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Title: A Son of Mars, volume 2
Author: Griffiths, Arthur
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE

  This novel was published in two volumes. This is volume 2; the first

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  Some minor changes to the text are noted at the end of the book.



A SON OF MARS.



_In June next, at every Library_,

  LORD OF HIMSELF.

  A NOVEL, IN THREE VOLUMES.

  BY

  LORD WILLIAM LENNOX,

  AUTHOR OF ‘FIFTY YEARS’ ‘BIOGRAPHICAL REMINISCENCES,’
  ‘CELEBRITIES I HAVE KNOWN,’ ‘FASHION THEN AND NOW,’ ETC.

  Crown 8vo, One Guinea.

  REMINGTON & CO. 133 NEW BOND STREET, W.

_Of every Bookseller._



  A SON OF MARS.

  BY

  MAJOR ARTHUR GRIFFITHS,

  AUTHOR OF
  ‘THE QUEEN’S SHILLING,’ ‘LOLA,’ ‘A WAYWARD WOMAN,’ ETC.

  VOL. II.

  _ALL RIGHTS RESERVED._

  LONDON:

  REMINGTON AND CO.

  133 NEW BOND STREET, W.
  [_Removed from 5 Arundel Street, Strand, W.C._]

  1880.



  LONDON:
  ROBSON AND SONS, PRINTERS, PANCRAS ROAD, N.W.



CONTENTS OF VOL. II.


  CHAP.                                            PAGE

     I. THE ROUTE                                     1

    II. THE VICTORIA CROSS                           20

   III. MAKING THE AMENDE                            39

    IV. VISITORS AT GREYSTOKE                        58

     V. A MOMENTOUS QUESTION                         79

    VI. BACK ON THE ROCK                             98

   VII. THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE                     116

  VIII. HERBERT ON HIS METTLE                       134

    IX. ON THE TRAIL                                152

     X. A LAWYER’S LETTER                           166

    XI. TAKING ACTION                               184

   XII. TURNING THE SCALE                           201



A SON OF MARS.



CHAPTER I.

THE ROUTE.


Poor old Larkins and his wife were completely broken by Mimie’s
terrible mishap. They could not find it in their hearts to speak
harshly of their unhappy child; but they were loudly indignant
against the man who had tempted her to leave her home. Herbert,
too, came in for his share of their reproaches, when he confessed
that he had been for some time aware of the intimacy between Mimie
and Ernest Farrington, and had long dreaded some such catastrophe.

‘Oh, Herbert!’ Mrs. Larkins had said to him more than once, ‘to
think you should have seen her in such danger, and never to let on
a word. I thought better of you--after all--’

‘I know I am greatly to blame, mother. You cannot say anything
harder of me than I do of myself. But she promised me never--never
to meet him again, and I trusted her. Wasn’t it natural?’

‘Trust her? I’d have trusted her with untold gold. I thought she
was as good as gold herself, and better. That’s what stings me.
To think that she should have held herself so cheap as to be led
astray by such a fellow as that, and a Farrington, too.’

‘Farrington or no Farrington, he shall answer for this to me,
mother, and that I swear.’

‘Hush, Herbert lad, remember who he is, and who you are.’

‘I warned him that if she came to any harm, I’d be even with him,
and I will, so help me Heaven,’

‘Don’t, Herbert, don’t talk like that. You might be
court-martialled, and for ever disgraced, even for those words.
Do you think he will not be punished some day as he deserves, and
that, whether you raise a little finger against him or no? We must
leave him in other hands.’

Mrs. Larkins’ resignation hardly chimed in with Herbert’s impetuous
mood.

‘I’d be after him now; aye, although I’m a soldier, and tied by the
leg. I’d show a clean pair of heels, only--’

It was clear that desertion was in his mind.

‘Promise me, Herbert, swear to me, Herbert, that you will do
nothing rash. Don’t desert your colours. Don’t forget your sacred
duty, even for us.’

‘I had made up my mind to follow them last night. I could have got
a passage home, and plain clothes and everything, but the steamer
did not start, and to-day it’s too late.’

‘Too late? Thank God for that; but why?’

‘Haven’t you heard the news, mother?’ Then he bethought himself
that in her grievous trial there was but little likelihood of the
gossip of the garrison reaching her ears.

‘The route’s in,’ Herbert went on, using the catch phrase of the
soldier. ‘The regiment’s under orders for active service, and we
start directly the steamer arrives.’

‘Start? For where?’

‘Ashanti. It was in orders last night, and the generals coming to
inspect us this afternoon, with the P.M.O., to see who’s fit for
service and who’s not. The whole barrack’s upside down. Officers
and men mad with delight. So should I be for this chance, which may
not come twice.’

‘Mayhap when you meet him next it will be on more equal terms.’

‘Aye, but when will that be? I may have to wait months before I get
my knuckles at his throat.’

‘Surely these orders will bring him out to head-quarters at once?’

‘They ought to; but he’s mean enough to try and shirk the whole
business, I’ve heard officers of the regiment say as much--and in
any case he can’t arrive before we start for the Coast.’

The staunch old couple came down themselves to the new Mole to bid
their boy Godspeed.

‘There’ll be more Larkins’ out there than you, Herkles, boy,’ said
the old Sergeant, with a fierce light in his eye. He had made no
great demonstrations; but Mimie’s conduct had, perhaps, wounded
him more deeply than his wife. Now, for a moment, he brightened up
like an old war-horse, but it was with more than the scent of the
coming fray. ‘Rechab’s ship ordered to the coast, and maybe they’ll
send him ashore with the Naval Brigade. He’s carpenter’s mate and
a right handy lad. So you’ll foregather, and between you you might
have a chance of bringing yon scoundrel to book.’

‘I’ll try,’ said Herbert, with his teeth set.

‘If he’d only make an honest woman of my sweet bird. If he’d only
marry and behave decently to her.’

‘Decently!’ cried Mrs. Larkins, interposing in a strong indignant
voice. ‘Was there ever a Farrington who behaved decently to one of
us?’

‘I’d like to force him and all his relations too. But time’s up.
God bless you, mother, and you, sergeant, and bring all things
right in the end.’

With that, amidst thundering cheers and the invigorating strains
of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ‘The Girl I left behind me,’ the good ship
slowly got under weigh.

It is no part of my intention to dilate upon the events of the
Ashanti war. It will be in all men’s minds how early mischances
brought the enemy close to our gates and rendered imperative the
despatch of some capable leader to grapple with the emergency;
how Sir Garnet Wolseley, the hero of the hour, accompanied by a
brilliant staff, was desired to drive back the foe with such
forces as he found to his hand; how Fantee allies proved the most
despicable cowards, and the small force of British seamen and
marines were clearly unequal single-handed to the task of marching
upon Coomassie, the objective point; how the demand for British
regiments was at length complied with by the home Government, and
how, when these had arrived and all was ready for the forward
movement, a sudden collapse in transport arrangements threatened
to paralyse the whole of the operations. Hence it was that the
British regiments were not immediately disembarked, but cruised
the seas till a new and more vigorous organisation of transport
could be devised and carried out. We will take up the thread of our
narrative at a time when the little invading army was across the
Prah and almost within striking distance of Coomassie. No serious
collision with the enemy had as yet occurred, but some sharp
fighting was obviously imminent. It was thought that the Ashantis
would hold the Adansi Hills, and, even if forced therefrom, would
make more than one subsequent stand; and it was probable that by
nothing less than obstinate fighting would the ends of the campaign
be achieved.

They had been long days of weary waiting for all concerned. The
country was hateful and noxious in the extreme; yet all fought
bravely, not against the foe, with whom they had scarcely been
pitted, but against the malaria, the ever present fever, the
intolerable heat. None behaved more pluckily than the Duke’s Own.
Wellington once said, ‘Give me the dandies for hard work,’ and
the apothegm might be extended, into including crack corps. Now
that they were at the real business of war, they bore hardships,
privations and continuous discomfort without a murmur. The once
splendid mess was now represented by a scratch meal under the
fetich tree of a deserted village; its entertainments were to
offer to comrades a cup of chocolate, a slice of tinned meat or
sardine _au naturel_ upon biscuit instead of toast. Luxury was
a thing forgotten by all. Days of toilsome marching through the
interminable forest, nights in drenching rain, with short commons
in almost everything except quinine, were but poor substitutes for
what they had left behind at Gibraltar and at home. Yet the Duke’s
Own took everything as it came, indulging only in the occasional
grumble which is deemed the British soldier’s birthright, and
which, if nothing else, is an outlet and safety-valve for
discontent.

But the regiment had suffered considerably from sickness. Colonel
Diggle was down with fever. He had been one of the first attacked,
and though he had borne up with all the fortitude he could muster,
his nature was not of that resolute kind which successfully resists
disease. Very soon after disembarkation he had succumbed, and while
he was lying in his cot on board the hospital ship Major Greathed
had the honour of commanding the Duke’s Own in the field. Several
other officers were also on the sick list, and a large percentage
of the rank and file. Among the latter was Herbert Larkins.

He had fought with extraordinary pluck against the insidious
advances of the fever. He had doctored himself, had taken quarts
of quinine, had refused persistently to seek for medical advice
lest he should be struck off duty and sent to hospital. With it
all he had stuck manfully to his work--no easy task--for during a
portion of the time the quartermaster-sergeant had been _hors de
combat_, and Greathed had selected Herbert to act in his place. All
this told on him.

One day after many hours’ unremitting toil whipping up the craven
carriers who tardily brought forward the regimental supplies,
followed by long labours in issuing rations, Herbert suddenly
dropped as if he had been shot through the head. They laid him
in a hammock and carried him with them for a time, as they were
then approaching the Adansi Hills, and an action seemed imminent.
Nothing of the kind, as is well known, occurred. After a short
breathing space the advance was resumed. Herbert, who had at length
recovered consciousness, saw to his mortification the regiment
march out of the village in which they had been encamped, while he
was left with a score or so of sick and helpless behind. It was the
more aggravating because the crisis of the campaign was seemingly
near at hand. Coomassie itself was not more than five and twenty or
thirty miles distant; the enemy was known to be in force in front
and in flank. Fighting more or less severe there must be, and that
very soon. To think that he should miss it after all!

But, as will be seen, Herbert’s luck was not entirely against him.
Young, strong, and sound as a bell, he had rallied wonderfully from
his attack, and was already on the high road to convalescence
within a day or two of the regiment’s departure.

‘If ye gae on like this, ye’ll be as fit as a fiddle in a week,’
the Scotch doctor said.

‘And when may I go to the front, sir?’

‘At once, if the commanding officer here’ll let you.’

Herbert almost jumped off his bed, and hurriedly smartened himself
as well as he could, to appear before the commandant.

But on leaving the hospital, a substantial building which had
evidently been the palace of an Ashanti chief, he found the little
garrison which held the village--I will call it Yankowfum--in a
state of agitation, almost uproar. Important news had come back
from the front. There had been a great battle (Amoaful). We had
won it, but not without serious losses. The enemy was still full
of fight. A special despatch had been received by the commandant
at Yankowfum to be on the look-out. His and the other posts along
the line of advance would probably be attacked in force, and
the Ashantis must be driven back at all costs. This, with many
additions, had gone forth among the handful of sailors and West
Indians composing the garrison, and was being loudly discussed when
Herbert appeared.

‘Where’s the commandant?’ Herbert asked. ‘Who is he?’

‘Don’t know his name; he’s one of your lot,’ said an A.B.

‘And a poor lot, too, I take it,’ said another, ‘to judge by his
looks and his ways.’

Herbert was about to retort, when a black soldier in his
picturesque Zouave dress came up, and said, ‘Staff colonel one
time come. Very much angry with buckra officer.’

It was the officer in general charge of the communications who had
hastened back from Amoaful to look to the security of his posts.
He was travelling almost alone in a hammock carried by bearers,
and seemed to think nothing of the dangers he braved as he passed
through the bush swarming with enemies.

He was apparently seeking to infuse some of his own spirit into the
commandant of Yankowfum.

‘You’ll do it easily enough,’ Herbert heard him say as he
approached them, meaning to offer his services. ‘This place is
stockaded, you’ve got a garrison.’

‘But it’s so small,’ said the other, ‘not fifty men, and half of
them blacks.’

That voice? Surely it was familiar, Herbert thought.

‘I can’t give you another man. There isn’t time. Besides, every
other post is threatened. However, you’ve got your orders; you must
hold out to the last, you understand?’ said the colonel, pretty
sharply.

‘But, sir, it’s not fair upon us. I must really protest. We shall
be cut to pieces. What can such a handful do? For God’s sake don’t
leave us like this--’

The other turned on his heel, but stopped short to say,

‘Upon my word, Mr.--Mr.--Farrington--I cannot compliment you on
your demeanour. If there was another officer within reach I’d
relieve you of your command. I wish even there was a steady old
sergeant or two--’

Then his eye fell upon Herbert, who had moved a little farther away
during the foregoing colloquy, partly because he felt that he ought
not to overhear the colonel’s strictures, and partly because he was
greatly excited at this unexpected rencontre with Ernest Farrington.

‘Ah, a sergeant, a colour-sergeant too? You have heard, no
doubt? The post is about to be attacked. I have been telling the
commandant here he must draw in the line of defence. Be careful not
to waste ammunition, and hold on like grim death. You understand?’

‘All right, sir,’ answered Herbert cheerily, and the colonel went
off, probably a little happier in his mind.

‘Any further orders, sir?’ Herbert quietly asked of Ernest
Farrington, who was ashen pale, and too much agitated seemingly to
recognise the man who spoke to him.

‘No, no; do the best you can, sergeant.’

Whereat Herbert saluted and walked off.

It would be time enough to settle their differences by and bye.
Perhaps by nightfall neither of them would be alive.



CHAPTER II.

THE VICTORIA CROSS.


A stout and substantial stockade of bamboos, having loopholes
and a shallow ditch, surrounded the village of Yankowfum, and
seemed sufficient if it were only manned throughout to keep out
any attacking force. But the little garrison was not strong
enough to occupy more than a third of its length. It was a
question, therefore, whether it would not be wisest to limit the
defence, and, instead of holding the outer and too extended line,
concentrate the whole force within the hospital building, which
was certainly large, but still compact and reasonably strong.
This is what our hero had to decide, for it was upon Herbert
that the responsibility seemed to fall. Ernest Farrington was
almost helpless, whether from abject incapacity, or from the more
despicable reason of total want of nerve. Besides, after what the
staff colonel had said Herbert felt that he was bound to act and do
the best he could.

He consulted with one or two of the others, particularly an old
lance-sergeant who deferred to him as senior in rank, and a very
smart young sailor, a petty officer, who, like every true blue
jacket, was ready to put his hand to anything.

‘Best hold on to the front line at least for a bit,’ the
lance-sergeant thought. ‘We can fall back upon the hospital if
we’re hard pressed.’

‘Yes, I agree to that,’ replied Herbert. ‘But the hospital will
be our real centre and chief defence. It must be strengthened,
barricaded, the walls pierced with loopholes, and the thatch taken
off the roof for fear of fire. Who’ll see to all that? will you?’
he asked of the sailor.

‘Aye will I. Give me half a dozen hands, that’s all. Them blacks’ll
do. I’m rated carpenter’s mate, and I can show them how to work.
I’ll make everything taut and shipshape, or my name’s not Rechab
Larkins.’

‘Rechab Lar--’ Herbert’s jaw dropped with amazement. ‘Son of the
barrack sergeant, once at Triggertown and now at Gib?’

The other nodded.

‘Do you know who I am? Why--Hercules Albert, your half-brother.’

It was Rechab’s turn to show astonishment.

‘Avast there. None of your games. _You_ little Herkles boy?’

‘Yes. You may take your oath, to that.’

‘Well; I _am_ blowed.’

Then they shook hands warmly and looked at each other, and shook
hands again and again.

‘Come, lads,’ interposed the lance-sergeant, ‘time’s up. Don’t get
looking for the strawberry marks, or may be the niggers will drop
on to you and save you all the trouble.’

‘You’re right,’ said Herbert promptly. ‘All this will keep. Now,
Rechab, lad, to your post. There’s more to tell you, but that, too,
will keep.’

Why tell him that Ernest Farrington was also there sharing their
danger?

Herbert, following the lance-sergeant’s advice, resolved to
hold the stockade, but at its angles and points only, whence a
fairly good flanking fire across the front could be maintained.
At each of these he posted a small detachment under the command
of a non-commissioned officer, to whom he gave explicit orders.
They were to save ammunition, to ‘fire slow and fire low,’ as the
general said, and hold on till they got the signal to retire.
This would be passed from the centre the moment the stockade was
forced at any point. The retreat was to be made with all speed
upon the hospital under cover of its fire. At the hospital itself
a small garrison was also posted from the first, composed of the
convalescents; of all, in fact, who had spirit enough to rise from
their beds. Even Dr. McCosh got out his revolver and promised
to assist. None of the sick were strong enough to form part of
the outer line, nor could they have retreated rapidly when that
line was broken through, but they would be able to load and fire
alternately standing and sitting, and so contribute much to the
general inner defence.

When these dispositions were in a fair way towards completion,
Herbert went in search of his commanding officer to report progress.

‘Will you inspect the post, sir? Everything is as ready as we can
make it. We only want the enemy now, and they can come on as soon
as they please.’

Mr. Farrington winced slightly at the mention of the enemy, but he
was now far more master of himself than when Herbert had seen him
last. He had pulled himself together, and seemed about to take his
proper position as commanding officer and chief. Like many other
weak spirits, he made up for former shortcomings by assuming a
blustering air.

‘I daresay you have done your best. We shall see. Where are the
men posted? At the stockade? Oh, this won’t do at all. We cannot
hold the stockade; we are too few. The hospital is our only chance.
Everyone must be concentrated there.’

