with a
sinister laugh.

"What a precious coxcomb that fellow Cleve is--chief mourner,
egad--and he does it pretty well. 'My inky cloak, good mother.' He
looks so sorry, I almost believe he's thinking of his uncle's wedding.
'Thrift, Horatio, thrift!' I say, miss--I always forget your name. My
dear young lady, be so good, will you, as to say I feel better to-day,
and should be very happy to see Mrs. Mervyn, if she could give me ten
minutes?"

So she ran down upon her errand, and he drew back from the window,
suffering the curtain to fall back as before, darkening the room; and
Mr. Dingwell sat himself down, with his back to the little light that
entered, drawing his robe-de-chambre about him and resting his chin on
his hand.

"Come in, ma'am," said Mr. Dingwell, in answer to a tap at the door,
and Mrs. Mervyn entered. She looked in the direction of the speaker,
but could see only a shadowy outline, the room was so dark.

"Pray, madam, sit down on the chair I've set for you by the table. I'm
at last well enough to see you. You'll have questions to put to me.
I'll be happy to tell you all I know. I was with poor Arthur Verney,
as you are aware, when he died."

"I have but one hope now, sir--to see him hereafter. Oh, sir! _did_ he
think of his unhappy soul--of heaven."

"Of the other place he did think, ma'am. I've heard him wish evil
people, such as clumsy servants and his brother here, in it; but I
suppose you mean to ask was he devout--eh?"

"Yes, sir; it has been my prayer, day and night, in my long solitude.
What prayers, what prayers, what terrible prayers, God only knows."

"Your prayers were heard, ma'am; he was a saint."

"Thank God!"

"The most punctual, edifying, self-tormenting saint I ever had the
pleasure of knowing in any quarter of the globe," said Mr. Dingwell.

"_Oh!_ thank God."

"His reputation for sanctity in Constantinople was immense, and at
both sides of the Bosphorus he was the admiration of the old women and
the wonder of the little boys, and an excellent Dervish, a friend of
his, who was obliged to leave after having been bastinadoed for a
petty larceny, told me he has seen even the town dogs and the asses
hold down their heads, upon my life, as he passed by, to receive his
blessing!"

"Superstition--but still it shows, sir"----

"To be sure it does, ma'am."

"It shows that his sufferings--my darling Arthur--had made a real
change."

"Oh! a _complete_ change, ma'am. Egad, a _very_ complete change,
_indeed_!"

"When he left this, sir, he was--oh! my darling! thoughtless,
volatile"----

"An infidel and a scamp--eh? So he told me, ma'am."

"And I have prayed that his sufferings might be sanctified to him,"
she continued, "and that he might be converted, even though I should
never see him more."

"So he was, ma'am; _I_ can vouch for that," said Mr. Dingwell.

Again poor Mrs. Mervyn broke into a rapture of thanksgiving.

"Vastly lucky you've been, ma'am; _all_ your prayers about him, egad,
seem to have been granted. Pity you did not pray for something he
might have enjoyed more. But all's for the best--eh?"

"All things work together for good--all for good," said the old lady,
looking upward, with her hands clasped.

"And you're as happy at his _conversion_, ma'am, as the Ulema who
received him into the faith of Mahomet--_happier_, I really think.
Lucky dog! what interest he inspires, what joy he diffuses, even now,
in Mahomet's paradise, I dare say. It's worth while being a sinner for
the sake of the conversion, ma'am."

"Sir--sir, I can't understand," gasped the old lady, after a pause.

"No difficulty, ma'am, none in the world."

"For God's sake, _don't_; I think I'm going _mad_" cried the poor
woman.

"Mad, my good lady! Not a bit. What's the matter? Is it Mahomet?
You're not afraid of _him_?"

"Oh, sir, for the _Lord's_ sake tell me what you mean?" implored she,
wildly.

"I mean _that_, to be sure; what I _say_," he replied. "I mean that
the gentleman complied with the custom of the country--don't you
see?--and submitted to Kismet. It was his fate, ma'am; it's the
invariable condition; and they'd have handed him over to his Christian
compatriots to murder, according to Frank law, otherwise. So, ma'am,
he shaved his head, put on a turban--they wore turbans then--and, with
his Koran under his arm, walked into a mosque, and said his say about
Allah and the rest, and has been safe ever since."

"Oh, oh, oh!" cried the poor old lady, trembling in a great agony.

"Ho! _no_, ma'am; 'twasn't much," said he, briskly.

"All, all; the last hope!" cried she, wildly.

"Don't run away with it, pray. It's a very easy and gentlemanlike
faith, Mahometanism--except in the matter of wine; and even that you
can have, under the rose, like other things here, ma'am, that aren't
quite orthodox; eh?" said Mr. Dingwell.

"Oh, Arthur, Arthur!" moaned the poor lady distractedly, wringing her
hands.

"Suppose, ma'am, we pray it may turn out to have been the right way.
Very desirable, since Arthur died in it," said Mr. Dingwell.

"Oh, sir, oh! I couldn't have believed it. Oh, sir, this shock--this
frightful shock!"

"Courage, madam! Console yourself. Let us hope he didn't believe this
any more than the other," said Mr. Dingwell.

Mrs. Mervyn leaned her cheek on her thin clasped hands, and was
rocking herself to and fro in her misery.

"I was with him, you know, in his last moments," said Mr. Dingwell,
shrugging sympathetically, and crossing his leg. "It's always
interesting, those last moments--eh?--and exquisitely affecting,
even--_particularly_ if it isn't very clear _where_ the fellow's
going."

A tremulous moan escaped the old lady.

"And he called for some wine. That's comforting, and has a flavour of
Christianity, eh? A _relapse_, don't you think, very nearly?--at so
unconvivial a moment. It must have been _principle_; eh? Let us
hope."

The old lady's moans and sighs were her answers.

"And now that I think on it, he must have died a Christian," said Mr.
Dingwell, briskly.

The old lady looked up, and listened breathlessly.

"Because, after we thought he was speechless, there was one of those
what-d'ye-call-'ems--begging dervish fellows--came into the room, and
kept saying one of their long yarns about the prophet Mahomet, and my
dying friend made me a sign; so I put my ear to his lips, and he said
distinctly, 'He be d--d!'--I beg your pardon; but last words are
always precious."

Here came a pause.

Mr. Dingwell was quite bewildering this trembling old lady.

"And the day before," resumed Mr. Dingwell, "Poor Arthur said,
'They'll bury me here under a turban; but I should like a mural tablet
in old Penruthyn church. They'd be ashamed of my name, I think; so
they can put on it the date of my decease, and the simple inscription,
Check-mate.' But whether he meant to himself or his creditors I'm not
able to say."

Mrs. Mervyn groaned.

"It's very interesting. And he had a message for you, ma'am. He called
you by a name of endearment. He made me stoop, lest I should miss a
word, and he said, 'Tell my little linnet,' said he"--

But here Mr. Dingwell was interrupted. A wild cry, a wild laugh,
and--"Oh, Arthur, it's _you_!"

He felt, as he would have said, "oddly" for a moment--a sudden flood
of remembrance, of youth. The worn form of that old outcast, who had
not felt the touch of human kindness for nearly thirty years, was
clasped in the strain of an inextinguishable and angelic love--in the
thin arms of one likewise faded and old, and near the long sleep in
which the heart is fluttered and pained no more.

There was a pause, a faint laugh, a kind of sigh, and he said--

"So you've found me out."

"Darling, darling! you're not changed?"

"Change!" he answered, in a low tone. "There's a change, little
linnet, from summer to winter; where the flowers were the snow is.
Draw the curtain, and let us look on one another."



CHAPTER XIX.

THE GREEK MERCHANT SEES LORD VERNEY.


