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“Ridiculous or not, I am inflexible where “You have used strange expressions my step-daughter's rights are concerned. about your family connexions." So do not deceive yourself.”
“I have; and it is time now that you knew George thought over these words after something of them. I was the daughter wards, but he still believed that Lady of a dishonest gamester, who laid a plot Randal was in the wrong. He was the to enrich himself by the baronet's ruin. more disposed to think so because he felt I knew it; I warned your father, and, at acutely her coldness towards himself. It great risk to myself, I saved his estateis never pleasant to see a good friend perhaps his life; and-he recompensed me show'a changed countenance toward us, beyond all measure. He was eccentric, speak in an altered voice, and repel us we know, but in nothing more so than in by a demeanour more chilling than the a boundless generosity of nature. While blighting east wind. George felt sad and he lived, he guarded the secret of my irritable all the day after.
disgraceful parentage. Had my father There was a splendid supper and ball been the poorest bonest man alive, Sir at the house of Major 'Tresilian, when the John would have taken him by the hand, baronet's widow, laying aside for the first and have led him with all honour to the time her sable attire, appeared in the best seat in his best room; but, as it was, drawing-room in lavender silk and lace, a necessary hint was given and taken, while her step-daughter was arrayed in and the defeated plunderer, with his third clear white muslin, well becoming her wife-I believe to my heart she was a pure, soft, modest countenance and grace- Spanish Gipsy,—went off to one of the ful figure.
foreign colonies, their expenses thither But of what is Isabella thinking, when, being paid by Sir John. They left a frequently during the gaieties of the son at boarding-school (Ferdinand, then evening, she glances aside, or looks down a boy of ten), referring the principals to with an air of abstraction. Is it of her me and Sir John for payment of all exstep-mother's troubles and mysteries, or penses. We did pay for his education of the verses of the innkeeper's son ? there, and I felt a hearty love for the These, indeed, are constantly recurring deserted boy. He was extremely clever to her memory, for their beautiful and original, and I hoped great things of imagery has enchained her fancy—their him. But he ran away from his tutors, sentiment has touched her heart. She and we lost sight of him until he wrote is never wearied of reading them, and for money; and when Sir John traced two of his songs she has set to music. him to his haunts, he found him living
The heat and excitement of the ball with his Spanish mother, who had rehad thoroughly wearied Lady Randal turned clandestinely to England without and Isabella, and right glad they were her husband, and induced Ferdinand to when the hour of repose came.
join her. What a career has his been In the morning when Lady Randal since! A volume could not afford space awoke, she saw Isabella seated by her side. for its details. From country to country,
“I want to talk to you alone, dear from profession to profession, he has wanmamma, before you stir. You are so dered-actor, author, soldier, merchant, uneasy in mind that I feel I ought to doctor, lawyer, Jack-of-all-trades,—ever know more of the matters that are hastening to be rich, ever plunging into troubling you. I have been watching distresses, out of which my purse has had your sleep. You start, and moan, and to exert its magic to raise him." talk so, it quite distresses me. Your “And your father ?” hand is hot; your lips are dry and white; “He lives in a private asylum.” I entreat your confidence. Come, let me “Lives !” exclaimed Isabella, in surquestion you on all that I wish to know.” prise. “Go on.”
“ Yes, indeed; but that is one of my May I begin at the beginning ?” secrets kept from the world; for though “Go on.”
the earth has not closed over him, the
gates of sense and thought are barred Sir John's solicitor not having solved against him everlastingly; or it is to be them to my satisfaction. Previous to hoped so, for that world has nothing this piece of imprudence on my part, I good to remind him of. He raves day had not in any way communicated with and night—the old white-headed man of Ferdinand for two years, beyond answereighty raves of his follies and his crimes; ing his appeals for money. He attended of his long vanished hopes and disap- to my requests with his usual ability, pointments; he schemes, and conspires, then did me the honour of a gentlemanly
and cheats, and dozes over his impotent visit, planted himself and some silver niet wickedness. It is a terrible spectacle to mining company in your late great uncle's
me to contemplate. It rends my heart residence in Randal’s-buildings, and con
often, for I cannot forget the sacred ties stituted himself my agent (or rather end of nature.