‘But, sir, we cannot resign the stockade without a shot.’

‘Do you dispute my orders? I’ll put you under arrest, and have you
tried for mutinous conduct. Who are you? What’s your name?’

‘I am Colour-Sergeant Larkins, of the Duke’s Own.’

‘Larkins? Larkins? What Larkins? Not Mi--Mi--Mimie’s brother?’

‘Her half-brother, Mr. Farrington, who told you not so long ago
that if you injured her he would break every bone in your skin.
Her own brother is here, too. What’s to hinder us from putting a
bullet through you now, you white-livered cur?’

‘How dare you address me like that? I’ll have you placed in irons.
You shall be charged with mutiny, by George. I’ll get you shot.’

‘Perhaps the Ashantis will save you--and me--the trouble,’ said
Herbert, significantly. ‘But if we get through this day all right,
you and I have other differences to settle, remember that.’

‘Threats? This is insufferable. I’ll shove you in arrest; I’ll put
a sentry over you.’

Farrington suddenly turned quite white; his teeth chattered, and he
could hardly stand.

‘What in heaven’s name is that?’ he stammered out.

A roar of voices, harsh, discordant, and loud enough to rouse the
dead. It was the Ashanti song of battle, sung by thousands, as
it seemed, uniting into one grand but savage chorus of defiance.
Behind all was the hideous noise of screeching horns and the rattle
of native drums. For some minutes the uproar continued, then ceased
as suddenly as it had arisen. It was followed by a sound more
familiar and far more impressive, at least in a soldier’s ears.
This was the sharp and sustained crackling of musketry fire.

The ball had begun.

‘Our quarrel will keep, sir. There’s something else to be done now.
Any orders, sir?’

‘No; at least, yes. Perhaps the men had better stay where they are
just at first. You can withdraw them when you think you ought. I
shall go myself to the hospital. It is more central, and I can see
all around from there.’

And Mr. Farrington, who was becoming more than uncomfortable as the
slugs were falling rapidly around, went off with rather indecent
haste.

The enemy were still in the bush surrounding the village, and
the garrison had not yet returned the fire. Emboldened by this,
the Ashantis came out from their cover, and showed themselves in
increasing numbers all round the stockade. This was the opportunity
for the defenders. At a signal from Herbert, a well-directed fire
from the several flanks made considerable havoc, and the Ashantis
fell back. They came on however again and again. Again and again
they were repulsed. But they were maddened, not disheartened, by
their losses; and once more attacking with determination, at one
point carried the stockade.

It was time now to retire upon the hospital. This was effected
rapidly, but without disorder. The wounded--happily very few,
so far--were carried within the walls, where all who were still
sound also took up their posts. This inner citadel was perhaps not
impregnable, but with resolution it might be held against very
considerable odds.

‘I told you the stockade should not have been held,’ some one said
to Herbert, and turning he saw Mr. Farrington, who had not before
shown himself during the fight.

‘I beg your pardon, sir; if you had been with us in the front
you would have thought otherwise,’ Herbert answered, rather
intemperately; but it chafed him to find his officer keeping out
of harm’s way. ‘At any rate, we can’t fall back any more. If the
enemy force their way in here, we are lost men.’

But this the Ashantis could not effect. They surged up against
the walls like waves upon a rocky headland, only to fall back
like breakers in a thousand drops. They sought to force the
barricades, to escalade and enter by the roof. Once or twice their
efforts seemed near success, but the obstinate opposition which
they met sent them reeling back discomfited. At this juncture
Herbert, with the intuitive judgment of the true general, felt
that a counterstroke would probably give the defenders the day. He
proposed a sally of the whole force, and a bayonet charge.

‘On no account--it would be madness,’ said Ernest Farrington, whom
he discovered with difficulty ensconced behind some cases of
commissariat stores.

‘What do you say, boys? Shall we give ’em a touch of the cold
steel?’ cried Herbert.

A hearty cheer was the ready response.

‘Won’t you lead us?’ Herbert said to Farrington, in a strong accent
of scorn. ‘It’s your last chance to retrieve your character.’

‘I distinctly forbid you to sally. Not a man shall leave the
hospital. Halt! halt! I say.’

The men were like bloodhounds tearing frantically at the leash.

‘It’s your last chance,’ Herbert repeated, as he went close up to
Farrington, and whispered. ‘Your last chance, you cowardly cur.
Come on, or be shamed for ever; a disgrace to your cloth, your
regiment, and a good old name.’

Stung to the quick by these taunts, Ernest hurriedly drew his
sword, and placing himself at the head of his men, gave the order
to port arms, and prepare to charge. With a loud ‘hurroosh’ the
gallant garrison rushed out pell-mell, and fell upon their foe.

The enemy could not face the British bayonet. They broke even
before their assailants reached them, and fled in disorder towards
the stockade. The garrison pursued them, Mr. Farrington still
leading. He was like a jibbing horse, which having long refused to
move, at last bolts headlong. Herbert was also well to the front,
but he saw the danger of pushing the success too far, and before
reaching the stockade he paused and endeavoured to restrain the
men. Many halted at his voice and rallied round him, but a few
more unmanageable continued to race ahead beyond the stockade as
far as the bush. Mr. Farrington, half-mad with excitement, was one
of these, and with them he fell into a trap. A number of Ashantis
reinforced, probably from behind, had rallied just within the bush
and opened a very destructive fire.

Ernest Farrington was the first to fall. Many others were struck
down, and the too eager band of pursuers were suddenly effectually
checked. But all who could retired in hot haste upon the main body,
which under Herbert’s command had made a stand to cover their
retreat.

Mr. Farrington was not killed outright. He was evidently badly
wounded, but he was able to rise to his feet, and strove feebly to
make his way back to the shelter of the stockade, the enemy slowly
‘potting’ at him as he crawled along.

‘We must bring him in,’ cried Herbert, hotly. ‘Come on, Rechab;
Farrington or no Farrington--’

‘Is yon Ernest Farrington? Mimie’s----? Yes? Let him be; let him
die the death. I won’t stir a step to help the accursed hound.’

Herbert did not wait to hear all Rechab’s words, but rushed forward
alone into the open. The fire increased in fury, but he passed
through it and reached Ernest’s side, unscathed.

‘Come on, sir,’ he said; ‘lean on me; we’ll get back together.’ But
almost as he spoke Ernest fell helplessly, struck by a second slug.

There was nothing for Herbert but to lift the inanimate body upon
his shoulders and stagger back as best he could. He was himself
wounded more than once, but only slightly, before he regained the
stockade, but still he regained it and laid his burden safely
within.

‘Weel done, mon, weel done,’ said the surgeon. ‘Let’s see if ye
were in time or no,’ and he proceeded to examine Ernest’s hurts.

The pain of probing the wounds brought the unfortunate officer to
his senses, and opening his eyes, he looked wildly around.

‘Larkins, Larkins; is Larkins here?’ he gasped.

Both who bore that name knelt by his side, and hung breathlessly
upon his words.

‘I loved her. I did, upon my soul. Tell her I said so with my last
words; that I ask her forgiveness, as I do yours. I wronged her,
but I--I--repaired it--’

The blood gushed in a torrent from his mouth, and in another second
he was dead.

The enemy made no further demonstrations against Yankowfum, and by
nightfall the post had almost regained its normal condition. It had
been an eventful day for Herbert Larkins, and one likely to lay the
foundation of his fortunes; for his gallant conduct did not pass
unnoticed.

Early the next morning the staff colonel returned and heard a full
account of the fight. Herbert was too modest to descant upon his
own deeds, but Dr. McCosh and the others described in glowing terms
the story of the defence and of Herbert’s brave attempt to save
Farrington’s life.

‘You ought to have the Cross for this,’ said the colonel, a quiet
self-contained man, rising for the moment into enthusiasm. ‘You
deserve the Victoria Cross, and a commission, too. I’ll do my best
to help you to both.’

He was as good as his word. Before the Duke’s Own left the Coast
the _Gazette_ contained both announcements, and Herbert Larkins was
now ‘an officer and a gentleman’ at last.



CHAPTER III.

MAKING THE AMENDE.


There was terrible grief at Farrington Hall when the news came home
of the death of the son and heir. Poor silly Lady Farrington was
quite broken-hearted. Had she had her way Ernest would never have
gone to the wars. Moreover the circumstances under which he left
made matters infinitely worse. He was at home, as we know, when the
regiment got the route, and the orders he received from the Horse
Guards were peremptory that he should rejoin without a moment’s
delay. The young soldier was not over keen about obeying. Life, in
spite of family jars, had just then a peculiar sweetness for him.
He had established Mimie in a pretty little villa at Wimbledon,
where he spent most of his time. His visits to the Hall, and his
stay when he came, were much curtailed, greatly to his mother’s
sorrow. Her ladyship knew of his ‘entanglement,’ but quite as a
secret, and she was discreetly silent on the subject. She only
upbraided her boy for his constant absences.

‘I’th too bad, Ernetht. We thee tho little of you now. You mutht
come and thettle down at home. Marry a nithe wife--’

Which was meant as a gentle womanly hint that she knew what
occupied his thoughts and his time.

Sir Rupert’s line towards Ernest was more plainly marked, and
possibly less judicious. He very soon gave his son to understand
that he knew all about the Gibraltar escapade.

‘I thought it was only a passing act of folly. Young men cannot
always be trusted to behave with judgment and decorum. It is very
deplorable, of course, but no more, after all, than others have
done. What I complain of, Ernest, is that there appears to be no
end to your infatuation. I hear--no matter how--’

‘From Mr. Oozenam, I presume,’ said Ernest, bitterly. ‘I knew he
was dogging my footsteps, but did not think he had been set on by
my father. It’s a disgraceful shame!’

‘I hear,’ went on Sir Rupert, speaking still calmly, but the black
look on his face showed that he was fast growing furious, ‘that
you are continually at a house at Wimbledon, where, I suppose,
this--this person--resides.’

‘Look here, father, you are going too far,’ put in Ernest, hotly.
‘I am quite old enough to----.’

‘To make a fool of yourself? No doubt. You always were that. You’ve
been a fool all your life. But you shall not make a fool of me.’

‘I won’t stay another minute in the house.’

‘If you leave it, you shall not return to it until you have begged
my pardon.’ Sir Rupert was very angry, still he strove to be calm.
‘Be careful, Ernest, how you aggravate me. I am willing to make
allowances for your youth, but you shall not disgrace your name.
Promise me to give up this affair at once and for ever, or, or--’

‘I will do nothing of the kind. I will not be treated as a child,’
cried Ernest, in a loud voice.

‘Then take the consequences, sir,’ shouted Sir Rupert, still
louder. ‘Leave my presence, sir; leave the room, sir; leave the
house, sir; and do not dare to show yourself again, sir, till I ask
you, which will be never, never, sir, so help me----’

Ernest, with a white and rather scared face, got up and quietly
walked away.

His father and he never met again in the flesh.

There were many efforts at reconciliation, but all had fallen
through. Ernest, before leaving the Hall, had gone to his mother
to say good-bye, and there had been a very painful scene. The
poor woman was torn by conflicting emotions. She was passionately
fond of her boy, and desperately afraid of her fierce spouse.
But her maternal instincts carried the day, and she braved her
husband’s anger, seeking to win forgiveness for her son. She
failed utterly. The parties to the quarrel were equally determined,
but in different ways. Ernest was weakly and foolishly obstinate;
Sir Rupert, harsh, implacable, unrelenting. Father insisted upon
submission unconditional and complete; son refused even to admit
that he was wrong. Farrington Hall was a sad house while the
dispute was in progress, and Lady Farrington was a very unhappy
woman. Then, while matters were still unaccommodated, came the
orders for active service, and she was in a paroxysm of despair.
She made piteous appeals to Sir Rupert; she wrote imploring letters
to her son, she besought the Horse Guards to delay embarkation, and
pleaded all sorts of excuses to keep him at home. But fate and the
authorities were inexorable, and Ernest, very much against his own
will too, was compelled to start for the Coast.

He had never revisited the Hall. His father would not ask him,
and he would not offer himself. His mother begged to be allowed
to go to Southampton to bid him a last farewell, but Sir Rupert
positively forbade it; and Ernest left the country with no
one--except broken-hearted Mimie--to bid him adieu.

This was why the news of his death fell so heavily upon them all
at home. Lady Farrington broke down utterly. She was like Rachel,
and refused to be comforted. Sir Rupert, although he was still
outwardly calm and impassive, felt it more than he could say. But
he showed his grief very differently. It was a sort of relief
to him to burst forth into the loudest invectives--not against
himself, although his parental cruelty might well have caused him
the keenest remorse, but against all who might, by the smallest
implication, be deemed to be responsible for Ernest’s untimely
end. Where was Diggle? Why had he allowed the young fellow out of
his sight? And Sir Garnet, what excuse would the general make for
leaving a young officer to be thus out-matched and massacred by the
rascally foe? He even included Mimie Larkins in his reproaches,
although she manifestly was but little to blame. He could not at
first bring himself to think well of Herbert, whose brave act in
trying to save his officer’s life was hailed with enthusiasm in
this country as soon as it became known. What had this sergeant
done? Only his duty. It was the duty of every sergeant or corporal
in the service to lay down his life for a Farrington, of course.
And the young fellow had been amply rewarded--over rewarded, if
anything--for his pains.

But deeper down in Sir Rupert’s heart there was anguish and sharp
regret. As a father he was deeply grieved at the loss of an only
son; but as the proud owner of an old title and wide estates, it
cut him to the heart to think that he must be the last of his line.
Was it for this that he had schemed and manœuvred? For this that
he had caused Lady Farrington to be placed under restraint--had
abandoned her _protégé_ to starve? Then followed a wave of better
feeling towards the gallant young fellow who had heaped coals of
fire on his head. What a fine action it was! How splendidly the
young man had behaved! He half wished that Herbert was really the
heir to the family honours, now that there was no one else to
inherit them.

Upon this point he would have met with some sharp opposition within
his family, had he expressed his opinion. Much as poor Ernest was
regretted by all, there were some who, after the first decorous
mourning, found themselves quite able to reconcile themselves to
his loss. To Mrs. Cavendish-Diggle, Ernest’s death meant a certain
tangible gain. She could never succeed to the baronetcy, certainly,
but there were the broad acres of Farrington which, _faute de
mieux_, would now undoubtedly come to her. Possibly, if Diggle did
but take his proper place in life, and could be persuaded to enter
Parliament, a grateful Government might be brought to continue
the baronetcy through the female branch. Mrs. Cavendish would
have been only too pleased that her infant son should some day
resume the name and arms of the Farrington family, and that the
Diggle-Farringtons should become celebrated as the proprietors of
Farrington Hall. The son was forthcoming, indeed more than one; but
poor Cavendish-Diggle was not himself quite equal to the task which
the ambitious Letitia would have imposed upon him. The Gold Coast
campaign, in fact, had nearly cost him his life, and had left him
almost a wreck. Weeks of low fever upon a miserable sickbed in the
malarious bush, had nearly finished him; and long before the end of
the war he had returned to England more dead than alive. His life
in the long run was spared, but the once smart dandy reappeared
a broken, half-crippled man, one much more fitted to spend the
remainder of his days in European health resorts, drinking the
waters and taking the baths, than in any active struggle for
parliamentary or contested family honours. Before the return of
the Duke’s Own to England he had retired upon half-pay, and took no
further part in regimental affairs.

Herbert’s glorification, however, when he reached England duly
came off, and this without any protest on the part of Mrs.
Cavendish-Diggle. She did not know really that he was, or had ever
been, a competitor for the family estates. Besides which, when he
arrived she and her husband were at Aix; and however calmly she may
have accepted the sad news of Ernest’s death, she could not openly
be otherwise than pleased at the honour done to the man who had
endeavoured to save her brother’s life. Herbert, whether or no, was
invited at once to the Hall, whither he went, not from any love for
Sir Rupert, but simply to see how the land lay, and whether he
could help the poor old dowager, who still languished in her asylum
prison.

Yet it was with a certain strange excitement that he entered the
house which might be, and which somehow he felt ought to be his.
The baronet received him most courteously; poor Lady Farrington
fell upon his neck and wept torrents of tears; he was shown into a
gorgeous guest chamber, a room all blue satin and silver, such as
he had never before seen in all his life; and he was treated with
the most profound respect on every side.

Lady Farrington was not equal to appearing at table, and he dined
with Sir Rupert _tête-à-tête_. His host questioned him closely
upon the events of the campaign. Acutely painful as was one of its
episodes to the baronet, he yet seemed to ignore this, and was only
anxious to give his guest an opportunity of describing what he had
seen. Possibly he was anxious also to keep off dangerous ground,
and to avoid inconvenient questions upon points on which Herbert
was, if anything, far more closely concerned.

Here, however, he counted without his host. The young soldier was
by nature, and still more by his recent rough and ready training,
little disposed to beat about the bush. He had resolved upon coming
to Farrington Hall to ascertain what could be done to release the
old Lady Farrington from durance. He had had already one or two
communications from ‘the Boy’ Hanlon, none of which, however, gave
him much hope of effecting this without the assistance of the
baronet himself. The ‘Boy’ had not seen much of the old lady. She
was, of course, upon the female side of the asylum. But Hanlon was
not to be baulked by any restrictions of sex, and as the rules of
the establishment forbade him from attending upon a female patient,
he made it his business to secure the co-operation of a female
attendant. The person who had especial charge of Lady Farrington
was a middle-aged damsel, to whom the blandishments of ‘the Boy’
were by no means distasteful. Through this impressionable daughter
of Eve, Hanlon had communicated frequently with the old lady. He
had told her of Herbert’s progress; of the young man’s advancement
in the lower walks of the military career; finally of the Ashanti
war, and Herbert’s undoubted success. Had the doctor been within
easy reach, he might have ordered Lady Farrington the usual cooling
regimen, so excited did she become. But she escaped observation,
and under the advice of her attendant, and indeed through her
own native intelligence she managed to preserve a calm exterior,
feeling sure that her Herbert would soon appear to open wide her
prison doors.

