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Title: All But Lost Vol 1 of 3 - A Novel
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "All But Lost Vol 1 of 3 - A Novel" ***

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                              ALL BUT LOST
                                A Novel.


                                   BY

                              G. A. HENTY,
              AUTHOR OF “THE MARCH TO MAGDALA,” ETC., ETC.


                           IN THREE VOLUMES.

                                 VOL I.


                                LONDON:
              TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18, CATHERINE ST., STRAND.
                                 1869.
               [_The Right of Translation is reserved._]



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

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CONTENTS.


                  CHAP.                           PAGE

                    I.— COLLEGE LIFE                 1

                   II.— THE DUSTMAN’S FAMILY        22

                  III.— BROKEN DOWN                 46

                   IV.— THE OWNERS OF WYVERN HALL   70

                    V.— A MODEST ANNIVERSARY        94

                   VI.— THE BINGHAMS               118

                  VII.— A STARTLING SUGGESTION     138

                 VIII.— A SHATTERED HOME           169

                   IX.— WHAT WILL IT LEAD TO?      195

                    X.— PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL   221

                    XI— AN EVENING AT THE HOLLS’   244

                  XII.— THWARTED PLANS             264

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             ALL BUT LOST.



                               CHAPTER I.
                             COLLEGE LIFE.


It is near the end of the Lent term at Cambridge, a raw, damp day. The
grey clouds are drifting thick and low, over the flat fen country, and a
fine mist is falling steadily. But for once no one seems to mind the
weather. It is two o’clock, and from all the colleges the men are
pouring out in groups, on their way down to the river.

Hardly a soul in the University remains behind. Even the reading men
have closed their books for the afternoon, have given up their daily
constitutional out beyond Trumpington, and are going down to see their
college eights row.

It is the last day of the races. Along the men tramp in little knots
through the narrow winding streets—talking excitedly as they go, and
making many bets as to the fortune of the day—and then, across the wet
grass, down to the water side.

Here those who are to row cross the floating bridge to the boat-houses,
while the others walk slowly along the banks, to see the boats as they
paddle by on their way down. Soon they come; John’s in its blazing
scarlet, Trinity in dark blue, cherry-coloured Emanuel, chocolate
Corpus, and violet Caius; Trinity Hall in its sober grey, Sidney in
bright orange, and Queen’s in green.[1] These and many others sweep
past, and the narrow river seems alive with the flashing oars.

Footnote 1:

  Many of the colours have since been changed.

The men on the banks hurry now, to be up at the starting posts in time.

Some trot along for a little way, by the side of the boat they are most
interested in, watching with anxious eye, the condition and form of each
man, and the regular swing of the crew. Now they have arrived at the
post-reach, and are clustered along the towing path, while the boats, by
this time empty, lie at their respective stations. Their crews stand
alongside, looking grave and anxious, and receive the final words of
advice and admonition from their captains.

At length the last boat has arrived at its post, and the first gun
fires. There are three minutes yet, but the men take their places in
their boats, strip off the upper jerseys and comforters in which they
are wrapped, and, amid a perfect babel of last words, of little speeches
of encouragement and good will, from their friends on the bank, push
slowly off.

The crowd on the towing-path clusters thickest round the first three
boats, but our place is by the fifth, for that contains the men whose
fortunes will be the subject of this story. It is Caius; before it lies
Emanuel, behind it Trinity Hall, confessedly the best crew of the three.
Another gun. The tumult on the bank is hushed as if by magic, umbrellas
are closed, coats buttoned up, and all prepare for a start. The boats
lie out in the middle of the stream; twenty of them in a long line; each
with its eight stalwart oarsmen, all in white, their caps forming the
only distinguishing badges. Each of the coxswains holds in his hand a
rope attached to his post. These are forty yards apart, and each boat’s
bow is therefore only some sixty feet from the rudder of the one before
it.

There is a dead silence, broken only by voices of men on the bank
counting the seconds, and by the short quick orders of the coxswains.

“Fifteen seconds gone;”—“Paddle bow and two;”—“Twenty;” “Thirty;” “Forty
seconds gone;” “Forty-five;”—“Pull half a stroke bow;”—“Fifty;”
“Fifty-five;”—“Forward all;”—“Sixty.” As the word is heard, the gun is
fired; a hundred and sixty oars strike the water as if by one impulse.
At the same moment a roar of exhortation and encouragement breaks from
the crowd on the bank; they set off to run—a wild, pushing, shouting
throng.

No easy matter is it to keep up with the flying boats, jostled and
pushed in that excited, eager crowd. Woe be to him who falls,—fortunate
by comparison he who is pushed into the river. A wild looking set are
they: men in boating dresses of every variety of colour, their arms
waving frantically; men in pea-jackets, and waterproof coats and wraps
of every description; sober reading men, lost in the tumult, bewildered
and hustled, intent only on keeping their feet, all shouting in voices
which grow momentarily hoarse and broken.

The boats had got an equally good start, but in the first few hundred
yards Trinity Hall had considerably lessened the gap between itself and
Caius, while the latter had gained but slightly upon Emanuel. In this
order they round the post corner, and dash on through the gut to Grassy.
“Now bow and three, now bow and three,” is the shout, and the boats
sweep round the sharp curve.

Here Emanuel steers rather wild, and her pursuer has palpably gained
upon her. The shouting redoubles; men who have dropped behind from the
leading boats join the throng and take up the cry, “Now, Caius, now;
you’re gaining, you’re gaining.” “Now, Trinity Hall, take her along.”
There are not thirty feet between Emanuel and Caius, while Trinity
Hall is not twenty behind the latter. On they fly, the boats leaping
forward at each stroke like long hungry water snakes after their prey,
past the Plough, and round Ditton corner. Here a fresh burst cheering
breaks out from the opposite bank, from numbers stationed there;—dons
too old and staid to run along the towing path, and men on horse-back,
who start to gallop alongside. Many ladies are there too; these wave
their handkerchiefs and parasols, and would like to run along with the
rest. On the boats dart; rounding the corner the tired crews pull with
renewed energy and hope. It is straight home now; only another half
mile. They are nearing each other fast. There is certain to be a bump:
which boat will make it? Nearer and nearer. Trinity Hall overlaps
Caius; but her bow has not touched her flying adversary, and whenever
it draws near, the rudder of the Caius boat is slightly turned, and a
rush of water thrown against it. This cannot last. Inch by inch they
draw up, and Caius is still three feet behind Emanuel. Her chance
seems hopeless. All at once, in a momentary lull of the shouting, a
well-known voice from the throng, that of one of the college tutors,
himself once a famous oar, comes out clear and strong—“Now, Caius,
now—twenty strokes, and you are in to them. One—two—three.” The crowd
take up the cry: “four”—“five”—“six;” and at each stroke the boat
seems to leap upon its adversary. “Seven”—“eight”—“three more and you
do it.” “Nine”—“ten”—“eleven;” and a last wild cheer breaks out as the
nose of the Caius boat touches the rudder of Emanuel, and the bump is
made.

The two boats immediately pull aside to let those behind them pass, and
the gasping crews lean on their oars, exhausted and breathless. One or
two get out, too done-up to pull farther, while friends on the bank take
their places. The light University blue flag, with the Caius’ arms in
the centre, is hoisted triumphantly in the stern, and the boat paddles
quietly on again, saluted by a burst of “see the conquering hero comes,”
from the band on the barge near the railway bridge. The excitement is
over, and the men on the bank, awaking to the consciousness that they
are terribly wet, once more put up their umbrellas, and make the best of
their way back to college.

It is evening now in the quiet courts of Caius. The wind has quite
dropped, the rain has ceased, and the night is still and dark; but from
some of the windows the lights stream out brightly into the gloom, and
sounds of singing and loud laughter at times break out across the
deserted court.

Now a man crosses the court, smoking a short pipe, with a very battered
cap upon his head, and a very short gown over his shoulders; goes up the
stairs to one of the rooms from which the laughter and noise come
loudest, stops at a door over which the name of Grahame is painted in
white letters, opens it, and goes in.

His arrival is greeted with shouts of welcome, with a great thumping of
tumblers, and cries of “Hurrah, seven! Well rowed, old man!”

“Come up this way, Frank,” a voice from the other end of the room
shouted through the smoke; “I have kept a place for you here by me.”

“I’ll come as soon as I can see my way,” the new-comer answered; “but,
upon my word, considering that it’s barely nine o’clock yet, you have
managed to blow a very fair amount of tobacco smoke between you.”
Accordingly he made his way up to the end of the room, and took his seat
by the side of his host, who was the captain and stroke of the Caius
eight, and had given this party to celebrate the victory of the day, and
the termination of the last month’s training. The men round the table,
by the unanimity and earnestness with which they were smoking, seemed
determined to make up for their long abstinence from the fragrant weed.

Frank Maynard, the new comer, was a tall, wiry man, lithe and sinewy,
with broad sloping shoulders. His face was long and narrow, still
whiskerless, or nearly so, and he would be probably a much
better-looking man in another two or three years than he was now. But he
could never be handsome; his features were by no means regular, and his
honest eyes, frank smile, and powerful frame, constituted at present his
only claims to attraction. He was generally addressed by his Christian
name, a sure sign at the University of unusual popularity. Upon Frank’s
left sat his cousin, Fred Bingham, and a stronger contrast could hardly
be imagined. Fred Bingham was under the middle height, and his figure
was extremely slight, almost as much so as that of a boy of fourteen,
and his waist could have been spanned by the hands of an ordinary man.
Apart from the extraordinary youthfulness of his appearance, he was
good-looking, with well-cut aristocratic features. His hair was very
fair, and his face had hardly a trace of colour. His voice was
high-pitched and thin, and his laugh especially more resembled that of a
girl than a man. He had small and well-formed feet, but his hands
curiously were large, red, and coarse. Among a certain set in the
college with whom he cared to make himself agreeable he was much liked,
but among the boating set he was intensely unpopular. These big, strong
men were antipathetic to him, their powerful figures dwarfed his, their
deep hearty voices drowned his weak treble and girlish laugh, and his
disagreeable remarks and cutting sneers frequently caused disputes which
it needed all his cousin Frank’s influence to allay. Indeed, had it not
been for Frank’s popularity, the crew would never have retained him for
their coxswain, notwithstanding the fact that he really was a most
useful man, always cool and collected, with a perfect knowledge of the
river, a good judge of rowing, and above all a feather-weight.

It is unnecessary to enter into any details as to the doings of the
evening, the speech-making, the songs, the drinking, and the smoking.
Every one can imagine the scene for himself, and may conceive the noise,
the shouting and laughing which twenty young fellows in full health and
spirits, highly satisfied with themselves and their day’s work, would
make upon such an occasion. So great was the hubbub indeed that the dons
across the court began to think that even the victory of the day, which
they themselves had discussed with great satisfaction over their wine in
the common room, could hardly excuse such an uproarious meeting as this.
About midnight, however, the party began to break up, and the men
scattered over the college to their respective rooms, singing snatches
of songs as they went. And then the courts were still again. Frank
Maynard, and a few of the quieter men, sat for another hour smoking and
discussing the race, agreeing that the credit of the day was mainly due
to Crockford, the don who had called upon them for the final ten strokes
which had effected the bump. After this they, too, separated, and in a
few minutes Caius was quiet for the night.

Frank Maynard had not been very long asleep when he was awakened by a
shouting, and the sound of running in the street. He opened his eyes—the
room was lit up with a dull red light—and he hardly needed the cry of
“Fire! fire!” to tell him what was the matter. He leaped from his bed,
threw up his window, and looked out. There were no flames visible, but
the fronts of the houses on the opposite side of the road were aglow
with a dark fiery glare. It was evident that the flames were behind
him—that one of the colleges was on fire. He ran into the
sitting-room—to the windows which looked into the court, and there,
through the trees before him, across the court, was a great glare, and
sparks flying up. It was close—so close that he could not tell whether
it was in the next court of his own college or in Trinity Hall, which
lies behind it, separated only by a narrow lane.

It was the work of a minute to throw on his clothes, and to run
downstairs and across to the gateway leading to the next court; and then
he saw that the fire was not there, but in Trinity Hall.

Turning back, he ran to the porter’s-lodge. It was already open, and the
porter, in answer to an appeal at the gate for assistance, had just gone
into the college to rouse the men.

Frank ran down the narrow lane between Caius and the schools, and in
another minute was in Trinity Hall. From the rooms above the gateway a
volume of flame and red smoke was pouring out. Not many men were as yet
in the court; those there were, belonged to the college itself. They
were looking on, ready enough to assist, but helpless at present. The
engines had not yet arrived, and the flames were having it all their own
way, pouring out with a fierce crackling from the windows of the
first-floor. The volume of red smoke, lit up by an occasional tongue of
flame, which filled the adjoining rooms, showed that it was rapidly
spreading. Very soon a bright ripple of flame runs along the ceilings,
the window curtains catch, the glass shivers into fragments at the fiery
touch, and the flames rush out with a roar of triumph. Now the men from
the colleges near, from Caius and Trinity and Clare, are clustering in,
together with a few of the townspeople. Presently the engines come
lumbering up, and the handles are seized by eager volunteers. But there
is no water at hand, and the hose are not long enough to reach to the
river behind. So long lines of men are formed down to the waterside, who
pass the buckets along from hand to hand, and in a few minutes the
engines begin to work. By this time the fire has got a firm hold of the
part attacked, and the upper stories are one sheet of flame. Dainty food
do the old colleges, with their rickety wooden staircases and wainscoted
rooms, dry and inflammable as so much tinder, offer to the hungry fire.
At last the engines are in full play, and work at a speed at which
engines have seldom worked before. Most of those at the handles are
boating-men, who have been for weeks in some sort of training. Beneath
their powerful arms the cranks work up and down, with a rapid stroke,
very unlike the usual monotonous clank of a fire-engine. The men
encourage each other with cheering shouts and boating cries of “Now
then, all together!” “Now she moves!” and the jets of water dash eagerly
in at the blazing windows. But the fire still spreads. The roof falls
in. The flames mount up more fiercely and brightly than before, with
vast volumes of glowing smoke, and myriads of fiery sparks. Day is
dawning, and the crowded court presents a strange sight as the grey
morning light breaks on the red flashing of the fire. Some of the men
are in pea-jackets with boating-caps of every colour, others are in
their caps and gowns. Here a party is working its engine with untiring
vigour, there another group is impatiently awaiting fresh supplies of
water; long lines of men are passing the buckets to and from the river.
Sober dons are as busy and excited as any; a few are directing the
operations, the rest are hard at work among the undergraduates. In spite
of their exertions the fire still spreads. All are anxious; for if the
flames extend to the adjoining wing of the court, Trinity, which is only
separated by a narrow lane, is certain to catch fire. These old places
are terribly inflammable. Some of the dons therefore get upon the roof,
Crockford of Caius most active among them, and direct the hose of the
engines; not unfrequently in their haste and inexperience deluging
themselves and each other with water, to the amusement of the
undergraduates below. No attempt is now made to extinguish the fire in
the part it has already seized upon, every effort being directed to
prevent it from spreading. Several times the flames break into the
adjoining rooms, but the dons with the hose, on ladders at the windows,
stand their ground and beat them back. All this time the college
servants are moving about with cans of beer among the men at work; the
butteries of the colleges near are thrown open, and refreshments served
to all comers.

At last the efforts to check the flames are successful, and they spread
no farther. Another hour passes, and it is evident that all danger is
over. The flames only shoot up at intervals from the shell they have
destroyed. The gown then leave it to the firemen to pump upon the ruins,
and scatter to their homes to breakfast.

By the time that Frank Maynard had changed his things and was ready, a
friend who had been working next to him at the engine, and who had
agreed to come in to breakfast, arrived. Arthur Prescott was a man with
a short, thick-set figure, and a kindly face with a quaint,
old-fashioned expression—one of those faces which, on a boy’s shoulders,
looks like that of an old man, but which never alters, and in old age
looks younger than it had ever done before.

Arthur Prescott—he had been always called Old Prescott at school, and
his intimate friends never spoke of him as anything else even now—was a
general favourite. No one was ever heard to say a bad word of him. He
was one of those men in whom all around him seem instinctively to
confide, and to make a depositary of secrets which they would never
relate to anyone else; a straightforward, sensible, true-hearted English
gentleman.

Prescott and Maynard had been great friends when boys together at
Westminster; and, indeed, it was principally the fact of the former’s
coming to Caius which had induced Frank to choose that college in
preference to any other.

Maynard greeted his arrival with, “That’s right, Prescott, you’re just
in time to help me; there is the gridiron, put the steak on while I see
about the coffee.”

For some time there was little conversation. Prescott was fully occupied
with his culinary charge, and Maynard in the preparation of the coffee;
the apparatus being one of those beautifully-scientific inventions,
which, while they produce no doubt an excellent result, demand incessant
attention, and are liable, in the event of the least thing going wrong,
to explode with disastrous consequences. At last all was ready, and they
sat down to breakfast. They had scarcely begun when a new-comer entered.

“I thought I should find you at breakfast, Maynard. Give me some, like a
good fellow. My fire is gone out, and I can’t find either my gyp or
bed-maker, although I’ve been shouting from the window till I am as
hoarse as a raven. What are you eating? Steak, and mighty nicely done
too.”

Their hunger once somewhat appeased, they began to talk over the events
of the past night, and of the boat supper.

“Do you know, Frank,” Teddy Drake said, after a pause, “that cousin of
yours—Bingham—becomes more unpleasant every day. I thought last night
there would have been a row half-a-dozen times. He is the most
insufferable little beggar I ever came across.”

Frank laughed. “Bingham does make himself disagreeable, Drake, I quite
allow; but it is really all manner, he is not a bad fellow.”

“I only go by what I see and hear, Frank, and I call him a cantankerous
little vermin.”

“It is all outside, Drake; he is a good-hearted fellow in the main.”

“I don’t think it, Frank. I tell you he is a chip of the evil one.”

“Without going as far as Drake,” Prescott said, smiling, “I confess,
Frank, that I don’t like Bingham. It is not that he is disagreeable,
although he certainly is that, but that I feel instinctively repelled by
him. Frankly, Maynard, he gives me the impression of being bad hearted.
He is essentially a man I could not trust.”

“Oh come, Prescott,” Frank said, warmly, “that is not like you. I have
known Fred for many years, and I believe him to be a very
straightforward fellow. Disagreeable and cantankerous if you like, but a
good fellow in the main. In his way he reminds me, although he is as
straight as an arrow, of deformed people. They are generally
kind-hearted, but they are often extremely sensitive. They imagine all
sorts of slights where none are intended, and are not unfrequently very
bitter in their remarks on those to whom nature has been more bountiful
than to themselves. So with Fred; I am sure he feels it very much that
he looks a mere boy, and it makes him irritable and snappish.”

“I have no doubt there is a good deal in what you say, Frank; but I
confess that somehow or other I distrust as much as I dislike him.”

“He’s a chip of the evil one,” Teddy Drake muttered to himself, “and
there are no two ways about it.”

“Now, Drake,” Frank said, “help me to push the table back, and let’s
have a pipe. Another fortnight and we shall be going down; now the races
are over I shall be glad to be away.”

“I am going to stop up and read,” Teddy Drake said, disconsolately. “My
coach says that I never open a book when the men are up, and that my
only chance is in the vacations, when there is nothing to do. I am
afraid he’s about right; and I’ve made up my mind to stick to it. I
shall run up to town and see the ‘’Varsity,’ of course, but that’s all
the holidays I mean to take.”

“Look here, Drake,” Frank said; “the best thing you can do is to come
and stay for the week with me. My guardian is a capital old fellow, and
there’s lots of room in the house.”

“I should like it of all things, Frank; but does he object to smoke,
because I couldn’t do without that?”

“He wouldn’t like it in the breakfast-room,” Frank laughed; “but he
smokes himself in his study, and I have a special smoking-room
upstairs.”

“In that case, Frank, I shall be delighted. That guardian of yours must
be a trump. I wish my father saw things in the same reasonable light.
He’s always down upon me about smoking; but I am afraid he will never
cure me of it.”

“I am afraid not, Teddy. Well, you can smoke as much as you like while
you are with us.”



                              CHAPTER II.
                         THE DUSTMAN’S FAMILY.


Nearly three years have passed since the night of the fire at Trinity
Hall. It is a cold wintry afternoon, not a clear frost, but raw and
foggy. The ice is forming rapidly, and the costermongers are reaping a
rich harvest. All the ponds near London are centres of noisy groups of
men with carts, of all sizes and sorts, from the large two-horse vehicle
down to mere boxes upon wheels drawn by diminutive donkeys. The drivers
are striving and quarrelling, and exchanging volleys of abusive language
with each other, in their anxiety for priority of place and right of
filling their carts. Those next to the water are engaged in breaking the
ice with poles, or with iron weights attached to cords. With these they
draw the ice to the shore, pulling it up with rakes, and shovelling and
lifting it into the carts. When they are filled they drive off to
dispose of their loads to confectioners and fishmongers.

Although it is nearly dusk there are still a good many strollers by the
banks of the Serpentine looking at the state of the ice, and calculating
on the chances of skating. On the other side of the bridge, on the long
water, the ice is already strong, and will probably bear after another
night’s frost; but the Serpentine itself, from its greater breadth and
depth, is still thin in many places, and will require two or three days
more frost before it will be safe. The ice is everywhere smooth and
black, and it is agreed that if the frost holds there will be capital
skating.

Frank Maynard is walking along the side of the Serpentine with his
friend Prescott. He has been for two years upon the Continent, and this
is his first winter in England since he left college.

“It will be splendid ice for skating if the frost holds, Prescott. I
must certainly invest in a pair of new skates. I have some somewhere,
but where I have not the remotest idea. You must put by your books, and
keep me company, at any rate for a day or two.”

“I don’t think I can do that, Frank. I don’t like breaking in upon my
regular work; and, indeed, I don’t care very much for skating. It must
be very pleasant for a really good skater, who can wheel about like a
bird, and perform all those intricate figures; otherwise, especially the
first day or two of the season, it is very fatiguing and straining. If I
could put by my books for a month, I would devote myself to it with all
my heart, but for one or two days the pleasure does not pay for the
pain. Look, Frank! there is something the matter.”

A knot of people were standing together at the edge of the water,
apparently watching some small black object upon the ice, but it was
already too dusk for the friends, until they came quite close, to see
what was the matter. A small dog had run out upon the ice, which was in
most places quite strong enough to bear it, but there were many patches,
over the powerful springs which well-up in parts of the Serpentine,
where the ice had as yet formed a mere skin. On one of these treacherous
places the little animal had run, and had at once gone through. All
round it the ice was extremely thin, and, as the dog endeavoured to
scramble out, it broke under its fore-paws, until a good-sized space of
water was cleared, round which the poor little animal kept swimming. Had
it continued its efforts only in the line towards the shore, the dog
would speedily have broken its way to stronger ice. This, however, it
had not sense to do, although the men called and whistled to it, and
endeavoured in every way to encourage it to swim towards them. But the
poor thing continued swimming round and round in its narrow circle,
making occasional efforts to get out, but only falling back again, and
giving from time to time a pitiful whimper. Its mistress, a little girl
of about ten years old, was crying bitterly.

“This is very painful, Prescott,” Frank Maynard said, after looking on
for some time in silence; “the poor little brute’s cries go through me.”

“Come away, Frank,” Prescott said, turning to go. “I don’t know that I
ever saw anything more pitiful. Let us get away; it is impossible to do
anything for him.”

Frank did not move, but stood looking on irresolutely. At last he said—

“It’s no use, I can’t help it. Here, Prescott, take my coat and
waistcoat, I must go in for it.”

“Nonsense, Frank. My dear fellow, it would be madness!”

Frank paid no attention to his friend’s remonstrances, but sat down on
the gravel, and began to unlace his boots. He was however anticipated.
There was a movement among the crowd near, and a lad of about fourteen,
without jacket or boots, stepped into the water, breaking the ice as he
did so, amidst a general cheer and some few expostulations from the
crowd. Frank Maynard pushed forward impetuously to the spot.

“Can you swim well, my boy?” he asked.

“Ay,” the boy answered; “I bathe in the Serpentine every morning, winter
and summer, except when it’s frozen.”

“They’re gone to fetch the ropes,” a man said; “you had better wait till
they come back.”

“No, no,” the lad said, “it will be too late—he’s pretty nigh done
already;” and he went deeper into the water.

“That’s right, my lad,” Frank called out; “lose no time, or you will get
numbed by the cold; and don’t be afraid: if you want help, sing out, and
I will come in for you.”

Frank unlaced his boots ready to kick them off in a moment, unbuttoned
his waistcoat, handed his watch to Prescott, and stood with the rest
watching the boy’s progress.

He was swimming now. It was slow work; for as he advanced he had to
break the ice, sometimes by strokes of his arm, sometimes by trying to
get on it and breaking it with his weight. At last he reached the thin
ice. It gave way readily enough before him; he gained the little open
piece of water which the dog had made, and then turned to come back. It
had not been far, not more than twenty yards, but it had taken a long
time, and he was evidently exhausted.

“I must go in for him, or he will never get back,” Frank said, pulling
off his coat and waistcoat; but just as he was about to plunge in, there
was a shout from the bystanders, and a man came running up with a long
rope which he had fetched from the Humane Society’s house. Frank took it
from him and threw it to the boy, who caught the end, and was drawn
rapidly to the shore amidst the shouts of the crowd, the little dog
swimming behind with sharp barks of pleasure. The boy was terribly
exhausted, and it was proposed to carry him to the Society’s house; but
while the matter was being debated, he recovered himself a little, and
said—

Please would they leave him alone, he was only out of breath, and would
rather run home, for he was late already, and mother would be wondering
what had become of him.

Seeing that he really was coming round and was anxious to be off, it was
agreed to let him have his way. Two men accordingly chafed his arms and
hands. When the circulation was restored, his jacket was put on him, and
his hands encased in a pair of warm woollen gloves, sizes too large for
him, the gift of one of the lookers-on. In the meantime another of the
bystanders took off his hat, and went round among the crowd. He speedily
collected a goodly number of halfpence, sixpences, and shillings, and a
few half-crowns; Frank dropping in a sovereign for himself and Prescott.
By the time that the boy had finished his toilet, such as it was, and
had pronounced himself “all right,” the man came up with the amount
collected.

The boy opened his eyes in astonishment. “Is all this for me?”

“Yes, my boy, and you deserve it well.”

“But I did not do it for money,” he said; “I only did it because I could
not bear to hear the dog yelp so.”

“We know that, my lad,” Frank said; “and this money is not to pay you,
but only to show you how pleased we all are with your pluck. You are a
brave little fellow. What is your name? and where do you live? for I
should like to see if anything can be done for you.”

“My name is Evan Holl, sir; and I live in Moor Street, Knightsbridge.”

“I shall not forget you,” Frank said; “there, run along now, and don’t
stop till you get home.”

While they had been speaking, the man who had collected the money had
with difficulty put it into the pockets of the boy’s wet trousers, for
his hands were quite useless in the big gloves in which they were
enveloped.

“Thank you all kindly,” the boy said, when the man had finished; and was
preparing to start at a run, when he exclaimed, “But where is my tray?”

“Here it is, please,” the child to whom the dog belonged said; “you gave
it to me to keep; and, oh, I am so much obliged to you, and so is
Bobby.”

And here Bobby, who had up to this time been shaking himself, frisking
and yelping in the most outrageous way, came up and began to jump upon
Evan, in evident token of his gratitude.

The tray which the child brought up, was a small wooden one, apparently
at some time or other the lid of a box. In it were arranged sticks of
peppermint, bullseyes, and brandyballs, in which, during cold weather,
Evan drove a brisk trade on the ice. The contents were hastily tumbled
into a tin box, in which he carried them when not exposed for sale, and
with another “Thank you kindly,” the boy started at a run, and was soon
lost in the darkness. This, in the ten minutes which the incident had
occupied, had closed in rapidly, and the little crowd by the waterside
speedily dispersed, talking over the adventure.

Evan Holl continued running, slowly at first, for he was numbed and cold
to the bones, but gradually, as the blood began to circulate, at a
quicker pace. So along by the end of the Serpentine, across Rotten Row,
empty and deserted now, through the narrow alley by the side of the
barracks into the main road, and then down by the cabstand into
Knightsbridge.

Knightsbridge may be described geographically as the region bounded on
the north by Hyde Park, on the east by Apsley House and St. George’s
Hospital, and on the west by Brompton and the cavalry barracks; on the
south-east by Wilton Crescent and Lowndes Square, and on the south-west
by an unknown region of misery and want. A vast tide of traffic runs
through it, formed by the junction of three considerable streams. Two of
these are from the west; the one rises in the distant region of Richmond
and Brentford, and increases greatly in magnitude by tributaries at
Hammersmith and Kensington; the other has its source at Putney, but
receives its chief addition in its course through Brompton. The third
stream comes north from Chelsea, and is poured in by Sloane Street. This
great tide commences early, and sets eastward with great violence during
the early part of the day, beginning to ebb at about two o’clock, and
running west till past midnight, after which it may be said to be slack
tide until morning.

The stream which flows in at Sloane Street divides Knightsbridge into
two portions, differing more entirely in habits, manners, and almost in
language, than perhaps any similar division which could be cited. St.
George’s Channel, or even the Straits of Dover, do not separate peoples
more alien in every thought and action than does Sloane Street. It is,
as it were, the great gulf which divides wealth and luxury from poverty
and want.

Eastward are splendid shops, with their plate glass windows, filled with
costly and elegant objects. Long lines of carriages wait in front of
them, while their owners expend sums which would appear fabulous to the
inhabitants of the western side. On that side are small shops crowded
together, as if jostling for room, filled with the necessaries of life
for the working classes. Their customers do not arrive in carriages,
but, hurry up from obscure alleys behind, hastily make their little
purchases and are gone. At no time of the week is this difference so
strongly marked as on a Saturday evening.

Eastward the grand shops are all closed, their customers are at dinner
or the opera, and their owners off to their snug suburban villas till
Monday.

Westward the flood of business is at its highest. The bakers’ shops are
so piled with bread that it seems a wonder where it can all go to, but
they will be nearly empty by to-night. The grocers’ windows are filled
with sugar and tea, with the prices marked on tickets of gaudy colours,
with the pennies marvellously large, and the farthings microscopically
small. At the doors of the greengrocers are huge baskets heaped with
potatoes and vegetables. All are full of a noisy busy crowd of
purchasers.

Across the pathway are the stalls of the itinerant vendors, lit by
candles in paper lanterns. Wonderful are these, too, in their way—piles
of vegetables, so large that it is a marvel how the decrepit old women
who look after the stalls ever got them there; book-stalls and
picture-stalls; men with barrows covered with toys of every conceivable
description, and all at one penny; men with trays of sweetmeats and
lollipops of the most tempting shapes and colours; men with yards of
songs, and packets of infallible shaving paste; and men selling twenty
articles, among which is a gold wedding-ring, for one penny;—all alike
shouting at the top of their voices, and expatiating on the merits of
their goods, and all surrounded by a gaping crowd, consisting, of
course, chiefly of boys.

At some of these, wet as he was, Evan Holl stopped for a minute. Had it
not been for the thick gloves, and the tray and tin box under his arm,
he would have certainly expended a penny or two among all this tempting
display. As it was, after a brief pause, he hurried on past the bright
shops, and the crowded stalls, and the butchers’ shops with their great
gaslights flaring out, and the women bargaining for their Sunday dinner.
He then turned down beneath an archway, and was soon in the labyrinth of
small streets lying behind this part of Knightsbridge. Now he has left
the whirl and confusion of business behind him; he is among the homes of
the poor. All is quiet here. The children are indoors or in bed, the
mothers, mostly, are doing their shopping. A few men stand about at
their doors, smoke long pipes, and chat with their neighbours. Here and
there the sounds of singing and noise come through the windows of small
public-houses. At the doors of these, perhaps, pale women, in thin torn
clothes, stand waiting anxiously; entering timidly sometimes, hanging on
already half-drunken husbands, and begging them to come home ere their
pay is all spent. Poor things! well may they persist, for on their
success depends whether they and their children shall have food for the
next week or not. They must not care for curses or an occasional blow,
they are accustomed to that, it is for them a battle of life, they must
win or starve. Through all this Evan Holl goes. He takes but little
notice of it; not that he is hard-hearted, as he has but now
sufficiently proved; but he is used to it, and knows that it will be on
a Saturday night. A few more steps and he is home.

