Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Miser Farebrother (vol 2 of 3) - A Novel
Author: Farjeon, Benjamin Leopold
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Miser Farebrother (vol 2 of 3) - A Novel" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                           MISER FAREBROTHER.

                                A Novel.

                           BY B. L. FARJEON,

    AUTHOR OF "GREAT PORTER SQUARE," "GRIF," "IN A SILVER SEA," "THE
    HOUSE OF WHITE SHADOWS," ETC.

    _IN THREE VOLUMES._

    VOL. II.

    London:
    WARD & DOWNEY,
    12, YORK-STREET, COVENT GARDEN.
    1888.

    [_Dramatic rights protected and reserved._]

    PRINTED BY

    KELLY AND CO., GATE STREET, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS, W.C.;

    AND MIDDLE MILL, KINGSTON-ON-THAMES.



CONTENTS.


    CHAP.                                                           PAGE

       I.--JEREMIAH PAMFLETT ASSERTS HIMSELF                           1

      II.--ARCADES AMBO                                               17

     III.--MISER FAREBROTHER WELCOMES PHOEBE'S FRIENDS                26

      IV.--A SACRED PROMISE--WON BY GUILE                             39

       V.--TOM BARLEY COMMENCES A NEW LIFE                            49

      VI.--THE FIRST NIGHT OF "A HEART OF GOLD"                       63

     VII.--DIPLOMATIC FANNY                                           78

    VIII.--THE POOR AUTHOR'S HOME                                     97

      IX.--WHAT THE NEWSPAPERS SAID OF "A HEART OF GOLD"             108

       X.--HIDDEN TREASURE                                           124

      XI.--MISER FAREBROTHER GIVES JEREMIAH A WARNING                131

     XII.--A LITTLE PARTY IN CAPTAIN ABLEWHITE'S ROOMS               145

    XIII.--JEREMIAH DISCOVERS A "SYSTEM" BY WHICH HE MUST
           MAKE A LARGE FORTUNE                                      160

     XIV.--A DAUGHTER'S DUTIES                                       174

      XV.--PHOEBE IS STILL FURTHER ENTRAPPED                         190

     XVI.--THE ENGAGEMENT RING                                       208

    XVII.--DARK CLOUDS ARE GATHERING                                 222

   XVIII.--O RARE TOM BARLEY!                                        236

     XIX.--A VISIT TO DONCASTER AND ITS RESULTS                      251



MISER FAREBROTHER.



CHAPTER I.

JEREMIAH PAMFLETT ASSERTS HIMSELF.


The innocent fun and gaiety at the tea-table were long afterward
remembered. There was an animated discussion as to who should take the
head of the table. Phoebe wanted Aunt Leth to do so, but Fanny
interfered, and said no one should sit there but Phoebe.

"It is Phoebe's day," persisted the light-hearted girl, "and something
unlucky will happen if she doesn't pour out the tea. Mr. Cornwall, come
and court me at the bottom of the table."

"Didn't you say it was Miss Farebrother's day?" said Fred, as he took
his seat next to the young hostess. He was not wanting in resource, and
rather enjoyed Fanny's badinage.

The table was much more plentifully supplied than Phoebe expected, and
she cast many grateful glances at Mrs. Pamflett, who had certainly taken
pains to do honour to the occasion. Mrs. Pamflett received these tokens
of gratitude gravely and quietly; no one would have supposed that her
mind was occupied by any other consideration than the comfort of her
young mistress's guests. But nothing escaped her secretly watchful eyes;
every word, every look, every little attention from Fred Cornwall to
Phoebe was carefully noted and treasured up.

A merrier meal was never enjoyed; the buzz of conversation was
delightful to hear. Phoebe was the quietest, Fanny the noisiest.
Suddenly she became quite still, and gazed pensively at Fred Cornwall.

"A penny for your thoughts," said he.

"They are yours at the price," she replied, holding out her hand for the
penny. "I am feeling very sorry for you."

"Why?"

"Because I am convinced you would be much happier if you were at this
moment shelling peas with a certain young lady in Switzerland."

This caused a general laugh, and Fred enlarged upon the delights of his
trip, Fanny interrupting him a dozen times with some quizzical remark.

"You certainly want some one to keep you in order, Fanny," laughingly
observed her mother.

"I do," replied Fanny, dolefully. "Where _is_ that some one? Why _does_
he not appear?"

Toward the end of the meal Mrs. Pamflett swiftly left the room. Looking
out of the window she saw her son Jeremiah, and she hastened down to
him.

"Well, mother?" said he.

"What has made you so late?" she asked, anxiously.

"Now, don't nag!" he exclaimed. "I couldn't get here before; had a
hundred things to look after. The new clothes I ordered never came home,
and I had to go and bullyrag the tailor. How do I look, mother?"

"Beautiful, Jeremiah, beautiful!" she said, enthusiastically.

On his feet were patent-leather shoes; on his head the shiniest of
belltoppers; on his hands lavender-coloured kid gloves; round his neck a
light blue scarf, with a great carbuncle pin stuck in it; and he wore a
tourist's suit of russet-brown of a very large check pattern.

"Rather licks 'em, doesn't it?" he asked, in a tone of self-admiration
and approval, turning slowly round to exhibit his points.

"That it does, Jeremiah."

"Look at this," he said, taking off his hat.

"Why, you've had your hair curled, Jeremiah!"

"Slightly! Nobby, ain't it?"

"Beautiful! My own dear boy!"

"Keep your fingers to yourself, can't you? There, you've gone and put it
all out!" He drew from his pocket a small mirror, and anxiously
readjusted the curls his mother had touched. "Now just you be careful.
Eyes on, hands off!"

"They must have cost a lot of money, Jeremiah."

"They did; a heap; but in for a penny, in for a pound. There's one
comfort; it's all spent on myself. Catch me spending it on anybody else.
They cost, altogether--Well, never mind; we're going in for a big thing,
ain't we? I ain't particular to a pound or two when the stake's worth
it."

"You have the heart of a lion!" said Mrs. Pamflett.

"What will she think of me, mother? Look at me well; reckon me up."

"She can't help thinking as I do, Jeremiah."

"She's a ninny if she don't. She won't get another chance like it, I'll
bet."

"What is that you're carrying, my boy?"

"A bouquet. Here, I'll just lift the paper, so that you can see it.
Roses, stephanotis, and maidenhair. Now, who'll say I ain't a plucky
one? Just wipe this dust off my boots."

In her full-hearted admiration Mrs. Pamflett had lost sight of her
conversation with Miser Farebrother, and of the presence of Fred
Cornwall in the room above; but now, as she carefully wiped Jeremiah's
boots, it all came back to her. Bidding him to give her his best
attention, she told him everything; he listened to her attentively, and
put a good many questions to her when she had done, the most important
of which related to his master.

"He didn't shy at it, then?" he asked.

"No," she replied; "he seemed to take to it kindly."

"You're sure he understood you?"

"He couldn't be off understanding me; I put it to him pretty plain. All
you've got to do is to play your cards well."

"I'll do that. When I've got a winning hand I know what to do with it."

"Are you pleased with me, Jeremiah?"

"Yes; it was a bold stroke; only don't do it again. Let me play my own
game. I don't mind telling you something if you'll keep it dark." He
paused a moment before continuing. "Do you see my thumb?" He held out
his right hand, palm upward, with the thumb arched over it. "I've got
the London business like this; I've got Miser Farebrother like this.
He's under my thumb, mother, and he doesn't know it. If I left him he'd
lose thousands, and if the worst comes to the worst I can put it to him
like that in a way he can't mistake."

"Don't be rash, Jeremiah," implored Mrs. Pamflett; "be humble with him."

"Oh, yes; I'll be humble with him as long as it suits me. Do you think
I've been working all these years for nothing? Do you think I've had the
office all to myself for nothing? Does _he_ think I didn't take his
measure years and years ago, and that I didn't make up my mind what to
do?"

"Jeremiah! Jeremiah!" cried Mrs. Pamflett, "be careful. He's cunning,
he's clever; he can see with his eyes shut."

"I can beat him at his own game. Cunning as he is, I'm cunninger; clever
as he is, I'm cleverer; I could see without any eyes at all. Wasn't it
as clear to me as daylight, if I'd been content to be his slave, taking
his miserable few shillings a week, and trying to live on it, that I
should be no better off at seventy years than I was at seventeen? Oh,
no; not at all! I was a fool, I was, and didn't know how many beans made
five! I was born yesterday, I was! There now; I've said enough. You'll
live to see something that'll make you open your eyes. Oh! hanged if I
wasn't forgetting. What did the governor do with that beggar, Tom
Barley?"

"Discharged him. He's gone for good."

"He's gone for bad, you mean. He'll come to a nice end, and I'll help
him to it if I can. So the old hunks discharged Tom Barley, did he?
Well, I settled his hash for him, at all events."

"It shows what influence you have over the master," observed Mrs.
Pamflett.

"I'll have more before I've done with him. Hallo! Just hear how they're
laughing upstairs. I say, mother, couldn't you call Phoebe down here?
I don't care about giving her the flowers with all that lot looking on
and sniggering. Just you go and whisper to her that a gentleman wants
very particularly to see her. Wait a minute; is my scarf right?"

"Yes, Jeremiah," said Mrs. Pamflett, and was about to leave him, when he
cried again, nervously:

"Wait a minute, can't you? What a hurry you're in. What would you say to
her, mother, when you give 'em to her?"

"Wish her many happy returns of the day, Jeremiah; and you might ask if
she will give you a cup of tea. That will give you an excuse for
following her; she can't very well leave the people upstairs long to
themselves."

"All right; I'll do it." And Jeremiah struck an attitude, and waited for
Phoebe, who had received a message, not that "a gentleman" wanted
particularly to see her, but that a friend was below who was anxious to
wish her many happy returns. When Phoebe heard this, she thought for a
moment that it might be faithful Tom Barley, whom Mrs. Pamflett, in her
good-nature, had allowed to enter, and she was startled when she saw
Jeremiah Pamflett.

"It's me, miss," said that worthy. "You're not sorry, I hope?"

"No," she said, awkwardly; "not at all."

"Seeing it was your birthday," said Jeremiah, "I thought I'd give you an
agreeable surprise. Just look at this." He took the blue paper off the
bouquet, and held it up for her admiration.

"It is very pretty," said Phoebe.

"I should rather say it was. It cost enough, anyhow: eight and six I
gave for it."

He paused for a reply, and Phoebe said, "Yes?" not knowing what else
to say.

"Half a guinea they asked, but I beat 'em down. They _do_ try to take
you in, the shopkeepers; but I get up a little too early for them. When
they try their games on me, they try 'em on the wrong party. Don't you
think so?" He made a motion with his elbow, with the intention of
digging it playfully into her side; but she shrank back, and frustrated
his amiable design. "I went to Covent Garden myself to pick it out." He
paused again, and as she did not speak, he thought, "Hang it! why
doesn't she say something?" comforting himself, however, with the
reflection that his resplendent appearance had "regularly knocked her
over," as he would have openly expressed it in his choice vernacular.
Feeling that he was not getting along as well as he wished, he wound up
with, "For you, miss; wishing you many happy returns of the day."

"You are very kind," said Phoebe, having no option but to accept the
bouquet, "to spend so much money upon me."

"Oh," said Jeremiah, boastfully, "I can do a thing swell when I've a
mind to. I never laid out so much on flowers before, but I wouldn't mind
doing it again--for you, miss."

"Pray don't think of it," said Phoebe, not knowing whether to laugh or
to cry.

"Well, I won't say whether I will or not. It all depends." He spread
himself out airily in order that she might have a good view of him. He
took off his hat, touched his curled hair gingerly, put his left arm
akimbo, and stood at ease, with his right leg out-stretched. He was
rather proud of his manners, and thought he was making an impression.
The question whether Phoebe should laugh or cry was determined by his
attitude, and Jeremiah was somewhat confounded as a light hysterical
laugh escaped her.

"What at, miss?" he asked, the smirk on his face changing to a frown.

"At that boy," said Phoebe, looking at the back of him; "he is so
funny."

Jeremiah, turning, really saw a ragged little boy approaching them. It
was a fortunate escape for Phoebe, who went toward the little fellow
and asked him what he wanted.

"I wants to see the young lady of the 'ouse," said the boy. "Are you
'er?"

"Yes."

"I'm to give yer this, and run away."

A faithful messenger. He gave a small brown paper parcel to Phoebe,
and scuttled away as fast as his little legs would carry him. Phoebe,
wondering, opened the parcel, and there lay a few wild daisies,
accompanied by a piece of white paper, upon which was written, "With Tom
Barley's humble duty. For ever and ever." It was shocking writing, and
Phoebe had some difficulty in deciphering it; but it brought the tears
to her eyes. She put the paper in her pocket, and pinned the daisies at
her bosom.

"I beg your pardon for leaving you," said Phoebe to Jeremiah. "And now
I must go to my friends."

"You might offer me a cup of tea, miss," he said.

"Yes, I will, though I am afraid it is almost cold."

"Nothing can be cold where you are, miss," said Jeremiah, gallantly.
"I'll come up with you. Why do you wear those rubbishing flowers? You
can pick 'em up in the fields."

"They are from an old friend," said Phoebe, loyally. "I value them
quite as much as if they had cost--" She stopped, frightened at her
rashness; she was about to add, "eight and six." Jeremiah completed the
sentence for her, supplying the precise words in her mind.

"As if they cost eight and six, miss," he said, quietly. There was a
venom in his voice which made her shudder. "I'll think of that."

She felt it necessary to mollify him, and though she hated herself for
her duplicity, she was very gracious to him as they ascended the stairs,
so that when they entered the room his equanimity was restored. It may
have been the grandeur of his appearance, or perhaps it was something in
Phoebe's face, that caused an awkward pause in the merriment upon
their entrance. Fortunately for the situation, Mrs. Pamflett was in the
room, and as Phoebe made no attempt to introduce Jeremiah to the
company, Mrs. Pamflett said, in a distinct, measured voice, "My son, Mr.
Pamflett, Mr. Farebrother's manager."

Mr. Lethbridge rose and offered the young man his hand.

"Glad to know you," said Jeremiah. "You're Mr. Lethbridge. How do you
do, all of you?"

Mrs. Lethbridge inclined her head, perceiving that something was wrong.
Fanny with difficulty repressed a giggle, Bob looked supercilious, while
Fred Cornwall scarcely glanced at the new arrival.

"Will you give Mr. Pamflett a cup of tea, aunt?" said Phoebe.

"No," said Jeremiah, "not from your aunt, if you please; from you. Then
I sha'n't want any sugar in it. Anything the matter with you, miss?" He
addressed this question to Fanny, from whom an uncertain sound of
laughter was proceeding.

"Something in my throat," replied Miss Fanny.

"Shall I slap you on the back, miss?"

"No, no!" cried Fanny, suddenly quite sobered.

Jeremiah drank his tea quite slowly, looking alternately from one to the
other. There was a dead silence in the room.

"Shall my niece pour you out another cup?" asked Mrs. Lethbridge,
politely.

"If it will oblige her," said Jeremiah, with cold malignity, "she may."

Without a word Phoebe poured out the tea and handed it to him. He
drank it even more slowly than he had done the first cup. When it was
finished, Mrs. Lethbridge said, "There is no more in the pot."

"That is a pity," said Jeremiah, "because we are enjoying ourselves so."

"I propose," said Mrs. Lethbridge, "that we go into the open air. It is
a most lovely evening."

They all rose, glad of the escape. Jeremiah pushed himself between Fred
Cornwall and Phoebe, and walked by her side down the stairs. When they
were in the open he said to her, "You have forgotten your bouquet. I
will go and bring it to you. Shall I?"

"If you please," she answered, faintly. She could make no other reply.

His mother met him in the passage. "Miser Farebrother wishes to see you,
Jeremiah. You can join Miss Phoebe afterward."

"All right," said Jeremiah; "I will. Look here, mother. Is that Cornwall
fellow sticking up to Phoebe?"

"That is for you to find out, Jeremiah. If you are my son you are not to
be easily beaten."

"Easily beaten!" he echoed, with malignant emphasis. "When my back's up,
I generally let people know it. Did you notice how they behaved to me at
the tea-table?"

"You paid them out for it, Jeremiah," said Mrs. Pamflett, exultingly. "I
am proud of you."

"You shall have more reason by-and-by. Paid them out for it! Why, they
didn't have a word to say for themselves! I just looked at them, and
shut them up! As for Phoebe, let her look out; that's all I say--let
her look out! Did you ever see a cat play with a mouse?"

"Often, Jeremiah."

"Well, let her look out for herself. That's all I've got to say."



CHAPTER II.

ARCADES AMBO.


Jeremiah entered Miser Farebrother's room, holding in his hand the
bouquet of flowers he had brought for Phoebe. He had debated within
himself whether he should allow the miser to see them or no, and he had
decided in the affirmative. "Mother commenced it," he thought, "and I'll
go on with it. Strike while the iron's hot, Jeremiah."

"You sent for me," said he, laying the bouquet on the table in full view
of Miser Farebrother.

"Are those the flowers the gentleman lawyer gave my daughter?" asked
Miser Farebrother.

"No," replied Jeremiah; "I didn't know he brought her any. I bought
these in Covent Garden to present to Miss Phoebe."

"You are growing extravagant," said the miser; "and you are becoming
quite a gay young character: first escorting my daughter home from the
village, and now presenting her with expensive flowers. It rains flowers
in Parksides to-day. I was never guilty of such extravagance--never."

"This is the first time _I_ have ever done such a thing," said Jeremiah,
apologetically; "but seeing it was Miss Phoebe's birthday, I thought
the money wouldn't be exactly thrown away. Look here--that lawyer chap;
he's up to no good."

"You don't like lawyers?"

"No more than you do; though, mind you, if I was married and had a son,
I'd bring him up as one. Then he'd know exactly how far to go, and I
should get my legal business done for nothing."

"Oh! oh!" said Miser Farebrother, with a quiet chuckle. "If you were
married and had a son! That's looking ahead, Jeremiah."

"It's a good plan; it keeps one prepared. You've no objection to my
giving Miss Phoebe these flowers, I suppose?"

"Not the slightest, so long as you bought them with your own money. Only
don't do too much of that sort of thing. When you spend money, spend it
to advantage--in something that will last, or will make more money.
Spending money in flowers is folly; in two days flowers and money are
gone. You can look at them in gardens and shop windows, then you get all
your pleasure for nothing. That's the wise plan. Costs nothing for
looking, Jeremiah."

"You are quite right. I'll bear in mind what you say, and profit by it."

"That pleases me. What I like is obedience--blind obedience--and I will
have it from those in my control. So--you're thinking of marriage, eh? A
wife is an expensive toy."

"Not when you've got the right one! Likely as not it keeps a man out of
mischief."

"So long as you've got the right one! Your mother said something to me;
has she told you of it?"

Jeremiah considered a moment, and for once in his life was candid.

"Yes," he said, "she told me of it."

"Sit down, Jeremiah."

The astute young man obeyed in silence, and inwardly congratulated
himself. "Things are going on swimmingly," he thought; "the fish is as
good as in my net already." While Miser Farebrother, gazing on Jeremiah,
thought, "I'll bind him tight; I'll bind him tight!" Presently he spoke.

"You have been a long time in my service, and are acquainted with my
business."

"I know all the ins and outs of it," said Jeremiah. "I've got it at my
fingers' ends."

Miser Farebrother sighed. Humbly as Jeremiah's words were spoken, the
miser felt that his managing clerk had him in his power. Well, the best
plan was to put chains around him, and what chains so tight and binding
as matrimony?

"If I came to grief, Jeremiah, you could set up in business for
yourself?"

"Yes," said Jeremiah, boldly; "and make a fortune. But you come to
grief! No, sir; not while I am with you."

"It is my misfortune," continued the miser, "and your good luck, that I
am ill and weak, and unable to give the proper personal attention to my
affairs."

"Why say 'misfortune,' sir? It may be your good luck as well as mine."

"But it is as I say," cried Miser Farebrother, testily.

"Very well, sir. Then what a shrewd man would do is to make the best of
it." Jeremiah's cue was not to cross or vex his master; to assert
himself up to a certain point, but to lead the miser to believe that in
him, Jeremiah, a wily master had a suitable tool, who, for a prospective
advantage, would devote himself hand and foot, body and soul, to his
employer's interest.

"That is all that is left to me," groaned Miser Farebrother--"to make
the best of it. Jeremiah Pamflett," he said, abruptly, "were I in your
place and you in mine, how would you act?"

"Under precisely similar circumstances?"

"Yes, under precisely similar circumstances."

"I should seek an interview," said Jeremiah, keeping down his
excitement, "with the young man who was managing my business in London
for me, in whom I had every confidence, and say to him, 'You seem to
have a liking for my daughter.'"

"Ah!" said Miser Farebrother, "Go on."

"'My object is,' I should say to this young man, 'that she shall marry a
man who will serve me faithfully, to keep her out of the hands of
scheming relatives, and to keep her especially out of the hands of
scheming lawyers. You are the man I would select as her husband. Marry
her, and continue to serve me faithfully, and then all our interests
will be common interests, and I shall be safe from conspiracies, which
have but one end in view: to rob me of my hard-earned money.' After that
I should wait to hear what he had to say."

"Not yet, Jeremiah, not yet," said Miser Farebrother; "there is still
something more to be said on my side. Supposing that the words you have
put into my mouth have been spoken by me to you, I should not wind up
there. I should continue thus: 'If I give you my consent to pay court to
my daughter, who, when I am gone, will, if she behaves herself, inherit
what little property I have, you must bind yourself to me for a term of
years. No, not for a term of years, but for as long as I am alive. There
shall be an agreement drawn up, a binding agreement, which, if you
break, will render you liable for a heavy penalty, which I shall exact.
Your salary shall be so much a week, and no more; and you are not to ask
me for more. You are to be, until my last hour, my servant, amenable to
me, acting under my instructions, and you are not to put yourself in
opposition to my wishes,' That, as far as I can at present see, is what
I should say to you, Jeremiah; and now I await your answer."

"My answer is," said Jeremiah, "that I agree to everything. It is my
interest to do so. You see, sir, I don't mince matters, and don't want
to take any credit to myself that I am not entitled to."

"Continue in that vein," said Miser Farebrother, "and all will be well.
But don't think I am going to die yet awhile."

"I hope," cried Jeremiah, fervently, "that you will live for fifty
years."

"I may believe that or not," said Miser Farebrother, dryly, "as I
please. Make no mistakes with me, Jeremiah; I know what human nature is.
You have my permission to pay court to my daughter."

"Oh, thank you, sir, thank you!" exclaimed Jeremiah, attempting to take
the miser's hand.

"We want none of that nonsense," said Miser Farebrother, sardonically.
"We have entered into a bargain, and that is enough. Now attend to me,
and follow my instructions. What has passed between us is, for the
present, to be kept a secret. There is to be no hurry, no violence. Pay
attention to my daughter in a quiet way: endeavour to win her favour--"

"Her love, sir, her love!" interrupted Jeremiah, enthusiastically.

"Her love, if you will; but that is between you and her. I do not
propose that there shall be an immediate break between her and her
relatives, the Lethbridges. Things must be allowed to go on as usual in
that quarter. I have my own reasons for biding my time. When I tell you
to speak openly to my daughter, you will speak openly, and not till
then. You agree to this?"

"Yes, sir, yes; I agree."

"Should she offer any obstacle, I will throw upon your side the weight
of my authority, and she will not dare to disobey me. Meanwhile keep a
watch upon the Lethbridges and their lawyer friend, who has come here
to-day uninvited. He may have some design against me; he may know
something which it is necessary I should learn before I put my foot
down. And further, friend Jeremiah, you are not to presume because I
have given you this great chance. Everything between us is to remain as
it is. I am my own master and yours, and I submit to no dictation."

On the gray, sly face of Jeremiah Pamflett no expression was visible
which could be construed into rebellion at these imperious words, but in
his mind reigned the thought: "My master, are you? I will make you pipe
to another tune before you are many months older. Let me but get hold of
Phoebe, and I will grind you as you are grinding me!" Master and man
were well matched.



CHAPTER III.

MISER FAREBROTHER WELCOMES PHOEBE'S FRIENDS.


Life is sweet and beautiful to a young and innocent girl when to her
heart is conveyed the assurance that she is beloved. Then is the world
in its spring-time, and all outward evidence is in harmony with the
tremulous joy which stirs her being. What sorrow lies in the past fades
utterly away in the light of a new-born happiness. She lives in the
present, which is imbued with a solemn and sacred tenderness. Strangely
beautiful are the time and scene: she loves, and is beloved.

To a pure and trustful heart no direct words are needed for such an
assurance; and between Fred Cornwall and Phoebe no direct words were
spoken as they walked together in a retired part of the grounds of
Parksides. How they had wandered there, and how they had come to be
alone, they did not know, and they did not stop to inquire. All that
they felt was the sweetness and the beauty of the hour. He spoke of many
things: of his tour, and the adventures he had met with; of the
occasions upon which some small incident brought her to his mind, of his
delight when he found himself back in London--"to be near you," he would
have said, but hardly dared yet to be so outspoken; of the resolution he
had formed to "get along" in spite of all the difficulties in his path.

"No easy matter," he said: "the ranks are so crowded; but when a man is
determined, and has a dear object to spur him on, he has already half
gained success."

She did not ask him what the dear object was; it was for him to speak
and for her to listen; and, indeed, he would have spoken more directly
had he felt himself in a position to marry. But there was the home to
make, and the clear prospect of being able to maintain it. He must be
able to go to her father and say, "I am in such and such a position, and
I love your daughter." Deeply in love as he was with the sweet girl
walking by his side, there was a practical side to his character which
augured well for his future. He was a proud and honourable young fellow,
and he shrank from presenting himself to Miser Farebrother as a beggar.
No; he must first win his spurs; must show the kind of stuff he was made
of, and that he was worthy of the treasure he aspired to win. He had
heard that Miser Farebrother was very rich and very grasping, and he was
aware that in dealing with such a man he was treading on delicate
ground. He did not dare to risk a refusal. To trade upon the prospect of
living upon the money Miser Farebrother might give his daughter was, in
Fred Cornwall's view, a base proceeding, and he could not lend himself
to it. "I wish the old gentleman was poor," he thought; "then I would
speak at once. But a few months will soon pass."

Meanwhile, this quiet hour with Phoebe assured him that he had won her
love, and that she would wait for him. He may be forgiven for being a
little sentimental; it is an old fashion, as old as hearts; and that
their hands should meet, and that the girl's pulses should thrill at the
touch of his, is natural and good when young people commune in innocence
and honour. The silence that fell upon them now and then was sweeter,
perhaps, than the words that were spoken.

Fanny championed and guarded them, and kept intruders off. The principal
would-be offender was Bob, and it needed all his sister's cleverness to
keep him by her side. It is to be feared, however, that if he had had
any suspicion of what was going on, he would have made a bold dash for
it; but a very unsuspicious mortal was Bob, and the last thought in his
mind was that any young gentleman would come wooing his pretty cousin.
Fanny was completely in her element, fencing and parrying questions
asked by her father and brother, saying: "Oh! she will be here
presently. Do you think she has no one to attend to but us?" Aunt Leth
was discreetly silent; she remembered the time when she herself was
young, and her dear husband came courting her. Once Mrs. Pamflett came
up, and asked, "Where is Miss Farebrother?"

Fanny promptly answered her: "Dear me! She was here but a moment ago! I
think she must have gone in that direction." (Pointing in front of her,
while Phoebe was in the rear.)

"And Mr. Cornwall," said Mrs. Pamflett, very quietly, "has he also gone
in that direction?"

"Oh no!" said Fanny, unblushingly; "he has gone to have a smoke. Men are
the selfishest creatures, are they not, Mrs. Pamflett?"

Mrs. Pamflett sighed a gentle endorsement of the declaration, and meekly
went the way indicated by Fanny. She turned off, however, when she could
no longer be seen by the Lethbridges, and by a devious path successfully
tracked Phoebe and Fred Cornwall, whom, from a distance, she watched
with lynx eyes, noting the manner of their association--Phoebe's head
modestly bent down, and Fred gazing upon her with looks of love.

Fanny, meanwhile, talking away vivaciously, suddenly stopped in the
middle of a sentence, and cried, "Oh!"

"Has a pin run into you?" asked Bob; but he too gasped as he saw Miser
Farebrother, leaning upon Jeremiah's arm, standing in front. Aunt Leth
was the first to speak to him.

"How do you do, Mr. Farebrother?" she said, holding out her hand.

"Weak and ill, as you see," said Miser Farebrother, shaking hands with
his sister-in-law; "a martyr to rheumatism and other pains. I'm growing
old, sister-in-law; I am growing old. Don't you see the change in me?"

"We are all growing old," said Mrs. Lethbridge, with a sympathizing
smile.

"But some can bear it better than others," groaned Miser Farebrother.
"Now, you are strong and can walk without assistance. Look at me: even
with my crutch-stick I cannot walk without human support. Don't go,
Jeremiah; I shall fall to the ground if you leave me. You know my
sister-in-law?"