That he was most eager to do so was evident from his conversation
with Sir Rupert that first night.

‘I shall be only too glad to meet your wishes in any way,’ the
baronet had said. ‘At the Horse Guards, perhaps, or with Mr.
Cardwell--’

‘I will not ask so much,’ Herbert replied. ‘I have been already
treated most liberally by the authorities. All I want is--to pay a
visit to Greystoke.’

‘To Greystoke?’ Sir Rupert turned rather pale.

‘Yes, and with you. You see I know everything. Why hesitate, Sir
Rupert? There need be no concealment between us. The last time we
met I was a victim--one of your victims--but now I am above all
that, but poor Lady Farrington still suffers.’

‘It would not be safe, I assure you, to set her at large. I have
that on the best authority. She is still quite insane.’

‘I have it on better that she is now perfectly recovered.’

‘May I ask who is your informant?’ Sir Rupert blandly enquired.

‘One of the attendants at the asylum.’

‘A skilled practitioner? A medical man?’

‘Well, no; not exactly. He was, in fact, formerly in the Duke’s
Own.’

‘As a surgeon?’

‘No, in the ranks.’

‘And you would set up his opinion--the opinion of an illiterate,
untrained man--against that of the highest medical authority in
the country? Really, Mr. Larkins--’

‘He’s an honest, straightforward man, Sir Rupert, with plenty of
common sense. His judgment may be at fault, but at any rate his
opinion is certain to be unbiassed and unprejudiced; he assures me
that Lady Farrington is perfectly fit to take care of herself, and
ought to be immediately set at large.’

‘I cannot agree with your friend. I have seen her only within these
last few days, and I think she is as bad as ever.’

‘I shall refer the matter, then, to one of the Lord Chancellor’s
visitors,’ said Herbert, displaying an intimate acquaintance with
procedure which rather surprised Sir Rupert.

‘That is not necessary, I assure you. If the poor lady is capable
of taking care of herself I do not wish to detain her. Far from it.
If it is really your wish to visit Greystoke, Mr. Larkins, we will
go there to-morrow.’

And thus Sir Rupert Farrington consented to a step which could not
but have very serious consequences to himself and all who were
dependent upon him.



CHAPTER IV.

VISITORS AT GREYSTOKE.


Greystoke had once been a manor-house and place of mark in the
county of Hopshire. A long-fronted but compact mansion, with thick
walls and a wide moat, it still looked capable of withstanding a
siege. Not that there was any chance of one. Admission was not
difficult to obtain, provided the usual formalities were observed.
The thing was to get out again when you had once got in. The
natural strength of the place made it nearly as secure as a prison.
But no bolts or bars were needed; if the stout doors and numerous
gates, deep moat, and broad haha had not sufficed, there was behind
all the lynx-eyed watchfulness of the attendants.

Joe Hanlon was in high favour at Greystoke. In him--thanks to his
long military training--prompt unhesitating obedience had come to
be second nature. All orders he received he carried out implicitly,
and to the letter. He was as plucky too as he was punctual; and he
could always be relied on when there was an ugly job on hand. Hard,
tough, and resolute, he was ready to tackle the most truculent
patient, and brave his fiercest rage. ‘The Boy’s’ little weakness
for refreshment might have done him harm at Greystoke, but his
superiors at the asylum were not as keen in the detection of
unsteadiness as the non-commissioned officers of the Duke’s Own;
and when Joe was at all ‘on,’ he managed to keep the secret to
himself. Perhaps, as a valuable servant, his masters were often
conveniently blind.

As a person of some authority, Hanlon was at liberty to go where he
pleased in the establishment. One morning he paid a visit to the
female wing, and asked to see Miss Ponting.

‘Good morning, Mr. Hanlon.’

‘Morning, Miss. How is she to-day?’ he went on at once, and with no
little excitement in his voice.

‘Her ladyship? Like a lamb. What’s amiss, Mr. Hanlon? You look
peeked.’

Miss Ponting’s duties had lain for some years with the most
aristocratic patients, and she cultivated a refinement of
language and a fastidiousness of expression which imposed upon
no one so much as herself. But for the firm lines of her mouth
and steady eye--traits which proved her fitness for her present
employment--she might have been set down as a fat foolish
woman of forty, with the airs and graces of girlhood, and the
pretentiousness of one who sought to be considered superior to
her station. She had a fine eye for the main chance, however,
and this had led her to listen willingly enough to ‘the Boy’s’
blandishments. There was profit, perhaps, substantial and
considerable, to be got out of the affair.

‘They’re coming over this very day,’ cried Hanlon. ‘Sir Rupert and
the captain’--Joe had already given Herbert promotion, partly out
of affection, and partly to impress Miss Ponting--‘and the whole
kit of ’em.’

‘Well, what puts you in such a taking? We ain’t to be trampled upon
like the sands of the seashore. We’re ready for anyone that chooses
to come.’

‘But is _she_? The captain means to have her out, and so I tell
you; and it’ll all depend on how they find her. Is she fit to be
seen?’

‘Never was better. Her appetite’s _combsar_, but her manner’s quite
_degagy_, and her temper _debonnair_.’

‘Will it do to prepare her? Won’t it flurry her, as when you told
her of the fight on the Coast?’

‘Best break it to her judgematically, and with--with--a composing
draught. I’ll tell her too to hold her tongue--she is mindful of
what I say, always--and answer only when she’s spoken to; and if
I put her into a quiet dress, and keep my eye on her, she’ll come
through all right, or call me Jenny Say Quoy.’

‘I’ll call you a brick, and a beauty, and Mrs. Hanlon, or anything
you please,’ said ‘the Boy,’ in high glee. ‘You’re quite a genius,
Georgeyana, and I’ll fight the man who says you ain’t.’

The visitors arrived punctually at eleven. Dr. Fewster, the
proprietor of the establishment, who had been briefly apprised by
Sir Rupert, received them in state in his drawing-room. He was a
man of a not uncommon type, but certain peculiar characteristics
were very strongly developed in him. A superficial observer,
after five minutes’ talk, would have thought him one of the
pleasantest men in the world. The moment he met you, Dr. Fewster
took possession of you, and began to dose you with oil--not that
known in the profession as croton, cod-liver, or castor--but the
metaphorical oil of compliment and flattery, very thinly disguised.
If he had not taken to lunacy, he might have made a fortune in
general practice, so honeyed were his accents, and reassuring his
tone.

When Herbert was presented to him, Dr. Fewster put out his hand,
and said with much feeling,

‘To shake hands with a hero is indeed an honour for us who never
leave our armchairs at home. Let me tell you, Mr. Larkins, such
deeds as yours send a thrill through the whole country, and we are
proud--proud to call you one of ourselves.’

All this time he held Herbert’s hand, and was shaking it as though
it was a bottle of his own medicine, very much to Herbert’s
discomfort, who inwardly apostrophised him as an ass, a humbug, and
a cad.

‘And you, Sir Rupert, how pained yet how pleased you must have been
to welcome him home--to have thanked him for his devotion. Ah!
would, would to Heaven it had been more successful--’

Dr. Fewster turned away, overcome with emotion, but Sir Rupert, who
knew his man, said abruptly,

‘We have come on business, doctor.’

‘So I understood from your letter, although you did not exactly
specify what. It is not then merely to visit my establishment,
which by the bye I should be only _too_ happy to show, but--’

‘To see Lady Farrington.’

‘_In_deed! This gentleman is perhaps acquainted with, possibly
interested in, the case?’

‘This Mr. Larkins,’ said Sir Rupert, not without bitterness, ‘is an
old friend and protégé of her ladyship’s. He has not seen her for
some years--in fact not since she has been here.’

‘To be sure, to be sure, I remember now,’ and the doctor looked at
Herbert with a keen, cunning glance, wondering whether there was
anything to fear from that quarter.

‘I have not yet been my rounds,’ he said; ‘I cannot tell how her
ladyship is this morning; but if she is presentable--there are
times, you understand, when she is not quite, quite self-possessed,
you know, and perhaps--’

‘Mr. Larkins thinks that there may be some mistake; that the poor
lady is not what you, Dr. Fewster, and what we all imagine. He has
heard that she is perfectly quiet and rational.’

‘May I ask from whom?’

Herbert did not reply. He was too much interested in the door, at
which he was looking steadily. He was perhaps expecting some one.

‘Some one in the establishment,’ Sir Rupert answered for him.

‘In my establishment? Can it be possible that you would accept
any evidence but my own? I forbear to ask who your informant may
be’--in his own secret heart he was registering a vow to discover,
and mentally promising the culprit a very short shrift--‘but I need
hardly say that information surreptitiously obtained cannot always
be quite relied upon. Nor, may I add, is any opinion of real value
but that of those duly accredited; and I must maintain mine against
all comers save and except the great lights and authorities of my
own profession.’

At this moment a servant entered with a card, which Dr. Fewster
took up carelessly, but as he looked at it his demeanour suddenly
changed.

‘Where is he?’ he hurriedly inquired of the servant. ‘In my study?
or has he gone into the building? Gentlemen, pray forgive me,
but this is a visitor whom I cannot neglect. It is Dr. Darlington
Mayne, the eminent alienist, and as you, perhaps, are aware, the
newly-appointed Chancellor’s visitor. You will follow me, I trust?’

Sir Rupert looked savagely interrogative at Herbert, as though to
inquire whether it was by his agency that this great official had
appeared so opportunely upon the scene.

‘I thought it would be more satisfactory to all parties,’ Herbert
said, quite calmly. ‘A friend of mine is an intimate friend of his,
and Dr. Mayne is already in full possession of all the facts of the
case.’

‘The young fellow plays his game closely,’ thought the doctor, as
he left the room.

‘The young villain has stolen a march upon me,’ thought Sir Rupert,
and so Herbert evidently had.

Dr. Fewster was a little nervous when he met the great man, who,
without waiting for the proprietor, had gone at once into Lady
Farrington’s apartments, and was already in close conversation with
her.

‘Dr. Fewster? Ah! I wished to see her ladyship,’ began Dr. Mayne,
rather curtly.

‘Oh, of course. And how _are_ you this morning, my dear lady?’
inquired the asylum doctor.

‘Very well; perfectly well, as I have been these five years past,’
replied Lady Farrington, with great coolness and self-possession.

The old lady had aged considerably since we last saw her. Her hair
was snow white. There was a sort of rather mournful expression
in her dark eyes, which one sees often in human beings and all
who have been long in captivity, and have but little hope of
release. But these eyes had lost none of their brilliancy, and she
sat up straight in her chair, with evident signs of strength and
vitality still unimpaired. The great news which the attendant had
communicated to her but an hour or two before, that Herbert was
close by, and meant to get her out, somehow, had put new life into
her.

‘Your ladyship slept well?’ went on Dr. Fewster, ‘no visions, no
visitors--from Africa?’

Lady Farrington’s hands trembled, and a sudden gleam flashed from
her eyes, but she saw Miss Ponting looking at her, and instantly
she subsided into perfect calm.

The reference to Herbert was artfully made, but it failed.

‘I never see visions. You are talking nonsense, Dr. Fewster.’

‘No apparitions? No ghostly messages from missing and long-lost
friends?’

Lady Farrington appeared a little agitated, but again a glance from
Miss Ponting reassured her.

‘Of course not. I do not understand you in the least.’

‘Nothing from Herbert Larkins? He has given you no warning of his
approaching return?’

This was a great trial to her ladyship, but she bore it wonderfully
well. A greater test was in store for her.

‘What if I tell you he is close at hand, that within a week, within
a day or two perhaps, you may see him again?’

The poor lady’s fortitude for a moment gave way:

‘You mean that he is here at this moment, actually here in the
house. Oh, let me see him! my sweet, sweet boy; now, now, at once,
I implore you--’

Then she stopped suddenly, but with a manifest effort, and turning
to Dr. Mayne, said piteously,

‘It is not fair; it is cruel to work upon my feelings thus. This is
the subject nearest to my heart, and he knows it, hoping to excite
me and make me appear other than I am. It is for this dear boy that
I am imprisoned here--I will speak--’ (this was in answer to a
warning gesture from Miss Ponting). ‘This gentleman is a Government
visitor, he has said so, come here on purpose to do me justice.
He shall hear the whole story from beginning to end, and he will
know then that I have been the victim of the hardest usage and foul
play.’

Dr. Fewster turned to Dr. Mayne with a meaning look, which plainly
implied that he would now see the form taken by Lady Farrington’s
craze. This was her weak point--her monomania, and her madness
would soon unmistakeably be betrayed.

‘You shall tell me the whole story, Lady Farrington, but privately,
and in your own way. I wish to see her ladyship alone, quite alone.’

Dr. Mayne spoke very quietly; he was an undemonstrative man, of few
words, but his manner and tone were one of much determination and
authority.

Meanwhile Sir Rupert and Herbert, left to themselves, had exchanged
but little conversation. The baronet was preoccupied, and there was
a black scowl on his face, which boded ill for any whom his anger
could touch. Herbert was silent too. He felt that he had thrown
away the scabbard, and was fighting Sir Rupert to the death.

The moments dragged themselves slowly on, till presently Dr.
Fewster returned, with many apologies.

‘I am truly grieved to have kept you so long from the object of
your visit. The fact is, Dr. Darlington Mayne also wished to see
Lady Farrington, and he is at present closeted with her. Till he
chooses to end the interview we cannot disturb him, of course.’

It was quite an hour later when Dr. Mayne joined them.

‘These are the poor lady’s friends,’ said the asylum doctor, with
much formality. ‘Sir Rupert Farrington, Mr. Herbert Larkins, of the
Duke’s Own.’

Dr. Mayne bowed very coldly to Sir Rupert, but put out his hand to
Herbert.

‘Our mutual friend, Dr. McCosh, has often spoken to me of you. That
was a noble deed of yours, and I am glad to know you, Mr. Larkins.’

‘But Lady Farrington?’ eagerly interposed Herbert, as soon as he
civilly could.

‘It is a case of some little difficulty. I am really rather
perplexed. Her ladyship is perfectly sane, I think, and rational,
except on one point. If I could but obtain some independent
testimony on that, I might see my way. She perseveres in
asseverating, although she can adduce no proofs, that her son
Herbert, whom she has not seen for upwards of five and twenty
years, left a son, and that you, Mr. Larkins, are he.’

Herbert replied slowly and with an air of the deepest conviction,

‘She is perfectly right. I am.’

‘Great powers!’ cried Sir Rupert, starting to his feet and foaming
with rage. ‘Was there ever such matchless effrontery?’

‘It can be fully substantiated,’ went on Herbert, still perfectly
calm.

‘It is a gross and unfounded lie, from beginning to end--a
conspiracy, an attempt to defraud.’

‘Of that the law can only judge,’ said Dr. Mayne; ‘but I must
confess Mr. Larkins’ assertion so far satisfies my mind that I feel
convinced Lady Farrington is not suffering from any hallucination,
and I shall recommend her immediate discharge.’

‘You cannot, must not; my life would be in peril,’ expostulated Sir
Rupert, still furious, but rather taken aback.

‘My mind is quite made up,’ said the Chancellor’s visitor,
authoritatively.

‘And I give you notice,’ went on Herbert, ‘on behalf of Lady
Farrington, that Mr. Bellhouse, her solicitor, will forthwith
commence an action against you for illegal detention, and will
require a full account of all moneys due to her during the time she
has been under restraint.’

‘I care nothing for your actions,’ cried Sir Rupert, snapping his
fingers, ‘and if I spend my last shilling she shall not go at
large.’

But he was compelled to give way. The law was too strong for him,
his opponents too full of fight. And that they meant business was
clear from an advertisement which appeared everywhere directly
after Lady Farrington was set free. It was as follows:--‘5,000_l._
Reward. To anyone who will give authentic proofs of marriage
about 184-- between Herbert Farrington, _alias_ Corporal Smith,
of the 12th Lancers, and Ann, daughter of Josiah Orde, of
Newark-on-Trent.’



CHAPTER V.

A MOMENTOUS QUESTION.


The Dowager Lady Farrington, after long years of grief and sorrow,
had chanced at last upon happier days. Her cup of bliss seemed
filled now to overflowing. To be free once more, released from
the hateful asylum, with its painful associations and unbroken
restraint, was in itself a great joy; that Herbert was restored
to her was a yet greater delight, but greatest of all was the
knowledge that her heart had not misled her, and that she had
rightly recognised him as the offspring of her own ill-used and
long-lost boy. Herbert had told her the story as he had had it from
Mrs. Larkins, and the statement--although it lacked formal legal
proof--was more than sufficient to satisfy her ladyship’s mind.
She was, indeed, only too eager to believe it. But had any doubt
remained, it would have been more than removed, so she declared, by
the living Herbert’s extraordinary resemblance to the one that was
dead and gone.

‘As I look at you now, a full-grown man, I seem to see my own poor
son once more,’ cried the old lady, with tears of joy in her eyes.
‘You have his face, his features, all his ways. Even the colour of
your hair and of your eyes is the same. You are a Farrington, every
inch; I know it, I feel it, and everybody else shall own it also,
and at once.’

Nothing would please her but that he should assume, without loss of
time, the Farrington name and arms.

‘No, not yet,’ he pleaded; ‘I am not entitled to them.’

‘Are you not my grandson? Who shall gainsay that?’

