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laugh, and, as she fancied, growing I wish we were quietly rid of him, still paler.
"Do you suppose I am a he is such an unscrupulous dog. Í highwayman in disguise, or a mur assure you, I doubt very much if the derer, like-what's his name-Eugene deeds are safe in his possession ; at Aram. I must have expressed myself all events, he ought to choose bevery ill, if I suggested anything so tween us and Mark Wylder. It is tragical. I protest before heaven, monstrous his being solicitor for both. my darling, there is not one word The Wylders and Brándons have alor act of mine I need fear to submit ways been contesting the right to to any court of justice or of honour these estates, and the same thing on earth.”
may arise again any day." He took her hand, and kissed it " But tell me, Stanley, how do you affectionately, and still fondling it want to apply money? What pargently between his, he resumed ticular good can it do us in this un
“I don't mean to say, of course, pleasant uncertainty ?" that I have always been better than “Well
, Dorkie, believe me, I have other young fellows; I've been foolish, a sure instinct in matters of this and wild, and-and-I've done wrong kind. Larkin is preparing treason things, occasionally—as all young men against us. Wylder is inciting him, will; but for high crimes and misde- and will reap the benefit of it. Larmeanors, or for melodramatic situa- kin hesitates to strike, but that won't tions, I never had the slightest taste. last long. In the meantime, he has There's no man on earth who can tell made a distinct offer to buy Five anything of me, or put me under any Oaks. His doing so places him in sort of pressure, thank heaven; and the same boat with us ; and, although simply because I have never in the he does not offer its full value, still course of my life done a single act I should sleep sounder if it were conunworthy of a gentleman, or in the cluded ; and the fact is, I don't think most trifling way compromised my we are safe until that sale is conself. I swear it, my darling, upon cluded.” my honour and soul, and I will swear Dorcas looked for a moment earit in any terms—the most awful that nestly in his face, and then down, in can be prescribed-in order totally and thought. for ever to remove from your mind so “Now, Dorkie, I have told you
all. amazing a fancy.”
Who is to advise you, if not your And with a little laugh, and still husband? Trust my sure conviction, holding her hand, he passed his arm and promise me, Dorcas, that you will round her waist, and kissed her af- not hesitate to join me in averting, by fectionately.
a sacrifice we shall hardly feel, a “But you are perfectly right, Dor- really stupendous blow.” kie, in supposing that I am under He kissed her hand, and then her very considerable apprehension from lips, and he saidtheir machinations. Though they *You will, Dorkie, I know you cannot slur our fair fame, it is quite will. Give me your promise.' possible they may very seriously af "Stanley, tell me once more, are fect our property. Mr. Larkin is in you really quite frank when you tell possession of all the family papers. me that you apprehend no personal I don't like it, but it is too late now. injury from these people-apart, I The estates have been back_and for- mean, from the possibility of Mr. ward so often between the Brandons Larkin's conspiring to impeach our and Wylders, I always fancy there rights in favour of Mr. Wylder ?" may be a screw loose, or a frangible “Personal injury? None in life, link somewhere, and he's deeply in- my darling. terested for Mark Wylder."
And there is really no secret * You are better, darling; I think nothing-tell your wife-nothing you you are better," he said, looking in fear coming to light ?” her face, after a little pause.
“I swear again, nothing. Won't 'Yes, dear Stanley, much better; you believe me, darling ?”. but why should you suppose any plot "Then, if it be so, Stanley, I think against our title?"
we should hesitate long before sell"“ Mark Wylder is in constant cor- ing any part of the estate upon a respondence with that fellow Larkin. mere conjecture of danger. You or I
may over-estimate that danger, being “I think Chelford one of the most so nearly affected by it. We must sensible as well as honorable men I take advice ; and first, we must con- know; and I will take no step in sult Chelford. Remember, Stanley, selling a part of our estate to that how long the estate has been pre- odious Mr. Larkin, without consulting served. Whatever may have been him, and at least hearing what he their crimes and follies, those who thinks of it." have gone before us never impaired Stanley's eyes were cast downthe Brandon estate ; and, without and he was nipping the straggling full consideration, without urgent hairs of his light moustache between cause, I, Stanley, will not begin.” his lips--but he made no answer.
“Why, it is only Five Oaks, and Only suddenly he looked up, and we shall have the money, you for- said quietly, get, said Stanley."