I look on that poor wreck yours) for the London property, putting do with feelings indescribable. Shall I go the rents in his own pocket. But the
on, Isabella, opening out my hidden man shall find no mercy from me if I can is the troubles, or do you spare me the rest ?” get up a clear case of fraud against him.”
Isabella was weeping in sympathy. Surely, mamma, you would not pro
“I see how it pains you to make these secute him ?” revelations, therefore
“Would I not ?” exclaimed Lady "I should not make them at all to Randal, starting from her bed, as her pist you, for it was Sir John's wish that you favourite waiting-woman, a grave, quiet
should be kept in ignorance of my base person of forty, with a tall, upright figure, connexions—thoroughly base they have entered to say, “ Mr. Ferris waits to see all along been,-but the business that my Lady." has brought me here now seems to call “ Tell him will be down in five for a closer confidence with you, in case minutes." of my death, that you may be on your Isabella trembled with a presentiment
of evil as she entreated her step-mother Against whom ?”
by no means to meditate such a step * Against Ferdinand and his mother, as had been mentioned. and all their set. She is still vigorous “Meditate and execute!" persisted for evil; and my brother, because I have Lady Randal. “Why he has forged my done so much for him in the past, views name!” me and the Randal funds as his unfail. “ Indeed !” ing resource for the future. But he is “Yes, that has he; but the extent of not content with incessantly harassing his operations my lawyer has not yet my feelings and preying on my weak- ascertained. He has discovered enough, ness, for his own profit, but he is now however, I can assure you.” scheming against your interests; in plain “ Yet do not be rash,” remonstrated terms, making a felon of himself-plun- Isabella. “He is your brother. Public dering, as his father did before him. exposure of him would be exquisitely You know the London property-your painful to you.”. late great uncle's—fell to Sir John when “Anguish and death, Bella ; but I will he was near his end, in Rome, when go through it for your sake.” his worldly affairs were all settled, and I "Oh dear, no. Do not say for mine. could not have him disturbed. Hardly I would not have that for the world. aware myself of what I was about, in the Let the affair be quietly arranged-in grief and distraction of the time, I wrote secresy-I implore you." off to Ferdinand at London-he then ap- Bella, listen to me; and dress me, peared to be iiving respectably—to make dear, as fast as you can. How much I a few inquiries for me at Randal’s-build- have done for this brother during the last ings; and, as he professed to be more than twenty years, only myself and he know. half a lawyer, I laid before him a few He has a strong hold on my heart, and legal points on which I felt confused, good use he has made of it.”
“Yes, yes, mamma; but, after all, I looking figure of Mickle crouching on have suffered no material injury. What hands and knees close to a door commuis the loss of a few pounds, or even a few nicating with the room in which his prinhundreds, compared with family disgrace? cipal was encountering rather a moYou are excited. May I remind you that mentons ordeal. The face of the clerk you are not famous for moderation.” was distorted, and his eyes protruding;
“No. I err in excess on all points he was white and trembling. that strongly interest me. But Ferris “ Holloa! Mickle, what are you doing has wonderful power of evil. He is so there?” exclaimed George; and up started subtle to make black appear white. He the listener, with a look of extreme knows by heart every legal winding of a terror. roguish pature, but he shall not, the “ Why did you listen there ?" de serpent, wind far into the Randal pro- manded George, in some indignation. perty, I promise him. Give me a shawl. “Hush! Mr. Fielding. Don't betrayadi My solicitor suspects forged bonds, forged me! will you? I can see you are honour. bills, forged cheques.”
able. You won't betray me?” Compose yourself, suspicion is not “ Was it honourable to listen there?" fact.”