‘I know it, and I glory in it; but still the case is not
satisfactorily proved. Besides, if I am to take the name of
Farrington at all, it can only be as the head of the house.’

‘You _are_ Sir Herbert Farrington, at this very moment.’

‘I ought to be, perhaps. But you will admit that to say so
positively at present would be quite premature. It would not be in
very good taste either, and I had much rather let things stay as
they are.’

To this Lady Farrington eventually assented, but not with the best
grace in the world.

‘At any rate, everyone shall know that I recognise and adopt you,’
she said, with all a woman’s pertinacity. ‘You may be called Mr.
Larkins, but you are the son of this house. All I have is yours,
now if you wish it, and absolutely so after I am gone.’

And to prove her words she sought, in spite of his protestations,
to load him with rich gifts. Her ladyship happily had ample funds
at her disposal. Whatever sinister motives may have actuated Sir
Rupert in locking her up, he had behaved with scrupulous honesty
towards her effects. As the appointed administrator, he had full
power over every penny of hers, but he never misappropriated one.
No sooner was Lady Farrington at large, than he rendered an exact
account of his stewardship to Mr. Bellhouse, and the balance
he handed over was very satisfactory indeed. Out of this Lady
Farrington wished to make large settlements at once upon Herbert,
contenting herself with her jointure, which would amply suffice
for all her needs as before. But she attached a condition that he
should retire forthwith from the profession in which he had first
begun to climb, and reside with her, devoting himself also to the
great emprise of fully establishing his claims.

It was a severe struggle for the young man: On the one side,
gratitude to the kind benefactress who had done so much for him
impelled him to accept the offer she so generously made; on the
other, his affection for the service in which he had already
begun to rise urged him as strongly to reject the conditions she
wished to impose. At any rate, he begged for time. There was no
need to decide in a hurry. He had still six months’ leave to run;
something might turn up to support his case--some answers to
the advertisement, some news of the missing marriage lines. Lady
Farrington consented gladly enough. All she asked was that he
should remain always at her side. This time was spent in London,
whither the pair had come immediately after Lady Farrington’s
discharge. Farrington Court was hateful to her, she declared,
and for obvious reasons; it was too near the Hall, too near the
monster who had cast a cloud over the last half-dozen years of her
life; too full of memories she desired now to shut out for ever.
London, with its varied interests and amusements, its busy life,
and stirring ways, was more calculated to suit Lady Farrington’s
temper than a semi-conventual seclusion in a lonely and nearly
empty country place. Mr. Bellhouse had therefore secured a snug
house in a Mayfair street, a thoroughfare noisy with carriages,
gay and lively always with people passing continually to and fro.
Here Miss Ponting had also been installed as lady’s-maid, a very
wise precaution, which served to keep Lady Farrington always quiet.
‘The Boy’ was also one of the household. He had given himself his
discharge the day after the great scene at the asylum, having
done the business entrusted to him, and wishing to avoid any
altercation with the angry and suspicious chief. Hanlon’s position
in Vaughan-street was not at first quite clearly defined; but,
beginning as hall-porter, he lapsed first into general factotum,
and then into Herbert’s body-servant and own particular man. His
appointment was rather a sinecure; beyond cleaning his master’s
boots, to which he gave a lustre which was the envy of every
shoeblack whom Herbert passed in the streets, and pipeclaying his
kid gloves, for want of anything better on which to try his hand,
he had not the slightest idea of the duties of a valet; and Herbert
had as little knowledge of what he should ask Hanlon to do. But the
two talked constantly together of old times; they compared notes
of past experiences, discussed old comrades, cross-questioned each
other, and wound up by expressing their unbounded and unshaken
opinion that there never was and never would be such a corps in any
army in the civilised world as the Duke’s Own. When they came to
this point Herbert’s heart grew heavy, and he sought to change the
conversation. ‘The Boy,’ after a little, saw this.

‘Faith, sir’--he was most religiously respectful nowadays--‘you jib
and shirk whenever we come to talk of the old corps. You’re as bad
as the colonel when a Goojerat day came twice in the same week.
What’s up, sir? You’re not going to turn your back upon the old
corps?’

‘That’s just where it is, Joe. Lady Farrington wants me to retire
and live always with her.’

‘And you that’s only just got your commission, sir, and that’ll
be adjutant when you please, and a staff officer, and a field
officer, and a general officer, and all sorts of officers rolled
into one, before you be got a grey hair. G’long with you, sir!
It’s the wildest, maddest--well, no, that’s not a pleasant word to
use in this house. But you mustn’t do it, sir; you mustn’t do it.
Only this blessed day did I see the captain--Greathed--him that’s
colonel now, you know; and he axes after you; and sez he, is he
pretty stout? sez he; and sez I, he is that, sez I; and I’ll be
coming to see him, sez he; and I hope he will, this very day, sez
I, for it’s a folly to talk to him, sez I; which it is, sez he; I
mean, sez I--but I’m fairly bothered, like Johnny Raw at recruits’
drill.’

There was no doubt that Herbert, although he fought against it,
was chafing much at his present life. If it was to be all like
this he would willingly, in preference, return to ‘sentry-go.’
Lady Farrington’s kindness was great and unceasing of course. She
never tired of expressing her affection, and this in something more
substantial than mere words. He had _carte blanche_ at the best
tailor’s, a park hack, and as much money as he could spend. For
a time all this was pleasant enough. It was his first experience
of London; and no young man in funds is likely to find London
dull. But it is possible to exhaust its amusements after a time,
especially when one has no special pursuits and no hankering after
shady places and not too reputable ways. There was no vice in
Herbert, although he was by no means a milksop or a prig. But he
knew too well what was due to himself to lapse into the inanities
which prove so often irresistible to other young men. It did not
satisfy him to bet, and haunt the theatres, and loaf about the
Burlington Arcade. Other and more rational ways of employing his
time he certainly found in visiting exhibitions, seeing the sights,
and more especially in frequenting the United Service Institution,
where he devoted himself for several hours of every day to the
continued study of the profession he was doomed probably, and
unhappily for him, soon to leave. Often enough too he satisfied his
military cravings by attending the Guard mounting at St. James’s
Palace; he was weak enough sometimes to accompany a volunteer
regiment on its way to the park for drill, keeping step almost
intuitively, and enjoying the whole thing far more than anyone in
the crowd.

But all these did not half suffice to exhaust his native energy,
developed and increased as it had been by his recent active life.
He panted continually for more to do. He grew more and more
hipped and out of joint. He was so lonely too. Under the peculiar
circumstances of his early career it was little likely that he
would have many acquaintances of his own age. He might perhaps hunt
up a few of his old Deadham school friends, but school friends
in after life do not run up against each other much, unless they
have been at Eton, Harrow, or the like, and belong of right to the
great world. He had no club as yet; no military comrades even.
He had so recently passed across the great gulf which divides the
commissioned officer from the rank and file, that he had not been
accepted by the one, although he had left the other altogether
behind.

Nevertheless, he kept his own counsel, and would not for the world
betray to Lady Farrington that he was not perfectly contented
with his lot. It would have been but a poor requital for all her
kindness, he said, and he must put the best face upon the matter.
Even that greater and far keener trial, which was daily growing
closer and closer, when he would have to cut himself finally adrift
from his much-loved profession, he would have faced, as he had met
other really greater trials, like a man.

But he was spared this, mainly through Colonel Greathed, and
indirectly, also, through ‘the Boy.’ The first came without delay
to see Herbert, but it was the latter who had induced him to come.
Naturally, he was introduced to Lady Farrington, who welcomed him
very cordially as one of Herbert’s early patrons and friends.

‘It has been a rough experience for my grandson,’ said the old
lady, who always spoke of Herbert openly as a relation, ‘but it
will, no doubt, have been for his good. At any rate, it is over
now, and Herbert will live like a gentleman for the rest of his
life.’

‘An _officer_ and a gentleman, I trust,’ said Colonel Greathed,
laying some stress on the first word.

‘No, not exactly; he has promised me that he will leave the service
at once.’

‘He will be taken up and shot as a deserter the very next day,’
said the colonel with mock seriousness.

But the old lady took the statement _au pied de la lettre_.

‘You don’t really mean that?’ she asked, nervously.

‘Of course not,’ put in Herbert.

‘I mean that he is, and must always be, a soldier--at heart. It’s
in him, part of his nature, and he can’t put it off like a slipper
or a coat.’

Lady Farrington looked hard at the colonel, as if to grasp his
meaning more thoroughly, then turned her eyes interrogatively upon
Herbert.

‘You have never said a word of this, Herbert, my sweet boy. You
have expressed no regrets, have offered no objections--?’

Herbert hung his head rather, and hesitated to speak.

‘Can it be possible that I have prayed you to take a step which is
distasteful to you? Selfish old wretch that I am!’

‘No, no, grandmother, it is not so. I would do this and far more
to gratify your slightest wish. I will leave the service gladly; I
don’t care to remain in it, I don’t indeed.’

‘Herbert, I cannot quite trust to what you say. I shall ask Colonel
Greathed to tell me the exact truth. Will you leave us alone
together, and come back in half an hour?’

Her ladyship pressed the colonel very closely. She begged him to
speak openly and without reserve. In order to invite confidence,
she detailed the whole of the circumstances connected with
Herbert’s birth and parentage. She enlarged upon his possible
prospects, and the importance of his always being at home to
advance them. What she scarcely referred to, brave old soul! was
the pleasure she would derive from his constant companionship.

‘If you ask my advice, Lady Farrington,’ said Colonel Greathed,
‘I should say leave him to follow his profession. It will be no
hindrance to him in prosecuting his claims; and should these fail,
as I apprehend is just possible, he may nevertheless achieve an
excellent position for himself. His bent is so strongly marked; he
is so promising a young soldier; he has already done so well; he
is, I firmly believe, so keen and eager to continue in his career
that I think it would be unfair to himself, to his friends, to the
country he serves, to baulk him and turn him aside.’

Lady Farrington was much moved. Her eyes were full of tears, and
she could hardly speak.

‘It will pain you, I fear, to part with him. You will miss him
greatly, I have no doubt. Still such partings are only short-lived,
and when they are for a young man’s good--’

‘You are right, Colonel Greathed, and I am half ashamed of myself
for my selfish weakness, but I can hold out no longer.’

She wiped her eyes and sent for Herbert.

‘It is settled, and in the way to please you best, I feel sure. You
shall continue in the calling you have chosen, my brave boy. It
must and shall be so. I have not many years to live, but I pray God
will spare me until I see you righted I hope, but at any rate on
the high road to fame.’

She kissed him tenderly on the forehead, as if to sign the
agreement thus.

‘But you will not leave me just yet,’ she said, almost piteously.
‘He need not go back to the regiment directly, Colonel Greathed?’

‘Certainly not; not till October, when we embark for Gibraltar
again. I shall want him to take the adjutancy then.’



CHAPTER VI.

BACK ON THE ROCK.


As October approached, and with it the time for rejoining his
regiment, Herbert became more and more eager and excited. He was
quite angry with himself for being so pleased. It seemed such base
ingratitude to Lady Farrington to be so delighted to leave her. But
he was not that in the least. He felt an increasing regard for her
which promised to develop some day into deep affection. He was only
overjoyed at the prospect of once more resuming his work. Those who
have been long in regular harness can best realize how flat, stale,
and unprofitable is life without a fixed object and employment,
more or less constant, from morning till night. Neither by
inclination nor by his recent training was Herbert of the sort to
eat the bread of idleness, or be satisfied with having nothing to
do. Therefore it was, that when his adieux were made, and the poor
old lady left to her solitary grief, Herbert returned to soldiering
with all the vigour and elasticity of a steel spring, which has
been set free. He could never forget all he owed his first patron
and firm friend; he meant to spend a certain portion of his time
with her still; he would go to her always gladly and with the
utmost alacrity, when she expressed a wish to see him or desired to
have him at her side. But in spite of all, he was like a schoolboy
just released from school. The expiration of his leave and his
return to duty, which is to some officers such an inexpressible
bore, was to him a source of the most unfeigned delight.

Yet it was not without a certain trepidation that he prepared to
take up his new position. How would his brother officers receive
him? Would they accept him as one of themselves? He remembered,
certainly, that when the news of his promotion first reached the
Coast, all had congratulated him warmly, and made many cordial and
civil speeches, declaring him to be an honour to the Duke’s Own.
But these were days of abnormal excitement; a sharp campaign was
barely ended, and active service does much to sweep away formality
and level class distinctions. It would be different now, perhaps,
at an expensive and brilliant mess in a gay garrison town, where
social life was always bubbling up and boiling over in festive
gatherings, race-meetings, days with the Calpe hounds, theatricals,
and balls. Herbert had no particular craving for these joys.
But would he be freely admitted and readily welcomed everywhere?
Might not some, unmindful of the fact that he had a gentleman’s
education, and that possibly his birth, if he got his rights, was
better than theirs, be disposed to look down upon him, and despise
him as a man who had ‘risen from the ranks?’

Herbert was little acquainted with the tempers and idiosyncrasies
of British officers. Although long associated with them, it had
been only as an inferior separated from them by a wide gulf, and he
saw only what was on the surface: _brusquerie_, often, an arrogant
manner and a self-satisfied air. He did not know that at bottom
they were honest and well-meaning fellows full of prejudices--not
all Newtons perhaps, or John Stuart Mills--but straightforward
honourable men, who were in the habit of taking their comrades
just as they found them, and just for what they were worth.
There may be snobs who will kotow to a duke’s son, or revolve as
satellites round a wealthy young _parvenu_; but the general verdict
of a British mess upon the individuals who compose it, is based
always upon their intrinsic qualities and personal claims.

The Duke’s Own were not long in finding out that Herbert Larkins
was ‘a man of the right sort,’ ‘a thorough good chap all round.’
They saw, not without surprise, perhaps, that he took his place
among them quite naturally, almost as though to the manner born.

He behaved quite properly at the dinner-table; he did not eat peas
with a knife, or drink with his mouth full; he could take his share
in the conversation--never very abstruse or wide in its range--and
that without dropping his h’s or miscalling his words. He could do
most things, too; play cricket and racquets, shoot, ride or play
a rubber of whist. Above all, he had a pleasant face and a genial
manner, with a smile and a civil word for all who spoke to him,
whether on duty or off.

This last was almost sufficient recommendation in itself,
especially when found in the adjutant, as it was in Herbert’s
case. Colonel Greathed was not a commanding officer to be led by
the nose; he drove his own coach, and had his team always well
in hand. But even under his _régime_ the adjutant was as he must
always be--a considerable personage. He really wields much power;
he is the usual channel of communication with the colonel; through
him officers apply for leave or other indulgences; he keeps the
duty roster, and can, if he pleases, do even the oldest a good
turn, by carrying out exchanges, and substituting one name for
another, even at the eleventh hour. Over the prisoners he exercises
the sway of a task-master and pedagogue combined; he can prolong
drill-instruction to a maddening length; and upon his good or evil
report much of their happiness depends. With the non-commissioned
officers, and rank and file, the adjutant is generally an
irresponsible autocrat and king. He holds the sergeants in the
hollow of his hand; the colonel nearly always relies upon him
to recommend men for promotion, and it is he who brings forward
deserving private soldiers and raises them out of the ruck. All
this tends to make his position dangerously full of snares. He may
easily become puffed up and conceited; worse still (and this is
especially noticeable in adjutants who have risen from the ranks),
he may drift into favouritism; and, by reason of his intimate
acquaintance with the ins and outs of military life, fall into the
error of knowing too much and seeing too much. That Herbert steered
clear of all the hidden rocks which threaten the adjutant’s course
was the best testimony to his worth. Although he never swerved from
his duty, no adjutant could have been more generally popular.

The days passed evenly and pleasantly enough. They were happy days
for Herbert, which he remembered always in his after life. Busy
days, beginning with the fresh morning hours, when he took the
battalion out for early drill, and ending with the inspection of
the non-commissioned officers at tattoo. Guard-mounting parade
in a fortress bristling with sentries; orderly-room in a place
where liquor, unfortunately, is cheap; much correspondence and
many intricate returns, in a garrison fully provided with the
regulation number of staff officers, all these kept him close
till it was long past mid-day. Then there was afternoon parade,
more writing, the drill of young officers, and a few recruits,
or awkward squads, and the day was well advanced before he could
call himself really free; but there were few days when he did not
find time for a smart canter along the beach of Gibraltar Bay, the
Rotten Row of the Rock, or for a longer ramble upon the slopes
below the Queen of Spain’s Chair, or on the San Roque road and
towards the Cork Wood. Now and again, but rarely, and chiefly when
the meet was near at hand, he gave himself a half-holiday, and
spent many enjoyable hours with the Calpe hounds. It was his first
taste of hunting, and although not quite of the best, perhaps, it
was a pleasant introduction to the mysteries of sport. There was
always the fair landscape lying bright under the southern sky;
the change and movement through the fresh, sweet-scented air, the
cheerful companionship of a field of happily-disposed people, whom
the day’s outing, with its short runs and rapid break-neck gallops,
thoroughly amused.

Ladies, not many certainly, but all very ardent followers of the
chase, invariably attend the meets of the Calpe hounds. Herbert saw
them, each with her little band of devoted attendants, for ladies
are scarce at Gibraltar, and all who have the smallest pretensions
to please can always count upon a court of their own. Herbert owed
allegiance to none of the reigning queens; he had no leisure for
flirting and philandering, nor did he much enjoy the garden-party,
afternoon tea, or small and early dance. When he was out with
the hounds, therefore, he ranged about alone or with some male
companion of his own sort. He had hardly a bowing acquaintance with
any one of the fair sex upon the Rock, and it was with no little
surprise that he found himself one day greeted with a nod and a
most friendly smile by one whom, for the moment, he did not seem to
know.

It was Miss Prioleau.