"Yes," said Jeremiah, with a careless nod at Aunt Leth; "we had tea
together--a delightful tea."

He had been searching with his eyes for Phoebe, and not seeing her or
Fred Cornwall, had made a movement to leave his master.

"We have to thank you," said Aunt Leth to Miser Farebrother, "for a very
pleasant evening."

"Don't speak of it. We ought to see more of each other; you ought to
have been here oftener. One's flesh and blood--we are almost that, are
we not, sister-in-law?--should not desert one as you have deserted me."

"Indeed! indeed!" stammered Aunt Leth, somewhat confounded by this
reproach.

"Never mind, never mind," said Miser Farebrother, with a gentle air of
resignation. "We must say nothing but kind things to one another. If you
have deserted me, you have not deserted my dear child, who is always
full of praises of you."

"We love her," said Aunt Leth, "as well as we love our own."

"It is very good of you. Is that your husband? My eyesight is shockingly
weak. I'm breaking fast, I'm afraid."

Mr. Lethbridge came forward, and Miser Farebrother seized his hand and
gave it a cordial grasp. The kind-hearted man could find nothing better
to say than,

"I am very glad to see you, Mr. Farebrother."

"Not so glad to see me as I am to see you. It is quite like old
times--quite like old times. How is the world using you? But I need not
ask; I can see for myself. I am very pleased--very--very! You deserve
it. I wish the world used me as well; but we can't all be so fortunate.
When I was a young man, I used to hope that when I was as old
as I am now I should be able to keep a carriage. Young hopes,
brother-in-law--eh? Seldom realized, are they? I can hardly afford to
keep a--a wheelbarrow--eh, Jeremiah?"

"Yes, sir," said Jeremiah, obsequiously.

"We can't have all we wish," pursued Miser Farebrother; and Jeremiah,
although he was impatient to go in search of Phoebe, whom he now
looked upon as his property, could not help taking interest and pleasure
in his master's gentle and philosophic departure, which he, better than
any one of the other listeners, could appreciate at its true value. "In
a hundred years to come, a carriage and a wheelbarrow will be all the
same to us. Still, I am glad to hear of your good fortune." (Mr.
Lethbridge stared, and wondered whether he was awake or asleep, or
whether he had said anything of which he was unconscious.) "How well and
hale you look! Not a day older--not a day. You must tell me the secret;
though I fear it is too late for me. And this young gentleman"--turning
to Bob, who became suddenly very hot and uncomfortable--"your son,
eh?--your bright boy?"

"Yes," said Mr. Lethbridge; "our son Robert."

"How do you do, nephew?" said Miser Farebrother, giving Bob two fingers,
which, when Bob got them, he did not know what to do with. "And how is
the world using _you_?"

"Extremely well, sir, thank you," Bob blurted out, without in the least
knowing what he was saying; for, instead of the world using him
extremely well, it was not using him at all.

"How pleasant to hear!" exclaimed Miser Farebrother. "I feel like
rubbing my hands, but one has my crutch-stick in it, and the other is
leaning on Jeremiah. You come of a lucky stock; go on and prosper,
nephew. And this--" He turned to Fanny, who, in a feverish state, was
awaiting recognition. She was so confused that it was not until hours
afterward that her indignation was excited at being referred to as
"this"--as though she were a chattel.

"Our daughter Fanny," said Aunt Leth, observing that her husband was
incapable of speech.

"Kiss me, niece," said Miser Farebrother. He raised his wrinkled face,
and Fanny put her lips to it. He called a joyous look into his eyes, and
in a kind of rapture murmured: "The kiss of beauty! But don't be too
lavish of them, niece." He peered around as though he suddenly missed
somebody. "Where is your young gentleman, niece?"

Jeremiah chuckled quietly.

"_My_ young gentleman!" cried Fanny, flushing up.

Her mother gave her a warning look.

"Yes, your young gentleman. There is one here, isn't there? or did
Phoebe make a mistake?"

"You mean Mr. Cornwall," said Aunt Leth, in a gentle tone.

"I think that is the name Phoebe mentioned. A lawyer, isn't he?"

"Yes," replied Fanny, before her mother could speak, "and a very clever
one."

"Bravo! bravo!" exclaimed Miser Farebrother. "That is as it should be. I
am sure he is a very clever one; I hope we are not wrong in our opinion
of him--for your sake, niece, for your sake. Sister-in-law,
brother-in-law, I congratulate you. Niece, kiss me again."

Fanny held back, but her mother murmured, "Fanny!" and the girl kissed
the miser's wrinkled face again, upon which he smacked his lips and cast
up his eyes languishingly.

"And now," he said, "I must really go and find my dear Phoebe and the
very clever lawyer. _We_ must go; mustn't we, Jeremiah? See,
sister-in-law, Jeremiah brought some flowers for my dear child, and
happening to forget them when she left the table, she sent him back for
them. I am ashamed of myself for having detained him. Do you know where
Phoebe is?--this way--or that? That way? Thank you; I shall easily
find her. Remember what I said to you--we must really see more of each
other; you must come here oftener. And you, brother-in-law, and you,
niece. And hark you, nephew: when I asked you how the world was using
you, you answered, 'Extremely well, sir.' You did, did you not?"

"Yes, sir," said Bob, not knowing what was coming.

"You were wrong, and you are wrong again. Sister-in-law, too: you called
me 'Mr. Farebrother?'"

"Yes," said Aunt Leth, faintly.

"But why? why? Why 'sir' and why 'Mr.'? Everybody else calls me Miser
Farebrother. I like it; it tickles me. Pray call me that for the future,
like good-natured souls, as you are. Come, Jeremiah, come. Phoebe will
be impatient for your flowers."

He hobbled away, clinging to Jeremiah's arm, and presently said,

"Well, Jeremiah?"

"Thank you," said Jeremiah.

"Keep faith with me," said Miser Farebrother, fiercely, taking his hand
from Jeremiah's arm, and standing erect, "and I'll keep faith with you.
Trick me, deceive me, rob me, and I'll make England too hot to hold
you!"

"Why do you speak to me like that?" asked Jeremiah, in an injured tone.

"Because I know the world," retorted the miser; "because I know human
nature. Did I show it to them just now, or did I not? Did I compel them
to be honey to my face, while they hated me in their hearts? Play tricks
with me, and I'll serve you worse!"

"We have made a bargain," said Jeremiah, submissively, "and I will keep
to it, and be grateful to you all my life."

"That is what I want," said Miser Farebrother. "While I am alive I am
master. When I am gone, you will have your turn."

After that they walked on in silence; but Jeremiah's thoughts, fashioned
into words, may be thus construed: "When you are gone! You think I will
wait till then, do you? You old fool! you're not in it with me!"

For a few moments after Miser Farebrother left the Lethbridges they
gazed at each other in silence. Then said Fanny:

"Would you like to know what I think of Uncle--no--Miser Farebrother?
Well, I think he's a brute!"

"Hush, hush, Fanny!" said Mrs. Lethbridge. "For Phoebe's sake!"



CHAPTER IV.

A SACRED PROMISE--WON BY GUILE.


Upon the happy musings of the lovers came a harsh interruption. They
turned and saw Miser Farebrother and Jeremiah.

"I have been looking for you, Phoebe," said the miser; "and so has
Jeremiah."

"Your flowers, miss," said Jeremiah, offering them.

With her father's eye upon her, she could not choose but take them.

"You sent me back for them, you know," said Jeremiah. "I should have
brought them before, but for--"

"But for my calling to him," interrupted Miser Farebrother, "upon a
matter of business. I am pleased that your friends have enjoyed
themselves. You have had a pleasant birthday, Phoebe?"

"Very pleasant, father; I shall never forget it. Father, this is Mr.
Cornwall, who brought me the presents I showed you."

"I trust you will excuse me," said Fred, gazing with interest at
Phoebe's father, "for intruding myself. But Miss Farebrother and I
have met so often at Mrs. Lethbridge's house that I thought I might
venture."

"All my daughter's friends," said Miser Farebrother, in his blandest
tone, "are welcome here. A very charming family, the Lethbridges."

"Indeed they are," said Fred, warmly.

"We have met but seldom," said Miser Farebrother, "and I was just
expressing my regret that we did not see each other oftener."

"Oh, father!" said Phoebe, in a grateful voice, gliding to his side.
There was no discordant note in his speech; he looked kindly upon her;
and he had met Fred Cornwall in a spirit of friendliness. Her cup of
happiness was full to overflowing.

"Perhaps Mr. Cornwall will give me his address," said Miser Farebrother.
"I may ask him to decide some knotty point of law for me."

Fred Cornwall drew forth his card-case with alacrity, and handed a card
to the miser.

"You will excuse me now," said Miser Farebrother; "I am by no means
well, and I must go in-doors and rest. Remain with your friends,
Phoebe; Jeremiah will assist me to my room. Come in and wish me
good-night, Phoebe, before you retire."

"Yes, father, I will."

He smiled amiably, and saying "Good evening, Mr. Cornwall," departed,
clinging to Jeremiah's arm. Jeremiah was not at all in a good humour; he
would have preferred to be left behind with Phoebe, and he said as
much to his master.

"Be wise, be wise, Jeremiah," said Miser Farebrother, in response to
this complaint. "You are but a novice with these people. Take a lesson
from me, and learn to wait with patience. Before a good general strikes
a blow, he lays his plans, and satisfies himself that everything is in
order. Do I know how to act, eh? Have I already entangled and confused
them, or have I not? I shall be a subject of discussion among them. 'He
was flinging stones at us all the time he was speaking,' the Lethbridges
will say. 'He said the most sarcastic things.' Who will defend me? The
sharp lawyer, Mr. Cornwall, and, better than all, my daughter Phoebe.
'You are mistaken,' she will say; 'I am sure you are mistaken. He has
been kindness itself; you do not understand him.' Then she will appeal
to Mr. Cornwall, and ask him whether I did not speak in the most
beautiful way of her aunt and uncle, and he will be able to make but one
answer. That will silence them; they won't have a word to say for
themselves. Ha, ha! I am really enjoying the game."

He kept Jeremiah with him until the Lethbridges and Fred Cornwall were
gone, and then sent him back to London, bidding him not to take the same
train as Phoebe's relatives.

It was between ten and eleven o'clock when Phoebe received a message
from her father, through Mrs. Pamflett, bidding her come to him and wish
him good-night. Phoebe had been sitting at the open window of her
bedroom, musing upon the happy day fast drawing to an end. A tender
light bathed the grounds of Parksides, and seemed to the happy girl to
be an omen of the future--a future of love and peace. The soft breeze
kissed her, and whispered to her of love; the silence of nature was
eloquent with the immortal song; a tremulous joy possessed her soul. "He
loves me! he loves me! he loves me!" This was the song sung by her
heart, bringing light to her eyes, blushes to her cheeks, and causing
her, from a very excess of joy, to hide her face in her hands. "How
sweet, how beautiful is the world!" she said only to herself. "How good
everybody is to me!" She rose from these musings to attend her father.
Mrs. Pamflett accompanied her to the door of his apartment.

"Good-night," she said to the young girl.

"Good-night, Mrs. Pamflett," said Phoebe; "and thank you for all you
have done to-day."

"I am glad you are pleased with me. May I call you Phoebe?"

"Yes, if you like."

"May I kiss you?"

"Yes," said Phoebe, with a bright look; and she received and returned
the kiss.

"This is the commencement of a happy time for you, Phoebe." She had
heard from her son all the particulars of the agreement entered into by
him and Miser Farebrother.

Phoebe glanced shyly at her, and thought, "Does she know about Mr.
Cornwall? Does everybody know?" She answered Mrs. Pamflett's remark
aloud: "I am sure it is. Oh, Mrs. Pamflett, I _am_ happy--very, very
happy!"

"I am delighted to hear you say so. Good-night again, Phoebe."

"Good-night, Mrs. Pamflett."

When she was in her father's room, with the door closed, what reason had
Phoebe to suppose that Mrs. Pamflett was crouching down outside, to
catch what passed between Miser Farebrother and his daughter?

"Come and sit beside me, Phoebe," said Miser Farebrother. "So--the
birthday is over?"

"Nearly over, father."

"And your friends have gone away contented?"

"Yes, father."

"Those flowers look well in your dress. What flowers are they? Ah, I
see--white daisies and roses. Who gave you the daisies?"

"A poor friend in the village sent them to me." Knowing that her father
was incensed against Tom Barley, she did not dare to mention his name.

"And the roses, Phoebe?"

"Mr. Cornwall gave them to me," said Phoebe, timidly.

"Can you spare me one?"

She gave it to him gladly, and he stuck it in his coat. Phoebe's heart
beat quick. Every sign that came to her was in harmony with its
throbbing.

"I am sorry for your sake, Phoebe, that I am not younger and
stronger."

"Dear father! I grieve that you suffer so! If I only knew what to do to
make you well!"

"That is spoken like a dutiful child. All that you can do is not to
worry me--not to give me pain."

"Indeed, indeed, father," said Phoebe, earnestly, "I will never do
that!"

"You are a good girl. It is strange that it was only the other day I
suddenly discovered you were a woman. The change brings other changes;
and I, your father, must not be blind to the fact. Why, Phoebe," he
said, gaily, "it is more than likely that one day you will marry!"
Phoebe hung her head. "You blush!--as your dear mother used to blush
when she and I were talking of love. I did my best to make her happy.
She died too soon for you and me!" He sighed, and paused a moment. "And
now, Phoebe, I am both mother and father to you."

"Yes, dear father."

"I have only one wish in life, Phoebe--your happiness: and we must
bring it about. It has happened sometimes that you have not seen me in a
right light; I have said things which may have laid me open to
misconstruction. They have not really come from my heart; I have been so
tortured with pain that I scarcely knew what I was saying. Will you
forgive me, Phoebe?"

"Dear father, I love you!"

"You are my own child, your sainted mother's child! Before she died she
spoke to me of the time when you would be a woman, and when changes were
before you. The duty you owed to her, you owe also to me."

"I shall never be wanting in it, father."

"You will marry--of course you will marry. You will ask for my consent,
like a dutiful, loving child?"

"I could not be happy without it, father," said Phoebe, in a low tone.
His voice was so benevolent, so imbued with concern for her happiness,
that her heart went out to him.

"That is a promise, my dear child?"

"Yes, dear father, it is a promise."

"That you will not marry without my consent. Phoebe, this loving
conversation is doing me good; it is better than all the doctors in the
world: I am feeling almost well." He folded her in his arms and kissed
her. "Why, what is this? A Prayer-book. Your mother's, my dear, which we
read together when we went to church. She is looking down upon us now;
she will guard you in your dreams to-night. Kiss this sacred book, my
child, and repeat what you have promised--that you will not marry
without my consent."

Without hesitation Phoebe took the book in her hand and kissed it,
saying, as she did so, "Dear father, I will never marry without your
consent." She laid the book upon the table, and burst into a flood of
happy tears.

"Good child, good child!" said Miser Farebrother--"your sainted mother's
child. Now go; I am exhausted. Good-night, Phoebe. May you have happy
dreams."

Phoebe tenderly embraced him, and went to her room, the happiest of
happy girls. While Miser Farebrother rubbed his hands, and muttered
gleefully, "Mr. Cornwall, my cunning lawyer, and my dear sister and
brother-in-law, I think I have scotched your little scheme." He went to
bed in a perfectly happy frame of mind. He had done a good night's work.

On a little table by Phoebe's bed were Fred Cornwall's and Tom
Barley's flowers. She kissed Fred's flowers before she blew out the
light, and even in the dark she drew them to her lips, and so fell
asleep with the roses at her breast.



CHAPTER V.

TOM BARLEY COMMENCES A NEW LIFE.


"It's going to be performed to-morrow night, and master and missis and
all the family 'll be there. I 'eerd it read. It was beautiful. It give
me the creeps, and it made me laugh just as if I was being tickled to
death!"

The speaker was 'Melia Jane; the person she was addressing was Tom
Barley; the place was the kitchen of Mrs. Lethbridge's house in Camden
Town; and the subject of 'Melia Jane's remarks was Mr. Linton's
comedy-drama _A Heart of Gold_, the first representation of which was to
take place on the following evening at the Star Theatre. The whole house
was in a flutter of excitement about it; the cousins were in the
sitting-room above, busy over their frocks; Fred Cornwall was there, and
was to accompany them to the theatre; the ticket for the stage-box was
placed in a conspicuous position on the mantel-shelf, so that it should
not escape the attention of any chance visitor; the conversation was
animated, and full of hopeful anticipations of a great success for the
poor dramatic author; and what was perhaps of greater importance than
all else, Bob was in the cast. He had taken the fatal plunge, and
through Kiss's influence had obtained an engagement for the run of _A
Heart of Gold_. The "screw," as he called it, was small--ten shillings a
week--but so were the parts for which, to his great disgust, he was
cast. The more distinguished of the two characters he was to enact was a
footman, who had to make three announcements of visitors of two words
each--"Mrs. Portarlington" (a long name, that was lucky; almost as good
as two or three words rolled into one), "Mr. Praxis," "Lord Fouracres."
That was the extent of his part. He was greatly disappointed, having had
an idea that he would be called upon to play one of the leading
characters; but he was taken to task for his presumption by Kiss, who
told him he might think himself lucky at being allowed to open his mouth
on the stage for the first twelve months. The other character was a
"guest," in which he was restricted to dumb-show, and very little of
that. He unfortunately took it into his head to ask the stage-manager
how he should play this dumb guest, and the answer he received, to the
effect that he was to "look as little like an idiot as possible,"
somewhat dashed his budding aspirations. However, Kiss gave him some
very good advice, and he took heart of grace, and rehearsed his six
words on the stage, and also at home in the bosom of his family. Twenty
times in the course of the night he would arrange the scene in which he
was to appear and speak his lines, and when all was ready, would throw
open the door and call "Mrs. Portarlington," upon which Fanny, as the
audience, would burst into applause, which she kept up until Bob
acknowledged the reception by a bow. It was perhaps fortunate that Kiss,
breaking in upon the family rehearsal one evening, took the nonsense out
of Bob by showing him how the thing should be done. "Make the
announcements quite quietly, my lad," said Kiss; "and don't attempt to
spoil the picture by thrusting yourself forward. Time enough for that
when you have something to do. Remember that 'modesty is young
ambition's ladder.'" "Of course I shall do as he tells me," said Bob, in
confidence to Phoebe; "but did you ever know a profession in which
there was so much jealousy?" Kiss found an opportunity to speak
privately to the Lethbridges upon the subject of giving Bob a reception
when he appeared. "For Heaven's sake," he said, "don't attempt it. Don't
so much as wag your head. You don't know what a first-night audience is.
Injudicious applause has ruined many a promising piece." Aunt Leth,
sweet-natured as she was, was a little inclined to agree with Bob as to
the dreadful amount of jealousy in the dramatic calling.

Tom Barley had not yet achieved his ambition of becoming a policeman,
but he had great hopes that in a short time he would be pacing a beat,
and in the vicinity of Camden Town, too. Uncle Leth was much respected,
and had some influence, which he was exerting on Tom's behalf. It was
'Melia Jane who had put the idea into Tom's head. Between these two
humble persons a confidence had been long since established. There was
no idea of love-making--it had not entered either of their heads--but
when Tom had been in attendance on Phoebe in London, he naturally
found his way to the kitchen. 'Melia Jane "took to him," as she said;
and he "took to her," and a mutual liking sprang up. When Tom left Miser
Farebrother's service and Parksides, he came to London and asked advice
of Mr. and Mrs. Lethbridge, and they succeeded in obtaining for him a
few hours' employment a day in a friend's garden. The remuneration was
small; but Tom managed to rub along, and was always welcome to a meal in
the kitchen with 'Melia Jane. This worthy creature, the invariable
cleanliness and brightness of whose kitchen crowned her with glory,
rather looked upon Tom as a kind of son, whom it was her pleasure to
protect, to advise, and occasionally to scold. It mattered not that she
was rather younger than he, and that intellectually she was in no way
his superior. It was her pleasure to adopt him, and she adopted him
accordingly; it was a pleasure to him to be adopted, and he submitted
with complete satisfaction. It came to be a custom with him to spend his
evenings with 'Melia Jane, and he gave a good return for the hospitality
extended to him. He proved himself a perfect marvel in all practical
matters relating to a house. If a window were broken, no need for a
glazier; Tom took the measure of the glass, purchased it for a trifle,
and the repair was made in less than no time. No need either for
locksmiths so long as Tom Barley was about; he put locks and handles to
rights in a trice. Did a drain want looking to, there was Tom; a tile
off the roof, there was Tom; a ceiling to whitewash, there was Tom; a
bit of painting to do, there was Tom. Indeed, with respect to painting,
he made it his special business that the house should be bright and
clean inside and out: all the neighbours remarked what a deal the
Lethbridges were doing to their house, and how nice and fresh it looked.
Then there was the garden; Tom worked a miracle. A little care and
pains, the expenditure of a few pence now and then, and a large amount
of zeal and earnestness, converted the hitherto rather shabby patches of
ground in the front and rear of the house into a perfect paradise. It
was impossible that such a handy, grateful, willing fellow should be
otherwise than welcome. "Upon my word, my dear," said Uncle Leth to his
wife, "that Tom Barley is a wonder. There is nothing he cannot do." A
few bits of deal, which would have been chopped up for fire-wood had not
Tom put them to a better use, a few nails, a pound of paint, and half a
pint of varnish, and there, presto! were flower boxes for all the
windows, looking as sweet and fresh as the best in Mayfair. He had a
knack of making friends and of getting himself liked. There was the
greengrocer, the proud possessor of a pony and cart. Tom so ingratiated
himself into the favour of this tradesman by his cheerful ways, and by
doing for _him_, also, an odd job or two, very neatly and expeditiously,
that early one morning, there was Tom rattling away with the pony and
trap into the country, making for some ripe woods of his acquaintance,
wherefrom he unlawfully plucked roots and rich soil to beautify the
garden of his friends; bringing back, of course, some acceptable
offerings to the greengrocer, to insure the loan of the pony and trap
the next time he required them. For one who aspired to be a policeman a
transaction so nefarious cannot well be defended; but, after all, no one
was the worse for the innocent abstraction. 'Melia Jane, be sure, was
not forgotten. He helped her to brighten her pots and pans; the little
bit of electro-plate the Lethbridges possessed twinkled with light as it
lay upon the table-cloth; the carving-knives, for sharpness, were a
treat to handle; and for polishing boots and shoes there was not Tom's
equal in the city of London. Heaven only knows where he got the
sweetness of his nature from; its quality was so fine and prompt, doing
the exact thing that was required to be done at exactly the right moment
(which adds enormously to the value of a service), that it could not
fail to win friends for him wherever kind hearts were to be found. And
these, as my experience goes, are beating multitudinously whichever way
you turn your face.

He had led a rough and happy life, but he had never been so happy as at
this time. The few clothes he possessed were kept in order by 'Melia
Jane, who washed and mended for him, and who, upon Sundays, made him so
resplendent that he was almost ashamed to be seen. A smile or a friendly
nod or greeting was always ready for him from the Lethbridges and their
friends, with whom Tom was quite an institution, and Aunt Leth grew into
the habit of consulting him and asking his advice when anything inside
or outside of the house was required to be done. Sweetest of all was
Phoebe's greeting upon her visits to her aunt. "Well, Tom, how are
you?" "Getting along splendidly, miss." Simple words, but pearls of
price, nevertheless, to Tom, who went about his work more blithely the
whole day afterward. Of girls in her own station in life 'Melia Jane
might have been jealous had Tom championed them, but she entirely
approved of his devotion to Fanny and his worship of Phoebe.

"She's a angel, Tom," said 'Melia Jane.

"She is, 'Melia Jane," responded Tom; "and I'd lay down my life for
her."

He was not neglected either in the way of education. Ambitious as he was
to become a public official, Mr. Lethbridge knew how important it was
that he should be able to read and write fairly. He provided Tom with
copy-books, and made the young man go through a regular course of
pot-hooks and hangers; and Aunt Leth gave him reading lessons three
times a week; so that he made capital progress, and was "gitting quite a
scholard," according to 'Melia Jane.

This young lady attended to his education in other ways. She was great
in superstitions, which were to her a kind of religion; and instead of
pious exordiums in frames to remind her of her duty, she had scraps of
card-board hanging in sacred corners in her bedroom and kitchen, upon
which were written extracts from fortune-telling and dream books, which,
if they did not form for her the whole duty of woman, went a long way
towards it. She had an apt pupil in Tom, whom she inoculated with her
precautions to woo good fortune and avert disaster.

As to cutting your nails, now. From her bedroom 'Melia Jane brought into
the kitchen the written magic formula, which Tom soon learnt by heart:

    "Cut your nails on Monday, cut them for wealth.
    Cut them on Tuesday, cut them for health.
    Cut them on Wednesday, cut them for news.
    Cut them on Thursday, a new pair of shoes.
    Cut them on Friday, cut them for sorrow.
    Cut them on Saturday, see sweetheart to-morrow.
    Cut them on Sunday, cut them for evil:
    The whole of the week you'll be ruled by the ----"

What could be simpler and more direct? And in the matter of nails, Tom
abided by it.

"Wot day in the week was you born?" asked 'Melia Jane.

"Blessed if I know," answered Tom.

"'Ow could you be so careless," said 'Melia Jane, severely, "as not to
get to know? Then we could settle it?"

"Settle what, 'Melia Jane?"

"Why, don't you know?" she replied.

    "'Monday's child is fair of face.
    Tuesday's child is full of grace.
    Wednesday's child is loving and giving.
    Thursday's child works hard for a living.
    Friday's child is full of woe.
    Saturday's child has far to go.
    But the child that is born on Sabbath-day
    Is bonnie and happy, and wise and gay.'"

"I say Thursday," said Tom, good-humouredly. "That's the most likely day
for me."

"I say Sabbath-day," said 'Melia Jane.

"That won't fit," said Tom. "Happy? Yes. And gay, sometimes. But wise?
No, no, 'Melia Jane; not a bit of it."

But in argument Tom was a child in the hands of 'Melia Jane, and she
generally succeeded in compelling him to subscribe to her views. She had
a very effective method of punishment if he persisted in holding out.
She was, in Tom's eyes, a very wonderful fortune-teller with the cards,
and to have his fortune told half a dozen times a week became a perfect
passion with him. Nothing pleased 'Melia Jane more than the opportunity
of laying out the cards; but she could successfully resist the
temptation when Tom was obstinate. It was in vain for him to implore;
she was adamant. At length he would say, "I give in, 'Melia Jane; I give
in." And out would come a very old and terribly thumbed pack, and with a
solemn face Tom settled down to the onerous task of cutting the cards
again and again, in accordance with 'Melia Jane's complicated
instructions. It was not at all material that last night's fortune was
diametrically opposite to the fortune of to-night; nor that last night
it was a fair woman, and to-night a dark one; nor that last night Tom
was to be greeted by a coffin, and to-night by a baby. The point was
that the fortune was to be told, and that being done, no reference was
made to inconsistencies and contradictions. 'Melia Jane and Tom would
sit staring, open-mouthed, at the finger of fate, whose smudgy impress
was to be found on every card in the pack. She was telling his fortune
now, on the night before the production of _A Heart of Gold_.

"The four of clubs, Tom. A strange bed."

"Ah," said Tom. "I wonder where?"

"The eight of spades. That's trouble, Tom."

He pulled a long face.

"And there's that dark woman, agin. Who _can_ she be?"

"I wonder, now!" said Tom, turning over in his mind every dark woman
whom he could call to remembrance.

"Well!" cried 'Melia Jane. "Did you ever? Jest look, Tom. The ten of
'earts and the four of 'earts next door to each other. A wedding and a
marriage bed. And if there ain't the seven and the six of spades! A
doctor and a birth!"

"Never!" exclaimed Tom, aghast.

"Here it is. There's no going agin it. Oh, Tom! here's tears; and here's
disappointment and sickness. Take care of that dark woman; she's up to
no good."

"Ain't she?" cried Tom, energetically. "I'll keep a sharp eye on her."

The fortune being ended, the cards were put away in a drawer in the
dresser, and 'Melia Jane proceeded to discuss lighter and less important
matters.



CHAPTER VI.

THE FIRST NIGHT OF "A HEART OF GOLD."


Three-quarters of an hour before it was time to start for the Star
Theatre, Fred Cornwall with a cab was at the Lethbridges' door. There
was no one but 'Melia Jane to receive him. Everybody was dressing, and
'Melia Jane, with a jug of hot water in her hand, informed Fred Cornwall
that "Miss Phoebe, sir, she do look most lovely," for which she
received a sixpenny bit.

"Take these flowers up to the ladies, 'Melia Jane," said Fred, "and be
careful you don't mix them. These are for Mrs. Lethbridge; these are for
Miss Lethbridge; these for Miss Farebrother; and ask them how long they
will be."

"Lor', sir!" exclaimed 'Melia Jane, "now you're 'ere they'll be down in
no time."