OUR friend, Wynne Williams, made a much longer stay than he had
expected in London. From him, too, Tom Sedley received about this time
a mysterious summons to town, so urgent and so solemn that he felt
there was something extraordinary in it; and on consultation with the
Etherage girls, those competent advisers settled that he should at
once obey it.

Tom wrote to Agnes on the evening of his arrival--

"I have been for an hour with Wynne Williams; you have no notion what
a good fellow he is, and what a wonderfully clever fellow. There is
something _very_ good in prospect for me, but not yet certain, and I
am bound not to tell a human being. But _you_, I will, of course, the
moment I know it for certain. It may turn out nothing at all; but we
are working very hard all the same."

In the meantime, down at Malory, things were taking a course of which
the good people of Cardyllian had not a suspicion.

With a little flush over his grim, brown face, with a little jaunty
swagger, and a slight screwing of his lips, altogether as if he had
sipped a little too much brandy-and-water--though he had nothing of
the kind that day--giggling and chuckling over short sentences; with a
very determined knitting of his eyebrows, and something in his eyes
unusually sinister, which a sense of danger gives to a wicked face,
Mr. Dingwell walked down the clumsy stairs of the steward's house, and
stood within the hatch.

There he meditated for a few moments, with compressed lips, and a
wandering sweep of his eyes along the stone urns and rose bushes that
stood in front of the dwarf wall, which is backed by the solemn old
trees of Malory.

"In for a penny, in for a pound."

And he muttered a Turkish sentence, I suppose equivalent; and thus
fortified by the wisdom of nations, he stepped out upon the broad
gravel walk, looked about him for a second or two, as if recalling
recollections, in a sardonic mood, and then walked round the corner to
the front of the house, and up the steps, and pulled at the door bell;
the knocker had been removed in tenderness to Lord Verney's irritable
nerves.

Two of his tall footmen in powder and livery were there, conveyed into
this exile from Ware; for calls of inquiry were made here, and a
glimpse of state was needed to overawe the bumpkins.

"His lordship was better; was sitting in the drawing-room; might
possibly see the gentleman; and who should he say, please?"

"Say, Mr. Dingwell, the great Greek merchant, who has a most important
communication to make."

His lordship would see Mr. Dingwell. Mr. Dingwell's name was called to
a second footman, who opened a door, and announced him.

Lady Wimbledon, who had been sitting at the window reading aloud to
Lord Verney at a little chink of light, abandoned her pamphlet, and
rustled out by another door, as the Greek merchant entered.

Dim at best, and very unequal was the light. The gout had touched his
lordship's right eyeball, which was still a little inflamed, and the
doctor insisted on darkness.

There was something diabolically waggish in Mr. Dingwell's face, if
the noble lord could only have seen it distinctly, as he entered the
room. He was full of fun; he was enjoying a coming joke, with perhaps
a little spice of danger in it, and could hardly repress a giggle.

The Viscount requested Mr. Dingwell to take a chair, and that
gentleman waited till the servant had closed the door, and then
thanked Lord Verney in a strange nasal tone, quite unlike Mr.
Dingwell's usual voice.

"I come here, Lord Verney, with an important communication to make. I
could have made it to some of the people about you--and you have able
professional people--or to your nephew; but it is a pleasure, Lord
Verney, to speak instead to the cleverest man in England."

The noble lord bowed a little affably, although he might have
questioned Mr. Dingwell's right to pay him compliments in his own
house; but Mr. Dingwell's fiddlestick had touched the right string,
and the noble instrument made music accordingly. Mr. Dingwell, in the
dark, looked very much amused.

"I can hardly style myself _that_, Mr. Dingwell."

"I speak of _business_, Lord Verney; and I adopt the language of the
world in saying the cleverest man in England."

"I'm happy to say my physician allows me to listen to reading, and to
talk a little, and there can be no objection to a little business
either," said Lord Verney, passing by the compliment this time, but,
on the whole, good-humouredly disposed toward Mr. Dingwell.

"I've two or three things to mention, Lord Verney; and the first is
money."

Lord Verney coughed drily. He was suddenly recalled to a consciousness
of Mr. Dingwell's character.

"Money, my lord. The name makes you cough, as smoke does a man with an
asthma. I've found it all my life as hard to keep, as you do to part
with. If I had but possessed Lord Verney's instincts and abilities, I
should have been at this moment one of the wealthiest men in England."

Mr. Dingwell rose as he said this, and bowed towards Lord Verney.

"I said I should name it first; but as your lordship coughs, we had,
perhaps, best discuss it last. Or, indeed, if it makes your lordship
cough very much, perhaps we had better postpone it, or leave it
entirely to your lordship's discretion--as I wouldn't for the world
send this little attack into your chest."

Lord Verney thought Mr. Dingwell less unreasonable, but also more
flighty, than he had supposed.

"You are quite at liberty, sir, to treat your subjects in what order
you please. I wish you to understand that I have no objection to hear
you; and--and you may proceed."

"The next is a question on which I presume we shall find ourselves in
perfect accord. I had the honour, as you are very well aware, of an
intimate acquaintance with your late brother, the Honourable Arthur
Verney, and beyond measure I admired his talents, which were second in
brilliancy only to your own. I admired even his _principles_--but I
see they make you cough also. They were, it is true, mephitic,
sulphurous, such as might well take your breath, or that of any other
moral man, quite away; but they had what I call the Verney stamp upon
them; they were perfectly consistent, and quite harmonious. His, my
lord, was the intense and unflinching rascality, if you permit me the
phrase, of a man of genius, and I honoured it. Now, my lord, his
adventures were curious, as you are aware, and I have them at my
fingers' ends--his crimes, his escape, and, above all, his life in
Constantinople--ha, ha, ha! It would make your hair stand on end. And
to think he should have been _your brother_! Upon my _soul_! Though,
as I said, the genius--the _genius_, Lord Verney--the inspiration was
there. In _that_ he _was_ your brother."

"I'm aware, sir, that he had talent, Mr. Dingwell, and could
speak--about it. At Oxford he was considered the most promising young
man of his time--almost."

"Yes, except _you_; but you were two years later."

"Yes, exactly. I was precisely two years later about it."

"Yes, my lord, you were always about it; so he told me. No matter what
it was--a book, or a boot-jack, or a bottle of port, you were always
about it. It was a way you had, he said--about it."

"I wasn't aware that anyone remarked any such thing--about it," said
Lord Verney, very loftily.

It dawned dimly upon him that Mr. Dingwell, who was a very irregular
person, was possibly intoxicated. But Mr. Dingwell was speaking,
though in a very nasal, odd voice, yet with a clear and sharp
articulation, and in a cool way, not the least like a man in that sort
of incapacity. Lord Verney concluded, therefore, that Mr. Dingwell was
either a remarkably impertinent person, or most insupportably
deficient in the commonest tact. I think he would have risen, even at
the inconvenience of suddenly disturbing his flannelled foot, and
intimated that he did not feel quite well enough to continue the
conversation, had he not known something of Mr. Dingwell's dangerous
temper, and equally dangerous knowledge and opportunities; for had
they not subsidized Mr. Dingwell, in the most unguarded manner, and
on the most monstrous scale, pending the investigation and proof
before the Lords? "It was inevitable," Mr. Larkin said, "but also a
little awkward; although _they_ knew that the man had sworn nothing
but truth." _Very_ awkward, _Lord Verney_ thought, and therefore he
endured Mr. Dingwell.

But the "great Greek merchant," as, I suppose half jocularly, he
termed himself, not only seemed odious at this moment, by reason of
his impertinence, but also formidable to Lord Verney, who, having
waked from his dream that Dingwell would fly beyond the Golden Horn
when once his evidence was given, and the coronet well fixed on the
brows of the Hon. Kiffyn Fulke Verney, found himself still haunted by
this vampire bat, which hung by its hooked wing, sometimes in the
shadows of Rosemary Court--sometimes in those of the old Steward's
House--sometimes hovering noiselessly nearer--always with its eyes
upon him, threatening to fasten on his breast, and drain him.