The general, with his wife and daughter, had been away, on leave in
England, when the Duke’s Own returned to Gibraltar. They had only
been back a few days when Herbert thus again encountered his little
friend Edith for the first time.

He raised his hat, and would have ridden on, but the general
himself came up with outstretched hand:

‘Allow me, Mr. Larkins, to congratulate you. As one of the old
regiment, I take a pride in any one who has contributed to its
credit. You have done so, and right well. I am glad to think you
have met with your deserts.’

‘Yes, indeed,’ put in the sweet voice of the daughter, and somehow
the simple words were far more grateful to Herbert’s ears than the
sonorous praises which fell from her father’s lips. ‘Yes, indeed,
Mr. Larkins, it was a noble action, and we are all proud of it.’

The bright maiden had now grown into the fair and more staid and
self-conscious, but winsome girl. Yet she was the same attractive
little person, no less engaging, and far more dangerous now in
her budding womanly beauty than when he had seen her last, still
almost a child in her white habit, patronising him at the general’s
inspection, and, metaphorically, patting him on the back.

Herbert muttered a few words in acknowledgment of the general’s
courteous approval. Edith he thanked by a grateful look, which had
perhaps more meaning in it than he intended, or that she exactly
liked.

‘I do believe they have found, father!’ she cried; and as she
spoke there was a sudden stir and bustle at the far end of the
field. Next moment came the whimper of a hound; then the cheering
voice of the huntsman, then the twang of a horn, then a whole
chorus of voices--for out here everyone acted as amateur whip and
unprofessional aid--swelling up into a grand volume of sound.

‘Yoicks! For’rad! Ga--wn a--way!’

It promised to be a capital burst. They had been drawing the White
House covert, and the fox headed for the Majarambu woods. The
country was rough; now and again you came to a precipice like the
side of a house; next to a long slope studded, as it might be,
with the great boulders of an old world glacier or moraine; then
broad uplands clothed with broad tufts of the gum cistus, just
high enough to oblige your horse to take them in a series of quick
jumps not always very easy to sit. The pace was good, the going
difficult, and, an unusual thing, the run was protracted for more
than a quarter of an hour. Ere long the field began to tail off,
and presently there were very few people in the first flight. Bill
Ackroyd, the huntsman, was one, so was the M.F.H., Herbert also,
and Edith Prioleau, but without her papa. The general had got into
difficulties at a wide drain, where, as some irreverent subalterns
remarked, it was to be hoped he might stay, at least beyond the
following Saturday, so that they might escape the usual weekly
field-day upon the North Front.

In the exuberant enjoyment of galloping at top speed over a
break-neck country, Edith had all but forgotten the existence of
her father. No doubt he would turn up at the first check. Runs were
not so plentiful, and this one was far too good to lose. She meant
to see it out to the very last.

Not quite. There must be accidents sometimes, as the Spanish
journals say when describing bull-fights; and all at once Edith’s
horse, a not too surefooted barb, put his foot in a hole, and he
and his rider came down together.

Over and over they rolled, on the top and close to the margin
of the steep cliff, a mixed-up mass, as it seemed to Herbert’s
terrified eyes, of habit, light curls, black hoofs, gray mane, and
tail. Quick as lightning he had dismounted and gone to the rescue.
How he managed he never remembered; but by a great effort, and, as
he thought, after the lapse of nearly an age of time, he succeeded
in disengaging Miss Prioleau from her horse.

She had fainted. Her face was blanched quite white; a small stream
of crimson was trickling from one temple as though she had received
a mortal hurt. To bring water in his hunting-hat from a spring hard
by, to sprinkle her brow and chafe her hands, was all that Herbert
could do until the arrival of a number of others, among whom were
one or two eager but officious ladies, and the affrighted general.
To them he resigned his charge, but he waited anxiously a little
way off to hear how it fared with the poor girl.

Happily she soon came to. The shock of her fall had deprived her
of consciousness; a small stone had hit her forehead; but these
were the worst injuries she had endured. Very soon she was able to
remount her horse and ride slowly home.

Herbert felt first a little neglected, although, as he told
himself, he had really no reason to expect any extravagant
thanks. Probably no one knew that it was he who had extricated
Miss Prioleau from her perilous predicament, the general and his
daughter least of all, and what did it matter if they did? The
service was a very trifling one, after all, and he had only done
what any other man would have done in his place.

He was quite wrong, however, in supposing that those whom he
had served were ungrateful. Next morning came a formal but most
courteously-worded letter of thanks from the general, and with it
a letter from Mrs. Prioleau, repeating her husband’s phrases, and
winding up with a very friendly invitation to dine at an early day.

Herbert gladly accepted, full of joy at the prospect of meeting
Miss Prioleau again. He hardly considered how far the acquaintance,
if allowed to ripen, was likely to affect his peace of mind.



CHAPTER VII.

THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE.


To the young military officer in whom the reverential spirit is
not entirely quenched, the British general is often a very awful
person indeed. A halo of professional glory surrounds the great
man; strange powers--particularly as to leave--are vested in
him; his frequent frown is terrific, his occasional smile fails
to reassure. To the officer whose early days were spent in the
ranks, and who has never seen the general behind the scenes, so to
speak, as an English gentleman no better than others of his class,
the formidable effect is intensified, and a great gulf seems to
separate the two.

It was with a shy feeling and rather a sinking heart that Herbert
presented himself at Line Wall House, the residence of the
major-general commanding; but he found himself among friends even
on the threshold. An orderly sergeant, one of the Duke’s Own, of
course, and a former comrade, took his coat and forage cap; and
the servant who ushered him into the drawing-room was also an old
soldier of the regiment disguised in livery, who seemed to be the
herald of a triumphal procession as he threw wide the doors and
with stentorian lungs announced

‘_Misther Larkins!_’

The friendliness was not, however, confined to the attendants.
The general’s manner was most frank and kindly as he came forward
and shook hands. Mrs. Prioleau, a well-meaning, but very languid
washed-out personage, also greeted him quite warmly, for her:
while Edith received him with such bright eyes and heightened
colour, conveying thanks and welcome all in one, that, for the
moment, he felt quite overcome.

It was a small party of eight, carefully chosen, probably with
the idea of making Herbert thoroughly at home. Another subaltern
like himself, but newly married, with a pretty girlish cipher of
a wife, and a staff-surgeon, who proved to be Herbert’s Ashanti
friend, M‘Cosh. The general’s aide-de-camp, Captain Mountcharles, a
relation of the family, made up the number.

Edith fell to Herbert on going in to dinner. On her other side at
the table was the aide-de-camp, who, according to custom, took the
bottom, the general being at the other end, and Mrs. Prioleau in
the centre on the right.

The talk at dinner was not particularly lively at first. Mrs.
Prioleau never contributed much; the general was really a
little shy himself, especially with people whom he did not
know intimately; Edith was rather silent, and the rest of the
company seemingly abashed, all but one. The exception was Captain
Mountcharles, whose duty it was, no less than his inclination, to
make himself agreeable, and he acquitted himself very well of his
task.

He was a very self-satisfied young gentleman, rather disposed to be
overdressed and with a somewhat supercilious air. The first showed
itself in the splendour of his shirt-front, with its single stud
as large as a cheese-plate, in his enormous shirt cuffs, which he
‘shot out’ with a little concerted cough just before he made a new
remark, in the breadth of his black satin tie, and in the size of
his watch chain, which had it been long enough would have made a
cable for a seventy-four. The latter was to be seen in his drawling
accents and his tendency to depreciate everybody and everything.

Herbert hated him almost instinctively from the first, but his
dislike was deepened by his seeming familiarity with Edith, whom
he called by her Christian name. She was his cousin, so it was all
right enough, but it jarred on Herbert all the same.

‘Very poor sport to-day,’ said the aide-de-camp to the general,
‘you did not miss much, sir. You weren’t out, M‘Cosh? Were you, Mr.
Larkins--?’ punctiliously polite to Herbert, as to an inferior;
another reason for hatred. ‘How anyone can hunt here after the
shires!’

‘_You_ never hunted in the shires, Gaston, so come,’ said downright
Edith.

‘I beg your pardon, _Miss_ Edith. I did, several seasons while you
were still at school.’

‘Miss Prioleau never went to school, I think,’ put in Herbert, and
she turned on him with a bright smile.

‘O, _do_ you remember that day! I never was so bothered, I think.
French is certainly the most difficult and detestable of tongues.’

‘So I always thought,’ Herbert said.

‘You speak French, Mr. Larkins?’ asked the aide-de-camp, rather
impertinently.

‘After a fashion, that of Deadham school. Pray do you?’

‘Were _you_ at Deadham?’ went on Captain Mountcharles, rather
shirking the question, and seeming to imply that a man who had
been in the ranks had no right to any education at all.

‘Ye were at more schools than that, I take it, Larkins,’ said Dr.
M‘Cosh; ‘I saw you in one, and a hot ’un, where you were the head
and dux of the class.’

‘You were at school together, then?’ Mrs. Prioleau asked civilly,
but she was evidently too apathetic to care about the reply.

‘We played together, Mrs. Prioleau, not with hoop or ball, or peg
tops, but at the great game of war.’

‘Ashanti, I presume,’ the general said.

‘The idea of calling that a war, sir,’ interposed our bumptious
A.D.C. ‘A picnic would be a better name.’

‘It was not a picnic under the usual circumstances, at any rate,’
Herbert said quietly, as one entitled to speak.

‘No foiegras and hothouse grapes, perhaps,’ went on Mountcharles;
‘but you must admit that the whole thing was monstrously
exaggerated.’

‘O, how _can_ you say so?’ cried Edith, quite eagerly.

‘And the honours, too, look how they were overdone. Why there were
more rewards than for Waterloo.’

‘Some of them were richly deserved; one in particular, which I
could mention,’ replied Edith, with the air of a champion defending
the right.

‘It isn’t everyone who gets the chance to deserve them,’ said
Mountcharles, rather sulkily. He had never seen a shot fired
himself, and bore malice in his heart to all who had had better
luck.

‘Or who would make the most of it if they had,’ Edith retorted
sharply, adding in a low voice, ‘Gaston, I quite hate you to-night:
how disagreeable you _can_ be.’

For the remainder of the evening she made him conscious of her
high displeasure. Mountcharles and she had hitherto been the
most excellent friends. An aide-de-camp may be, and Mountcharles
certainly was, the very tamest of cats. He had other claims besides
those of cousinship to be well received. With an only daughter,
young, lively, and exceedingly attractive, both the general and
Mrs. Prioleau had realised the inconvenience and possible danger of
having a man continually about the house, unless he were in every
way an eligible _parti_. Edith had plenty of time before her, no
doubt, but at her age girls are impressionable and very apt to
succumb to the first comer if he has many opportunities of being
at her side. Mountcharles had been specially selected as A.D.C. by
Mrs. Prioleau, who, in spite of her languid airs, was a shrewd,
far-seeing woman, and she felt that if anything were to happen, at
least they were safe with Gaston Mountcharles. His father was dead,
and he had an excellent competence of his own. He was a man of good
birth, thoroughly presentable in every way. Edith, if she could
only like him, might do very much worse.

But this night it was clear Edith did not like him at all. Not that
Mountcharles much cared. He had probably far too good an opinion
of himself to be cast down by the snubbings of a girl still in
her teens. Whether or no he took her treatment of him very much
to heart does not, however, concern my readers so much as her
behaviour to the hero of my story.

To Herbert Larkins that evening she was gracious and engaging in
the extreme. She made him talk to her on subjects he would probably
know best. She listened to him with that close attention which
is in itself a subtle compliment, particularly when coming from
an attractive girl, and she smiled her approval in that frank,
straightforward way which might be interpreted one way, but which
in her, perhaps, meant nothing at all.

The effect upon Herbert was marked and almost instantaneous. He was
in truth little accustomed to the fascinations of the fair sex.
He had never been brought up to flirt and philander, to roam from
flower to flower, inhaling fragrance and passing gaily on, and he
fell at once deeply and desperately in love. His heart went out at
once to the general’s daughter, without for a moment considering
whether his passion was likely to be returned.

It was not, perhaps, exactly wise. A man more versed in the ways of
the world would have been a little more cautious and circumspect.
Edith Prioleau counted her swains by the score. Young ladies with
the great gift of beauty, of good birth, and not without brains,
pleasant talkers, good dancers, forward riders, are not too common
in English society on the Rock. Among the few belles of the place,
Edith Prioleau easily carried off the palm, and she had always a
crowd of admirers about her. She did not resent or reject their
attentions; on the contrary, she honoured them all with her favour
in turn, and enjoyed it amazingly, feeling, no doubt, that they
meant nothing any more than she did, and that, therefore, she did
no particular harm. Young soldiers are reputed susceptible; but it
is also true that, if knocked over and quite hopeless one day, they
are generally quite heart-whole the next.

Herbert Larkins was not a man of this sort. He was in sober serious
earnest from the first. He was like a slave, grovelling at her
feet. She might trample on him and spurn him if she pleased, but
he was hers always, whether she would have him or no. The worst of
it was that he could not hide his feelings. He was too honest--he
had not enough of what the world calls _savoir faire_. What did
he care who knew? He was not ashamed of his weakness. It was not
a passing fancy, but a strong attachment; a deep-seated affection
which would last as long as he lived. Everybody saw it: his
brother-officers, like good comrades, realising how much his heart
was in it, forebore to chaff him and take him to task; the garrison
generally, and all smiled, or winked knowingly when he was observed
dancing attendance on Edith, looking the picture of misery unless
she threw him a word. Captain Mountcharles saw it, so at last
did the general and his wife. Edith herself, least of all, could
not be blind to devotion which had in it much of the unswerving
unquestioning attachment of the dog that follows at one’s heels. In
all probability she would have been overcome by it. Already that
pity which is proverbially akin to a much warmer sentiment, had
taken possession of her, and she was in a fair way to be won had
Herbert pricked up courage to speak.

Edith’s parents were growing a trifle uneasy at Herbert’s
attentions. The general did not take much notice, but--a woman is
so much more worldly in these matters--Mrs. Prioleau did.

‘Do you see, Robert,’ she said at length, ‘what is going on right
under our noses? Edith, I mean, and this Mr. Larkins?’

‘Well, I have had my suspicions. But what matter? Cannot things
take their course?’

‘Agree to such a match for Edith? Robert, you must be demented.’

The general had seldom seen his wife so excited before.

‘He is a very rising young soldier.’

‘Who has already risen from the ranks. It will never do. I have
no false pride about me, I think, but it is right to draw the
line somewhere. But even if there were no other objections, that
of means ought to suffice. What are they to live upon? His pay?
Ridiculous and absurd.’

‘He cannot be dependent on his pay. He lives well, keeps horses,
and makes altogether too good a show. I have heard rumours of some
rich old lady in the background, who has made him her _protégé_.’

‘That story might not quite bear investigation,’ said Mrs. Prioleau
drily. ‘We know nothing about Mr. Larkins--where he comes from, or
to whom he belongs.’

‘I had no idea you were so keen, Sophia, I confess I like the lad.
However, speak to Edith if you feel that it is necessary. I leave
it all to you.’

It was while Mrs. Prioleau waited her opportunity that chance gave
Herbert an adverse rub.

Edith, with Captain Mountcharles as escort, was returning from
the Moorish Castle, when she came suddenly upon Herbert Larkins.
He was leaving a small cottage, which was evidently a soldier’s
quarter. It was, in fact, the home of old Sergeant Larkins and his
wife.

‘Good bye, mother,’ Herbert was saying, as the pair passed by.

‘Good bye, my boy; come again soon. You are an honest lad not to
forget us, although you’ve come to be so great a man.’

And with that the old woman kissed him tenderly on the brow,
although they stood at the cottage door, almost in the open street.

‘Whose quarter is that?’ the aide-de-camp asked of a passing
orderly, pointing back, after they had ridden a little way on.

‘Sergeant Larkins’, sir. Principal barrack sergeant, sir.’

At which Mountcharles looked hard at Edith, and with a comical face.

‘Well, what do I care? What is it to me? It is quite proper of him.
It is his duty not to neglect his parents.’

‘Oh, of course. She’s a dear old thing, too, I can see that. How
would you like her for a mother-in-law, Edith Prioleau, eh?’

‘How dare you suggest such a thing, Captain Mountcharles?’ cried
Edith, blushing red.

But there was a cold chill on her heart, and Herbert’s chances
seemed very small just then.



CHAPTER VIII.

HERBERT ON HIS METTLE.


Herbert was all unconscious that he had been observed leaving
the cottage near the Moorish Castle; still more that he had been
overheard addressing Mrs. Larkins, as of old, by the affectionate
title of mother. Had he heard what passed between Edith and Captain
Mountcharles upon that occasion it might have modified his plans
very considerably. For now at length, after much hesitation and
delay, he had made up his mind to speak to Edith on the first
opportunity, and tell her of his love. Matters had long continued
in this most unsatisfactory state with him. He had suffered
tortures; he had been continually in suspense, for ever torn by
hopes and fears. One day he was in the seventh heaven, the next
in the very depths of despair. He could do no work. Edith seemed
to come between him and his duty. He thought of her always,
everywhere. He was for ever sketching her face upon the official
blotting pad in the orderly-room; he was all but giving Edith as
the countersign when challenged by the sentries; he very nearly
mixed up her name with the words of command upon parade.

Latterly, however, he had been in much better heart. She did not
encourage him, perhaps, as much as he would have liked, but she
favoured him more, he thought, than any of his fellows. Therefore
it was that he had brought himself up to the terrible ordeal of
staking his fate upon the throw; and it was with this intention
that he approached Miss Prioleau the very next time they met.