"That foolish boy," observed Fanny, when the flowers were brought into
the girls' bedroom, "will ruin himself. You will have to check him,
Phoebe. But what taste he has! Did you ever see anything more
exquisite? I knew he would bring us flowers. And of course he has the
cab at the door, waiting; he hasn't the least idea of the value of
money. I shall have to give him a good talking to, the foolish,
extravagant boy!"

This was a new fashion of Fanny's--to put on matronly airs and to talk
of Fred Cornwall as a foolish boy. He was greatly amused by it, and he
listened to her lectures with a mock-penitential air, which caused her
to deliver her counsels with greater severity.

"You are a model of punctuality," he said, as Fanny sailed into the
room.

"And you're a modeller," retorted Fanny gaily. "How do I look?" turning
slowly round.

"Beautiful!" exclaimed Fred, advancing eagerly as Phoebe entered.

"Oh, of course," cried Fanny. "Come here, Phoebe," taking her cousin's
hand. "He sha'n't admire one without the other."

With looks and words of genuine admiration, Fred scanned and criticised
the girls, who, truly, for loveliness, would take the palm presently in
the Star Theatre.

"That's very sweet of you," said Fanny, when he came to the end of an
eloquent speech, "and you may kiss my hand. But don't come too near me;
I mustn't be crushed; and Phoebe mustn't, either. Oh, my dear,
beautiful mother!" And the light-hearted girl ran to her mother, who at
this moment entered the room.

Aunt Leth was the picture of a refined, gentle-hearted sweet-mannered
lady. She had her best gown on, of course; and so cleverly had she
managed that it looked, if not quite new, at least almost as good as
new. She gazed with wistful tenderness at her daughter and niece, and
kissed them affectionately; then she greeted Fred, and thanked him for
the flowers.

Phoebe and Fanny had already thanked him, and when he gave Uncle Leth
a rose for his coat (he himself wearing one), Fanny whispered to
Phoebe that she had not a fault to find with him.

"What I like especially about Fred," said Fanny, "is that when he does a
thing he does it thoroughly. Did you notice how pleased dear mamma was
when he gave papa the rose? He could not have delighted her more. You
lucky girl!"

Altogether Fred's position in that affectionate family was an enviable
one, and if he was not a proud and happy young fellow as he rattled away
with them to the Star Theatre, he ought to have been. Any gentleman in
London would have been happy to be in his shoes.

Bob, of course, had gone early to the theatre, convinced that the
success of _A Heart of Gold_ depended upon the way in which he would
announce "Mrs. Portarlington," "Mr. Praxis," and "Lord Fouracres."

There was a great house. The manager had taken more than usual pains to
obtain the attendance of the critic of every influential paper. Fred,
who knew a great many of them, pointed them out to the eager girls, and
described their peculiarities and the qualities for which they were
famous. Mr. Linton, although he had written seven or eight pieces, all
of which had been played, was not yet looked upon as a dramatist of
mark; some of the best judges had declared that he had a great deal in
him, and that he would one day surprise the public, and take London
captive by the production of a play of the greatest merit. This opinion
was more or less shared by most of the dramatic writers on the press,
and they came to-night prepared to deal generously toward him if he
showed himself deserving of it. There were others who came prepared for
contingencies: theatrical frequenters of pit and gallery, regular
"first-nighters," who knew by sight every critic on the London press,
and every notability in the city. Before the music commenced they kept
up a buzz of conversation, pointing out the celebrities, and tiptoeing
over their neighbours to catch a sight of the great men. "It's quite
like a party," observed Aunt Leth, as she saw the friendly greeting and
salutations of those who were in the habit of meeting on such occasions.
Then came a cheer or two and a clapping of hands, which was taken up
gradually in all the cheaper parts of the house. A favourite actress had
entered a private box, and the enthusiastic play-goers were showing
their regard for her. She smiled, and turned to the pit with a pleasant
nod, which added to the delight of her admirers. They compared notes:
"Did you see her in so-and-so? Wasn't she stunning? Ah, but she was
better than all in such-and-such. What does she play in next?" Hungry
and eager and ever-ready are the theatrical public to show favour to
established favourites; beloved by them are the actor and actress who
have given them pleasure; and thus much being acknowledged, it is
strange that the dramatic author should hold in their regard what is at
best but an equivocal position. They call him out when the curtain falls
to hoot or applaud him, and it is a moot point which of the two
processes pleases them more. It was of this moment to come that Mr.
Linton was thinking as he sat hidden in a box behind the curtains, his
fingers playing convulsively on the palms of his hands. To-night, he
believed, was to make or mar him. More hung upon the success of _A Heart
of Gold_ than the public was aware of. He was poor, very poor; his wife
was nursing a sick child, for whom the doctor had prescribed what it was
not in Linton's power to afford. Would the result of this night's work
put him in funds, cause him to be in demand, and make the world bright
for him? He saw an American manager in the stalls, and he knew if _A
Heart of Gold_ was successful that he would at once receive an offer
from him for the American rights. That meant money--meant, perhaps, the
life of his child. He had sat by the bedside at home till the last
minute, and when he kissed his little one, had whispered, "Wish father
good luck, my dear!" "Good luck, father!" murmured the child, and kept
his arms entwined round the loving father's neck so tight that they had
to be loosened by gentle force. Then he had held his good wife in his
embrace for a moment, and she pressed him fondly to her; he could not
speak, he was almost choked; his lips trembled so that he could scarcely
kiss her; and he bore with him, as he ran out of the room, the memory of
the patient, wistful face, which would have been more cheerful had their
circumstances been better. He saw it now as he sat hidden behind the
curtains in the private box; he saw his little child in bed, pining
away. "Oh, God!" he muttered, "if they but knew! if they but knew!"

"Who is in that box?" asked Fanny. "Not a soul can be seen; but--there,
there it is again--the curtain just moved, and some one peeped through."

"That is the author's box," said Fred. "I have no doubt Mr. Linton is
there."

"Poor gentleman!" said Aunt Leth. "How anxious he must be! I wish we had
him here with us."

"They prefer to be alone, as a rule," said Fred, somewhat grimly, "on
the first nights of their pieces."

The leader of the band entered the orchestra, gloved for the honourable
occasion. People began to seat themselves; the music was lively and
appropriate, and put them in good humour. Linton gnawed his under-lip,
and leaning forward suddenly, almost betrayed his presence. The curtain
rose, and _A Heart of Gold_ commenced its perilous career.

Is there any need to describe it at length here? It would be but a
recapitulation of that with which every old play-goer is familiar, for
this was a night to be remembered. Sufficient that the comedy-drama
opened well and won the sympathies and the favour of the house. Kiss was
greeted with a roar of applause, and outshone himself. The act-drop
descended on the first act, and there was a general call. Linton
brightened up; he hastened to the back of the scenes through a little
door at the side of his box, and nodded gaily at the manager; but that
astute person of long experience merely looked at him, and said, "Wait."
He passed on, and Linton, rather dashed, went back to his box.

In the second act Bob made his appearance, and very bravely announced
"Mrs. Portarlington," and his family declared that it was a most
successful début. It was with difficulty that they refrained from
applauding him, and if the truth must be told they did patter slightly
with their feet, but as not a soul in the house responded to this
initial movement, they did not continue it.

How was it that, after this, _A Heart of Gold_ began to trail off? The
Lethbridges could not account for it, nor could many other sympathizing
friends in the house. It was pretty, the language was touching, the
situations were sufficiently good, and yet it is a fact that from the
opening of the second act the favourable impression created faded away,
and was replaced by a feeling of weariness and indifference. Behind the
scenes, where Linton did not put in an appearance till the play was
over, the manager knitted his brows, and Kiss looked grave; while in his
private box the poor dramatic author was gnawing his heart and thinking
of his wife and child. The Lethbridges were in consternation; they
strove in vain to stimulate the applause; the audience resented the
attempt, and commenced to hiss. This stirred the indignation of the more
favourably disposed, and they stamped and clapped their hands violently.
"The fools!" muttered the manager, as he stood at the side wings. "Why
don't they leave off applauding? If they go on, there'll be a row." His
prognostication was verified. The hissing grew louder and more frequent,
and when the curtain finally fell a perfect storm broke out. It was,
however, stilled for a few minutes by a spirit of toleration toward old
favourites among the company, and these were called before the curtain
and applauded. Then came calls for "Author! Author!" The unfortunate man
had made his way on to the stage, and was wandering about with a white
face and a mind almost crazed with distracted thought. The actors and
actresses scarcely dared to speak to him; some looked upon him with
positive displeasure, and turned from him to their dressing-rooms,
saying as they went: "The notice will be up to-morrow. A nice slating we
shall get in the papers!" Kiss stepped to Linton's side, and laid his
hand kindly on the author's shoulder. Linton raised his eyes pitifully,
and a sound like a sob escaped from him. Meanwhile the hooting and
hissing and the cruel cries for "Author! Author!" continued.

"Oh!" sighed Aunt Leth, "how dreadful! how dreadful! I shall never have
courage to come to another first night."

She was on the verge of tears herself, as though it was one very dear to
her who was being damned. In a little while the audience waxed into
fury. "Author! Author! Author!" rang through the house; and there were
malicious ones among the auditors who enjoyed the fun. Five minutes, six
minutes, seven minutes passed in this way. And still the poor author
paced the stage, in and out the wings.

"Go on," said the manager to him, "or they'll tear up the benches!"

Linton did not answer. The cries redoubled in fierceness.

"Author! Author! Author! Hoo-oo-oo! Hoo-oo-oo! Author! Author!"

"Damn you!" cried the manager to Linton; "go on like a man, can't you,
and get it over! It will cost me another hundred pounds if you don't!"

The noise now really began to assume the preliminary features of a riot;
the malcontents were not only angry, they were enraged.

"How will it end? How will it end?" sighed Aunt Leth, clasping her
hands.

"He ought to come on," observed Fred Cornwall, gravely.

Suddenly the green curtain was shaken, drawn aside, and Linton stepped
in front. He made but two steps forward, and was greeted with volleys of
hisses and derisive laughter. He was about to retire, when, swayed by an
uncontrollable impulse, he altered his intention, and, advancing swiftly
into the centre of the stage, stood before the audience, and held up his
trembling hands.

"What is he going to do now?" said the manager, watching him from the
side. "He has his gruelling; why don't he come off?"

Linton's unexpected movement produced an instant effect. Every voice was
instantly hushed, and the people craned forward to hear what he had to
say.

Two or three times he essayed to speak, but not a sound issued from him.
Then he found his voice and spoke:

"Why have you insisted that I should come before you? In order that you
may hoot me? Do you think I do not feel with sufficient keenness that my
effort to-night has been a failure? It is an effort, at least, which has
occupied me for many hard-working months; and that the result should be
what it is--is it not punishment enough? Are you not satisfied with
killing a man? Must you also torture him? There is a side to this matter
which may not recommend itself to you, because it is human. An author is
not entirely an abstract entity. He is also a man. In my case he is a
husband and a father. I am not appealing to you for mercy--I would scorn
to do it; I am simply stating a fact. We are not very rich at home, and
cannot afford more than two rooms to live in. When I left my wife this
evening to come here she was nursing a delicate child--our only
child--for whom the doctor had ordered a certain course which we were
not exactly able to carry out, because of the slender purse. I hoped to
be able to take home to her news which would cheer her heart, and
perhaps save the life of our little one. How anxiously is she awaiting
me, counting the moments, and fondly hoping that my brows are being
crowned with success! You are angry, indignant with me, but your loss is
a trifle compared with mine. I take with me this night from the theatre
a heavier load than yours. I can say no more; I retire from your
presence with no light heart, and as I go, continue to hoot me! It will
be manly!"

He bowed with an ashen face, and was slowly leaving the stage amidst a
dead silence, when he paused and spoke again:

"There have been instances when first-night verdicts have been reversed,
and when what looked like a failure has been worked into a success. On
my knees to-night I shall pray to God that this may be the case with my
play! Perhaps He will hear me!"

"My boy!" cried the manager, slapping Linton on the back when he got
behind the curtain. "My boy! a wonderful speech! Wonderful! I never
heard anything like it. Did you learn it beforehand? It will do us a
power of good. Nothing could be more fortunate. It may save the piece."

"Don't speak to me! Don't speak to me!" said Linton, and he crept from
the theatre, sobbing as though his heart were breaking.



CHAPTER VII.

DIPLOMATIC FANNY.


The audience filed slowly out of the theatre, discussing the unexpected
and unprecedented climax with a certain hushed animation. Many of those
who had been the noisiest veered round to the side of the unfortunate
author, and were truly ashamed of themselves for so cruelly baiting a
man who was down, while a few of the severest judges endeavoured
unsuccessfully to stem the tide of sympathy which the novel speech had
set flowing. "What have we to do with feelings?" they asked. "What have
we to do with a man's private circumstances? We come here to pass a
verdict, and we pass it. If it is favourable, the author gets the
benefit of it; if unfavourable, he must bear the brunt." These stern
ones, however, were in a decided minority, and failed to make converts;
despite of which the general opinion was that this had been a first
night upon which it was worth while to be present. "I wouldn't have
missed it for anything," was said by friends and foes.

This was not the kind of sentiment which animated Mrs. Lethbridge and
her party; their hearts were filled with pity for Mr. Linton, and Aunt
Leth experienced something like horror at the behaviour of the audience.
Her thoughts travelled to the humble home which the author had pictured,
to the anxious wife and the sick child. Tears flooded her eyes, and she
could scarcely see the beloved forms which pressed around her.

"The crush is over now," said Fred Cornwall; "we shall be able to get
out in comfort."

At this moment Bob appeared, having made haste to dress and join his
family, according to previous arrangement. He was in a fever of
excitement, and full of the eventful night. "Everybody is talking of it
behind the scenes," he said. "Such a thing has never occurred before,
and there is no telling what will be the result. Opinions are divided.
Some of the actors say the dramatic critics are much too wide-awake to
be taken in by such a trick; others say that after Mr. Linton's speech
they can scarcely pitch into the piece." And then Bob added, rather
proudly, "I did what _I_ could to save it."

"That you did," said Fanny enthusiastically. "You acted beautifully.
Didn't the manager praise you?"

"Well, no," replied Bob; "but then he had so many other things to think
of. At all events, my first appearance on the stage is not likely to be
forgotten. It is a great night."

"A great night!" sighed Mrs. Lethbridge. "Mr. Linton has gone home, I
suppose?"

"I don't know," said Bob. "Mr. Kiss is in a dreadful way about him. A
few minutes after Mr. Linton ran out of the theatre Mr. Kiss ran after
him; he changed his dress in no time, and as it was, he ran off with his
'make-up' on his face."

Mr. Lethbridge observed his wife's agitation and distress, and he
beckoned Bob aside.

"Do you know where Mr. Linton lives?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Bob. "He sent me to his rooms one day, before rehearsal
commenced, for an alteration in a scene he had left behind him."

He gave his father the address; they were now in the lobby of the
theatre. Mr. Lethbridge told Bob to go for a couple of four-wheelers.

"I'll go with you," said Fred Cornwall, and then he turned to Mr.
Lethbridge. "Will not one cab do? We can all squeeze into it."

He was rather afraid that Mr. Lethbridge did not intend that he should
accompany them home to Camden Town.

"No," said Mr. Lethbridge. "We must have two. You and Bob can see the
girls home. My wife and I are going another way."

Fred looked at him, and understood. "Come along, Bob," he said.

Then Mr. Lethbridge turned to his wife: "You and I will go and see if we
can do anything for Mrs. Linton. Bob has given me the address."

Mrs. Lethbridge pressed her husband's hand; she was deeply grateful, but
it was no surprise to her that he had anticipated and furthered the wish
of her heart. Had he not done so on innumerable occasions in the course
of their wedded life?

"May we come with you?" asked Fanny.

"No, my dear," said her father; "the fewer the better. We must do
nothing that will look like impertinent intrusion. Your mother is an old
woman, and may take the liberty. While she is with Mrs. Linton I shall
remain outside in the street."

"My mother is not an old woman," said Fanny, in tender reproof. "She is
an angel of goodness, and so are you, papa."

Uncle Leth smiled rather sadly, but he had no time to contradict Fanny,
because there were Fred and Bob, with the announcement that the cabs
were waiting.

"We shall get home as soon as possible," said Mr. Lethbridge, as he and
his wife took their seats in their cab.

"We shall wait up for you," cried Fanny. "Oh, dear!"

This ejaculation was caused by the sudden appearance of Jeremiah
Pamflett. He had been in the theatre, in the pit, and had been all the
night watching the private box occupied by the Lethbridge party. He had
taken note of Fred Cornwall's attentions to Phoebe and of the young
girl's blushes, and he had formed his conclusions. Once during the
evening he had endeavoured to make his way to the private box; but as he
had only a pit check to show, he was peremptorily sent back. His humour
was malicious and sour, but some crumbs of comfort fell to his share
through the failure of _A Heart of Gold_. Upon the success of the piece
depended, he knew, the payment of the bill for three hundred pounds
which Mr. Lethbridge had signed, and the prospect of selling up
Phoebe's uncle, or of showing him mercy at Phoebe's intercession,
was very gratifying to him. He felt that it strengthened his chances
with the girl he intended should be his wife. "I will have her," he
thought, "whether she likes it or not. Miser Farebrother is bound to me,
and there shall be no backing out. He can't back out: I've got his
signature to his written promise, and Mr. Lawyer may go to the devil.
I'll wring his heart! I'll wring all their hearts!" To such a nature as
Jeremiah's this was an agreeable contemplation, and he revelled in it,
setting every tender glance that passed between Phoebe and Fred in the
private box to the account which at no distant time he should commence
to square up. It was a delight to him that _A Heart of Gold_ had failed.
He yelled in derision at the top of his voice when the curtain fell, and
patted the breast of his coat exultantly, in the pocket of which Mr.
Lethbridge's acceptance was safely deposited. It was as good as a
love-token to him; it gave him assurance of success in his wooing. When
the dramatic author finished his speech and had left the stage, Jeremiah
tried to push through the mob in the pit; but, in his eagerness, it was
his misfortune to hustle rather roughly a peppery individual, who
straightway pitched into him. A row ensued, and a fight, which left
Jeremiah with a black eye and clothes much disordered. This had delayed
his progress considerably, and his confusion of mind did not help him.
All this, of course, went down on the account between him and Phoebe
and her friends, and was debited against them. Clear of the theatre he
had hunted for them in every direction but the right one, and it was
only when they were getting into the cabs that he discovered them.

"Oh dear!" exclaimed Fanny.

"How d'ye do? how d'ye do?" cried Jeremiah, poking his head in through
the open window. "Stop a minute, cabby; friends of mine. Must first
shake hands with father and mother. Ah, Mr. Lethbridge, how are you?
Glorious fun, wasn't it? Saw you all in a private box; couldn't get at
you. Beggar wouldn't let me pass. I say, Mrs. Lethbridge, why don't you
invite me to come and see you? It would only be doing the polite.
Phoebe's father and me--why, we're almost partners!"

"We shall be very pleased," said Mrs. Lethbridge faintly.

"Of course you will. Thank you; I'll come. No occasion to give me the
address; I know where you live. I say, Mr. Lethbridge, rather a crusher,
isn't this, to our friends Kiss and Linton? Hope our little affair will
be all right? You're in a hurry to be off, I see. Well, good-night! Look
out for me soon. You might send me an invite, so that I may be sure of
finding you at home. Phoebe will tell you where her father's office in
London is; I'm always there. Did you pay for your private box?"

"Mr. Linton was good enough to send it to us," said Mr. Lethbridge.

"Was he? Might have been good enough to send _me_ an order, considering
all things; but _I_ had to pay: left me out in the cold, the beggar did.
Never mind; I'll remember him for it. Well, good-night; so glad to see
you! Don't forget the invitation."

He returned to the cab in which the young people were. Fred and Fanny
were for driving away before he came back, but Phoebe begged them not
to do so, saying that Mr. Pamflett was her father's manager, and that it
would make them both angry to slight him.

"Here I am again," said Jeremiah vivaciously; his remarks to Mr. and
Mrs. Lethbridge had almost put him in good humour, "like a bad penny.
You look as if you'd just taken one, Mr. Cornwall; and you too, Miss
Lethbridge. How do you do, Miss Phoebe?" He thrust his hand into the
cab, and Phoebe was compelled to give him hers, which he pressed and
retained, in huge enjoyment of Fred's wrathful glances. "How blooming
you look! I saw your father to-day at Parksides; he told me you were on
a visit to Camden Town. I have some business with him to-morrow. Shall I
give him your love? But I dare say you will be at Parksides before I am.
You've no idea how I miss you when you're not there! A jolly night,
hasn't it been? You seem rather fidgety, Miss Lethbridge."

"We want to get home," said Fanny. "It costs money to keep the cab
waiting."

"And I'm not worth it. What a pity you think so! But soon you'll think
differently, perhaps--soon we'll surprise you, Miss Phoebe and I. Some
people would say 'Miss Phoebe and me;' but I've been educated, and
know how to speak properly, and how to behave properly. There isn't a
lawyer in London can get ahead of me, and that we'll prove before long;
won't we, Miss Phoebe? I must be going now. Thank you so much for your
kind reception. It is more than kind: it is gracious and condescending.
Who pays for the cab? But what a question to ask! Of course the swell of
the party. I'm glad I've cost him nothing. Let a lawyer alone for
knowing what's what. The cab regulations say, 'For the first fifteen
minutes completed, 6_d_.' And I've detained you"--he consulted his watch
here--"just thirteen minutes and three-quarters, so the driver can't
demand anything. Good-night all; happy dreams."

He went off chuckling, eminently satisfied with himself for the part he
had played. He knew that he had left a sting behind.

Out of consideration for Phoebe, bearing in mind that her father and
Jeremiah Pamflett were hand and glove, Fred Cornwall said nothing of
that worthy young man to Phoebe. Fanny, however, was boiling over, and
she was not the kind of person to keep her opinions to herself.

"Oh!" she said, "I wish I was a man!"

"What for, Fan?" asked Bob.

"Just for one little half-hour a man," said Fanny; "to go after that
reptile, and give him what he deserves! He has got one black eye
already; he should have two. I'd beat him to a jelly; I'd pull every
hair out of his head; I'd--I'd--" She grew so indignant that she could
not proceed.

"Shall I go and give him a thrashing?" asked Bob. He was not of a
truculent nature, but his blood was roused.

"Stop where you are, Bob," said Fred Cornwall quietly. "It is best to
keep out of difficulties with such as he. I beg your pardon, Miss
Farebrother; I did not mean to say it."

"You have said what is right," said Phoebe, in a low tone. "It is I
who should ask pardon of you for subjecting you to insults."

She burst into tears, and Fanny instantly took her in her arms. The men
were silent and grave, and not another word was spoken till they arrived
at Camden Town. Fred paid the cabman liberally, and the party entered
the house, Phoebe and Fanny going up to their bedroom, and Fred and
Bob finding refuge in the dining-room, where supper was laid out for
them. As they went upstairs Fanny called out to the young men, "We shall
not be long. Don't go away, Fred." He had no intention of doing so; he
paced the room in deep thought, while Bob, who, in the absence of his
father, took upon himself the duties of host, ran down to the larder for
beer. Returning with it, he poured out two foaming glasses, and handed
one to Fred.

"Here's luck," said Bob.

"Here's luck," said Fred.

Fred emptied his glass in one pull, and when he put it on the table
there was a flush on his face and a soft light in his eyes. He had
formed a most important resolution. Presently he heard Fanny's voice
calling to him, and he went out to her in the passage. That diplomatic
young lady received him with her finger on her lips, and she closed the
dining-room door before she spoke.

"She is in there," she whispered, pointing to the drawing-room. "I lit
the gas."

"Does she wish to see me?" asked Fred, with an exact following of her
cautious movements.

"She didn't say so," replied Fanny, "but I thought you would like to go
to her."

"Yes," said Fred, "I will go. You are my best friend, Fanny."

"I am a true one, at all events. Oh, Fred!" There was nothing teasing or
wilful or capricious in the tone in which these two simple words were
uttered. It was fraught with wistful, tremulous feeling, and her eyes
were humid with tears.

"God bless you, Fanny!"

"And you, Fred. No one shall come in."

Phoebe looked up as he entered, expecting to see Fanny. He sat down by
her side, and said:

"I have been anxious about you. Fanny told me you were here. You are
better?"

"Yes." She would have risen and made an attempt to leave him, not out of
coquetry, but maiden modesty, but she had not the strength.

"This has been a sad night," said Fred, "but it may prove to be the
happiest one in my life, if my heart has not deceived me. May I say to
you what my heart dictates?" He construed her silence into assent, and
proceeded: "I did not intend to speak yet awhile; I thought I would
first make my position--my worldly position--firmer than it is; but I
can no longer be silent. Since that happy evening at Parksides I have
not been idle, and though my position is not yet quite assured, I am
very hopeful; I have really made progress, and I think I can see my way.
I have gained some good friends who will help me along, and once the
ball is set fairly rolling, it only depends upon a man's ability and
industry to keep it rolling till it reaches a home which he can call his
own, and where it may be his bright fortune to enjoy the sweetest
blessings of life. Industry I have, and I mean to work harder than ever;
and I am told I have ability. Whatever be the measure of it, I am sure
it will help me to some kind of success; and if the home of which I
speak be not at first a very grand one, it will be grand enough for
happiness. I ask you to have faith in my earnestness and truth. I love
you with my whole heart and soul; I will work for you with my whole
heart and soul; I will shield and protect you; I will be true and
faithful to you. Will you not answer me? Will you not speak to me?"

She raised her eyes timidly to his, and in the tender light that shone
therein he saw his answer. He clasped her in his arms; her pulses
thrilled with ineffable rapture.

"Phoebe!"

"Fred!" Her voice was like the whisper of a rose, filling space with
sweet music.

"You will be my wife, Phoebe?"

"Yes."

"Say you love me!"

"I love you!"

Thereafter there was silence awhile, and as Phoebe lay enfolded in her
lover's arms, a high resolve entered his soul to be worthy of the
priceless blessing of her love. And she? Her soul was also stirred by a
prayer that she might be able to make herself worthy of him--her hero,
her life!

"We must go in now, Fred. They will think it so strange!"

"I am not so sure," he said, and kept her still in his embrace.

"Why are you not so sure, Fred? Indeed, indeed they will!"

"Do you know, my darling"--he paused, and repeated softly, "my
darling!--my very, very own!" And then he lost himself, and forgot for a
moment what he had intended to say.

"Well, Fred?"

"Well what, Phoebe?"

"You were saying, 'Do you know--'"

"Oh, yes. I said, 'Do you know.' What came afterward?"

"My darling!" she said, in a delicious whisper.

It was enough to make him forget himself again; and he did; but he
presently took up the thread.

"Do you know, my darling, I have an idea that Fanny sent me here for a
purpose--bless her kind heart!"

"For what purpose?"

"For this." He pressed her closer to him.

"Oh, Fred, she never could!"

"Couldn't she? What! Our Fanny, our dear cousin, not be equal to such a
scheme! Upon my word, she deserves--what she shall get when we go to
her. Thinking seriously over the matter, Phoebe--and I never was more
serious in my life than I am now, my own!--I have no doubt that she had
everything already planned out in her pretty little head."

"Fred, we really must go."

"Not till--"

"Till what, Fred?"

He held her face between his hands, and put his lips to hers. Thus they
pledged love and faith to each other, for weal or woe.

"Well, you people!" cried Fanny, as they entered. "We are not half ready
for you; and here you come breaking in upon us so suddenly and
quickly--just as Bob and I were talking secrets--weren't we, Bob? Well,
I wonder at your impudence, Fred! Oh, my dear, my dear!"

The affectionate girl's arms were round Phoebe's neck, hugging her
close, and her gay voice had drifted into tears. For Fred had kissed
her, and Phoebe too; and somehow or other, in these kissings the news
of Phoebe's and Fred's engagement was conveyed without ever a word
being spoken about it. How Fanny danced round Phoebe, and how she
commanded Fred to kiss her again, and how she kissed him unblushingly
more than once, and how she hugged Phoebe again and again, and how her
face flushed and her eyes sparkled, and how she got her hair rumpled in
the most unaccountable manner, and how she seized Bob and waltzed round
the room with him, dodging the chairs and tables in the most marvellous
way, and how, finally, she fell upon the sofa, out of breath, not
knowing whether to laugh or to cry, and therefore doing a little of
both!--all this must be imagined, for it is impossible to describe.

"And oh, my dears, my dears!" she cried, "I hope you'll be happy for
ever and ever!"

For brilliant impulsiveness there never _was_ such a girl.

But what had come over Bob? Had he been so schooled and lectured by
Fanny that, metaphorically speaking, he had not a leg to stand upon, or
had he already transferred his affections from Phoebe to some fair
nymph at the Star Theatre, that he submitted himself to Phoebe's
kiss--knowing the meaning of it--with a fairly good grace, with only
just a shade of sulkiness in recognition of her perfidy, and that he
shook hands with Fred with no expressed intention of having his life's
blood? However it was, these things happened; and if a happier or more
agreeable quartette ever sat down to a supper table, the present
chronicler would like to be present on the occasion.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE POOR AUTHOR'S HOME.