“Very well. Good-bye for a little, “Five Oaks is an estate in itself; Dorkie," and he leaned over her and and the idea of dismembering the kissed her cheek, and then passed Brandon inheritance seems to me like into the hall, where he took his hat taking a plank from a ship-all will and cane. go down when that is done.'
Larcom presented him with a note, “But you can't dismember it; it is in a sealed envelope. As he took it only a life estate."
from the salver he recognised LarWell, perhaps so; but Chelford kin's very clear and large hand. I told me that one of the London peo- suspect that grave Mr. Larcom had ple said he thought Five Oaks be- been making his observations and longed to me absolutely."
conjectures thereupon. In that case the inheritance is The Captain took it with a little dismembered already.”
nod, and a peevish side-glance. It “I will have no share in selling the saidold estate, or any part of it, to stran
“MY DEAR CAPTAIN BRANDON gers, Stanley, except in a case of necessity; and we must do nothing to London by the early train to-mor
LAKE, -Imperative business calls me precipitately; and I must insist, Stanley, on consulting Chelford be- if convenient, by the bearer, with the
Will you therefore favour me, fore taking any step. He will view small note of consent, which must the question more calmly than you or I can ; and we owe him that respect, accompany the articles agreeing to
sell. Stanley, he has been so very kind to
"I remain, &c., &c., &c." “ Chelford is the very last man Larkin's groom was waiting for an whom I would think of consulting,” answered Stanley, with his malign “ Tell him I shall probably see Mr. and peevish look.
Larkin myself," said the Captain, “And why??? asked Dorcas. snappishly; and so he walked down
“Because he is quite sure to advise to pretty little Gylingden. against it,"answered Stanley, sharply. On the steps of the reading-room “He is one of those Quixotic fellows stood old Tom Ruddle, who acted as who get on very well in fair weather, marker in the billiard-room, treasurer, while living with a duke or duchess, and book-keeper beside, and swept but are sure to run you into mischief out the premises every morning, and when they come to the inns and high- went to and fro at the proper hours, ways of common life. I know per- between that literary and sporting fectly, he would protest against a institution and the Post-office ; and compromise. Discharge Larkin - who, though seldom sober, was always fight him—and see us valiantly stript well instructed in the news of the of our property by some cursed law- town. quibble; and think we ought to be “How do you do, old Ruddlemuch more comfortable so, than in quite well ?" asked the Captain, with this house, on the terms of a com a smile.
“Who have you got in the promise with a traitor like Larkin. rooms ?" But I don't think so, nor any man of Well, Jos Larkin was not there. sense, nor anyone but a hair-brained, Indeed' he seldom showed in those conceited, knight-errant."
premises, which he considered de
cidedly low. Dropping in only now But Ruddle had seen Mr. Jos Larand then, like the great country kin on the green, not five minutes gentlemen, on sessions days, to glance since, and thither the gallant Captain at the papers, and gossip on their own
bent his steps. high affairs.
THE ACE OP HEARTS.
“So you are going to London-to- him as I am--and that, I assure you, morrow, is not it ?” said Captain is very odious indeed. There were Lake, when on the green of Gyling- four witnesses beside myself-Lieuden, where visitors were promenading, tenant-Colonel Jermyn, Sir James and the militia band playing. lusty Carter, Lord George Vanbrugh, and polkas, he met Mr. Jos Larkins, in Ned Clinton." lavender trousers and kid gloves, new “ Witnesses! Captain Lake. Do you hat, metropolitan black frock-coat, allude to a legal matter ?" inquired and shining French boots—the most Larkin, with his look of insinuating elegant as well as the most Christian concern and inquiry. of provincial attorneys.
Quite the contrary-a very law'Ah, yes—I think-should my less matter, indeed. These four engagements permit--of starting early gentlemen, beside myself, were present to-morrow. The fact is, Captain at the occurrence. But perhaps you've Lake, our poor friend the Vicar, you heard of it ?" said the Captain, know, the Reverend William Wylder, " though that's not likely. ” has pressing occasion for some money,
· Not that I recollect, Captain and I can't leave him absolutely in Lake,” answered Jos Larkin. the hands of Burlington and Smith.' “Well, it is not a thing you'd
“No, of course-quite so," said forget easily-and indeed it was a Lake, with that sly smile which made very well kept secret, as well as an every fellow on whom it lighted, ugly one,” and Lake smiled, in his sly somehow fancy that the Captain had quizzical way. divined his secret. “Very honest “And where, Captain Lake, did it fellows, with good looking after- occur, may I inquire ?" said Larkin, eh ?”