A shout greets his arrival, and some of the children, of whom there are
several in the room, run up to relieve him of his tray, but fall back
again with the exclamation, “Why, Evan, you are all wet!”

“Wet!” Mrs. Holl said, hurrying up. “Drat the boy! what has he been
after now?”

“It is all right, mother; you just wait till I get these things off my
hands; why, my pocket is full of money.”

“Bless us and save us!” Mrs. Holl ejaculated; and then, maternal
solicitude triumphing even over curiosity, “Never mind that now, Evan;
why you are dripping wet, and your teeth are all of a chatter; what on
earth have you been doing with yourself?”

“I have been in the Serpentine, mother.”

“Mercy’s sake!” Mrs. Holl exclaimed, “the boy’s mad! There, go upstairs
and take off your clothes, and get into bed at once.”

Evan did as he was told, as far as going upstairs was concerned, but he
only changed his things, and came down again.

His mother, had it been her nature, would have been really angry when
she saw him reappear, but as it was not, she contented herself by
telling him he was a wilful lad. She then bade him sit down by the fire,
and drink some hot beer, with sugar and ginger in it, which she had
prepared for him while he was upstairs; giving him strict orders not to
speak a word till he had finished it, and was quite warm again. Evan
accordingly drank his beer, not hurrying over it, but pretending it was
too hot to drink fast; amusing himself with the openly expressed
impatience of the other children, who were eagerly watching him, and by
the less openly betrayed, but not less real curiosity of Mrs. Holl, who
kept bustling about the room in apparent unconcern, but really just as
anxious as the others to know what had befallen him. Mrs. Holl’s family
is evidently a large one, for there are four or five now in the room,
while occasionally a wail from above proclaims that there is at least
one little one up there. They are all healthy looking and clean, and
their clothes are tidy and carefully mended. The room itself looks
bright and cheerful. It is low and whitewashed, and ornamented by sundry
pictures in varnished frames, principally brightly-coloured prints. The
one in the place of honour over the chimney-piece represents a youth in
an impossible attitude, and a Scotch plaid of an unknown clan, beneath a
greenwood-tree, bidding farewell to a florid young woman, with feathers
in her hair; she is attired in a white dress with Tartan scarf of the
most brilliant hues.

There is a large chest of drawers, black with age, which serves also the
purpose of a sideboard; many queer little mugs and ornaments of various
sorts and colours stand upon it, and behind them is a large japanned
waiter with gaudy flowers.

The irons and tins and candlesticks suspended from nails in the wall, or
standing on the chimney-piece, shine till one can see one’s face in
them; so do the dark arm-chair and table, and so does the old oak
settle, in which Evan is sitting by the fire.

Before Evan commenced his story, Mr. Holl came in, and in the pleasure
which his advent occasions all thought of Evan is for a time lost, and
he gives up the post of honour by the fire to his father. John Holl is a
dustman, and is a sober and industrious man. He has his peculiarities—as
who has not?—but he is a good husband and father, as it is easy to see
by the pleasure with which his return is greeted. He is a short, stoutly
built man, with shoulders rounded from carrying heavy baskets up area
stairs, and his legs are bowed and clumsy. John Holl earns good wages,
for he has many a sixpence given him in the course of the day, and he
has no need to spend money on beer, for he gets plenty of that in the
discharge of his avocation.

Mother is hurrying about now, laying the cloth for supper, and taking
the pot containing potatoes, which form the staple of that repast, off
the fire, where they have been for some time boiling and bubbling.

Mrs. Holl goes out charing; she is a large woman with a hoarse voice,
and her hand is clumsy and hard, from washing and scrubbing and
polishing. She has a heavy tread, and is considered by the servants
generally at the houses where she works to be a low person. Perhaps she
is, but her heart is in the right place. She is a true, kind-hearted,
tender woman; a very rough diamond truly, badly cut and displayed to the
worst possible advantage, but a real stone of the first water for all
that. She is a foolish person too, for as if her own children were not
enough for her to love and work for, she has adopted and brought up an
orphan, who had none else to care for it, and must have otherwise been
taken to the workhouse. But, in spite of her folly, her neighbours like
her for it, and in their little ways assist her, take the young ones
between them when she goes out charing, and help her a bit with her
washing.

Mrs. Holl can neither read nor write herself, but she wants all her
children to be able to do so. She has managed to pay for their schooling
at the national schools, and has quite a respect for their learning. She
listens with breathless delight and interest of an evening while they
read aloud by turns from that exciting periodical, the Red Handed Robber
of the Black Forest, published weekly at one penny, and to be completed
in one hundred and twenty numbers.

Until Mrs. Holl had placed the large dish of steaming potatoes on the
table, she was too much absorbed in her occupation to give a thought to
any other subject. But just as she had done so, John Holl, who had
several times taken his pipe from his mouth, and looked round in a
puzzled way, said, “It is very strange, Sairey, but it seems to me just
as if some one had been a drinking of spiced beer. Don’t take it amiss,
old woman, I don’t mean to say that I think you have been a drinking of
it, for you’re not that sort. Still there is something that smells
uncommon like spiced beer.”

“Bless me,” Mrs. Holl said, “what a head I have got, to be sure! I do
declare I have not told you a word about it, for it slipped clean out of
my mind. You are quite right, John, you do smell spiced beer, for Evan
has been drinking it. The boy has been in the Serpentine, and came home
that wet you could have squeezed the water out of him by the pailful.”

“In the Serpentine!” John Holl exclaimed; “I heard that the ice was too
thin to think of going on it. Why, Evan, that was not like you, not a
bit, you are generally steady enough. How did you get in? Some foolery,
I’ll wager a pot of beer.”

In answer to this appeal from his father, Evan related what had
happened; the others gathering round him, and the young ones even
leaving off eating their supper to listen, and breaking in with many
exclamations of astonishment as he proceeded.

“It was very wrong, Evan,” his mother said, “you might have got yourself
drownded, and what should we have said then? Why, Lor, you might have
gone under the ice, and we should never have known nothing about what
had become of you, till they brought your tray of lollipops home. That
would be all we should have had left of you. What should we have done?”

Mrs. Holl began to weep aloud at the picture she had raised; the younger
children immediately followed her example, and required so much
pacifying that it was some time before quiet was restored.

“Lor bless you, mother,” Evan said, “there is no call to take on about
it. I was not going to get drowned close to the shore; besides, there
was a gentleman, who got ready to come in for me, if I had sung out for
help; and he would have done it too. I could see he meant it.”

“It were a risky job,” John Holl said; “a plaguy risky job. I ain’t
going for to say as you are altogether wrong, Evan, but it were
certainly risky.”

“You were quite right, Evan,” a voice said warmly, “quite right, and I
would give a good deal, if I had it, to have been in your place, and to
have done something one could look back with pleasure upon, if only for
once in my life.”

The speaker was a lad of about seventeen, who has not yet been
described, and yet he was of all these the person who would have first
fixed the attention of any incomer.

He sat on the opposite side of the fire to John Holl, in a sort of box
with high wheels to it; by turning these he moved himself about the
room. He had a very intelligent face, thoughtful but not sad. His
shoulders and the upper part of his body were straight and well
developed, and his arms strong and nervous; down to his waist he was a
fine well-formed figure, but below he was a helpless cripple. He had
been injured as a child, his legs had lost all power, and had become
perfectly drawn up and useless. He was a sad spectacle, and yet he was
not unhappy, and by the little attentions which the children showed him
it was easy to see how great a favourite he was with them. Evan now
produced a handkerchief from his jacket pocket, in which he had put his
money, and unfolded it and exhibited the store.

It was emptied on to the table, among the shouts of the children, who
evidently considered that their brother had become the possessor of
boundless riches, and indulged in all sorts of surmises as to what would
be done with all this wealth, while Evan counted up the amount. There
were twenty-five shillings in silver and copper, and the sovereign Frank
Maynard had put in—two pounds five in all.

Having counted it, Evan again took it up and brought it to his father,
but John Holl put it aside. “No, lad, the money is thine, you have
fairly earned it, and it is yours to do as you like with. Don’t fool it
away, and think well over everything before you spend it. You are
getting too old for your tray now; with that you might buy a good
barrow, and do a great deal better; but there’s time enough for that.
Give it to mother; she will take care of it for you, and you have but to
go to her when you want it.”

And so it was arranged; and then Mrs. Holl took the young ones off to
bed, whither the elders followed them very soon after.



                              CHAPTER III.
                              BROKEN DOWN.


Talking over their little adventure, Frank Maynard and Arthur Prescott
crossed from the Serpentine to Albert Gate. The evening had set in with
a cold raw fog, which was momentarily getting thicker.

“One ought to be very careful at the crossings such a night as this,
Prescott. It is just foggy enough to prevent the drivers seeing twenty
yards ahead of them, and yet not sufficiently thick to make them go
slowly. The road is very slippery, too.”

As they spoke a man who was standing at the edge of the pavement near
them, after peering cautiously into the fog, started to cross. Frank and
his friend followed slowly, for it really required considerable caution;
as, from the constant roar and rumble of the traffic it was difficult to
judge how far off an approaching vehicle might be.

They had not gone half-way across the road when there was a shout, and a
rapid trampling of horses, and an omnibus came out of the fog not
fifteen yards distant. It was driving fast, and the friends stopped
simultaneously to allow it to pass in front of them.

The man who was crossing before them was, however, exactly in the line
of the omnibus as it came out of the fog. He stopped, hesitated, and,
although three steps would have placed him out of danger, he turned to
go back. As he did so in his haste and confusion his foot slipped on the
frozen road, and he fell. In another instant the horses would have been
upon him, when Frank Maynard, who had at once perceived the danger when
he stopped, sprang forward, snatched him up in his strong arms, as if he
had been a child, and threw himself forward. He was barely in time. The
shoulder of the off horse struck him, and sent him staggering with his
burden to the ground, but fortunately beyond the reach of the wheels.
Frank was on his feet in an instant, raised the man, who appeared to be
confused and hardly conscious of what was occurring, to his feet, and
assisted him to the footpath. All this was the work of half a minute,
and they were at once joined by Prescott.

“Are you hurt, Frank?” he asked, anxiously.

“No, nothing to speak of, old man; bruised myself a bit, and barked my
arm, at least I should say so by the feel of it; but I think that is
about all the damage.”

“I thought you were under the horses, Frank; you have made me feel quite
sick and faint. My dear fellow, this is the last walk I shall take with
you, if this is your way of going on.”

Frank laughed.

“It is all right, Prescott, there are no bones broken. How are you, sir?
not hurt, I hope,” he asked the man he had picked up, who was standing
looking round in a sort of confused bewildered way, as if he hardly yet
understood what had happened.

Frank repeated his question.

“Eh? I beg your pardon,” the man said; “were you speaking to me? No—no,
I don’t think I am hurt; indeed, I hardly know what is the matter. Let
me see——;” and he passed his hand helplessly over his forehead. “Oh yes,
I remember now. I was crossing, and I saw a ‘bus coming, and somehow I
slipped down. I shut my eyes so as not to see it come over me, and then
I felt myself caught up, and then another great shake. Yes, yes, I see
it all now; and it was you, sir, who picked me up, and saved my life?
Dear me—dear me—I do hope you are not hurt, sir. I know I owe my life to
you, for I must have been killed, and then what would have happened to
Carry? I do hope you are not hurt.”

Frank assured him that he was not.

“Now, really, sir” (the man went on in a rambling nervous sort of way),
“really I can’t thank you as I ought to do, but if you would but kindly
come in to see me, my Carry will thank you for both of us. I am a poor
nervous creature at the best, and the whole place seems in a whirl with
me, but here is my card,” and he produced a packet of cards from his
pocket. “It is a poor place, sir, but we should be very glad if you will
come in to see me; and will you please tell me what your name is?”

“My name is Maynard, and I live in the Temple,” Frank answered. “Pray do
not trouble yourself about thanking me. I am quite content to know that
you have got off without more harm than a few bruises. I will be sure to
look you up one of these days—yes, you can rely upon it. Good evening,
mind how you go home; you are rather shaky still. Good night.” And,
shaking him by the hand, Frank moved away with his friend.

The man stood looking after them as they disappeared in the fog, and
then turned and walked westward. Pausing sometimes, taking off his hat
and passing his hand across his forehead and over his hair in a confused
puzzled sort of way, as if even now he were not quite clear what had
really happened.

At the corner of Sloane Street he stopped, too nervous to attempt to
cross; others went over quietly enough, but he could not summon up
resolution to follow their example. At last he went up to a policeman
who was standing at the corner, and meekly requested him to be kind
enough to cross with him.

The man looked sharply and suspiciously at him. Certainly, his
appearance was against him. One side of his face was much cut where he
had fallen the second time, and his hat was all crushed in; altogether,
he did not look a reputable figure.

“You have begun it pretty early, you have!” he said, sternly. “You ought
to be ashamed of yourself, a respectable-looking man to be about the
streets in this state before six o’clock in the evening.”

“I have not been drinking, indeed I have not, policeman; but I have been
knocked down by an omnibus, or at least I was nearly knocked down; at
least—indeed I don’t quite clearly know how it did happen; but I know an
omnibus had something to do with it.”

The policeman’s belief in the man’s state of inebriety was evidently
unshaken; however, he took him by the arm and walked across the road
with him, and then dismissed him, telling him that “he should advise him
to go straight home, or he would find himself in the wrong box before
long.” The man again attempted to expostulate, but the policeman cut him
short by turning to go back to his former station, with a parting
admonition: “There, don’t you talk, it won’t do you any good; you go
home; take my advice, and don’t stop by the way.”

The man, shaking his head in feeble deprecation at the policeman’s
opinion, pursued his way along the crowded pavement, past the bright
shops, and the stalls with their noisy vendors—through which Evan Holl
had passed a short half-hour before. He went along quite unconscious of
the crowd and the bustle, getting frequently jostled and pushed against,
and receiving angry expostulation and considerable abuse, to none of
which he paid the slightest heed. At length he reached the end of the
row where the next street ran across it into the main road. This,
however, he had not to cross, as his way lay up the side street, but not
far, only past three or four houses; then he stopped at the door of a
small shop, opened it, and went in.

It was a small stationer’s shop, illuminated by a solitary tallow candle
standing upon the counter, and whose long wick with its dull red cap
testified plainly that it had not been attended to for some time. Round
the shop were ranges of shelves filled with dingy volumes, with paper
numbers pasted upon their backs. There were piles of penny periodicals
upon the counter, and a glass case with partitions containing cigars.
These, with the small pair of scales beside them, and sundry canisters
upon the shelves, showed that its proprietor combined the tobacco and
literary businesses. The little parlour behind was separated from the
shop by a glass door, with a muslin curtain drawn across it, and through
this the bright flickering light of a fire shone cheerfully. The man
opened the door, and went in. It was a small room, but was very snug and
comfortable. The furniture and curtains were neat and well chosen, and
altogether much superior to what would have been expected from the shop
and locality. The tea-things stood upon the table, and a copper kettle
on the hob was singing merrily. On the hearth-rug a girl was sitting
reading a novel by the light of the fire; a very pretty figure, light
and graceful, as could be seen in the attitude in which she half sat,
half reclined; a girl of some eighteen years old, with a bright happy
face. Her hair was pushed back from her forehead, and fell in thick
clustering curls behind her ears. Her face was very pretty, with an
innocent child-like expression. About her mouth and chin there was some
want of firmness and character, but by no means sufficiently so to mar
the general effect of her face. She had large blue eyes, over which she
had a little trick of drooping her eyelids, and she had a saucy way of
tossing her head. Altogether, Carry was a belle, and was perfectly aware
of it; and indeed, to say truth, her head was a little turned by all the
nonsense and flattery that she was constantly receiving; but she was a
good girl for all that, and devotedly attached to her father, the man
who now entered.

Stephen Walker was perhaps fifty years old, about the middle height, but
stooping a good deal; evidently, by his manner, a nervous, timid man.
His address and way of speaking unmistakably showed that he had seen
better days; but when he slipped down the rounds of the ladder, he had
lost any little faith he might ever have had in himself, and was content
to remain helplessly at its foot, with scarce an effort to try to regain
his lost position. Stephen Walker’s father had been a well-to-do City
tradesman, a very great man in his own eyes; an active bustling member
of the Court of Common Council, respected but not much liked there for
the harsh dictatorial way in which he enunciated his opinions; very
great upon the inexpediency of pampering the poor, a strict reformer of
abuses, and withal a harsh, vulgar, narrow-minded man.

Stephen was a weakly child, and his mother, a quiet timid woman, would
fain have kept him at home, and herself attended to his education until
he should be old enough to be sent to some school down in the country;
but his father would not hear of it, and in his own house his will was
law. Accordingly, at the earliest possible age, he was sent to St.
Paul’s School, a timid, shrinking child, and among the rough spirits
there he fared but badly. Cowed and kept down at home, bullied and
laughed at at school, Stephen Walker grew up a nervous delicate boy.
When he was fifteen his father said that he knew enough now, or if he
did not he ought to, and that so he was to come into the shop. Into the
shop he accordingly came, and when there his life was a burden to him.
His mother, who would have softened things for him as far as she could,
and would at all events have been kind to him, and have commiserated
with and cheered him, had been dead some three years, and his life
became one long blank of misery. He hated the shop, he hated business,
he almost hated his father. Heartily did he envy his associates in the
shop, who at least, when the day’s work was over, could take their
departure and be their own masters until the shutters were taken down in
the morning. His drudgery never ceased, for when the shop was closed,
his father, a great part of whose daytime was occupied by City business,
would sit down with him at his desk and go into the whole accounts of
the day’s sales until half-past nine. Then upstairs, where the servants
would be summoned, and his father take his place at the head of the
table with a large Bible before him, which he would read and expound in
a stern harsh manner, eminently calculated to make the Scriptures
altogether hateful to those who heard him. This with prayer lasted for
an hour. Then to bed; to begin over again in the morning. Such was
Stephen Walker’s life for six years; and then, when he was twenty-one,
his father died suddenly. It was just in time to save his son’s life; in
another year it might have been too late, for his health was breaking
fast; as it was, it was too late for him ever to become other than he
was, a nervous timid man.

It was some time before Stephen Walker could come to understand that he
was now a free agent, and that he could really do as he liked. It was so
unnatural for him to be able to carry into execution any wish of his
own, that, after his father’s funeral was over, he went back as
regularly as ever to his duties in the shop. At the end of a month an
old schoolfellow came in, told him he was not looking well, and asked
him to go into the country with him for the day. Stephen was absolutely
startled, even the possibility of such a thing as his leaving the shop
had never entered his mind. In the six years such an event had never
happened. He looked round frightened and aghast at the proposition. As,
however, he had no reasons to adduce, beyond the fact that he never did
go anywhere, which his friend insisted was the very reason why he should
go now, he was finally persuaded. Never did man enjoy his first holiday
less than Stephen Walker did. He felt like a guilty self-convicted
truant; he had a constant impression upon his mind that he was doing
something very wrong, and on his return entered the shop with a guilty
air, and a conviction that the assistants behind the counter were eyeing
him disapprovingly.

However, the ice was broken. He began, at first at long intervals, but
afterwards, as he learnt really to enjoy the sweets of his newly found
liberty more and more often, to absent himself from the shop, until by
degrees he discovered that he really was his own master. The first time
a friend remarked that he rather wondered he did not sell the business
and retire altogether, it seemed to him almost a profane suggestion.
Still in time it became familiar to his mind, and at length, finding
that no obstacle except that of his own imagination stood in his way, he
determined to carry it out. Accordingly in less than eighteen months
from his father’s death he disposed of the lease and goodwill of the
business, and found that he was master of £30,000. He then, acting upon
the advice of his physician, started for a long tour upon the continent;
not going alone,—he had not sufficient confidence in himself for that,
but taking with him as companion a friend who had been on the continent
before, and who spoke French, paying all his expenses, and a handsome
sum in addition.

There he remained in all three years, and in this time his health became
re-established; but although his manner greatly improved from his
mixture with travelling society, he still remained a nervous timid man.

At the end of this three years he married a very pretty ladylike looking
girl, who was governess in a family wintering in Rome. Her beauty was
her only redeeming point, for she was a silly, vain, indolent woman.

The newly married couple returned after another three months wanderings
to London, near which they shortly after took a pretty villa.

They were unfortunate in their children, having lost all they had when
quite young, with the exception only of their youngest daughter Carry.
Had Stephen Walker continued to live quietly upon his income all might
have gone well; but his wife was an extravagant woman and a miserable
manager, and Stephen, who in money matters was helpless as a child, soon
found that his expenditure was greater than his income.

The idea of remonstrating with his wife or endeavouring to curtail the
household expenses never entered his mind; the only plan which presented
itself to him was to increase his income. To do this he took to
speculation, and to the most hazardous of all speculations, that in
mining shares; hazardous to anyone, but most of all to a man like
Stephen Walker. As might have been anticipated, his operations were
almost always unsuccessful. Indeed in the way in which he conducted them
it was impossible that it could have been otherwise. He bought shares in
mines when they were most prosperous, and stood at the highest point in
the market, and directly any reverse or depression took place, although
perhaps only of a temporary nature, instead of holding on and waiting
until the mine recovered itself, he would rush into the market and
dispose of his shares for what they would fetch. It may therefore be
readily imagined that Stephen Walker’s fortune melted rapidly away,
under his repeated and heavy losses, and the extravagance of his wife.
The latter although she would peevishly remonstrate with him, not as to
his speculation, but on his losses, had not the least idea of suiting
their expenditure to their decreased means. And so things went on from
bad to worse, until at last the end came. A mine in which he had
invested far more heavily than usual under the influence of the
brilliant prospects held out, and the advice of a friend, collapsed, and
that so suddenly, that Stephen had no opportunity to dispose of his
shares. He was placed on the list of contributories, and called upon for
a heavy sum for the winding-up expenses. Then the crash came, and
Stephen Walker found himself possessed of only a few hundred pounds and
the furniture of the villa. This was sold, and he removed with his wife
and his child, then about seven years old, into small lodgings. Here for
a year his life was embittered by the reproaches and complainings of his
helpless wife; at the end of that time she died, and left a great blank
in his life. He had been blind to her faults, and had accepted her
querulous reproaches as deserved and natural; besides, as long as she
lived, he had had some one to look to for advice, little qualified as
she was to give it. Now, excepting his little daughter, he was quite
alone. For another year, while his little capital dwindled away, he
tried in vain to get something to do. This would have been in any case
an almost hopeless task, and was rendered still more so from his extreme
want of confidence in himself, which altogether prevented his
endeavouring to push himself forward.

At length he took a resolution, one of the few, and certainly by far the
best, he ever had taken. He determined to sink the few hundred pounds he
had remaining in buying a house and opening a shop. After a considerable
search, he found the one in New Street; the former proprietor, who was
also in the tobacco and periodical line, had died, and his widow was
anxious to dispose of the house; the goodwill, such as it was, of the
shop being thrown into the bargain. Stephen Walker purchased it of her,
furnished the lower part, and let off the upper, and never regretted his
bargain.

The profits of the shop were not large, but having no rent to pay, and
receiving a few shillings every week from the tenants, he was able to
live comfortably, and with the company and affection of his little
daughter, found himself really happier and more in his element than he
had ever before been in his life.

Carry grew up in her humble home, a bright happy child, very fond of her
father, and very fond, too, of all the admiration which the frequenters
of the shop bestowed upon her.

“Why, how late you are, father!” she said as he entered. “Tea has been
ready this half-hour at the very least,” and she put down her book and
looked up at him. “Why, father, what has happened?” she exclaimed in a
changed tone, and leaping hastily to her feet. “Your cheek is all
covered with blood, your hat is broken in, and you look quite strange.
Oh! father, what is the matter? are you hurt?”

“No, Carry, I do not think I am, but I am confused and bewildered.”

“Sit down in the chair by the fire, then; now give me your hat and coat;
that’s right, and your comforter, dear old father; now wait and I will
get warm water and a towel, and bathe its dear old face. There, now you
look nice; now tell me all about it.”

The man submitted himself to the girl’s hands in the helpless way
natural to him.

“Well, Carry, I hardly know myself what has happened. I was crossing at
Albert Gate when I saw a ‘bus coming. It was very foggy and slippery,
and I did not see it till it was quite close, and then somehow I fell. I
tried to shut my eyes, but I could not, and then I felt the horses
trampling upon me, and the wheels came crushing down upon my body. Oh,
it was terrible, Carry!”

“But, oh, father,” the girl said faintly, and the bright colour was
quite gone from her cheeks now, “you must be terribly hurt; some of your
ribs must be broken; why did not you say so at once? Please sit quiet
while I put on my bonnet, and run round to fetch a doctor,” and she
turned to do so, but she was trembling so much that she had to sit down
in a chair.

“No, Carry, you do not understand me. I do not mean that the ‘bus
absolutely did run over me.”

“But you just said it did, father; you said that you felt the wheels
crush your body.”

“Did I, Carry? Well, I did not mean it. Oh no, I was not run over after
all.”

“What a dear, silly old father you are, and how you frightened me!” the
girl said, laughing and crying together. “I have a great mind to be very
angry with you in real earnest, and not to speak another word to you all
the evening.”

“I am very sorry, Carry. I did not mean it, my child. I only meant that
I felt it was going to run over me, and I am sure I suffered quite as
much as if it had. No, just as the horses were quite close to
me—certainly within a yard or two, for their heads looked to me almost
over mine—I felt myself caught up by some one, like a baby, carried a
step or two, then there was a great shake, and down we both went with a
terrible shock, then I was picked up again, and found myself safe on the
pavement.”

“Oh, father, what a narrow escape! you might really have been killed,
and it was very very serious after all, so I will forgive you for
frightening me so much. And who was it saved your life?”

“I hardly remember rightly, my dear, my head is quite in a whirl still.
I remember, though, there were two gentlemen waiting to cross just as I
started, for I heard one of them say we ought to be careful, and so I
was, my dear, very careful, else I should not have slipped. I suppose
they were just behind me, and one of them caught me up just as the
horses were going to trample on me. He was not quite in time, for the
horses caught him and knocked us both down, only I suppose it was out of
reach of the wheels, at any rate they did not go over us; and really
that is all I know about it.”

“Oh, father, how brave of him! Who was he?”

“I am sure I don’t know, Carry. He did tell me what his name was; but I
am sure I forget it. Let me see—no, I don’t remember it at all; but I
know he said he lived in the Temple—or, no—let me see, perhaps it was in
Lincoln’s Inn, either that or Gray’s Inn—anyhow I am nearly sure it was
one of the three.”

“Oh, father, I am so sorry you do not recollect his name, I should so
have liked to thank him, and it will seem so ungrateful if you never go
near him to tell him how much obliged you are. If it had not been for
him what would have happened to you? I am very sorry.” And the girl’s
eyes filled with tears again. “Did you tell him where you lived,
father?” she asked presently, as her father sat gazing dejectedly into
the fire.

“I think I did, Carry; yes, I do think I did. By the way I have some
recollection that I gave him my card, and I fancy that he said he would
call upon me.”

“But can’t you remember for certain, father, whether you gave him your
card? surely you must remember such a thing as that,” Carry persisted.

Stephen Walker passed his hand vaguely across his forehead.

“Really, my dear, I can’t help thinking that I did, although I can’t be
sure. Ah!” he exclaimed suddenly, “I have it now. I know I had twelve
cards in my pocket. I know that, because when I went to the printer for
them the fresh lot were not ready, but as I wanted some to go on with,
he struck off a dozen while I was waiting. Look in the breast-pocket of
my great coat, the cards are there. Count them, and if there is one
short I must have given it to him, for I am sure I spoke to no one else
on my way home.”

Carry eagerly took the cards and counted them; to her delight there were
only eleven.

“Did he say he would come, father?”

“It seems to me that I have a distinct remembrance that he did, Carry;
but, there, I may be wrong. I am a poor nervous creature.”

“You are a dear, silly old darling,” Carry said, kissing him, “and I
shan’t be able to trust you out by yourself in future. The idea of
slipping down in the street like a little baby! I have a great mind to
scold you dreadfully. But there you have had fright enough for once; and
now I will make tea for you, and that always does you good.”

While they were at tea Carry asked, “Do you think you should know the
gentleman again if you met him, father?”

“Yes, my dear, I am nearly sure that I should.”

“What was he like, father?” Carry asked, “do try and think what he was
like.”

“He was a young man of four or five and twenty, I should say, and he
seemed tall to me, and he must have been as strong as a giant, for he
picked me up as easily as you would a kitten.”

“Was he good-looking, father?” Carry asked, a little shyly, this time.

“I should say he was, my dear; but my head was in such a swim that I did
not notice much about his face; but I certainly think he was
good-looking. There, my dear, there is some one just come into the
shop.”

After this several customers came in, and Carry was pretty well occupied
for the rest of the evening. She did not renew the subject of her
father’s preserver. Stephen Walker lit a long pipe and smoked
thoughtfully beside the fire. Once or twice he went into the shop, but
he was not of much use to Carry, and received orders to sit quiet and
smoke his pipe, for that he had given her quite anxiety enough for one
day. At ten o’clock the shop was shut, and they went up to bed, Stephen
Walker to sleep fitfully, waking up with great starts, under the idea
that the omnibus wheels were passing over his body. Carry lay awake for
a long time, trying to picture to herself her father’s preserver, and
wondering whether he would ever come to see them.



                              CHAPTER IV.
                       THE OWNERS OF WYVERN HALL.


Frank Maynard and Arthur Prescott, after leaving Stephen Walker standing
bewildered upon the pavement, did not pursue their way along
Knightsbridge, but turned at once into Lowndes Square. They walked the
length of this, and stopped at one of the three or four houses which
form the end of the square, or rather oblong. It belonged to Captain
Bradshaw, Frank’s uncle, with whom the young men were going to dine.

Harry Bradshaw was the younger of two brothers, sons of Reginald
Bradshaw, of Wyvern Park, in Oxfordshire. It was a fine property.
Indeed, there were not many finer in the county—with its noble old
mansion, its wide park, and its stately trees—and had been in the family
for centuries. During all this time—if tradition is to be believed—the
Bradshaws had been a hearty, honest, hard-riding, and deep-drinking
race; and Reginald did not belie his ancestry, but drank as deeply and
rode as hard as the best of them could have done.

But stately as was Wyvern Hall, and wide and fair as was its park, the
Bradshaws were by no means a wealthy race. Previous to the rebellion
they had been so, but the Bradshaw of that time had thrown himself heart
and soul into the Royalist cause. He had lost everything but life, and
lived abroad with his Prince in France, until, at the death of Cromwell,
men once more shook off the iron Puritan yoke from their necks, and
welcomed their King home again from his long exile. With him returned
Marmaduke Bradshaw. More fortunate than many, he succeeded in regaining
his family estate, and in ousting the pious corn-factor of the
neighbouring town, who had, by the fervour and lengthiness of his
prayers, and the strength of his right arm, fought and prayed himself
into possession of the domain of the malcontent and godless follower of
the man Stuart. But although Marmaduke succeeded in thus regaining
possession of the mansion and park, he was not so fortunate as to the
various outlying farms and properties. Some, indeed, he recovered, but
the greater part were in the hands of surly iron-fisted men, who had won
them on the fields of Marston and Naseby and Worcester, and who were by
no means men to unclose their hands upon what they had once grasped.
Force was not to be tried. The King was engaged in endeavouring to make
himself popular to all parties, and had very difficult cards to play
between them, Marmaduke Bradshaw, therefore, settled down in the family
mansion with a greatly diminished rent roll, but still thinking himself
lucky in comparison to many others, whose devotion in times of adversity
to their King was but ill rewarded on his return to power.