Outside the humble house in Lambeth in which Mr. Linton and his family
occupied two modest rooms--and those not the best--Uncle Leth paced the
lonely street. There was not a soul about, with the exception of the
policeman, with whom Uncle Leth exchanged a few words explaining his
presence; but although that functionary expressed himself satisfied, he
still kept an eye upon the stranger in the neighbourhood. Aunt Leth was
upstairs with Mrs. Linton; the unfortunate author had not returned home,
as Aunt Leth, running breathlessly down to the street door, had informed
her husband; and Uncle Leth was now looking anxiously for his
appearance. It was out of a feeling of delicacy that he had not entered
the house; he knew that the intrusion of a strange man would have
alarmed Mrs. Linton, and have marred the kind errand upon which he and
his wife were engaged. So he waited outside, listening for footsteps,
and mentally praying that Mr. Linton had done nothing rash.

Aunt Leth and Mrs. Linton were already friends, and it seemed to the
poor author's wife as if she had known her kind visitor for years. It
was not without trepidation that Aunt Leth had introduced herself to
Mrs. Linton, but she allowed no signs of this feeling to appear in her
manner: she was cheerful and unobtrusive, and her sweet face and
pleasant voice conveyed hope to the heart of the anxious wife.

"I am a friend of your husband," Aunt Leth said, "and I hope you will
forgive me for calling upon you at so late an hour. My name is
Lethbridge."

"Yes," said Mrs. Linton; "my husband has often spoken of you and your
family. He was desirous that we should become personally acquainted some
time since; but"--she paused here; the sentence, completed, would have
been an avowal of poverty.

"But," said Aunt Leth, taking up the words, with a sweet smile, "you
have been so busy, and your husband has been so much engaged, that you
could not find time. It is just the way with us at home. The days are
really not long enough for one's cares and duties."

"Are you alone?" asked Mrs. Linton.

"No; my husband is below, waiting for me. He would not come up, it is so
late. I should not have had the courage to come had I not heard that
your little boy was not well. Dear little fellow! You won't mind my
kissing you, will you, sweet?"

She was by the bedside, bending over the lad, who was awake, and who,
when she lowered her face to his, put his little arms round her neck. In
Aunt Leth's beautiful ways there was an affectionate magnetism which won
the hearts of old and young. Mrs. Linton burst into tears.

"Don't cry, my dear," said Aunt Leth; "we are going to be very good
friends, and everything will be bright and happy. Ah! it is only wives
and mothers like ourselves who know what real trouble is; but then we
are able to bear it, thank God! It is love's duty. To be strong and
reliant and hopeful will help to bring back the roses to your little
boy's cheeks."

All the time she was speaking she was either at the bedside or doing
unobtrusively something housewifely about the room, which made her
presence there like an angel's visit.

"Where did you hear that our little boy was ill?" asked Mrs. Linton.

"At the theatre."

"Ah! you have been there?" Mrs. Linton's agitation was so great that her
hand rose instinctively to her heart. It was a thin white hand, eloquent
with weakness and suffering. "Tell me, tell me about the piece! I
expected my husband home by this time. If it was a success he would have
flown here."

"My dear," said Aunt Leth, with a bright look, "I am not an author's
wife, and therefore I cannot speak with authority; but I can understand
how much there must be to talk about at the theatre after the first
representation of a play. Perhaps some trifling alterations to make, or
a little dialogue to be strengthened or shortened, and there is nothing
like taking these things in hand on the spur of the moment. That is
business, and must be attended to, must it not? I hardly know whether I
am right or wrong in what I say, but it seems to me so."

"You are right," sighed Mrs. Linton; "there are always a great many
alterations to make in my husband's plays. I used to go on the first
nights, but the excitement had such an effect upon me that I wait now to
know whether they are likely to be a success or not. It is an anxious
life, waiting, waiting, waiting for what, perhaps, will never come. It
is wearing my poor husband out; and he works so hard, so earnestly--"

"All the more need for courage, my dear," said Aunt Leth, taking Mrs.
Linton's hand and patting it hopefully. "Bright fortune, when it comes,
will be all the sweeter for a little delay. It will come, my dear, it
will!"

"Perhaps too late!" murmured the mother, her apprehensive eyes
travelling to the bed upon which her sick child was lying.

"You must not say that; you must not think it. When your husband returns
you must be cheerful and strong; he will require such help after his
anxious night. And what a beautiful play he has written! How proud you
must be of him!"

With such like affectionate interchange of confidences did the time pass
in Mrs. Linton's room; but Aunt Leth's heart almost fainted within her
at the lengthened absence of the author. No less anxious was Uncle Leth
in the street below. Two or three times, on some pretence or other, Aunt
Leth ran down to him to satisfy herself that he was all right, hoping on
each occasion that she would return in the company of Mr. Linton. She
and her husband were afraid to give expression to their fast-growing
fears. All that Uncle Leth said was: "Don't hurry away. You must not
leave till Mr. Linton comes home. He will be here soon."

But more than an hour elapsed before the author appeared, and Uncle Leth
breathed a "Thank God!" when he saw him turn the corner of the street,
in the company of Kiss. Uncle Leth hastened toward them to explain the
meaning of his presence, but Mr. Linton did not give him time to utter a
word. His agitation was so great, he had been so wrought up by the
incidents of the night, that he saw a tragedy in the surprise.

"My God!" he cried; and but for the support afforded by Kiss's strong
arm he would have fallen to the ground. "My wife! my child!"

"Are well," said Uncle Leth, quickly. "My wife is with yours, and they
are waiting for you. Don't take it ill of us; we are here in true
friendship and sympathy. Keep up your heart; all will turn out right."

"That's what I've been telling him," said Kiss, heartily; "and if ever
there was a bright omen, this is one. Now go up to your wife, like a
good fellow, and put on a cheerful face. We shall rub through. Never
lose sight of the silver lining, my boy; it is shining now in your room
on the faces of two good women!"

Mr. Linton, unable to speak, pressed Uncle Leth's hand, and passed into
the house, leaving his friends in the street.

"How kind of you!" murmured Kiss. "I intended to go up with Linton, but
now your good wife is there my presence is not required. I have had a
dreadful time with him. When he rushed out of the theatre I hardly knew
what to think, being knocked over, so to speak, by the strange speech he
made. I was not the only one; it was so novel, so thoroughly unexpected.
There is just the chance it may be the talk of the town, and if that
happens it will bring money to the treasury. I ran up to my
dressing-room for a quick change, and it suddenly occurred to me that in
the state Linton was in it would be as well if he had a friend by his
side. Quick as thought I left the theatre, without waiting to wash, and
knowing the road Linton always took home, followed it without coming up
to him. I didn't trouble myself about the public-houses: Linton is a
temperate man, and he was in no mood for company. With a great success
it might have been different: he might have taken a glass. You see, Mr.
Lethbridge, I know him and his ways. He is wonderfully sensitive and
nervous, and he had taken it into his head that upon the success of _A
Heart of Gold_ his whole career depended. He had staked all his hopes
upon it. Success meant life, fortune, fame, happiness: failure meant
death, ruin, despair. It is the misfortune of these highly sensitive
natures; they suffer the tortures of the damned! How did you come here?"

"In a cab," said Uncle Leth.

"I followed Linton on foot, and must have been pretty smart, because I
got here before you arrived. I ascertained from the landlady of the
house that Linton had not come home, and back I started, retracing my
steps, first cautioning the landlady not to let Mrs. Linton know that I
had been here making inquiries. I'll tell you what was in my mind.
Linton's road home led past a bridge, which he had no occasion to cross,
and I thought if I didn't meet him before I came to that bridge that I
would cross it myself, to see if some impulse of despair had drawn his
steps in that direction. Sir, I was right! There, looking down upon the
river, stood Linton. I must not do him an injustice: I do not believe he
had any idea of suicide; it was simply that he was in a condition of
blank despairing bewilderment, and it is my opinion he might have stood
there for hours without conscious thought. When I laid my hand upon his
shoulder, he looked at me like a man in a dream. It was quite a time
before he completely recovered himself; before, it may be said, he was
awake. Then we talked. He could not tell me how he had got on the
bridge; he had been drawn there, as I supposed, and he stood looking
down upon the river in a kind of waking trance. I could dilate on the
theme, but the hour is not propitious. Well, Mr. Lethbridge, when we
conversed intelligently, I discovered that he was afraid to go home.
Hereby hangs a tale. His wife, before he married her, was in a better
position in life than he; she had wealthy relatives, who disowned her
when she married Linton. Since then it has been one long struggle;
nothing but hardships; nothing but privations. She has never reproached
him; such a thought I am certain has never entered her mind. But he has
taken it into his head that he has done her a great wrong, and the
culminating events of this night at the theatre took all the courage out
of him; he dared not face her. But for him she might have been
prosperous and happy; it was through him that her life had been wrecked.
I had to combat this view, and it needed all my powers. Without wearying
you I may say that I partly succeeded at length in bringing him to a
better state of mind. That is all, and I have ended just in time. Here
is your wife. Madam," he said, advancing, and raising her hand to his
lips, "in the garden of human nature you are the sweetest flower!"



CHAPTER IX.

WHAT THE NEWSPAPERS SAID OF "A HEART OF GOLD."


Mr. Linton's speech before the curtain served more than one good purpose
with many of the dramatic critics. It diverted the attention of some
from the demerits of the comedy drama, and it softened the condemnation
which others would have pronounced upon it. Again, it furnished a theme
upon which one and all dilated--this one indulgently, that one severely;
but the main point was (and the most important in the judgment of the
manager of the Star Theatre) that it drew public attention to the
production.

"The great point gained," said that astute individual, "is that we get a
lot of advertising for nothing."

There were leading articles upon the incident, and it provoked
correspondence upon certain collateral matters, which the theatrical
manager did his best to nourish. "Keep the pot boiling," said he, and he
persuaded his friends to write to the papers, not caring much which side
they took so long as their letters were inserted. The old cry of
first-night cliques was raised; the right of passing judgment within the
walls of the theatre on the first night of production was defended, as
to which certain methods in vogue were challenged or upheld, some
calling them cruel, others maintaining that they were just. Novel
theories were discussed. Said one correspondent:

"We are compelled to pay our money at the doors before we know anything
of the quality of the dish which is to be set before us. If it is
worthless, we are naturally indignant, and we say as much; if it is good
work, we give unstinted praise. Had we the option of paying afterward,
instead of being compelled to part with our money beforehand, the case
would be different."

To this it was replied:

"Nobody forces you to the theatre on first nights; you can keep away if
you choose until you hear from the dramatic critics whether the fare is
good or bad."

Of course came the indignant rejoinder:

"It is the public who are the critics, not the writers on the press.
There is not a man in pit or gallery who is not as good a judge of the
merits of a play as the best professional dramatic critic in the
country."

An Englishman who had just returned from a visit to America wrote:

"Three weeks ago I was present in a New York theatre on the first
production of a new play. It was the most wretched trash imaginable, and
was an unmitigated and deserved failure. In comparison with the play I
witnessed then, _A Heart of Gold_, at the first representation of which
I was present, shines forth a most worthy, intellectual, and
praiseworthy effort. It is the work of an earnest, capable playwright,
who deserves every encouragement, even when he does not come up to the
requirements of the modern play-goer. I will, however, go so far as to
place the two plays on a level, pronouncing them, for the purpose of my
illustration, as equal in merit--which is not the case, for one is a
gem, the other the vilest paste. Both plays were condemned. Note, now,
the methods of condemnation. In New York, when the curtain fell, the
audience very quietly left the theatre; there was no applause; there
were no shrieks and howls; no brutal cries for 'Author,' to serve a
cruel end. There was something almost funereal in the manner of the New
York audience as they filed slowly out of the house; they seemed to
tread more softly than usual; they spoke in lower tones. This was their
method of damning the play, and I commend it to the attention of London
play-goers as incomparably more decent and respectable than that which
they adopt to break an author's heart. There are certain of our national
customs which will bear reform; this undoubtedly is one. As I pen these
lines I see the two assemblages; one conducting itself with reason and
dignity, as becomes rational men and women; the other conducting itself
with unreasoning and indefensible cruelty, as becomes a lower order of
being."

A morning paper of high repute summed up the matter thus:

"In our columns to-day will be found a letter from a gentleman who
contrasts with some force the different methods of 'damning' a play in
England and America. He commends the American system and condemns the
English, ignoring, as it appears to us, the more important issues which
hang upon the methods he describes. If the matter which he argues
commenced and ended with the behaviour of an audience on the first night
of a new production, his views would be convincing, but it only
commences and does not end there. We have ourselves, on several
occasions during late years, commented with some severity upon the
unnecessarily noisy conduct of first-night audiences in London when an
indifferent or a bad play has been submitted to their judgment, but we
have never gone so far as to absolutely condemn the method which has
excited the indignation of our correspondent. It is merely a question of
degree, and the good sense of the public will sooner or later set the
matter right. To this end the proceedings at the Star Theatre on the
first representation of _A Heart of Gold_ will healthfully contribute.
But that is not the question. What we have to consider is absolutely
apart from the purely personal aspect of the matter, and we have no
hesitation in declaring that the English method, exercised with
reasonable moderation, is much more powerful in its beneficial effects
upon dramatic literature than the 'silent system' depicted by our
correspondent as being the vogue in New York. If a lesson is to be
enforced, it is as well that some emphasis should be used in the manner
of its administration; its effect is intended not only for the present,
but for the future, and our correspondent is totally mistaken in
supposing that there is anything really and solely personal in the
attitude of our first-night audiences when they are displeased--and
generally justly displeased--with the fare provided for them. It means,
'Be more careful in your future work; let your proportions be more
nicely managed, do not fall into the ultra-sentimental, or the
ultra-farcical, or the ultra-melodramatic.' The condemnation pronounced
is not the condemnation of an author's life and career; it is
condemnation of a single effort. Let this same author the following
night at another theatre produce a play which justly pleases, and he
will be acclaimed from the topmost row of the gallery to the foremost
row of the stalls. This fact is a proof that the argument of personalism
ridiculously introduced is unworthy of consideration, and likely to be
detrimental to the best interests of the drama. As well might one say
that a wholesome correction administered to a child is cruel and brutal.

"It may not be unprofitable to cursorily examine the effect of the
opposite systems current in America and England with respect to
first-nights. We do not for one moment intend to advance that these
verdicts are the direct cause of the comparative merits of production,
but certainly they contribute to the result. For generations it has been
the fashion here to sigh for the dramatist who is to lift our drama to a
higher level than it occupies at present. This yearning is to a great
extent sentimental, for much has been done by living English dramatists
which is by no means discreditable to intellectual effort; and the
thirst for great plays--plays which shall take their place as
classics--seems in the near future not unlikely to be satisfied. We
mention no names, for that would be invidious, and we are aware that in
a few of our best theatres no high level is aimed at--that is to say,
that the eye more than the mind is catered for. There are, however, four
or five West End theatres which, while entirely satisfying the demand
for pictorial effect, at the same time satisfy the intellect. At these
theatres original plays of a high order are from time to time produced,
and in their revival of old plays an intelligence is displayed worthy of
the sincerest commendation. We have writers of comedy also who are
aiming high, who fail now and then, but who buckle on their armour again
and work with a will. This is the right spirit, and we claim that our
English first-night system has stirred it to a higher emulation. On the
other hand, what has America done? Is there upon the English stage
to-day one lofty example of American original dramatic effort? We supply
the American theatres; they do not reciprocate by supplying us. What is
the customary answer to this? 'Oh! but we are a young country.' It is a
fallacious excuse. America, as a nation, is more than a hundred years
old; it has gathered into its folds a fair proportion of our best
intellect; it has a stirring, new, and picturesque history; its public
and social life teems with novel and amusing characteristics; its story
abounds in heroic episodes; Nature smiles upon it bounteously and
beautifully; and humanity, as varied and many-sided in its aspects as
could ever be hoped to be seen cheek by jowl in one country, there plays
its part through the hours and the days and the years. What more is
needed? Young! America is ripe now, if ever it will be; but where is its
lofty dramatic record? 'Where is yours?' the nation may retort. And we
answer: Such as it is, look for it in your American theatres. You ask
for our stamp, when you should make and rely upon one of your own. We
should not be the losers if you satisfied our demand; nor would you; we
should both be nerved to the highest instead of to the mediocre. It is
not unworthy of consideration whether the silent attitude of your
first-night audiences, instead of the indignant, as with us, be not
prejudicial to the production of a dramatic literature worthy of your
greatness.

"One word more. If London play-goers who are in the habit of going to
'first nights' with unfair and ungenerous intentions, in the hope of or
the desire for a failure, regard what we have said as a defence or a
justification of their occasionally inconsiderate and violent conduct,
they are grievously mistaken. There must be moderation an all things,
and there must be moderation in the expression of their opinions. They
have a license, but the privilege accorded to them must not be abused.
They have no right to demand that the author of an unsuccessful play
should appear before them to be hooted and howled at, and it is to be
hoped for the future that this insistence may not be carried to an
extreme, as of late years has frequently been the case."

The result of all this was that instead of empty benches, as the manager
of the Star Theatre had feared before Mr. Linton's speech, the public
flocked to see _A Heart of Gold_, in order that they might judge for
themselves. Everybody in the theatre was in a high state of exultation
at this unexpected turn of the tables. Kiss, who was in great
trepidation at the prospect of not being able to meet the bill which
Jeremiah Pamflett held, became gradually reassured, and was not chary in
the expression of his hopes to Mr. Lethbridge. "It is the most wonderful
event in my professional experience," he said.

This recountal of the progress of Mr. Linton's comedy drama has somewhat
transgressed the sequence of events, the private details of which now
claim our attention.

When Mr. and Mrs. Lethbridge returned home after their visit to Mrs.
Linton they found the young people up; Fred Cornwall, as a matter of
course, and because of what had taken place between him and Phoebe,
being happily ensconced by Phoebe's side, as was his undoubted right
under the circumstances. Very few moments elapsed before Mr. and Mrs.
Lethbridge were made acquainted with the engagement. Phoebe's
happiness was reflected in her face, and her aunt and uncle fondly
embraced her, and wished the young people every joy.

"I should not have dared to stop so late but for this," said Fred
Cornwall to Mrs. Lethbridge.

"It _is_ very late," said Mrs. Lethbridge, glancing at the clock; "five
minutes to three; and the girls must go to bed. Dear, dear, what a night
this has been! Now, Fanny, Phoebe, you must not stop up a minute
longer. Mr. Cornwall, I am glad, for Phoebe's sake, that you are not a
dramatic author."

"Why, mamma?" exclaimed Fanny, the staunch and faithful champion. "The
successful ones makes heaps of money, and Fred would have been sure to
be successful. And, mamma, it isn't 'Mr. Cornwall' now; it is Fred with
all of us. You mustn't forget he is one of the family--aren't you,
Fred?"

"I hope to be," said Fred, gaily, "and very soon."

"And you must call mamma Aunt Leth, as everybody does who has the least
affection for her," said Fanny.

"May I?" asked Fred.

"Indeed you may," said Mrs. Lethbridge. She clasped the young man's
hand, and looked at him solicitously; "I must speak to you before you
go."

He took the hint, and went out into the passage to wish his dear girl
good night. It is wonderful what a long time this simplest form of
farewell occupied, but then it was like a new language to the lovers.
Indeed, everything to their senses was at that moment new and beautiful,
and every word they spoke to each other was charged with strange
tenderness. Fanny, as was to be expected of her, retired first to her
bedroom, leaving the lovers together; but her high spirits would not
allow her to be utterly extinguished. When at length Phoebe came
slowly into the room, "with many a lingering look behind," Fanny popped
out into the passage, shutting her cousin in.

"Fred!" said Fanny, in a stage-whisper, leaning over the balustrade.

"Yes," he said, looking up.

"Like Romeo and Juliet, isn't it? Parting is such sweet sorrow she could
say good-night until to-morrow. But she isn't coming out again, so you
had best go at once to mamma. Good-night, Fred."

"Good-night, Fanny."

Then he went into the dining-room, where Mr. and Mrs. Lethbridge were
waiting for him. It rather discomposed him to observe that they received
him with grave looks instead of smiles.

"You are not sorry," he said, "for what has occurred?"

"No," replied Mrs. Lethbridge, "we are not sorry. But for one
consideration there would not be a cloud upon our hearts to-night."

"What consideration?" asked Fred.

"Phoebe's father. You have not spoken to him?"

"No, I have not. To speak the truth, it was my intention to ask your
advice whether, before I spoke to Phoebe, I should go to see Mr.
Farebrother at Parksides."

"That would have been the best course, perhaps," said Mrs. Lethbridge.

"You would have advised me to do so?"

"Yes."

"It is, however, too late to talk of that now. I had no intention of
proposing to Phoebe to-night, and I have no idea how it all came
about. But there it is, and I would not unsay what I have said, or undo
what I have done, for all the wealth in the world."

"We would not wish you to do so," said Mrs. Lethbridge; and her gentle
voice and wistful eyes were sufficient proof that she was in entire
sympathy with him. "It is not to-night that we have discovered that you
and our dear Phoebe love each other. We have known it a long time, and
our prayer is that we have not acted unwisely in innocently encouraging
it. Should there be no obstacle to your union a happy life is before you
both."

"What obstacle can there be?"

"Phoebe's father may refuse his consent."

"I cannot see upon what grounds," said Fred. "I am not rich, it is true;
but I am a gentleman, and I shall not ask him for any money. I am
content--more than content--to take Phoebe as she is, without a penny,
and to work with all my heart and soul for her happiness and comfort.
And she will be happy with me, Aunt Leth."

"There is no reason to doubt it," said Mrs. Lethbridge. "But it is as
well to be prepared when you go to see Mr. Farebrother."

"To be prepared for what?--for his refusal? Well, in that case I shall
have reason to rejoice that I spoke to Phoebe first, and learnt from
her dear lips that her heart is mine. With her father's refusal staring
me in the face I might have hesitated, but I should have spoken all the
same. It isn't likely that I should have stood tamely aside and seen the
happiness of our lives destroyed. But what is done, is done, Aunt Leth,
and nothing can undo it. Phoebe is mine, and I am hers. Nothing in the
world shall part us."

"Let us hope for the best," said Mrs. Lethbridge. "We thought it our
duty to give you a word of warning. Phoebe's father is a strange man,
and you must be careful in dealing with him."

"I will be. Phoebe remains here four or five days, she tells me."

"Yes; her father consented that she should stop with us till Tuesday or
Wednesday next."

Fred rubbed his hands joyously. "Let it be Wednesday, Aunt Leth."

"I shall be only too happy, Fred. When will you go to Parksides?"

"Not before Wednesday next. I want time, you see, to think of what I
shall say to Mr. Farebrother. There is no immediate hurry, because
everything is as good as settled. Good-night dear Aunt Leth. I am the
happiest man in the world!"



CHAPTER X.

HIDDEN TREASURE.


"Mother," said Jeremiah Pamflett, the next day, when he reached
Parksides, "I am going to make a move; I am getting tired of playing a
waiting game."

"Something has occurred, then, Jeremiah?" asked Mrs. Pamflett, her keen
eyes on her son's face.

"Well, I went to the theatre last night, and sat in the pit, while
Phoebe--_my_ Phoebe, mother--and her precious set were in a private
box, dressed up to the nines, with flowers and all sorts of things."

"The Lethbridges, Jeremiah?"

"Yes, the Lethbridges, and that lawyer chap."

"I told you there was danger in that quarter, Jeremiah."

"And I told _you_ to mind your own business. Do you think this Phoebe
affair is the only one I've got to look after? There are other schemes,
mother, with heaps of money hanging to them, which will land me in a
carriage as sure as guns. I'm going to take in the sharpers; I'm going
to prove that I'm the sharpest fellow _they_ ever had to deal with; I'll
have thousands out of them! They think they know a lot, but they don't
know everything. Why, with my head for figures and calculations, I ought
to be as rich as the Rothschilds! I'll tell you all about it by-and-by."

"You are always keeping things from me, Jeremiah," said Mrs. Pamflett,
in an injured tone. "Why not tell me now?"

"Because I don't choose. Still tongue, wise head."

"I might keep things from you, Jeremiah," said Mrs. Pamflett; and there
was now a sly note in her voice which caused Jeremiah to bristle up.

"Oh, you would, would you! You've got something to tell, and you won't
tell it! All right. I've done with you." He turned to go, but she seized
his arm and detained him.

"No, no, Jeremiah! I've no one in the world but you. I'll tell you
everything, everything!"

"Well, out with it; and never speak to me again like that, or it will be
the worse for you. Mind what I say!"

"I will, Jeremiah--I will. Shut the door, and look first that there's no
one outside."

"Who should be outside?" he asked, when he returned to his mother's
side.

"Speak low, Jeremiah. Miser Farebrother is as cunning as a fox. For all
his lameness, he can creep about the house as soft as a cat. I was awake
last night with a bad toothache, and I heard his bedroom door creak, and
then I heard him go softly, softly down-stairs. 'What is he up to?' I
thought, and I slipped out of bed and into the passage. There was no
fear of his hearing _my_ door creak; I keep the hinges well oiled; and
it was dark, and he couldn't see me. Would you believe it, Jeremiah? It
was past two o'clock in the morning, and he went out of the house. I was
afraid to go after him, because if he had turned suddenly back, and shut
the street door upon me, I shouldn't have been able to get in without
his finding me out. So I waited and waited, wondering what he was about.
I suppose it must have been twenty minutes at least before he came back;
but he did come at last, and, oh, Jeremiah; you never in all your life
saw anybody as sly as he was! He looked round and round, and this way
and that, to make sure he was alone, and then he crawled upstairs. How
he managed it I don't know, he was in such pain; but not a groan, not a
sound, escaped him. And he was carrying a large cash-box, too, that I
had never seen before. It was covered with mud, and of course I jumped
at the truth; it had been buried somewhere in the grounds, and he had
gone out in the middle of the night to dig it up. You may guess what a
state of excitement I was in, and I said to myself, 'For Jeremiah's sake
I'll see the end of it.' It took him almost another twenty minutes to
get to his room; he had to sit on the stairs a dozen times to rest, and
I couldn't help thinking what a wonderfully sly man he was that he
should be doing what he was doing, and what perhaps he's done over and
over again, without my ever being able to find it out."

"You may well say that," grumbled Jeremiah. "A nice article you are to
look after my interests! Catch me being in the house all the years
you've been, and being taken in like that! I wouldn't have believed it
of you if anybody else was telling me."

"I wouldn't have believed it of myself, Jeremiah; but better late than
never, my boy."

"Better soon than late: that's the proper way of it. But go on, can't
you? He got back to his room, and there was you outside the door,
peeping through the key-hole?"

"Yes, Jeremiah, and Miser Farebrother none the wiser. He wiped the mud
off the cash-box and opened it. Jeremiah, it was stuffed full of gold
and bank-notes. He counted it and counted it over and over again, and he
wrote down some figures on a piece of paper. Then he put the money back
and locked the box, and hid it under his mattress. After that he tore up
the paper he'd been writing on, and blew out the candle, and went to
bed. I heard him groaning there for an hour afterward."

"Is that the end of it?" asked Jeremiah, in a wrathful voice and with
wrathful looks. "Do you mean to tell me that is the end of it?"

"No, it isn't; there's something more. Never you call me a fool again. I
went into his room as usual this morning, and you may depend I looked
about for the box; but I couldn't catch sight of it. Oh, he's a cunning
one, he is! But I did catch sight of something. I had my hand-broom and
shovel, and I swept up the floor and the fireplace, and brought away the
pieces of paper he had torn up. I asked him if he'd had a good night,
and he said he fell asleep the moment he put his head on the pillow, and
that he must have slept seven or eight hours right off. I told him he
looked as if he'd had a splendid rest--which he didn't, Jeremiah. He was
the picture of misery. When I got away from him I sorted out the pieces
of paper and stuck them together. Here it is. He must be richer than we
think, Jeremiah. Look! Ten one hundred pounds--bank-notes, Jeremiah! I
saw him count 'em--that's a thousand. Twenty fifties--that's another
thousand. Fifty twenties--that's another thousand. And another thousand
in sovereigns. He laid 'em in piles upon the table. They did look grand!
Piles of gold. Jeremiah! Four thousand pounds altogether. You didn't
know anything about it, did you?"

"No, I didn't," replied Jeremiah, his eyes glittering greedily. "He must
have had the money by him a long time, I expect. Did you look about the
grounds for his hiding-place?"

"Yes; but I didn't find it. I couldn't see the slightest signs of one."

"_I'll_ find it, mother."

"You mustn't do anything rash, Jeremiah; you mustn't get yourself into
trouble."

"Not likely, mother. Trust me for looking after myself. All his money is
mine, and I mean to have it! By fair means, mother--by fair means; and
he sha'n't cheat me out of a penny. Once I get hold of Phoebe--. Well,
all right! I shall know how to work it. I'll go now and have a talk with
him."



CHAPTER XI.

MISER FAREBROTHER GIVES JEREMIAH A WARNING.