It was at a ball at the Convent, at the well known palace or
residence of the Governor of the Rock. Edith was seated upon a
fauteuil in the _patio_, or central courtyard, between the dances.
Her companion was Captain Mountcharles.

‘May I have the pleasure of a dance, Miss Prioleau?’ Herbert asked.

‘I’m afraid I have none left.’

‘You promised me the second valse--quite a week ago.’

‘Miss Prioleau is engaged for that to me,’ put in Captain
Mountcharles, rather rudely.

‘The next, then?’ went on Herbert to Edith, without taking any
notice of the A.D.C.

‘And for that too,’ said Mountcharles, in much the same tone as
before.

‘Pardon me, I was speaking to Miss Prioleau, and I trust she will
give me the answer herself.’

‘It’s quite--’ true she was going to say, as the easiest way out
of the thing. But she was far too honest to tell a lie, even about
a dance, and besides there was a mute appealing look in Herbert’s
face which went to her heart. ‘I mean that you are rather late in
the day, Mr. Larkins.’

She had promised not to dance with him, that was the fact. There
had been a scene at the general’s about this Mr. Larkins, as Mrs.
Prioleau called him. Edith had been taken rather sharply to task
for encouraging him, and both father and mother had begged her to
be careful. The man wasn’t half good enough for her, they said.
They had no absurd scruples about birth and position, and all that,
still she ought to do much better than take a soldier of fortune,
about whom and his belongings nothing whatever was known. Edith,
remembering the Moorish Castle adventure, thought she could have
enlightened her parents as to Herbert’s belongings, but she had
no wish to injure him or to blacken him in their eyes. She only
hotly repudiated the charge of favouring him, and agreed readily
to do anything they wished. She would cut him if they liked. Not
necessary? Well, snub him then? Not necessary either. What then?
General and Mrs. Prioleau declared they would be satisfied if she
would promise not to dance with the objectionable pretender at the
Governor’s ball, and Edith gave her word to that effect.

This was why she had received Herbert so coldly. The other
adventure had weighed, perhaps, with her, but not much.

As for Herbert, he was utterly taken aback. What could be the
matter with Edith? Why this extraordinary change? Was the girl
capricious, a mere flirt, a garrison belle, to whom admiration was
everything, and admirers or their feelings simply nothing at all?
Herbert did not like to think so hardly of her all at once, and
resolved to make another attempt.

‘Is it quite hopeless, Miss Prioleau? May I not have one dance,
only one?’ again he pleaded, with such earnest eyes that Edith
Prioleau was touched and on the point of giving way.

‘Why did you cut me the other day, Mr. Larkins?’ suddenly asked
Captain Mountcharles, with the idea of creating some diversion.

‘I never cut you’--although I probably shall, and the sooner the
better--Herbert was disposed to add. ‘When and where was it?’

‘Near the Moorish Cottage; you were coming out of some soldiers’
quarters.’

‘Oh yes, Sergeant Larkins.’

‘Relations, perhaps,’ the other observed impertinently.

‘Very near and very dear,’ Herbert replied promptly. This was not
an occasion on which he would deny his old friends.

‘At any rate you are honest, Mr. Larkins,’ Edith said, with a frank
smile, but Herbert knew from the speech that Edith had been also
present, and he seemed to understand now why she was so different
to him.

‘Honesty is not the exclusive property of high birth, Miss
Prioleau, and I can claim at least to have as much as my
neighbours.’

‘Come, Edith, the music is playing,’ cried Captain Mountcharles,
springing up; ‘we are losing half the dance.’

‘I’m not going to dance this,’ she replied coolly, adding, as he
stared at her with indignant surprise, ‘I don’t care whether you’re
cross or not. Go and find some other partners; there are plenty
upstairs. I mean to stay here. Mr. Larkins will take care of me, I
daresay.’

A quick flush of pleasure sprung to Herbert’s cheek. She was
relenting; she did not mean to quarrel with him altogether. Perhaps
after all she had been only trying him, and was ready to yield if
he only took heart of grace to speak up and out to her like a man.

Mountcharles, with a sulky snort and a very savage look, had risen
from his seat and walked off, leaving Herbert considerably elated,
master of the field.

Our hero would have been less joyous, perhaps, had he known Edith’s
reason for thus appearing to favour him. With the native quick
wittedness of a daughter of Eve, she had guessed already what was
the matter with Herbert. A man who seeks to disguise his feelings
in the presence of the woman he loves may flatter himself that he
plays his part to perfection, but it is generally the flimsiest
attempt even to ordinary feminine eyes, most of all to those of
the beloved object. Edith had seen through him from the first. She
knew that he was on the brink of a declaration, that he needed
but the slightest encouragement to fall, metaphorically, even
practically, at her feet. It was better that he and she should
come to an understanding; that he should realise, even at some pain
to himself, as well as to her, that they could only be friends to
each other, nothing more.

There was a certain amount of coquetry in her fresh young voice and
of archness in her bright eyes as she looked up to him and said,

‘Well, Mr. Larkins?’

He had been standing in front of her for some minutes, seeming
rather _gauche_ and stupid, and without uttering a word; courage
seemed to come to him at once from her voice and look.

‘I was wondering whether you would listen to me, Miss Prioleau,
while I told you a story--a long story--’

‘That depends. Is it interesting? Is it founded on fact? What is it
about?’

‘It will be as interesting as I can make it. It is undoubtedly
true, and it is all about myself.’

‘Your own history?’

‘Yes, so far as I know it.’

She made no answer, but just moved her skirts a little, with the
gesture that implied she wished him to sit by her side.

There were other couples in the _patio_, patrolling or resting
between the dances; there might be many interruptions; there
certainly could be no privacy in this place, and Herbert did not
wish his confidences published to all the world.

‘Shall we take a turn in the garden?’ Herbert asked, rather
diffidently. ‘I shall be able to speak more unreservedly there.’

She nodded her head, and, getting up, took his arm without a word.

They passed out from the _patio_ to the Convent garden--a perfect
paradise that night for lovers. The moon was at its full--a
southern moon--and flooded every place with warm white light; above
was the deep purple sky, and high into it rose the steep crags of
the great Rock. The soft and mellow air was loaded with fragrance;
a wealth of southern flowers, all now in their full bloom, filled
the beds about, and among them were great bushes like trees of
syringa, and of the _dama de noche_, which only give forth their
full perfume at night. The sweet strains of an excellent band,
playing for the dancers in the great ball-room up-stairs, rose and
fell like a distant echo, and added greatly to the enchantment of
the scene.

Walking here with the girl of his heart, Herbert spoke eloquently
and well. He told everything that had happened to him from his
earliest days. The poor home in Triggertown barracks; the sudden
appearance of the great lady who had charged herself with his
education; the fine prospects which seemed to open before him on
approaching manhood, and how they had been suddenly ruined. He
spoke feelingly of the treatment he had received at the hands of
Sir Rupert Farrington.

‘Which you so nobly repaid,’ interjected Edith.

He narrated the circumstances of his birth and parentage, and
expatiated upon the affectionate devotion of old Mrs. Larkins,
who had been a second mother to him; he touched lightly upon the
chances which were still his of obtaining a title to a large estate
and a good old name. He finished, and waited to hear what she would
say.

But she was silent, and for so long that he feared she was annoyed.

‘You are not vexed? I have not bored you, I hope?’ he said.

‘Oh, no, no; I was only thinking--thinking how hardly you had been
used--how some of us, too, had misjudged you.’

She spoke in a low soft voice, which thrilled through him.

‘You were not one of those, surely? You, whose good opinion I value
above all earthly things? Oh, Miss Prioleau, there is so much I
have still to say to you that I hardly know how to begin. Can you
not guess why I have told you my life? I wished only to interest
you in myself, to explain why as yet I appear to be other than I
really am. I felt it necessary, because I feared you despised me
for my lowly birth--’

‘No, no, indeed, I never did that.’

‘I knew it, I knew it, but I wished to be perfectly sure. You
are too good, Edith, too honest to be swayed by mere class
distinctions--’

He was suddenly and rather rudely interrupted by the abrupt tones
of General Prioleau’s voice--

‘But I am not, Mr. Larkins, and the sooner you know that the
better. You probably despise them, as you do those conventional
rules of propriety by which any one of the gentleman class would be
bound.’

The general spoke with great warmth. There was no abatement in the
angriness of his tone as he turned to his daughter and said,

‘Edith, your mother and I have been looking for you for some time
past. I hardly thought to find you here and to see that you have
not kept your promise.’

‘I gave no promise; I never said I would not speak to Mr. Larkins
again,’ Edith said stoutly, although her eyes were brimming over
with tears.

‘Gaston, give Edith your arm, and take her back to her mother. I
have a word or two to say to this--_gentleman_.’

Herbert, however, had by this time found his voice. He was brave
enough too and spoke up to the general, in spite of their disparity
in rank, as one man would to another.

‘I am truly sorry, sir, to have acted in a manner which is
distasteful to you, but I cannot admit that I deserve your harsh
words. I have done nothing wrong, sir--’

‘Nothing wrong!’ repeated the general, bitterly, ‘not in seeking to
entrap the affections of an inexperienced young girl? Nothing wrong
in inveigling her to compromise herself with you by this long and
solitary _tête-à-tête_? Nothing wrong!’

‘I am deeply and sincerely attached to your daughter, sir, and I
wished to ask her to become my wife.’

‘Was there ever such matchless effrontery? _You? You_ to aspire to
my daughter’s hand? What position could you give her? what would
you live upon?’

‘I am not utterly penniless; I have good expectations; I have hopes
indeed of succeeding to a title--’

‘That of _chevalier d’industrie_, I presume. But this is sheer
waste of time. I know all about you--all I wish to hear--and I
want nothing further. Our acquaintance must cease; I forbid you to
enter my house, or ever again to address my daughter. I decline
distinctly to hold any further communications with you. If your
own good taste does not prompt you to accede to my wishes, I must
try to protect myself and my family by other means.’

‘I will win her in spite of you, general,’ said Herbert, firmly and
very coolly, although his blood was up. ‘It is due to myself to say
that neither by word or deed have I knowingly sought to entangle
Miss Prioleau in any engagement. She is under no promise to me; I
am not certain whether she cares for me, even as a friend. But if
God but grants me strength and health to fight my way, she shall
one day be my wife, and that in spite of you all.’

And he walked away, leaving General Prioleau aghast at his
impudence.



CHAPTER IX.

ON THE TRAIL.


General Prioleau was not the pleasantest company the morning
after the Convent ball. Although commonly counted an easy-going
good-natured man, whom nothing seriously ruffled for long, he was
this day evidently in the vilest of tempers. No one liked to face
him. His wife was well aware of the cause of his anger, and in her
own lymphatic way approved it, but the general had given her a very
bad quarter of an hour over the whole affair, and had openly told
her that if she had shown a little more energy, and had kept a more
vigilant eye upon her daughter, any such _contretemps_ as this
could not have occurred. Edith was of course in utter disgrace.
Her father scowled at her at breakfast as though he thought her
guilty of the most heinous court-martial offence, and should be
immediately brought to trial. When the aide-de-camp came in he was
taken to task for various acts of omission and commission; while
the other members of the general’s staff, who brought him documents
to discuss and papers to sign, found him utterly impracticable and
impossible.

What chafed him most, probably, was that the chief offender was
practically beyond the reach of his rage. A general is a great
man within the limits of his own command, but his powers are
professional merely, and scarcely extend to life and limb. General
Prioleau was really able to inflict upon Herbert no stronger mark
of his displeasure than to cut him, and snub him, and refuse to
grant him leave. He might report unfavourably upon him in the
next confidential returns, but only by subordinating his sense of
duty to personal pique, a line of conduct abhorrent to an officer
and an English gentleman, such as General Prioleau undoubtedly
was. What would have pleased him best would have been to order
Herbert at once to leave the Rock. Could not Colonel Greathed be
persuaded to send this pestilent young fellow to the depot, and
keep him out of the way? Then the general remembered that Mr.
Larkins was adjutant--and a right good adjutant--and that he could
not be transferred to the depot unless he voluntarily resigned the
appointment, which he was little likely to do.

‘There is only one way out of it,’ he said at last to his wife. ‘We
must send Edith away. She shall go to England, to her aunts, by
the very next mail.’

‘You will be the chief sufferer by that. You know you cannot bear
to part with the girl, even for an hour. But for that she would
have gone to school. I always wished it. If she had, perhaps--’

‘You always wish things when it’s too late to get them,’ replied
the general, testily. ‘However she shall go now. I am angry with
her and can spare her.’

All arrangements were laid accordingly, and Edith was duly prepared
for her journey home. She did not quite object to go away, but she
consented with a very bad grace. If this did not tend to mollify
the general, he was presently made far more angry by what appeared
to be the most audacious pertinacity on the part of her lover.

Just within a day or two of Edith’s departure, Herbert Larkins
also applied for leave of absence to proceed to England on very
urgent private affairs.

The application had come before the general in the usual way,
presented to him as a matter of course with a number of other
documents.

‘It’s the most exasperating piece of presumption I ever heard of in
all my life. He shall not have it--not an hour!’

‘The commanding officer recommends it, sir; a substitute is named;
I really don’t think--’ said the brigade-major, expostulating. It
is so unusual a thing for a general officer to refuse leave which
is properly backed up and all according to form.

‘What do I care about the colonel? Does he command the brigade, or
do I?’

‘Oh, of course it rests with you, sir; still, to refuse it
peremptorily and without apparent reasons--’

‘Without reasons, man? Don’t you know that--?’ the general stopped
short. His brigade-major probably did not know the family trouble,
nor was there reason why he should.

‘Telegraph up for Colonel Greathed to come and see me, as soon
as possible,’ the general said, abruptly. ‘I will speak to him
personally on the subject.’

The general had cooled down a little by the time Colonel Greathed
arrived. He was quite cautious and diplomatic too, speaking first
of certain routine matters before he approached the matter he had
really at heart.

‘I see your adjutant is asking for leave. Are you sure you can
spare him?’

‘Oh, I think so, sir.’

‘I don’t quite like it, colonel. I have really some hesitation
about granting this leave. I should be loth to find fault, but your
men are at their spring drills, they want plenty of “setting-up;”
they don’t stand to their arms quite as I should like altogether.
I’m not finding fault, remember, nothing is further from my mind.
Still, the adjutant’s eye is wanted just now, and I don’t feel that
it ought to be withdrawn.’

‘He is most anxious to go, sir. Private affairs of some urgency
require his personal attention.’

‘He rose from the ranks, I believe; what private affairs could he
possibly have?’

‘Perhaps you are not aware, general, of Mr. Larkins’ history--that
he is the adopted son of an old lady of rank--’

‘Surely there is no truth in that cock-and-bull story?’

‘Pardon me, sir, it is perfectly true. I have the pleasure of
knowing the old lady--Lady Farrington. Diggle, you may remember,
married a Farrington, but of another branch.’

‘But this Mr. Larkins has no claim, I suppose, to the name--nothing
more than a left-handed claim, I mean?’

‘I am not so sure. It may be difficult to prove his case; but he
has a case, and a good one. At any rate, the old lady is devotedly
attached to him, and likes to see him now and again. She has now
written pressing him most earnestly to pay her a visit, thinking, I
believe, that something of importance is likely to turn up.’

‘Is this why he asks leave? Has he no other reasons?’

‘None that I am aware of, except that he thinks of competing at the
next Staff College final examination, and wishes to see what it is
like, so as to prepare in good time.’

The general could not well withhold his consent any longer; but he
was resolved now to keep Edith by his side. There was, of course,
no reason why she should leave the Rock; on the contrary, the
chances of meeting Mr. Larkins on board the steamer or in England
must be as far as possible avoided. The man was a forward fellow,
as reckless as he was presuming; who, it was quite likely, would
make opportunities for prosecuting his suit. General Prioleau was
little less bitter against Herbert, in spite of what Greathed had
told him; he could not possibly bring himself to think of our hero
as otherwise than an ineligible and unsatisfactory _parti_.

Herbert himself was also greatly excited by what had occurred. He
had only seen Edith twice since the ball. She was riding on the
beach, closely guarded, the general on one side, his aide-de-camp
on the other. Herbert had raised his hat, as in duty bound, to
his official superior, who returned the salute formally. Captain
Mountcharles looked straight to his front, and Edith bowed gravely
and sadly, he thought, in the short glimpse he caught of her face.
It was war, of course--to the knife. The general’s animosity was
all the more plainly shown by his attitude about the leave, for
Colonel Greathed had given Herbert an outline of his interview with
the chief.

‘I have a very shrewd notion what is wrong with him,’ Greathed
said; ‘I don’t want you to tell me more than you choose, Larkins,
but I have eyes and ears, and I know pretty well what has been
going on.’

‘There is no secret in the matter, sir,’ and Herbert told his
colonel exactly what had happened at the ball.

‘You are evidently in earnest, Larkins, and I wish you luck,’ said
Greathed, laughing. ‘But I’m not surprised the general was a little
put out. And now what do you mean to do?’

‘Stick to it to the last, sir. If I could be only sure that
she would wait. But in a place like this, and with a man like
Mountcharles always close by,--I shouldn’t be in the least afraid
but for that.’

‘It’s a long lane that has no turning. You must make your way in
the service; get upon the staff; lose no opportunity of employment.
Everything comes to the man who is determined to win. Perhaps that
other affair may turn up trumps. Lady Farrington, you say, thinks
that some important evidence will soon be forthcoming?’

‘The dear old lady is always thinking that, sir,’ said Herbert with
a smile. ‘She’s a little like the boy that cried wolf. There have
been so many false alarms that I shan’t believe the real thing if
it ever comes to pass.’

‘Have you any idea what she is expecting now?’

‘Not in the least. She gives me only the vaguest hints. I half
fancy it is only an affectionate ruse to get me back to England for
a time.’