with his charming insinuation. The Attorney laughed, a little • You may,
and you shall hear-in awkwardly, with his pretty pink fact I'll tell you the whole thing. It blush over his long face.
was at Gray's Club in Pall-Mall. “Well, I'm far from saying that, The whist party were old Jermyn, but it is their business, you know, to Carter, Vanbrugh, and Wylder. Clintake care of thcir client; and it would ton and I, were at piquet, and were not do to give them the handling of disturbed by a precious row the old mine. Can I do anything, Captain boys kicked up. Jermyn and Carter Lake, for you while in town ?” were charging Mark Wylder, in so
“Nothing on earth, thank you very many words, with not playing fairly much. But I am thinking of doing -there was an ace of hearts on the something for you. You've interested table played by him, and before three yourself a great deal about Mark minutes they brought it home-and in Wylder's movements.'
fact it was quite clear that poor dear Not more than my duty clearly Mark had helped himself to it in imposed."
quite an irregular way.” Yes ; but notwithstanding it will ‘Oh, dear, Captain Lake, oh, dear, operate, I'm afraid, as you will pre- how shocking - how inexpressibly sently see, rather to his prejudice, for shocking! Is not it melancholy ? to prevent your conjectural inter- said Larkin, in his finest and most ference from doing him a more serious pathetic horror. mischief, I will now, and here, if “Yes; but don't cry, till I've done,” you please, divulge the true and only said Lake, tranquilly. “Mark tried cause of his absconding. It is fair to to bully, but the cool, old heads were mention, however, that your knowing too much for him, and he threw himit, will make you fully as odious to self at last entirely on our mercy—s
and very abject he became, poor “ I've no wish to injure Mark; but
it is better that you should know at How well the mountains look ! once, than go about poking every I am afraid we shall have rain to-mor- where for information. row."
“I do assure you” Larkin uttered a short groan. “And having really no wish to hurt
“So they sent him into the small him,” pursued the Captain, “and also card-room, next that we were playing making it, as I do, a point that you in. I think we were about the last shall repeat this conversation to no in the club-it was past three o'clock one, I don't choose to appear singular, -and so the old boys deliberated on as your sole informant, and I've given their sentence. To bring the matter you here a line to Sir James Carterbefore the Committee were utter ruin he's member, you know, for Huddlesto Mark, and they let him off, on bury. I mention, that Mark, having these conditions-he was to retire broken his promise, and played for forthwith from the Club; he was heavy stakes, too, both on board his never to play any game of cards again; ship, and at Plymouth and Naples, and, lastly, he was never more to which I happen to know; and also address any one of the gentlemen by accosting me, whom, as one of the who were present at his detection. gentlemen agreeing to impose these Pod dear devil !-how he did jump conditions, he was never to address, I at the conditions !-and provided felt myself at liberty to mention it to they were each and all strictly ob- you, holding the relation you do to served, it was intimated that the me as well as to him, in consequence occurrence should be kept secret. of the desirableness of placing you in Well, you know, that was letting possession of the true cause of his abpoor, dear Mark off in a coach ; and sconding, which was simply my tellI do assure you, though we had never ing him
that I would not permit him, liked one another, I really was very slurred as he was, to marry a lady who glad they did not move his expulsion was totally ignorant of his actual po-which would have involved his sition; and, in fact, that unless he quitting the service—and I positively withdrew, I must acquaint the don't know how he could have lived young lady's guardian of the circumif that had occurred.”
stances.” “I do solemnly assure you, Captain There was quite enough probability Lake, what you have told me has in this story to warrant Jos Larkin in beyond expression amazed, and I will turning up his eyes and groaning. say, horrified me," said the Attorney, But in the intervals, his shrewd eyes with a slow and melancholy vehe- searched the face of the Captain, not
“Better men might have knowing whether to believe one sylsuspected something of it-I do so- lable of what he related. lemnly pledge my honour that nothing I may as well mention here, that the of the kind so much as crossed my Attorney did present the note to Sir mind—not naturally suspicious, I J. Carter, with which Captain Lake believe, but all the more shocked, had furnished him ; indeed, he never Captain Lake, on that account.” lost an opportunity of making the ac
He was poor then, you see, and quaintance of a person of rank ; and a few pounds were everything to him, that the worthy baronet, so appealed and the temptation immense ; but to, and being a blunt sort of fellow, clumsy fellows ought not to try that and an old acquaintance of Stanley's, sort of thing. There's the highway, did, in a short and testy sort of way, Mark would have made a capital gar- corroborate Captain Lake's story, rotter.
having previously conditioned that he The Attorney groaned, and turned was not to be referred to as the authoup
The band was playing rity from whom Mr. Larkin had Pop goes the Weazel,” and old learned it. Jackson, very well dressed and buckled The Attorney and Captain Branup, with a splendid smile upon his don Lake were now walking side by waggish, military countenance, cried, side, over the more sequestered part as he passed, with a wave of his hand, of the green.