The question of money he would leave "to his discretion." But what did
his impertinence mean? Was it not minatory? And to what exorbitant
sums in a choice of evils might not "discretion" point?

"This d--d Mr. Dingwell," thought Lord Verney "will play the devil
with my gout. I wish he was at the bottom of the Bosphorus."

"Yes. And your brother, Arthur--there were points in which he differed
from you. Unless I'm misinformed, he was a first-rate cricketer, the
crack bat of their team, and you were _nothing_; he was one of the
best Grecians in the university, and you were plucked."

"I--I don't exactly see the drift of your rather inaccurate and
extremely offensive observations, Mr. Dingwell," said Lord Verney,
wincing and flushing in the dark.

"Offensive? Good heaven! But I'm talking to a Verney, to a man of
genius; and I say, how the devil could I tell that _truth_ could
offend, either? With this reflection I forgive _myself_, and I go on
to say what will interest you."

Lord Verney, who had recovered his presence of mind, here nodded, to
intimate that he was ready to hear him.

"Well, there were a few other points, but I need not mention them, in
which you differed. You were both alike in this--each was a
genius--you were an opaque and obscure genius, he a brilliant one; but
each being a genius, there must have been a sympathy, notwithstanding
his being a publican and you a--not exactly a Pharisee, but a paragon
of prudence."

"I really, Mr. Dingwell, must request--you see I'm far from well,
about it--that you'll be so good as a little to abridge your remarks;
and I don't want to hear--you can easily, I hope, understand--my poor
brother talked of in any but such terms as a brother should listen
to."

"That arises, Lord Verney, from your not having had the advantage of
his society for so very many years. Now, I knew him intimately, and I
can undertake to say he did not care twopence what any one on earth
thought of him, and it rather amused him painting infernal caricatures
of himself, as a fiend or a monkey, and he often made me laugh by the
hour--ha, ha, ha! he amused himself with revealed religion, and with
everything sacred, sometimes even with _you_--ha, ha, ha--he _had_
certainly a wonderful sense of the ridiculous."

"May I repeat my request, if it does not appear to you _very_
unreasonable?" again interrupted Lord Verney, "and may I entreat to
know what it is you wish me to understand about it, in as few words as
you can, sir?"

"Certainly, Lord Verney; it is just this. As I have got materials,
perfectly authentic, from my deceased friend, both about
himself--horribly racy, you may suppose--ha, ha, ha--about your
grand-uncle Pendel--you've heard of him, of course--about your aunt
Deborah, poor thing, who sold mutton pies in Chester,--I was
thinking--suppose I write a memoir--Arthur alone deserves it; you pay
the expenses; I take the profits, and I throw you in the copyright for
a few thousand more, and call it, 'Snuffed-out lights of the Peerage,'
or something of the kind? I think something is due to Arthur--don't
you?"

"I think you can hardly be serious, Mr.--Mr.----"

"Perfectly serious, upon my soul, my lord. Could anything be more
curious? Eccentricity's the soul of genius, and you're proud of your
genius, I _hope_."

"What strikes me, Mr. Dingwell, amounts, in short, to something like
this. My poor brother, he has been unfortunate, about it, and--and
_worse_, and he has done things, and I ask myself _why_ there should
be an effort to obtrude him, and I answer myself, there's no reason,
about it, and therefore I vote to have everything as it is, and I
shall neither contribute my countenance, about it, nor money to any
such undertaking, or--or--undertaking."

"Then my book comes to the ground, egad."

Lord Verney simply raised his head with a little sniff, as if he were
smelling at a snuff-box.

"Well, Arthur must have something, you know."

"My brother, the Honourable Arthur Kiffyn Verney, is past receiving
anything at my hands, and I don't think he probably looked for
anything, about it, at any time from _yours_."

"Well, but it's just the time for what I'm thinking of. You wouldn't
give him a tombstone in his lifetime, I suppose, though you _are_ a
genius. Now, I happen to know he wished a tombstone. _You_'d like a
tombstone, though not now--time enough in a year or two, when you're
fermenting in your lead case."

"I'm not thinking of tombstones at present, sir, and it appears to me
that you are giving yourself a very unusual latitude--about it."

"I don't mean in the mausoleum at Ware. Of course that's a place where
people who have led a decorous life putrify together. I meant at the
small church of Penruthyn, where the scamps await judgment."

"I--a--don't see that such a step is properly for the consideration of
any persons--about it--outside the members of the Verney family, or
more properly, of any but the representatives of that family," said
Lord Verney, loftily, "and you'll excuse my not admitting, or--or, in
fact, admitting any right in anyone else."

"He wished it immensely."

"I can't understand why, sir."

"Nor I; but I suppose you all get them--all ticketed--eh? and I'd
write the epitaph, only putting in essentials, though, egad! in such a
life it would be as long as a newspaper."

"I've already expressed my opinion, and--and things, and I have
nothing to add."

"Then the tombstone comes to the ground also?"

"Anything _more_, sir?"

"But, my lord, he showed an immense consideration for you."

"I don't exactly recollect _how_."

"By _dying_--you've got hold of everything, don't you see, and you
grudge him a tablet in the little church of Penruthyn, by gad! I told
your nephew he wished it, and I tell you he wished it; it's not
stinginess, it's your mean pride."

"You seem, Mr. Dingwell, to fancy that there's no limit to the
impertinence I'll submit to."

"I'm sure there's none almost--you better not ring the bell--you
better think twice--he gave me that message, and he also left me a
mallet--quite a toy--but a single knock of it would bring Verney
House, or Ware, or this place, about your ears."

The man was speaking in quite another voice now, and in the most
awful tones Lord Verney had ever heard in his life, and to his alarmed
and sickly eyes it seemed as if the dusky figure of his visitor were
dilating in the dark like an evoked Genii.

"I--I think about it--it's quite unaccountable--all this." Lord Verney
was looking at the stranger as he spoke, and groping with his left
hand for the old-fashioned bell-rope which used to hang near him in
the library in Verney House, forgetting that there was no bell of any
sort within his reach at that moment.

"I'm not going to take poor dear Arthur's mallet out of my pocket, for
the least tap of it would make all England ring and _roar_, sir. No,
I'll make no noise; you and I, sir, _tête-à-tête_. I'll have no
go-between; no Larkin, no Levi, no Cleve; you and I'll settle it alone.
Your brother was a great Grecian, they used to call him [Greek:
Odusseus]--Ulysses. Do you remember? I said I was the great Greek
merchant? We have made an exchange together. You must pay. What shall I
call myself, for Dingwell isn't my name. I'll take a new one--To [Greek:
men prôton Outin heauton epikalei--epeidande diepheuge
kai exô ên belous Odussyn onomazesthai ephê] In English--at
first he called himself Outis--_Nobody_; but so soon as he had escaped,
and was out of the javelin's reach, he said that he was named
Odusseus--_Ulysses_, and here he is. This is the return of Ulysses!"

There had been a sudden change in Mr. Dingwell's Yankee intonation.
The nasal tones were heard no more. He approached the window, and
said, with a laugh, pulling the shutter more open--

"Why, Kiffyn, you fool, don't you know me?"

There was a silence.

"My great God! my great God of heaven!" came from the white lips of
Lord Verney.

"Yes; God's over all," said Arthur Verney, with a strange confusion,
between a sneer and something more genuine.

There was a long pause.

"Ha, ha, ha! don't make a scene! Not such a muff?" said Dingwell.

Lord Verney was staring at him with a face white and peaked as that of
a corpse, and whispering still--"My God! my great God!" so that
Dingwell, as I still call him, began to grow uneasy.