But it was something more than that, as the reader will now see.

Some eleven months had elapsed since the last advertisement
had been published, offering a large reward for information
concerning the marriage of Herbert Farrington and Annie Orde, but
no satisfactory answer had been received. Hope was already failing
all but the sanguine old Lady Farrington, who kept on declaring
persistently that the right would certainly prosper in the end. As
she was the only person who stoutly maintained that proofs of the
marriage must certainly be forthcoming, so she was the only one who
was not surprised, when one morning a mysterious letter arrived
from no one knew where, and sent by no one knew whom.

It was addressed to Mr. Bellhouse, who had long been the family’s
solicitor, as well as Lady Farrington’s, and consisted of only a
few lines scribbled, on the back of an old invoice for goods:--

‘Those who seek find. Search the registers of the parish of
Stickford-le-Clay, in the county of ----. He who was once Herbert
Farrington sends this.’

A communication which drove Lady Farrington nearly frantic. It
revived, and indeed supported, all her old fancies, that her
injured son was still alive. She declared that she recognised his
handwriting; she began once more, although a long interval had
elapsed, to hear his voice and to see his beloved form in her
dreams. She talked incessantly about him and his probable return.
Had she not been carefully tended and watched by her own servants,
she might have had a very serious relapse.



CHAPTER X.

A LAWYER’S LETTER.


Farrington Hall was an excellent specimen of our sixteenth century
domestic architecture. It was a long low red-bricked building, with
white stone mullions, and it stood on a gentle eminence, which
dominated the far-reaching, low-lying fat lands of the Farrington
estate. It had all the conventional surroundings which confer
dignity on an old place; magnificent trees, in which lived a
prosperous colony of rooks; a great park of velvety grass; a broad,
slow stream at the foot of the slope on which stood the Hall.

There had been Farringtons of Farrington from time immemorial.
The transmission of the title and estates had long been direct
from father to son; only at rare intervals, as in the case of the
present baronet, Sir Rupert, did distant relatives succeed. But now
at last the race was nearly run. There were no males left, not even
a far-off cousin twenty times removed, and after Sir Rupert’s death
the title would be extinct. There was an heir for the property
certainly, but only through the female branch. Letitia Diggle would
come into everything of course, and after her, her children; but
although her eldest boy, under Sir Rupert’s will, would probably
assume the Farrington name and arms, the baronetcy could not be
his, and in consequence Mrs. Diggle was very much aggrieved.

The Cavendish-Diggles had by this time taken up their residence
at the Hall. They came, in the first instance, by invitation,
but remained afterwards as a matter of course. The old people
liked to hear the patter of their grandchildren’s feet and their
merry shrill trebles as they played about the place. This had
to some extent dispelled the fixed gloom which had settled on
Lady Farrington after her son’s death. Even black Sir Rupert was
softened, and seemed to take a pleasure in their prattle and merry
ways. But then Letitia had always been an especial favourite of
his. Her cast of character was in harmony with his. She reproduced
many of his own peculiar traits; she was as unforgiving, as
determined, and as hard. She showed pretty plainly what she would
be if she lived to inherit the estates, and already exercised
a kind of second-hand authority, such as heirs-apparent often
usurp when allowed. She knew the estate by heart, every inch,
every tenant. She had her own views as to the rentals and the
outgoings. She kept a sharp look-out on the bailiff, and gave him
to understand that she was up to every move. Sir Rupert, to a great
extent, let her have her own way. It pleased him to think that the
property would fall into good hands, and Letitia’s ideas were so
much in accord with his own that they seldom fell out or disagreed.

It was amusing to see how the great Diggle comported himself at
Farrington Hall. He was a curious example of how low the once
mighty may fall. From having been a tremendous personage he had
sunk to the position of a mere hanger-on. He was not even prince
consort to a reigning queen. His wife looked upon him as an
appendage, a person useful in his way, but not entitled to have
any voice in the management of affairs, or, indeed, any opinions
of his own. He might have resented this, and refused the rather
ignominious _rôle_, but for two reasons. The first was that his
health was very indifferent, and he had no spirit to battle for his
rights; the second, that Mrs. Diggle had made certain discoveries
as to his family and antecedents which left him very much in her
power. The fact was that Cavendish really belonged to the great
tea firm trading and largely advertising under the name of Diggle;
and what was more, the firm was in a very bad way. To have married
a Diggle at all was in itself a condescension, but to have become
the wife of a pauper Diggle was something like a ‘sell.’ There had
been settlements, of course, but not to a large amount, as Diggle
declared he had but little ready cash, although his prospects were
excellent. Moreover, his hopes, undoubtedly well-grounded at the
time, of professional advancement, which had been not the least
potent inducement to the match, were now fading into nothingness,
and there seemed every reason to fear that, owing to his wretched
health, Colonel Diggle would continue a half-pay officer for the
rest of his life. A _parvenu_ who is poor and without any chances
of obtaining social distinction has no _raison d’être_ at all, and
Diggle was fast degenerating into a mere cipher, a poor creature
who had no other claims to respect but that of being father to the
Diggle-Farrington who would some day be the master of Farrington
Hall.

They were at breakfast at Farrington Hall one morning, when the
post-bag arrived, and, as usual, was opened at the table. The
letters were served out like alms, grudgingly given, by Sir Rupert
to each, but he still kept the lion’s share to himself. All were
soon deep in their correspondence. Lady Farrington’s were gossipy
letters, filling several sheets; Letitia’s the same, with a large
sprinkling of tradesmen’s circulars and bills. The colonel heard
only from old soldier friends, short but often pithy notes, having
mostly the same refrain--the writer’s grievances or his forcibly
expressed conviction that the service was going to the dogs. These
last were the soonest read, and Diggle was therefore the only one
free to notice what passed among the others at table.

It was quite clear that Sir Rupert was very much put out by his
morning’s news. Although little given to betray what was passing
in his mind, his demeanour after he had opened and read the
first few lines of one of his letters, was that of a man in
whom indignation, excitement, and ill-concealed rage combined to
considerably disturb. His black eyebrows contracted, his hard mouth
was drawn down at the corners; he looked up and around with fierce
bloodshot eyes, and as quickly looked down again when he saw that
he was observed by Diggle. After that he ‘took a pull on himself,’
so to speak, and folding up the evidently offensive missive, put it
with the others, then lapsed into moody, preoccupied silence until
the breakfast was over.

‘I should like to speak to you, Letitia, in the justice room, as
soon as you conveniently can come.’

He often consulted her, and there was nothing strange, therefore,
in this request, except in the abrupt and peremptory tone in which
it was made.

The justice room, in which Sir Rupert gave audience to constables
and administered the law when urgently required, was also his
library, study, and place of business. It was a cheerless, formal,
barely-furnished room, which took, as rooms usually do, the
colour and temper of its occupant, and was, like him, cold and
uncompromising.

Sir Rupert seated himself at his official table, in his high
magisterial chair, and sorting his letters carefully, selected that
which had so evidently disturbed him, read and re-read it several
times.

Then Letitia joined him--

‘Yes, father?’

‘Sit down please. What I have to say will take some time.’ He
paused--

‘A letter has reached me this morning from Lady Farrington’s--the
dowager’s--lawyer. It may be all a hoax; let us hope that it is;
but I confess I am greatly disturbed by what it says.’

Letitia looked at him, keenly interrogative, but said nothing.

‘You remember, no doubt, the circumstances of the old dowager’s
craze? It was no secret in the family. She pretended that a
grandchild of hers was in existence, who was the rightful heir to
the title and estates; all that you knew, of course?’

‘I had heard the absurd story. Idiotic old woman! I cannot
understand why you ever let her out,’ said Letitia, as though
her father had full powers to commit to durance indefinite every
individual likely to injure the Farrington family or whose brain
was touched, the two being synonymous terms.

‘I did not wish to let her out, I assure you. It was done in spite
of me, and by the person who is, I believe, at the bottom of the
newest attempt to defraud us of our rights.’

‘Are they threatened?--by whom?’ Letitia was like a lioness who,
with her whelps, was about to be robbed of her prey.

‘The old lady, you must know, did not fabricate her story without
something to go upon. There was some semblance of probability. She
produced the rightful heir--not quite at the right time, perhaps,
but there he was.’

‘Did you meet him?’

‘I did; so did you; you knew him, well.’

‘I, father? Preposterous; where, pray, did we meet?’

‘He served as a private in the Duke’s Own. His name--the name he
went by, at least--was Larkins.’

‘Larkins! the sergeant? Poor Ernest’s champion? Never!’

‘This Mr. Larkins whom I received here at your mother’s express
desire, whom I treated with the utmost consideration, proved a
snake in the grass. He first thwarted me with regard to old Lady
Farrington’s release from confinement; then, with her, concocted
a scheme of which I have only to-day learnt the real intent. This
letter from the lawyers is nothing more or less than a notice
to quit--a regular notice of ejectment, in favour of Herbert
Farrington, son of Herbert of the same name, and grandson of the
last baronet.’

‘It’s a swindle, of course, from beginning to end; a trumped-up
story. You won’t submit, father, I trust, to such a barefaced
imposition?’

Letitia was in arms at once; for the threatened action struck at
her more, perhaps, than any one else.

‘I shall defend myself and you, you may depend upon it. I shall not
submit tamely to any attempt at extortion. It is really life and
death to me.’

‘Is it not the same to me, and to my children--to my Rupert, who
some day will be your heir? Are we to be robbed with impunity?
Certainly not.’

‘They have not told me much of their case, of course; a mere
outline, nothing more. But it is evidently a strong one. They have
discovered, so they say, old Herbert Farrington’s marriage--if
it’s a _bonâ fide_ discovery we are bound to accept it, after due
verification, at least.’

‘What do they pretend?’

‘That the real Herbert Farrington, when serving in the 12th Lancers
as Corporal Smith, married Ann Orde, and had issue.’

‘This Larkins? Sergeant Larkins of the Duke’s Own? I’ll never
believe it; not if I live to a hundred. But, father, what do you
mean to do? You will resist, surely; for my sake--for that of my
children, you will not give in?’

‘If we could effect a compromise--’

‘Never!’ cried Letitia. ‘Never, with my consent. I protest against
any compromise at all.’

‘It might be wise.’

Was it possible that Sir Rupert had reasons for dreading a
law-suit? No one knew more about the case than himself. Was he in
possession of any information--damaging facts--which he had so far
kept secret, but which would be certain to come out on a trial?

‘But a long law-suit! It would eat up the whole estate. No doubt
this pretender, this Mr. Larkins, would gladly come to terms. A few
thousands paid on the nail would silence him for good.’

‘Don’t, father; don’t dream of making such concessions,’ Letitia
almost shrieked. The idea of parting thus coolly with thousands out
of the future heritage of her children! ‘No, no; better to fight it
out, to resist to the bitter end.’

‘I think I must consult your mother and Conrad.’

‘What have they to say to it? I am the person principally
concerned--I and mine--we shall be the greatest sufferers.’

‘Letitia,’ said her father very gravely to her, ‘it was not only
to speak to you concerning this letter that I asked you to come
here; it was to break some worse news.’

‘Affecting us?’

‘Us all, but more particularly you.’

‘Go on; quick, father.’

‘Till very lately I had thought that after me there would be an
end of the Farringtons. You would be sole heiress to the estates,
to which your children would succeed, but the title would become
extinct, and the name, unless specially assumed. Within the last
month or two I have discovered that I have a lawful male heir,
who must inevitably come between you in the entail. Ernest, poor
Ernest, left a son.’

‘By that person, that woman? Father, how dare you mention her name
in my presence? What claims can such a creature as her offspring
have upon you?’

‘Poor Ernest married her, Letitia. There is not a shadow of a doubt
of it. The whole of the proofs are in my possession. The child I
have not seen, and will not see. But your mother has; indeed, the
whole thing has come out through her.’

‘Ernest was always her favourite,’ said Letitia bitterly. It was
being borne into her gradually how much she was about to lose. ‘But
I shall not surrender my rights except upon compulsion, father. We
have lawyers too, you must remember; and where a large property is
at stake, people must look out for themselves.’

‘I wish, for your sake, the case was not so clear.’

‘I am not at all satisfied as yet, father. There will be two
law-suits, perhaps; and I shall not accept any compromise, you may
depend.’

There was now a prospect of much discord in the family at
Farrington Hall.



CHAPTER XI.

TAKING ACTION.


There were great rejoicings in Vaughan-street upon Herbert’s
return. The house was _en fête_. It was lighted up as for a grand
entertainment; when the door was opened men in smart livery were
seen ranged within the hall. Hanlon came out first, and received
Herbert as he descended from his cab. He would have carried his
old comrade and master in bodily on his shoulders; but as Herbert
objected, ‘the Boy’ contented himself with the portmanteaus. At
the foot of the stairs Miss Ponting, with new ribbons in her cap,
met the traveller with a precisely-worded speech of welcome, and
led him to the drawing-room, where the dowager awaited him. She
was dressed magnificently in dark velvet and costly lace, amidst
which gleamed many diamonds of the finest water. This was all in
Herbert’s honour and of the great occasion.

‘Hail, Sir Herbert Farrington! all hail!’ cried the old lady, using
the language, but having little of the appearance of a witch in
_Macbeth_.

‘My dearest grandmother,’ Herbert said, ‘I am so glad to see you
again, and looking so well. Why, you are like a queen!’

‘I am a queen dowager receiving the young king,’ she replied, as
she made him sit by her side. ‘Let me look at you well, my sweet
boy; you are my own son’s son. I knew it; I felt it all along, and
now there is no longer any doubt, and you will soon come into your
own.’

‘Please, dear grandmother, be more explicit. Is there anything new?
You threw out vague hints in your last letter; but I am still quite
in the dark.’

‘Light will soon be let in on you, my sweet boy. At last, after all
this dreary waiting and long suspense, information has reached Mr.
Bellhouse--from the other side of the grave, I believe--’

Herbert looked keenly at the dowager. Was her mind again becoming
unhinged?

‘I cannot account for it otherwise. The letter was from my Herbert,
my long-lost Herbert. Of that I have no doubt; and is he not dead,
dead these many many years? Mr. Bellhouse laughed at it, sneered at
it and the information it gave. Yet he was wrong; his prejudices
misled him. He could not deny that there was something in it all
when we found that it put us on the right track. Now we have the
only evidence that was wanting to complete the case.’

‘Not evidence of the marriage, surely? Can it be possible that you
have discovered that?’

‘Authentic evidence of the marriage.’

And she told him the whole story as it has been given in a previous
chapter.

‘Now you understand, Herbert, why I give you your title. It is
yours, clearly, by right. You must assume it at once.’

‘Not quite yet, I think,’ Herbert replied gently, fearing his
refusal might vex her; ‘I would still rather wait. It would look so
foolish to have to go back again. Suppose we do not gain our cause.’

‘But we must and shall win it; of that I have not the shadow of a
doubt.’

‘I trust in Heaven we shall,’ Herbert said, in a voice so earnest
and yet so sad that his good old friend, with a woman’s unerring
intuition, guessed that he was suffering and sore at heart.

‘Something has happened to grieve you, Herbert, dear? You have been
ill-used; you are unhappy? Tell me, at once, every word.’

Herbert was willing enough. Young men crossed in love generally ask
for nothing better than an appreciative and consolatory listener.

‘You love her, truly, deeply, with all your heart and soul?’ said
the dowager, when she had heard all about Edith Prioleau from
beginning to end.

‘Indeed I do, and have done so ever since I saw her first.’

‘And you think she returns it?’

‘I cannot be quite positive, of course. But I should be hopeful
were I certain I did not lose ground. But when one is miles away,
and there are so many others close by her, encouraged and approved
of by her parents, and with ever so many opportunities, I begin to
be half-afraid. She may give way; she may change her mind. There
is an old Spanish proverb, “The dead and those gone away have no
friends.” She will soon forget me, perhaps; she may have done so
already.’

‘Stuff and nonsense!’ cried the old lady, with great spirit.
‘“Faint heart”--you know the rest--is a better proverb than that.
Win her! Of course, you shall win her, as you will the law-suit,
the title, estates, and everything else.’

‘What does Mr. Bellhouse say? Is he sanguine?’

‘You know what lawyers are;’ and from this Herbert gathered that
doubts and difficulties still stood in the way, notwithstanding
Lady Farrington’s confident hopefulness.

‘Mr. Bellhouse is very tiresome at times. He is a very
self-opinionated man, almost too slow and cautious for me. It was
only at my most earnest entreaty that he would take any action at
all.’

‘You have commenced the suit then?’

‘Yes; and given Sir Rupert notice to quit,’ said the Dowager,
rubbing her hands in high glee.

‘Has he replied?’

‘He came here in person, but I would not see him. Then he went
to Mr. Bellhouse, who declined to discuss the matter with him.
The last thing was a letter from him, imputing the basest motives
to all of us, threatening a counter-action for conspiracy or
something--and that’s where it stands now. But with God’s help we
shall beat him, dear; we shall beat him, and he will wish that he
had given in.’

Next day Herbert paid an early visit to Mr. Bellhouse in Lincoln’s
Inn Fields, and found the old lawyer, although in manner cordial
and kind, somewhat disheartening in tone.

‘Do not expect too much, Mr.--shall I still say Larkins? Yes? I
agree with you, it is so much better not to be premature. Do not be
over-confident, Mr. Larkins, I beg of you; the disappointment would
be so bitter if we failed after all.’

‘Failure is quite on the cards, I presume?’ Herbert asked, coolly
enough.

‘Unhappily, yes. There are flaws, not many, but one or two serious
ones, in the chain of evidence. I have no moral doubt myself that
the marriage we have discovered is truly that of your father and
mother. But moral proofs are not enough in a court of justice. Our
difficulty will be to establish identity between this Corporal
William Smith and the missing Herbert Farrington.’