The mansion and estate were strictly entailed, and the Bradshaws had
hard work, with their horses and their hounds and their lavish
hospitality, to keep up their establishment in accordance with their
apparent wealth, and to hold their own among the county families, with
perhaps far larger means and less expensive domains. Nor indeed could
they have done so, had it not been the rule and habit of the family to
marry well. They were a good-looking, fine-grown race; and to be
mistress of Wyvern Park was no unenviable position; consequently the
Bradshaws had nearly their choice among the county heiresses. Thus by
constant additions of fresh property the lords of Wyvern Park were able
to maintain their position and reputation. Reginald Bradshaw had, in
accordance with the family tradition, married a neighbouring heiress,
and for some years kept almost open house. But by the time that his
eldest son came of age, and Harry was seventeen, money began to run
short with him. The property his wife had brought him was mortgaged
nearly to its full value. To his grievous dissatisfaction and disgust,
therefore, he found that he could no longer retain his mastership of the
hounds, and that it was absolutely necessary considerably to retrench
his expenditure. Harry was offered a choice among the professions; the
church, the army, or navy, or an Indian cadetship. He selected the
latter, and started a few months later, with his father’s blessing, a
light heart, a hundred pounds in his pocket, and permission to draw for
two hundred a year as long as he required it.

The times were troublous and promotion rapid; and when at the age of
six-and-twenty he heard first the news of his father’s death, and, four
months later, of that of his brother, who was thrown from his horse
returning from a hunt dinner, he was already a captain. He returned to
England at once; for his brother had died unmarried, and he was now
therefore the owner of Wyvern Park. In another year he married a pretty,
quiet girl, possessed of considerable property; with this new accession,
and under his auspices, the property improved greatly. Although he had
been only eight years in India, the climate had during that
comparatively short residence sufficed to ruin his constitution, and to
send him home a confirmed valetudinarian. He found himself therefore, to
his great disgust—for he was passionately fond of field sports—obliged
to give up all horse exercise. Fortunately he was not prevented from
shooting, and in the season would spend all his time in the fields with
his dogs and gun; but he was entirely debarred from the hunting field,
and was forbidden to indulge to any extent in the pleasures of the
table. But although all this was an intolerable grievance to the master
of Wyvern Park, yet Wyvern Park throve upon it greatly. In a few years,
instead of mortgaging his property as his ancestors had done, Harry
Bradshaw found himself in a position to clear off many old standing
liabilities on the outlying properties, and to be able to add others to
them. Although unable to join in the hunting field, or in the
deep-drinking bouts and jovial meetings of the period, there was hardly
a more popular man in the county than Harry Bradshaw. He was by no means
of the ordinary big burly Bradshaw build, but was a light active figure,
with an open kindly bronzed face, clustering black hair, a merry
infectious laugh, an inexhaustible fund of fun and anecdote, an
inveterate habit of swearing—then a far more common habit than now—a
very quick fiery temper, and an intense objection to anything like
dictation on the part of others.

Generally popular in the county as he was, there were yet some by whom
Captain Bradshaw was looked upon with an eye of extraordinary disfavour.
Foremost among them was the Earl of Longdale, the patron, and, as he
considered, the owner of the little borough of Longdale, which had been
an hereditary appanage of his family from time immemorial. Very
aggrieved and highly indignant therefore was he when Harry
Bradshaw—whose estate adjoined the earl’s, and who had had a dispute
with his lordship respecting the right of shooting over a small piece of
waste land which lay wedged in between the properties—brought down from
London an unknown barrister of Conservative opinions, and at every
election contested the borough with his lordship’s Whig nominee. His
candidate never polled a dozen votes certainly, for as nearly the whole
property belonged to the earl, and none of his tenants dared to record
their votes against him, it was a hopeless struggle; still, it was none
the less provoking to the earl to read, in the county papers, the
fulminations against himself with which Harry Bradshaw wound up his
speeches on proposing his candidate, or to hear of the cheers with which
these orations had been greeted. For if his lordship’s tenants were
compelled to vote one way, they considered that they had at least the
right to shout as they pleased. And Harry Bradshaw’s speeches were
exactly of the sort to carry an audience away with him,—full of biting
truths, interspersed with humorous appeals and broad fun, dashed here
and there with bitter personal invectives, and spoken with a thorough
enjoyment and zest, and an earnest conviction of truth and right.

But the great climax of Harry Bradshaw’s offences was when the earl shut
up a public footpath leading across a pretty corner of his park.

The town of Longdale, although indignant at losing its prettiest walk,
would yet have sullenly acquiesced in it, had not Harry Bradshaw taken
the matter up, and with some of his labourers levelled the barrier which
had been erected. He then at his own expense fought the case from court
to court, until at last the right of the public to the walk was
triumphantly established, and the earl’s pet project defeated.

Captain Bradshaw had two sisters, both very much younger than himself.
The eldest, Alice, after she came of age, when on a visit to some friend
in London, met and fell in love with Richard Bingham, a young civil
engineer.

Very indignant was her brother when informed of what he considered such
an extremely derogatory proceeding. “The Bradshaws had always married
well, and why she should want to make a fool of herself he did not
know.” Alice appeared to give way to the storm, but when a few months
later she repeated her visit to London, she one day went out, was
quietly married to the man of her choice, and only returned to her
friends to bid them good-bye, and inform them that she was now Mrs.
Bingham. The first notification which her brother received of it was on
reading the notice in the columns of the “Times;” and had the feelings
of society permitted a man to fight a duel with his brother-in-law,
Harry Bradshaw would most unquestionably have called him out. As it was,
he was forced to content himself with solemnly denouncing his sister,
and writing a letter to her husband, expressing his sentiments towards
him, and these sentiments were of such a nature that no future
communication ever passed between them.

Shortly after, his younger sister married, with his consent, if not with
his absolute approval. Percy Maynard was a barrister, with a fair
practice and a moderate fortune, and although Captain Bradshaw had
rather that his sister had fallen in love with one of the neighbouring
proprietors, still, as he really liked the man she had chosen, he made
no serious objections to the match.

He himself had at that time been for some years a widower, having lost
his wife after only four years of happy married life, leaving him one
little girl.

Two or three years later he married again, but his second wife bore him
no children. His daughter, Laura, grew up a spoilt child, very loveable
in her happy home, but with more than all her father’s fiery temper, and
an almost sullen obstinacy, which was certainly no ingredient of his
disposition. So she grew up until she was eighteen, and then an event
occurred which changed all Harry Bradshaw’s hopes and plans, and
embittered his whole future life. Laura followed her aunt Alice’s
example. She formed an acquaintance with a lawyer’s clerk, who sometimes
came down instead of his principal to transact business with her father.
How Laura met him, what opportunities there were for their first casual
acquaintance to ripen into intimacy and then into love, Captain Bradshaw
never knew and never inquired. Undoubtedly their interviews had taken
place almost entirely during the three or four months of each year which
the family spent in London, where Laura was in the habit of frequently
going out attended only by her maid. However, by some accident he
discovered it, a stormy scene followed, Laura’s temper rose as quickly
as her father’s, she openly declared she had been for some weeks
secretly married, and was not ashamed to own it. This brought matters to
a climax, and Laura, half an hour afterwards, left the house never to
return.

Captain Bradshaw’s anger was seldom very long-lived, but on this
occasion he was far longer than usual before he got over it. However, at
the end of some months, he came to the conclusion that it was quite time
to forgive her, that is, to forgive her sufficiently to allow her a
sufficient income to live upon in comfort. He accordingly wrote to the
solicitors—with whom he had quarrelled, taking his business from their
hands immediately he had heard of Laura’s marriage—and requested them to
send him the address of their clerk. The answer he received was that he
had left their service in the same week that the exposure had taken
place, and that they had not seen or heard of him since.

Captain Bradshaw advertised, and tried every means to discover them. He
at last put the matter into the hands of the Bow Street authorities, but
months elapsed before any news whatever was obtained. When he did hear,
it was the worst news possible. His daughter was dead; had died in want
and misery, after surviving her husband two months. Harry Bradshaw was
fairly broken by the blow. He never inquired more. He shrunk from
hearing any particulars. She was dead. That was pain and grief
sufficient. Any further detail could but add to his remorse. He withdrew
from all society, and after a few months went abroad, where he remained
some three years, returning once more a widower. Then he again entered
the world, but as a changed and saddened man. The world, however, saw
nothing of this, it was only when alone that he gave way; with others he
was the same lively, amusing man as ever, his laugh gay and infectious
as of old,—it was his nature, and he could not be otherwise. He entirely
gave up country life now, closed Wyvern Hall, left the Earl of Longdale
in undisturbed possession of the borough, and took up his residence
permanently in London, spending most of his time at his Club—the
Oriental.

The younger and favourite sister lived near him. She had only one child,
Frank, to whom Captain Bradshaw took greatly, and came to look upon
almost as his own son. Under the influence of his present softened
feelings, he after some years made advances to young Frederick Bingham,
which, however, he could not bring himself to extend to the father and
mother.

The lad responded readily to these overtures, called at the house, and
was soon as much at home there as his cousin Frank. He spared no pains
to ingratiate himself with his uncle, who, although he still preferred
Frank, took a warm liking to him, and when the time came for his going
to the University, made him a handsome allowance to pay his expenses
there. When Frank was about seventeen he lost his father and mother
within a few weeks of each other, and after that, until he left College,
his uncle’s house was his home, and he spent his vacations entirely
there.

When Frank Maynard and Arthur Prescott arrived at the house in Lowndes
Square, they found Captain Bradshaw in the drawing-room. He was still a
light active figure, although he walked rather bent; his hair and
whiskers were nearly white, and, until he spoke, he looked an old man;
but when he did so, his face lit up, his eyes sparkled, and his lip
played in a smile, and in the manner of his talk he was as young again
as ever. There was a fourth person present, of whom no mention has yet
been made. Alice Heathcote was a niece of Captain Bradshaw, the daughter
of his second wife’s sister, and to whom he was guardian. The mother had
died ten years before, and Alice, except when away at school, had lived
with him ever since. A tall girl, with a thoughtful face, and good
features; a broad rather than a high forehead, light grey eyes, a
profusion of brown hair, and a slight figure, which almost leant back in
its lissome grace. Her age was about twenty.

“That is right, Frank,” Captain Bradshaw said, as the young men entered.
“I am glad to see that all this wandering about over the continent has
not destroyed your habits of punctuality. Mr. Prescott, I am glad to see
you.”

“What on earth have you been doing with yourself, Frank?” Alice
Heathcote said. “Your hand is all cut, and you have a great scratch on
your cheek.”

Frank glanced at his hand. “Really, Alice, I did not know it. I tumbled
down, crossing Knightsbridge. It is a mere trifle: only the skin off. I
will run up to your room, uncle; I shall not be a minute.”

“Frank has just been doing a very gallant action,” Prescott said, when
his friend had left the room; “he saved a man’s life, at the risk of his
own, and a very near thing it was, too.” And he then related what had
taken place.

Captain Bradshaw listened with eager interest, and Alice, whose cheek
had paled when she first heard Prescott’s announcement of the risk Frank
had run, flushed up with pleasure and excitement at the particulars. The
story was just finished, and the questions which arose from it answered,
when Frank came downstairs again.

“Well, Frank, Prescott here is telling us that you have been risking
your life in the most reckless way, and becoming an amateur member of
the Humane Society. Joking apart, my dear boy, it was a very plucky
thing, and the speed with which it had to be done shows that you have a
cool head as well as a strong arm and good pluck.”

“What a fellow you are, Prescott!” Frank said, in a tone of indignant
remonstrance, and colouring up as a girl might have done. “Prescott has
been making a mountain out of a molehill, uncle. A man slipped down, and
I picked him up. It was a mere impulse; nothing could be simpler or more
natural.”

“Stuff and nonsense, Frank! you saved the man’s life; it showed pluck
and presence of mind, and the fact that you were knocked down speaks for
itself what a very near thing it was. I am proud of you, my boy, and so
is Alice, ain’t you, Alice?”

“I think it was very brave of Frank,” Alice Heathcote said, quietly—much
more quietly, indeed than might have been expected from the previous
glow of enthusiasm upon her face. “Who was the man you picked up, and
did he tell you his name?”

“He seemed a poor nervous sort of creature, and hardly knew whether he
stood upon his head or his heels, after he was safe on the pavement. As
to who he was, I have got his card; here it is—

                            STEPHEN WALKER,
                              TOBACCONIST,
             Stationery of all kinds at the lowest prices.
           _Newspapers and periodicals punctually supplied._

“Stephen Walker!” Captain Bradshaw said, “there was a man of that name,
a major in my regiment, when I first joined. He was killed in a
skirmish, I remember quite well.” And here the captain’s reminiscence
was cut short by the servant announcing dinner.

“Alice, take my arm. These two young fellows are neither of them
strangers.”

“I should think not, sir,” Prescott said, “considering that it is eight
or nine years since I first used to come here from Westminster to spend
Saturdays and Sundays with Frank.”

The dining-room was a large well-proportioned room, with a dark red
paper; and with large prints of Conservative statesmen, in heavy oak
frames, looking down at the proceedings. In the daylight it was an
undeniably gloomy room, imperfectly lighted, and very dark; but with the
curtains drawn, and in the warm soft light of the wax candles, it was a
very snug room indeed.

“It is a mere form my sitting down to dinner,” Captain Bradshaw
continued, when they had taken their seats, “for I dare not eat
anything.”

“You are not worse than usual, I hope, uncle?”

“I am as bad as I can be, Frank; my liver is all but gone. I can’t last
much longer, my boy, quite impossible; I am going as fast as I can.”

“I hope not, uncle,” Frank said, gravely; but he was not much alarmed,
for he had heard nearly the same thing almost as long as he could
remember.

“I tell you, Frank, it is impossible. I have no more liver than a cat. I
can’t understand why I have gone on so long. Damn it, sir, it is flying
in the face of Nature. I was down at the Club, to-day, and met Colonel
Oldham, who was a youngster with me in India. I told him that as he was
going away for three or four months upon the continent, I would say
good-bye to him for good, for it was quite impossible I could hold out
till he came back again.”

“What did Colonel Oldham say, uncle?”

“Well, Frank, between ourselves, the old fool said that he should say
nothing of the sort, for that I had made him the same speech ten years
ago.” Captain Bradshaw joined merrily in the laugh against himself.

“I should not be surprised, uncle, if you make the same speech to him
ten years hence.”

“Stuff and nonsense, Frank, the thing is impossible. Damn it, sir, I am
a living miracle as it is—a man living without a liver. I intend leaving
what there is left to the College of Surgeons, that is, if they can find
it. It won’t take up much room, for I would lay odds that a half-ounce
phial will contain it, with room to spare.”

“My dear uncle,” Miss Heathcote said, “pray do not talk so very
unpleasantly. You have gone on as you are for a very long time, and we
all hope that you will for a long time more.”

Harry Bradshaw shook his head, and went on with his dinner. He really
believed what he said; and yet he had uttered these forebodings with a
cheerful voice, a merry laugh, and a sparkling eye. He could not speak
seriously upon any subject, even such an one as this, unless he was in a
passion, and then he could be very serious indeed.

Dinner passed off cheerfully. The principal part of the talk was
supported by Frank and his uncle. The latter, indeed, kept up a steady
stream of chat, mingled with many anecdotes of his Eastern experience,
most of which the other had heard before, but they were always fresh and
amusing from the humour with which they were told, and the glee with
which the old officer related them. After dinner, they drew round to the
fire. The servant placed a small table before them, to hold decanters
and glasses, and Miss Heathcote took out some fancy work, as it was a
rule of her uncle’s that unless strangers were there she should remain
with them.

“Don’t spare the wine, boys, I must not drink more than a glass or two
myself, but I may at least have the pleasure of seeing you do so. And
now, what have you been doing with yourselves this afternoon?”

Frank, in reply, related the episode of the saving the dog’s life at the
Serpentine.

“By Gad, Frank, that must have been a fine little fellow. I should like
to have been there. I would have given a five-pound note to have seen
it. Did you say you took his address?”

“Yes, uncle; I thought I might have an opportunity of doing the boy a
good turn some day or other.”

“Then, Frank, when you go to see him, I should be glad if you would give
him that sovereign for me. Poor little brute! I mean the dog, not the
boy. It must have been a painful scene. I never shall forget a thing
which happened to me on my way home from India. Your saying how pitiful
it was to see the dog drowning and being able to do nothing for it,
reminded me of it. There was a little cabin boy on board, I should say
he was about twelve years old, one of the sharpest and jolliest little
fellows I ever saw. He waited on us at mess, and we all quite took to
him. Well, sir, we were becalmed down near the Cape. It was very hot
weather, and the crew asked permission to bathe. Of course it was given,
and in five minutes half the men were in the water, among them Curly
Jack, as we used to call the boy, who could swim like a fish. Well, sir,
they had been in the water some time, when the mate gave the word for
them to come out, and most of them had climbed up the side, but there
were still a few in the water, and all were close to the ship’s side
except little Jack, who was some distance off, eighty yards or so.
Suddenly a man called out, ‘A shark!’ Where he came from or how he got
there I don’t know. He had no right to be there at that time of year,
and we had not seen one before. However, sure enough, there he was. Of
course it was only his back-fin that we saw, cutting along the surface,
but there was no mistaking that. He might have been two hundred yards
off when we saw him, and he was making directly for the boy. What we all
felt I cannot tell you. My heart seemed to stand still, and a deadly
feeling of faintness came over me. I would have given worlds to have
looked away, but I could not if my life had depended upon it. There was
a shout of ‘Swim, Jack, swim for your life!’ and then a great splashing
in the water, and I believe that every man who had been bathing jumped
in again and swam towards him, splashing and hallooing in hopes of
frightening the shark. But he gave no signs of hearing them, and the
black fin cut through the water in a straight line towards poor Jack.
The boy knew his danger, and I could see that his bright ruddy face was
as pale as death. He never said a word, but swam as I never saw a man
swim before, and for a moment I hoped he might reach the men who were
swimming in a body towards him, before the shark could overtake him. But
I only hoped so for a moment, the beast came nearer and nearer, he was
close upon him. I would have given worlds to have been able to shut my
eyes, but I could not. Suddenly I saw the boy half leap out of the water
with a wild cry, which rang in my ears for weeks, and then down he went,
and we never saw a sign of him again.”

“How dreadful, uncle! how shocking! Please never tell me that story
again,” Alice Heathcote said. “I shall dream of it. Poor little boy!”

“That was a most horrible business,” Frank said. “By Jove! I would not
have seen that for any money that could be given me. I do like a row, or
danger of any sort if one’s in it oneself, but to stand quiet and look
on is more than I could do.”

“Let us go upstairs, if you will not have any more wine; Alice will sing
you a song or two before you go.”

And so they went upstairs. Alice Heathcote took her place at the piano,
and glanced for an instant towards Frank to see if he were coming to
choose a song. Seeing, however, that he was telling his uncle an
alligator adventure he had met with up the Nile, she took the first
which came to hand, and opened it before her. Prescott, seeing that
Frank was making no sign of going towards the piano, took his place by
the side of her, and turned over the leaves. She sang one song, and
then, getting up, said that she was quite out of voice, and could not
sing any more, that story of the sailor boy had, she supposed, upset
her. Then, taking her work, she sat down by her uncle and worked
quietly, joining very little in the conversation, and only glancing up
occasionally at the speakers. Soon after tea the friends took leave,
and, lighting their cigars, walked back to the Temple.



                               CHAPTER V.
                         A MODEST ANNIVERSARY.


A quarter past eight o’clock on Monday morning; a clear, sharp, frosty
day; the shutters are down and the shop open at Stephen Walker’s. From
eight to ten is the busiest part of the day with them. Carry, looking
very bright and pretty, is counting a number of the morning papers,
which have just come in and are lying in a pile, damp and flabby, in
front of her. Stephen Walker is standing beside her occupied in folding
them, a task which, from long practice, he performs with wonderful
quickness and exactitude. On the other side of the counter a small boy,
with a good-humoured face and a merry impudent eye, with his hands in
thick knitted gloves, and a red comforter round his neck, is waiting,
stamping his feet to warm them and swinging his arms for the same
purpose.

“Here is your lot,” Carry said, when she had finished; “twelve ‘Times,’
two ‘Posts,’ and three ‘’Tisers.’ Now mind, Tom Holl, no stopping about
or playing at marbles.”

“As if it were likely, Miss, that one would stop to play at marbles such
a morning as this—oh yes! very.”

“There, take the papers and run off then.”

The boy put them under his arm, and went off at a brisk trot.

“What are you doing, father?”

“I am trying to put the books into proper order, Carry. Dear, dear, what
terrible confusion they are in! Here is 55 next to 4, and the next to
that is 87.”

“Oh please, father, do leave them alone. I shall never be able to find
anything. I know now exactly where they all are, and could put my hand
upon any book that is asked for in the dark; but if you once meddle with
them I shall never find them again; the numbers don’t go for anything.”

“Just as you like, Carry. When do you suppose breakfast will be ready?”

“I am sure I don’t know, father; I must attend to the shop at present,
and I do think the very best thing you could do would be to go in and
see about it. Now that would be really very useful; besides, you are
such a figure that I don’t like you to be seen here. That great cut and
swelling upon your cheek make you look as if you had been fighting on
Saturday night. Why, those two gentlemen who came in just now, and asked
what you had been doing, when you said you had slipped down, looked at
each other and winked and laughed. I could see they did not believe you
a bit—and no one else will.”

“Do you really think so, Carry? Dear me, dear me! that is very wrong of
them, and will get me quite a bad name. Be sure to tell them when they
call to-morrow how it happened. But perhaps you are right, my dear, and
I had better keep as much as I can out of the shop of a morning till my
face has got quite right again. I will see about breakfast: but, be
sure, if you really want me, to call, and I will come in at once,
whatever they may say about me.”

In truth, Carry was by no means sorry for an excuse which would keep her
father out of the shop of a morning, at any rate for a week or so, a
result which sometimes took her some little scheming to attain. For at
that time a good many clerks were in the habit of coming in to buy
tobacco, before they took ‘bus for the city; not perhaps that Stephen
Walker’s tobacco was unusually good, but then certainly his daughter was
uncommonly pretty. Those who did not smoke bought the “Times” for the
use of their office there, which gave them the double advantage of
having it to read on their way up, and of having a chat with Carry
Walker before starting. So there were quite a number of men came in of a
morning from half-past eight to half-past nine; and Carry who, as has
been said, was in no ways loath to be admired, had a bright smile, and a
laughing remark ready for each. So Stephen Walker’s shop was quite a
well-known rendezvous, and the young men would stand there chatting with
Carry till the ‘bus came along past the end of the street, where the
coachman would regularly stop for them. Carry very much enjoyed all
this. Her head was somewhat turned perhaps; but, in spite of her little
vanities, she was a shrewd, sensible girl, and took all the nonsense
talked to her at pretty nearly what it was worth. She had always an
answer for every remark, and in the little wordy passages generally
managed to hold her own; and yet, although full of fun and life, she
never for an instant forgot herself, or allowed her fun to carry her
away. Her numerous admirers felt and respected this, and consequently
the little war of words never exceeded anything that the father might
not have listened to. At the same time there were unquestionably more
fun and talk on those mornings when he did not appear in the shop. Some
of these admirers of Carry were really in earnest, and would gladly have
shared their homes and salaries with the tobacconist’s pretty daughter;
but she gave no encouragement to one more than another, and to the two
or three who, in spite of this, had endeavoured to persuade her to unite
her lot with theirs, she had very decidedly intimated that she had at
present no idea whatever of changing her condition.

By half past nine her work was nearly over. The last batch of her
visitors was off to town; the last “Times” was sold out, and in those
days there were no penny papers.

When the shop was empty Carry went into the little parlour, and found
that her father had got the breakfast ready, and was sitting by the side
of the fire waiting patiently till she should come in. Stephen Walker
was no more sorry than his daughter was that he should have some excuse
for leaving her alone in the shop during the busy time. He was perfectly
aware that a large proportion of his customers came more for the purpose
of seeing and talking with her than to buy tobacco or papers. And as he
felt perfectly assured of Carry’s discretion and self-respect, he was
not at all afraid of leaving her to take care of herself. At first it
had not been so, and he had been very loath to leave her in the shop
alone, and had, when he went into the parlour, been in the habit of
leaving the door ajar, so that he could hear what went on. When he
found, however, that the conversation never surpassed the limits of fair
badinage, and that Carry turned aside all the compliments paid to her,
with a merry laugh, he grew confident, and was quite content to leave
her to herself, especially as he could not but feel that his presence
was a restraint both to them and her. He was quite sensible of the fact
that in the two years which had elapsed since she first took her place
in the shop, that the business had trebled, and that his and her
comforts were proportionately increased.

They had scarcely sat down to breakfast before they heard some one come
into the shop. Carry got up with a little exclamation of impatience,
opened the door, and looked out.

“Good morning, Evan, what is it?”

“Good morning, miss. Could I speak to Mr. Walker?”

“Come in Evan, we are at breakfast; that is right; now shut the door.”

“What do you want, Evan?” Stephen Walker asked.

“If you please, sir, I wanted to ask you, if when you go up to town, you
would get me some books for James to read.”

“What sort of books, Evan?”

“Not story books sir, but clever books about mechanics, and that sort of
thing; not easy ones, sir, he is a wonderful chap at ‘rithmetic, James
is, and can do any of the sums in the one we have got at home; but I
have heard him say he should like to learn mathematics. I would go
myself sir, and not trouble you, but Lor, I should not know which was
which. I don’t want new ones, but books from the old stalls; I have
heard tell, they are very cheap there. Here is ten shillings, sir; would
you kindly choose as many as you can get for it, and please keep them
here for me, ‘cause I want to surprise him with them?”

“But gracious, child!” Carry said, “where on earth did you get ten
shillings to spend on old books?”

“If you please, miss, it were given to me, and more too, for picking a
little dog out of the Serpentine, and I thought that I couldn’t do
better with it than get some books for James. He is mighty clever, and
he has nothing to amuse him, poor fellow, except his flowers, so he will
have plenty of time to think over all these hard things.”

“You are a good boy, Evan,” Stephen Walker said, “and I will do my best,
and ten shillings will go a good way. That sort of book is always to be
picked up very cheap. I can get an algebra, Euclid, and trigonometry,
anyhow, and perhaps a book on conic sections, and it will take your
brother some time to master them. But, Evan, does your father know what
you are spending your money upon?”

“Oh yes, he knows,” the boy said; “besides, he told me that the money
was mine, and I could spend it upon what I liked. And please, Mr.
Walker, father told me to give his respects, and would you go in and
smoke a pipe with him this evening?”

“Will you tell your father from me,” Stephen Walker said, “that he may
rely upon my coming. And where are you going now, Evan?”

“I am going down to the Serpentine; I hear they are skating there this
morning, and I have got a new tray, and such a lot of bull’s eyes and
peppermints, rather. Will you have some, miss,” and the boy took out a
handful and put them down by Carry’s plate.

“Thank you, Evan, I will take two or three, not more; I could not eat
them—that will do, thank you; I hope you will do a good day’s work.”

“No fear of that, miss; I just shall do this week if the frost goes on.
Good bye, miss. Good bye, sir, and thank you; please don’t forget the
books,” and Evan Holl was gone.

“Do you know, father, I think it’s lowering yourself going into John
Holl’s, he is a very good sort of a man, but he is only a dustman. I
think you ought to look higher than that, if only for my sake.”

“John Holl is a very decent man, my dear,” her father said mildly, “and
he always treats me with proper respect. There are not many places I do
go to; but I esteem John Holl to be a very respectable man in his sphere
of life, and I do not think it can do me any harm.”

Carry pouted a little, but made no further remark. She had very little
knowledge of her father’s past life. She could remember vaguely that as
a child she had lived in a much better house, but that was all. Stephen
Walker had never spoken of earlier times, beyond telling her that he had
formerly kept a much larger shop, which had been his father’s before
him; but that he had been unfortunate, and had therefore settled down
into a place more suited to his means. More than this he had never told
her, for he thought it better for the girl’s happiness that she should
remain in ignorance of what the past had been. He thought that if she
had known in what a different station she might have moved, it might
tend to make her discontented with her state. For himself, he accepted
his lot cheerfully, and was on the whole far happier than he had ever
been before, and he judged her by himself.

Stephen Walker really liked these little evenings with his humble
friends. When he went in there to smoke a pipe he was always treated
with a certain deference which gratified any lingering feelings of
personal pride he might have, and made him flatter himself with the idea
that in so doing he was really conferring a favour instead of accepting
one.

Anyone entering John Holl’s at seven o’clock that evening would have
seen at once that something very important was about to take place. The
floor had been evidently recently scrubbed, and in those parts not
covered by the square patch of drugget in the middle of the room, was so
clean and white that it almost seemed a pity to tread upon it. The
chairs and table absolutely shone with the amount of rubbing and
polishing which had been bestowed upon them, and the ornaments on the
chest of drawers had been arranged upon a spotless white cloth to the
best possible advantage.

Mother had just come down from upstairs, where she had been engaged in
tidying herself, and looked red and hot from the hard work and
excitement.

John Holl himself was sitting in his usual place by the side of the
fire, smoking his long pipe with his accustomed air of thoughtful
gravity. James was in his box on wheels opposite to him, but not
immediately so, the chair next to the fire being, as the place of
honour, reserved for Stephen Walker.

The younger children are seated upon the stairs as being quite out of
the way, and are from that post of vantage viewing all the preparations
with an air of extreme interest, passing away the time the while, by
munching apples and cakes which have fallen to them as their share of
the feast.

Presently Evan returns, and the cause of his absence is at once
apparent, for he is followed by a potboy from a neighbouring
public-house, carrying in one hand a large can of beer and in the other
three empty pewter pots, which he places upon the table in company with
several long clay pipes which are lying upon it ready for use. He then
takes from the pockets of his jacket two black bottles which he places
beside them, and with a brief “good-night” takes his leave. And now when
Mrs. Holl has placed some tumblers upon the table, the preparations for
the feast are complete.

For even the Holls have their feasts—not often and not great ones. In no
single respect resembling those banquets which a city alderman pictures
to himself at the word feast, where turtle soup with its lumps of green
fat mingles if not harmonises with venison and truffles, the whole
crowned with that wonderful institution—the loving cup.

But the Holls have none of these things, nor perhaps would be able
thoroughly to appreciate them if they had. The contents of the black
bottles and battered pewter pots form the great staple of the
entertainment. Strange stories, could they speak, might these pewters
relate of those who have drunk from them, and curious would be the
history of each of their numerous dints and bruises. That one was
crushed only last Saturday night by being thrown by a drunken husband at
his wife; the symmetry of the next was spoilt against a navvy’s skull in
an English and Irish row; for stealing the third, Daniel Crinky, alias
the Ferret, was sent on a long sea voyage; and many another tale of
drunkenness and crime.

This is one of the pewter’s innocent uses, and they seem to have been
specially cleaned and brightened up in honour of the occasion. It is the
twentieth anniversary of John and Sarah Holl’s wedding-day. The guests
soon begin to arrive; there are not many of them—half-a-dozen or so. In
the first case, as he is a public character should be mentioned A 56.
For he is a public character, and his place can by no means be termed a
sinecure. Far from it, for A 56 has plenty of hard work and not over
much pay in return. He must make up his mind for hard knocks, and
occasionally in the discharge of his duty to be nearly killed, perhaps
in the open day, with dozens of bystanders looking on, too cowardly or
too indifferent to lift a finger in his defence. He will have some
unpleasant duties, too, such as keeping the line all day in the rain at
Chiswick Fête, and is expected to be within a few yards of every
irascible gentleman who is overcharged by a cabman, or who imagines
himself to be in any way aggrieved. He must make up his mind to being a
pretty general object of dislike among the lower orders, and to be
taunted and chaffed and groaned at on all public occasions, he being at
those times considered a fair subject for sport. All this and much more
must he bear with perfect equanimity and good temper, for if he should
ever get a little crusty, and hit rather harder then the occasion
appears to warrant, he knows that “Mentor,” and “Censor,” and “Civis,”
and many others will be down upon him at once in the columns of the
daily papers. But to their credit be it spoken, it is very seldom that A
56 and his brethren from A 1 to the end of the alphabet ever give an
opportunity for a charge against them.