“Yes,” answered the clerk, with sudden Lady Randal swept down to tell Mr. frenzy; "anything's honourable with Ferris that she would meet him with her him. He has been my ruin. Cursed solicitor at his offices at eleven o'clock. be the hour when he enticed me to do
He retired with perfect calmness. his dirty work! But it was my own
At the appointed hour, Lady Randal fault. O! Bessy, Bessy !" and her late husband's solicitor turned “Are you speaking of Mr. Ferris in into Randal’s-buildings, and were pre- this way?" sently ushered by Mr. Ferris into a private “Yes, I am.” The clerk seized Fielding's room of Randal House, dusty and sub. arm, and, putting his mouth near to his stantial, furnished in dark mahogany and ear, hoarsely whispered, “ Ferris is a black horsehair, with Isabella's great scoundrel !” uncle's portrait, in oil-painting, over the George struck him backwards by an fire-place. It was a full-length, in a court uncontrollable impulse. suit, and impressive; the face, stern and “O, you put unbounded faith in him, aristocratic, looking down as if reproving I know,” said the clerk, with a ghastly the desecration of his household altars, smile. “It was not well done, however
, and the audacious scattering of their an. to strike me for his sake.
Time will cestral associations. The door was shut. show you who best deserved the blow." During the protracted interview that “Forgive it !” said George, warmly
. followed, George Fielding missed the “I confess I cannot as yet understand book-keeper from his place at the desk, and what I see going on around me; but I as some entries had to be made imme- have the highest confidence in Mr. diately of a bundle of letters and circulars Ferris's good intentions, and I will not inviting capitalists to invest in the silver hear him styled ‘scoundrel' without remines of Peru, George looked about for senting it.” the absentee, and called “Mickle," but “I am sorry for you.” received no response. After waiting some “But who is Bessy ?”. time, George went out to look for Mickle. The clerk arranged his disordered hair At the end of a passage there was a small with a pocket-comb, and pulled his collar room used as a kitchen by the woman who straight, before answering; then, as he cleaned the house, the spacious under passed by George to return to his place ground kitchens being deserted on account in the office, he said, “I'll tell you what of rats. It struck George that Mickle she is, Mr. Fielding-Good as Gold; and might have gone to the charwoman's pe but for her sake, mind me, I should just culiar domain to wash his hands, so looked now have returned that blow you gave in, and there detected the thin, dissipated. I me—though it was an honourable blow
I too, I confess it. But time, time will marked with deep melancholy that he show you the truth of what I said.” constantly strove to conceal. He was a
"Which you had better not repeat. humorist in his language, but the smiles But please attend now to those letters." he provoked in others seldom brightened
Certainly ; and would you mind his own, though, indeed, he could laugh dropping in to my lodging this evening, outrageously. He had a slovenly aspect. No. 2, round the corner ? I want to His hair was long, and decidedly out of say a few things to you. You behaved condition. His tailor might have been
very kind to me yesterday; I shan't for an old clothesman, so ill the garments get how readily you lent me that half. fitted, and so worn were they. crown."
George Fielding had the title, much to “O, nonsense!”
his own surprise, of Secretary of the "You're genuine, Mr. Fielding. No Silver Mining Company, his duties being adulteration about you. I like you, and to explain to every one whom his emyou must come. You shall see my Bessy. ployer's clever circulars and advertise. Good as gold, Sir - gold tried in the ments brought thither (clever indeed furnace, too."
they were) the nature of the under
in some way,
"I don't mind spending half-an-hour taking, and to recommend it with all the with you, if Mr. Ferris does not want energy and plausibility he could comme.”
mand, guided by minute instructions Mickle shook him warmly by the hand from Mr. Ferris. He had also to write a. -so warmly that Fielding's heart was vast number of letters to the same purstrongly moved. He felt compassion for pose. The accounts of the establishment the clerk, who had evidently gone wrong were in Mickle's charge by day, and
and was suffering in conse- locked up by night. George thought he quence. The strangest thing was, that should try and find an opportunity to he appeared to blame Mr. Ferris for his look into them, and satisfy himself how errors, or mistakes, which ever they might the affairs of the company stood. He be. There was a gathering mystery was acute in business; no mere bookabout the place that very much tantalised worm. He had frequently to make George.