Jeremiah's "talk" with Miser Farebrother proved to be not entirely to
the satisfaction of the younger juggler, and the few days of happiness
which yet remained to Phoebe were not disturbed by any intimation of
the conspiracy into which the two men had entered, the successful issue
of which would result in the destruction of the fondest hopes of her
life. Jeremiah was impatient, and eager that Phoebe should be recalled
home immediately; but Miser Farebrother would not have it so. Of the two
he was infinitely the more wily and astute, and he dropped pearls of
wisdom for the benefit of his crafty managing clerk. It told rather
against Jeremiah that in the account he gave of his interviews with the
Lethbridge party on the previous night he should accentuate every
unpleasant and disagreeable word to which he had given utterance; he had
an idea that by so doing he was impressing the miser with a deep sense
of his wit and cleverness, the fact being that he produced quite an
opposite effect.

"Never startle your game, Jeremiah," said Miser Farebrother. "A skilful
sportsman goes quietly and patiently to work. I have not been in the
habit of suddenly summoning my daughter from London, after having given
her permission to remain there for a stated time. To do so now would
only excite suspicion, and strengthen, perhaps, any opposition we have
to meet with. Last night's proceedings are not in your favour. You spoke
sarcastically, and made yourself generally objectionable. The tongue of
that clever young person, Miss Fanny Lethbridge, must have wagged rarely
against you after you took your departure. You rubbed them the wrong
way, Jeremiah--a mistake, a great mistake! Instead of oil, you used
vinegar. 'Tis a million to one that the lawyer scoundrel saw through
you; you made an enemy of him when you might have thrown dust into his
eyes."

"What does it matter?" said Jeremiah, rather sulkily. "I'm not afraid of
him."

"It matters everything," retorted Miser Farebrother. "It matters that
you exposed your hand, and gave your rival the advantage over you."

"My rival!" cried Jeremiah, with a dark frown.

"It looks like it, doesn't it?" said Miser Farebrother, with a certain
sly satisfaction at Jeremiah's discomposure. For himself, he was easy in
his mind with respect to Phoebe. He had her oath, sworn upon her dead
mother's prayer-book, that she would not marry without his consent, and
he knew that she would rather die than break it. Jeremiah was not
cognizant of this sacred promise, so cunningly wrung by Miser
Farebrother from his daughter, and the miser, secure in the knowledge,
could afford to laugh at his intriguing clerk, who thought himself his
master's equal in duplicity. In Miser Farebrother's feelings there was
something of the delight and the triumph which one rogue experiences
when he overreaches another. "It looks like it, doesn't it? And we
mustn't lose sight of the uncomfortable fact that Mr. Cornwall looks
like a gentleman, while you, Jeremiah, you--not to mince the
matter--look quite the other thing." He rubbed his hands with a sense of
great enjoyment, and proceeded: "There you were, Jeremiah, sitting in
the pit all the time this fine lawyer-gentleman was paying court to your
sweetheart in a private box. And she blushing and hanging her head the
while; and our dear friends the Lethbridges--"

"Damn them!" interposed Jeremiah, the blurting out of the expletive
being some slight relief to his feelings.

"With all my heart! Damn them behind their backs, but bless them to
their faces. That is the true and wise policy of life. Never take off
your mask unless you are alone, or with me, Jeremiah. And there, as I
was saying, while my daughter was blushing and hanging her head at the
honeyed nonsense the gentleman-lawyer was pouring into her ears, were
our dear friends the Lethbridges holding back, and doing all they could
to break your tender heart. You owe them a good turn, Jeremiah."

"I will pay what I owe," said Jeremiah, fiercely. "They are working
against me, and they shall live to rue it. When they play with men like
me they play with edged tools. But doesn't all this go to prove that you
should summon Miss Phoebe home at once--this very day?"

"No; it only goes to prove that I know how to conduct this matter better
than you do. My daughter will return home on Tuesday or Wednesday; and
then, Jeremiah, then you can commence your wooing in real earnest."

"You mean it?"

"I mean it. I can't afford to trick and deceive you."

"No," said Jeremiah, unaccountably--for one so shrewd--losing his guard;
"I don't think you can." But he was ready the next moment to bite his
tongue off for the indiscretion.

"That is right," said Miser Farebrother, with outward composure, "always
be frank with me, Jeremiah--with me above all others. When you are
conversing with me, drop the mask, as I advised you. It makes me
understand the kind of metal I am dealing with, and how I must act to
shape it to my will. And it is as well that you should understand, my
lad"--and now there was in Miser Farebrother's voice a note of stern
determination which caused Jeremiah to wince and to shift uneasily on
his chair--"exactly how far it is safe to go with me. My will is law,
and shall be while I live. We have made a bargain, you and I, and I
shall abide by it as long as it suits me--no longer. You are not yet my
son-in-law; you are my servant, and your future welfare depends upon me.
Remember it, Jeremiah."

"Why do you speak to me like that?" whined Jeremiah. "If I happened to
say something foolish, it was because my feelings were worked up. You
helped to work them up, speaking in the way you did about your daughter
and that--that beast! What I meant was that I am sure you wouldn't
deceive me. I know that I am dependent upon you, and I beg your pardon a
thousand times!" He so cringed and fawned that he seemed to become limp,
and to grovel in the dust before the miser.

"You see, Jeremiah," said Miser Farebrother, slowly and deliberately,
"though I am weak, I am not entirely powerless. My brain was never
clearer, my will never stronger, than they are this day. At any moment,
my servant as you are, my son-in-law as you hope to be, I could manage
to pounce upon you in London, and clear you out of my office. Money will
buy service, and I can buy it. Money will buy spies, and I can buy them.
Let me have reason to suppose that you are playing me false, and this
piece of paper is not more easily torn than you should be ruined! I hold
out no threat; I simply warn you. We are not men of sentiment, you and
I, Jeremiah, because we know that sentiment doesn't pay; it always ends
in a loss. We are practical, hard-headed men, with a shrewd eye to our
own interests. I don't blame you for that; I like you for it. We are
associated with each other, you for your interests, I for mine; and that
you have, and will have, the best of the bargain is a slice of luck for
which you may thank this cursed rheumatism which racks my bones and
makes my life a torture. But what I would drive into you is the
conviction that I am more necessary to you than you are to me; and that
I could more easily do without you than you could do without me.
Supposing you were dead"--Jeremiah started--"supposing you were dead,"
the miser repeated, complacently, "I should still have my business,
which I could intrust to other hands, or wind up, as I pleased; my money
would still be my own, and I could leave it to my daughter, or, if she
offended and thwarted me, to some good charitable institution where my
name would be revered, or to some church--I am not particular as to
creeds, Jeremiah--where prayers would be offered up for my soul.
Rheumatism doesn't necessarily kill a man; it makes his life a hell, but
it seldom shortens it. Now I think of it, I can even see advantages in
it. It keeps a man in-doors; he can't be run over; he can't slip down on
a piece of orange peel; he can't sit in a 'bus next to a person who has
a fever or the small-pox. Why, it lengthens life instead of shortens it;
the statistics are worth looking up. I am not what you call a reading
man--I never was--but I can remember what I have heard, and when I was a
young man I heard somebody say, 'Those whom the gods love die young.'
Now you are young, Jeremiah, and the gods may love you. So, taking it
altogether, the chances of my life against yours are rather in my
favour. With respect to our particular business relations, I warn you to
be careful; I may not be in such complete ignorance of your doings as
you suppose me to be. That is all I have to say."

"It isn't very pleasant," said Jeremiah, thoroughly cowed, "after the
years I've worked for you, to have to listen to all this, and just
because I happened to let a word slip. What more can I do, except to beg
your pardon again?"

"Let it pass, Jeremiah; I forgive you. All I require is obedience."

"I will give it to you, sir, as I have always done."

"And faithfulness. No tampering with me or what belongs to me." He
looked up with a sour smile. "This little storm has cleared the air,
Jeremiah."

"I hope so, sir. Everything stands as it did?"

"Everything stands, son-in-law that is to be. Be gentle in your wooing."

"I will, sir; I can never be grateful enough to you."

"Never mind gratitude. Be honest, obedient, and faithful. That is all I
require of you."

In Jeremiah's heart, as he left Parksides that day, reigned a very
cordial hatred toward Miser Farebrother. This feeling was intensified by
genuine fear, for the miser's random shot, "I am not in such complete
ignorance of your doings as you suppose me to be," had struck home. That
he was guilty of acts in the conduct of the business intrusted to him,
the discovery of which would place him in the criminal dock, no person,
he believed, was aware but himself. But if the miser were to recover his
health and strength so completely as to enable him to come to London and
undertake the management of his own affairs for a few weeks, there would
be scarcely any escape for the dishonest clerk. Account-books had been
tampered with, money misappropriated, borrowed for a time, and never
replaced; forgery even could be traced to his hand. "What does he know?"
thought Jeremiah. "What does he really know--and how much? Or is it mere
guess-work, suspecting me and everybody, as I dare say I should do in
his place? Yes, it must be that, or he would not have waited so long
before he had his fling at me." He began to feel more composed. His
mother had informed him before he bade her good-by that it was
absolutely impossible for Miser Farebrother to come to London unless he
was carried there, and that but for her constant care and attention he
could hardly be expected to live. It was a marvel to her, she said, how
he had contrived to leave the house on the previous night to fetch his
treasure, and to return unassisted. As it was, he had been compelled,
much against his will, to call in a doctor, who had said that it
required but slight exertion on the miser's part to bring on
inflammation of the stomach, in which case, the doctor added, he would
be very likely to die.

"He is too fond of his precious life," said Mrs. Pamflett to her son,
"and too frightened of death, to run a risk. The doctor has ordered him
to keep his room, and not to attempt to stir out of it for a fortnight
at least. There is no fear of his pouncing upon you, as he threatened;
but, oh, Jeremiah, what makes you in such a pucker at the thought of
it?"

To which Jeremiah had replied that he did not care a brass farthing
whether the miser came or kept away, but that he did not intend to be
taken unawares, and to be interfered with without proper notice. He
instructed his mother to write to him twice a day, morning and evening,
informing him how the miser was. "And look here, mother," said Jeremiah;
"it won't do you or me any harm if you are not quite so careful of him.
Keep him prisoner till I am married to Phoebe, and everything will be
right. After that he may go to the devil as soon as he likes!"

By the time he reached London, Jeremiah had recovered his composure, and
had flattered himself into the belief that there was nothing to fear
from the miser's threats. At all events, he would take care of himself.
"He warned me to be careful," thought Jeremiah. "Let _him_ be careful,
or it will be the worse for him!"

Meanwhile Phoebe was enjoying a very heaven upon earth. There comes
such a time to many, when life is sweet and beautiful, and all things
are fair. Was there ever such a lover as Fred--so manly, so thoughtful,
so devoted? Her heart throbbed with profound gratitude to the Giver of
all good for the great happiness which had fallen to her lot.

"And, oh, dear aunt!" she said to Aunt Leth, "I have you to thank for it
all."

"You have only yourself to thank," said Aunt Leth; "and Fred is the
luckiest man in the world."

But with affectionate persistence Phoebe adhered to her belief that
Aunt Leth was the ministering angel who had brought such light into her
life.

"If you had not been so good to me, I should never have seen him. To be
able to prove my gratitude to you, that is my most earnest wish--and
Fred's. He never tires of speaking of you, aunt. I think he loves you
almost as much as Bob does."

"It delights me to hear it, my dear child. He is a good man, and there
is nothing but happiness before you."

At such a joyful spring-time she would not cast a cloud upon the young
girl's heart by giving expression to the fear which filled her own, that
Phoebe's father might place an obstacle in the way of the fair future
which her union with Fred Cornwall would insure for her; but she never
gazed upon Phoebe's sunny face without inward agitation and anxiety.
At such a joyful spring-time all that is woeful and sordid in
surrounding aspect is touched with tender light; charity, that might
have slept, dispenses blessings; the sight of suffering suffices for the
exercise of practical sympathy. At such a joyful spring-time a pure
maiden walks in paths of fairy colour, and her heart is a holy of
holies. Into the prayers breathed by the bedside comes the beloved name,
comes infinite worship, come sacred visions, comes gratitude for life
and life's blessings. When daylight shines, for him this bit of ribbon
at her throat, for him this rose at her breast--slight things, made
wondrous and strangely beautiful by the ineffable sweetness of love's
young dream! Truly, life's spring-time.

"If you had your dearest wish," said Fred, "what would it be?"

"That this day might last for ever," she whispered; "that we might never
change."

"Darling!"

Thus passed the happy holiday, all too quickly. Then came a rude
awakening.

"Our last night," said Fred, "for a little while. How shall I live when
you are not with me?"

"Think of me," Phoebe murmured.

To-morrow was Wednesday, and it had been arranged that Aunt Leth and
Fred were to accompany Phoebe to Parksides, and that Fred should ask
Phoebe's father for her hand.

"Perhaps he will let you come back to London with us," said Fred.

She said she hoped so; and then, accompanied by her lover and her aunt,
she travelled to Parksides to learn her fate.



CHAPTER XII.

A LITTLE PARTY IN CAPTAIN ABLEWHITE'S ROOMS.


In his vague allusions to a future carriage, and to his becoming, in
course of time, as rich as the Rothschilds, Jeremiah Pamflett built, as
he supposed, upon a very solid foundation. So have other men--for
instance, Mr. Lethbridge; but in the indulgence of his day-dreams Uncle
Leth built his castles in the air, and extracted nothing but pure
pleasure from them; intangible as they were, they invariably left a
sweet taste in the mouth. It is to be doubted whether he really ever
seriously inquired into their composition; he simply built them as he
walked along, blind and deaf to the sterner realities of life by which
he was surrounded, saw them grow under his magic touch, filled them with
fair forms, and smiled gratefully and pensively as they faded away. He
was, of course, a most unpractical being, otherwise he would
occasionally have built a castle of terrors, peopled by unpleasant
creatures, upon whose faces reigned frowns instead of smiles. Wise men,
becoming acquainted with his imaginings, would have shaken their heads
and cast pitying looks upon him; some even would have questioned his
sanity; but it is by no means certain whether Uncle Leth was not wiser
than they. Life is short, and, granted that a man performs his duties
with a fair amount of conscientiousness, the next and altogether the
wisest thing is to extract from life as much innocent enjoyment of one's
days as opportunity affords. And whether that opportunity be upon the
surface, for all men to see and understand, or be delved for in airy
depths, or climbed up to in airy heights, is of little matter so that
the good end is reached.

From these brief speculations it may be inferred that Jeremiah Pamflett
had his day-dreams as well as Uncle Leth, and from our knowledge of
their characters it may be judged that between the day-dreams of the one
and the other there was a wide gulf. Uncle Leth's day-dreams brought
happiness to all, and his best sense of enjoyment was derived from the
blessings he shed around him. Jeremiah's day-dreams brought happiness to
one--himself; and his best sense of enjoyment was derived from the
wretchedness and misery the result he aimed at and the road he was
treading could not fail to produce.

That is, supposing him to be successful; but it has happened that in
digging pits for others, men have fallen into their own graves. Whether
this was to be the case with Jeremiah Pamflett remained to be proved. He
was altogether so sharp a fellow, so extraordinarily astute, such a "dab
at figures," as he had declared, so completely "up" to every move on the
board, so thoroughly conversant with the game of spiders and flies, that
men of the world would have backed him to come out triumphant from any
scheme upon which, after mature consideration, he had resolved to put a
great stake. Consideration the most mature, study the most profound,
calculations the most careful and precise, had led Jeremiah to the
conclusion that he had discovered a means of making a great and rapid
fortune. Those who are about to be let into the secret, and who have not
had favourable opportunities of studying human nature from a
sufficiently comprehensive panorama, will perhaps be surprised at the
vulgarity of Jeremiah's discovery; and more surprised, may be, because
it is neither novel nor original.

To lead intelligently up to the disclosure, it may be mentioned that
some short time before Jeremiah Pamflett had conceived the ambitious
idea of becoming Miser Farebrother's son-in-law, a business transaction
introduced him to scenes altogether new to him. Of course it was a
money-lending transaction, and the debtor, to whom in the first instance
he had lent thirty pounds out of his own pocket, was a certain Captain
Ablewhite. It may not have been his rightful name, but into this we will
not too curiously inquire, nor into his antecedents; and yet he was
undoubtedly well connected. He knew and mixed with a great number of
"swells," and his name might occasionally be seen in some of the
"society" papers; he dressed in most perfect taste, and was seldom seen
without an expensive exotic in his button-hole; you would judge him from
outward observance to be a man of good-breeding; he had had a sufficient
education; his manners were easy, confident, smiling; he seemed to know
everything and everybody--all of which did not prevent him from being
chronically hard up. It may not have troubled him much, he was so
accustomed to it; and although he met with many obstacles in his career
of continual borrowing and seldom paying, there was never seen upon his
face any but the pleasantest of smiling expressions. He was a
good-looking man, with a handsome moustache and blue eyes, and he
carried himself like a soldier; hence, maybe, his "captainship," though
how captain, or captain of what, was never inquired into. Misery, it is
said, makes us acquainted with strange bed-fellows; so does such a
career as Captain Ablewhite's. It was a career the successful steering
of which required peculiar ingenuity, and the waters upon which it
floated were not of the sweetest. One day Captain Ablewhite presented
himself with his smiling face and his choice exotic at the office over
which Jeremiah Pamflett presided. He came with the intention of
borrowing a large sum of money, some three or four hundred pounds, upon
a bill backed by half a dozen names. Miser Farebrother did not do an
advertising business; you did not read in the papers that he was
prepared to advance, immediately upon application, any amount of money,
from ten pounds to ten thousand, without security, to noblemen and
gentlemen; his connection was a private one, and new clients presented
themselves at the office of their own accord, or through private
recommendation. However it came about, there was Captain Ablewhite,
ready and willing to confer an obligation upon Jeremiah
Pamflett--believing him to be the principal, and Farebrother an assumed
name, as is generally the case with money-lenders, either from being
ashamed of their own, or from a wish to do their dirty work in the dark.
Jeremiah, who was launching out for himself, and who, by fraudulently
trading on his own account with his master's funds, was already making
money, never contradicted a client upon this point when he scented some
personal advantage; and he scented it in Captain Ablewhite. Here was an
opportunity of worming himself into the society of swells, where pigeons
most do congregate, and it was not to be thrown away. Jeremiah played
with Captain Ablewhite, who was the soul of candour; he was a new kind
of client for Jeremiah's study and observation, and the cunning young
money-thirster saw a grand prospect of the future, through Captain
Ablewhite's introduction, dotted by sons of peers and suckling young
fools sowing their oats.

Now, out of this encounter, which came the victor, the man who desired
to borrow the money, or the man who had to lend?

Nothing was done on the first day, but on the second Jeremiah was the
possessor of a three-months' bill, well backed, for fifty pounds, and
Captain Ablewhite walked out of the office with seven five-pound notes
in his pocket. Instead of landing a large fish, Captain Ablewhite had
landed a very small one, but there was a satisfied smile on his face as
he strolled away. It was not bad interest--fifty pounds for thirty-five,
at three months; but Captain Ablewhite was content, even though upon
Jeremiah Pamflett's table lay six of the gallant Captain's finest
Havanas, which Jeremiah wrapped carefully in paper and put into a
drawer.

This was the commencement of the business transactions of Jeremiah
Pamflett and Captain Ablewhite, a recountal of the details of which is
not necessary. Say, for general purposes, that their course was the
usual course, and all is said that need be said. What it is important to
mention is that one evening Jeremiah Pamflett found himself at the door
of Captain Ablewhite's chambers in Piccadilly.

Strictly speaking, it was night, the hour being eleven. Captain
Ablewhite had been giving a little dinner to a few friends, and when
Jeremiah's name was announced the men were beginning to play. There were
two card-tables, five playing poker at one, six playing baccarat at
another. Captain Ablewhite was at the baccarat table.

Jeremiah's visit was the result of a bargain. There had been a bill to
be renewed, and Jeremiah had indirectly bid for the invitation.

"All right," said Captain Ablewhite; "come at eleven or twelve. Evening
dress you know."

He received his visitor with a smiling "How d'ye do?" and waved a
general introduction by saying "Mr. Pamflett," his guests having been
previously informed that "a fellow might drop in who finances for me."
This was received with a laugh and some slight show of interest,
"fellows who finance" for fellows who require it being very necessary
joints in the society machine upon which Captain Ablewhite and most of
his chums rode.

"He's a cub," said Captain Ablewhite; "but that's neither here nor
there."

"The main point is," observed a middle-aged punter, "that he'll do a
bill."

"Yes, that's it," said Captain Ablewhite.

Therefore Jeremiah Pamflett was not unexpected. The party, however, were
too interested in their game to take much notice of him. "Make yourself
at home," said Captain Ablewhite, pointing to a corner of the room,
where there was a buffet, with drinks and cigars. All the men were
smoking, and Jeremiah with an assumption of ease by no means successful,
helped himself. He knew the quality of Captain Ablewhite's cigars, and
appreciated them. That he put a handful in his pocket on the sly was, as
Captain Ablewhite had said, "neither here nor there."

With his cigar in his mouth, Jeremiah stood at the tables and looked on.
The game of "poker" he did not understand, but his eyes glittered as he
saw the free flowing of notes and gold, and the easy way in which money
was lost and won. By close peering and study he soon mastered the
rudiments of the game, and followed the play. It was a ten-pound limit,
the minimum "ante" half a sovereign. At first he was confused at the
"bluffing" which took place, but what he learned convinced him that
money was to be won by cool heads, and his heart beat more quickly than
usual when he saw a player with nothing in his hand take a large pool.
He stood for some time at the baccarat table, and watched the game
there. It was much more easily mastered than poker, and in a very few
moments he understood it fairly well.

"You don't play?" said Captain Ablewhite to him, who held the bank at
that moment.

"No," said Jeremiah; "not to-night."

At each table there was a player who profited by the indifferent play of
his comrades, and who, according to Jeremiah's just calculation, was
bound to rise a winner. "It is easy enough," said Jeremiah mentally;
"only what they win they don't keep. _I_ would!" A new world seemed to
be opening out to this young man--a new world filled with fools emptying
their purses into his. Why not? He did not disturb or interfere with the
players, and although one superstitious man fidgeted about uneasily when
Jeremiah stood at his back looking over his cards, Jeremiah's conduct
was sufficiently unobtrusive and quiet not to excite displeasure.

At about two o'clock there was a kind of informal supper, of which
Jeremiah freely partook, amazed at the profusion of good things handed
about by the waiters. The liberality was a revelation to him, but he was
discreet enough to betray no outward surprise. He was taking a lesson
which he meant to profit by. Most men would have drunk too much, and
most of the men in Captain Ablewhite's rooms did, but not Jeremiah
Pamflett; still the two or three glasses of champagne he drank (the
glasses being goblets) had a slight effect upon him. He maintained his
equilibrium, however, physically and mentally. The fortunes of the night
had pretty well declared themselves: three men had lost each some
hundreds of pounds, and were desperately striving to get it back by
plunging; others had lost in a lesser degree; the only winners were
Captain Ablewhite and the two cool-headed players, one at each table,
who continued playing their steady game. Jeremiah thought he would try
his luck, and he took a sovereign from his pocket, and followed in the
wake of the cool-headed gamester at the baccarat table. He won, and
staked it again, and won. No one took any notice of his winnings, which
were pushed across to him quite carelessly. At half-past four in the
morning Jeremiah walked out of Captain Ablewhite's rooms with forty odd
sovereigns winning money in his pocket. He walked along in a high state
of elation, with his hand in his trousers pocket, clutching the gold and
counting it. Forty-one, forty-two, forty-three, forty-four. Yes;
forty-four sovereigns. And so easily won!

He felt quite fresh, although it was his habit to be in bed before
midnight. He reviewed the scene at which he had been present, recalled
different hands of cards he had seen dealt out, and the course of the
play, and calculated how much he might have won had he done this or
that. That he would have done the right thing always he was sure; and it
is likely he was correct, because it was a simple matter of calculation
of odds and chances. One of the cool-headed players had won six hundred
pounds; the other, four hundred. "I might have done the same," thought
Jeremiah.

Captain Ablewhite had said something to him before he left.

"I wonder you don't play a bit. With your head for figures you would win
a fortune."

That was it--with his head for figures. "I could snuff them all out," he
thought.

Captain Ablewhite had also said, "Drop in to-morrow at two or three."

In compliance with this invitation, Jeremiah walked up the stairs of the
house in Piccadilly at half-past two o'clock on the following day. In
this--the being master of his time, left entirely to himself to do as he
pleased--lay the great value of his situation with Miser Farebrother. He
was his own master. With the miser eternally at the office looking over
him, niggling and naggling at this and that, Jeremiah would have had but
scant opportunities for attending to Number One.

At the door of the outer of Captain Ablewhite's rooms stood a
man-servant, who asked Jeremiah's name.

"Mr. Pamflett," said Jeremiah. "Captain Ablewhite expects me."

"If you will wait here a moment," said the man, "I will tell Captain
Ablewhite."

He returned very quickly, and Captain Ablewhite with him.

"Ah, Mr. Pamflett," said the Captain. "Just one word." He drew Jeremiah
aside: "What you see inside is private."

"Not to be spoken of?" said Jeremiah rather mystified.

"Not to a soul," said Captain Ablewhite. "Is that settled?"

"Yes."

"Come along, then."

The rooms had undergone a transformation. There was an air of serious
business about them and the twenty or thirty men assembled there. Every
one of the men had a little book, which he consulted, and in which he
was making calculations. At two tables sat two clerks with
account-books. There was a "tape" in the room, and a man standing by it,
reading the messages aloud.

"False start," this man said aloud as Jeremiah Pamflett entered.

"Go and help yourself," said Captain Ablewhite, pointing to the buffet,
which was in its accustomed corner, crowded with bottles, glasses,
cigars and sandwiches.



CHAPTER XIII.

JEREMIAH DISCOVERS A "SYSTEM" BY WHICH HE MUST MAKE A LARGE FORTUNE.


Just before the man called out "False start," there had been a momentary
lull in the room, the principal bets having been made and booked, but
when the two words were spoken a buzz of eager inquiries commenced. "How
much Silver Rose?" "Northampton for a pony--what price?" "I'll take
twelves and threes Peter Simple, a tenner each way." "I want to back an
outsider for a fiver." To most of these propositions rapid answers were
returned by a man who seemed to have the direction of affairs. He was a
man with a face like a ribstone pippin and clear grey eyes. A great
number of the propositions led to business and booking on both sides.
Then came the sound of the tape, and another hush, everybody craning
forward to hear the message. "They're off!" said the man at the tape. At
this the betting practically ceased, and all in the room waited in
expectancy, with more or less eagerness. The distinguishing mark of the
company was that nearly every man in it was a swell, half of them, at
least, having titles to their names. Presently the little bell, the
tinkling of which preceded the ticking of each fresh message, rang, and
the tape recommenced its labours. "Result," called the man: "Prickly
Pear first, Silver Rose second, Peter Simple third." A hubbub ensued. "I
told you to back the favourite; it was a dead certainty; at least a
stone in hand." "I've cleared a century." "I lose a hundred and forty.
Cursed luck!" And so on, and so on. In a few instances money changed
hands, and Jeremiah saw the passing of new Bank of England notes. He was
joined by Captain Ablewhite.

"Do you understand it?" asked the Captain.

"A betting club" said Jeremiah.

"Not at all," said the smiling Captain. "A little party of friends
amusing themselves privately, just to pass the time. Do you see that
tall gentleman with the gray moustache? That's Major Rex-Schon. He
backed the favourite for a monkey at even money."

"Who lost it?" inquired Jeremiah.

"The book-maker," said Captain Ablewhite, laughing. "A bad race for him.
So was the first one. Both the favourites have won. He'll get his money
back, with interest, before the day's out. You won a few sovs. last
night; put three or four on Praxis for the next race; a sure thing. The
starters are being called out."

The man at the tape gave the names of the horses as they went up on the
board a hundred miles away. There were eleven, Praxis being among them.

"Butterfly's favourite," said Captain Ablewhite, "and won't win."

The betting on the third race began. How much this?--how much that?--how
much t'other? What's Butterfly's price? Evens. Done for a hundred. I'll
take an even fifty. A pony for me. Five to two, Anonyma. Eights,
Geranium. Eight ponies? All right. Praxis, twenties.

Not one backed the horse recommended by Captain Ablewhite. Jeremiah
screwed up his courage.

"Can I bet a sovereign?" he whispered to the Captain.

"Certainly. Take my advice; make it five."

"No. Two."

"Very well. Forty to two."

He made the bet with the book-maker for Jeremiah, and took four hundred
to twenty for himself.

"I've made yours ready money," he said. "You can give me two sovs. now,
or when the race is over, if Praxis loses."

Jeremiah nodded; he was too much excited to speak; it was his first bet
on a race, and his heart went thump, thump, and he could scarcely
distinguish what was being said. "Horses at the post. False start.
Butterfly bolted." Thus proclaimed the man at the tape.

"I told you so," said Captain Ablewhite to Jeremiah. "Cost three thou.
as a yearling; not worth his keep."

The man at the tape spoke again.

"Butterfly pulled up, and at the post again. Another false start.
Another. They're off!"