Next to A 56 must be mentioned Perkins. Perkins is not a handsome man,
in fact the reverse. He is rather tall and strongly built, with high
cheek bones, small sunken eyes, and a broken nose. He wears a groom’s
waistcoat with a heavy steel watchguard, and a gaudy scarf round his
neck with a showy mosaic gold pin. From these tokens it may be at once
seen that Perkins is or has been a prize-fighter. A nasty customer was
Perkins in his time, and many a victory has he won, from his first
appearance as Harry Parson’s novice, to the time when backing himself to
fight Unknown for 200_l._ a side, he was nearly killed. It was in that
celebrated conflict that his nose was broken; and he then retired from
the ring, and was established by his admirers in the snug Public, known
as “The Lively Stunners,” where every Wednesday evening a select
harmonic meeting is held, at which good humour and fisticuffs prevail,
as see “Bell’s Life.”

Between Perkins and A 56 a species of feud exists, for Perkins cannot
disguise that he objects to A 56. Not on personal grounds, far from it;
but as being one of the body who are constantly on the watch to
interrupt and put an end to the noble art of which he, Perkins, is a
professor; and he attributes to A 56 and his fellows the disrepute into
which that noble science has fallen. Of the others present, as they will
not appear again in the pages of this history, no description need be
given.

After the first guest had arrived the rest soon came in, entering
generally with a rather awkward air, as if impressed somewhat with the
gravity and importance of the occasion, but thawing rapidly when they
had once seated themselves and had each got one of the long pipes into
full operation.

Presently Stephen Walker arrives, and is inducted in the post of honour.
His being thus late was caused by his desire to see the shop closed, and
Carry comfortably seated at the fire with a novel, before coming out.

As was but natural the weather was the first object of discussion, but
this did not last long, it being unanimously agreed that the frost was
likely to last any time. After that, various other topics are introduced
and discussed gravely, and generally with a fair knowledge of the
subject. At last, as all conversation among working men at that period
was sure to do, their talk turned upon the Chartist movement which was
agitating the lower classes of the metropolis.

“I wish the Charter had never been heard of,” John Holl said, “I’m sick
of it. Look at my brother Bill. A better workman never stepped in shoes,
always at work, always on the best wages, and look at him now, never
doing a stroke, but wasting his time going about talking. It’s been a
weary time for Bessy since he took up with it. But, Lor bless you, to
hear him talk you would think that we were all black niggers. It sounds
all very fine, and though I know I aint a black nigger, I can’t say
anything against it. But, Lor bless you! you should hear James, he ats
him, and he gives him word for word, and line for line, and Bill gets
hit pretty hard, I can tell you; you do slap it into him, James, don’t
you?”

The lad, who had been very quiet, only putting in a remark occasionally,
laughed merrily.

“I like arguing with Uncle Bill, he is so accustomed to have it all his
own way, and he does not half like it sometimes when I come down upon
him. I am very sorry for him though, and I do wish I could convince him.
He is so honest, and he believes in what he says so much, that it is a
pity to think that it will lead him into trouble.”

“Why did he not come here to-night, John?” Stephen Walker asked.

“He has got what he calls a ‘committee’ on, and, bless you, he wouldn’t
miss a committee, he wouldn’t, not if he knew he should find us all dead
when he came out.”

Here Mrs. Holl, who had been upstairs putting the younger children to
bed, came down again, and began to bustle about, and lay a cloth for
supper. She then brought out a huge pie from the cupboard, and in a few
minutes the whole party drew round the table and set to. When supper was
over, Mrs. Holl cleared the table, put the black bottles and tumblers
upon it, poured out a large jug of boiling water, and each mixed himself
a glass.

There was then a little pause, and Stephen Walker, finding that the eyes
of the company were directed generally towards him, said—

“Gentlemen, we are met here to night to celebrate a very happy occasion.
Twenty years ago to-day, my friends, John and Sarah Holl were married.
How happy they have been they best know, but from what I have seen of
them, and I have known them for some years now, I should say that they
are as happy a couple as any in the town, and I think you will agree
with me when I say that they well deserve to be. John, I drink your
health and your good wife’s, may you continue for another twenty years
to be as happy as you have been up to this time.”

His speech was received with murmurs of applause, and with thumping of
glasses from those seated near enough to the table to be enabled to
indulge in that evidence of their approbation.

Then all nodded to John and Sarah over their glasses, and said, “Here’s
to ye,” and there was a pause of silence for John Holl’s reply.

And then John, wiping his mouth with the back of his broad, brown hand,
and clearing his throat, said—

“Mr. Walker and friends all, speaking ain’t in my way much, but for
Sairey and self, I must tell you how much I feel obligated for all your
kind wishes. Mr. Walker, and friends all, I thank yer kindly. Sairey
here and I have been married twenty long years now, and we ha’ been very
happy together. It don’t seem twenty year, but I know it is. Sairey, she
were a tall, shapely lass, and I were an active, young chap then; as you
may see, friends all, we ha’ changed rarely since then. But I don’t
think we ha’ changed other way. I do believe, Sairey an’ me are just as
fond o’ each other as we was this day twenty year back. Mr. Walker, and
friends all, my wife Sairey has been a good wife to me. I can’t say
rightly how good, but I feel it. I know well that I ain’t made Sairey as
good a husband as I might ha’ done—hold your tongue, Sairey—but as you
see, friends all, I don’t think she likes me any the less for it now. We
aint lived just an idle life all these years, and we didn’t expect to
when we got married. We have had our hardish times, too, but nothing not
to say to grumble about. On the whole we have got on pretty fair, and
ha’ laid up a few pound for a wet day. Mr. Walker, and friends all,
thank ye kindly. Sairey, old girl, here’s to ye,” and John gave his wife
a loud-sounding kiss, and Sarah, although she was a low person, and
hardly knew what nerves meant, wiped away a tear unobserved amongst the
thumping of glasses, and stamping of feet, which greeted the conclusion
of John Holl’s speech. After that there was a greater appearance of
general ease, and of a determination to enjoy themselves. Presently they
began to sing. A 56 sang, principally comic songs, and sang them with so
much spirit, that it was evident that under the rather stolid demeanor,
and close cut regulation whisker, A 56 concealed a strong sense of
humour. The crippled lad sang, and with considerable taste and feeling,
and Perkins favoured the company with some of the songs of the “Lively
Stunners” in his best style. And the others sang; but the most marked
feature about their songs was the almost entire absence of any
appreciable air, and that they all had a chorus apropos of nothing, of
ri tiddy ti tiddy ad libitum. The singers too seemed continually
striving to get up to some imaginary note, about two octaves above the
normal compass of their voices, and as their eyes moved in accordance
with their voices, at these times only the whites were visible; the
entire effect to any one unaccustomed to it being extremely painful.

However, all seemed satisfied, and when the party broke up, which they
did a little before twelve, as several of them had to be at their work
early, they expressed themselves as greatly delighted with their
evening. And so they went off, the others to bed, but policeman A 56,
who had only got leave in honour of the occasion, went off to the
station to report himself, and then to relieve the comrade who had taken
his place on his beat. Tramp, tramp, with his slow, heavy, regular tread
all night, up and down many a quiet street, where his heavy foot-fall
seems to echo strangely; steadily on, with once or twice a pause, and a
sound of voice in remonstrance and dispute, and then a little scuffle as
some drunken man is either persuaded to go home or else taken off to the
station. Down many an area does the bright eye of his lantern pry; now
it dances along a wall, now ‘tis on the ground, now it flits into a
window. Loudly the bells chime the hours in the still, starlight
night—two—three—four—London is at its stillest, the last carriage from
the latest party is back now, the last straggling foot passenger in bed.
Five—six—and now there are some signs of life and movement again. The
workmen are beginning to start to their distant places of work, stamping
their feet, and swinging their arms, to warm themselves in the keen
morning air. Had it been market-day, long ere this the light carts would
have been rattling into Covent Garden, to purchase a supply of
vegetables, and be back again before the earliest customers are awake.
Now it approaches seven, and the grey morning light begins to break over
London, and to dim the brightness of A 56’s lantern. The streets are
busy with men hastening to their work. Seven—and it is comparatively
quiet again. Half-past—and sleepy-looking housemaids begin to draw up
blinds, and to open front doors, and sweep down the steps. And now the
milk-carts drive up, and as the clock strikes eight, London seems to
wake with a start. The ‘busses rattle off with their loads of men for
the early offices, foot passengers muffled to the throats, cabs and
carts; day has fairly begun. And now A 56 is relieved, and goes home and
sleeps long and soundly.



                              CHAPTER VI.
                             THE BINGHAMS.


Behind Sloane Street lie the quiet and secluded regions of Hans Place.
Very respectable, and intensely dull is Hans Place, looking more like a
portion of some sleepy little cathedral town than a corner of busy
moving London. The rush and the roar of traffic pass it afar off,
sounding like the murmur of the distant ocean. Were it not that it
happens to be a short cut from Brompton to the upper part of Sloane
Street, it is probable that not five vehicles or ten foot-passengers,
beyond the inhabitants themselves and the tradespeople who supply them,
would ever pass through it. Little groups of children, indeed, from the
small streets lying between it and Knightsbridge, come up into it, and
the elders sit down on door steps, and discourse soberly and gravely
together, while the younger ones play on the deserted pavement, fearless
of interruption. But these seem the only signs of life. It can hardly be
that Nature made an exception in the case of Hans Place to her general
laws, and that no children are ever born to any of its inhabitants; but
it is believed that, in the memory of man, none were ever seen at play
in the dismal piece of ground in its centre, known as the garden.
Indeed, the only denizens of the place which seem endowed with life and
vitality are the sparrows. These twitter and fight noisily in the dusty
trees, or hop about on the wide road, heedless of interruption, hardly
moving even when a passing vehicle drives by, but, standing with their
heads on one side, watching it inquisitively with their bright fearless
eyes.

In Hans Place reside the Binghams. Mr. Bingham is a civil engineer, and
dabbles generally in building operations. He is a man of about middle
height, spare, and active; very careful as to his attire, and of a mild
conciliatory address; a pleasant, well-informed man.

Mrs. Bingham, the sister of Captain Bradshaw, is the picture of good
temper. Short and stout, as such women generally are, devoted to her
husband and children, having no thought, no care, no object in life
unconnected with the narrow circle of her own family. Not a clever
woman—that is, not a clever woman of the world. As a painter and
musician, she was really talented; but to have heard her talk, no one
would have given her credit for being anything of the sort. And yet, in
any point unconnected with her own family and belongings, she was shrewd
and sensible, with a little touch of satire; but the affection and
admiration of the mother of the Gracchi for her children, were as
nothing to the feelings with which she regarded her progeny. Terrible
indeed was Mrs. Bingham’s house to visitors when the children were
young. She would dilate upon their affectionate dispositions, their
extraordinary cleverness and precocity. Their sayings and doings would
be rehearsed at length, and the children themselves brought in,
exhibited, and praised, Mrs. Bingham taking it for granted that all this
would afford at least as much pleasure to her visitors as to herself. It
was fortunate that this idea was so thoroughly rooted in her mind, that
she required very little active acquiescence. A general smile, an
“indeed,” and “dear me,” thrown in from time to time, was sufficient to
satisfy her; but even with this, it was universally agreed among Mrs.
Bingham’s friends that a visit to her was a very dreadful affair.

The children were by no means bad children in themselves. Frederick, the
eldest, has been already spoken of, and, as a boy, was a pleasant and
quiet, but hasty tempered lad. The two daughters were quiet, simple
girls, taking much after their mother in her home tastes, and
affectionate disposition. They were, at this time, of the ages of
sixteen and fifteen respectively. Fred Bingham was in no way changed by
the three years which had passed since the night of the boating party at
Cambridge. He did not look one day older; there were no signs of whisker
on his smooth fair face; a slight moustache of light hair had grown upon
his upper lip; this, contrary to the usual custom in the year ‘48, he
assiduously cultivated, although with small success, but if constant
stroking could have conduced to its growth, it would have been a very
much more important affair than it was.

The Binghams had nearly finished breakfast. Mr. Bingham had quite done,
and was looking out of the window at a solitary foot passenger who was
in sight, when his wife asked him,

“Are you going up to your office this morning, my dear?”

“No; I am going over to Bayswater, to value a house, but I dare say I
shall be in town in the afternoon.”

“Then I suppose you are going to the office, Freddy, dear?”

“Now, look here, Venerable,” Fred Bingham said, “I suppose you want
something; if you do, say it out, and don’t be beating about the bush,
and asking questions about things which don’t concern you.”

“Now, Freddy, that is so like you. No, I don’t want anything at all. I
was only thinking what a treat it would be to take the poor children to
a pantomime.”

“Oh, you were thinking what a treat it would be to take the poor
children to a pantomime,” Fred mimicked. “Well, supposing that it would,
I really don’t see what connection that has to my going to office.”

“Now, Freddy, how you do take me up. I was only wondering whether you
would be doing anything to tire yourselves, because if not——”

“Oh, because if not, I suppose you wondered next whether you could do me
into buying tickets for them.”

“No, Freddy, I did not wonder anything of the sort. I am sure your dear
papa would do that.”

“I don’t know, my dear,” Mr. Bingham said, standing on the hearth-rug,
and jingling the money and keys in his trousers pockets, as was a
favourite habit of his. “I don’t know, my dear, that their dear papa
will do anything of the sort. He is peculiarly short of money at
present.”

“There, Venerable,” Fred said, “don’t look so downcast. I will get
tickets for the poor things, and as I suppose you will be wanting to go
too, instead of staying quietly at home, as an old lady of your age
should do, I must get one for you, too. Make up your minds which theatre
you will go to, but don’t talk about it now, as you will all talk
together, and then I shan’t get you the tickets at all. Settle it among
yourselves out of the room, and let me know before I start.”

“There’s a dear, kind Freddy,” Mrs. Bingham said, admiringly: “he is
always such a good, kind fellow.” And she looked round proudly upon the
girls, who purred acquiescence.

“There, that will do, Venerable, a very little of that goes a long way;
besides, I believe I have heard you say as much before. And, look here,
girls, I shall expect you both to practise that glee we were singing
last night, to-day and to-morrow, so as to be perfect in the evening,
and not make such an exhibition of yourselves as you did last night. And
now, all three of you take yourselves off at once, and make up your
minds about the theatre; I want to have ten minutes talk with the pater
upon business before we start.”

Mrs. Bingham rose without a word, and went out accompanied by the girls,
with the parting remark, given in a decided tone, which defied
contradiction, that “there never was such a dear fellow in the world.”

Fred Bingham was very kind to his mother and sisters. He was liberal in
the extreme with his money, and they deservedly doted upon him. He was,
it is true, excessively dictatorial in his way of speaking to them, but
they obeyed all he said unquestioningly, taking it partly as fun, partly
his right, the due of his extreme kindness and cleverness.

When they had left the room, Frederick Bingham turned to the father. The
smile had gone from his face now, and he spoke in a cold hard business
way, very different from the light jesting tone he had used to his
mother.

“How long shall you be at Bayswater?”

“I should think two hours will be quite sufficient; it is not a large
house.”

“Those Biglows have not paid their rent yet. I think you had better go
up to St. John’s Wood and see about it.”

“I will go if you think so, Fred, but it will be of no use.”

“Give them to the end of the week, and if they don’t pay on Saturday,
put a man in the first thing on Monday morning.”

“You see, Fred, they said last week when I saw them,” Mr. Bingham said
hesitatingly, “that Biglow had been ill for months, and had been too
weak to touch a brush.”

“That is their business,” the son said harshly, “not ours. Let them go
into a smaller house. There will be enough furniture left, after paying
us our half-year’s rent to furnish that. The furniture is very good. I
took particular notice myself last time I saw them. Anyhow, the
dining-room alone is worth fifty pounds at a sale. You can tell them
that you don’t want to do anything unhandsome, but that you must have
the forty pounds they owe; and that rather than sell them up, if they
like to leave the dining-room and drawing-room furniture, we will let
them take the rest out and cry quits. That will suit both of us; it will
save them being sold up, and it is worth a good hundred pounds to us.”

“But, Fred, he might easily borrow the means to pay the half-year’s rent
on the furniture by merely giving a bill of sale.”

“Nonsense, father; the man’s an artist, and knows no more of business
than a child. Do as I advise you, and you will see he will jump at the
offer, and be grateful besides.”

“Well, Fred, you will never die a pauper, that’s pretty certain,” his
father said, admiringly.

“I have no intention of doing so,” Fred said drily. “That is settled
then. I don’t know that there is anything else to arrange. Call round at
the office if you have time; but I shall leave early myself. I suppose
we shall dine at five, to give us plenty of time for the theatre
business”

Fred then went to the door, and shouted for his mother, who came with
the information that they had decided upon the Princess’s.

“Very well, Venerable, I will get the tickets as I go up. I am off now.
Have the girls got my hat and gloves, and brushed my great coat?”

The girls had; and now brought them to him. It took him another five
minutes getting them on—especially the gloves—for Fred Bingham was, like
his father, extremely careful about his personal adornment, especially
in the matter of gloves—which he was never without—wearing them upon
every possible occasion; for if there was one thing which galled Fred
Bingham more than another, it was those unfortunate great unshapely red
hands of his.

The Binghams lived on the side of Hans Place nearest to Knightsbridge.
The shortest way, consequently, into the high road, was to cut down
through the small streets instead of going out into Sloane Street. Fred
Bingham, however, after turning out of Hans Place, did not take the most
direct way, but turning through two or three narrow lanes, he came out
into New Street, which he followed till he came to Stephen Walker’s
shop, where he turned in. Carry was alone in the shop, and it was at
once evident by the girl’s manner that Fred Bingham was a regular
customer; and by her slightly heightened colour that he was by no means
an unwelcome one.

“Good morning, Carry; looking as bright and pretty as ever, I see.”

“What nonsense you do talk to be sure, Mr. Bingham!” the girl laughed.
“I shall certainly give up coming into the shop altogether, and put
father in here from half-past nine till you are gone, if you don’t give
up talking rubbish.”

“Give me a cigar, Carry. No, not those things; one out of my special
box; thank you. Now you would not be so cruel as that, Carry, I am quite
sure. I should pine visibly if you hid your bright face. I am almost as
thin as I can be now, but I should become a candidate for the at present
vacant situation of walking skeleton, in no time.”

“Oh! I dare say,” the girl retorted, “you would not eat a mouthful the
less at your dinner, I’d wager, whether you saw my bright face or not.”

“You are quite wrong, Carry, I can assure you. What are you working at
so industriously?”

“Never mind,” the girl said, laughing. “Never ask questions about things
which don’t concern you. You know the rest of it.”

“Quite well, Carry. But that appears to me to be a masculine garment,
and therefore it is possible that it may concern me; because if it is
intended for a favoured swain, I shall infallibly slay him.”

“You need not do that, it is only a shirt for father. Besides, I have
told you fifty times I have no favoured swain, as you call it.”

“Oh yes, I know you have; but you see I have a great difficulty in
believing you.”

“Now, Mr. Bingham, really if you go on like that, I shall go into the
next room,” the girl said, making, however, no effort to rise.

“Really, Carry, it is very hard on a man that he may not say what he
thinks.”

“Yes, but you don’t think it”

“I do think it, Carry; on my honour I think you the very prettiest
girl——”

“There now, sir, you see I am obliged to go,” Carry said, really getting
up this time. “But then that’s fortunate; I can hear a ‘bus; so I am
well rid of you.”

“Bye bye, Carry; I must be up in town this morning in good time, or I
would stay for the next hour, if it were only to plague you.” And so he
was gone.

Carry did not take up her work again for some time, but sat thinking
quietly, till her father came into the shop from the room behind, when
she began to work assiduously.

“Carry, you have not been out for the last two days. Put on your bonnet,
child; I will mind the shop for a while. A little fresh air will do you
good.”

“Very well, father, I will go out for a little time; and I shall look in
and have a chat with James Holl. I don’t suppose I shall be more than an
hour gone.”

In a few minutes, Carry came down dressed for her walk; and with a
parting nod to her father, went out. First down into Knightsbridge. Here
she spent some little time in looking at the tempting displays in the
shop windows. Oh that she had but money that she might go in and make
unlimited purchases! Fancy, too, how exactly that bonnet would suit her
complexion, and how well she should look in that Indian shawl! And so
Carry walked up the hill as far as the Duke’s. Turning here she retraced
her steps to Sloane Street, and thence, striking into the narrow
streets, was soon at the Holls’ door. After a preliminary knock with her
hand, she lifted the latch and entered.

There were only three persons in the room. The crippled lad was at the
window, to which he had wheeled up his box, partly to enable him to see
out, partly for the benefit of the light for his work. On a table in
front of him were a number of thin sheets of wax of various colours, a
few paints and brushes, some wire and modelling tools, and some
exquisite wax flowers which he had finished, with others in different
stages of progress, upon which he was still engaged. Two little girls
were standing beside him, with books in their hands, and one of them was
reading aloud, while he listened and corrected her as he worked. A
little impatiently, perhaps, which was very unusual for him, but on the
table near him was an algebra, part of Evan’s present, which he had only
received the day before. It was open, but was lying with its face
downwards, and it was evident, by the glances which he cast in that
direction, that he was longing to continue his study. He looked up when
his visitor entered, and a bright flush of pleasure came across his
face.

“How do you do, Miss Carry? It seems quite a time since you were here
last.”

“Not more than a week, James; and how are you, and where is Mrs. Holl?”

“I am quite well, Miss Carry. Mother has gone out for the day; but
please sit down for a little while, you know what pleasure a talk with
you always gives me.”

The girl kissed the children, and then drew up a chair and sat down by
him.

“Thank you,” he said, “You see I am hearing Jessie and Loo their
lessons. There, children, that will do for this morning; put away your
books and go and play, but don’t make a noise.” The little girls gladly
did as they were told, and were soon sitting on two low stools in front
of the fire, busy playing with two dolls, so old and battered that their
clothes might be put on at pleasure either way, there being no
distinguishable difference between their faces and the backs of their
heads.

“What lovely flowers, James! I can’t think how you can do them without a
copy.”

“No more I could, Miss Carry. Father knows one of the men in the flower
shop just as you get into Hans Place from Sloane Street, and he often
brings me one, and I copy it at once and put it by till I want to make
some of that sort.”

“It must be very interesting work, James, especially when you get to
make them as beautifully as you do. What a lovely spray of roses and
buds that is!”

“Do you think so, Miss Carry? Yes, they are very pretty. It is a copy of
a bunch my friend the gardener brought me in last summer, and I liked it
so much that I copied them just as they were. Will you accept that one,
Miss Carry?” he said timidly; “I should be so glad if you would.”

“Oh, I could not think of it, James; it must have taken you an immense
time.”

“My time is of no great value,” the lad said rather sadly; “besides, it
does not take nearly as long as it looks. I cut all the petals out with
stamps. Please take it, Miss Carry. It would give me so much pleasure if
you would.”

“Well, if it would, James, I will certainly accept your offer, and thank
you very much for them. They are really lovely. I have got a little
Parian marble vase under a glass shade, father bought me my last
birthday; they will keep under that beautifully.”

The lad took a sheet of silver paper from a drawer of the table, and
watched her with a pleased face as she very carefully enveloped them in
it.

“When I think how slowly the days used to pass,” he said, “I don’t know
what I should have done without my flower making, I had nothing to do
but to sit here, and hear the people walking past, and the children at
play, and wonder why it should be that I was to be cut off from playing
or walking as long as my life should last, and be a helpless burden upon
other people all my life. I shall never forget what I felt, when your
father said to me one day, ‘I wonder you don’t try and do something,
James.’ Although I might have known that he was the last man to hurt any
one’s feelings, Miss Carry, for a moment I did think that what he said
was without thought. The tears came up into my eyes, and I said, I dare
say bitterly enough, ‘God knows I should be only too glad, Mr. Walker,
but what can I do?’

“‘Do,’ said your father, ‘plenty of things; make wax flowers, for
instance.’

“‘Oh, I should be so glad, but how am I to learn?’

“‘I’ll tell you what, James,’ your father said. ‘I will get you a book
to teach you all about it, and all the things you will want. You must
get some flowers to copy—easy ones to begin with, and if you are sharp,
you will find in a very short time you will be able to earn money,
besides keeping yourself employed. I will lay out a pound, James, in the
materials, and you shall pay it out of your first earnings.’ That’s
three years back now, Miss Carry, and I was not much more than fourteen.
But I had thought a good deal, through sitting here all day with nothing
to do, but to think, think all the long hours, and I had read a great
deal too, for Mr. Walker has always lent me what books I liked. But, boy
as I was, my heart was too full of delight and hope to say one word. To
think that I was not to be all my life without an occupation or an aim,
that I was not always to be a burden to others! It was almost too much;
for now for the first time your father’s words seem to point out that it
might be so different to what I had thought. I have read in books, Miss
Carry, of what a man condemned to death feels when he is reprieved upon
the scaffold, but I am sure he could not feel more than I did. I had so
often wished to die, and had thought it would be so much better for me,
so much happier than my life could be, that it seemed as if more than
fresh life was given me. Oh, how anxious I was till your father brought
the things, how I learnt the book by heart before I ventured to begin,
how nervous I was with my first attempt, and, above all, what joy I felt
when mother took out a box of my flowers, and brought me back far more
than I had ever dreamt they would have fetched, and the news that at the
shop where she had sold them, they had said they would take as many more
as I could make. I soon paid your father back his pound, Miss Carry; but
as long as I live I can never repay him for the benefit he did me. What
a different life mine has been since—always busy and happy, with a
feeling that I am no longer a burden but a help to father and mother;
and all this I owe to your father.”

“Dear father,” Carry said softly, “he is always good and kind. That puts
me in mind that he is all alone in the shop, and that I must be going
home, to see after the dinner. Good bye, James, and thank you for your
flowers.”

“Good bye, Miss Carry, you are heartily welcome to them.”

And so shaking hands cordially with the crippled lad, and kissing the
children, Carry went back to relieve her father in the shop; while
James’s studies at his algebra made but small progress that morning. For
a bright face, which certainly Colenso never thought of inserting there,
would keep intruding itself between the figures and his eyes, and making
a terrible confusion of + and – and of “a’s” and “x’s.”



                              CHAPTER VII.
                        A STARTLING SUGGESTION.


Frank Maynard, on his return from the Continent, had taken rooms close
to those occupied by Arthur Prescott, in the Temple. An arrangement,
which although in itself very pleasant for both, by no means conduced to
the promotion of the latter’s legal studies; for Arthur had been lately
called to the bar, and was working really very hard at his profession.
For the first week after his friend came back to town, he had put by his
books, and given up his time to him entirely, but after that he had been
obliged to enter into a compact with him. First, that Frank should on no
pretence whatever come to his rooms before one o’clock; and second, that
although he might pass the afternoon with him, he should be bound to
occupy himself in reading, and was on no account to enter into long
conversations. After four o’clock, Prescott put aside his law books, and
was at his friend’s service for the rest of the day.

The first part of the condition Frank found it easy enough to observe.
He did not rise until late; and after he had finished breakfast, the
“Times” occupied him pretty well till it was the hour for going into
Prescott’s. After lunch he would take up a novel, light his pipe, make
himself comfortable, and read for an hour or so. But presently he would
put his book down, and begin to ask Prescott questions, and to entrap
him into lengthy conversations, till Arthur became quite desperate; when
Frank would leave him and sally out to make a round of calls, returning
at six to go out to dinner with his friend. In the evening, Prescott was
safe from interruption, as Frank was almost always out at dances and
balls at the houses of the numerous friends he had met during his
travels.

It was a week after the party at the Holls’. The frost had broken up,
but the weather was raw and cold. Arthur Prescott was studying, and
occasionally looking over, with a rather amused glance, at his friend.
Frank having in vain tried to interest himself in his novel, had thrown
it down in disgust, and was gazing disconsolately out of the window,
upon the green lawn below, and at the leaden-coloured river beyond, with
its black drifting barges, and its busy little steamers hurrying past.

“By Jove, Prescott,” he broke out at last, “this is a beastly climate of
ours.”

“As how, Frank?” Prescott asked quietly.

“As how?” Frank repeated irritably. “Why in its wind, and its rain; and
its damp, and its cold. It’s detestable. Last winter I was in Rome.”

“Ah, and were you there in summer, Frank?”

“Of course not, Prescott. One might as well live in an oven, with an air
blowing in from a fever-den.”

“Quite so, Frank. You see other places have their detestable points as
well as ours.”

Frank Maynard gave a grunt of discontent, and again looked out of the
window. At last he turned round again.

“What on earth am I to do with myself, Prescott?”

“My dear Frank, I am afraid that question is likely to bring on a long
discussion; but in consideration of the day, and the more especially as
I see you do not mean to let me read, I will put away my books for the
afternoon.”

“There’s a good fellow,” Frank said, brightening up greatly, and
wheeling the fellow arm-chair of the one he had been sitting in, up to
the fire, while Prescott put his books back into their places on the
shelves. That done, he opened a bottle of beer, poured it into a large
tankard—a college trophy of his prowess in boating—and lit his pipe.

“There, that’s comfortable,” Frank said. “The climate has its advantages
after all. Now let us talk seriously. What in the world am I to do? Here
have I been back in England little more than three months, two of which
I have spent shooting, and now after a month in London, I am bored out
of my life.”

“It is a hard case, Frank; a man with eight hundred a year, and nothing
to do but to spend it; and you are out nearly every evening, too.”

“That’s all well enough for the evening, Prescott, but I can’t spend the
day thinking whom I am going to meet in the evening; and whether the
pretty girl I danced with the night before will be there, and so on.”

“Why not join a club, Frank?”

“I am down for the ‘Travellers,’ but it may be years before I am
elected, and I don’t believe I shall care for it when I am. I have been
into several clubs with men I know, and they seem to me the slowest
places going. Men look in, and moon about the room, and take up a paper,
and then throw it down again, and go and look out of the window, and
then order their dinner, and grumble over it when they have got it. My
dear fellow, it’s well enough for old fogies, but I can see no pull in
it at all. Of course, in the evening one can play billiards, but as I am
out nearly every night, I don’t see that I shall gain much by that.”

“Why don’t you keep a horse, Frank?”

“Well, I might do that, Prescott; but I don’t think I should ever go out
on the beggar if I had one. I don’t care much for riding at the best of
times; and as to going up and down Rotten Row, it would drive me out of
my mind in a week. No; when summer comes I shall buy a yacht of about
twenty tons, and cruise about; but the question is the winter.”

“Well, Frank, as you do not care, I have heard you say, for country
sports, I really think it would be worth your while to think seriously
of entering yourself at the bar, or of taking to literary work; or in
fact making some sort of aim for yourself. I confess that, as a busy man
myself, I can hardly conceive a man having the whole day on his hands,
with nothing definite before him.”

“My dear fellow,” Frank said despondently; “what on earth would be the
good of my entering at the bar? I should never read—you know that as
well as I do; and consequently I should have no more to do than I have
now, with the additional disadvantage of being obliged to dine so often
in Hall, instead of being able to get my dinner where I like. As to
literary work, the thing’s simply absurd; what on earth should I write
about? And when I had fixed on a subject, what in the name of goodness
should I have to say about it? Upon my word, Prescott, your suggestions
are positively childish.”

Prescott shrugged his shoulders, and smoked for some time in silence.
Presently he took his pipe from his mouth, and asked suddenly—

“Why don’t you get married, Frank?”

“Married! My dear Prescott, I wish you would not talk in that light way
of such a serious business. I should as soon think of flying up to the
moon. Besides, whom in the world should I marry? I go out to parties and
balls, and flirt with dozens of girls, but I never think any more of
them, nor do they of me. Just imagine one of their faces, if I were to
say, ‘Madam, your obedient servant is on the look-out for a wife; will
you supply the deficiency?’”

