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present condition till his death, the succession would pass to a family whom he knew to be uncongenial. All this had been discussed, but without seeing any way out of the difficulty, until in this legacy Felix saw the means of making himself master of the house and stock, and thus would obtain a footing as a citizen, by which he could profit as he gained in age and standing. The available income of the family would hardly be increased, since the absolute possession of the house involved expenses that had hitherto been paid over his head; but the security and independence were worth more than the pounds, shillings and pence that might otherwise have been brought in. The certain provision for the helpless Theodore also made Felix more free. The lawyer, his fellow trustree, greatly to Wilmet's satisfaction, would not allow the sum in trust to be invested in anything but government security, and as nothing was needed at present for the child, the interest might there accumulate in case of need.
Edgar showed himself much subdued by the change in the household. He never spoke plainly about his doings, and direct questions drove him to his retreat in the ludicrous. However, it could be inferred that in the recklessness induced by Alice Knevett's desertion, he had gone far enough to alarm himself, and behold some abyss of exposure and disgrace whence the legacy would retrieve him, and that he was resolved to pull up and begin upon a different course.
He talked eagerly and edifyingly of setting about a picture for exhibition, the proceeds of which might take him to Italy, to begin a course of study at Rome, where he might make a home for Cherry to come and work with him; and they built up a Château en Espagne, the more fervently in proportion to Cherry's want of faith therein. Hours were spent in devising and sketching subjects for the picture, or rather pictures, for Mr. Renville was very anxious that Geraldine should make a venture in water-colours, such as might at least make her known as a possible illustrator. Edgar's eye and advice were very useful to her; and she decided on one ideal subject-the faithful little acolyte, who while the priest slept on the cold morning,
'Turned and sought the choir, Touched the Altar tapers
With a flake of fire.'
And likewise the sketches of Stella in different attitudes, which she had made with a view to Alda's picture, were worth working at with her utmost power.
For Edgar's own part, he had resolved on a scene which Cherry thought wild and impracticable, till he had dashed in his sketch of Brynhild asleep in the circle of fire, with Sigurd about to break through. There was something so bright and fiery, so expressive and powerful, in the hastily-designed and partly-coloured ébauche that Cherry gazed at it like something of weird and magical beauty, only longing for her master to see it, and own Edgar's genius.
Brynhild's model was Wilmet, who, much against the grain, was induced to let down all her mass of hair, and let Edgar pose her on the sofa squab with bare arms. In his mischief, however, he produced a counter pen-and-ink outline of Marilda in the same position, with all the pointed flames labelled with the names of various stocks and securities; while Sigurd's helmet disclosed Felix, armed with the 'Pursuivant,' and hesitating to plunge in. He might with equal propriety have drawn himself, his sister Alda thought, for on failing with Felix, she had actually whispered the same hint to him, but was met with the reply, 'Oh no, I am not bad enough for that.'
She was spending a week longer at Centry, that Sir Adrian might massacre the pheasants, which, however, he considered to be so disgracefully preserved, that he spent much time and eloquence in explaining to Miss Underwood how she might render her game a source of profit.
One November day, the last of the Vanderkists' stay at Centry, when the sisters had been sent for in the afternoon, and he and Lance were to follow for the evening, Felix, returning into his office, was amazed to see a figure standing at the fire.
Ferdinand! what good wind brings you here?'
'I am come to say good-bye.'
'What? Mr. Brown sends you out to America?'
'No, it is on my own account. His correspondent at Oswego has telegraphed to him to find me, and let me know of my uncle's death.'
'Yes, I know no particulars.'
'And are you his heir ?'
'That I do not know.
Probably. I cannot bring myself to care.'
'Brown knows of fifty thousand in stock that he can lay his hand upon; but there must be more than as much again afloat in the States, in goodness knows what_speculations, and I shall have to deal with it all !'
'It is well you have had an apprenticeship. The Life Guardsman would have known less about it. When do you start?'
'I go back to town by the mail train to-night, to Liverpool tomorrow. I could not go without telling you; and when I tried to write, I felt I must see you and this place again.
'We were, but we shall be glad to get off.'
'To Centry? Is she there?'
'Yes. Going early to-morrow.'
But you are
Before Ferdinand had done more than stare into the fire, Lance opened the door. 'Mr. Flowerdew wants-Holloa! Fernan dropped from the skies !'
Is Mr Flowerdew there ?' said Felix, about to pass him.