"Come; don't you make mountains of molehills. What the devil's all
this fuss about? Here, drink a little of this." He poured out some
water, and Lord Verney did sip a little, and then gulped down a good
deal, and then he looked at Arthur again fixedly, and groaned.

"That's right--never mind. I'll not hurt you. Don't fancy I mean to
disturb you. I _can't_, you know, if I wished it _ever_ so much. I
daren't _show_--I _know_ it. Don't suppose I want to _bully_ you; the
idea's _impracticable_. I looked in merely to tell you, in a friendly
way, who I am. You must do something handsome for me, you know.
Devil's in it if a fellow can't get a share of his own money, and, as
I said before, we'll have no go-betweens, no Jews or attorneys. D--n
them all--but settle it between ourselves, like brothers. Sip a little
more water."

"Arthur, Arthur, I say, _yes_; good God, I feel I shall have a good
deal to say; but--my head, and things--I'm a little perplexed still,
and I must have a glass of wine, about it, and I can't do it now; no,
I can't."

"I don't live far away, you know; and I'll look in to-morrow--we're
not in a hurry."

"It was a strange idea, Arthur. Good Lord, have mercy on me!"

"Not a bad one; eh?"

"Very odd, Arthur!--God forgive you."

"Yes, my dear Kiffyn, and you, too."

"The coronet--about it? I'm placed in a dreadful position, but you
shan't be compromised, Arthur. Tell them I'm not very well, and some
_wine_, I think--a little chill."

"And to-morrow I can look in again, quietly," said the Greek
merchant, "or whenever you like, and I shan't disclose our little
confidence."

"It's going--everything, everything; I shall see it by-and-by," said
Lord Verney, helplessly.

And thus the interview ended, and Mr. Dingwell in the hall gave the
proper alarm about Lord Verney.



CHAPTER XX.

A BREAK-DOWN.


ABOUT an hour after, a message came down from Malory for the doctor.

"How is his lordship?" asked the doctor, eagerly.

"No, it isn't _him_, sure; it is the old _lady_ is taken very bad."

"Lady Wimbledon?"

"No, sure. Her ladyship's not there. Old Mrs. Mervyn."

"Oh!" said the doctor, tranquillized. "Old Rebecca Mervyn, is it? And
what may be the matter with the poor old lady?"

"Fainting like; one fainting into another, sure; and her breath almost
gone. She's very bad--as pale as a sheet."

"Is she talking at all?"

"No, not a word. Sittin' back in her chair, sure."

"Does she know you, or mind what you say to her?"

"Well, _no_. She's a-holdin' that old white-headed man's hand that's
been so long bad there, and a-lookin' at him; but I don't think she
hears nor sees nothin' myself."

"Apoplexy, or the heart, more likely," ruminated the doctor. "Will you
call one of those pony things for me?"

And while the pony-carriage was coming to the door, he got a few
phials together and his coat on, being in a hurry; for he was to play
a rubber of billiards at the club for five shillings at seven o'clock.

In an hour's time after the interview with Arthur Verney, Lord Verney
had wonderfully collected his wits. His effects in that department, it
is true, were not very much, and perhaps the more easily brought
together. He wrote two short letters--marvellously short for him--and
sent down to the Verney Arms to request the attendance of Mr. Larkin.

Lord Verney was calm; he was even gentle; spoke, in his dry way,
little, and in a low tone. He had the window-shutter opened quite, and
the curtains drawn back, and seemed to have forgotten his invalided
state, and everything but the revolution which in a moment had
overtaken and engulfed him--to which great anguish with a dry
resignation he submitted.

Over the chimney was a little oval portrait of his father, the late
Lord Verney, taken when they wore the hair long, falling back upon
their shoulders. A pretty portrait, refined, handsome, insolent. How
dulled it was by time and neglect--how criss-crossed over with little
cracks; the evening sun admitted now set it all aglow.

"A very good portrait. How has it been overlooked so long? It must be
preserved; it shall go to Verney House. To Verney House? I forgot."

Mr. Jos. Larkin, in obedience to this sudden summons, was speedily
with Lord Verney. With this call a misgiving came. The attorney smiled
blandly, and talked in his meekest and happiest tones; but people who
knew his face would have remarked that sinister contraction of the eye
to which in moments of danger or treachery he was subject, and which,
in spite of his soft tones and child-like smile, betrayed the fear or
the fraud of that vigilant and dangerous Christian.

When he entered the room, and saw Lord Verney's face pale and stern,
he had no longer a doubt.

Lord Verney requested Mr. Larkin to sit down, and prepare for
something that would surprise him.

He then proceeded to tell Mr. Larkin that the supposed Mr. Dingwell
was, in fact, his brother, the Hon. Arthur Verney, and that,
therefore, he was not Lord Verney, but only as before, the Hon. Kiffyn
Fulke Verney.

Mr. Larkin saw that there was an up-hill game and a heavy task before
him. It was certain now, and awful. This conceited and foolish old
nobleman, and that devil incarnate, his brother, were to be managed,
and those Jew people, who might grow impracticable; and doors were to
be muffled, and voices lowered, and a stupendous secret kept. Still he
did not despair--if people would only be true to themselves.

When Lord Verney came to that part of his brief narrative where,
taking some credit dismally to himself for his penetration, he stated
that "notwithstanding that the room was dark and his voice disguised,
I recognized him; and you may conceive, Mr. Larkin, that when I made
the discovery I was a good deal disturbed about it."

Mr. Larkin threw up his eyes and hands--

"_What_ a world it is, my dear Lord Verney! for so I persist in
styling you still, for this will prove virtually no interruption."

At the close of his sentence the attorney lowered his voice earnestly.

"I don't follow you, sir, about it," replied Lord Verney,
disconsolately; "for a man who has had an illness, he looks
wonderfully well, and in good spirits and things, and as likely to
live as I am, about it."

"My remarks, my lord, were directed rather to what I may term the
animus--the design--of this, shall I call it, _demonstration_, my
lord, on the part of your lordship's brother."

"Yes, of course, the animus, about it. But it strikes me he's as
likely to outlive me as not."

"My lord, may I venture, in confidence and with great respect, to
submit, that your lordship was hardly judicious in affording him a
personal interview?"

"Why, I should hope my personal direction of that conversation,
and--and things, has been such as I should wish," said the peer, very
loftily.

"My lord, I have failed to make myself clear. I never questioned the
consummate ability with which, no doubt, your lordship's part in that
conversation was sustained. What I meant to convey is, that
considering the immense distance socially between you, the habitual
and undeviating eminence of your lordship's position, and the
melancholy circle in which it has been your brother's lot to move,
your meeting him face to face for the purpose of a personal discussion
of your relations, may lead him to the absurd conclusion that your
lordship is, in fact, afraid of him."

"That, sir, would be a very impertinent conclusion."

"Quite so, my lord, and render him proportionably impracticable. Now,
I'll undertake to bring him to reason." The attorney was speaking very
low and sternly, with contracted eyes and a darkened face. "He has
been married to the lady who lives in the house adjoining, under the
name of Mrs. Mervyn, and to my certain knowledge inquiries have been
set in motion to ascertain whether there has not been issue of that
marriage."

"You may set your mind perfectly at rest with regard to that marriage,
Mr. Larkin; the whole thing was thoroughly sifted--and things--my
father undertook it, the late Lord Verney, about it; and so it went
on, and was quite examined, and it turned out the poor woman had been
miserably deceived by a mock ceremony, and this mock thing was the
whole _thing_, and there's nothing more; the evidence was very
deplorable, and--and quite satisfactory."

"Oh! that's a great weight off my mind," said Larkin, trying to smile,
and looking very much disappointed, "a great weight, my lord."

"I knew it would--yes," acquiesced Lord Verney.