Frank laughed loudly; Prescott smiled, and then was quiet for some time.
At last he said, with a sort of effort—

“There is one young lady with whom you are at any rate on intimate
terms. I mean, of course, Miss Heathcote.”

“Alice!” Frank exclaimed in great surprise; “now that is about the very
last suggestion I should have expected to hear from you; for, upon my
word, in the three or four times we have been down there together, since
I came back, you were so quiet, and—you know what I mean—that I had a
sort of suspicion that you were spoony there yourself!”

Prescott coloured up hotly. “My dear Frank,” he said, gravely, “I have a
very great esteem for Miss Heathcote; I think her a very loveable woman,
but had I any deeper feeling for her, I should only endeavour to lay it
aside as quickly as possible, because I know that I should not have the
remotest chance in the world.”

“Upon my word now, Prescott, I don’t see why; Alice is an heiress, but I
don’t know that her money would be a serious obstacle. She has no one to
consult but herself, and if she fancies you, why should she not have
you?”

“I am not speaking of money, Frank. If Miss Heathcote loved me, she
would think nothing of her money; and I—although I would far rather
bring wealth to my wife than that she should to me, still that would be
no great obstacle. I am speaking of herself. I know that she would never
care for me. So please do not let us discuss that part of the question.
We were speaking of her in reference to yourself. Unless I am greatly
mistaken, your uncle would be very pleased if you were to marry her. Why
should you not do so?”

“Well, he has thrown out some hints, but I only laughed, thinking it was
a joke. Upon my word now, Prescott, this is too bad!” Frank went on with
an air of great perplexity, “It seems to me that my uncle and you have
entered into a sort of plot to marry me to Alice. Thank goodness,
though,” he said, cheering up, “Alice is not in it, for she has quite
changed since I came back again. We were awful friends formerly, I used
to kiss her regularly, and we were as jolly together as possible. When I
came back from abroad, after being away two years, of course I kissed
her when we met, but next time I offered to do so, she would not have
it, and said that she was a great deal too old for that sort of thing. I
said that we were cousins, and therefore it was all right and proper,
but she answered quite sharply, that we were, indeed, nothing of the
sort. Altogether she has been at times quite stiff and formal, and not a
bit like what she was before I went away to the Continent. No, no, she
is not in the conspiracy. Upon my word, Prescott, you quite frightened
me. We like each other very well—very much perhaps, but there is not the
slightest risk of either of us going further.”

Prescott shrugged his shoulders with an irritable impatience which was
very unusual to him. He was angry with Frank for his careless
indifference, and yet, although he told himself over and over again that
he was sorry to see that his friend was so blind, how could he help
being glad? To him this was no new subject. He had thought it over and
over till his head ached with the thought many a time. He had seen,
years before, how the girl had looked up to Frank, had listened to his
schoolboy stories, and his college tales, how she had submitted to all
his boy’s humours, and had made a hero of him to herself. He had noticed
in the last year before Frank went abroad, how the girl’s feeling had
grown and intensified with her own growth towards womanhood; how she
flushed up when Frank paid her little attentions; and how quickly she
resented it whenever he still treated her as a child. He had noticed how
eagerly she listened to all that was said about Frank when he was away,
and, at the same time, how she shrank from appearing to pay any but the
most ordinary attention. And more than ever, since Frank’s return, was
Prescott sure that Alice Heathcote loved him. Another, a less close and
less obtrusive watcher, would not have seen all this, but Prescott had a
deep stake in the matter. He knew that he loved Alice with the whole
strength of his nature. Had he believed that he had the slightest chance
of success, he would have yielded no point of vantage, even to his
friend Frank. Had both entered for the prize, and had Alice been
neutral, Prescott would have told his friend frankly that they were
rivals, and fought the matter out to the last. But here he could do
nothing. The prize was given away, and the winner was too indifferent to
stretch out his hand for it. True, he did not know that it might be had
for the asking, and Prescott, as he sat quietly for a few minutes after
Frank had spoken, was thinking very deeply with himself whether he ought
to tell his friend that he was sure that he was mistaken. He was
interrupted by Frank’s saying irritably, “I wish to goodness, Prescott,
you had never put such a notion into my head. I was comfortable and at
home with Alice before, as I had no more idea of marrying her than I had
of flying, and now I shall never get the idea out of my head. I wonder
whether my uncle has ever thrown out any hints of his idea to Alice. I
should not be surprised if he has. That would account for what I was
saying about her being cold and stiff to me; naturally she supposes that
I want to make love to her, and she tries as plainly as she can to show
me that she will have nothing to say to me. I tell you what, Prescott,
you and my uncle, with your plans and ideas, will end by making Alice
and me hate each other.”

Frank got up, and walked up and down the room, smoking his pipe in short
puffs, with an air of extreme vexation. Prescott said nothing in reply.
He was actually far more irritated and much more puzzled than Frank
himself was, but he could show neither his irritation nor the conflict
of thoughts and feelings which was agitating him. Presently Frank
stopped and said, “There is only one thing in the world I do think would
induce me to marry Alice.”

“What is that, Frank?” Prescott asked, looking anxiously up at him.

“I would marry her rather than that she should marry Fred Bingham. He is
constantly there, and I think he is trying to make up to her.”

“I do not think that he has any chance whatever,” Prescott said quietly;
“but you were always an upholder of your cousin—what has changed your
opinion of him?”

“I don’t think that anything has changed it as far as I am concerned,
Prescott,” Frank said, sitting down again; “you know he is not my sort
of man. I believe just as much as I did that he is not a bad-hearted
fellow—far from it; that is, I have no reason for believing otherwise.
But you see I have been away for some time, and his cantankerous way
comes upon me fresh. I never know whether he is making fun of me or not,
and he does try my temper, which is, you know, none of the best, most
amazingly. Although I know it is only prejudice, I own I do not like to
see him hanging over Alice, turning over the leaves of her music for
her, and that sort of thing; it makes me somehow feel cold and
uncomfortable all over, and as I have said, rather than that he should
marry her, I would save her from it by marrying her myself. Of course
supposing that she would have me.”

“There is no fear, Frank, that you will be called upon to sacrifice
yourself to prevent that contingency happening. Whatever Miss Heathcote
may do, be assured she will never fall in love with Fred Bingham. As for
what you say about your feelings towards him, it is not a prejudice
against which you are struggling, it is a natural antipathy; one of
those instincts which nature gives us against what is dangerous and bad.
You know what we all felt about him at Cambridge; you would not agree
with us, you fought against the idea, but your instinct is too strong
for you, and you will end by thinking like the rest of us.”

“No, no, Prescott, I will not allow that; I grant that he irritates me
more than he did, and that somehow, although I have no idea why, I
should not like to see Alice marry him; but I have not the least reason
for changing my opinion that he is a good fellow at heart.”

“He is a bad egg,” Prescott said, dogmatically. “A bad egg, Frank; do
what you will with him, he is bad to the core. His shell is white
enough, but some day when you crack it, and find what a rotten inside
it’s got, you will regret deeply enough that you ever took it in your
hand.”

“You are a prejudiced beggar, Prescott,” Frank said, laughing; “but I
know it is no use my arguing the point with you. Time will show which is
right.”

Prescott nodded, and there was a short silence, when Frank rose.

“The sun is shining, Prescott, the afternoon is quite changed; suppose
we go out. Oh, nonsense, you said you would give me the afternoon. Where
shall we go?”

“It’s all the same to me, Frank.”

“I wish to goodness it was not, Prescott; you give me all the trouble of
thinking—there now, I’ve got another idea—let’s go and see the boy that
picked the dog out of the Serpentine.”

“What are you going to say to him when you do see him, Frank?”

“In the first place I’m going to give him the sovereign Uncle Harry gave
me for him; and in the next place—what a fellow you are, Prescott, in
the next place—well, I suppose I shall tell him he is a fine little
chap. No, I’ve another idea. By Jove, I will make a Buttons of him.”

“But what on earth do you want a Buttons for, Frank?” Prescott said,
laughing.

“Oh, hundreds of things. He will be very useful in my chambers, go
messages, and all sorts of things. I never can find that old bed maker
of mine. My dear fellow, I can’t make out how I have done without one so
long. A Buttons will be just the thing; besides, if I get a horse, look
how useful he would be. I will make him cabin boy on board the
yacht—hundreds of things; my dear fellow, my ideas come so fast, I think
I shall take up the literary line, after all. There, get your hat and
coat on, Prescott, and we will charter a cab, and be off at once to get
Buttons.”

The afternoon had come out clear and fine; so they went out through
Essex Street into the Strand, and took a cab, which soon set them down
at the end of Sloane Street. Here they discharged it; and inquiring of a
policeman where Moor Street was, received the intelligence that it lay
down behind, but that they had better take the first turning to the
right, and then inquire again. Accordingly they turned off from Sloane
Street and entered the network of small lanes lying between Hans Place
and Knightsbridge. Densely populated as the neighbourhood was, there
were few signs of business, or the bustle of every day life. The place
seemed entirely deserted by grown up people, and handed over bodily to
children. The fathers were away at work, the mothers busy within the
houses, but children swarmed everywhere; boys and girls of all ages and
sizes, from the little baby set down upon a door step—sitting
contentedly there, sucking a piece of rag, and gazing with a quiet
old-fashioned look at the world around it, while its elder sister, a
staid little woman of some seven years old, gossipped with another of
the same standing—to lazy, hulking fellows of sixteen or seventeen,
lounging idly at the corners of streets, smoking. Everywhere children
engaged in every game which the youthful mind was capable of devising
from the very limited materials at hand. Boys playing at hop-scotch, and
tip-cat, and ball, with much shouting and rushing about, and danger to
passers-by; boys playing at marbles, and games with buttons, and flat
stones, and halfpence. These amusements constantly gave rise to great
squabbling and disputes, in which one of the great idle fellows before
mentioned was usually called in as umpire, although like umpires in
general, he always failed signally in giving satisfaction to either
party. Girls sitting on door steps working; girls playing at
shuttlecock; little things of five or six years old in strange garments
and vast bonnets, staggering along with babies nearly as big as
themselves; grave little parties of nurses sitting on door steps—while
the babies under their charge made dirt pies—and amusing themselves
relating stories to each other,—not fanciful Arabian nights’ tales, but
real histories of life:—“How father had come in on Saturday night drunk,
and when mother had asked for money, how he had knocked she down.” Or,
“how put about father was when he came home last night, to find that
mother had been and pawned his Sunday clothes, and got drunk on it.”
Many a similar tale do these little people relate gravely to each other.
Poor little prematurely-old things, with their babies under their
charge, and their cares already sitting heavily on their young
shoulders, and such a life before them!

Sometimes, but not often, a cart comes along, and the games are stopped,
and the marbles scattered, and the little nurses snatch up their
charges; doors open hastily, and women rush out into the road and seize
their little ones by their dress, or an arm, or a leg, or anything that
comes handy, and carry them off into their houses, with much shaking and
scolding, and through the closed doors come out sounds of slapping and
cries.

Through all this, Frank Maynard and his friend make their way. They
easily find Moor Street, but, not knowing the number, have some
difficulty in discovering the Holls’ abode. However, after inquiring of
some twenty children, they light upon one who is able to point out the
house. Mrs. Holl herself opens the door in answer to their knock. Mrs.
Holl is engaged in washing, and her arms to the elbows are white with
soap-suds. Greatly surprised is she at seeing two gentlemen standing at
the door. Finding however, by their inquiry if she is Mrs. Holl, that
there is no mistake, she wipes her arms hastily with her apron, and asks
them to walk in, apologizing as she does for the state of the room.
There was no occasion for that, for it was beautifully clean. The
washing-tub stood upon a low bench in one corner; there were some cords
stretched across the ceiling, but the clothes were not yet suspended
upon them, and except that there was a warm steam in the room, which
made everything look clammy and moist, it was neat and tidy as usual.
Mrs. Holl placed two chairs for her visitors, giving them a preliminary
polish with her apron, and then waited in silence to hear the reason of
their coming. But they were too much surprised at the conduct of the
fourth inmate of the room to be able for a time to pay her any
attention. He had at their entrance been sitting at work at his
artificial flower making near the window. On seeing two gentlemen enter,
and supposing that they wished to speak to Mrs. Holl, he had wheeled his
box to its usual place by the fire, where there was a ladder fixed at a
considerable angle and reaching to the ceiling. Under this he pushed his
box, and then taking hold of its rungs he pulled himself up hand over
hand to the ceiling, to the rafters of which were fixed a line of large
open iron handles. Along these he swung himself to the staircase, and
then away out of sight by similar handles; the whole being done
apparently without the least effort, and as if it were a perfectly
normal method of progression.

“By Jove!” Frank exclaimed, when he had disappeared up the stairs,
“that’s wonderful. I am pretty good at gymnastics, but I could no more
do that than I could fly, and it did not seem the least effort to him;
and it is so much the more difficult that I see the poor fellow has lost
the use of his legs.”

“James is wonderful strong, sir, in the arm,” Mrs. Holl said, “wonderful
strong. He began that clambering work when he was about twelve year old.
He was pale like and thin, and the doctor said he ought to go out in the
air, and not always sit indoors. Well, sir, James he could not abear the
thought of going out much, being drawed about in a cart, but he thought
if father could put up a pole, across over his head, he might make a
shift to draw himself up and down, and so exercise himself a bit. Well,
sir, father he put up a pole, and in time James he got to be like a
monkey, he could swing himself up with one arm and hang ever so long.
After a bit, father he got the thought of setting some handles in the
beams there, and the ladder to get up to them, and it were a great
amusement for James; I have seen him go right round the room ten times;
as for the stairs, that were James’s own idea. He were then about
fifteen, and father used to carry him up to bed, and all at once it came
to him, that if he had handles put on the top of the stairs and along
his room, and then a ladder to get down by, he might make shift to go up
and down of himself. Father went out that same night and got a
blacksmith to make the handles, and that very night James went up to bed
by himself. Lor, how pleased the poor lad were, to be sure. But I beg
your pardon, gentlemen, for running on so—what can I do for you?”

“About ten days since, Mrs. Holl,” Frank said, “my friend and I were at
the Serpentine, and your son—he said his name was Evan, I believe—went
into the water to fetch out a dog.”

“He did, sir; are you the gentleman, sir, who was going in to fetch him
out?”

“Just so, Mrs. Holl. Now I was very much pleased with him, and I have
come here for two things to-day: the one to give him a sovereign which a
friend of mine, to whom I was speaking of your boy’s pluck, gave me for
him. Here it is; will you lay it out in something useful to him? The
other reason was, I want a boy to be a general useful sort of
lad—messenger or domestic, in fact for all sorts of things. Now it seems
to me your son would be just the thing for me. I don’t of course know
anything of him, but from what I have seen I have no doubt we should get
on very well together, and I think he would be very comfortable with
me.”

“I am sure you are very good, sir,” Mrs. Holl said, gratefully, “very
good, and I should think Evan very lucky to get such a place. I can’t
answer for him, sir, but I should say he would jump at it”

“Let him think it over, Mrs. Holl, and let him come up and see me any
time before Thursday evening, when I may be going out of town for a
week. Here is my card. By Jove! what beautiful wax flowers; look,
Prescott, are they not exquisitely made?” and Frank went across the room
to look at James Holl’s handiwork.

“They are beautifully made,” Prescott said, examining them; “I saw your
son was at work at them when we came in.”

“Yes, sir, he mostly is at work at them. He is very clever, James is,
awful clever, and he earns a good deal of money at it too, besides its
being a great amusement to him. Poor boy, it’s a heavy life, sir, always
to sit in that box of his, with no hope of ever getting any better.”

“It must be, indeed, Mrs. Holl. Why, what is this—Colenso’s Algebra—does
he read that?”

“He do, sir, while he is at work; and when he ain’t he never puts it
down.”

“He must be fonder of it than I ever was,” Frank laughed. “But this is
very interesting, Prescott, is it not?”

“If your son is so fond of study, Mrs. Holl,” Arthur said, “I have a
number of my old college books. I shall never touch them again. They
only block my place up, and he is perfectly welcome to them.”

“Lor, sir, it would be just a godsend to him.”

“I will look them out, Mrs. Holl, and send them down to-morrow.”

“I should take it very kind of you, sir—very kind; and James will be
delighted.”

“And, Mrs. Holl, I should like some of those wax flowers amazingly; will
you ask him to make me some?—a basket of them. Eh, Prescott, don’t you
think a basket of wax flowers would be just the thing for my room?”

“I don’t know that they would be altogether in strict keeping with its
general contents,” Prescott said, smiling, “but no doubt they would look
very well.”

“Just so,” Frank said. “Will you ask your son to make me a basket, Mrs.
Holl? I suppose he can buy a basket and a shade, and all that sort of
thing? and you know I will pay him for it all when he sends it.”

“James will be very glad, sir; and thank’ee, but he is not my son.”

“Is he not, Mrs. Holl? If it is not an impertinent question, what
relation is he of yours?”

“He ain’t no sort of relation, sir,” the woman said. The young men
looked surprised, and Prescott asked—

“Then how did you come to bring him up, Mrs. Holl?”

“Well, sir, it was a very simple matter; but if so be as you care to
hear it, I will tell you just how it happened;” and leaning against the
mantelpiece, with the red light of the fire thrown up into her face,
Mrs. Holl went on, very slowly, and speaking as though she almost saw
what she was relating. “Well, sir, it were an evening in April—a cold,
bitter day—I was sitting here between light and dark, drinking my tea
with John, who had just come home from work—John is my husband, you see,
sir—when we heard a noise outside in the street. We went out to see what
was the matter, and we found a poor young creature, with a baby in her
arms, had fallen down in a faint like. She was a pretty young thing,
sir; and though her dress was poor and torn, she looked as if she had
not been always so. Some one says, ‘Take them to the workhouse;’ ‘no,’
says I—for my heart yearned towards the poor young thing—‘bring her in
here; mayn’t we, John?’ says I. Well, sir, John did not say nothing, but
he took the baby out of her arms, and gived it to me, and then he upped
and took the poor young creature—she were no great weight, sir—and
carried her into the house, and laid her on the bed, as it might be by
the window there. Well, gentlemen, that bed she never left; she came
round a little, and lived some days, but her mind were never rightly
itself again. She would lay there, with her baby beside her, and sing
songs to herself, I don’t know what about, for it were some foreigner
language. She were very gentle and quiet like, but I don’t think she
ever knew where she was, or anything about it. She were very fond of
baby, and would take it in her arms, and hush it and talk to it. She
faded and faded away, and the doctor said nothing could be done for her.
It made my heart ache, sir; and if you will believe me, I would go
upstairs and cry by the hour. The thought of the little baby troubled me
too. I had just lost my first little one, sir, and I could not abear the
thought of the little thing going to a workhouse, so one day I says to
John, ‘John, when that poor mother dies, for God’s sake, dont’ee send
the little baby to the workhouse; He has taken away our own little one,
and maybe He has sent this one for us to love in his place. Let us take
him as our own.’ John, he did not say nothing, but he up and gived me a
great kiss, and said, ‘Sairey, you’re a good woman;’ which of course,
gentlemen,” Mrs. Holl put in apologetically, “is neither here nor there,
for any mother would have done the same; but it’s John’s way when he’s
pleased. That very same night the baby’s mother died.”

The young men listened in silence as Mrs. Holl told her story; standing,
with her rough honest face lit up in the bright fire-glow, she related
it simply, and as a matter of course, all unconscious of the good part
she had taken in it, assuming no credit to herself, or seeing that she
deserved any. When she had finished, there was a little silence; Frank
passed his hand furtively across his eyes, and then Arthur sprang up and
shook Mrs. Holl warmly by the hand, saying, “Your husband was right,
Mrs. Holl; you are a good woman.”

Mrs. Holl looked completely amazed, and stammered out, “Lor bless you,
sir, there weren’t nothing out of the way in what I did, and there’s
scores and scores would do the like. Having just lost my own little one,
my heart went out to the poor little thing, and it seemed sent natural
like to fill the place of the little angel who was gone from us. Bless
your heart, sir, there weren’t nothing out of the way in that; nothing
at all; and we have never had cause to regret it. The boy’s a good boy,
and a clever boy; and he is a comfort and a help to us. A better boy
never lived; but we have always grieved sorely over his accident.”

“Then he was not originally lame, Mrs. Holl?” Prescott asked.

“Dear me, no sir, not till he were six year old. It happened this a way:
I were laid up at the time; I was just confined of Mary—she’s my eldest
girl—and somehow, James he were out in the streets playing; I don’t
rightly know how it happened, but never shall I forget when they brought
him in, and said that a cart had run over him. John, he was in, which
was lucky, for I think I lost my head like, and went clean out of my
mind for a bit, for I loved him just like my own. They did not think he
would have lived at first, for the cart had gone over the lower part of
his body, and broke one of his thigh bones, and the other leg up high.
It was a light cart, I have heard tell, or it must have killed him. He
were in bed for months; and if you will believe me, if ever there was a
patient little angel on earth, it was surely James. He never complained;
and his chief trouble was for my sake. At last he got well, but the
doctors said that he would never walk again, for they thought there were
some damage done to his spine; and sure enough he never has walked. He
is always cheerful, only he never likes going out; and never would go at
all, if we did not almost make him; he thinks folks look at him. Then he
took to the climbing work, and that did him good; and the last three
years he has taken to making them wax flowers; and it has been a
wonderful thing for him, that has. He has always been given to reading.
John made a shift to teach him his letters; and then the children of the
neighbours, they lent him their school books, and taught him what they
knew; and in a short time, bless you, sir, he knew more than them all.
He would sit and read for hours together. He is wonderful clever, James
is.”

“Well, Mrs. Holl,” Frank said, rising, “we are very much obliged to you
for your story, but we must not keep you any longer. We will call again
and arrange matters with you when Evan lets me know whether he accepts
my offer.”

“And I will be sure to forward the books to you to-morrow. Good bye.”

And greatly to Mrs. Holl’s astonishment, the two young men shook hands
warmly with her, as they took their leave.



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                           A SHATTERED HOME.


“Bill, dear Bill, I do wish you would give up these Chartist goings on.
No good will come of it.”

The speaker was a pretty young woman, who would have been prettier, had
not premature care traced deep lines on her forehead, which Time, more
gentle, would not have done for years to come yet. Her dress was very
poor, and the scanty furniture of the attic in which she and her husband
lived, and the small embers of the fire over which a few potatoes were
boiling for their meal, seemed to say that want had helped care in its
work.

Bessy White had been the belle of her native village down in quiet
Hampshire. A wilful, merry, coquettish little beauty, knowing her power,
and using it; with a bright, fresh colour, and a happy ringing laugh. It
seemed hardly possible that four years could have changed her to the
thin, pale, careworn woman she now was. Yet it was only four years since
William Holl, a journeyman joiner, had on his wanderings passed through
the village, and had stopped to do some work at the Squire’s, which had
occupied him for several weeks. There he saw her, fell in love with her,
and carried her off in triumph from his rustic rivals, who, with the
village in general, had marvelled much what pretty Bessy White could see
to fancy in the pale, quiet, young carpenter, when so many stout young
fellows were laying their hearts at her feet. However, Bessy had laughed
at their wonder and their warnings, had gaily married, and gone off with
her husband to busy London. For the first two or three years of her
marriage her life was as happy as she had hoped that it would be. About
eighteen months after she had come up to London, she had a baby, which
only lived a few weeks; but this had been the only cloud to her
happiness. Her husband earned good wages, for he was a capital workman,
and was sober and industrious. He loved his wife fondly, and was very
proud of her, and of the prettily-furnished neat little rooms which
constituted his home.

But after a while, strange murmurs of discontent buzzed about among the
workpeople of the metropolis, and William Holl, with his talent and
enthusiasm, threw himself heart and soul into the movement, and soon
became one of its recognised heads.

Then came Bessy’s evil days. Her husband, who had been considered one of
the best and steadiest hands at the shop where he worked, was now
constantly away, and at last lost his place altogether. The pretty
furniture they once had, had gone piece by piece. They had moved from
the snug lodgings they formerly occupied into the bare garret they now
lived in. The rent even of this was frequently in arrear, and a crust of
dry bread was often all the food they had. William Holl was ready enough
to work now, but he had great difficulty in getting employment. Good
workman as he was, masters looked shy at a man whom they considered as a
sort of firebrand among their men, and it was only now by doing jobs at
home for other hands that he earned even the most scanty living. Still
his heart was in the cause, and although he acutely felt his changed
position, and his wife’s altered looks, he never wavered for an instant
in his course. For himself, indeed, he hardly felt it; the applause
which nightly greeted his impassioned speeches at the club to which he
belonged, was enough for him, and he would return to his wretched home
with a flushed cheek and a proud bearing. He was a pale, sickly-looking
man, with a high intellectual forehead, and a clear and expressive eye.
Few who saw him at ordinary times would have supposed him capable of
filling a large hall with his voice, pouring out bursts of real
eloquence, and moving hundreds with his impassioned utterances.

To his wife he answered with a faint smile, “It is too late, Bessy; it
is too late, my girl. I must go through with it now; I cannot draw back,
and I would not if I could. We have the right with us, Bessy, and we
have the strength; we must triumph in the end and get our Charter.”

His wife shook her head sadly.

“My poor Bessy,” he went on, “my poor girl. It is hard on you, you had
better have stayed down in Hampshire, quiet and happy. It was a sore day
for you when ever I saw you. But yet, Bessy, I can’t help it. I must
struggle for our rights even if I die for it. But I am sorry for your
sake, Bessy, that I feel as I do.”

“Never mind me, Bill,” his wife said, “I can bear it if you can, but I
am so afraid it will never come right. I do so fear the future—I am so
frightened lest you should get yourself into trouble.”

“Never fear that, Bessy, we are sure to win. We must get our Charter,
and then things will be all changed again, and we shall be better off
than ever.”

Again his wife shook her head doubtingly.

“Ah, Bill, if they were all like you, I should not fear—no, not one
bit—but they are not. Look at the men you take up with now—men you would
have been ashamed to be seen walking with in the old days; men who spend
half their time in the public-house, who are seen drunk in the middle of
the day—men who beat their wives, and let their children go about in
rags. Oh, Bill! with such men as these you will never make things better
than they were before. I have no doubt you are right, Bill, and that
things ought to be changed, but, for my part, it seems to me we were
very happy as we were before, when we never thought that we were, as you
say, only slaves.”

“You women don’t understand these things, Bessy,” her husband said, a
little impatiently; and then, with a slight shade on his face, went on,
“I know that the men I work with are not the sort I should choose, but
for a cause like ours we must work with the tools which come to hand.
The better sort will soon come. Let them only hear the truth, and they
will join us. They are doing so now—every day we get stronger, the
Charter receives thousands of fresh signatures, and the Government,
which grinds us down, trembles. Yes, Bessy, we are sure to succeed, and
then, my poor girl, your troubles will be over. But it is nearly time
for me to be off, let us have our potatoes. I must not miss our meeting
to-night, for I expect we shall have an important discussion.”

The scanty meal was eaten in silence, for William Holl could not help
comparing it in his mind with the snug, cheerful tea which he had always
found waiting for him at the end of his day’s work in the old times.

When he had gone out his wife sighed heavily, and then continued the
work at which she was engaged, and on which indeed their scanty living
at present greatly depended.

William Holl lodged in a small street in Pimlico, close to Vauxhall
Bridge, across which his shortest route lay. But a penny now was a
serious matter, and he accordingly kept along Millbank, in front of the
maze of scaffolding of the new Houses of Parliament, and over
Westminster Bridge, straight on to the Elephant and Castle. Then turning
off from the bustle and roar of traffic in Newington Causeway, he passed
into the heart of Bermondsey.

At first his way was through narrow streets inhabited entirely by the
working classes. The clocks have just struck six, and the men are
turning out from the neighbouring tan-yards and skinneries. Women are
standing in front of their houses talking to each other, and looking out
for their husbands’ return, and through the open doors can be seen the
tables laid with white cloths, and the little trays with the tea-things
standing there, and the bright fires with the kettles singing upon them.
The men come trooping along boldly, and lustily whistling snatches of
popular airs, laughing and joking together. All is bustle and
cheerfulness. Now William Holl has turned off into a narrow lane, and
has at once entered another atmosphere. There is no sound of whistling
and light laughter here. Heavy surly men lean against door-posts and
look sullenly out—men with heavy eyebrows and low foreheads, square
jawbones and bull-necks—men on whom crime seems to have set a stamp, and
whom instinct would lead you to avoid as you would a wolf or a tiger.
Through some of the windows come sounds of quarrelling and blows, and
foul imprecations of unspeakable horror, but no one heeds this; the men
at the doorways do not even turn their heads to listen. The few women
who are about, have for the most part an air of boldness and degradation
indescribable. They are dressed in dirty tawdry garments, their faces
show deep marks caused by misery and drink; whilst their mouths are full
of language even fouler and more horrible than that of the men. The men
seemed all of one stamp, but of the women there were two distinctly
marked classes. A few were very different from those just described.
Poor creatures, timid and shrinking; wretched worn-out women, who only a
few years before had been bright happy girls in some quiet country
village far from the misery and crime of London. They had seen their
husbands, originally perhaps honest and industrious, go with rapid steps
down the social ladder, beginning with drink and ending in a life passed
in violence and crime. Through all this the wives had never once thought
of leaving them, but had clung to them through good report and evil
report, through curses and blows, through desertion and shame, through
want and misery. These women looked with trembling and horror upon the
life they were bound to. To them death would have been a relief, oh, how
welcome! Their early life seemed to them now a glimpse of some far off,
long lost Paradise upon which they hardly dared even to cast a thought
back.

There were a few children, precocious and old-looking, treading rapidly
in their father’s steps, born to people these wretched dens, and to fill
the reformatories and gaols of their native land. These nests of crime,
these social ulcers, which eat into the heart of this London of ours,
defy alike the efforts of benevolence and the sword of the law to cure
or eradicate them. But one hope, one resource remains—to cut off the
springs by which they are fed, to send the children to schools and
reformatories before they are utterly hardened and debased, to make them
useful, industrious men, and to show them the happiness of honest
labour, and the inevitable misery of crime. Thus, and thus only, can the
evil be reached. For the men, reformation is hopeless. They must be
treated as savage beasts, and caged as such. And that not merely till
the first paroxysm of rage and evil is past, to be then turned loose
under the protection of a ticket-of-leave, to prey upon society. The
tiger who appears to sleep in his cage, with his glossy paw extended and
these terrible claws folded up, is the same tiger who in his native
wilds slew men and beasts and drank their blood. Who would think of
letting him loose again, to range with unrestrained freedom? Why, then,
should these men-tigers be permitted to work their savage wills? Should
they not rather, when once, by repeated crimes, they have shown that
their nature is thoroughly evil, be taken for ever from the world, of
which they are scourges, not to be confined for life in a cell, but only
until they learn that labour is a boon. Then they should be put to pass
their lives in labouring for the good of that society to whom their
existence has hitherto been a curse.

Through this den William Holl went. Beyond it the dwellings became,
scarcer; but the lanes were bounded by high walls, or large rambling
buildings, the odour of tan and hide from which sufficiently indicated
the trade carried on within them.

In a lonely corner of one of these lanes stood a public-house. It seemed
at first sight a strange position for it, but doubtless the landlord
knew his own business. It was a quiet out-of-the-way spot for men who
did not care to enter the full light of more-frequented houses; besides,
being in the midst of the tan-yards and skinneries, it obtained a fair
share of custom from the men working in them. When William Holl passed
the door he glanced in. A solitary gaslight was burning in the bar, but
the place seemed entirely empty and deserted, and no lights in the upper
windows betrayed any signs of life and activity. There was a small court
by the side of the house; down this he turned, stopped at a door, and
knocked in a quiet and peculiar way. The door was opened a little, and
some one behind it asked, “Who knocks?” to which he answered, “The
People and their Charter.” The door was then opened wide enough for him
to enter, and he passed through into a small court behind the
public-house. This he crossed, lifted the latch of a door, and went into
a small passage with a staircase leading up from it. He mounted this and
knocked at a door, and the same question and answer were exchanged
before it was opened for his admission.