statements for Mr. Ferris, the exact The clerk was a singular-looking man truth of which appeared to him quesfor his age and position-a young-old tionable; and he reverenced the truth looking man, with singular manners. He as much as any man breathing. He had was tall and thin, and had a visage l objected twice to comply with his em.
ployer's instructions, stating plainly that voice, “had I but been of your mind, he knew they were not in accordance what a different creature should I be with fact.
now !” “ You are Quixotic, my good fellow," He shook his head slowly, and tears said Ferris; "in important enterprises yes, large drops,-rolled down his face. we cannot be over nice. I am more par- George was deeply affected. ticular than any man alive, but business “I bave touched on a painful theme, mustn't stand still.”
I had noticed, of course, that you So he silenced George; but finding were unfortunately addicted to this weakthat the new man was not malleable to ness." his purposes, Mr. Ferris held him at a “ Lord! Lord !” exclaimed the undistance from his confidence, which George happy clerk, “what I might have been! perceived, and felt painfully; so that he and see what I am: a lost—lost wretch." was far from comfortable.
Why so ? You are in receipt of a He had fancied sometimes that Mickle good salary, are you not ?” knew more than any one of Ferris's pri- The clerk leaned over the table, on vate affairs; why, then, the clerk should which he rested both his hands. “Mr. deem it necessary to listen at a door to Fielding, I will trust you so far as to say private conversations passing in the inner i that I have done that under the influence office, puzzled him; nor could he con- of fiery drink which I would now give ceive why the man was so agitated and my right hand to undo." frightened. But, mentally and morally George rose. “ You alarm me, Mickle.” proud, George disdained to make use of “ All I dare tell you now, Mr. Fielding, an accident to press into privacies which is this, and that I will say: Be on your did not immediately concern him. So he guard against you know whom; take told Mickle--at the latter's lodgings (two this as it is meant,-friendly to you." humble rooms over a cook-shop), in the It grew dark in Mickle's room, except evening, when the clerk, between whiffs for the gas-lights shining in from the of tobacco and copious draughts of spirits, street, but neither of the two heeded it. referred to what had passed in the kitchen They remained long talking; the clerk at Randal House
telling the sad, sad story of his wasted “I decline explanations, Mickle,” said life. The youngest son of a gentleman he; “let the circumstance rest in obli- of fortune, well educated, fallen into low
it may, as far as I am concerned, I company, bound hand and foot by a give you my word. Only, whilst I am passion for drink, cast out from his there, whatever may be your reasons, father's house and disinherited, sunk in never listen again to anything which is the deepest poverty; a tavern keeper not designed for your ear.”
who knew Mr. Ferris advised applying to “ I will not.”
him for employment-a fatal application ; “ Enough.”
why fatal, not to be mentioned ;-drink “ You do not drink, Mr. Fielding.” had done it all !"
“No; I was bred in an inn, and I have “But if intemperance has done you 80 seen too much of the mischiefs done by much harm, why persist in it ?” intemperance to risk it myself. I seek “ To drown reflection; I drink night for higher enjoyments, the feast of and day to conquer my terror of the reason, and the flow of soul,' you know ; future. I was tempted to serve him none other.”
wrongfully by the offer of means to He spoke with firmness; when the un- gratify the madness that was consuming happy clerk laid down his pipe, looked at me.' the secretary in admiration, groaned as “ Serious charges.” one in torture, and, seizing his own glass, “I can substantiate them, Sir; but dashed the alcoholic contents out of the when I do that I criminate myself
am in a horrible position, Sir.” “ Heavens !” he ejaculated, in a choked Two slight taps at the door caught the