How do, Lake-how do, Mr. Lar “And, so," said the Captain, coming kin-beautiful day !"
to a stand-still, “I'll bid you good
bye, Larkin; what, stay, I forgot to have it." And the Captain, rather ask, do you make in town ?”
savagely turned away, skirting the Only a day or two.'
crowd who hovered about the band, “You'll not wait for the division in his leisurely and now solitary on Trawler's motion ?”
ramble. “Oh, dear, no. I calculate I'll be The Captain was sullen that evenhere again, certainly, in three days' ing at home. He was very uncomforttime. And, I suppose, Captain Lake, able. His heart was failing him for you received my note ?"
the things that were coming to pass. “ You mean just now? Oh! yes; One of his maniacal teinpers, which of course it is all right; but one day had often before thrown him, as it is as good as another; and you have were, “ off the rails,” was at the botgot my agreement signed.”
tom of his immediate troubles. This “ Pardon me, Captain Brandon proneness to sudden accessions of vioLake; the fact is, one day, in this case, lence and fury, was the compensadoes not answer as well as another, tion which abated the effect of his for I must have drafts of the deeds ordinary craft and self-command. prepared by my conveyancer in town, He had done all he could to obviate and the note is indispensable. Per- the consequences of his folly in this haps if there is any difficulty, you will case. He hoped the Attorney might not be so good as to say so, and I shall succeed in discovering Jim Dutton's then be in a position to consider the whereabouts. At all events, he had case in its new aspect.”
been beforehand, and taken measures “ What the devil difficulty can to quiet that person's dangerous rethere be, sir ? I can't see it, any more sentment. But it was momentous in than what hurry can possibly exist the critical state of things to give this about it,” said Lake, stung with a dangerous Attorney a handsome share momentary fury. It seemed as though in his stake-to place him, as he had every one was conspiring to perplex himself said, “in the same boat," and and torment him ; and he, like the enlist all his unscrupulous astuteness poor Vicar, though for very different in maintaining his title ; and if he reasons, had grown intensely anxious went to London disappointed, and to sell. He had grown to dread the that things turned out unluckily about Attorney, since the arrival of Dutton's Dutton, it might be a very awful letter. He suspected that his journey business, indeed. to London had for its object a meet Dinner had been a very dull teteing with that person. He could not a-tete. Dorcas sat stately and sadtell what might be going on in the looking from the window toward the dark. But the possibility of such a distant sunset horizon, piled in dusky conjunction might well dismay him.gold and crimson clouds, against the
On the other hand, the more Mr. faded, green sky-a glory that is alLarkin relied upon the truth of Dut- ways melancholy and dreamy. Stanton's letter, the cooler he became re- ley sipped his claret, his eyes upon specting the purchase of Five Oaks. the cloth. He raised them, and looked It was, of course, a very good thing; out, too; and the ruddy light tinted but not his first object. The Vicar's his pale features. reversion in that case was everything, A gleam of good humour seemed to and of it he was now sure.
come with it, and he said“There is no difficulty about the “I was just thinking, Dorkie, that note, sir ; it contains but four lines, for you and me, alone, these great and I've given you the form. No diffi- rooms are a little dreary. Suppose culty can exist but in the one quarter; we have tea in the tapestry room. and the fact is," he added, steadily, “The Dutch room, Stanley—I think “unless I have that note before I leave 80-I should like it very well. So, I am to-morrow morning, I'll assume that certain would Rachel. I've written you wish to be off, Captain Lake, and to her to come. I hope she will. I I will adapt myself to circumstances.” expect her at nine. The brougham
“You nay have it now,” said the will be with her. She wrote such an Captain, with a fierce carelessness. odd note to-day, addressed to you; “D--d nonsense ! Who could but I opened it. Here it is." have fancied any such stupid hurry? She did not watch his countenance, Send in the morning, and you shall or look in his direction, as he read it.