The room which William Holl entered was a large one, and had probably
been used at one time for a penny concert room or singing hall, for at
the end was a sort of raised platform. The roof was black from the smoke
of years, and from it hung two chandeliers for gas. Neither of these
however was now in use, as the room was lit by some candles fastened to
a hoop hanging immediately over the table, at which fourteen men were
seated. The shutters were closed, and strips of paper pasted over the
cracks to prevent the light within being seen from the street. To these
men there was an indescribable charm in all this mystery, in these
closed windows and secret passwords, this obscure meeting place, and
this rough illumination. It seemed to raise them to the grandeur of
conspirators. They pleased themselves by imagining themselves watched
and tracked by the agents and spies of Government. While Government,
secure of the unanimous assistance of the middle classes and the
fidelity of the troops, troubled itself little with the ramifications of
the plot, although it looked with some little anxiety upon the
increasing murmurs and disaffection of the working classes, stirred up
as they were by the violent orations of their demagogue leaders. These
men, for their own selfish aims and ends, assured them that they were
down-trodden slaves, pointed to the scenes then enacting on the other
side of the water, and called upon them to make one united effort for
their freedom.

The present meeting was composed of some of the most influential and
violent of the agitators of the time, being, some of them, members of
the central committee, the rest delegates from various parts of London.
They were, as in the French Revolution they aspired to imitate, divided
into two distinct classes. A small minority were men like William Holl,
intelligent and enthusiastic, to a certain extent theorists and
dreamers, but actuated only by a sincere desire of ameliorating and
raising the condition of their fellow-workmen—men with pale faces and
lustrous eyes, animated with ardent hopes and pure intentions. But the
vast majority, had very different aims and notions. They desired in the
first place to pull down all above them, under the conviction that, in
the confusion and anarchy which would follow the carrying out of their
plans, they would somehow or other better their own condition. These men
cared but little for the nominal objects of their schemes, but to secure
their personal aggrandizement would not have hesitated at a reign of
terror. They hated work, and, lived upon the contributions wrung from
their dupes, and took up politics simply because they were selfish and
indolent. The general end for which all alike professed to be agitating
was manhood suffrage and political equality; their secret hopes and
wishes differed greatly. Some would have been satisfied with a change of
Government, and a House of Commons in which the democratic element
thoroughly preponderated; others would have abolished the House of
Peers, and have ruled only by an assembly chosen from the people; some,
again, openly advocated the establishment of a republic; while a few
went in for universal equality and a community of goods. The men present
were composed principally of the working classes, but there were some
few who by their attire belonged to a higher class, clerks and small
tradesmen, who, either from interest or ambition, had joined the
movement.

The chairman was evidently a man of a considerably higher social grade
than most of his associates, and was elevated to the position he at
present occupied for that reason, and not for any mental superiority.
Indeed, among all the faces present, his was the most strikingly
distinguished for an entire absence of any intellectual expression. An
elderly man, with white hair, whiskers, and hair under his chin, with a
look of self-importance which was laughable in its inordinate vanity. He
was a bad speaker, and delivered his harangues with an exaggeration of
attitude, and an inflated pomposity of manner, at which even his
associates had difficulty in restraining their laughter. And yet their
chairman was a useful man to them, and the LL.D. after his name threw a
sort of halo of respectability over the cause. Next to him sat a man who
differed in appearance yet more strongly from the remainder of those
present. He was a tall man, very carefully dressed, and with a military
bearing. Captain Thornton had been an officer in the army, but had been
put upon half-pay, and considered himself hardly used. He resembled the
chairman, only in being inordinately and absurdly vain. His personal
vanity it was which had urged him to take part in the present movement,
and made him delight to march at the head even of a mob from St.
Giles’s. He was one of those men who would fain be king, but would
otherwise be content to act the part of king’s fool, as being the next
most conspicuous personage. He loved being looked up to as a man of
consequence by the mechanics and roughs with whom he was associated. It
tickled his consuming vanity, when he was saluted in the streets with
the cry of “Bravo, Thornton!” To obtain popularity, even among the
lowest class, he would have done anything, short of disturbing the set
of his coat or the arrangement of his hair. Had there been no other way
of making himself conspicuous, he would have done it by wearing a
feather in his hat, or painting his boots scarlet. Not the least
gratification which Captain Thornton derived from his prominent position
in the ranks of the Chartists was the belief that he was revenging
himself upon the authorities for the manner in which they had treated
him. He was a more dangerous man than the chairman, for although equally
vain, he was not equally weak, and would have gone any lengths, even to
deluging England with blood, if he could have increased the notoriety of
his name by so doing.

Such were some of the nominal leaders of the Chartist movement of ‘48.
William Holl took his place at the lower end of the table by the side of
a few others who were, like himself, animated by a really disinterested
and lofty spirit. A whispered conversation was kept up for a few
minutes, and then the chairman rose. He accompanied his speech by
swaying his body backwards and forwards, and by striking one hand in the
palm of the other. He spoke very slowly in broken sentences, pausing
between each, as if he expected applause to follow every utterance.

“My friends, the glorious moment when we shall shake off the yoke under
which we have for a thousand years groaned, is at hand. The aristocracy,
who batten on your sweat and blood, tremble. The Government are
preparing for flight. The great cause gains ground daily. Ten thousand
signatures have been added to the Charter of the people during the last
three days. The moment of freedom is at hand! We agreed, at our last
meeting, that we would this evening discuss what our course of
proceeding shall be, when the Charter of the people is presented to the
House of Commons. In that House we have no confidence; it is composed of
the enemies of the people,—of the very men who are the worst
oppressors,—who lay the taxation of the nation on the shoulders of the
working men, while they enjoy their iniquitous wealth scot-free! They
are the ravening lions who lay wait to devour the poor! Yet to them must
we, in the first place, submit our cause. We have now to consider what
is the course it behoves us to adopt.”

There was a slight silence, and then William Holl said, “It appears to
me that the question resolves itself into two sides. If the House
receive our petition, and act in accordance with it, our object will
have been gained, and our course then will be to strain every nerve
throughout the country to return men of our own views. Every working man
in the kingdom must be pledged to vote only for the members selected for
them by a central committee, and as we shall be in a majority of twenty
to one everywhere, we shall return exactly such a House as we desire,
and can pass laws which will put an end to the injustice and anomalies
of which we complain. But this is for after consideration, and the
machinery can be arranged at a future time. The other alternative is, if
the House refuse to receive our petition, or if they accept it, to carry
it into force. The question then arises, and should now be determined
upon, what shall be our course? Shall we submit to the refusal, or use
force?”

Each man looked at the other. This was palpably the question upon which
the whole of their plans depended, and although nearly all were of one
opinion on it, none liked to be the first to propose violence. At last
Captain Thornton said:

“It appears to me, gentlemen, that we must be all of one opinion. The
voice of the people is the voice of God; we must compel the Houses of
Parliament to pass our Charter. We compelled them in ‘32 to pass the
Reform Bill, and the same means must be used now; but if those means
fail, we must follow the example of the people of Paris. We must march
our tens of thousands down from Manchester, and the manufacturing towns.
We must fill the galleries of the House; we must compel them to sit
until they have passed it; we must awe them into submission.”

“Right, Thornton,” another said. “We must render refusal out of the
question; we must make them carry our wishes into effect.”

“But force will be opposed to us,” one of the others remarked,
doubtingly.

“Then,” William Holl said, resolutely, “it must be met by force. Are we
greater cowards than the working men of the other capitals of Europe?
and yet in the last month or two we have seen them carry their way
against Despots, with armies of ten times the force of ours to back
them. Are we greater cowards than the French, who in ‘87, in ‘30, and
again now, have insisted on their will being respected? The working men
of London may be put down at five hundred thousand; and to oppose us,
are only the handful of troops now in it; for none will be spared from
other parts. Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, all the great
manufacturing towns are with us, and there are not thirty thousand
troops in England, and these are of ourselves. Let us always, when
interrupted by the police, beat them off. When the soldiers come against
us, cheer them and fraternise with them. If the worst comes to the
worst, let us defy them.”

There was a general sound of applause when he ceased.

“But,” said the man who had before objected, “we are not in the same
position the French people were; we are quite unarmed.”

“You are always timid, Wilkins,” one of the others said; “and timid
counsels have had their way long enough; it is the time now for action.
At any rate there are paving-stones, and a good supply of paving-stones
on the tops of the houses make a street nasty walking for the best
soldiers in the world. Besides, there are the gunsmiths’ shops; our
first move will, of course, be to possess ourselves of the contents of
them, and then to take possession of the arsenal in the Tower; it is not
half so strong as the Bastile was.”

“Woe be to London if they try and oppose us by force,” a man at the
other end of the table said. “We shall only have to call for our friend
Turner’s lambs; and it will take more troops than London can bring to
keep down St. Giles’s and Westminster.”

The man to whom he alluded was a powerful man, with a ruddy face, a low
forehead, overhanging eyebrows, and a coarse sensual mouth; he was a
butcher of Clare Market, and might have been well drawn for his
prototype the famous butcher Lepelletier, the leader of the faubourgs of
the French Revolution. He smiled significantly.

“Ay, ay,” he said, “if you once let my lambs loose, the devil himself
would not chain them up, as long as there is a shop ungutted in London.”

William Holl, and several others of the same class, made a movement of
disgust and dissent.

“I trust to God it will never come to that.”

“I hope not, too,” another speaker said, “but we must not blink the
fact; we must let those who would keep us down know, that we have it in
our power to compel them to assent to the popular will; and that unless
they obey it we will use that power. By so doing we shall gain the
support to a certain extent of all the shop-keepers, who are at heart
our most bitter opponents, for, rather than have their shops sacked,
they will be glad enough to help us to put a pressure upon the Houses to
do us justice.”

“I agree with you there,” William Holl said; “as a threat they will be
useful, but I for one will never consent to invoking riot and robbery
for our aid. In the French Revolution, anyone caught with plunder about
him was hung up instantly, and I should vote that we did the same; as
far as ourselves go, I should not hesitate, if necessary, to resort to
arms, and would fight to the last with my fellow-workmen in an effort
for liberty, but not by the side of St. Giles’s. But I do hope, and I
believe, that it will never come to that. I trust that Parliament will
quietly yield to the wishes of the nation.”

A significant look passed between two or three of the more advanced
party. A peaceful solution would have ill suited their plans and
schemes; and had William Holl’s wishes been carried into effect, he
would have found, as his predecessors, the Girondists, had done, another
Mountain to oppose him, and perhaps met with such a fate as them in the
end.

“I should say,” another man said, “that the whole of the working classes
in London—every man—should be agreed to meet at three or four centres,
such as Primrose Hill, Hyde Park, and Kennington Common, and that they
should go in procession to Westminster to present our petition, and
should call upon the House to name an early day for its consideration.
That on that day we should again assemble, and march to the House; that
we should fill the galleries, and sit there till it had passed. That we
should have everything prepared in case of refusal; the men all told off
in companies under officers, and their work given to each; so many to
the gunsmiths’ shops, so many to the Tower; the rest to throw up
barricades. That an agreement should be made with the northern towns to
rise simultaneously; and that we should then as a people declare
Parliament dissolved, and proclaim a Republic. That we should disarm the
troops when they did not resist us, annihilate them when they did, and
then proceed all over the country to elect a house of representatives by
universal suffrage.”

The speech was received with loud applause, and they proceeded to
discuss the details of the undertaking. Many of the speeches were really
brilliant, and the assembly was perfectly in accord on the main points.
It was nearly one o’clock when they separated. As they were breaking up,
Thornton spoke aside to a small malignant-looking man, who had taken a
very prominent part in the debates. This man was the editor of an
obscure paper, which pandered to the passions of its readers, by pouring
out the foulest abuse on all who were above them,—

“Everything goes on well, Hausford; don’t forget your part of the work.
We depend greatly upon you, you know. Be sure you keep them up to
boiling point.”

The man replied by a meaning nod, and then quietly one by one, to avoid
attracting attention, the council took their departure.



                              CHAPTER IX.
                         WHAT WILL IT LEAD TO.


At about seven o’clock on the next evening, Arthur Prescott was sitting
smoking in his friend’s room, which was immediately under his own. The
two apartments were similar in size, but this was the only resemblance
that existed between them. Arthur’s was strictly a student’s room, plain
and neat, half office, half sitting room, with a few bookshelves filled
with plain, legal-looking volumes. Stiff dining-room chairs with
leather-covered seats, a horsehair sofa at the hardness of which Frank
was constantly grumbling, and two easy chairs of questionable comfort,
nearly made up the inventory of the contents. Frank’s room was in strong
contrast to this; it was handsomely, indeed luxuriously, furnished. The
walls were wainscoted with dark, or rather black oak, on the panels of
which hung a few really good pictures, which Frank had purchased during
his rambles in Spain. The curtains were green, and the floor covered
with a rich Turkey carpet, in which the same colour predominated. In the
centre of the mantelpiece stood a bronze statue from Herculaneum,
flanked by two real Etruscan vases, and a pair of magnificent Venetian
goblets. Crossed above these upon the wall were two long Turkish jasmine
pipe-stems, with their red bowls and amber mouth-pieces; and higher
still, two swords, Toledo and Damascene, bought in the countries where
they were manufactured. On brackets round the room were a few Parian
marble statuettes. On a small round table stood a large Turkish
narghile, with its long tube of green and gold coiled round it like a
glistening snake. In the recess on one side of the fire-place was a
really good library of choice standard works; in the other was a perfect
confusion of boxing-gloves, single-sticks, foils, masks, heavy clubs,
and dumb-bells, with which, as Frank said, he kept his hand in for a
quarter of an hour before breakfast. The chairs were covered with
furniture to match the hangings, but this was their only point of mutual
resemblance. They were all of different shapes; most of them being of
the sort coming under the general term of easy, while the two large ones
by the fire, in which the occupants of the room were seated, were of a
particularly comfortable and luxurious appearance. It was about these
very chairs that the young men were speaking.

“It is quite a treat to sit in them,” Prescott said.

“Yes,” Frank answered, puffing out his smoke with an air of extreme
contentment. “I flatter myself that they approach as nearly to perfect
comfort as it is possible for anything earthly to do. I do love an easy
chair. I remember when I was a child I used to be tortured, not as a
punishment, mind, but as a regular thing—tortured by having to sit on a
high-legged, straight-backed chair, with a seat no bigger than a
cheese-plate, so that you could neither lean forward nor backward. How
my unfortunate little back used to ache! I really wonder that my spine
ever grew straight. At other times, when not in that terrible little
chair, I had to sit bolt upright, and it was a penal offence to loll, as
my grandmother called it, or in any way to approach a comfortable
attitude.”

“It was nearly as bad in my case, Frank,” Prescott said. “I believe our
fathers had a vague idea that unless we sat perfectly upright, our spine
would become irretrievably crooked, whereas I really believe the reverse
to be nearer the fact. I feel certain that many a man and woman with a
curved spine and broken health has nothing but those atrocious chairs
and the miserable stiff attitudes they had to sit in as children to
thank for their misfortunes.”

“If our ancestors had but used their common sense,” Frank said, “which
with respect to the treatment of their children they never seem to have
done, they would have seen that the straightest and best formed people
in the world, the Arabs of the Desert, and I may add the North American
Indians—as they used to be, before they were improved off the face of
the earth—never sat on a chair in their lives, but always either lay at
full length, or squatted on the ground with their backs in a bow.

“Halloa!” he broke off; “there’s a single knock at the door; I wonder
who that can be, I have not ordered anything that I know of.”

So saying he got up and went to the outer door. A boy was standing
there.

“Please, sir, I want to see Mr. Maynard.”

“I am Mr. Maynard,” Frank said; “what do you want?”

“Please, sir, my name is Evan Holl.”

“Oh, is it you, Evan? Come in, it is so dark out here I did not know you
again. I am glad you have come.”

Frank led the way back again into the sitting-room, followed by Evan,
greatly abashed at the splendour of its belongings.

“Well, Evan, my lad,” Frank said, leaning against the mantel, “I suppose
your mother has told you what I said to her. Mr. Prescott here and I
were so much pleased with your pluck the other day at the Serpentine,
that I thought we should get on together capitally, for if there’s one
thing more than another I like, it is pluck. What do think of it; would
you like to come?”

“Please, sir, I should like it very much.”

“That’s right, Evan. Now you understand you are to be my man of all
work—errand-boy, footman, valet, groom, coachman, gardener, butler,
sailor, steward and cook—in fact, general factotum.”

Prescott laughed, and Evan opened his eyes in astonishment.

“Lor’ bless you, sir, I don’t know nothing about driving coaches, or
gardening, or cooking.”

“No!” Frank said in a tone of great surprise. “Of course in that case I
shall not be able to trust either my coach or my garden into your charge
at present. As to cooking, I should advise you to commence as soon as
possible; and I should recommend you to go through a course of study:
begin, say, by boiling a potato in its skin; next endeavour to reach
perfection with an egg; proceed gradually to a rasher of bacon; and
after that, master the intricacies of chops and steaks. I think that
will do for the present; my little favourite dishes I will myself
instruct you in afterwards.”

“What nonsense you do talk, Frank!” Prescott said, laughing; “the boy
does not know whether you are in earnest or not.”

Which, indeed, was the truth, for Evan was standing shifting uneasily
from one foot to the other, and twirling his cap between his hands with
a look of considerable embarrassment.

“Well, Evan,” Frank went on, “as Mr. Prescott seems to think that at
present we had better leave these matters alone, I suppose we must
postpone the cooking part of the business, as well as the driving and
gardening, and hope that it will all come in time. And now, Prescott,
about his dress; what do you say to a neat thing in green, picked out
with scarlet?”

“Nonsense, Frank! I don’t see that you want to put him in livery at
all.”

“My dear Prescott,” Frank said, plaintively, “you have no idea of the
fitness of things. You destroy all my illusions. I did think that green
picked out with scarlet would have harmonised well with the room. Do you
not agree with me, now, that a Turkish dress with a fez, and especial
instruction as to cleaning and lighting pipes and making black coffee,
would have a good effect;—a sort of Nubian slave attire, only he would
have to black his face to be in keeping? You would not mind that, Evan,
would you?”

Evan had by this time an idea that his new master was only joking, so he
answered more briskly, “I don’t know that I should mind it much, sir.”

“That is right,” Frank said, approvingly; “but I foresee a difficulty in
the matter. You see, Prescott, if he blacks his face, of course his
hands must be blacked, too, and that would be disagreeable, for it would
be sure to come off. I wonder, now, whether I could get a good receipt
anywhere. I should say that a gipsy would be a likely person to apply
to. They say, you know, that they steal children and dye them brown, and
perhaps they could do rather a darker shade if they liked. However, till
I find a gipsy the matter must stand over.”

“There, Frank, do stop talking nonsense, and let the boy go.”

“Very well, Evan, that will do for to-night. You understand, there will
not be much for you to do for the present. Keep yourself clean and tidy;
lose no time when I send you on messages; and, above all—and this I feel
sure I may trust you in from what your mother says of you—above all,
never tell me a lie; whatever may happen, tell me exactly the truth, and
I have no question that we shall get on capitally together. I will give
you a line to my tailor, and tell him to fit you out with a suit of
plain undress livery. And now, here are three sovereigns, take them to
your mother, and ask her to get you shoes and everything you may want,
and then you will start fair. I have arranged nothing about your wages,
but we shall not differ about that. There, good night, Evan; go with the
note at once to the tailor’s; I have told him to get, at any rate, some
of your things ready by the day after to-morrow, and when you have got
them come here at once. You will sleep in the little room off the
passage. I will get a bed and things for you to-morrow. Good-night.”

Evan took his leave, highly contented with his visit, and went home in
great spirits, and related to his brothers and sisters what had taken
place at the interview. The little ones were so amused at the idea of
Evan dressed up as a black boy, and having his face painted, that Mrs.
Holl had the greatest difficulty in getting them off to sleep, their
laughter bursting out afresh again and again; so that at last father
himself had to halloa at the foot of the stairs, that if they were not
quiet he should have to come up to them, a threat which they knew meant
something, whereas all mother’s scolding went for nothing.

After Evan had left, Prescott announced his intention of going up to
read, and asked Frank what he intended to do with himself.

“What time is it now?—half-past seven. Tomorrow evening I am engaged
out. I think I shall go down and see my uncle.”

Frank, in accordance with this intention, proceeded to change his coat,
Prescott waiting while he did so. He took a quantity of letters from his
pocket.

“How terribly letters do accumulate, and I am afraid that most of them
want answering. Put me in mind of it to-morrow morning, Prescott, and I
will do a regular batch of letter writing. What’s this? Ah! Stephen
Walker—by the way I promised to look him up, and see how he is after his
shaking. It is somewhere down Knightsbridge way, so I may as well do it
while I think of it. As he is a tobacconist, I will go in and get a
cigar, and if he recognises me, well and good; if not, I shall not
introduce myself. Good-bye, old man, take care of yourself. Mind, you
breakfast with me in the morning.”

Frank Maynard found the shop of Stephen Walker without much difficulty.
The solitary candle burnt on the counter, but no one was in the shop.
However, on hearing the door open, Carry came out of the back room,
where she had been sitting reading, bringing another lighted candle in
her hand. Frank, who had fully expected to see an elderly man make his
appearance, was not a little surprised at seeing such a remarkably
pretty girl come out. He asked for some tobacco, which Carry, who had
noticed at the first glance that he was not a regular customer, gave him
in silence; for, indeed, at the moment he entered, she had been engaged
in a most interesting chapter of her book, and she was longing to get
back to it again.

“Have you any good cigars?” Frank asked.

Almost mechanically she drew back the glasses from above the cigars upon
the counter. Frank glanced at them.

“No, thank you,” he said. “I mean, have you any really good ones?”

Carry looked fairly up at Frank for the first time.

“Come, now,” he urged, “I have no doubt but that you have a box of good
ones which you keep for your favoured customers.”

Carry smiled, and brought out the box which was usually reserved for
Fred Bingham’s smoking. “I believe these are good, sir.”

“Yes,” Frank said, examining them, “these look the right thing, I will
take half a dozen.”

Now Frank had entered the shop with his mind perfectly made up, that
unless he was recognised, he should go out again without saying who he
was; but Carry looked so very pretty and bright, that he thought it
would be very pleasant to sit down and have a chat with her, and to do
so there was no other way than to say who he was. So he began,—

“Mr. Walker—your father I presume—has he quite recovered from the fright
and the shock he got the other day?”

The bright eyes glanced up inquiringly at him now, and a flash of eager
colour came across her face.

“How did you know my father was hurt, sir?”

“I saw him fall,” Frank said; “indeed I was fortunately close to him at
the time, and helped him to pick himself up.”

“Did you indeed, sir?” Carry asked earnestly, “and was it you really who
saved his life?”

“I do not know that I actually saved his life,” Frank said, smiling,
“but I certainly helped him up.”

“Father! father!” Carry cried, flying into the next room and calling up
the stairs. “Come down, come down at once; here is the gentleman who
saved your life.” Then she rushed back into the shop, but this time to
the same side of the counter as that on which Frank was standing, seized
his hand in hers, and looked up into his face with those large eyes of
hers. “Oh, I am so glad you have come, I wanted so much to thank you;
so, so much. Father has told me all about it, and I know that I owe his
life to you.”

“Don’t say anything more about it,” Frank said; “I saved your father’s
life by the simple accident that I happened to be close to him when he
fell, and fortunately having my wits about me, picked him up in time.”

“It is very well for you to say so, sir,” Carry said, “but you will
never make me feel differently towards you; you saved father’s life at
the risk of your own, and how can I ever thank you enough?” And Carry
looked up so gratefully and earnestly, that Frank did as most other
young fellows would have done in his place, bent down and kissed the
bright face lifted up to his. Carry returned the kiss as an impulsive
child might have done; it was the saviour of her father’s life that she
thanked, not a good-looking young man, and flushed and excited as she
was, the colour hardly deepened upon her cheek.

“There, we are quits now,” Frank said, “so the burden is off your mind.”

At this moment Stephen Walker entered. He was evidently even more
nervous and embarrassed than usual.

“Oh, sir,” he began, when Frank interrupted,—

“Pray say no more about it, Mr. Walker. I was lucky enough to be close
to you, and did what any one else would have done under the
circumstances. Your daughter has already thanked me most amply for you
both,” and he glanced for a moment at Carry, who this time coloured up
hotly; “so please let us say no more about it,” and he shook Stephen
Walker warmly by the hand. As he did so, Stephen Walker, by a great
effort, overcame his habitual nervousness, and said, quietly,

“My life, sir, is of no great value to myself or to any one else except
to my daughter here, but for her sake I thank you very much for saving
it. And now, sir, it is very long since any gentleman has honoured my
roof with his presence, but if you will come in for half an hour, and
smoke a cigar, I shall take it as a favour.”

Frank willingly accepted the invitation, and rather surprised at the
manner in which it was given, went into the little parlour, Stephen
Walker pausing for a moment to speak a word or two to his daughter. He
then produced his best cigars, lit one himself instead of his usual
pipe, and when Carry came in with two bottles of spirits, she was
surprised to find her father and his guest talking together like old
acquaintances.

Stephen Walker seemed for once to have laid aside that nervous timidity
which had cost him so much during his life, and which had become almost
a part of his nature; he chatted with Frank quietly and cheerfully, as
one gentleman with another. The conversation turned upon travels, and
Frank found to his astonishment that there was hardly a place he had
visited in Europe that his host did not know as well as he did himself.
As for Carry, she could hardly believe her senses. Was this her dear,
nervous old father? She had heard him say incidentally that he had
travelled when he was a young man, but she had had no idea of the extent
of his journeyings. As the conversation went on, her blue eyes opened
wider and wider, and at last she was so convinced that she must be
dreaming, that she ran the needle, with which she was pretending to
work, into her finger, to assure herself that she was awake. Frank
remained for about an hour in conversation with Stephen Walker, and then
took his leave, promising that he would call again. With Carry he had
hardly exchanged a word after his first entrance; indeed he had been so
much interested in his conversation with her father that he had quite
forgotten the motive he had in first declaring himself. As for Carry,
she was far too much surprised at her father’s change of manner, to
think of speaking at all. After Frank had gone, Stephen Walker went back
into the little parlour, while Carry locked the door and closed the shop
for the night. When she had done this, she went into the other room, and
found her father sitting in his chair with his head bent down, and his
empty pipe, which he had mechanically taken down, lying across his
knees. Carry paused a little, and then seeing that he did not raise his
head, she went up to him, laid her hand upon his shoulder, and said,
“Who is this person? Have I been dreaming, or has this been my old
father who has been talking here for the last hour?”

For more than a minute her father did not answer. His fingers played
nervously, with his pipe; then he looked up and said, hurriedly,—

“No, Carry, no. It was not your old father who was speaking then. Not
his real self, but quite another being. It was one who might have been
me, but not myself as I am. No, no, child, don’t think it, don’t think
it.” And he moved his hands nervously, as if to wipe away the thought.

“Don’t think what? pappy dear,” she said, coming closer to him and
putting one arm round his neck, while with her other she stroked his
thin grey hair. “I only am thinking what a bad naughty pappy it has
been, when it could talk like that, and knew all these things, never to
let poor little me know anything about it. To think that all these years
this bad thing should have hidden what it really was, and let me have my
own way, and be mistress, and scold it and talk to it as if it were a
child, when it was all the time so clever and wise. Naughty, naughty
pappy.” Carry talked playfully, but it was evident that she was very
much in earnest, for the tears stood in her eyes.

“No, no, Carry, whatever you do, do not think that I was ever as I was
to-night; do not think that the one you have always known is a pretence,
and that this one was the real thing. I was never like that. Do not
think that misfortune,—you know I was better off once—has so changed me
that I have become what I am from that. I never was so, dear; I might
have been so, but I never was. Had I always been as you just saw me we
should not be here as we are now, and all would have been quite
different; but that other nature went away when I was quite little,
scared by harsh treatment, and never came back again except for a little
little time till to-night. Why it did come back to-night I cannot say,
only to raise doubts between my child and me,” and Stephen Walker wrung
his hands in feeble despair.

“No, no, father dear,” Carry said, throwing her arms round his neck and
kissing him, “not doubts. I was very pleased and proud, but very
surprised too, to hear my old pappy talk like that, and a little ashamed
when I thought how much I had underrated you. Not that I should have
loved you more, had you been the cleverest man in the world, not one bit
more; but I should have looked up to you more, and felt somehow
differently towards you.”

“That is just it,” Stephen Walker said, helplessly; “she would have felt
differently. She is not going to be my little Carry any more. That other
one has come in between us, and frightened her away.”

“No, no, pappy,” Carry said coaxingly, and seating herself upon his
knees, “this is your little Carry, is it not? There, look up, and don’t
hang your naughty head down. Is not this little Carry? Come, speak, sir,
or I shall scold you dreadfully.”

“Yes, yes, my darling,” the old man said, “you are my own little Carry.
And now listen, dear, and I will tell you in a few words the story of my
life. My father was a tradesman well to do, but he was a stern man, and
took a mistaken view of his religious duties. I was a poor weakly
delicate child; at school I was beaten and worried; at home lectured and
preached at; my life was a misery and a burden; and even at that young
age, all hope of my ever being what I otherwise might have been, had I
been differently brought up, was lost. After some years I became my own
master, but it was too late then, my child; too late. For awhile I
travelled, as you have heard this evening. Then I married; things went
badly with me. I am, as you know, from my nervous timidity, a poor hand
at business. So I lost, as might have been expected, what little I had;
and here I am a poor, but, I thank God, a far happier and more contented
man than I had ever hoped or deserved to be. Happy in having enough to
live upon without anxiety, and in having my own little Carry to love and
pet. And now, Carry, light my pipe, and try and forget what has taken
place to-night.”

Carry never spoke of it again, but she did think of it a good deal. Only
to think that if that dear old father of hers had not lost his money,
she should have been rich, and perhaps riding in a carriage instead of
selling periodicals and cigars behind a counter. Her father had
certainly spoken of losing what little he had, but that could only have
been his way of talking; for did he not travel about everywhere, and did
it not cost a good deal of money to travel; and was it not only rich
people who travelled about in that way? Oh! he must have been rich; and
how nice it would have been to be rich, and to do what one liked, and to
buy beautiful dresses and things, instead of merely looking at them in
the shop windows. And Carry pictured herself in all sorts of pretty
dresses, and tasty little bonnets, and thought she should certainly look
very nice. Then she sighed a little, and wondered whether she should
ever be rich. Who could say? The gentlemen who came to the shop all paid
her compliments, and some of them were real gentlemen, not mere clerks;
and Carry resolved in her mind to be rather more distant in her manner
to these last than had been her custom. Besides all this, she thought a
good deal of Frank Maynard, so brave and strong and good-looking, but
very impertinent—not, perhaps, that she liked him any the worse in her
heart for that, girls seldom do—and to think of her kissing him, too.
How could she have done such a thing? He must think her very bold and
forward; and even when alone, Carry coloured up at the thought, as she
had not done at the time when, in the fulness of her gratitude, she had
kissed Frank Maynard.

That gentleman, after leaving the shop, had gone straight to Lowndes
Square, where he found only his uncle at home, Alice having gone out,
under the chaperonage of a neighbour, to a ball.

“Well, Frank, where do you come from? You do not often drop in so late
as this.”

“No, uncle; but I have just been making a call.”

“Making a call, Frank? You have chosen rather a curious hour for
visiting. Who is your friend?”

“Stephen Walker, uncle.”

“Stephen Walker!” Captain Bradshaw said, in a puzzled tone. “I seem to
remember the name, but damme if I can recollect who it is.”

“It is the man I picked up at the crossing last week, uncle Harry.”