"And simplifies our dealings with the other side; for if there had
been a good marriage, and concealed issue male of that marriage, they
would have used that circumstance to _extort money_."

"Well, I don't see how they could, though; for if there had been a
child, about it--he'd have been heir apparent, don't you see? to the
title."

"Oh!--a--yes--_certainly_, that's very true, my lord; but then there's
_none_, so _that's_ at rest."

"I've just heard," interposed Lord Verney, "I may observe, that the
poor old lady, Mrs. Mervyn, is suddenly and dangerously ill."

"Oh! _is_ she?" said Mr. Larkin very uneasily, for she was, if not his
queen, at least a very valuable pawn upon his chess-board.

"Yes; the doctor thinks she's actually dying, poor old soul!"

"What a world! What is life? What is man?" murmured the attorney with
a devout feeling of the profoundest vexation. "It was for this most
melancholy character," he continued; "you'll pardon me, my lord, for
so designating a relative of your lordship's--the Honourable Arthur
Verney, who has so _fraudulently_, I will say, presented himself again
as a living claimant. Your lordship is aware of course--I shall be
going up to town possibly by the mail train to-night--that the law, if
it were permitted to act, would remove that obstacle under the old
sentence of the Court."

"Good God! sir, you can't possibly mean that I should have my brother
caught and executed?" exclaimed Lord Verney, turning quite white.

"Quite the reverse, my lord. I'm--I'm unspeakably shocked that I should
have so misconveyed myself," said Larkin, his tall bald head tinged to
its top with an ingenuous blush. "Oh no, my lord, I understand the
Verney feeling too well, thank God, to suppose anything, I will say,
so _entirely_ objectionable. I said, my lord, if it were
_permitted_, that is, allowed by simple non-_interference_--
your lordship sees--and it is precisely _because_ non-interference
must bring about that catastrophe--for I must not conceal from your
lordship the fact that there is a great deal of unpleasant talk in the
town of Cardyllian already--that I purpose running up to town to-night.
There is a Jew firm, your lordship is aware, who have a very heavy
judgment against him, and the persons of that persuasion are so
interlaced, as I may say, in matters of business, that I should
apprehend a communication to them from Goldshed and Levi, who,
by-the-by, to my certain knowledge--_what_ a world it is!--have a
person here actually watching Mr. Dingwell, or in other words, the
unhappy but Honourable Arthur Verney, in _their_ interest."
(This was in effect true, but the name of this person, which he did not
care to disclose, was Josiah Larkin.) "If I were on the spot, I think
I know a way effectually to stop all action of that sort."

"You think they'd arrest him, about it?" said Lord Verney.

"Certainly, my lord."

"It is very much to be deprecated," said Lord Verney.

"And, my lord, if you will agree to place the matter quite in my
hands, and peremptorily to decline on all future occasions, conceding
a personal interview, I'll stake my professional character, I effect a
satisfactory compromise."

"I--I don't know--I don't _see_ a compromise--there's nothing that I
see, to _settle_," said Lord Verney.

"_Every_ thing, my lord. Pardon me--your lordship mentioned that, in
point of fact, you are no longer Lord Verney; that being
so--technically, of course--measures must be taken--in short, a--a
quiet _arrangement_ with your lordship's brother, to prevent any
disturbance, and I undertake to effect it, my lord; the nature of
which will be to prevent the return of the title to abeyance, and of
the estates to the management of the trustees, whose claim for mesne
_rates_ and the liquidation of the mortgage, I need not tell your
lordship, would be ruinous to you."

"Why, sir--Mr. Larkin--I can hardly believe, sir--you can't mean, or
think it possible, sir, that I should lend myself to a deception,
and--and sit in the House of Peers by a _fraud_, sir! I'd much rather
_die_ in the debtor's prison, about it; and I consider myself
dishonoured by having involuntarily heard such an--an idea."

Poor, pompous, foolish Lord Verney stood up, so dignified and stern in
the light of his honest horror, that Mr. Larkin, who despised him
utterly, quailed before a phenomenon he could not understand.

Nothing confounded our friend Larkin, as a religious man, so much as
discovering, after he had a little unmasked, that his client would not
follow, and left him, as once or twice had happened, alone with his
dead villanous suggestion, to account for it how he could.

"Oh dear!--_surely_, my lord, your lordship did not _imagine_," said
Mr. Larkin, doing his best, "I was--I, in fact--I _supposed_ a _case_.
I only went the length of saying that I think--and with _sorrow_ I
think it--that your lordship's brother has in view an _adjustment_ of
his claim, and meant to _extract_, I fear, a sum of _money_ when he
disclosed himself, and conferred with your lordship. I meant, merely,
of course, that as he thought this I would _let_ him think it, and
allow him to disclose his plans, with a view, of course, to deal with
that information--first, of _course_, with a view to your lordship's
_honour_, and next your lordship's safety; but if your lordship did
not see your way _clearly_ to it"----

"No, I don't see--I think it most objectionable--about it. I know all
that concerns me; and I have written to two official persons--one, I
may say, the Minister himself--apprizing them of the actual position
of the title, and asking some information as to how I should proceed
in order to divest myself of it and the estates."

"Just what I should have expected from your lordship's exquisite sense
of honour," said Mr. Larkin, with a deferential bow, and a countenance
black as thunder.

That gigantic machine of torture which he had been building and
dove-tailing, with patient villany, at Lord Verney's word fell with a
crash, like an enchanted castle at its appointed spell. Well was it
for Lord Verney that the instinct of honour was strong in him, and
that he would not suffer his vulgar tempter to beguile him into one
indefensible concealment. Had he fallen, that tempter would have been
his tyrant. He would have held everything in trust for Mr. Jos.
Larkin. The effigy of Lord Verney would, indeed, have stood, on state
occasions, robed and coronetted, with his order, driven down to the
House, and sat there among hereditary senators; all around him, would
have been brilliant and luxurious, and the tall bald head of the
Christian attorney would have bowed down before the out-going and the
in-coming of the phantom. But the real peer would have sat cold and
dark enough, in Jos. Larkin's dungeon--his robe on the wall, a shirt
of Nessus--his coronet on a nail, a Neapolitan "cap of silence"--quite
tame under the rat-like eye of a terror from which he never could
escape.

There was a silence here for some time. Lord Verney leaned back with
closed eyes, exhausted. Mr. Larkin looked down on the carpet smiling
faintly, and with the tip of one finger scratching his bald head
gently. The attorney spoke--"Might I suggest, for the safety of your
lordship's unhappy brother, that the matter should be kept strictly
quiet--just for a day or two, until I shall have made arrangements for
his--may I term it--escape."

"Certainly," said Lord Verney, looking away a little. "Yes--_that_
must, of course, be arranged; and--and this marriage--I shall leave
that decision entirely in the hands of the young lady." Lord Verney
was a little agitated. "And I think, Mr. Larkin, I have said
everything at present. Good evening."

As Mr. Larkin traversed the hall of Malory, scratching the top of his
bald head with one finger, in profound and black rumination, I am
afraid his thoughts and feelings amounted to a great deal of cursing
and swearing.

"Sweet evening," he observed suddenly to the surprised servant who
opened the door for him. He was now standing at the threshold, with
his hands expanded as if he expected rain, and smiling villianously
upward toward the stars.

"Sweet evening," he repeated, and then biting his lip and looking down
for a while on the gravel, he descended and walked round the corner to
the Steward's House.



CHAPTER XXI.

MR. LARKIN'S TWO MOVES.


THE hatch of the Steward's House stood open, and Mr. Larkin entered.
There was a girl's voice crying in the room next the hall, and he
opened the door.

The little girl was sobbing with her apron to her eyes, and hearing
the noise she lowered it and looked at the door, when the lank form of
the bald attorney and his sinister face peering in met her eyes, and
arrested her lamentation with a new emotion.