Jeremiah did not know whether he was glad or sorry that he had risked
two sovereigns. He was animated by new sensations; the spirit of
gambling was awakened within him.

Then came the result, and Jeremiah could scarcely refrain from shouting
when he heard the name of the winner--Praxis.

"Here's your money," said Captain Ablewhite, after "All right!" was
called out by the man at the tape. He handed Jeremiah four ten-pound
notes. "Easy, isn't it? Done the trick this time. Major Rex-Schon backed
it; he has a system, and has won eight thousand this year if he's won a
penny."

"A system?" said Jeremiah, handling the forty pounds with delight.

"Yes. See which horse he backs in the next race, and follow him. Reckon
you've won thirty pounds, and back the Major's fancy for a tenner."

Jeremiah, after some hesitation, decided to take the advice, and backed
the Major's fancy for ten pounds at six to one. Again he was fortunate,
and he won sixty pounds. His head throbbed with the possibilities of the
future. Major Rex-Schon, satisfied with his winnings, took his
departure, and Jeremiah bet no more on that occasion.

"What are you going to do to-night?" asked Captain Ablewhite.

"Nothing," replied Jeremiah.

"Come and have a bit of dinner with me," said the Captain.

To enjoy anything at another man's expense was an opportunity which
Jeremiah never neglected, and he and Captain Ablewhite had their bit of
dinner at a French restaurant. The Captain was a man of expensive
tastes, and the dinner was the best meal which Jeremiah had ever sat
down to. The wines were hock, champagne, and claret, and Jeremiah took
his share; he was entering upon a new world. When the dinner was over,
and they were finishing the claret and smoking the Captain's best
cigars, Jeremiah's host gave his views of betting on horse-racing.

"The great thing," he said, "is a head for figures. Most men lose; the
clever ones win great fortunes. Major Rex-Schon, when he began to bet,
was a ruined man. He has been at it three years, and is worth fifty
thousand--every penny of it. What he can do, others can do. For my part,
I don't mind confessing it, I haven't a level head, and I lose when I
ought to win. I make up my mind beforehand, and I don't keep to it; I
get led away. If I had been wise, being in the swim as I am, I ought to
be a millionaire; but it's not too late. There are better chances now
than ever. Yes, I ought to have been a millionaire, and I should have
been if I had had a man like you at my back. It's a great thing, you
know, being in the swim, in a position to get at the stable secrets.
Why, there was only yesterday now: the owner of Robert Macaire dropped
me a hint to bet against his horse for the Liverpool Cup. Instead of
taking his advice I, like a fool, mentioned it to Major Rex-Schon. What
does he do? An hour afterwards he bets seven thousand to one against
Robert Macaire, and to-day at one o'clock the horse is scratched.
Result, the level-headed Major is a clear thousand in pocket, which
should have been in mine. Waiter, bring me the _Daily Telegraph_ and the
special _Standard_. Now, look here at the _Telegraph_ this morning. Ah,
here it is. 'Liverpool Cup, 7000 to 1000 against Robert Macaire.' That
was the Major's bet, made last night. Here's the special _Standard_.
'Scratchings: Robert Macaire out of the Liverpool Cup, at 1.10 P.M.' I
don't cry, 'What infernal luck!' I know that I lost a thousand pounds by
my own folly--that's the long and the short of it. I'll tell you what
the best of this kind of speculation is. You get your money; no owings.
Ready money down, if you like; that's what would suit you?"

"Yes," said Jeremiah, sucking in every word, and yet believing that it
was he who was pumping Captain Ablewhite, and not Captain Ablewhite who
was pumping him; "that is the best plan."

"Of course it is. You got your money to-day, didn't you? And how long
did it take? Forty pounds in ten minutes on Praxis. You ought to have
done as I told you, and made a hundred."

"I ought," groaned Jeremiah, feeling as if somebody had cheated him out
of sixty pounds.

"I don't blame you entirely; you are not used to this sort of thing, and
you were cautious. But I'll be bound you never made forty pounds first
and sixty pounds afterward so quickly. That's the beauty of the thing."

"Do you know," inquired Jeremiah, "what the Major's system is?"

"Catch the Major telling anybody!" said Captain Ablewhite. "No, sir; he
keeps it to himself--as you would do if you had a sure thing, as I would
do, as anybody would do. If he finds any one watching him he puts him
off the scent, or drops betting. Know his system! I would give ten
thousand pounds to know it. But what matters? There are more systems
than one, and if there's a man in the country who can discover them, you
are the man. A long head like yours--such a calculator as you! There's
backing first favourites; there's backing second favourites; there's
backing them both together; there's backing outsiders; there's backing
short odds and long odds; there's backing jockeys. If one thing won't do
alone, there are combinations. Why, there never was such a field and
such opportunities for a head like yours! With what I can learn from the
stables, and what you could discover, such an absolute certainty never
presented itself. Everything hasn't been discovered yet. There are a
thousand fortunes in figures and calculations which some fellows will
make. Why not you, for one, and me, for another? I won't make a pretence
of disguising from you that I want a little bit of it. That's natural
enough, and you won't make a pretence of denying it. Fair play's a
jewel. Then there's the people I can introduce you to--young men who
come into great estates and get into messes. There's another field for
you. Keep it all to yourself; but give me a commission. I don't ask for
more than that. The puddings shall be yours; give me a little plum now
and then. Then there's such games as you saw going on last night in my
rooms. There are kites and pigeons, and _we_ know it. Why, some of the
fellows know about as much of baccarat and poker as a blue-bottle--and
they _will_ play when they get a chance! Always have done, and always
will. But the great thing is racing. It's waiting for you and made for
you every day for nine months in the year. Wants a little pluck now and
then; but the result is a moral. Your slow, timid, cautious ones, what
do they make? A hundred a year instead of a hundred thousand."

In this way Captain Ablewhite talked, and Jeremiah listened and took it
all in. A golden field lay before him, a veritable Tom Tiddler's ground.
What a fool he would be to turn his back upon it! Such a chance would
never present itself again.

Behold him, then, a few weeks after this conversation, secretly hand and
glove with Captain Ablewhite, going occasionally to the Captain's rooms
and picking up a few sovereigns; going occasionally to a race-course and
coming home a pound or two the richer, and night after night covering
pages upon pages with figures and calculations from racing-books. He was
very cautious in these gambling transactions, and he suffered tortures
upon nearly every occasion when he sat down in Miser Farebrother's
office, which he regarded as his own, and reckoned up what he might have
won had he been able to screw his courage to the sticking-point. "Had I
done this or that," he thought, "had I had pluck, I should have been so
much in pocket. The Captain told me I should require pluck now and then,
and that the result would be a certainty--and it would have been." At
the end of some three months, during which he was feeling his way, he
calculated that a little courage would have made him the richer at least
by a couple of thousand pounds--for, as is the case with every person
who calculates after the event--he had no doubt that he would have
backed such or such a horse or such and such a jockey, or have adopted
such or such a combination, the issue of which would have been to put
him on the straight, or the crooked, road to fortune. At length he was
convinced that he had discovered a certain system of winning. What that
system was it would be imprudent to explain here, for the reason that it
might lead misguided persons to ruin. Sufficient that Jeremiah was
convinced that it was impossible of failure, and that he had very nearly
nerved himself to plunge boldly into it.

Meanwhile the fever and the infatuation of betting and gambling had
taken such complete possession of him that he thought of little else,
except the safety which lay in his marriage with Phoebe. "For," as he
argued with himself, "supposing that by some extraordinary combination
of circumstances luck should go against me, I should still be all right
if I were the master of Miser Farebrother's business, and if his money
were mine." As for anything in shape of sentiment, that was entirely
outside his domain; his nature was not capable of it. He thought only of
himself, and worked and schemed only for himself.

Meanwhile, also, the course of events was--so far as Jeremiah Pamflett
was mixed up in his affairs--fairly satisfactory to Captain Ablewhite.
Instead of being dunned for the money he owed Jeremiah--which by
Jeremiah's cunning methods of compound interest, was beginning to swell
into an important amount--he borrowed more of him; small sums at a time,
certainly, but, as Captain Ablewhite said to himself, "Little fish are
sweet." As Jeremiah had him in his power, so also the smiling Captain
had managed to obtain a hold upon the man from whom, in ordinary
circumstances, he knew he would get no mercy. Of a different quality of
cunning from Jeremiah's was the standard of Captain Ablewhite's
intellect, but, properly handled, it was scarcely less powerful. All his
life had Captain Ablewhite lived upon his wits, eating and drinking of
the best, a member of good clubs, living in fashionable quarters, owing
money right and left, and yet managing somehow to keep out of water too
hot for him. He entertained a very thorough and sincere contempt for
Jeremiah, laughed in his sleeve at his meanness, fooled him on and on,
allowed him to win a little at his card-parties, introduced him to men
as impecunious and unscrupulous as himself, who borrowed money of
Jeremiah, and would have pulled his nose upon the smallest provocation.
But Jeremiah was always humble, cringing, and subservient, biding his
time for the grand coup which would make him as good as the best among
them. And so the game went on, its minutest detail assisting to bring to
a terrible climax the tragedy in which Phoebe's life was presently to
be engulfed. This brings us to the day upon which our heroine,
accompanied by Fred Cornwall and dear Aunt Leth, journeyed to Parksides
to ask her father's consent to her engagement with the young lawyer.



CHAPTER XIV.

A DAUGHTER'S DUTIES.


Upon that day Jeremiah Pamflett, arrayed in a brand-new suit of clothes,
with a flower in his button-hole (copying Captain Ablewhite as the pink
of fashion), and carrying a bouquet of flowers for the girl whom he was
now to commence wooing openly, had the satisfaction, while sitting in
the railway carriage which was to convey him to Parksides, of seeing her
and her friends hurry on to the platform just as the signal was given
for the departure of the train. They had had the misfortune to get into
a growler, the driver of which, in addition to crawling to the railway
station at the rate of three miles an hour, stopped on the road to
exchange the reverse of urbanities with a rival cabby who had excited
his ire. Fred's urgent requests to the driver to get along quickly, so
that they might catch the train, were received with supreme
indifference; he was an old hand, and insisted upon having his little
joke, the consequence of which was that they arrived too late, and had
to wait three-quarters of an hour for the next train. It was no serious
trouble to Fred. A house, a railway station, a barn, England,
Timbuctoo--they were all the same to him so long as Phoebe was with
him.

Jeremiah rushed to his mother with the news.

"What does it mean?" he asked.

"Don't trouble yourself," said Mrs. Pamflett. "Perhaps it is all for the
best."

"You talk like a fool," snarled Jeremiah, who was never happier than
when he had some one to bully. "How can it be all for the best?"

"It will bring matters to a head, Jeremiah. It is much better for our
enemies to work in the light than in the dark. You have nothing to fear.
Miser Farebrother and I had a conversation to-day about you. He told me
that everything was settled, and that you and Phoebe were to be
married. He is very ill and frightened. The doctor told him if he wasn't
very careful he would die. He has been moaning and groaning ever since.
'You mustn't think,' the doctor said to him, 'of stirring out of the
house.'"

"Ah!" said Jeremiah, with a sigh of relief, "that is good. Anything
more? And was there any special reason for the doctor giving him that
caution?"

"It came," said Mrs. Pamflett, "through his expressing a wish to go to
London."

"What for?" said Jeremiah, his face growing very white.

"I can't tell you," replied Mrs. Pamflett; "except it was to look after
the business."

"To pry into what I am doing! Let him be careful, or it will be the
worse for him!"

"Jeremiah!"

"Don't 'Jeremiah' me! I won't stand it! What do I care for that--that
image? Do you think I will have him come spying into my affairs? Let him
look to himself--that's all I've got to say."

"At any rate," said Mrs. Pamflett, whose face had grown as white as her
son's, "he can't leave Parksides."

"You take care that he doesn't--that's what you've got to see to. If he
gets any better, make it impossible for him to leave."

"Jere--!" But a warning look from her son prevented her from getting
farther with his name. Then she wrung her hands, and cried, "Oh! what
are you doing--what are you doing?"

From fever-heat he went down to zero. "What do you think I am doing?"

"I don't know what to think, Jeremiah. You frighten me!"

He did not speak for a moment or two, and in her agony of impatience she
cried, "Why don't you answer me?"

"I am puzzling my head to find out," he said, frigidly, "why I have
frightened you." He suddenly changed his tone, and spoke with warmth.
"Just you mind what I say, mother. What I choose to tell you, I'll tell
you; what I choose to keep to myself, I'll keep to myself. I'm on the
road to a great fortune--a glorious fortune; and I'm not going to miss
it. I've made a discovery, and if I'm idiot enough to blurt it out,
everything will be spoiled. Besides, you wouldn't understand it. Can't
you be satisfied? I'm working for you as well as for myself. Do you want
to go on slaving here all your life, instead of being mistress of a fine
house of your own, with servants and horses and carriages, and the best
people in the country bowing down to you? Take your choice. But mind, if
anything's got to be done to bring this all about--I don't care whether
it is you or I who's got to do it--done it must be. If I'm lucky, you
shall share my luck. If I'm unlucky--Well, now, what have you got to say
to that?"

"Jeremiah," she answered, and he did not reprove her, because he was too
intent upon her response, "there's nothing in the world I wouldn't do
for you."

"Nothing?"

"Nothing. What should I be but for you? What would the world be to me
but for you? If you were in danger, and I could save you by--"

He put his fingers upon her lips, and looked fearsomely around.

"That will do," he said.

Then he kissed her, and she threw her arms passionately around his neck,
and pressed him close to her breast.

Half an hour afterward she went up to Miser Farebrother's room.

"Are you any better? Do you feel any stronger?"

"No. Why do you ask? Why do you intrude when you're not wanted?"

"Your daughter has come home."

"What of that?"

"Her aunt is with her."

"Send her away. I will not see her. Tell her I am too ill to see
anybody."

"Mr. Cornwall is with her."

His fretfulness vanished; he became calm and cool and collected.

"Mr. Cornwall the lawyer?"

"Yes."

"Has he asked to see me?"

"He has come for that purpose."

"And Phoebe's aunt too?"

"Yes."

"Did you tell them I am ill?"

"Yes."

"And they insist upon seeing me?"

"Yes." It was not the truth, but she did not hesitate. She had said
nothing to Mrs. Lethbridge and Fred Cornwall about Miser Farebrother's
illness.

He considered awhile before he spoke again.

"Your son knew that my daughter was coming home to-day?"

"Yes, he did; and he is here to see her, as you wished. He obeys your
lightest word."

"Send him to me; and five minutes afterward show my daughter and her
fine friends into the room."

Jeremiah entered with his usual obsequiousness and deference. It
afforded him inward satisfaction to note how ill the miser looked, but
he did not allow the expression of this feeling to appear on his face.
On the contrary, he said, "I am glad to see you looking so much better,
sir."

"Am I really looking better, Jeremiah?" asked Miser Farebrother, eager
to seize the slenderest hope. "Really better?"

"Indeed you are, sir. Be careful, and in a short time you'll be quite
your old self again."

"Never that; never that, I'm afraid," groaned Miser Farebrother. "It has
gone too far--too far!"

"Not at all, sir," said Jeremiah, with lugubrious cheerfulness. "You are
frightening yourself unnecessarily. We all do when the least thing ails
us. If my little finger aches, I think I am going to die."

"It is hard, it is wicked, that a man should have to die. I have read of
an elixir a few drops of which would make an old man young. If I only
knew where it was to be obtained--where it was to be bought!"

"I wish I knew where, sir," said Jeremiah. "I would get you a bottle."

"And one for yourself, eh, Jeremiah?"

"Yes, sir! I shouldn't object. The idea of death isn't pleasant."

"Then don't let us think of it," said the miser, with a doleful shake of
his head; and then, more briskly, "at all events, while I live I will do
what I have set my mind to. I may live fifty years yet. There's old
Parr: why shouldn't I be such another? Those people down-stairs, who are
waiting and longing for me to go--it would drive them to frenzy if they
thought there was any chance of my out-living them."

"Miss Phoebe's friends, sir?"

"Yes, my daughter's friends. I have sent for them here. Did you bring
those flowers for her?"

"Yes, sir."

"Put them on the table. Take your seat there. Open the books, and seem
as if you are doing the accounts. And speak no word till I give you the
cue."

Mrs. Pamflett, delaying longer than she was instructed to do, had
allowed ample time for this conversation to take place. Ten or twelve
minutes elapsed before she conducted Phoebe and her friends to Miser
Farebrother's room. They were somewhat discomposed to discover Jeremiah
Pamflett at the table; he took no notice of them, however, but with his
head bent down, pretended to be very busy with his accounts.

Undoubtedly there was a great change in Miser Farebrother's appearance.
Traces of sickness and suffering were plainly visible in his cadaverous
face; and Phoebe, whose heart was beating with love and hope and fear,
glided to his side and put her lips to his.

"Good child, good child!" he said, passing his arm round her, and
holding her tight to him. "My only child, the only tie that binds me to
life!"

"Dear father!" exclaimed Phoebe, softly, embracing him again. His
voice was so kind and so charged with pain that the fear which had
troubled her that he might not approve of Fred vanished, and loving
sympathy took its place.

"You will not leave me, Phoebe?"

"No, father."

"I have missed you sadly, my child! You see how ill I am. I need your
care and help--you can do so much for me. My own child! All others are
strangers."

"I will do what lies in my power, father."

"You put new life into me. Don't stir from my side. Your arm round my
neck like this; it strengthens me, gives me courage, infuses vigour into
my weak frame." Had she wished to move away from him she could not have
done so, he held her so tight. All this time he had taken no notice of
Aunt Leth or Fred Cornwall; he had purposely prolonged the little scene
out of pure maliciousness toward them. But now he looked up and fixed
his eye upon them.

"Sister-in-law, it is kind and unselfish of you to bring my daughter
back to me. Had you known I was ill you would have brought her home
earlier."

"Certainly I should," said Aunt Leth, gently.

"Suffering as I am, sister-in-law, this is my daughter's proper place."

"Yes."

But her heart sank as she spoke the word.

"You are the happy mother of children," continued Miser Farebrother,
"and should be able to set me right--if by chance I should happen to be
wrong--in the views I have formed of certain matters. I rely upon your
judgment. What is a daughter's first duty to her parents?"

"Love."

"Good! Thus love becomes a duty--a duty to be performed even though it
clash with other feelings. You hear, Phoebe. You are ready to perform
a daughter's duty?"

"I love you, father," said Phoebe; but her voice was troubled; a vague
fear oppressed her once more--a fear she could not define or explain.

"Dear child! I have no doubt of that. Your sainted mother lives again in
you. Sister-in-law, there is another duty which a daughter owes to her
parents."

"There are many others," responded Aunt Leth.

"But one especially, which I will name, in case it may not occur to you.
Obedience."

"Yes," said Aunt Leth, faintly; "obedience."

"These duties, which are your due from your children, are not neglected
by them?"

"No, they are not."

"What a happy home must yours be!" exclaimed Miser Farebrother, with
enthusiasm. "And how glad I am to think that my child has learned from
you the lessons which you have taught your own bright children. You hear
what your aunt says, Phoebe? Love and obedience are a child's first
duties to her parents. Your sainted mother, from celestial
spheres"--there was a subtle mockery in his voice and eyes as he raised
the latter to the ceiling--"looks down and approves. And now, sir," he
said, turning to Fred Cornwall, "to what am I indebted for the favour of
a visit from you? It is the second time you have paid me the unsolicited
honour."

"I wish to have a few minutes' private conversation with you, sir," said
Fred. Hope was slipping from him, but he was prepared to play a manly
part.

"I cannot give you a private interview," said Miser Farebrother. "If you
have anything to say to me, you can say it now and here. I'll wager you
will not be in want of words."

"Father!" whispered Phoebe, entreatingly, but he purposely ignored
her.

Fred Cornwall pointed to Jeremiah Pamflett. "As it is your wish, sir, I
will say what I have to say before your daughter and her aunt. Perhaps
you will ask this gentleman to retire."

"Perhaps I will do nothing of the kind. This young gentleman, Mr.
Jeremiah Pamflett, is an old and trusted friend; you are neither one nor
the other. Proceed to your business at once, or leave me."

"Let me beg of you--" said Aunt Leth.

He interrupted her with a touch of his caustic humour. "Do not beg of
me, sister-in-law; it will be useless; I have nothing to give. Do you
intend to speak, sir? You perceive I am not in a fit state to be
harassed."

"You leave me no choice, sir. I love your daughter, and she--"

"Stop!" cried Miser Farebrother. "My daughter will speak for herself
when she and I are alone. I will not allow you to refer to her."

"But it is necessary, sir," said Fred, respectfully and firmly, "because
I am here with her permission."

"Necessary or not, according to your thinking--which is not mine--I will
not allow you to refer to her. My house is my own, and I am master in
it; let me remind you of that."

"I will do as you wish, sir," said Fred, not daring to look at Phoebe,
whose head, bowed upon her breast, was an indication of the agony she
was suffering. "I love your daughter, and I come to ask you for her
hand. I will do all that a man--"

"Yes, yes," interrupted the miser, testily, "we know all that: the old
formula. Is that all you have come here for?"

"Is not that enough, sir?"

"Too much. My daughter has other views--I also. I forbid you to speak,
Phoebe. Remember the oath you swore upon your dead mother's Bible! Mr.
Cornwall, I refuse what you ask. With my permission you will never marry
my daughter. Without it, she well knows such an event is impossible,
unless she commits perjury. You have not a deep acquaintance with me,
sir; but the knowledge of human nature you must have gained as a lawyer
will convince you that nothing can turn me from a resolution I have
formed, more especially from a resolution in which vital interests are
involved--_my_ vital interests! My daughter's hand is promised to my
manager, Mr. Jeremiah Pamflett."

"Oh, Phoebe!" cried Aunt Leth, with quivering lips and overbrimming
eyes. "My poor, poor Phoebe!"

"Spare your heroics," said Miser Farebrother; "we know the value of
them. My daughter will give me what she owes me--love and obedience." He
rang the bell, and Mrs. Pamflett instantly appeared. "Show these people
the door," he said to her; "and if they venture to present themselves
here again, send for a policeman and have them locked up. Jeremiah, give
my daughter your love-offering."

With a face of triumph Jeremiah started from his chair, and advanced
toward Phoebe, holding the flowers for her acceptance.

"Look up, Phoebe," said Miser Farebrother, sternly.

She raised her head, and with a blind look of anguish at her aunt and
Fred, stretched forth her trembling arms, as though imploring them to
save her. Then her strength gave way, and she fell senseless to the
ground.



CHAPTER XV.

PHOEBE IS STILL FURTHER ENTRAPPED.


When Phoebe recovered her senses she found herself in her bedroom,
with Mrs. Pamflett in attendance upon her. She was so dazed and confused
that for a few minutes she could not recall what had transpired, but
presently she remembered, and she burst into tears.

"There! there!" said Mrs. Pamflett, smoothing the young girl's hair with
her hand. "Don't take on so! Everything will come right, and you will
soon be as happy as a bird."

Surprised at Mrs. Pamflett's tender tone and gentle manner, Phoebe
dried her eyes and gazed upon her father's house-keeper.

"Then they are still here?" said Phoebe.

"Who, my pet?" asked Mrs. Pamflett.

"My aunt and--and Mr. Cornwall."

"No," replied Mrs. Pamflett, still speaking with tenderness: "they have
gone; and it is to be hoped that they will never come back."

"'Gone'!" exclaimed Phoebe. "'They will never come back'!"

"If they do," said Mrs. Pamflett, hovering officiously about Phoebe,
"it will be worse for them. They have been found out at last. You have
had a narrow escape. While you were lying in a fainting condition on the
ground your father unmasked them, and compelled them to confess that all
their pretended kindness to you was done to wring money out of him, only
because they thought he was rich. He _is_ rich, my pet, and can make a
lady of you; and so can Jeremiah, who is dying of love for you, and who
is the cleverest man and the finest gentleman in England. We shall all
be as happy as the day is long, and you will bring comfort to your
father, who is suffering a martyrdom, and who has the first claim on
your heart. Yes, my pet, you have had a narrow escape--a narrow escape!
I shall give thanks for it before I go to bed to-night."

Phoebe fixed her clear, honest eyes upon the white face of Mrs.
Pamflett, who made an impotent attempt to return the gaze with equal
frankness.

"I remember everything now," said Phoebe, in a tone of forced
calmness. "My father turned my dear friends out of the house!"

"He did turn them away. But to call them your dear friends after what
they said! Phoebe, Phoebe, you are too simple and confiding. You
should be angry; you should cast them off, as your father has done."

"'After what they said'! What did they say? I heard not a word which
they should not have spoken."

"That was their artfulness and wickedness. They have been playing upon
you all through. It was while you were unconscious and could not hear
what was spoken that your false aunt, Mrs. Lethbridge--"

"Stop!" cried Phoebe; "I will not hear her called so. If you wish to
tell me anything that passed after I fainted you can do so, but I will
not listen to you if you speak against those I love."

"You will not love them long," said Mrs. Pamflett, composedly, "if you
have a daughter's feelings. Your aunt confessed to your father that the
reason she had welcomed you at her house was because she looked for a
proper return in money from him. Why, my pet--"

"Mrs. Pamflett!" cried Phoebe, interrupting her again.

"Yes, pet?"

"You have never used that term of endearment to me before," said
Phoebe, resolutely, "and I should prefer you would not do so now."

"You would prefer!" exclaimed Mrs. Pamflett, softly, but the artificial
crust of tenderness was beginning to be broken by her true deceitful
nature. "But then you are only a child. You may not quite know what is
good for you. And so, pet, your aunt confessed the whole plot. Would you
be surprised to hear that she has kept an account of everything she has
done for you, of every meal you have eaten, of every night you slept at
her house, and that she is going to send it in to your father?"

"I should be very much surprised," said Phoebe.

"You will find it true. Oh, the artfulness, the deceitfulness of women!
Men are almost as bad--at least some of them are. There are exceptions;
Jeremiah is one--the soul of truth and honour--and as for cleverness,
there's no saying how clever he is. Said your father to that scheming
lawyer, Mr. Cornwall, who has been playing upon your feelings, and who
is employed by your aunt to ruin us all--said your father to him, while
you were lying on the ground: 'There is my daughter. You have come to
ask my consent to her marriage with you. You are free to take her; but,
knowing what you are, I will not give you one penny of my money with
her!' 'What!' cried the lawyer; 'not one penny?' 'Not one penny,' said
your father. 'If you love her, as you say you do, for herself alone,
there she is; but neither now nor at any time, before or after my death,
shall one penny of my hard-earned money go into your pocket.' 'In that
case,' said the fine lawyer, 'I will have nothing to do with her.' Then
your father burst into a passion, and I am certain that if he had been a
younger man he would have struck Mr. Cornwall to the earth. Jeremiah
started forward to do it, but your father laid hold of him, and told him
not to soil his fingers by touching such a reptile. It was as much as he
could do to prevent my Jeremiah from thrashing the villain who wanted to
get you in his toils. Then your father ordered your aunt and her lawyer
friend out of the house, and warned them never to show their faces here
again."

"You forget," said Phoebe, "my father did that in my hearing."

"And he repeated it afterward. They were glad enough to get away, my
pet, and I hope that they will never annoy you again."

"Suppose, Mrs. Pamflett," said Phoebe, "that I were to write to my
aunt all you have told me?"

"You are quite welcome to do so, pet. Of course she will deny it, and
will invent another story to try and set herself right in your eyes. It
is just on the cards, though, that she may brazen it out and admit the
truth. It is a dreadful thing when one is exposed as she has been."

"Yes, it is hard to be found out," said Phoebe. "Mrs. Pamflett, I
should like to be alone for a little while."

"Very well, pet. I will go; but you have only to call, and I will come
immediately. I am more than your friend--I am your faithful servant. I
will guard you like a mother. From this day no harm shall come to you."

She turned to go, and standing by the door, said, "Your father wishes to
see you, pet."

"I will go to him presently," said Phoebe.

Outside the door Mrs. Pamflett's face underwent a change, and showed
itself in its true colours. Her thought was, "Is she trying to hoodwink
me that she did not fly into a passion? What has come over her? Let her
be careful--let her be careful! I can make life a torture for her."

Phoebe, indeed, was surprised at herself, and wondered how it was that
she had had strength to meet Mrs. Pamflett's lies in the way she did.
She well knew that they were the basest of calumnies, and she received
them as such. Though all the world rose up against her aunt Leth, she
would remain that dear woman's champion. And Fred--her own true
lover--that Mrs. Pamflett should for a moment expect her to believe the
false story she had invented! The fact was Mrs. Pamflett had
over-reached herself. Like a great number of less skilful artists, she
had laid on the colours too thick. Had she been more delicate she might
have had a greater chance of success. And yet that was scarcely likely
with a girl like Phoebe, the strength of whose nature appeared to have
been, as it were, latent within her until the occurrence of this crisis
in her young life. She did not quite realize what it meant to her; but
for the present the spirit required to meet an enemy like Mrs. Pamflett
had a healthy effect upon her; it had aroused her from despondency;
that, and her love for Fred, and her faith in Aunt Leth, had given her
strength to listen with outward calmness to Mrs. Pamflett's
fabrications. If trouble were before her, she would meet it bravely.
Fred would be true to her, and she would be true to him. Aunt and Uncle
Leth and her cousins would not forget her--would always love her. Her
father and Mrs. Pamflett could not force her into a marriage with a man
she abhorred. "Be brave, Phoebe, be brave," she whispered to herself
as she walked to her father's room, "for the sake of those who love you
truly."