“Ah, yes, I remember now,” Captain Bradshaw said, laughing; “periodicals
punctually supplied. And how long did your visit last, Frank?”

“Better than an hour, uncle. I went into his room and smoked a pipe with
him.”

“Oh, indeed. And has the excellent newsman any family, Frank?”

“He has one daughter, and she is without exception one of the very
prettiest girls I ever saw.”

“Oh, indeed,” Captain Bradshaw said, drily; “that accounts for the
length of your visit. I suppose she was very grateful to the preserver
of her father’s life, and that sort of thing? I should not be surprised
now if she threw herself into your arms and kissed you—eh, Frank?”

“Well, uncle,” Frank said, laughing, “I shall think you are a conjurer,
for I confess that I did kiss her.”

“Just what I guessed,” Captain Bradshaw said, even more drily. “And the
father, Frank? I suppose he is a very superior sort of man?”

“Very much so, uncle; I can assure you, although you are laughing at me,
he is quite a gentleman; has travelled all over Europe, and has
evidently mixed in good society there.”

“Look here, Frank” Captain Bradshaw said, very gravely; “this is exactly
the sort of thing which is sure to end badly. Here we have all the
elements: father a decayed gentleman; daughter a lovely and accomplished
girl, gushing over with gratitude to the preserver of her father’s life.
I should advise you very seriously not to go there again. I have known
these sort of things over and over again, scores of times, and they end
in nine cases out of ten in a man’s making either a fool or a rascal of
himself.”

“But, uncle,” Frank broke out hotly——

“Pooh, pooh! Frank, don’t tell me,” the captain said. “Damme, sir, do
you think I have not heard it over and over again? Of course you have
only been there once; you have found a pretty, grateful girl, and you
have given her a kiss, as was only right and natural that you should do
under the circumstances. There is no harm in these first meetings—there
never is. A man seldom goes into these things with his eyes open—very
few men are scoundrels enough deliberately to plan these things—but he
calls again and again. He still finds her very pretty, and her gratitude
gradually grows into a warmer feeling; he has kissed her once, and of
course it would be absurd for her to make any objection when he does it
the second time; and so these things go on, until the man, as I have
said, either makes a fool of himself, and marries her, or makes a rascal
of himself, and does worse. I know, Frank, that such an idea is at
present as far from your head as it is from mine; but as a man of the
world, I ask you, ask yourself, if you were to go there often—sometimes,
of course, finding her father away, and having a half hour’s chat with
her all to yourself—would you not end by feeling that you had very much
better have left the matter alone? Honestly, now?”

“Well, uncle, honestly, now you put it in that light, very likely I
should. But I think you know me well enough to feel——”

“Quite so, Frank,” the captain said, taking his hand; “quite so. I
believe you to be an honourable, upright young fellow. I believe you to
be more free than young men in general from this sort of thing, but for
that very reason more likely to make a fool of yourself. Now you have my
opinion of the affair. If you are wise you will take my advice, and not
go there again.”

As Frank Maynard walked home that night, thinking over what had
happened, he took his cigar from his mouth, and said to himself, “By
Jove, uncle is right; she is a wonderfully pretty winning little thing;
and if I were to go there often, and find, as he says, her father out, I
should be very likely to get spoony, and make in the end, as he
prophesies, either a fool or a rascal of myself; so I will take his
advice, and go there no more. Prevention is better than cure.”



                               CHAPTER X.
                       PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL.


Mr. Barton is at breakfast in his snug little house down Brompton way.
Mr. Barton enjoys his breakfast, and eats largely. Mrs. Barton does the
same. It may be here observed that Mr. Barton enjoys all his meals, and
that Mrs. Barton in this particular strictly follows his example. And
yet there was nothing in Mr. Barton’s appearance to lead an observer to
believe that he cared particularly for his meals or was a great eater.
He was a large boned, ungainly, awkward man, with long ill-shaped limbs;
he carried himself stiff and upright, and moved his head as if his gaunt
long neck were encased in a stiff military stock. His hair had been
black and bristly, but it was now thin and grey; his cheeks were closely
shaved, and his face was hard and passionless. Altogether, Mr. Barton’s
appearance was not prepossessing. He was a man whose age it would have
been next to impossible to guess, but he really was about fifty-five.
Mr. Barton was a Scotchman. He had come up to London young, and had,
through the interest of some relations, obtained a situation in the
Detective Police, at that time known as the Bow Street Runners; and a
sharp, active, intelligent detective he turned out. The stiffness, which
he had now so long put on that it had become a second nature to him, was
originally assumed when engaged in London upon ordinary duties, in order
to render detection the more difficult when he was in disguise. Although
somewhat heavy and uncouth in appearance, he was a young man active and
lissome, and, as he had shown on several occasions when he had been
found out, and had been obliged to fight for his life, was possessed of
great strength as well as activity. But situations like these were not
Mr. Barton’s forte; he could, if necessary, fight desperately for his
life, but he was by no means fond of putting himself into positions
where such an eventuality was probable. The authorities at Bow Street
were well aware of this weakness, and generally selected him in
researches in which shrewdness and patience were required rather than
courage. In these they knew he was to be thoroughly relied upon, and
would hunt down his game with the unerring sagacity of a hound. Even
here he failed sometimes, losing his clue unaccountably, and that just
at a time when success seemed certain. The authorities happened upon one
of these occasions to obtain proofs that it was not his sagacity but his
honesty which had been at fault, and that a heavy purse had proved
sufficient to render his eyesight temporarily defective. Thereupon Mr.
Barton was dismissed the force in disgrace. This was fifteen years back;
soon after that time he had married.

Mrs. Barton’s figure was in the strongest possible contrast to that of
her husband. She was a large woman and enormously stout. Mrs. Barton was
a Jewess, the widow of a Hebrew clothier in Houndsditch, who had left
her a small fortune. She had been very handsome when young, but not the
slightest trace of her good looks remained in her fat, coarse face. She
was nearly as old as her husband, but there was not a white hair in the
black bands on her low square forehead. What had induced Mrs. Barton to
marry her present husband was a riddle which none of her friends could
solve. It seemed, however, that he had been employed in some enquiry in
which her late husband was interested, and she was a woman who could
keenly appreciate the shrewdness and energy of the rather uncouth
Scotchman. At any rate, when the days of mourning had expired, the widow
signified her willingness to lay aside her weeds in his favour. As
Robert Barton had just left the force, and was looking out for a fresh
opening, he gladly accepted her offer, although even at that time, at
five-and-thirty, the widow was, to say the least, large, and her good
looks had completely flown. Indeed, he hesitated not a moment. He had
saved up some money, and with that and the widow’s fortune and
connection, he thought he saw his way very clearly before him. It is
true that her friends were extremely angry with her for marrying a
Christian; she became as it were excommunicate, and cut off from all
participation in the service of the synagogue. This feeling, however, in
no way interfered with their willingness to work with her in business,
and as she had been a popular woman among her class during the lifetime
of her first husband, her connections, with the exception of a few of
the strictest set, soon forgave her her marriage out of the pale. A few
weeks after his marriage Mr. Barton opened an office in the City, which
he entitled “Barton’s Private Research and Detection Office.” In a very
short time he began to do a good business, and once or twice made
especially happy hits—succeeding in tracing stolen property, and in
ferreting out an absconding clerk—when the regular detective force had
given up the task in despair. After this his success was a certainty,
and it was soon apparent that he had means of obtaining information
altogether beyond the ordinary police sources of intelligence. Here it
was that Mrs. Barton’s connection came into play. The whole of the
agents he employed belonged to her persuasion, and so numerous and
active were they, that scarce an attempt was made to pass a stolen note
without Barton being informed of it. Even on the Continent, at Hamburg
and other places where Jews congregate, he had numerous correspondents;
and as most of the stolen property was likely, sooner or later, to find
its way there, the information with which he was furnished enabled him
frequently to make the most surprising captures in England. It must not
be supposed that these men betrayed themselves or each other, or that
they restored stolen property which they had purchased. They simply let
him know that they had become possessors of it, and gave him such clues
as would enable him to trace the thief. Besides this they arranged
through him the terms for restoration of bills, and various other
securities, and even for the recovery of bank-notes. There were, indeed,
occasional murmurs heard against him. It seemed, men said, that although
Barton was certain to bring the guilt home to the smaller class of
delinquents, pilfering shop-boys, forgers for small amounts, or
defaulting collectors, yet in cases of great importance, where perhaps
the absconding clerk had made off with very large amounts, his zeal in
following upon the scent, though apparently very great, was rewarded
with singular ill-success.

Robert Barton’s business was not confined to the discovery of frauds;
many of his researches were of a far more complex and delicate nature.
Wives who sought missing husbands; broken-hearted fathers, missing
daughters; claimants to property, who set him to work to find the lost
link in their chain of evidence; husbands and wives who sought proofs of
each other’s infidelity:—all came to Mr. Barton, and on the whole they
were well satisfied with him. In these researches he seldom took any
active part, contenting himself with sitting in the office, holding the
threads of all the nets which his active subordinates were spreading
round their victims. Occasionally, however, when the fit took him, or
the affair was too important to be trusted to any hands but his own, he
would put on a disguise, lay aside his stiff carriage, and transforming
himself so completely that no one would recognise him, sally out upon
his search.

“What have you got to-day, Barton—anything important?”

Robert Barton took out his pocket-book and examined the entries.

“Marriage certificate between John Rogers and Mary Hare, somewhere about
1792, probably in London. That’s a mere matter of sending circulars to
all the parish clerks, offering a reward.—Register of baptism of William
Pollard, 1822. Liverpool or Manchester.—Trace and recover notes and
bills in Borough Bank robbery. That, of course, I cannot move in at
present. It is a large sum, and I have no doubt, from the lot I believe
are in it, that the notes will go over to Hamburg. I must write to Levy
there to get hold of them and hold them for a time, and then I must find
out how much they will give for them.—John Bell, cashier, Latham and
Prodgers’, defaulter; determined to punish; offer £400. I shall soon lay
him by the legs.—Evidence against Mr. Halfall, Bristol. That is rather a
delicate matter. I must send Isaacs down, he is just the man for that;
the fellow is so good-looking, he gets round the servant girls in no
time. It is just nine, I must be off.”

“Mind, Barton, don’t forget sharp six is the dinner-hour; you were ten
minutes late yesterday, and the joint was overdone.”

In a few minutes Mr. Barton was on the roof of his ‘bus on his way to
the city. As he went along he sat grave and immoveable, scrutinizing the
passers-by, as if he considered they all possessed secrets he might be
some day called upon to investigate.

Mr. Barton’s office was in one of the narrow streets leading off
Cheapside, and consisted of two rooms on the first floor, the one a
general waiting-room, the other his private office. In the former two
lads were at work at a desk, copying from the “Gazette” the bankrupt and
insolvent list.

“Has any one been here?”

“One gentleman, sir; he left his card.”

Mr. Barton looked at it. “Did he say he would call again?”

“He left word would you go round directly you came in.”

The card was that of the manager of a large banking firm.

“Ask any one who calls to wait, I shall not be gone many minutes,” and
Mr. Barton took his way to the Bank.

On his sending in his name, he was at once shown into the manager’s
room. The manager, an elderly man with spectacles, was evidently at the
present time considerably ruffled and put out.

“Take a seat, Mr. Barton. A very unpleasant business has taken place,
very much so, indeed. One of our clerks has made away with a great deal
of money; we do not yet know the particulars; we only found it out
yesterday afternoon. We sent for one of the books which he kept, as we
wished to compare it with another; on doing so we discovered some
extraordinary discrepancies; we sent down to him, but he was gone—had
left immediately the book was taken up to us. We sent up to his house,
but of course he had been in and gone out again. We put the police on
his scent last night, but as I was coming up to town this morning, I
remembered that you knew his face, as he was several times at your
office about that case of forgery you followed up for us; his name was
Symes—David Symes.”

“I remember, sir, a fair young man.”

“Just so; we shall offer two hundred pounds reward for his capture.”

“Very well, sir,” Mr. Barton said, “I will lose no time. I will
telegraph down to my agents in Liverpool and Southampton. The police are
sure to watch Dover and Folkestone, and I will myself see about the
London shipping. If he is still in the country, depend upon it we shall
catch him, sir.”

“Reuben,” Mr. Barton said to one of the lads in his office, upon his
return, “go at once and see Jonah Moss and Levi, and tell them to go to
all the slop shops in Houndsditch and eastward, and find out if a young
man of about thirty, fair, with bluish eyes, and very little whisker,
looking like a gentleman, bought any sea clothes down there last night.
If so, bring me a description.”

“You need not trouble yourself, Mr. Barton,” a man said, coming into the
office. “Perhaps I can give you the information you want.”

Mr. Barton looked at him steadily, then opened the door leading into the
inner office, motioned to the man to enter, followed him in, and closed
the door carefully after him. He then took another steady observation of
his visitor. He was dressed as a sailor, with a few little bits of
finery, a chain and rings, such as foreign sailors affect. He was
swarthy and dark, with black hair falling in little curls. He was the
beau ideal of a sailor from the shores of the Mediterranean.

“A very good get-up, Mr. Symes,” Mr. Barton said quietly, “really very
creditable; pass muster very well in the street, but would hardly
deceive anyone on the watch for you. Don’t you think it is just the
least bit rash for you to come here?”

“Rash! not a bit of it,” the man laughed; “the very best thing I could
do.”

“I suppose you know I have just come from the Bank.”

“Quite so, Mr. Barton, I was watching for you. I felt sure they would
put you after me, so I waited till you had been there and got
instructions, and then I thought I would come in and hear all about it.”

“You are a cool hand, certainly,” Mr. Barton said, in a tone of
admiration.

“Well, you see I have been for some time looking things in the face and
making my calculations. I knew, of course, that it must come out, sooner
or later, and I think I have made myself pretty well master of
everything which could bear upon my chances. As I felt sure they would
put you on me I inquired all about your way of doing business.”

“And what was the result of your investigation?” Mr. Barton asked,
rather grimly.

“Why, you see,” the man said, carelessly, “here I am. And now to
business. How much have they offered you?—a hundred pounds?”

“Two hundred,” Mr. Barton said.

“I am sure I feel it a compliment. Two hundred pounds! Well, now look
here. I have taken a big sum altogether, but it has been over a long
time, and has gone pretty nearly as fast as I got it. My luck on the
turf has been really a caution. So I don’t get off with much in the end,
only a few hundred pounds, but I tell you what, I will give you five
hundred pounds to let me go.”

Mr. Barton hesitated, and sat thoughtfully for nearly a minute, and then
he said, “The three hundred you offer me more than they do is not
sufficient to cover the risk.”

“Nonsense, man, there is no risk in the matter, as you know as well as I
do.”

“But suppose, Mr. Symes, that the police catch you, how then?”

“Ah! but the police must not catch me. It’s precisely for that that you
are going to take the extra three hundred. It will be your part of the
business to throw them off the scent, you will find that an easy job
enough.”

“How am I to be paid? that is, supposing I agree to this?”

“I will tell you. I have five hundred and fifty pounds standing as a
deposit in the Joint Stock Bank, in the name of Rogers; here is the
pass-book. When I paid it in, a year ago, I said that I should probably
draw it out in a lump for investment. I have written a letter here to
the manager, saying that I have given a cheque for five hundred—at least
I have left the figures blank at present, and that I shall be obliged if
he will fill up and return my pass-book, and let me know the amount
remaining to my credit. So that he will be prepared for the cheque when
it is presented. In what name shall I fill it in?”

Mr. Barton thought for a minute, and then said, “John Halfourd; he is a
lawyer, it will be better through him, we do business together.”

David Symes filled up the cheque.

“I have dated it the day after to-morrow,” he said. “I sail to-morrow in
the ‘Louisa,’ for America. She warps out of the docks this evening. Put
the police on the track of the Australian ships. I depend on you to do
this. If I am taken, I shall, of course, stop the payment of the cheque.
Good-morning, Mr. Barton.”

“Good-morning, Mr. Symes, a pleasant voyage.”

And the ex-clerk went down the street, whistling gaily.

“That is a monstrous clever fellow,” Mr. Barton said, admiringly; “cool
as a cucumber. It is as well, before I do anything else, to see if this
money really is at the Bank. There, Reuben, run round with this
pass-book to the Joint Stock, and ask them to be good enough to see if
it is all right, and then bring it back here. Don’t say who you come
from, but do it in a regular way of business.”

While the boy was gone, Mr. Barton sat thinking deeply, till he returned
with the message that the book was correct with the exception of the
interest, which could not be added unless the book was left.

“Is Aaron Solomons here, the man who came from Liverpool yesterday?”

“Yes, sir, he is in the outer office. And am I to see about what you
told us before, about the buying the outfit?”

“No, Reuben, that matter is arranged. Tell Solomons to come in here.”

The man entered. He was a well-made, good looking fellow.

“Solomons, when are you thinking of going back to Liverpool?”

“To-night, Mr. Barton.”

“You have never been much in London before, have you?”

“No, sir, I only came up for a week at the time——”

“Yes, Solomons, at the time you assisted at that little affair at the
goldsmith’s—there, don’t look nervous, man. I have kept your secret as
long as this, and you may rely upon it, that as long as you remain
faithful to my interests, I shall continue to do so. Then you are sure
that the police don’t know you?”

“Quite sure.”

“Very well, then I will tell you what I want. Get yourself up as a
gentleman; have you clothes?” The man nodded, and Mr. Barton went on.
“Put on moustaches if you like; don’t put on any jewellery about you,
but look plain and straightforward. Drive in a Hansom to Clinton’s Bank,
and ask to see the manager. Introduce yourself as Mr. Herbert Parker, of
25, Sloane Street, Knightsbridge. The house is really empty at present,
but I have got the name put into the red books; it is useful having a
name or two which no one else can claim. Say to the manager that you
have been intimate for some years with David Symes, a clerk in their
Bank, and that some time since he borrowed a hundred pounds of you;
mention that you called at his house this morning, and found him gone,
and the place in confusion, and that you heard a rumour that he had
absconded.”

The man had been taking notes as Mr. Barton went on. He asked now, “What
was Symes’s address?—you have not told me.”

“123, Brompton Square. Say you came down to the Bank at once, to inquire
if anything was really wrong with Symes; mention that you have heard him
say that he intended to go out some day to his friends in Australia. Do
you quite understand all that, Solomons?”

“Quite,” the man said, repeating from his notes the instructions he had
received. “After that?”

“After that, the manager is pretty certain to ask you if you would be so
good as to go round to the police-station, and tell them what you think
are the reasons why Symes will make for Australia. Get him to give you
his card, and then go to the police-station, and tell them you have been
to the Bank, and, at the manager’s request, came round to give them the
information.”

“Is that all, Mr. Barton?”

“Yes, I think so, Solomons, except that you had best go off by the first
train after you leave the police-station. Here are fifteen pounds for
your trouble.”

The man hesitated a little. “One question, Mr. Barton. Does the man
Symes really go to Australia?—I suppose you are working to get him
away?”

“Why do you ask, Solomons?”

“I ask because, if he is not going to Australia, I do not think you have
hit on the safest plan.”

“No, Solomons?—what is your idea? I know you are a sharp fellow, let me
hear it, man.”

“Well, Mr. Barton, I should think that in any case the police are safe
to have a strong suspicion that it is a plant. Now, if I just get up a
little bit flashy—not too strong, you know—they will suspect it still
more, and they will be sure to send down to Sloane Street, and find out
that No. 25 is empty, and Mr. Herbert Parker is unknown. Now, where does
Symes sail for—America?” Mr. Barton nodded. “Very well, if I go and tell
the same story, only putting in America for Australia, they will be safe
to think that it is a plant, and that I have been sent down to put them
on to the American ship while he gets off in an Australian.”

“Very good, indeed, Solomons; very good. I shall double what I promised
you, and make it thirty pounds, and if you are inclined in a month or so
to come up here from Liverpool, I will promise you a good berth. But it
is time for you to be at work. Remember, you are very likely to be
closely watched when you leave the police-station, so take a four-wheel
cab, and leave your bag in it, and change your things as you go to the
station. Don’t take the cab all the way, but pay him beforehand, and
tell him to stop whenever you get into a lock, so that you can slip out
and join in the crowd without being noticed; then take another cab to
the station, and take your ticket only as far as Crewe: get out there,
and go on by the next train.”

Events turned out as Solomons had predicted. The police had been all day
closely watching the ship “Louisa,” which, with several others, was
lying in the stream ready for a start in the morning; but in the evening
word came down that from information obtained during the day, there was
no doubt that David Symes was not going to America, as had been
supposed, but to Australia or some other part. Consequently, the sharp
watch which had been kept up over the “Louisa” all day was relaxed, and
the vigilance of the police was directed to the other vessels preparing
for a start. The foreign sailor, therefore, who was going out as a
passenger in her to New York to take command of a French vessel lying
there, passed under their eyes almost unheeded, and by eight o’clock
next morning, the “Louisa,” with all sail set, and a strong ebb tide
underneath her, was running past Woolwich, to stop no more till she
furled her sails in New York harbour.

Mr. Barton was very busy all day, sitting like a spider in his den, and
throwing his threads skilfully abroad to entangle the human flies;
which, some buzzing gaily in the sunshine unsuspicious of danger, some
hiding in nooks and corners, were yet equally sure, sooner or later, to
be caught in the meshes.

At a quarter to five Mr. Barton left his office and took his way
homeward, in great content at the day’s proceedings.

“Rachel,” he said to his wife, on entering, “we will have a bottle of
that old crusted port to-day.”

“That means you have done a good day’s work, Robert?”

“Yes, indeed; the best I have done this many a month. Five hundred
pounds clear.”

“That is good indeed, Robert. What was it—a cross, I suppose?”

“Just so, Rachel. One very seldom makes five hundred in a day’s work by
working on the square.” And Mr. Barton told his wife with great glee the
day’s incidents. “Four more years, Rachel, and we shall give it up. By
the way, that puts me in mind of something,” and he consulted his
pocket-book. “It is rather more than six months since I called to see
that boy. I will go in there to-morrow night.”

“I suppose, Barton, you cannot do anything with him till he gets of
age?”

“Nothing, Rachel; there are only four more years to wait now. That
pulled off, we shall be able to retire comfortably.”

“We should not do badly if we gave it up now.”

“By no means, Rachel; but as he will be worth to us at least ten
thousand pounds, it will pay very well to go on another four years. Of
course I shall make my bargain with him, and get a deed drawn up and
signed, before I tell him who he is, and I am sure he would give his
ears to be a gentleman.”

“It was certainly a good idea of yours, Robert, and does you great
credit. Suppose, in honour of the occasion, we have two bottles of that
old port, instead of one.”



                              CHAPTER XI.
                       AN EVENING AT THE HOLLS’.


It is evening at the Holls’. The children are in bed, the place is, as
Mrs. Holl says, “tidied up,” and John is smoking his pipe with several
visitors who have dropped in. There is policeman A 56, and Perkins;
William Holl, and his wife too, have come over, for this does not happen
to be one of his nights at the meeting. Lastly, there is Mr. Barton.
That person, however, was certainly a less welcome guest than the
others, for John Holl did not like the man; why he could hardly say, but
he knew he did not, and was at no particular pains to conceal his
aversion. Mr. Barton never seemed to notice John’s rebuffs, but
periodically, perhaps once in six months, would come in and smoke a pipe
with him. John Holl had very often asked his wife, on whose good sense
he much relied, What that chap Barton meant by coming to see them? He
seemed comfortably off, and why he should come in twice a year to smoke
a pipe was a thing he could not understand. But for once, Sarah was
quite unable to enlighten her husband. The matter had fairly puzzled
both John and his wife. Many years had passed since John Holl first made
Mr. Barton’s acquaintance. It happened thus: John had no children then,
and was much younger and not quite so steady as he had since become.
John’s temptations, too, were many; for in the discharge of his
occupation as dustman, he had sundry mugs of beer offered to him in the
course of the day. So it chanced that one particularly warm summer
afternoon, being oppressed by the heat, John accepted several of these
offerings, and had felt his thirst noways abated thereby. After his work
was done, therefore, he went into a public-house, to endeavour still
further to wash the dust from his throat. Here, somehow or other—he
never could exactly recall the cause—he became involved in a fierce
dispute with a man who was also engaged in quenching a devouring thirst.
To settle this difference of opinion, they adjourned into the back-yard.
The end of this was, that John Holl, who had drunk more than his
opponent, got considerably the worst of it. The first thing he
remembered afterwards was, that he was sitting on the ground, supported
by Mr. Barton. This good Samaritan had entered the public-house just
after John himself, had espoused his side in the argument with great
zeal, and now sprinkled water in his face, and endeavoured to pour
brandy down his throat. When he had partially recovered, Mr. Barton, in
the kindest manner sent for a cab, drove John to his house, and there
delivered him over to the tender care and pity, mingled with
upbraidings, of his wife. After this he came in several times to see how
John was getting on, but, when he had as it were got a footing in the
house, his visits gradually became less frequent, and at last months
passed by without their seeing him. Then, greatly to their astonishment,
he had dropped in again; and from that time, every six months or so, Mr.
Barton would pay them a visit; greet John and Sarah as if he had seen
them only the day before; reach a long pipe down from the mantelpiece,
seat himself in his usual place next to James, and begin to smoke
tranquilly. Husband and wife had often wondered and discussed much what
could be his possible motive in thus, for seventeen years, continuing
his periodical visits. They did not like the man; still they had no
reason for telling him so, more especially as he tried to make his
visits as acceptable as possible, never failing to produce a small
bottle of spirits, remarking—with an immovable face, which it was
impossible to question—that he had in his pocket by accident, and to
insist that it should be drunk then and there. For the children, too, he
always brought a bag of cakes or lollipops, so that to them his visits
were noteworthy affairs. Indeed they served Mrs. Holl as a species of
calendar, and she reckoned the date of all her household events for
years past by them. Baby had been born about a month before Barton’s
fourth visit back. James had the measles just about the time of his
sixth visit, and so on; and, indeed, Sarah would sometimes greatly
mystify her neighbours by this method of reckoning. It was not till many
years after the commencement of this disjointed intimacy that John Holl
had found out who his visitor really was. He had always supposed him to
be something in the city—for Barton occasionally mentioned his
office—but he did not even know in what part of London he lived, and put
him down as being a close man, not given to talking about his affairs.
Four years ago, he had made the discovery in this wise. A 56 happened to
be spending his evening with John when Mr. Barton had come in. A 56 had
said rather respectfully, “Good evening, Mr. Barton,” and Mr. Barton had
looked for a moment decidedly taken aback, but recovering himself had
said, “We are both off duty together to-night, Brown;” Brown being the
name by which A 56 was known in private life. After this Mr. Barton had
sat smoking and talking for a time as usual, and when he was gone, A 56
told them that Mr. Barton was a sort of private detective, at which John
and Sarah had been astonished, and indignant.

“What,” John said, “a detective! and what does he mean by coming spying
here? I hain’t nothing to be ashamed of, Mr. Brown; he may spy as much
as he likes in my house, but he won’t find nothing but what is honestly
paid for. I ain’t no thief, Mr. Brown. If I find anything in the
bins—and many a silver spoon and fork, and all sorts have I found there
in my time—when I finds them I gives them up. Why, Lor, what good would
it be if I didn’t? Sairey would not so much as look at them. Next time
Mr. Barton comes here he’ll see what he’ll get for his peeping and
spying. Just to think of it, Sairey, to think that while I thought
everyone knew John Holl was an honest man, that all this time I have had
a policeman—no offence, Mr. Brown—but a private policeman a spying into
my doings.”

“I don’t think—do you know, John,” A 56 said, after smoking meditatively
for some time, “I don’t think you need trouble yourself about Barton’s
suspicions of your honesty. If there had been any great robbery of
plate, and they could not make out how the stuff had gone, and you had
taken away the dust, say early in the morning, I don’t know that they
might not suspect you, and keep you under their eye; but Lor bless you,
it would not have lasted more than a few weeks at most. It ain’t nothing
of that sort, you may take your solemn Davey. It is a rum start surely.
I have often heard you talk about a Mr. Barton, who came in twice a
year, but it never entered my head as how it were Barton the private
detective.”

“Well, but what does he come here for, Mr. Brown? Just tell me that,”
John Holl said, bringing his heavy hand down upon the table. “I’ll find
out next time he comes, or my name’s not John Holl. I will punch his
head for him, Mr. Brown, detective or no detective; there’s no law
against that I expect, if he comes into my house without even saying by
your leave.”

A 56 smoked thoughtfully, not paying much attention to what John Holl
said; then he remarked, “It is certainly strange, John. Barton is a deep
one, there’s no doubt of that, and not a bit the sort of chap to waste a
minute of his time without some good reason for it, but I can’t see what
his game is here.”

“What was this Mr. Barton?” Mr. Holl asked.

“He was a Bow Street runner,” A 56 said, “but he was turned out of the
force some twelve years back. He calls himself a private detective now,
and does all sorts of things in that way. They say he is as sharp as a
needle. He’s got to the bottom of several jobs which have beaten our
people, but I have heard, though I should not say so to every one, that
he plays double sometime. But there, that mayn’t be true, and you see
our people are rather jealous of him.”

“That’s right enough, Mr. Brown, but still I can’t see what he has been
spying about here so long for—twelve years—no, more—nigh upon thirteen,
it were just about the time when James and his poor mother came here.”

“Was it though?” the policeman said; “then you may take my word for it,
John, he comes to keep his eye on the boy. I’d bet a gallon to a pint he
knows who the boy is, and is paid by his friends to let him know if he’s
alive, and how he is getting on; yes, you may depend upon it, that’s
about the mark.”

John Holl and his wife looked at each other in astonishment. Sarah was
the first to speak.

“That’s it, John, sure enough. Like enough he’ll turn out some rich
man’s son, and get all his money yet.”

“I would not think that, Mrs. Holl; no, not if I was you,” policeman
Brown said; “I should say his chance now is worse than it was before.
Then some day, I don’t say it was likely, still there it was, it might
have been found out by some accident who he was, but now it seems as if
they must know where he is, and all about him, but don’t want to
acknowledge or do anything for him.”

“Then they’re a bad, unnatural lot, whoever they are,” Mrs. Holl said,
indignantly, “and the poor lad a cripple too. But any ways, John, if he
comes to look after James, we must speak him fair, for who knows,
perhaps some day when they are dying they may be sorry for what they
have done all these years, and turn round and send for him.”

“That is so,” the policeman said; “let him come and go just as if you
thought nothing more of him than before; if any good come of it, so much
the better. If not, his visits won’t have done you any harm.”

And so it was settled. Since that conversation Mr. Barton had paid his
seven visits with his usual punctuality—this was his eighth. No hint was
ever given by John and Sarah that they suspected the cause of his
coming, and to James they had never spoken of what had passed, for he
had gone to bed at the time when their discovery of Mr. Barton’s
occupation was made, and they agreed that it was much better to say
nothing to him on the subject.

For some time the little party talked on indifferent matters, and then
the cripple boy, who was rather fond of attacking William Holl, brought
up the question of politics. James had read much, and variously. All
these years that he had been crippled, he had had no other occupation,
and he had thought as well as read; at ordinary times his diction,
although better, still resembled that of those around him, but when he
warmed into a subject he dropped this altogether, and spoke in the
language of those in the world, of which he had seen so little and read
so much. “Well, Uncle William, and how go on the Chartists?”

“The great cause goes on well, James, as well or better than we could
hope. The working classes are everywhere moving, and a deep feeling of
discontent at their condition is fast gaining ground among them.”

“And a great pity too, William,” Sarah Holl said; “we have always done
very well before we got these Chartist notions into our heads, and for
my part I can’t see what we want with them, or what good they are to do
us, when we do get them.”

William Holl smiled pityingly, his wife sadly.

“Sairey is right,” her husband said. “We have done very well, and I for
one don’t want no change. I should like to own my horse and cart, but I
don’t see that the charter is going to give it me. So let well alone,
says I.”