"It's only I--Mr. Larkin," said he. He liked announcing himself
wherever he went. "I want to know how Mrs. Mervyn is now."

"Gone dead, sir--about a quarter of an hour ago;" and the child's
lamentation recommenced.

"Ha! very sad. The doctor here?"

"He's gone, sir."

"And you're _certain_ she's dead?"

"Yes, sure, sir," and she sobbed on.

"Stop that," he said, sternly, "just a moment--thanks. I want to see
Mr. Dingwell, the old gentleman who has been staying here--where is
he?"

"In the drawing-room, sir, please," said the child, a good deal
frightened. And to the drawing-room he mounted.

Light was streaming from a door a little open, and a fragrance also of
a peculiar tobacco, which he recognised as that of Mr. Dingwell's
chibouque. There was a sound of feet upon the floor of the room above,
which Mr. Larkin's ear received as those of persons employed in
arranging the dead body.

I would be perhaps wronging Mr. Dingwell, as I still call him, to say
that he smoked like a man perfectly indifferent. On the contrary, his
countenance looked lowering and furious--so much so that Mr. Larkin
removed his hat, a courtesy which he had intended studiously to omit.

"Oh! Mr. Dingwell," said he, "I need not introduce myself."

"No, I prefer your withdrawing yourself and shutting the door," said
Dingwell.

"Yes, in a moment, sir. I merely wish to mention that Lord Verney--I
mean your brother, sir--has fully apprized me of the conversation
with which you thought it prudent to favour him."

"You'd rather have been the medium yourself, I fancy. Something to be
made of such a situation? Hey! but you _shan't_."

"I don't know what you mean, sir, by something to be made. If I chose
to mention your name and abode in the city, sir, you'd not enjoy the
power of insulting others long."

"Pooh, sir! I've got _your_ letter and my brother's _secret_. I know
my strength. I'm steering the fire-ship that will blow you all up, if
I please; and you talk of flinging a squib at me, you blockhead! I
tell you, sir, you'll make nothing of me; and now you may as well
withdraw. There are two things in this house you don't like, though
you'll have enough of them one day; there's death up stairs, sir, and
some thing very like the devil here."

Mr. Larkin thought he saw signs of an approaching access of the
Dingwell mania, so he made his most dignified bow, and at the door
remarked, "I take my leave, sir, and when next we meet I trust I may
find you in a very different state of mind, and one more favourable to
business."

He had meditated a less covert sneer and menace, but modified his
speech prudently as he uttered it; but there was still quite enough
that was sinister in his face, as he closed the door, to strike Mr.
Dingwell's suspicion.

"Only I've got that fellow in my pocket, I'd say he was bent on
mischief; but he's in my pocket; and suppose he did, no great matter,
after all--only dying. I'm not gathering up my strength; no--I shall
never be the same man again--and life so insipid--and that poor old
doll up stairs. So many things going on under the stars, all ending
_so_!"

Yes--so many things. There was Cleve, chief mourner to-day, chatting
now wonderfully gaily, with a troubled heart, and a kind of growing
terror, to that foolish victim who no more suspected him than he did
the resurrection of his uncle Arthur, smoking his chibouque only a
mile away.

There, too, far away, is a pale, beautiful young mother, sitting on
the bed-side of her sleeping boy, weeping silently, as she looks on
his happy face, and--_thinks_.

Mr. Dingwell arrayed in travelling costume, suddenly appeared before
Lord Verney again.

"I'm not going to plague you--only this. I've an idea I shall lose my
life if I don't go to London to-night, and I must catch the mail
train. Tell your people to put the horses to your brougham, and drop
me at Llwynan."

Lord Verney chose to let his brother judge for himself in this matter,
being only too glad to get rid of him.

Shrieking through tunnels, thundering through lonely valleys, gliding
over wide, misty plains, spread abroad like lakes, the mail train bore
Arthur Verney, and also--each unconscious of the other's vicinity--Mr.
Jos. Larkin toward London.

Mr. Larkin had planned a checkmate in two moves. He had been brooding
over it in his mufflers, sometimes with his eyes shut, sometimes with
his eyes open--all night, in the corner of his carriage. When he
stepped out in the morning, with his despatch-box in his hand, whom
should he meet in the cold gray light upon the platform, full front,
but Mr. Dingwell. He was awfully startled.

Dingwell had seen him, too; Larkin had felt, as it were, his quick
glance touch him, and he was sure that Dingwell had observed his
momentary but significant change of countenance. He, therefore, walked
up to him, touched him on the arm, and said, with a smile--

"I thought, sir, I recognized you. I trust you have an attendant? Can
I do anything for you? Cold, this morning. Hadn't you better draw your
muffler up a little about your face?" There was a significance about
this last suggestion which Mr. Dingwell could not mistake, and he
complied. "Running down again to Malory in a few days, I suppose?"

"Yes," said Dingwell.

"So shall I, and if quite convenient to you, I should wish, sir, to
talk that little matter over much more carefully, and--can I call a
cab for you? I should look in upon you to-day only I must be at
Brighton, not to return till to-morrow, and very busy then, too."

They parted. Dingwell did not like it.

"He's at mischief. I've thought of _every_ thing, and I can't see
_any_ thing that would answer _his_ game. I don't like his face."

Dingwell felt very oddly. It was all like a dream; an unaccountable
horror overcame him. He sent out for a medicine that day, which the
apothecary refused to give to Mrs. Rumble. But he wrote an explanatory
note alleging that he was liable to fits, and so got back just a
little, at which he pooh'd and psha'd, and wrote to some other
apothecaries, and got together what he wanted, and told Mrs. Rumble he
was better.

He had his dinner as usual in his snuggery in Rosemary Court, and sent
two letters to the post by Mrs. Rumble. That to Lord Verney contained
Larkin's _one_ unguarded letter inviting him to visit England, and
with all the caution compatible with being intelligible, but still not
enough--suggesting the audacious game which had been so successfully
played. A brief and pointed commentary in Mr. Dingwell's handwriting,
accompanied this.

The other enclosed to Wynne Williams, to whose countenance he had
taken a fancy; the certificate of his marriage to Rebecca Mervyn, and
a reference to the Rev. Thomas Bartlett; and charged him to make use
of it to quiet any unfavourable rumours about that poor lady, who was
the only human being he believed who had ever cared much about him.

When Wynne Williams opened this letter he lifted up his hands in
wonder.

"A miracle, by heaven!" he exclaimed. "The most providential and
marvellous interposition--the _only_ thing we wanted!"

"Perhaps I was wrong to break with that villain, Larkin," brooded Mr.
Dingwell. "We must make it up when we meet. I don't like it. When he
saw me this morning his face looked like the hangman's."

It was now evening, and having made a very advantageous bargain with
the Hebrew gentleman who had that heavy judgment against the late Hon.
Arthur Verney, an outlaw, &c.--Mr. Larkin played his first move, and
amid the screams of Mrs. Rumble, old Dingwell was arrested on a
warrant against the Hon. Arthur Verney, and went away, protesting it
was a false arrest, to the Fleet.

Things now looked very awful, and he wrote to Mr. Larkin at his hotel,
begging of him to come and satisfy "some fools" that he was Mr.
Dingwell. But Jos. Larkin was not at his inn. He had not been there
that day, and Dingwell began to think that Jos. Larkin had, perhaps,
told the truth for once, and was actually at Brighton. Well, one night
in the Fleet was not very much; Larkin would appear next morning, and
Larkin could, of course, manage the question of identity, and settle
everything easily, and they would shake hands, and make it up. Mr.
Dingwell wondered why they had not brought him to a sponging-house,
but direct to the prison. But as things were done under the advice of
Mr. Jos. Larkin, in whom I have every confidence, I suppose there was
a reason.