Jeremiah Pamflett was in the miser's room when Phoebe entered. Miser
Farebrother looked very ill; his face was white and pinched, his lips
were drawn in. Phoebe's heart sank, and a feeling of remorse shot
through her as she gazed upon his suffering face. She was his
daughter--his only child--and he had a claim upon her love and
obedience. Was it not her dear aunt Leth who had said as much? She knew
that this plain setting forth of a child's duty to her parents was no
false declaration; it was her aunt's belief. Well, she would perform her
duty to the uttermost of her strength; but to one thing she was
resolved.

"Sit here," said Miser Farebrother. Phoebe took the chair he
indicated; it was between him and Jeremiah Pamflett, and as she passed
her enemy she drew herself carefully from him. He noted this avoidance,
but made no comment upon it. At present his case was in his master's
hands. "You are well?" asked Miser Farebrother.

"Not quite well, father," said Phoebe.

"But well enough," he retorted. "You have a long life before you. Look
at me. How long do you think I shall live?"

"Many years, I hope, father."

"We shall see whether you do hope it. It must be plain to you that I am
ill--seriously ill."

"I am very sorry, father."

"We shall see whether you are sorry. What is a man to believe in? Words?
No. Actions speak, not words. False sympathy, lying protestations--what
are they worth? Those who use them ought to be trodden in the mud. You
hope I shall live many years. We shall see. I have not long to live, I
tell you; but you can hasten my death; you can murder me."

"Father!" cried Phoebe, in terror. "Murder you!"

"Murder me. You can do it. If I were to implore you to spare me--to let
me live, would you grant my prayer, or would you carry out your wicked
designs? We shall see--we shall see. You perceive that I am suffering,
and you say you are sorry. Your dead mother knows how far you are
speaking the truth; I do not--as yet. It has to be made clear to me. You
are my daughter, are you not?"

"Yes, father."

"What kind of love have you given me? What kind of care have you
bestowed upon me? For years I have been groaning and suffering here, and
you--what have you been doing? Have you attended to me, have you nursed
me, have you shown one spark of a daughter's proper feelings? No, not
one--not one. Gadding about, going to theatres, dancing, making light
friends, laughing, singing, ministering to your vanities, while I, your
father, have lain here, cut to the soul by your coldness and want of
decent feeling. If it was not in you, you might have pretended it was,
and I should have been deceived. It would have made it no better for
you, but it might have been better for me. You know that I have a doctor
attending me?"

"Yes, father."

"Have you ever asked him how I was--have you ever shown, in a single
conversation with him, that you have within you those solicitous
feelings which a daughter should have for a suffering father? Have you
ever shown--" He did not proceed. He lay back, panting, in his chair,
and Jeremiah, without looking up, thought: "What an actor he is! Oh,
what an actor he is!"

"Father," said Phoebe, in deep distress, "you do me an injustice. It
has always been my wish to attend to you, to nurse you, but you would
never allow me. 'Let me alone! let me alone!' you said, and have always
repulsed me."

"Why? why?" he asked, raising himself in his chair, and bending so
excitedly forward that she was frightened, and cried:

"Don't excite yourself, father; you are not strong enough to bear it."

"I know I am not. You know it too. It is not I who am exciting
myself--it is you, because you wish to kill me!" She shuddered
violently, and covered her face with her hands. "Why, when you have
asked me whether you could do anything for me, have I desired you to let
me alone? Because I could see plainly that you wished not to be troubled
about me; that you were pretending--that you were wholly false in your
advances. There are a thousand things a child can do for a parent in my
condition which would bring pleasure to him. Have you done one? That I
am impatient, querulous, quick-tempered--is not that natural when a man
is in anguish day and night? Did you ever give that a thought? do you
give it a thought now?"

"Father," said poor Phoebe, feeling acutely the bitter injustice of
her father's accusations, and yet not knowing how to combat them without
plunging him into deeper excitement, "I will nurse you if you will allow
me; I will do everything in my power to restore you to health. Try me,
father!"

"You do not intend to leave Parksides, then, without my permission?"

"To leave Parksides without your permission!" she echoed. "No, father!"

"For the few weeks that remain to me you will not leave the house? You
will nurse me--you will soothe my last hours?"

"Oh, father, do not speak like that! I will do all you wish."

"Out of your own loving heart?"

"Yes, father, out of my own loving heart!"

"Swear it!" he cried, in a loud, commanding tone, pushing his dead
wife's prayer-book to the guileless girl. "Kiss your mother's
prayer-book, and prove to me whether you are lying or speaking the
truth!"

In an impulse of fervour and self-reproach she kissed the prayer-book.
He took it from her hands.

"You are a witness, Jeremiah," he said.

"I am a witness, sir," said Jeremiah.

"You have sworn," said Miser Farebrother to his daughter, "that you will
not leave Parksides while I live, unless I drive you forth. That is your
oath."

"Yes, father." But she said it with a sinking heart. It seemed to her as
if a net were being spread around her, from which it was impossible to
escape.

In her bed that night this impression of a forced, inexorable
imprisonment became accentuated by a review of what had passed between
herself and her father. For what other reason had he made her swear upon
her dead mother's prayer-book that she would not leave Parksides without
his permission? Could he not have taken her word? Was she to regard all
that he had said as of equal value with Mrs. Pamflett's false
statements? Were they all leagued against her? and what would be the end
of the plot? Could they now compel her to marry Jeremiah Pamflett? No;
she would endure a thousand deaths first. But she was imprisoned here in
Parksides; she had no longer a will of her own. Her father had turned
her only friends from his house, and he and they were the bitterest
enemies; he had turned her lover from his house; she was cut off from
all she held dear, and was here unprotected, at the mercy of Mrs.
Pamflett and her son, and of her father, whose inexplicable behaviour
toward her afflicted her with shuddering doubts. Had she been aware of
what transpired between her aunt Leth and her father after she had
fainted in the earlier part of the day, she would not so readily have
fallen into the trap her father had set for her.

When she fell to the ground Aunt Leth and Fred Cornwall started forward
with sympathizing eagerness to assist her, but they were motioned
sternly back by Miser Farebrother.

"I have ordered you to leave my house," he said. "I can attend to my
daughter."

Sadly they turned to the door, but Aunt Leth came swiftly back.

"Listen to me, my dead sister's husband," she said, in a quick,
trembling voice. "At my sister's death-bed, in this very room, I
promised her to look after her child, my poor niece lying here at our
feet, as tenderly as though she were one of my own. I love her as my own
child, and I shall redeem my promise to my dead sister. This
person"--she pointed to Jeremiah Pamflett--"to whom you say you have
promised your daughter's hand, is utterly unworthy of her. She loves an
honourable gentleman, and what I can do to bring about her happiness
shall be done. If you have a plot against her welfare I will endeavour
to circumvent it. My heart and the hearts of my husband and children are
ever open to her. Our home is hers; she can come to us at any moment,
and we will receive her with joy. In this house there was never for her
nor for her dead mother the slightest sign of love."

"My daughter has told you so?" demanded Miser Farebrother.

"She has not told me so," said the indignant woman. "She has always
spoken of you with tenderness and gentleness. You know best how you
deserved it at her hands. If she cannot find love and protection here,
she can find them with me and mine!" She knelt and kissed Phoebe's
pale face. "My sweet child! so happy but an hour ago! Come to me if they
oppress you here--my child! my daughter!"

"Bundle them out," cried Miser Farebrother, "neck and crop!"

They had no right to stay, and they left the place mournfully.

"Do not be false to Phoebe," said Aunt Leth to Fred.

"No need to say that to me, Aunt Leth," said the young fellow.
"Phoebe, and no other woman, shall be my wife."

This encounter it was between Aunt Leth and Miser Farebrother which had
caused the miser to extract a binding oath from Phoebe that she would
not leave Parksides without his permission.

"How was that done, Jeremiah?" he asked, when his daughter left the
room.

"Capitally! capitally, sir!" said Jeremiah. "What an actor you would
have made!"

"Perhaps--perhaps," said Miser Farebrother, with a sneer. "I am not half
so ill as I look, Jeremiah. Don't reckon too soon upon my death.
Excitement like this does me a power of good. They came to trap me, my
fine lawyer and tearful sister-in-law; but I have turned the tables upon
them. As I will upon every one"--with a keen look at Jeremiah--"who
dares to play me false!"

It was fortunate for the miser that his managing clerk did not possess
the power of striking a man dead by a glance; if he had, that moment
would have been Miser Farebrother's last.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE ENGAGEMENT RING.


From that day Phoebe's life in Parksides was, as Mrs. Pamflett had
threatened, a torture, and had it not been that she was endowed with a
reserved strength which lies latent in many gentle natures until a
supreme occasion calls it forth, it is likely she could not have lived
through the next three or four months. One day her father summoned her.

"It is time now," he said, "that our plans for your future should be
finally settled. I have already waited too long."

Phoebe knew what was coming, and though she dreaded it, she had nerved
herself to meet it.

"Cannot things remain as they are?" she asked.

It was impossible for her to speak with any show of affection. She had
discovered that her father's wish that she should be his nurse was a
mere pretence. Believing in it, she had endeavoured to carry it out and
to perform her duty; but the stern repulses she met with had convinced
her that she had been deceived and betrayed. The oaths she had sworn
were binding upon her; she knew that she could not escape from them, and
that her life's happiness was blasted; but she resolved not to be
beguiled by any further treachery. So she suffered in silence, and with
some fortitude, praying for strength, and in some small degree finding
it; but she was growing daily thinner and paler, and sometimes an
impression stole upon her that her life was slowly ebbing away. "It will
be better that I should die," she thought; "then I shall see my mother,
and my torture will be at an end."

It was a torture subtly carried out. Phoebe had gauged Mrs. Pamflett,
and had rejected with quiet scorn all attempts at an affectionate
intimacy. Mrs. Pamflett repaid her with interest.

"When you are my son's wife," she said, "you will be more tractable; you
will know me better, and you will love me."

"I shall never know you better," Phoebe replied, "and I shall never
love you."

"Proud spirits can be broken," said Mrs. Pamflett.

"Yes," sighed Phoebe; "but I am not proud--I am only faithful; and
perhaps I shall soon die."

"You will be no loss," said Mrs. Pamflett; "but before you die you will
be my daughter-in-law."

At this period Miser Farebrother had not spoken positively to Phoebe
about Jeremiah; he had left it to the young villain to make his way,
and, indeed, Jeremiah had attempted to do so. But Phoebe utterly
baffled him. He brought her flowers, and at her father's command she
received them from his hands. An hour afterward he saw them lying on the
floor or in the grounds, where she had dropped or thrown them. He
arrayed himself in new suits of clothes and laid himself out for
admiration, which she never bestowed upon him. He strove to draw her
into conversation, and if he managed to extract a word from her it was
but a word--often not even that; a look of scorn and contempt was then
his reward. At meals his offers of small courtesies were disregarded. By
her father's order she sat at the head of the breakfast and tea table,
but she would never pass Jeremiah's cup nor accept it from him. His mean
nature resented this treatment in mean ways, and after a while he
indulged in sarcasms, speaking at her instead of to her. This change
passed unnoticed by her; she might have been deaf and blind to
everything he said and did. Two or three weeks after the visit of her
aunt and Fred Cornwall to Parksides, Phoebe went to her father with a
letter.

"I wish to post this letter," she said. "May I do so?"

"You have sworn not to leave Parksides without my permission," he
replied. "I will not allow you to go to the village."

"I had no intention of going without your permission," she said.

He kept her so strictly to her oath that she was virtually a prisoner in
Parksides.

"I will have the letter posted for you," he said.

She gave it to him, and he opened it, read it, and burnt it. No answer,
of course, could come to a letter that was not sent; but Aunt Leth, of
her own accord, wrote to Phoebe, very careful in what she said,
because she suspected treachery, and feared that her letter might not
reach Phoebe's hands. It did not; nor did letters written by Fanny.
They were all opened by Miser Farebrother, read, and burnt.

"Have any letters come for me?" asked Phoebe.

"None," replied her father. "Your precious friends have forgotten you.
Now that they are convinced they cannot wring any money out of me, they
will have nothing more to do with you."

She did not tell him that she knew he was guilty of an untruth. She had
the firmest belief in her aunt's constancy, and this, to some extent,
was a comfort to her; but the pain and the grief that lay in silence
were very bitter. She never ceased thinking of her lover; that was the
keenest torture of all. For when weeks had passed in this way she argued
with herself, how could any young man, how could even Fred, be faithful
to one who was as dead to him? Perhaps the greatest terror she
experienced during these unhappy weeks arose out of a dream. She dreamt
that her father was dead, and she woke up with a strange feeling of
ease. Would she, then, rejoice in his death? "Am I growing wicked and
revengeful?" she asked of herself, in the silence of the night. "Cruel
as he is, he is still my father. Send death to me, and end this misery!"
It was a prayer to God, and as she grew daily weaker and thinner it
seemed as if her prayer would be answered.

So now when her father sent for her, and told her that it was time the
plans he had formed for her future should be carried out, she answered,
"Cannot things remain as they are?"

"They cannot," said Miser Farebrother. "Mr. Pamflett will come here this
evening, and will sleep here to-night. To-morrow morning he will go to
London to attend to the business, and in the evening he will return.
Before to-morrow night is over you will accept him for your husband."

"I will never do that," said Phoebe.

"You have sworn to obey me," he said, sternly.

"I have not," she said, in as steady a voice as she could command. "I
have sworn never to marry without your consent, and I will keep my oath.
I have sworn not to leave Parksides unless you thrust me out, and I will
keep my oath. There my obligation ends."

"What objection have you to Mr. Pamflett?" he asked.

"I hate and abhor him," said Phoebe, firmly. "He is not a man; he is a
reptile."

The door opened, and Mrs. Pamflett appeared.

"Come in," cried Miser Farebrother, "and hear what this ungrateful child
calls your son. Repeat it in her hearing," he said to Phoebe.

The girl did not speak.

"I will tell you," said Miser Farebrother, "and if she denies it she
lies. I asked her what objection she had to Jeremiah, and she answered
that she hated and abhorred him, and that he was not a man but a
reptile."

"Did you say that?" exclaimed Mrs. Pamflett, with venom in her voice and
eyes.

Phoebe was silent.

"That is the proof," said Miser Farebrother. "If she did not say it she
would deny it."

"My son a reptile!" said Mrs. Pamflett; "then what am I--his mother? I
shall remember it!"

"Do you want me any longer?" asked Phoebe of her father.

"No; you can go."

At tea time, Jeremiah having arrived, Miser Farebrother sent for his
daughter. She sat at the table and poured out the tea. Dark rims were
around her eyes, her lips were quivering; but there was no pity for her.
They talked of business matters; according to Jeremiah, money was being
made fast; profitable negotiations had been entered into that day, and
the miser gloated as he jotted down figures and calculated interest.

"Things are looking up, Jeremiah," he said, in a tone of exultation.

"That they are, sir," said Jeremiah. "Everything is going on
swimmingly."

Could the thoughts which were harassing him have been read, could his
mind have been laid bare, Miser Farebrother would have been aghast.
Jeremiah was in a sea of difficulties; he had spread nets for others,
they were closing around himself. The accounts he presented to his
master were false; the negotiations he had entered into were inventions;
the bills he exhibited were forged. There were only two roads of safety
for him--one, his speedy marriage with Phoebe; the other, his master's
death. His mother was filled with apprehension, for, having a better
knowledge of his guilty nature than the others, she divined that he was
in some deep trouble.

After tea the miser said, "Jeremiah, you have something in your pocket
for my daughter."

Jeremiah produced it--a piece of silver tissue-paper, from which he took
a ring.

"It is an engagement ring," said Miser Farebrother. "Give it to
Phoebe."

He offered it to her, and she did not raise her hand.

"Take it!" cried Miser Farebrother.

Phoebe took it, and flung it away.

Miser Farebrother rose slowly to his feet. One hand rested on the table,
in the other he held his crutch stick.

"Pick it up!" he said, sternly.

Phoebe did not move.

"Pick it up!" he cried again.

Still Phoebe made no motion. Trembling with passion, he lifted his
crutch stick and struck her across the neck. It was a cruel blow, and it
left a long red streak upon the girl's fair flesh. She tottered, and
almost fell to the ground, but she straightened herself, and uttered no
word.

"If I were dead," he said, "you could marry your gentleman lawyer."

"If he would have me," Phoebe replied, in a low, firm tone. "I should
then not be bound by my oath."

"You hear!" he exclaimed, appealing to Mrs. Pamflett and Jeremiah. "She
wishes for my death, and would bring it about if she could in order that
she might be free to disgrace me!"

They heard; but Phoebe did not. The pain of the blow was great, and
she could scarcely bear it. Blinding tears rushed into her eyes.

"Go from my sight!" said Miser Farebrother. "And bear this in mind: my
word is law. You will marry the gentleman I have chosen for you, or my
curse shall rest upon you till your dying day! My death alone shall
accomplish your guilty desire."

Thereafter there was no peace for her. There was something devilish in
the ingenuity displayed by her enemies to torture her soul. There are
women, strong women, whom it would have driven to madness; but from this
despair Phoebe was mercifully saved. "I will bear it; I will bear it,"
she murmured, "till the end comes. I must preserve my reason. When I am
dead, Aunt Leth will drop a flower on my grave. And Mr. Cornwall,
perhaps, will think with sorrow of the poor girl whose heart is his for
ever and ever!" She never thought of him now as "Fred;" he was too far
removed from her; all was over between them, but she would be faithful
to him to the last. She intrenched herself in silence, never opening her
lips to Mrs. Pamflett and Jeremiah, and never to her father unless he
addressed her and compelled her to reply. From the day he struck her she
did not call him "father." She did not regard him as such; her heart was
a heart of tenderness, but his merciless conduct had deadened it to him.
She thought frequently of her mother, and prayed aloud to that pure
spirit. "Take me, mother," she cried, "take your unhappy child from this
hard world!" So months passed, her cross becoming harder to bear with
every rising sun. Then it was that Phoebe began to fear that in the
cruel, unequal fight her reason might be wrecked. At length a crisis
came.

During the day her father had been more than usually savage toward her.
In the evening he ordered her to her room. She went willingly, and
undressing, retired to bed.

She did not know what time of the night it was when she heard her
father's voice outside her door. He had tried the handle, but Phoebe
never went to bed now without turning the key in the lock.

"Answer me! answer me!" cried her father.

"What do you want?" she asked, sitting up in bed.

"You! Dress this instant, and come out!"

She rose from her bed, and dressed hurriedly, without lighting a candle.
Then she went to the door and opened it.

"Assist me to my room," he said, in his cold, cruel voice.

He leant upon her with such force that he almost bore her down. They
reached his room.

"Attend to my words," he said, "they may be the last that will ever pass
between us. There is ruin on all sides of me. Whom should I trust, if
not you? Once more I ask if you will obey me."

"In everything," said Phoebe, "except--"

He did not allow her to finish.

"Except in the way I wish. I will put an end to this. You walk like a
ghost about the house. I see you in my dreams. You come, you and your
mother, who was like you, a pale, sickly creature, and stand by my
bedside in the night. I saw her a few minutes since, and I will submit
to it no longer. I will rid myself of you both, now and for ever! Again,
will you obey me?"

"Not in the way you wish," replied Phoebe.

"In what other way can you satisfy me? You know well in no other way.
You will not?"

"I will not."

With all his strength--with more than his ordinary strength, for he was
excited to a furious pitch--he struck her in the face.

"Will you obey me?"

"No."

He struck her again, a frightful blow.

"I call down a curse upon you!" he cried. "You are no longer a child of
mine. I drive you from my house. Go, this moment, or I shall kill you!"

She turned and fled without a word. Out into the passage, down the
stairs, out of the house, and into the open, quivering, bleeding, and
staggering blindly on through the darkness of night.



CHAPTER XVII.

DARK CLOUDS ARE GATHERING.


During these troublous months in Phoebe's life matters pregnant with
momentous issues for weal or woe were progressing in the careers of
others who are playing their parts in this domestic drama. From a
worldly point of view Fred Cornwall was making rapid progress. He still
possessed but a scanty purse, but he saw before him an almost certain
prospect of success. He was making a reputation; his foot was on the
ladder. He was unhappy and sad at heart, and he took refuge in
desperately hard work, slaving day and night, as it is necessary for a
man to do if he desires to make his mark in life's tough battle. This
incessant labour and his visits to the Lethbridges--which were as
frequent as ever--were his only consolation. Faithfully did he cherish
Phoebe's image in his memory; he was as true to her as a true man
could be; and the esteem and affection which the Lethbridges entertained
for him deepened as time wore on. Many were the conversations, many the
consultations, which he and the Lethbridges held respecting the young
girl upon whose life had fallen so heavy a blow, and whose place in the
dear home in Camden Town was open for her if by any happy chance she
should come to claim it. That they received no letters from her, that
those they wrote to her should remain unanswered, distressed them, but
did not shake their faith in her.

"She has written," said Aunt Leth, "and her letters have been
intercepted. Ours have never reached her hands. Poor child! poor child!"

"What is the use of being a lawyer," exclaimed Fanny, "if you don't know
how to bring her back to us?"

Fred Cornwall smiled sadly. "God knows," he said, "I would risk and
sacrifice my life for her if any good could be done! A lawyer's skill is
powerless here. She is living with her father, under his protection. He
has a legal claim upon her which no action on our part can touch. If she
herself made some move we could act; but as it is, the lawful right is
on her father's side."

"Her father!" cried Fanny. "Her oppressor! her torturer, you mean!"

"I mean that," replied Fred; "but that does not help us. I have
consulted a dozen fellows, and they all agree that, as things stand,
nothing can be done. Her father has forbidden us his house; he has a
right to do so. To put a foot inside the grounds of Parksides would be a
trespass; we should only be bringing ourselves into trouble, and
bringing heavier trouble, most likely, upon Phoebe."

"If I were a man," Fanny declared, "I would do it! I would drag her from
that wretched, miserable hole; I would tear the hair out of Mrs.
Pamflett's head; I--I--"

"Fanny," said her mother, reprovingly, "you don't know what you are
saying."

Whereupon Fanny began to cry and express her wish that she lived in a
country where there was no law.

In the kitchen, as in the parlour, the principal topic of conversation
between Tom Barley and 'Melia Jane was Phoebe. Tom Barley, truly,
would have laid his life down for his young mistress; he sorrowed and
grieved, and if he could conveniently have got into a personal
difficulty with Jeremiah Pamflett which could have been decided by fists
or sticks, he would have courted the opportunity with alacrity. But
though he cudgelled his brains he could find no way to an issue so
agreeable and desirable. The number of times 'Melia Jane laid out the
cards to arrive at a proper understanding of Phoebe's future could not
be counted. Sometimes it was bad, sometimes it was good; and Tom
Barley's spirits rose and fell accordingly. There was always the dark
woman, Mrs. Pamflett, exercising her malevolent influence; there was
always the dark man, Jeremiah Pamflett, prowling around to do some
dreadful deed; there was always the fair man, Fred Cornwall, popping up
to circumvent the diabolical plots which surrounded poor Phoebe. The
result of the labour of scores of nights, with the heads of Tom Barley
and 'Melia Jane very close together bending over the cards, was
eventually 'Melia Jane's summing up that it all depended upon Tom
Barley.

"Yes, Tom," said 'Melia Jane, "it all depends upon you."

Tom Barley could not exactly see how this could be, but he set his wits
to work, and he came to the conclusion that it was his duty to go down
to Parksides as often as possible "to have a good look around," and to
be on the spot if he was required. His efforts in this direction were
circumscribed, for a very sufficient reason. Fred Cornwall was not the
only one who, despite the cloud which hung over him and the girl he
loved, was getting along in the world. The same may be said of faithful
Tom Barley. He had reached the height of his ambition. Through the
interest of friends, and the good character he had earned since he left
Parksides, he had succeeded in being taken on in "the force." He was now
a policeman. The pride he felt in obtaining this honourable position in
the service of his country, and the sense of importance which almost
overwhelmed him when he presented himself in his uniform to his friends,
would require a more powerful pen than mine to describe. At length he
had raised himself; at length he was "somebody"; at length he held a
place in the world and society.

"Behave yourself, 'Melia Jane," said he to that most estimable servant
of all work, "or I'll take you up."

"'Im take me up!" said 'Melia Jane in confidence to Aunt Leth. "Why, I
can twist 'im round my little finger!"

Which, if not taken literally, was exactly how the case stood.

"I 'ope he'll take somebody up," said 'Melia Jane, still in confidence
to her mistress; "'cause if he doesn't, what's the good of 'is being a
peeler?" A view of the case which is no doubt entertained by other
persons than 'Melia Jane.

That Tom Barley had a heart as tender as "a babe unborned," in 'Melia
Jane's estimation, was perhaps true enough, but he had a strong sense of
duty, and it will be seen that, common policeman as he was, he had in
him the stuff of which heroes are made. It is the fashion to dress
heroes in grand uniform and gold-lace, but the majority of them are
dressed in fustian.

Being a policeman, as has been stated, with a policeman's duties, was a
tax upon Tom Barley's time; in that respect he was not his own master;
but 'Melia Jane's verdict, that it all depended upon him, was not to be
disputed. Therefore, when he was on day duty, he sometimes went down to
Parksides at night, to try and find out something about his young
mistress, and whether he could be of service to her; and when he was on
night duty, he went down to Parksides during the day, bent on the same
errand. But he saw nothing; heard nothing. Nevertheless, he did not
relax his efforts. That they encroached upon the hours which should have
been devoted to sleep was of the smallest importance; he had a
constitution of iron and the strength of a lion, and, bent upon a task
to which his heart and soul were devoted, he could do with three hours'
sleep out of the twenty-four. You shall see presently of what else he
was capable. It is not revealing anything in this domestic drama which
at this point should not be revealed, by stating that, in the exercise
of his common policeman's duties, he did a deed which made all England
ring with admiration. It is simply leaving you in a pleasant state of
mystery.

His expenses to Parksides were not borne entirely by himself. Fred
Cornwall supplied him with part of the necessary funds, and would have
supplied him with the whole, but Tom would not have it so. His service
was a service of love and honour, not to be measured by pounds,
shillings, and pence.

Thus it will be seen that the lawyer and the policeman were on the road
to worldly prosperity. Not so the Lethbridges. A thunder-bolt was
forged, ready at the fatal moment to descend upon them and crush them.
This thunder-bolt was the acceptance for three hundred pounds which Mr.
Lethbridge had given to Kiss and Mr. Linton, the dramatic author, and
which they had negotiated with Jeremiah Pamflett. On the night that
Miser Farebrother drove his daughter with cruel blows from Parksides,
this acceptance was within three weeks of becoming due, and there was no
prospect of meeting it.

The cause of this is easily explained.

_A Heart of Gold_, on its first representation a failure, had been made
the talk of the town by Mr. Linton's extraordinary speech when the
audience insisted upon his appearing before the curtain. It has already
been described how the papers took it up, and how great was the interest
it excited. For two or three weeks the Star Theatre was crowded, and the
manager advertised that seats could be booked two months in advance.
Everybody concerned in the success of _A Heart of Gold_ was in high
feather. Kiss went about in a state of exultation; the company were in
raptures, discovering in the drama diamonds which they had looked upon
as paste; the author beamed, believing that his star had risen at last.
His wife was radiant; colour came into her cheeks, and she visited the
Lethbridges in her cotton frock with joyful hope blooming in her eyes.
Apart from this unexpected turn in her husband's fortunes, had she not
cause to rejoice? Her little boy was growing stronger. Friends had come
forward to assist Linton with loans of small sums of money, to be repaid
presently when the dramatic author touched his profits. Before that
fortunate day arrived there were the expenses of the getting up of the
play to be provided for; it was the arrangement made in the agreement
into which he had entered with the manager of the Star Theatre. A
month's good business would clear off these expenses, and the boat would
be trimmed and the winds would be fair for the haven of rest and hope.

But that month's good business did not become an accomplished fact. In
three weeks the interest which had been excited, and which had nothing
whatever to do with the merits of _A Heart of Gold_, slackened, and the
audiences followed suit. The flash of prosperity was but a flash in the
pan. The emphatic verdict of the first-night audience that the drama was
not a good drama was endorsed by the majority of those who flocked
afterward to the theatre to judge for themselves. From a hundred pounds
a night the receipts fell to eighty, sixty, fifty, forty, and then
dwindled down infinitesimally. _A Heart of Gold_ was not "in" for a long
run, as the elated ones declared; it was doomed.