‘Mrs. Larkins will swear to him.’

‘She never knew him as Farrington. All she can do is to describe
the person she knew as Smith, who ran off with her sister, and we
must compare her description with that of Lady Farrington.’

‘But there was the letter addressed and sent to Lady Farrington
after my mother’s death; surely that will go some way?’

‘It is a strong presumption, I don’t deny; but not necessarily
sufficient, at least to a British jury, when titles and large
possessions are at stake. That was why I counselled compromise.’

‘Was it rejected?’

‘Indignantly. Threats, moreover, were used, as perhaps you have
heard.’

‘Mrs. Cavendish-Diggle was at the bottom of that, I suppose? She,
as heir apparent, would be a principal loser, supposing things
remained as they are.’

‘Are you not aware of the change in her prospects? There is a
lawful male heir, independent of you, I hear. Ernest Farrington
left a son.’

‘A son? By Mimie? He married her, then? Thank heaven for that! If,
indeed, it be true.’

‘There can be no question about it. Mrs. Ernest Farrington is
accepted by the family, and the child Ernest is mentioned by Sir
Rupert as a party to the forthcoming suit.’

‘I wonder whether the old people, the Larkins’, are aware of this?
It will gladden their hearts. I almost wish that we were going no
further with the case. They have been such staunch friends to me
always, that I should be loth to oust their grandson.’

‘That is pure sentimentalism,’ said the matter-of-fact lawyer.
‘There must be a limit to that sort of thing, or the world would
come to an end.’

‘Well, perhaps so. When will the cause come on for trial?’

‘That will depend. We have gone through the preliminaries, but have
asked for time. I am most anxious to find out more about the letter
which gave us the great news. Lady Farrington insists that the
writer was your father.’

‘My father? Still alive?’

‘It seems incredible. But I am making all possible inquiries.
The letter, such as it was, was scrawled upon the back of an
old invoice for goods. The invoice was for powder and two shot
guns, and the goods were supplied by Messrs. Jan Steen, of
Pietermaritzburg, in Natal.’

‘Have you followed up that clue?’

‘To the best of my ability. I sent a special messenger to the
Cape of Good Hope. His instructions were to trace the invoice
from Messrs. Jan Steen, if possible, to the person who eventually
received the goods. It may take some little time to ferret out, but
I can trust Jimlett implicitly in all such affairs. Of course, if
we could only produce Herbert Farrington, alias Corporal Smith, _in
propriâ personâ_, the case would be won.’

‘Have you any news yet from Mr. Jimlett?’

‘Only short business communications reporting progress. In his
last I was informed that he had arrived at Pietermaritzburg, and
had easily come upon Messrs. Jan Steen. That was where the real
difficulty began, of course.’

‘Did they help him in any way?’

‘They were not very cordial,’ he says; ‘they deal largely with the
gun-runners, or persons employed in the contraband trade across the
frontier of Natal. Their business is a large one--a lucrative one,
and possibly dangerous. Hence Jimlett had to overcome considerable
reticence on their part. They acknowledged their invoice--that,
indeed, it was impossible to repudiate--but they decline to say to
whom the arms were supplied; indeed, they declare they cannot, as
all such goods pass through many hands.’

‘And there the matter stands?’

‘For the present, yes. We must wait patiently. I confess I have
confidence still in Jimlett, and feel sure he will unravel the
mystery if any man can. Perhaps we shall hear more next mail.’

Nothing came, however--neither next mail nor the one after.
Meanwhile the suit dragged itself slowly along, and went through
the usual phases and formalities. At first it attracted but little
notice from, and excited but little interest in, the public. The
announcement in the daily papers that a suit was pending which
promised to be as involved and interminable as the half-forgotten
Tichborne trial was classed with the ‘big gooseberry’ paragraphs
of the ‘silly season’ and treated with contempt. No one read the
short accounts which appeared in the law notices; and it was not
until the spring term, when the case was duly opened, that general
attention was aroused.

There was an element of romance in it. The young claimant--not in
this case an overgrown ex-butcher, but a gallant soldier bearing
the Queen’s commission and that envied decoration the Victoria
Cross--was entitled to a certain respect, and soon won the
suffrages of the crowd. Nor was society against him. Sir Rupert was
not beloved in his own walk of life. The great world is generally
indifferent, and often unjust, but it is seldom very wrong in its
estimate of those who belong to it. Wicked people may prosper
well enough, and long be fairly spoken of, but never if they are
unpleasant and disagreeable to boot. Sir Rupert had all these
bad traits, and was, in consequence, universally unpopular. His
character stood out all the blacker as the case proceeded, and his
treatment of the Dowager Lady Farrington was set forth in its true
light; nor was he absolved from harshness in his attitude towards
Herbert Larkins as a lad.

The law, nevertheless, was, as it seemed, altogether on the
side of the strong. The claimant’s case was good so far as it
went, but, as was feared, there were several serious flaws
in it. Lady Farrington’s peculiarities were brought out into
somewhat unfavourable prominence in the witness-box, and elicited
considerable merriment. The cross-examining counsel made the most
of her craze, and turned her inside out, so to speak, on the
subject of claimants in general and Herbert in particular. Mrs.
Larkins was so very stout and positive that her statements could
not be shaken; but after all, although hers was the evidence most
relevant, it was entirely uncorroborated and unsupported. Not even
Herbert, with his undoubtedly honest bearing, could turn the scale;
and the case day after day was going more and more in favour of
Sir Rupert, when all at once came a report from Mr. Jimlett, which
inspired the plaintiffs with fresh--almost exaggerated--hopes.



CHAPTER XII.

TURNING THE SCALE.


Late in the afternoon at Westminster. The court occupied, as it
had been these months past, with the great Farrington trial. It
had already lasted so long that the counsel’s opening address was
almost forgotten; yet nothing definite had come out. The case for
the claimant was approaching conclusion. Mr. Netherpoint, Q.C.,
held on bravely to the last. Like a true man he was prepared to die
game; but it was quite clear that Mr. Quantlet, the leader on the
opposite side, was only biding his time to smash Mr. Netherpoint
and his case into little bits.

Interest had flagged since the commencement of the trial. It was
felt that the whole thing was rather a hollow affair, which must
presently collapse utterly. Only the parties to the suit retained
their anxiety. Lady Farrington, like the old lady in Jarndice _v._
Jarndice, sat near Herbert, and still strove, but in vain, to
be calm. Sir Rupert Farrington was also in court, his dark face
wearing an implacable frown, which deepened as his eyes rested
upon the unscrupulous aggressors who sought to rob him of his
rights and all he possessed. Herbert Larkins met his glance without
quailing, but without any particular buoyancy of expression. He
was, in truth, growing a little hopeless, and almost wished the
case at an end. Everybody else seemed heartily sick of the thing.
Even the presiding judge had yawned distinctly three times in as
many minutes; after which he asked his brother Netherpoint when he
hoped to conclude.

‘Very shortly, m’lud; there are but two or three additional
witnesses--’

‘Material witnesses, I trust? persons prepared to give evidence
relative to the issue?’

‘Most decidedly, m’lud, most decidedly. There is Reuben Bosher,
and--hey? what d’ye mean? I cannot hear what you say.’

This was to Mr. Bellhouse; who had come behind him, and was
whispering rather excitedly, for him, in the counsel’s ear.

‘Delay? impossible. They wouldn’t give us an hour. Out of the
question.’

Then a few more hurried words passed between the lawyers; but
further conversation was rendered impossible by the impatience and
irritability of the judge.

‘What is the meaning of this interruption? It is not to be
tolerated. How much longer, may I ask, brother Netherpoint, do
you propose to occupy the time of the court? If you have nothing
further to bring forward I must beg of you to sit down.’

‘Very important intelligence, m’lud, has arrived; evidence which
will probably change the whole complexion of the case. We have just
heard of a witness whom I shall require to call--’

‘Is he in attendance?’

‘No, m’lud.’

‘Then he ought to be. We cannot have the time of the court wasted
any more. You have had plenty of opportunities; if you lose them it
is your own affair.’

‘This witness has only just been heard of, m’lud--’

‘Psha! I shall insist upon your proceeding with the case.’

‘We must move, then, m’lud, for a fresh trial.’

‘Who and what is this witness? and why is he not here?’

‘He is not here because there has not been time to bring him,
m’lud. He has been at the Cape of Good Hope for nearly thirty
years; far back in the wilds, or _veldt_, as it is called. I
believe--’

‘What is his name?’

Mr. Netherpoint paused and looked round, so as to give everyone
full opportunity of hearing what he said.

‘His name, m’lud, is Sir Herbert Farrington.’

There was a sensation in the court.

Lady Farrington, with a half-stifled shriek, seized Herbert
convulsively by the hands, and ejaculating ‘I knew it, I knew it,’
swooned away. Sir Rupert Farrington, as he still claimed to be
called, half rose in his seat, as if determined to protest against
this new and most audacious attempt at fraud; there was a flutter
of excitement, a murmur of voices in the body of the court, the
solicitors whispered and winked significantly to one another, and
the bar generally woke up to give attention to what had long been a
threadbare and uninteresting affair.

Meanwhile, the judge had been scanning his notes assiduously; Sir
Rupert’s counsel and solicitors had been equally busy with brief
and papers, while Mr. Netherpoint and Mr. Bellhouse had continued
in close confabulation, and interchanging memoranda and ideas.

‘Sir Herbert Farrington?’ the judge asked, at length, snappishly
and garrulously. ‘There is no such person in existence that I
am aware of, at present. The young gentleman, who is one of the
plaintiffs, has no right to the title until he has proved his
claim--’

‘I do not speak of him, m’lud, but of his father.’

‘The father is dead. He disappeared a generation ago,’ said Mr.
Quantlet, rising.

‘Pardon me, that assumption is entirely unwarrantable,’ replied Mr.
Netherpoint. ‘We undertake to prove the contrary, and will produce
the man himself.’

Mr. Quantlet sat down, grumbling loudly. The words ‘personation,’
‘conspiracy,’ ‘trumped-up witnesses,’ were heard audibly among his
complaints.

‘Where is this person?’ asked his lordship. ‘Be good enough to
inform the court of all particulars, brother Netherpoint. If you
spring a mine like this without giving warning, you owe it to the
court to make the fullest explanation.’

‘I am quite ready, m’lud. You shall have the whole story.’

What is now to be told so closely concerns our hero, that it must
be given at some length.

After much delay and many rebuffs, Mr. Jimlett’s inquiries had
been crowned at length with success. Tracing the line which the
gun-runners commonly took, he had been gradually drawn towards the
frontier of Natal. While hesitating to pass beyond the boundary,
rumours reached him of Englishmen settled among the native tribes;
of one in particular, who had risen to some eminence among them,
and was reputed rich in wives and cattle. This personage he
thought might give him some information; and, not without delay and
difficulty, he made his way to his kraal. The object of Jimlett’s
inquiries was stated with some caution to the English settler, who
had been so long resident in his savage home, that he was almost
denationalised. But if the chief had lost many of the customs of
civilised life, just as he had discarded the dress, he had assumed
in place of it much of that wily caution peculiar to the savage.
Jimlett could get nothing out of him for a long time. The chief
displayed as much, if not more circumspection than the lawyer’s
clerk. It seemed impossible to draw a word out of him. He still
spoke English fluently, and was perfectly calm and self-possessed.

‘I don’t see what you are driving at,’ he said, after long fencing.
‘Why not throw your cards down, and be open with me? It’s the best
way to deal with a wild man. Who are you looking for really, and
why?’

‘I want some one to tell me whether Herbert Farrington, youngest
son of the last baronet Farrington, is alive or dead.’

‘But why?’

‘To take up the title and the family property, and see that his son
comes into it after him.’

‘His son? He had no son.’

‘How do you know?’

‘His mother died in childbirth; she--’

‘You seem very fully informed. What more do you know?’

‘Nothing--I wish I did.’

‘You have never sought to know, perhaps? Had no business to know?’

‘Perhaps not. Is Lady Farrington still alive?’

‘Certainly; but the title is held by Sir Rupert--’

‘The cousin? I don’t know how many times removed. What right had he
to it?’

‘He was the heir-at-law.’

‘Why did Lady Farrington drive her son from home by ill-usage? Poor
Herbert! No wonder he fled.’

‘She has regretted it bitterly. She is now doing her utmost to
retrieve the wrong she has inflicted. She has welcomed, educated,
and been a staunch friend to Herbert’s son. Now that the marriage
between Herbert and Ann Orde is proved, another link or two is all
we need to establish the younger Herbert as the rightful owner of
the title and estates.’

‘He cannot be quite that--not just yet. His father, the long-lost
Herbert Farrington, is still alive.’

‘Where is he to be found? Will you take me to him? You shall be
liberally rewarded.’

‘I want no reward, and you need not go far. I am the man.’

This was the overwhelming evidence which Mr. Netherpoint proposed
to bring, and for which he claimed time from the court. It was
conceded, and the case was held over to the following term.

Meanwhile gossip busied itself once more with the case. The news
of the missing son was freely discussed. Opinions differed very
widely. Some held stoutly that he was the man himself; others
that barefaced imposture was meant, and would in the long run
be brought home to the parties concerned. It was a repetition
of the great Tichborne case, although on a much smaller scale.
Then the so-called Herbert Farrington appeared, at first gaunt,
wild, unkempt, from his long life in the bush, but unmistakably a
gentleman still, and soon resuming the manners and tone proper to
his birth and class. He was recognised at once by all survivors.
Mr. Bellhouse knew him and could swear to him; so could Mrs.
Larkins; the rector of Stickford-le-Clay had no doubt as to his
identity. Last of all his mother, whose injustice had driven him
forth, fell into his arms, imploring his forgiveness, and declared
he was hardly at all changed.

He was in truth her own son. Like her impressionable, flighty,
sometimes strange in his demeanour and ways. His whole life
was indeed an evidence of these inherited traits. Another less
sensitive nature would have given in sooner; but he so bitterly
resented his mother’s harshness, that he would never bring himself
to hold out his hand to her first. Then in his loneliness and
isolation after his wife’s death, of which he had been informed, he
broke altogether with the world, and flew to the wilds, from which,
as we have seen, he was brought back with extreme difficulty at the
eleventh hour.

But he arrived in time to turn the scale, and secure victory for
his son’s cause.

       *       *       *       *       *

Within a month or two of the termination of the trial, Herbert
Farrington, bearing now his proper name, returned to the Rock.
He was something of a celebrity, as the hero of a great trial
which had been decided in his favour, and altogether a different
person from the unknown Larkins who had aspired so high. He
was well received--with one exception--on every side. He was
_fêted_ and made much of in his own regiment, and received
cordial congratulation through the garrison and wherever he went.
But General Prioleau was for a long time unforgiving. When an
easy-natured man is embittered against any one, he is perhaps more
persistent in his dislike than if his temper were more harsh. For
a long time he held out against Herbert, and closed his doors to
him. But continual dropping will wear a stone; and Mrs. Prioleau,
who had now completely changed in her views with regard to Herbert,
kept up a continuous flow of eulogistic words, before which the
general gradually succumbed. How could he hope to hold his garrison
when there were traitors within? He might refuse to see Herbert;
but Mrs. Prioleau and Edith met him elsewhere, and the love-making
went on in spite of him, under his very nose. Edith, too, when
taxed with her misconduct, so plainly gave her father to understand
that she would marry Herbert Farrington, and no one else, that the
general was compelled at length to give way.

The marriage took place the same year. Captain Mountcharles felt
it as a personal affront, and resigned his appointment, so Herbert
was presently made aide-de-camp in his place. By degrees the
general has been entirely won over by his son-in-law’s devotion
to his duties, and brought, although tardily, to acknowledge his
worth. Nothing will induce Herbert to resign his profession. His
regimental promotion is assured, and as he is keen to take active
employment wherever it offers--a desire in which Edith, a true
soldier’s wife, always encourages him--he is certain to rise in the
service and take high honours eventually as a thoroughly deserving
‘Son of Mars.’

Only a few words are needed to dispose of the remaining characters
in this story.

It seemed as though old Lady Farrington felt, when the law-suit
was won, that her mission was ended. She died happily, at peace
with every one, in the following year. Her son, the new baronet,
Sir Herbert Farrington, settled at the Hall for a time; but
restlessness soon took possession of him, and he pined for the
wilds which had so long been his home. When last heard of by his
son Herbert he was at the head of an exploring party somewhere near
Lake Tanganyika, and meant to be absent for some years.

As for Mr. Rupert Farrington, he retired into obscurity to eat out
his heart with envy, hatred, and all uncharitableness. He was not
overburdened with cash; but through young Herbert’s good offices a
moderate allowance was made him from the estate, which was to be
continued to the little Ernest, Mimie’s son. The Diggles also sank
in _prestige_, and had to be contented with the modest income of a
half-pay lieut.-colonel, for the great Cavendish’s private means
disappeared in the crash of the tea mart, and Letitia has led him a
terrible life ever since.

Last of all, brave old Sergeant Larkins and his worthy wife found
themselves established comfortably on a corner of the Farrington
estate, where the former grows roses, and the latter points with
pride to the boy she once befriended and who now returns her
kindness a thousandfold.


THE END.


  LONDON: ROBSON AND SONS, PRINTERS, PANCRAS ROAD, N.W.



  TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE

  Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been
  corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
  the text and consultation of external sources.

  Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text,
  and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained. For example,
  up-stairs, upstairs; good bye, good-bye; McCosh, M‘Cosh; apothegm;
  asseverating; jointure; foregather.

  Pg 102: ‘will kotoo to’ replaced by ‘will kotow to’.





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