Mr. Dingwell was of a nature which danger excites rather than cows.
The sense of adventure was uppermost. The situation by an odd reaction
stimulated his spirits, and he grew frolicsome. He felt a recklessness
that recalled his youth. He went down to the flagged yard, and made
an acquaintance or two, one in slippers and dressing-gown, another in
an evening coat buttoned across his breast, and without much show of
shirt. "Very amusing and gentlemanlike men," he thought, "though out
at elbows a little;" and not caring for solitude, he invited them to
his room, to supper; and they sat up late; and the gentleman in the
black evening coat--an actor in difficulties--turned out to be a
clever mimic, an inimitable singer of comic songs, and an admirable
_raconteur_--"a very much cleverer man than the Prime Minister, egad!"
said Mr. Dingwell.

One does see very clever fellows in odd situations. The race is not
always to the swift. The moral qualities have something to do with it,
and industry everything; and thus very dull fellows are often in very
high places. The curse implies a blessing to the man who accepts its
condition. "In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread." Labour is
the curse and the _qualification_, also; and so the dullard who toils
shall beat the genius who idles.

Dingwell enjoyed it vastly, and _lent_ the pleasant fellow a pound,
and got to his bed at three o'clock in the morning, glad to have
cheated so much of the night. But tired as he was by his journey of
the night before, he could not sleep till near six o'clock, when he
fell into a doze, and from it he was wakened oddly.

It was by Mr. Jos. Larkin's "second move." Mr. Larkin has great
malice, but greater prudence. No one likes better to give the man who
has disappointed him a knock, the condition being that he disturbs no
interest of his own by so doing. Where there is a proper
consideration, no man is more forgiving. Where interest and revenge
point the same way, he hits very hard indeed.

Mr. Larkin had surveyed the position carefully. The judgment of the
criminal court was still on record, _nullum tempus occurrit_, &c. It
was a case in which a pardon was very unlikely. There was but one way
of placing the head of the Honourable Kiffyn Fulke Verney firmly in
the vacant coronet, and of establishing him, Jos. Larkin Esq., of the
Lodge, in the valuable management of the estates and affairs of that
wealthy peerage. It was by dropping the extinguisher upon the flame of
that solitary lamp, the Hon. Arthur Verney. Of course Jos. Larkin's
hand must not appear. He himself communicated with no official person.
That was managed easily and adroitly.

He wrote, too, from Brighton to Lord Verney at Malory, the day after
his interview with that ex-nobleman, expressing the most serious
uneasiness, in consequence of having learned from a London legal
acquaintance at Brighton, that a report prevailed in certain quarters
of the city, that the person styling himself Mr. Dingwell had proved
to be the Hon. Arthur Verney, and that the Verney peerage was, in
consequence, once more on the shelf. "I treated this report slightly,
in very serious alarm notwithstanding for your brother's safety,"
wrote Mr. Larkin, "and your lordship will pardon my expressing my
regret that you should have mentioned, until the Hon. Arthur Verney
had secured an asylum outside England, the fact of his being still
living, which has filled the town unfortunately with conjecture and
speculation of a most startling nature. I was shocked to see him this
morning on the public platform of the railway, where, very possibly,
he was recognised. It is incredible how many years are needed to
obliterate recollection by the hand of time. I quietly entreated him
to conceal his face a little, a precaution which, I am happy to add,
he adopted. I am quite clear that he should leave London as
expeditiously and secretly as possible, for some sequestered spot in
France, where he can, without danger, await your lordship's decision
as to plans for his ultimate safety. May I entreat your lordship's
instantaneous attention to this most urgent and alarming subject. I
shall be in town to-morrow evening, where my usual address will reach
me, and I shall, without a moment's delay, apply myself to carry out
whatever your lordship's instructions may direct."

"Yes, he has an idea of my judgment--about it," said Lord Verney when
he had read this letter, "and a feeling about the family--very
loyal--yes, he's a very loyal person; I shall turn it over, I
will--I'll write to him."

Mr. Dingwell, however, had been wakened by two officers with a warrant
by which they were ordered to take his body and consign it to a
gaoler. Mr. Dingwell read it, and his instinct told him that Jos.
Larkin was at the bottom of his misfortune, and his heart sank.

"Very well, gentlemen," said he, briskly, "very good; it is not for
me; my name is Dingwell, and my solicitor is Mr. Jos. Larkin, and all
will be right. I must get my clothes on, if you please."

And he sat up in the bed, and bit his lip, and raised his eyebrows,
and shrugged his shoulders drearily.

"Poor linnet--ay, ay--she was not very wise, but the only one--I've
been a great fool--let us try."

There came over his face a look of inexpressible fatigue and
something like resignation--and he looked all at once ten years older.

"I'll be with you, I'll be with you, gentlemen," he said very gently.

There was a flask with some noyeau in it, relics of last night's
merry-making, to which these gentlemen took the liberty of helping
themselves.

When they looked again at their prisoner he was lying nearly on his
face, in a profound sleep, his chin on his chest.

"Choice stuff--smell o' nuts in it," said constable Ruddle, licking
his lips. "Git up, sir; ye can take a nap when you git there."

There was a little phial in the old man's fingers; the smell of
kernels was stronger about the pillow. "The old man of the mountains"
was in a deep sleep, the deepest of all sleeps--death.



CHAPTER XXII.

CONCLUSION.


AND now all things with which, in these pages, we are concerned, are
come to that point at which they are best settled in a very few words.

The _one_ point required to establish Sedley's claim to the
peerage--the validity of the marriage--had been supplied by old Arthur
Verney, as we have seen, the night before his death.

The late Lord Verney of unscrupulous memory, Arthur's father, had, it
was believed, induced Captain Sedley, in whose charge the infant had
been placed, to pretend its death, and send the child in reality to
France, where it had been nursed and brought up as his. He was
dependent for his means of existence upon his employment as manager of
his estates, under Lord Verney; and he dared not, it was thought, from
some brief expressions in a troubled letter among the papers placed by
old Mrs. Mervyn in Wynne Williams's hands, notwithstanding many
qualms of conscience, disobey Lord Verney. And he was quieted further
by the solemn assurance that the question of the validity of the
pretended marriage had been thoroughly sifted, and that it was proved
to have been a nullity.

He carefully kept, however, such papers as were in his possession
respecting the identity of the child, and added a short statement of
his own. If that old Lord Verney had suspected the truth that the
marriage was valid, as it afterwards proved, he was the only member of
his family who did so. The rest had believed honestly the story that
it was fraudulent and illusory. The apparent proof of the child's
death had put an end to all interest in further investigating the
question, and so the matter rested, until time and events brought all
to light.

The dream that made Malory beautiful in my eyes is over. The image of
that young fair face--the beautiful lady of the chestnut hair and
great hazel eyes haunts its dark woods less palpably, and the glowing
shadow fades, year by year, away.

In sunny Italy, where her mother was born, those eyes having looked
their last on Cleve and on "the boy," and up, in clouded hope to
heaven--were closed, and the slender bones repose. "I think, Cleve,
you'll sometimes remember your poor Margaret. I know you'll always be
very kind to the little boy--_our_ darling, and if you marry again,
Cleve, _she'll_ not be a trouble to you, as I have been; and you said,
you'll sometimes think of me. You'll forget all my jealousy, and
temper, and folly, and you'll say--'Ah, she loved me.'"

And these last words return, though the lips that spoke them come no
more; and he _is_ very kind to that handsome boy--frank, generous, and
fiery like her, with the great hazel eyes and beautiful tints, and the
fine and true affections. At times comes something in the smile, in
the tone as he talks, in the laugh that thrills his heart with a
strange yearning and agony. Vain remorse! vain the yearnings; for the
last words are spoken and heard; not one word _more_ while the heavens
remain, and mortals people the earth!