“Anyhow, William,” Sarah said, “it has done neither you nor Bessy any
good. When I think of what you both were two years ago, and what you are
now, it makes me sick of the very name of the Charter.”

“The first disciples of a cause always suffer,” William Holl said
earnestly, “and Bessy and I must be content to do the same. When we look
back some day upon our success, we shall be rewarded.”

“The success you will have to look back upon some day, William Holl, if
you don’t watch it,” A 56 said, “will be finding yourself some fine
morning shut up between four walls.”

“The voice of the million cannot be put down!” William Holl said,
sententiously.

“Yes, it can, Uncle William,” James said, “when the million don’t happen
to be united, and the two or three hundred thousand who are their
masters, and who have an armed force at their command, are perfectly
unanimous.”

“The history of the world says otherwise.”

“In some cases, uncle, I grant you, where the million are really ground
down, as you are so fond of saying, or are crying for bread, their voice
is, I allow, irresistible, but unless their grievance is a real one, and
their hearts are in it, it may be very loud, but no one cares for it.
Your opponents have strength, and perfect unanimity; they have the law
on their side, the troops and the police, and against all this your mere
mob is a wave against a rock.”

“The French Revolution, James, has taught us the power of the people.”

“The French Revolution!” James laughed. “You will never play that game
over here, nor is it the slightest criterion for you. The French people
had reason on their side, they had justice if not law. The people were
tyrannised over to an extent we can hardly understand; they groaned
under an overbearing nobility with feudal power, who looked upon them as
hardly human beings; their condition was dreadful, and they were nearly
starving. They had something to fight for. But we are not mere slaves as
they were, nor are we starving. The French people groaned under so
terrible a tyranny, that the whole of the middle classes, the great
proportion of the clergy, and a good many even of the nobles were at
first with them—in fact were the Revolution, although in the end the
people turned upon their benefactors, and destroyed nobility, clergy,
and middle class. The people there were at the commencement united with
the middle class, and at any rate knew what they were fighting for, and
were sufficiently in earnest to be ready to give their lives for their
cause. You stand alone; the middle classes are more bitterly opposed to
you than even the upper, you have no unity among yourselves, and lastly,
you are fighting for you know not what—for a chimera.”

“I beg your pardon, James,” William Holl said, hotly, “it is no chimera.
Universal suffrage is Nature’s law; every man has a right to a voice in
the Government.”

“Now, my dear uncle, that is so like you. You see you get together, and
you dogmatise, and agree with each other, till you lay down things as
law, which have no existence except in your own brain. What do you mean
by that great sounding phrase,—‘universal suffrage is Nature’s law.’ It
sounds well, but what does it mean? Has it any meaning at all—and if so,
is it true? Let us go back to a state of nature—savage nature, and what
will you find? Chiefs or governors are elected to rule the nation; but I
will venture to say, in no tribe or race of which there is any history,
were they chosen by the vote of man, woman, and child; they were elected
and are now elected among savage tribes by the wise men of the nation,
the object being to choose the men most fitted for the place. And so
with this Government of ours; when Parliament was established, it was
proposed that the men most suited to rule the nation should be chosen.
There were various ways in which this might have been done, but the way
selected was that boroughs and counties should each send so many
members, which members were in those days unquestionably selected by the
leading men in such boroughs and counties. Since its foundation the
number admitted to the privilege, or to speak more correctly, the number
of those upon whom the responsibility of selecting the representatives
devolves, has largely increased, until nearly every man of intelligence
or energy, having a house, can vote. The object of it all is to obtain a
good Government. Is not that object attained? Do you mean for an instant
to say that a Parliament such as would be elected under a system of
universal suffrage would be equal in intelligence, in character, or in
any single point, with the present one? Failing to prove that, your
whole argument falls to the ground. If under the present state of things
you found Parliament legislating entirely for the benefit of the rich as
against the poor, taking burdens off their own shoulders to lay them on
yours, you might well complain. But it is not so. The burdens on
property are very great, the burden on you very slight. Every question
which comes before them which can in any way benefit the working classes
has always its full share of attention. What reason therefore have you
to complain? Of those who have the vote, not one half exercise the
inestimable privilege you make so much fuss about; not one quarter would
do so unless canvassed and worried and bribed. My dear uncle, as father
says, we are very well as we are; let well alone.”

“There is something in what you say, James; but unquestionably a
republic in which each man has a voice is the happiest form of
government.”

“Theoretically it may be, uncle, although I should doubt it. The Jews
tried it, and fell back upon a monarchy. The Athenians tried it, and
there it lasted till the time of their fall; but you will find that the
house of assembly, so to speak, in Athens, was chosen by a more limited
proportion of the people than have the vote here; besides, if you read
their domestic history, I don’t think you will conclude that it was a
happy or reputable one. Rome tried it; but in her earlier history the
real power was always in the hands of the patricians, who chose consuls,
who were kings with another name. And in Rome, as the popular element
became stronger, so was the government worse, until the nation took
refuge under an emperor. England tried a revolution, and fell into the
hands of Cromwell, who, although he ruled them wisely and well, was far
more despotic in his power than any king who preceded him. France tried
it, and you can’t say much for the conduct of King Mob there; and at
last they came to the conclusion that an emperor was better than
mob-law. Yes, I see, uncle, America. America is a young country. She has
had, since her formation, no enemy near her to try her; she started with
every advantage, and what is the result? She has pretty nearly universal
suffrage—that is, every man has a vote—but what is the consequence? he
finds it of no use voting independently, and he therefore binds himself
to a party, and has a ticket given him with a list of names, which he is
bound to vote for. Look at Congress, no sane man could compare it,
either for intelligence, eloquence, statesmanship, or conduct, with our
own House of Commons; besides, above all is the President, who is really
very nearly independent of Congress, and is, indeed, as despotic as any
European monarch.”

While James had been speaking, the others had been smoking in silence.
Mr. Barton was surprised, although he said nothing, and the others were
accustomed to his talk, which was indeed far beyond his age and station.
When he ceased there was a moment’s silence, and then John Holl said,—

“Well spoken, James, spoken out like a man, ay, and a clever man, too. I
don’t quite know all you were saying, not having learning myself; but I
am proud to hear you, James, and I feel more than repaid, if it were
only to hear you talk like that, for any trouble we may have had with
you, my boy. Now, brother Will, you ain’t got nothing to say to that;
give it up, man, for Bessy’s sake if not your own; give it up, and go to
work again like a man.”

“I have plenty to say against it if I choose, John,” William said.
“James talks very well, looking at it in the light he does, and, I will
say fairly, puts his side stronger than I ever heard it put before; but
he talks from books, and not from real life. He does not know how we are
put upon—how should he?”

“Ah, that’s what you always fall back upon, uncle,” James said,
laughing. “You are put upon; it is very vague, and therefore,
unsupported as it is by a single fact, very difficult to disprove. How I
wish I was like other people. I should like to go to one of your
meetings, and speak there. You get together, you are all the same side,
and you talk and talk, and back each other up, till you think there is
nothing to be said on the other side of the question.”

“Lor bless you,” Perkins said, “they wouldn’t let you speak; don’t you
go to think that; if you didn’t agree with them they wouldn’t hear a
word you had to say, and you might think yourself very lucky if you got
out of the place as whole as you went in. I’ve been to some of these
sort of places, but the more I find they talk about liberty, the less
they will give it to any one else.”

“Do you know, Perkins, I should like to go to one of these Chartist
meetings. I have heard James talk it over so often, that I think I could
tell them a thing or two.”

“Look here, John,” the prize-fighter said, “I don’t like these things,
but I should not mind it for once for a lark. So if you go, here’s one
with you. What do you say, William, will you take us?”

“I don’t know when there will be one,” William Holl said, evasively,
glancing at A 56.

“You need not mind me, William Holl,” the policeman said; “we’ve no
instructions about you yet. When we have, be as cunning as you like, we
shall soon find out all about your goings on; but if you will take my
advice, you will drop it. James has put it very straight and right, and
I drink his health, and it would be better for some of you if you had a
little of his sense. You will find yourself in the wrong box one of
these days.”

William Holl only shook his head, and then rose, saying it was past nine
and it was time to be off. So his wife put her bonnet on, and all took
their leave, including Mr. Barton, who had, as was his wont, spoken very
little, but who had listened attentively, especially when James was
speaking, as if desirous of judging as far as possible of the lad’s
character.



                              CHAPTER XII.
                            THWARTED PLANS.


Frank Maynard had by no means forgotten what his friend Prescott had
said to him upon the subject of Alice Heathcote. He had thought it over
constantly and with increasing annoyance, Frank could have been easily
led to do almost anything, but he was one of the worst men in the world
to drive, and this he considered to be an attempt to force him into a
marriage for which he had not the least desire. He was the more annoyed
because he was really very fond of Alice in a cousinly sort of way, and
he felt that he could never again be upon the same pleasant footing with
her as before. Had he believed for an instant that Alice regarded him in
any other light than that in which he thought of her, he might have
acted differently: but Frank had not the least personal vanity, and it
never entered his mind that Alice ever thought of him except as a sort
of brother. Altogether it was very unpleasant, and he consequently
stayed several days away from Lowndes Square, instead of paying his
almost daily visit. At last he felt that it would seem strange if he did
not go, and so started with an uncomfortable feeling, and a dogged
resolution that if he had the least opportunity he would enlighten his
uncle as to what his own views upon the subject were; knowing Captain
Bradshaw’s peppery disposition, however, he had no doubt that he would
be exceedingly irritated at finding his wishes thwarted in a matter so
very near his heart. On arriving at Lowndes Square he found his uncle
alone in the drawing-room. It was a large room, with folding-doors.
These on ordinary occasions stood open, but in cold weather were kept
closed, as Captain Bradshaw said the large room made him cold. Alice, on
her part, liked the arrangement, as the back drawing-room made a sort of
snuggery, where she could work or paint undisturbed by visitors. In the
front room Frank found his uncle.

“Well, Frank, I thought you were lost. Where have you been all this
time? It is nearly a week since you were here.”

Frank said, rather confusedly, that he had been a good deal engaged.

“Nonsense, engaged! You may be out of an evening, but you could surely
manage to run down some time in the day to see us.”

Frank knew that this was one of Captain Bradshaw’s weak points; that he
liked attention, and could bear anything better than being neglected; so
he said that he was sorry he had let so many days pass without calling,
but would come oftener in future.

“That is right, Frank,” Captain Bradshaw said, mollified. “You know we
don’t see many visitors here, and you brighten us up. It is not for
myself, but for Alice’s sake, that I like you to come down often. You
ought to be more attentive there.”

Frank thought that this was a good opportunity to express his opinion
upon that point, and he said, rather coldly;—

“I really do not see, uncle, why I should be specially attentive to
Alice. I do not think it likely that she interests herself in the
slightest degree as to my comings and goings.”

Now Captain Bradshaw was just as anxious to have a talk with Frank upon
this subject, as Frank was himself. For years this marriage between his
nephew and niece had been his pet project. He had so thoroughly settled
it in his own mind, that he believed they were equally agreed, and that
although no actual love-making might have taken place, it was a sort of
tacit engagement. He had often during Frank’s absence joked Alice about
him, and the girl’s rising colour and evasive answers more than ever
confirmed him in his opinion. Since Frank’s return, however, things had
not gone quite as he had anticipated. It was not that he doubted in the
least that all was right, for he was a good deal accustomed to have his
own way, and had beside an old-fashioned idea that in these matters
young people should do as their elders recommend. Still Frank was not so
attentive as he ought to have been under the circumstances, and it was
Captain Bradshaw’s opinion that now his nephew had had his fling, the
sooner he settled down and married Alice Heathcote the better. He had
therefore quite made up his mind to intimate his wishes to him upon the
first opportunity.

“I hardly know what you mean, Frank. If I were a young man in your
place, I should think that it would be only right and proper, under the
circumstances, that she should take a good deal of interest in what I
did.”

“What do you mean, uncle, by ‘under the circumstances?’” Frank asked,
shortly.

“Mean, Frank? Damme, I mean, of course, in the relation in which you
stand to each other.”

“I am your nephew, uncle Harry, and Alice is your niece; but I imagine
that the relationship between us is something very slight.”

“Pooh! nonsense, man!” Captain Bradshaw said, irritably; “you know what
I mean; but I will put it plainly for you, if you like. I think it
natural that Alice should feel some interest in your goings-on,
considering that you are some day going to be man and wife.”

“Man and wife, uncle? What are you thinking about? Alice and I have
about as much idea of marrying each other as we have of flying.”

“Damme, sir!” Captain Bradshaw commenced, fiercely; “but no, I will not
get angry;” and then he continued, in a tone of concentrated rage, which
showed far more than any gesticulation could have done, how angry he
was: “Do you mean to tell me, seriously, Frank Maynard, that you do not
intend to marry your cousin, Alice Heathcote?”

“Most distinctly and clearly, uncle, I do not. I like Alice exceedingly.
I love her almost as a sister. She is a dear, good girl; but I have not,
and never had, the slightest intention of marrying her.”

Captain Bradshaw sat down. He could not trust himself to speak for some
time; he knew how passionate he was, and that he should be sure to say
something which he would afterwards wish unsaid. At last, after a great
struggle with himself, he said, quietly;—

“My dear Frank, you have upset me sadly. I always thought it was an
understood thing between you, and I had set my mind on it. For years I
have planned and hoped for this. What objection can you have? It would
make me very happy. You are like a son to me, Alice like a daughter; why
can you not come together?”

“My dear uncle,” Frank said, “there is hardly anything that I would not
do to give you pleasure, but I can hardly change my present feeling for
Alice into the love I should give to a wife. I am sorry, very sorry,
that you are disappointed, but I never dreamed of such a thing. If you
had spoken about it some years sooner, I might have got to look upon it
in that way. But it is too late now.”

“But I always thought you did understand, Frank. I have watched you both
closely, and I thought you loved Alice, and I was quite sure Alice——”

Captain Bradshaw did not finish his sentence, for the folding doors
opened suddenly, and Alice Heathcote herself stood among them. Had not
the light of the winter afternoon faded out,—the room being only lit by
the deep red glow of the fire,—they would have seen that her face was
very pale, and that her cheeks were still wet with tears. However, she
gave them little time to notice this, for she moved hastily forward, and
stood between them with her back to the fire, so that her face was in
deep shadow. Then she said, trying to speak in a playful tone, but in a
voice which shook and wavered a little as she began;—

“My dear uncle, if you gentlemen want to talk secrets you should not
choose a room with folding doors, through which every word can be heard.
Not that I am sorry I heard what you said, in the first place, because I
have a right to have a voice in a matter in which I am so much
interested; and in the second, because I am able to come in and join my
voice to Frank’s in asking you to let us each go our own way. You see,
uncle, we make very good cousins, but we have no inclination to exchange
that relationship for a nearer one. Let us have our own way, uncle: you
cannot make two people love each other who have no natural inclination
that way, and we could not love you better if we were married than we do
separately.”

Captain Bradshaw was silent for a moment in astonishment, and then broke
out;—

“Damme, Alice, if I understand you at all. I always thought——”

Alice stepped forward, and laid her hands upon his shoulder, and
murmured very low, so that only he could hear her, “Hush, uncle, for
pity’s sake!” and then, more loudly, “you see, uncle, unfortunately, we
have been playing at cross-purposes; Frank and I have been caring for
each other in a brotherly and sisterly sort of way, and you, wanting it
to be something else, have all along misinterpreted what you saw. Now,
be a dear, kind uncle, as you always are, and let us have our own way.”

“Just so, uncle,” Frank put in; “you see it has all been a mistake, and
I am very glad that Alice has overheard us, because she has been able to
assure you that she agrees with me.”

Captain Bradshaw was silent for a moment, and then said softly to Alice
as he kissed her cheek;—

“You are a darling, Alice; as for you, sir,” he said, turning fiercely
upon Frank, “my opinion of you, sir, is, that you are a young fool. Yes,
sir, damme, a thorough young fool,” and with this explosion of wrath,
Captain Bradshaw strode out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Frank gave a long whistle.

“Upon my word, Alice, this is too bad; Uncle Harry is turning a complete
tyrant in his old age. The idea of getting into a passion because you
and I, who have known each other for the last ten years, are not going
to fall in love with each other all at once to please him. It is too
absurd, upon my word.”

“Very absurd, Frank,” Alice said, quietly; “and now I think you had
better go, and I will go down and pacify uncle.”

Frank took up his hat, but paused as he went towards the door, and
said,—

“I hope I did not say anything rude about you, Alice? You know how much
I like you as a sister; but I was obliged to protest against his making
us man and wife, when I know that neither of us had such an idea in our
heads. You are not vexed, Alice?”

“Not vexed at all, Frank,” she said, quietly; “now, please go.”

Frank went downstairs, and out into the chilly evening air, with a
strong feeling of discontent at things in general. The whole thing was,
he assured himself, too ridiculous; still, somehow or other, he did not
feel as pleased as he had expected now that the affair was settled. By
the time he reached the Temple, however, he had recovered his usual good
temper; and going straight up into Prescott’s room, he sat down and gave
his friend an exact account of what had passed. Prescott listened with
great attention. When Frank came to the part where Alice appeared upon
the scene, Prescott almost held his breath to catch every word, and
murmured to himself,—

“Dear Alice; dear, brave girl.”

When Frank had done, he said,—

“Now, Prescott, just give me your opinion of it all; it is too bad, is
it not?”

“Do you want my honest opinion, Frank?”

“Of course I do, Prescott.”

“Very well, Frank; then I will give it you. I agree entirely with your
uncle. You are a fool, and a thorough fool.”

It would have been a very dangerous proceeding for anyone else than
Prescott to have expressed this opinion of Frank to his face. As it was,
Frank looked for a moment as if inclined to be exceedingly angry, but
glancing at Prescott’s thoughtful face as he looked into the fire, his
brow cleared again, and he said,—

“At any rate, old man, I was a fool to ask your opinion, for I might
have known beforehand what it would be. You had as good as said you were
in the plot with uncle, and advised me to marry Alice, so you are put
out by finding that you are ridiculously mistaken. I can only say, that
as you would have doubtless acted so much more wisely in the matter than
I have done, I wish you had been in my place.”

“I wish to heaven that I had been, Frank,” Prescott said, with an
earnest sadness.

“Upon my word, I wish you had, Prescott, for I do believe that you love
Alice; although why, if you do, you should have been urging me on to
marry her, is more than I can make out.”

“I wished you to marry her, Frank, because, above all things, 1 should
want to see her happy.”

“Then why in the name of fortune don’t you marry her, and make her happy
yourself, Prescott?”

“Because she would not let me, Frank.”

“Pooh, nonsense, Prescott! we know very well that she does not care for
me, thank goodness; and, therefore, it is all the more likely that she
may for you.”

Prescott did not care to pursue the subject farther, for he did not wish
his friend to see that he felt any serious interest in the matter.

When Frank Maynard had left the house in Lowndes Square, Alice Heathcote
did not for some time carry out the intention she had expressed of going
downstairs to pacify her uncle. As she sat in her low easy-chair before
the fire, not leaning back, but with her figure bowed, her hands
listlessly clasping each other, and a look of weary hopelessness upon
her face, she needed comfort too much to be able to dispense it. Alice
had suffered a severe shock; one of those shocks which cast a shade over
the whole life. The pain of a rejection—or, perhaps, more properly
speaking, the duration of that pain—is in almost exact proportion to the
amount of hope which was previously entertained. Instances are not
wanting, indeed, where a perfectly hopeless attachment has embittered a
whole existence; but those who so suffered must have been endowed either
with a peculiarly sensitive organisation, or an ill-regulated mind.

It is the same thing in all relations of life. If a man hopes to attain
a large fortune by the death of a relation, or by a fortunate
speculation, or successful invention, he will form plans for the future,
and build greatly upon his expectations. It will be a great shock, then,
when he finds that the money is left to another, or the speculation or
invention turns out a failure; but it will not rankle in his mind, will
not permanently affect his whole career in life as it would do had a
banker, with whom he had placed a similar sum of money, failed. It needs
certainty, or that strong belief which is the same as certainty, to make
the loss of a fortune, or the failure of a love-dream, cast a permanent
blight over a life. Had Alice Heathcote doubted Frank’s feelings for
her, she might still have loved him truly, she might have dreamed happy
dreams, and built fairy castles of love and happiness. But she never
would have quite given way to her love; she would have known that her
dreams were but visions which might never come true, and that her
castles were but baseless fabrics after all. Had she then found out that
Frank did not love her, she would have felt it as a very great pain; she
would have mourned over her vanished dreams, and her ruined castles, but
the wound, deep as it might have been, would have healed over in time,
and left but a slight scar. But she had believed, believed surely, that
her love was returned, and so had given her whole heart, and nursed her
love until it had become a part of her very being. Many things had
assisted to cause this delusion. For so many years, almost ever since
she could remember, she had looked up to him as her protector and
adviser. He had always seemed fond of her, and, having no sister of his
own, had petted and made very much of her; and Frank had a warm kindly
way about his manner and talk which might very well deceive a young girl
into the belief that his affection was love. While he was abroad, too,
he had written so often and so affectionately, that, judging his
feelings by her own, she had believed that he loved her. But most of all
she had been deceived by her uncle’s manner and talk. The little hints
and innuendos he frequently threw out, the way in which he had seemed to
consider that it was a settled thing, had impressed her with the idea
that Frank had spoken to him upon the subject before he left England,
and was only waiting until his return to ask her formally. And so she
had given her whole heart, trustingly and confidingly, and it was now a
terrible shock to find that she had been mistaken after all. She could
not blame him; she knew now that her eyes were opened, that he had never
spoken or looked as a cousin, thrown with her as he had been, might not
have done. Nor could she blame herself; for she felt that it would,
under the circumstances, have been next to impossible for her not to
have misinterpreted him. She could only lament her mistake, and feel
with grief and bitterness, that her bright hopes and dreams had all
faded away, that her castles which had seemed so solid had fallen, and
that there was nothing to take their place; that dreaming and hoping
were over for her, and the light of her life gone out for ever. So she
sat there, and looked with a dull pain into the fire; the slight fingers
twined in and out round each other, the lips, folded together to keep in
the cry of grief she could hardly repress, yet quivering restlessly,
while from time to time great tears rolled down from the long lashes.
For a long while she sat thus; sometimes quite quiet, at others swaying
herself backwards and forwards. At last, when the clock upon the mantel
struck six, she roused herself with a weary sigh that was almost a wail,
passed her hands slowly across her forehead and back over the hair by
her temples, and then, dropping them listlessly by her side, passed out
and up to her own room. She did not come downstairs until the dinner was
announced; but when she did there were few signs upon her face of the
hard struggle she had gone through. Captain Bradshaw, on the other hand,
had by no means recovered the equability of his temper. He was
throughout dinner in a state of explosion. He swore at the footman in an
unusual way, and sent fiery messages to the cook, until she was, as she
expressed it, so flustered she did not know what she was doing. Even the
footman, accustomed as he was to his master’s outbreaks, felt aggrieved.

“He is just the very image of an Indian tiger, cook. I have been with
him a good many years now, but I never did know him so awful
cantankerous as he is to-day. He ain’t a bad master, the Captain,
noways, but flesh and blood can’t put up with him; not white flesh and
blood, black might; I shall tell him in the morning he must provide
himself elsewhere.”

“Why didn’t you tell him now?” the cook asked sarcastically. “I would,
right off.”

“I don’t think you would now, cook; I wouldn’t, no, not if he were to
swear ten times wuss at me. He’s a regular old tiger, when his temper’s
up, he is; and if any one were to say anything to him it would be a
dreadful business; pretty nigh as much as one’s life were worth, I
should say. Lor’ bless you, he would think nothing of taking up a poker
or a candlestick, or a soup tureen, or anything which happened to come
handy to him at the time.”

“And what does Miss Alice say to it all, James?”

“She is a right down good one, she is,” the footman said, admiringly;
“she does all she can, but to-day he’s too fierce even for her. She
ain’t looking quite herself neither. She did try once or twice to smooth
him down a bit, but, bless you, when he’s in such a tantrum as he is
to-day, nothing short of a strait-waistcoat and a cold bath would smooth
him down.”

While this conversation was passing below, Alice Heathcote was having by
no means a pleasant time of it upstairs. Captain Bradshaw had taken his
usual place by the fire, with his port wine upon a small table beside
him, while Alice sat down opposite, with a piece of fancy work in her
hands as an excuse for idleness. For a little time after the servant had
left the room, there was silence, and then Captain Bradshaw, after
drinking off a glass of wine, and pouring himself out another, said,
with great deliberation,—

“And now, Alice, I shall be glad if you will give me an explanation of
all this; for, damme, if I can make head or tail of it.”

“My dear uncle,” Alice said, cheerfully, “I don’t know that there is
anything to explain. You see, Frank and I do not want to marry each
other, and although I believe that parents and guardians have a right to
put a veto upon marriages of which they do not approve, I confess that I
do not think their power extends to the point of compelling two strongly
objecting parties to marry each other.”

Captain Bradshaw rubbed his forehead with his handkerchief, and then
performed the same operation with great violence all over his head,
brushing up his short grey hair into a state of the wildest and most
aggressive looking confusion. It was not that he was actually hot, but
it was a trick he had acquired in India, and was a certain sign, with
him, of great irritation.

“But I always looked upon it as a settled thing, Alice; I have set my
mind upon it for years, and I always felt sure that you were fond of
him. I don’t know what to make of it; but if you do care for him, Alice,
by Gad, he shall marry you, or, at any rate, he shall be made most
thoroughly to understand that not one penny of my money shall he ever
have if he does not.”

“Thank you very much, uncle,” Alice said, smiling quietly; “but you see
I should not particularly care about being married to a man who only
took me as an incumbrance with my money and yours.”

“But, Alice,” her uncle said impatiently, “I do not understand why you
took his part to-day, and so rendered all I said of no avail. I was sure
you cared for him. You never attempted to deny it when I spoke to you
upon the subject, and now you upset all the force of my arguments, and
confirm that young jackanapes in his refusal to listen to my wishes, by
saying that you are mutually indifferent to each other.”

“My dear uncle,” Alice said, very gravely, “the whole of the unfortunate
position has been brought about by your deceiving yourself in the first
place; and in the second, by the very unfair and unjustifiable way in
which you have deceived me.”

“Upon my word, Alice,” Captain Bradshaw said, astonished at this sudden
attack upon himself, and replacing untasted upon the table the wine he
was in the act of raising to his lips, “I do not understand what you
mean.”

“This is what I mean, uncle. You all along thought and hoped that Frank
and I would some day take a fancy to each other. About that I have no
reason to complain, nor that you deceived yourself into believing that
things were turning out as you wished. What you were wrong in, my dear
uncle, was, to have spoken to me as you did about Frank. What could I
think? I could not suppose it possible that you were doing so merely
upon the strength of your hopes upon the subject. I naturally concluded
that you were in his confidence, that you had talked the matter over
before he left England, and that although he or you might have thought
it wrong to ask me to enter upon an engagement at the age of eighteen,
and just as he was leaving England for two or three years, still that he
perfectly intended to propose for me upon his return. What else could I
think, uncle?”

Captain Bradshaw was silent. He felt that he had been wrong, and that
without sufficient cause he had led his niece to believe that Frank
loved her, and had thus greatly endangered the happiness of his
favourite. Once feeling himself to be wrong, no one could be more ready
to admit it than Captain Bradshaw.

“Upon my word, Alice,” he said, earnestly, “I never looked upon it in
that light. I see that what you say is true, and that I have behaved
like an old fool, as I am, in the matter. But even now it may not be too
late—even now I may be able to persuade Frank——”

“My dear uncle, you forget that I could not accept him under such
conditions, and beside that, few men are less likely to be persuaded or
forced in a matter of this sort than Frank is. It would be folly upon my
part to pretend that I do not like him very much. I always believed that
he cared for me; and I daresay, had he been very attentive when he
returned, and made pretty speeches, and behaved well, I should not have,
thrown any serious obstacle in the way of the fulfilment of your pet
project. As it is, I find now that I have been mistaken all along as to
the whole affair, and all I have to do is, to make myself as comfortable
as possible under the circumstances.”

“I am afraid that I have done a great deal of harm,” the old man said,
sadly, “and I can only say that I did not do it wilfully, for I
certainly deceived myself as much as I did you; but that is a very poor
consolation to me when I reflect that my thoughtless folly has made you
miserable.”

“Not miserable, uncle,” Alice said, speaking as cheerfully as she could,
though she had very hard work to prevent herself from breaking down and
going off in a fit of crying. “Not quite so bad as that. It has been a
little shock for me, but I shall soon get over that. But, please, do not
speak about it any more. At any rate, Frank is not to blame in the
matter. You could not renew it with him without letting out that we have
both been deceiving ourselves about it; and it would, of course, be very
painful for me to know that he even guessed that it was so.” So saying,
Alice went across and kissed her uncle. “That is settled, then?”

“Ay, ay, Alice. I do not see that I can say no to you. I have made so
much mischief that the least I can do is to let you have your own way
now. As for Frank, I repeat what I told him to-day—that he is a thorough
fool not to have fallen in love with the dearest and best girl in the
world.”

Alice was satisfied, for she had gained more than she had anticipated,
knowing well how obstinate her uncle was when he had once set his mind
upon anything. Indeed, it was only the thought, that the pain he knew
Alice must be feeling was caused by his own error, which made Captain
Bradshaw, as a sort of reparation, give up his long-cherished plans and
hopes.

And so, as far as taking active measures were concerned, the matter
dropped; but not from the thoughts of either. Captain Bradshaw could not
forgive Frank all at once, for having thwarted his plans, and made Alice
unhappy; nor could he forgive himself for the share he had taken in the
affair. For although Alice tried hard to seem cheerful when with her
uncle,—though she talked more, and smiled more frequently than had been
her wont,—she could not deceive him, now that he was really watching
her. Her voice was not always steady and under her command; she spoke in
a forced way, very unlike her former merry talk; and above all, the
smile never went farther than her lips—never lit up the rest of her
face. Over that a cloud had fallen. It was difficult to say what the
change was, but it was as if the light had suddenly gone out. Her uncle
tried to be very kind to her, but at this time he did not make matters
easy for her. The very tone of kindness and commiseration in which he
spoke to her was in itself a trial; while with every one else he was so
terribly bad tempered that he made the lives of all around him a burden
to them.

Frank called a few days afterwards, and Captain Bradshaw hardly spoke to
him; but Frank had made up his mind that his uncle must be allowed time
to work off his disappointment, and appeared to take no notice of this,
but chatted with Alice as usual.

These first visits of Frank’s were a great trial to Alice, but she had
at least the satisfaction of knowing that he did not even guess what the
state of her heart was, and was therefore able to get on with him better
than she had expected to have done. At first, too, Frank made his calls
as short as possible, for with his uncle in a state of extreme
irritation, they were by no means pleasant visits. After a fortnight or
so Captain Bradshaw began to calm down, and things gradually resumed
their old footing, except that Alice still looked pale and wan, and her
voice was no longer to be heard singing snatches of old ballads as she
moved about the house. But of this Frank knew nothing, and put down her
altered looks partly to the annoyances he conceived that she had to bear
from his uncle’s temper.

It was after one of these visits he said to Prescott,—

“I think, Prescott, it would be a great thing if I were to go away for a
little while. I have been thinking on my way back, that if I were to
write to Teddy Drake, and offer to pay him a visit, it would be very
good fun, and would give my uncle time to get into a better temper. As
long as I am in town I must call regularly, and that keeps the sore
open; whereas, if I go away only for a fortnight it will calm him down a
little. I shall be very glad to see Teddy, too, for I have not seen him
since I came back.”

“I think it is a very good plan, Frank. Do you know his address?”

“Oh, yes. Teddy and I exchange letters once a year or so. I will write
at once, Prescott. I shall be very glad to get away for awhile, for I am
heartily sick of this London life.”


                             END OF VOL. I.


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

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES


 1. Changed ‘easily lead’ to ‘easily led’ on p. 264.
 2. Silently corrected typographical errors.
 3. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.
 4. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.





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