'No; he only wants you to write up to Novello's.—Do you hear, Fernan ? we are to have such a concert in the town hall, for a real good organ. Edgar will bring down no end of stars for it. You'll come down for it?'
'Fernan will be in the utmost parts of America by that time, Lance.'
'Look here, Lance,' said Fernan—that dark sad countenance lighting as it sometimes did-'just you wait a fortnight, and I can all but promise you'
'An organ by Atlantic cable, eh?' said Felix, laughing. 'Look at Lance, Fernan; he'd hardly thank you. It is the concert they want; the organ is the excuse.'
'Now, Felix, you are as much set on the concert as I am. is to sing, "Return, blest days," rattled on Lance, too eager on his own hobby to draw the inference as to Fernan's fortunes; ' and Mr. Miles has promised to come himself with all our own fellows; and so we can have the sacred part something respectable. It is a horrid pity you can't come !'
'He will be better employed, Lance; he believes he is come into his fortune.'
And if so, Felix, nothing can hinder me from my greatest possible pleasure, the giving this organ to St. Oswald's—the church of my baptism.'
'Well, Fernan, the bear is not caught yet, remember; but when it is, I'm not the man to hinder you from making up the deficit I strongly anticipate after this same concert of ours.'
Felix! A hundred and sixty reserved seats at a guinea, and-'
Felix put up his hands to his ears. 'Meantime, Lance, find little Lightfoot, and tell him to get ready to take a note into the country.'
Ferdinand of course rose up, insisting on starting by the five o'clock train, but was withheld while Felix wrote a note to Marilda, in which he communicated the tidings, leaving it to her and to Wilmet to inform Lady Vanderkist.
The note was delivered in the expectant time before dinner, when Marilda, without any preliminary but ' Bless me! what does Felix write to me for ?' read
MY DEAR COUSIN,
You must have the kindness to excuse Lance and 'myself from joining your party to-night. We are unexpectedly prevented by the arrival of Mr. Travis, who has come down to take leave, having been telegraphed for to Oswego on his uncle's death. He must go back by to-night's mail train; and perhaps you would kindly send my sisters home a little earlier, as I think they would wish to see him.
Your affectionate cousin
F. C. UNDERWOOD.
'His uncle dead without a will! If we had but known!' said Mrs. Underwood, unguardedly.
'Insolvent, depend on it,' growled Sir Adrian, fitting on the consequence so that Cherry felt an uncontrollable impulse to giggle, and was glad to be sunk in the depths of a huge chair.
She was startled by Alda's answering rather fretfully, 'I don't see why he was very rich.'
'The more reason. It is always the way with those Yankees.' Mrs. Underwood took on herself to defend the solidity of the Travis interest as an article of her husband's belief; Wilmet and
Cherry longed to change the conversation, but neither knew how; and it was Sir Adrian who found a fresh subject at last, on which the others willingly rode off.
They begged to have the carriage ordered at nine, and bade good-bye to Lady Vanderkist, who had good taste enough not to make another remark after the first into which she had been betrayed.
Marilda, however, did. 'Tell him I hope it is all right, and that I congratulate him with all my heart,' she said; and she looked as if she could have said more.
Perhaps Wilmet and Cherry were not sorry that Stella's being seated between them prevented discussion on the difference patience and constancy might have made. Wilmet, with her love. for her sister, and recollection of that conjugal interpellation, might regret; while Geraldine, less prejudiced, felt that Ferdinand could hardly be pitied for the test that had spared him a wife with whom he could have so little in common; but both felt the contrast when they were met by Ferdinand, whose countenance, though not intellectual, was singularly noble, and full of a grand melancholy sweetness according with the regular outline and dark olive colouring, while the gentleness of his tone was not the conventional politeness of society, but somewhat of the old Spaniard enhanced by Christian grace.
For all that had come and gone, they were more comfortable with him now than when he had been Alda's exclusive property, and what was wanting in love had been made up in jealousy; but he was very low and sad; he had not come to the point of ceasing to regret Alda, and his native inertness shrank from the trouble and turmoil before him, when he had nothing to make riches valuable to him, and could not bear to be wrenched from the shadow of St. Matthew's, and tossed he knew not where in the West, among strangers and worse than strangers. But after all, the home party were soon caring most of all about their concert.
The St. Oswald's Choral Society did in fact give a concert every year, but in a very quiet way, aiming only at covering their own expenses, and seeking for no extraneous aid; but this was to be an affair on a very different scale. It had grown up no one knew how, under the influence of Mr. Flowerdew, and of two Miss