       *       *       *       *       *

Sedley--Lord Verney we should style him--will never be a politician,
but he has turned out a thoroughly useful business-like and genial
country gentleman. Agnes, now Lady Verney, is, I will not say how
happy; I only hope not too happy.

Need I say that the cloud that lowered for a while over the house of
Hazelden has quite melted into air, and that the sun never shone
brighter on that sweet landscape? Miss Etherage is a great heiress
now, for Sedley, as for sake of clearness I call him still, refused a
_dot_ with his wife, and that handsome inheritance will all belong to
Charity, who is as emphatic, obstinate, and kind-hearted as ever. The
admiral has never gone down the mill-road since his introduction to
the Honourable Kiffyn Fulke Verney at the foot of the hill. He rolls
in his chair safely along the level uplands, and amuses himself with
occasional inspections of Ware through his telescope; and tells little
Agnes, when he sees her, what she was doing on a certain day, and asks
who the party with the phaeton and grays, who called on Thursday at
two o'clock, were, and similar questions; and likes to hear the news,
and they say is growing more curious as years increase. He and Charity
have revived their acquaintance with _écarté_ and _piquet_, and play
for an hour or so very snugly in the winter evenings. Miss Charity is
a little cross when she loses, and won't let old Etherage play more
than his allotted number of games; and locks up the cards; and is
growing wife-like with the admiral; but is quite devoted to him, and
will make him live, I think, six years longer than any one else could.

Sedley wrote a very kind letter to the Hon. Kiffyn Fulke Verney, to
set his mind at ease about _mesne rates_, and any other claims
whatsoever, that might arise against him, in consequence of his
temporary tenure of the title and estates, and received from Vichy a
very affronted reply, begging him to take whatever course he might be
advised, as he distinctly objected to being placed under any kind of
personal obligation, and trusted that he would not seek to place such
a construction upon a compulsory respect for the equities of the
situation, and the decencies enforced by public opinion; and he
declared his readiness to make any sacrifice to pay him whatever his
strict legal rights entitled him to the moment he had made up his mind
to exact them.

The Hon. Kiffyn Fulke Verney is, of course, quite removed from his
sphere of usefulness and distinction--parliamentary life--and spends
his time upon the Continent, and is remarkably reserved and
impertinent, and regarded with very general respect and hatred.

Sedley has been very kind, for Cleve's sake, to old Sir Booth
Fanshawe, with whom he is the only person on earth who has an
influence.

He wrote to the baronet, who was then in Paris, disclosing the secret
of Cleve's marriage. The old man burst into one of his frenzies, and
wrote forthwith a frantic letter direct to his mortal enemy, the Hon.
Kiffyn Fulke Verney, railing at Cleve, railing at _him_, and calling
upon him, in a tone of preposterous menace, to punish his nephew! Had
he been left to himself, I dare say he would have made Cleve feel his
resentment. But thus bullied he said--"Upon my life I'll do no such
thing. I'm in the habit of thinking before I take steps, about
it--with Booth Fanshawe's permission, I'll act according to my own
judgment, and I dare say the girl has got some money, and if it were
not good for Cleve in some way, that old person would not be so
angry." And so it ended for the present.

The new Lord Verney went over expressly to see him, and in the same
conversation, in which he arranged some law business in the
friendliest way, and entirely to Sir Booth Fanshawe's satisfaction, he
discussed the question of Cleve's marriage. At first the baronet was
incensed; but when the hurly-burly was done he came to see, with our
friend Tom, whose peerage gave his opinion weight on the subject of
marriages and family relations, that the alliance was not so bad--on
the contrary, that it had some very strong points to recommend it.

The Rev. Isaac Dixie has not got on in the Church, and is somehow no
favourite at Ware. The Hon. Miss Caroline Oldys is still unmarried,
and very bitter on the Verneys, uncle and nephew; people don't
understand why, though the reader may. Perhaps she thinks that the
Hon. Kiffyn Fulke Verney ought to have tried again, and was too ready
to accept a first refusal. Her hatred of Cleve I need not explain.

With respect to Mr. Larkin, I cite an old Dutch proverb, which says,
"Those who swim deep and climb high seldom die in their beds." In its
fair figurative sense it applies satisfactorily to the case of that
profound and aspiring gentleman who, as some of my readers are aware,
fell at last from a high round of the ladder of his ambition, and was
drowned in the sea beneath. No--not drowned; that were too painless,
and implies extinction. He fell, rather, upon that black flooring of
rock that rims the water, and was smashed, but not killed.

It was, as they will remember, after his introduction to the
management of the affairs of the Wylder, Brandon, and Lake families,
and on the eve, to all appearance, of the splendid consummation of his
subtle and audacious schemes, that in a moment the whole scaffolding
of his villany gave way, and he fell headlong--thenceforth, helpless,
sprawling, backbroken, living on from year to year, and eating
metaphoric dust, like the great old reptile who is as yet mangled but
not killed.

Happy fly the years at Ware. Many fair children have blessed the union
of pretty Agnes Etherage and the kindly heir of the Verneys. Cleve
does not come himself; he goes little to any gay country houses. A
kind of lassitude or melancholy is settling and deepening upon him. To
one passage of his life he looks back with a quickly averted glance,
and an unchanging horror--the time when he was saved from a great
crime, as it were, by the turning of a die. "Those three dreadful
weeks," he says within himself, "when I was _mad_!" But his handsome
son is constantly at Ware, where he is beloved by its master and
mistress like one of their own children. One day Lord Verney ran
across to Malory in his yacht, this boy with him. It was an accidental
_tête-à-tête_, and he talked to the boy a great deal of his "poor
mama," as he sauntered through the sunny woods of Malory; and he
brought him to the refectory, and pointed out to him from the window,
the spot where he had seen her, with her trowel in her hand, as the
morning sun threw the shadow of the spreading foliage over her, and he
described her beauty to him; and he walked down with him to
Cardyllian, the yacht was appointed to meet them at the pier, and
brought him into the church, to the pew where he was placed, and
showed him the seat where she and Anne Sheckleton sat on the Sunday
when he saw her first, and looked for a while silently into that void
shadow, for it is pleasant and yet sad to call up sometimes those old
scenes and images that have made us feel, when we were younger; and
somehow good Lady Verney did not care to hear her husband upon this
theme.

So for the present the story of the Verneys of Malory is told. Years
hence, when we shall not be here to read it, the same scenes and
family may have a new story to tell; for time, with his shuttle and
the threads of fate, is ever weaving new romance.


                          END OF VOL III.


         BRADBURY, EVANS, AND CO., PRINTERS, WHITEFRIARS


  +--------------------------------------------------------------+
  |                   Transcriber's Note:--                      |
  |                                                              |
  | Punctuation errors have been corrected.                      |
  |                                                              |
  | The following suspected printer's errors have been addressed.|
  |                                                              |
  | Page 14. chesnut changed to chestnut.                        |
  | (rich chestnut hair)                                         |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 44. than clever changed to clever than.                 |
  | (more clever than I)                                         |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 74. negociation changed to negotiation.                 |
  | (engaged in a great negotiation)                             |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 98. reeluse changed to recluse.                         |
  | (look in upon the recluse)                                   |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 98 taet changed to tact.                                |
  | (with the exquisite tact)                                    |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 98. dietator changed to dictator.                       |
  | (the airs of a dictator)                                     |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 127. mattrass changed to mattress.                      |
  | (the feather-bed and the mattress)                           |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 162. duplicate word 'give' deleted.                     |
  | (Can I give you any more)                                    |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 234. spo e changed to spoke.                            |
  | (as he spoke)                                                |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 250. villanously changed to villainously.               |
  | (and smiling villainously)                                   |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 257. accompapanied changed to accompanied.              |
  | (accompanied this)                                           |
  |                                                              |
  +--------------------------------------------------------------+





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