Reviewing the play from a dramatic standpoint, Kiss, in a subsequent
conversation with Mr. Lethbridge, thus summed it up: "It is a good play;
its literature is of a high order; it has plenty of points; the plot is
strong enough; the opportunities given to the actors to create parts are
capital. But, my dear sir--_but_--and here comes in the fatal
blemish--it has no villain. I must have been blind not to have
discovered it in time, but I was misled by the reading. There is
absolutely no villain. In a pure comedy a mild villain is sufficient;
even that order of piece requires something disagreeable, something we
can condemn. But for a drama, my dear sir, for such a drama as _A Heart
of Gold_, not only is a villain required, but a strong villain--some
damned unscrupulous scoundrel that the audience would like to jump upon
and tear to pieces. Every character in Linton's piece is too good; they
are all too good. There is nothing to hate. What is the consequence?
There is no contrast; and, sir, a drama without strong contrasts will
not, cannot, please. Why? Because it is contrary to human nature. Never
mind the colour; never mind the improbability of the story. Give us
contrasts; and that is exactly what Linton has not done. Love
interest--yes? I do not know a play in which the love interest is
stronger than it is in _A Heart of Gold_; and yet it is a failure--and a
failure, my dear sir, upon assured and established grounds. I will just
ask you if play-goers sympathize with a pair of lovers because they are
lovers, because they are interesting, because they are all that is
sweet, because they are true to each other?"

"Yes," replied Mr. Lethbridge, in the innocence of his heart; "of course
they do."

"Not a bit of it, my dear sir," said Kiss--"not a bit of it. They
sympathize with the lovers because they are oppressed; because a villain
is trying to ruin their happiness, is trying to separate them, is trying
to blacken and damn the young fellow. That, my dear sir, is the secret
of the interest the love-story creates. Without it the audience would
regard it as so much wash--mere milk and water. The more the lovers are
oppressed, the more the audience sympathizes with them. Pile on the
agony; that is what a dramatist has to do. And a curious outcome of all
this is to be found in the fact that the villain is now really the most
popular character in a play. Presently he will command a larger salary
than the leading man."

All this was very well as a matter of observation and disputation, but
it did not provide for the meeting of the acceptance, and Mr. Lethbridge
looked forward to the due date with a feeling of terror. Kiss could not
meet the bill; Mr. Linton could not; and he could not.

He kept the trouble to himself, and all the more did it weigh upon him
with terrible effect. The home in which they had been so happy from the
first day of their marriage was slipping from him; the exposure would be
a disgrace; the chances were that he would lose his situation at the
bank; and what would become of him after that? He dared not think of it.
Unconsciously he paced the rooms of the dear home, gazing at the old
mementos with exaggerated affection. They were part of his life; to
every small item some story was attached which invested it with a sweet
and human interest. It was an additional torture that he had kept his
secret from his wife.

"My dear," said his wife to him while he was dressing in the morning,
"you were very restless last night."

"Was I?" he remarked, with a guilty air.

"Yes. You were tossing about for hours, and murmuring something about a
bill."

"Oh," he said, "the bank business. It is beginning to tell upon me,
perhaps."

"Nonsense," said Aunt Leth; "you want a little medicine."

"Yes," he said, meekly; "that must be it."

"I dreamt of Phoebe all night long," said Aunt Leth. "What would I not
give to see her dear face!"

"It is strange we hear nothing of her," he observed. "It is wearing upon
Mr. Cornwall."

"And upon all of us. Fanny is quite a changed girl. All her high spirits
seem to be going."

"It is terrible," said Mr. Lethbridge, absently. He loved Phoebe
devotedly, but he was thinking of the bill.

"Tom Barley is going to Parksides to-night. 'Melia Jane says he is
determined to get some news of the dear girl."

"I hope he will," said Mr. Lethbridge; and then they went down to
breakfast.

On his way to the bank that morning he made up his mind that before the
week was out he would confide his trouble to his wife.



CHAPTER XVIII.

O RARE TOM BARLEY!


Aunt Leth's statement to her husband that Tom Barley was going to
Parksides to-night, and was determined to get some news of Phoebe, was
in exact accordance with that faithful fellow's determination. Hitherto
in his visits to Parksides he had contented himself with wandering and
lingering in the vicinity of the grounds; he had no right to enter them,
and it was a certainty that he would get himself into difficulty if he
committed a trespass. But he was now nerved to a daring pitch, for which
'Melia Jane slightly, and Fanny Lethbridge largely, were responsible. By
'Melia Jane he was led to believe that to render his young mistress a
service which might be inestimable, and of which she stood sorely in
need, depended entirely upon himself. The nature of this service, and
the manner in which it was to be rendered, were a mystery to the
elucidation of which he held no clue, and to all appearance he might
continue to go to Parksides for years, as he had already been doing for
months, without his being any the wiser. But Fanny had stepped in and
implored him to do something--never mind what nor at how great a
risk--to get one word from Phoebe that he could bring back to the
Lethbridges. "What _can_ I do, miss?" Tom had asked. "Get inside the
grounds at night," Fanny had replied, "when Phoebe's father and that
wicked wretch, Mrs. Pamflett, are asleep. You know the room in which my
dear cousin sleeps. Perhaps you may see a light in it--if not the first
time you go, the second, or third, or fourth. If you see a light it is
almost certain that my cousin will be awake, because she always sleeps
in the dark. Throw a little gravel up at her window; you will know how
to act so that she shall not be frightened. She knows your voice, and
has spoken a hundred times of your kindness to her. Tell her you come
from me and Aunt Leth; that we sent you. Ask her if she wants any help.
Say that we are all ready to die for her; that we love her more than
ever we did; that we have written again and again to her, and that we
are certain that our letters have been kept from her; that Mr. Cornwall
is here continually, and never ceases speaking of her; that he is
faithful and true to her, and will be all his life. Say whatever comes
into your mind, Tom, that you think will please and comfort her, and
bring us back some news of her. Do, Tom, do!" Fanny said much more than
this, and said it so excitedly and with so much fervour that there was
no resisting her. So Tom Barley had promised, and he set out for
Parksides determined to carry his resolution into effect. He knew what
he was risking, and that if he were caught by Miser Farebrother or Mrs.
Pamflett or Jeremiah prowling in the grounds in the dead of the night,
he would be as good as ruined. He would be dismissed from the force, and
all his bright hopes for the future would be destroyed. These
considerations, however, did not deter him from putting his design into
execution. His love for his young mistress was too profound for him to
hesitate because there was danger ahead. All the more reason that he
should go straight on to his service of humble love and duty.

He reached Beddington station at a few minutes past eleven o'clock, and
he walked slowly thence to Parksides, congratulating himself that the
night was dark, and that he was therefore not likely to be recognized.
By midnight he was on the outskirts of the grounds. He was familiar with
every inch of them, and he was soon immediately outside the old house,
looking up at the windows. All was dark and silent; there came from
within not a sound of life. There was no light in his young mistress's
room, but the white blinds drawn down were an indication that it was
inhabited. He resolved to wait an hour or two, and then, if all still
remained silent, if no sign came to him, to make a cautious attempt to
arouse Phoebe by throwing a little light gravel against the
window-panes. He knew, also, in which room Miser Farebrother slept, and
saw that all was dark therein. Up to this point he was safe.

He had been watching and waiting for nearly an hour when he was startled
by a circumstance which could not but be unusual at such an hour of the
night in that locality. For a horseman to gallop along the public road
would have been reasonable enough, but for the rider to pull up
immediately outside the grounds, to alight, to tie his horse to a hedge,
to creep stealthily into the grounds, to peer around him in the dark for
several minutes, not daring to move another step until he was convinced
that he was alone and that his movements were not observed; then to
creep on and on into the interior of the grounds, away from the house,
to pause again and take from an inner pocket a dark lantern, and to
commence to search the earth for some mark of which he was in quest--all
this was unusual and suspicious; but it was exactly what occurred, and
the man peering and searching, falling on his knees now and then, and
seeming to tear at the earth, was none other than Jeremiah Pamflett!
When the sounds of the horse's feet had ceased outside the grounds, Tom
Barley had crept in that direction, and had seen what has been
described. He recognized Jeremiah, but had not the slightest idea of the
object which had brought the schemer to Parksides at such a strange
hour. But it was not the first time that Jeremiah had been thus engaged.
He was convinced that in some part of the grounds there was a spot in
which Miser Farebrother had been in the habit of secreting large hoards
of money. During the last three or four months the miser had drawn out
of the bank at various times sums amounting in the aggregate to not less
than £7,000. Information which Jeremiah had received from his mother had
forced upon him this conviction of a secret hiding-place. Even in the
daylight, when he was strong enough to walk in the open air by the aid
of his crutch stick, the miser was sometimes seen by Mrs. Pamflett
creeping painfully onward in the direction to which Jeremiah was now
devoting his attention. Lynx-eyed and fox-like in his movements, Miser
Farebrother had never failed to discover when Mrs. Pamflett was watching
him, and on every occasion he had peremptorily sent her about her
business. He was too wary for her, but she was satisfied that he had
this secret hiding-place; Jeremiah was satisfied of it also, and knowing
that it would not be safe for him to search for it in daylight, he had
adopted this means toward the discovery. Had it not been that it was
almost vitally necessary that he should produce a large sum of money by
a certain date to save himself from exposure, Jeremiah Pamflett might
not have had the courage to do as he was doing now. The career into
which he had been tempted by Captain Ablewhite had proved singularly
disastrous; he had "plunged" and lost, and was now engaged in the
desperate task of trying to get his money back. If not his money, some
other person's money--he scarcely cared whose, or by what means, so long
as he made himself safe; and surely in these midnight quests, cautious
as he was, coming out of London disguised, and always careful to avoid
observation, there was small danger of exposure.

He had not yet been successful. At first he had searched wildly, and
without any distinct plan, but of late he had pursued the search
systematically; mapping out the ground as it were, and examining it foot
by foot; and so, on this night when he was watched by Tom Barley, he
continued his examination. Four or five hundred yards off lay the house,
in deep shadow. From where Tom Barley and Jeremiah Pamflett were lurking
it could not be seen; and after Tom had been for some forty or fifty
minutes observing Jeremiah's proceedings, it occurred to him that this
was not the errand upon which he himself had come to Parksides. He moved
silently back in the direction of the house, and started when he
observed a light in the room occupied by Miser Farebrother. Some person,
therefore, must be awake in the house. Tom felt that he was in a
position of danger, but he would not desert his post. He fancied he
heard voices proceeding from the room, but he was not sure, though his
sense of hearing was extraordinarily acute. However it was, the
impression of these real or fancied sounds did not remain upon him. He
stood in silence for a few minutes, and then the light in the miser's
room was suddenly extinguished. All was dark within and without. He
moved in the direction of his young mistress's room; there was no
indication that she was not asleep, and the knowledge he had gained that
Miser Farebrother was passing a restless night was a warning not to
attempt to arouse her on this occasion. He would leave it for another
time. It was now past two o'clock. "One more peep at that scoundrel
Jeremiah," he thought, "and then it will be as well that I should make
tracks to London." It was his intention to foot it; a walk of ten or
eleven miles was a small matter to such a pedestrian.

He did not fulfil his intention of going in search of Jeremiah. The
front of the house opened, and a figure staggered blindly out. Tom
Barley could not distinguish who it was, but it seemed to him that the
person's movements were wild and uncertain, and that there was in them
no attempt at concealment. The figure was approaching in his direction,
swaying this way and that, attempting to catch at something for support;
then the arms were thrown up, a moan of agony escaped the lips, and the
figure slid rather than fell to the ground, where it lay still and
motionless.

Tom Barley knew who it was the moment she fell. He darted forward and
bent over her. Yes, it was Phoebe, his beloved mistress, with marks of
cruel blows upon her, with blood staining her white neck and forehead!
As he held her on his knee he saw these marks of blows and the oozing
blood, and his heart beat with furious passion and indignation.

This, then, had been the life of his dear mistress, the sweetest lady
the world contained; it was for this she had been immured in the
prisonhouse of Parksides! But he, her devoted servant, was there to
protect her now, and to convey her to a place of safety!

His passion deserted him; he became cold as ice. Had he arrived too
late? Was she dead?

He put his ear to her heart. No, she was not dead. Faint as were her
heart-beats, he heard them, and thanked God!

There was no time to lose--not a moment. He would take her at once to
London, where love and truest pity awaited her; he would take her to the
only home in which she had had an hour's real happiness.

But how was this to be accomplished? It must be done swiftly and in
secret. There were no trains. He could have carried her light form
easily to the station, but it would be hours before the departure of a
train to London. There was no possibility of obtaining a conveyance or a
horse.

A horse! An inspiration fell on him. Jeremiah's horse was tethered a
couple of hundred yards away.

Quick as thought he acted. Swiftly and tenderly he lifted the inanimate
form from the ground, swiftly and tenderly he bore it along; with a
lightning movement he unfastened the rope, and was on the horse's back,
clasping Phoebe closely to him. Away he galloped through the dark
night toward London!

Jeremiah raised his head. What sound was that? The sound of a horse
galloping away. He ran to the place by which he had fastened his horse.
It was gone. "Curse my luck!" cried Jeremiah.

He dared not remain any longer. He must himself get back to London, and
there was nothing for it but to walk the road. He did not doubt but that
the horse had got loose, and was running riderless. Perhaps he would
catch it up. He extinguished the light in his lantern, which he put into
his pocket, buttoning his long coat over it. Then he shambled on,
cursing and swearing.

The rushing air played about Phoebe's face and revived her. The horse,
urged by Tom Barley, was racing like the wind. Tom, glancing down, saw
his beloved mistress's eyes languidly open.

"Don't be frightened," he whispered. "I am with you--Tom Barley! We are
riding to London. I am taking you to your aunt's house in Camden Town."

"Oh, Tom!" she murmured; and clasped her trembling arms about his neck,
and laid her face close to his.

If ever a man tasted heaven on earth, Tom Barley tasted it then.

And Phoebe? O dolorous night, charged with woe and pain! O happy
night, charged with visions of hope and glory! O blessed winds that
kissed her hot and feverish face and neck! Loving hearts still beat for
her; loving arms were waiting to welcome her. The sweetness overcame
her; her eyes were filled with happy tears.

"Miss Phoebe," said Tom.

"Yes, Tom?"

"You must try and help yourself a bit."

"I will, Tom. Tell me what to do."

"In half an hour we shall be in London streets. Then I must take you off
the horse. We can't ride on it to your aunt's door. There are reasons."

"Very well, Tom."

"Do you think you will be able to walk a bit?"

"I will try, Tom--and you will help me?"

"That I will. I could carry you, but it would draw attention upon us.
Perhaps we may get a cab. Then there will be no difficulty."

"Tom, I will do everything you tell me."

"Thank you, Miss Phoebe."

They had taken the Croydon road to London Bridge, and in half an hour,
when they reached a quiet street, in which no soul but themselves was to
be seen, Tom lifted Phoebe from the horse.

"Hold on to me, Miss Phoebe, and turn your face a bit."

She did so. With a branch which he had plucked from the hedge and had
used as a whip Tom struck the horse a smart blow. Away it galloped with
an empty saddle on its back, and in three moments was lost to his sight.

"Now, Miss Phoebe, if we can only find a cab!"

Angel Fortune was on their side. They had taken scarcely a dozen steps
when a four-wheeler turned the corner of the street. The bargain was
soon made, and Phoebe and Tom, safely ensconced in the cab, were on
their way to Camden Town.

"My dear," said Aunt Leth, shaking her husband, "the street-door bell
has rung; and, hark! do you hear the loud knocking? What can have
happened?"

He was out of bed in a moment and gliding down the stairs, and Aunt Leth
quickly drew on a dressing-gown, and hastened after him.

"Open the door," cried Tom Barley, outside. "It's all right! There's
nothing to be frightened at."

Uncle Leth threw open the door.

"Aunt Leth! oh, dear Aunt Leth!" murmured Phoebe, and fell sobbing
into the good woman's arms.

"Phoebe! my poor dear Phoebe! Oh! look here! look here! There is
blood upon her!"

"I am well and happy now!" sobbed Phoebe. "Oh! so happy! so happy!
Dear aunt, dear uncle, don't let them take me from you again!"

"They never shall! they never shall! Oh, my poor dear! oh, my poor
dear!"

Close, close, to the tender womanly heart, close to the faithful
breast--closer, closer, closer!

"Phoebe!" screamed Fanny, flying down the stairs. "Oh, Phoebe!
Phoebe! Mother, give her to me! give her to me!"

And here was 'Melia Jane, in the most outrageous of costumes, quite
scandalous, indeed, running down to the kitchen to light the fire.

"I will tell you all to-morrow," said Tom Barley. "Nobody must know she
is here. Good-night."

"Tom!" murmured Phoebe.

"Yes, Miss Phoebe?"

"Good-night, Tom."

"Good-night, miss."

He took the thin white hand she held out to him. She drew his face to
hers and kissed him.

"Thank you, Tom! Oh, thank you!"

The tender light of the coming day shone upon his tear-stained face as
he walked home to his humble bed.



CHAPTER XIX.

A VISIT TO DONCASTER AND ITS RESULTS.


The "system" which Jeremiah Pamflett, after infinite patience, had
discovered of winning large sums of money upon the turf did not turn out
the absolute certainty which his calculations upon paper had
foreshadowed. At first all went well; he commenced with small amounts,
and a peculiar run of wins in a certain direction favoured him. For
three or four weeks his good fortune continued; every day's results
showed a balance on the right, his lowest daily win being £3, his
highest £62. At the end of that time he was the richer by £280. So far,
so good.

He did not think so; he was mad with himself for winning so little. That
was because he had ventured so little. "What an idiot I am!" he groaned,
in the solitude of his bedchamber. "What an idiot! what an idiot! Had I
multiplied my stakes by fifty I should have won £14,000. Where are my
brains? Where is my pluck? Without courage, no one who was not born to
riches has ever made a great fortune. And here am I wasting the precious
time and letting my opportunities slip! £14,000 in four weeks. Forty
racing weeks a year, £140,000. Five years of that, £7,000,000. Oh, Lord!
_seven million pounds!_ Seven millions! I could double it while I was
making it. FOURTEEN MILLION POUNDS! What could I do with fourteen
millions? What _could_ I do?" he screamed. "What couldn't I do? I could
turn the world topsy-turvy! I could become anything I liked!--a
Prince--a King--an Emperor! And all in five years from to-day--with a
long life before me to enjoy my money! I'll do it--I'll do it--I'll do
it!"

These contemplations turned his head. He resolved to dash in and become
a millionaire.

The race-courses upon which his initial trials were made were situated
at an easy distance from London--Kempton Park, Sandown, Epsom, Croydon,
Ascot, Hampton, Windsor, and other such meetings, from which, when the
last race was run, he could reach Miser Farebrother's office at seven or
eight o'clock in the evening.

"I'm going to commence my system in real earnest," said Jeremiah to
Captain Ablewhite. "No more shillyshallying."

"Brave boy!" replied Captain Ablewhite admiringly. "Where?"

"Well," questioned Jeremiah, seeking information. "Where?"

"Come with me to Doncaster," said Captain Ablewhite. "Glorious place! No
end of swells there, waiting to hand you their money. A fortune ready
made for you. We'll have a rare week. I know to a certainty what's going
to win the Leger. A dark 'un."

"Doncaster's a long way off," said Jeremiah ruminatively.

"All the better. You can manage it: throw over the office for five days.
What is life without beer and skittles? You will come back rolling in
money."

Jeremiah did manage it. Miser Farebrother had one of his worst attacks,
and there was no likelihood of his being able to leave his room the
Doncaster week. Away went Jeremiah on Monday, in the company of Captain
Ablewhite and three other swells, to commence the solid foundation of
the great fortune in store for him. He had made his preparations for the
grand _coup_, and had possessed himself of no less a sum than two
thousand pounds in ready cash. How he had obtained this money need not
be too curiously inquired into; sufficient to say that it was his
master's, and that forgery was the means by which he had come into
possession of it. He had "borrowed" it for a week. When the Doncaster
Meeting was over, he would be able to replace it. He had confided to his
mother that he was leaving London for a few days, and had instructed her
to communicate regularly with him at Doncaster, giving her the address
of an inn at which he and Captain Ablewhite intended to stop. She had
implored him to confide in her the nature of the business which took him
away; but he was obdurate, and he sternly refused to let her into the
secret.

"All it is necessary for you to know," he said to her, "is that when you
see me next I shall have twenty thousand pounds of my own."

"Don't run yourself into danger," she begged. "Oh, Jeremiah, be
careful!"

"Let me alone for that," he replied. "I know what I'm about."

On the road to Doncaster he played "Nap" with Captain Ablewhite and his
swell friends, crown points, and when the train reached its destination
he had won over forty pounds.

"A good commencement," he said to himself, elated at his good fortune.

"You have the luck of the devil," said one of the losers to him. "How do
you manage it?"

Jeremiah smiled as he packed his winnings away.

"It is my opinion," observed Captain Ablewhite pleasantly, "that Mr.
Pamflett has made a bargain with the old gentleman. Everything he
touches turns to gold."

On the following day Jeremiah, on the race-course, commenced to plunge,
and after a martingale of six series of bets on six races found himself
a loser of eleven hundred pounds. He was desperately frightened. He went
carefully over his "system," and it was small satisfaction to him to
prove that he had not made a mistake. What should he do? Leave off, or
go on? There was no choice for him. He _must_ go on; he _must_ get back
the money he had lost. It was not possible that he should continue to
lose. The money would be sure to come back. He infused false courage
into his trembling body by drinking brandy.

"A bad day," said Captain Ablewhite.

"What's the odds?" cried Jeremiah, emptying his glass. "It's only lent."

"Bravo!" exclaimed Captain Ablewhite. "You've got the right sort of
stuff in you. You'll break the ring."

They played "poker" that night, and Jeremiah, by boldness, won back two
hundred of the eleven. This put spirit into him. "It is all right," he
thought. "I'll make them sing small before I've done with them."

On the race-course again he continued his "system"--lost on the first
race of the day, lost on the second, and lost on the Leger. The "dark"
horse, which Captain Ablewhite was certain would win, came in fourth.
The carrying out of Jeremiah's "system" now required very heavy stakes,
and when the number of the winner of the Leger went up on the board, he
had but four hundred of the two thousand pounds left. Then he began to
flounder. He had lost on nine successive races, and to pull back his
losses it was necessary that he should stake the whole of the four
hundred pounds in his pocket on the race about to take place. Did he
dare to do that?

He walked about the ring, muttering to himself, and studying his card.
"Shall I do it? shall I do it?" he muttered, in a state of indecision.
He knew exactly what his "system" demanded. There was the horse, and
there the jockey; did he dare to back them for the four hundred pounds?
As he was hesitating and dallying, two men, whispering, brushed past
him. He heard what they said. "They've squared it: it's a moral. Now's
the time; I'm going nap on Morning Light."

Morning Light! Morning Light! The man was going nap on Morning Light.
Was there ever a straighter tip? It was not the horse his "system"
proclaimed he should back; but he could never forgive himself if he
neglected the tip so fortuitously imparted to him. "It is sure to win;
it is sure to win," muttered Jeremiah; and in a fit of nervous
desperation he put his money on Morning Light. He could not get the odds
to the amount from one book-maker, but he got them from four good men
and true, to whom he intrusted the last of his new crisp bank-notes. He
stood to win three thousand eight hundred pounds. "That will put me
eighteen hundred on the right side," he muttered, "and my four hundred
that I shall get back, that will be two thousand two hundred."

So great was his agitation that he walked out of the ring, and tried not
to think of the race till it was over.

"Hallo, my buck!" cried Captain Ablewhite, clapping him on the shoulder
just as he passed through the gate. "How are we getting along? Do you
know anything? What have you backed?"

But Jeremiah would not allow the name of the horse to pass consciously
from his lips. He had a superstitious fear that it would bring him bad
luck; he mumbled some indistinct words, and staggered away. Captain
Ablewhite looked after him and smiled.

How was it that in a few moments Jeremiah found himself back in the ring
again? He could not tell, except that he was impelled by a terrible
force which seemed to deprive him of self-control. His eyes blazed, his
tongue clave to the roof of his mouth. All at once he was standing
before the bar calling for brandy. He drank it neat, and called for
another glass and another, which he tossed off. The ringing of a bell
and cries of, "They're off!" dragged him to the grand stand; but though
he strained his eyes and looked in the direction of the running horses
he could not see them. They were all mixed up in seemingly inextricable
confusion. A man close to him shouted, "Tricksy wins! Tricksy wins, for
a pony!" Tricksy! It was the horse he ought to have backed. "You're a
damned liar!" He thought he had screamed the words aloud, but only a
gurgling, inarticulate sound had escaped him. From a hundred throats
came the cries, "Tricksy wins! Tricksy wins! Tricksy wins!" The horses
rushed past the post, and the race was over.

Jeremiah wiped the perspiration from his face, and dug his handkerchief
in his eyes to clear them. The winning numbers were going up, and he saw
them in a red mist. Tricksy first, Bamboo second, Moselle third. Morning
Light nowhere.

What a cursed fool he had been! Fortune was within his grasp, and he had
missed it--had wilfully thrown it away. His "system" pointed unerringly
to the backing of Tricksy, and he had allowed himself to be turned from
the certainty by a casual whisper. No, not casual; it was a plot to ruin
him; it had been done purposely to destroy him. And here was Captain
Ablewhite at his elbow again.

"Was there ever such infernal luck?" the Captain was saying to him. "I
had the tip before I came on the course, and I go and back Moselle. I've
no head, no head! Oh, if I only had your clear brain! No use growling,
though; it won't mend matters. Better luck next time. None but the brave
deserve the--mopusses. But I say, old fellow, you look upset. You don't
mean to say you didn't back Tricksy! Why you told me after the second
race that mathematically, it couldn't lose, and I said to myself,
'Pamflett'll back Tricksy, and I'll back Moselle. If Moselle wins, I can
let Pamflett have a few hundreds to go on with. If Tricksy wins, he can
oblige me.' You can't eh?"

"No, I can't," said Jeremiah, in a hoarse tone. "I didn't back it."

"You didn't back it!" exclaimed Captain Ablewhite, with an amazed look.
"What _did_ you back, then?"

"Morning Light."

"Morning Light! Have you lost your wits? Why, old chap, he was never
meant! I could have told you that if you had asked me. He's going to win
the Cambridgeshire. Upon my soul, this is the best thing I've heard for
a month."

"I don't think so."

"How much did you back him for?"

"Four hundred."

Captain Ablewhite whistled. "Well, it's no use crying over spilt milk.
There's one good thing--the game's alive. You can pull it back with
interest, and you are not the man I take you for if you don't do it.
What does it matter to you, a thousand or two? These things happen to
all of us. I remember last year at Ascot--but it's no good raking it up.
It knocked me over for a month, I can tell you that. From what I can
understand of your system it's when you risk the most you win the most.
Isn't it?"

"Yes," groaned Jeremiah.

"I thought so. Now if you had backed Tricksy, what would you have won?"

"Nearly five thousand," groaned Jeremiah.

"By all that's wonderful! And you didn't follow it out! But I'm a nice
one, I am, to preach!" And then Captain Ablewhite said, playfully,
"Don't you let me catch you at it again!"

"I won't," groaned Jeremiah.

"The beauty of the thing is, as I have said," continued Captain
Ablewhite, "that the game's alive. It's always alive, and waiting for
us. What is _one_ miss? You can snap your fingers at it. All you've got
to do is to increase your stake the next time. Old fellow, I give you my
solemn word there's only one thing in life worth living for, and that is
horse-racing and betting on it. If it was abolished, there are a
thousand men in England who would put a bullet through their heads
to-morrow; and I'd be one of them--I would! It isn't called a Royal
sport for nothing. There never _was_ anything like it, and there never
_will_ be anything like it. Great Scot! the fortunes I've seen lost and
won! Come and have some fizz."

Jeremiah went and had some fizz, and then Captain Ablewhite asked him
what his trouble was.

"I've lost all the ready money I brought with me," said Jeremiah.

"What of that? You want to go on betting?"

"Yes."

"Give me," said Captain Ablewhite, "your I O U for a thou."

What with his despair, and the mixed liquors he had imbibed, Jeremiah
scarcely knew what he was doing; and under Captain Ablewhite's
directions he wrote and signed an I O U for £1,000, which the gallant
Captain comfortably deposited in his pocket-book.

"Come with me," said Captain Ablewhite. "By Jove! the numbers are going
up."

Jeremiah went with him, and was introduced to a book-maker, to whom
Captain Ablewhite whispered a few words.

"All right, Captain," said the book-maker. "The gentleman's name is
good enough; but I thought he was quite a different sort of man."

Captain Ablewhite nodded, and took Jeremiah aside.

"Make your bets with him," said the Captain, in a low tone, "in the name
of Farebrother. You've got Farebrother's cards about you; give him one.
Before the meeting is over you will be in clover. You can bet with him
without staking a shilling."

But on the Friday morning of the Doncaster Meeting Jeremiah was in
anything but clover. He was tossing about on a bed of nettles.

END OF VOL. II.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Miser Farebrother (vol 2 of 3) - A Novel" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home