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death, I heard in a half-pay officheavy incubus.
my life, without a profession and without any reliable resources, has been rather precarious. When I seem to have acted worst, I have been only the slave of circumstances.'
'Indeed! and have you no pity for the fate of your wife, no interest in the life of your only child ?'
My wife was a poor helpless creature, who contrived to make my life wretched,” Mr. Nowell, alias Percival, answered coolly. “I gave her every sixpence I possessed when I sent her home to England; but luck went dead against me for a long time after that, and I could neither send her money nor go to her. When I heard of her death, I heard in an indirect way that my child had been adopted by some old fool of a half-pay officer; and I was naturally glad of an accident which relieved me of a heavy incubus. An opportunity occurred about the same time of my entering on a tolerably remunerative career as agent for some Belgian ironworks in America ; and I had no option but to close with the offer at once or lose the chance altogether. I sailed for New York within a fortnight after poor Lucy's death, and have lived in America for the last fifteen years. I have contrived to establish a tolerably flourishing trade there on my own account; a trade that only needs capital to become one of the first in New York.'
Capital !' echoed Jacob Nowell; “I thought there was something wanted. It would have been a foolish fancy to suppose that affection could have had anything to do with your coming to me.'
“My dear father, it is surely possible that affection and interest may sometimes go together. Were I a pauper, I would not venture to present myself before you at all; but as a tolerably prosperous trader, with the ability to propose an alliance that should be to our mutual advantage, I considered I might fairly approach you.'
“I have no money to invest in your trade,' the old man answered sternly. “I am a very poor man, impoverished for life by the wicked extravagance of your youth. If you have come to me with any hope of obtaining money from me, you have wasted time and trouble.'
Let that subject drop, then,' Percival Nowell said lightly. “I suppose you have some remnant of regard for me, in spite of our old misunderstanding, and that my coming is not quite indifferent to you ?'
"No,' the other answered, with a touch of melancholy; it is not indifferent to me. I have waited for your return these many years. You might have found me more tenderly disposed towards you, had you come earlier; but there are some feelings which seem to wear out as a man grows older,-affections that grow paler day by day, like colours fading in the sun. Still, I am glad to see you once more before I die. You are my only son, and you must needs be something nearer to me than the rest of the world, in spite of all that I have suffered at your hands.'
this you do man said by is of course could be i
I could not come back to England sooner than this,' the younger man said presently. I had a hard battle to fight out yonder.' .
There had been very little appearance of emotion upon either side so far. Percival Nowell took things as coolly as it was his habit to take everything, while his father carefully concealed whatever deeper feeling might be stirred in the depths of his heart by this unexpected return.
• You do not ask any questions about the fate of your only child,' the old man said by and by.
My dear father, that is of course a subject of lively interest to me; but I did not suppose that you could be in a position to give me any information upon that point.'
"I do happen to know something about your daughter, but not much.'
Jacob Nowell went on to tell his son all that he had heard from Gilbert Fenton respecting Marian's marriage. Of his own advertisements, and wasted endeavours to find her, he said nothing.
And this fellow whom she has jilted is pretty well off, I suppose ?' Percival said thoughtfully.
• He is an Australian merchant, and, I should imagine, in prosperous circumstances.
• Foolish girl! And this Holbrook is no doubt an adventurer, or he would scarcely have married her in such a secret way. Have you any wish that she should be found ?'
Yes; I have a fancy for seeing her before I die. She is my own flesh and blood, like you, and has not injured me as you have. I should like to see her.'
* And if she happened to take your fancy, you would leave her all your money, I suppose ?
• Who told you that I have money to leave ?' cried the old man sharply. Have I not said that I am a poor man, hopelessly impoverished by your extravagance ?'
Bah, my dear father, that is all nonsense. My extravagance is a question of nearly twenty years ago. If I had swamped all you possessed in those days—which I don't for a moment believe you have had ample time to make a fresh fortune since then. You would never have lived all these years in Queen-Anne's-court except for the sake of money-making. Why, the place stinks of money. I know your tricks : buying silver from men who are in too great a hurry to sell it to be particular about the price ; lending money at sixty per cent, a sixty which comes to eighty before the transaction is finished. A man does not lead such a life as yours for nothing. You are rolling in money, and you mean to punish me by leaving it all to Marian.'
The silversmith grew pale with anger during this speech of his son's.
SECOND SERIES, VOL. II. F.S. VOL. XII.
* You are a consummate scoundrel,' he said, “and are at liberty to think what you please. I tell you once for all, I am as poor as Job. But if I had a million, I would not leave you sixpence of it.'
'So be it,' the other answered gaily. I have not performed the duties of a parent very punctually hitherto ; but I don't mind taking some trouble to find this girl while I am in England, in order that she may not lose her chances with you.'
You need give yourself no trouble on that score. Mr. Fenton has promised to find her for me.'
Indeed! I should like to see this Mr. Fenton.'
You can see him if you please; but you are scarcely likely to get a very warm reception in that quarter. Mr. Fenton knows what you have been to your daughter and to me.'
*I am not going to fling myself into his arms. I only want to hear all he can tell me about Marian.'
• How long do you mean to stay in England ?'
• That is entirely dependent upon the result of my visit. I had hoped that if I found you living, which I most earnestly desired might be the case, I should find in you a friend and coadjutor. I am employed in starting a great iron company, which is likely—I may say certain—to result in large gains to all concerned in it; and I fancied I should have no difficulty in securing your coöperation. There are the prospectuses of the scheme' (he flung a heap of printed papers on the table before his father), and there is not a line in them that I cannot guarantee on my credit as a man of business. You can look them over at your leisure, or not, as you please. I think you must know that I always had an independent spirit, and would be the last of mankind to degrade myself by any servile attempt to alter your line of conduct towards me.'
Independent spirit! Yes!' cried the old man in a mocking tone; 'a son extorts every sixpence he can from his father and mother—ay, Percy, from his weak loving mother; I know who robbed me to send you money—and then, when he can extort no more, boasts of his independence. But that will do. There is no need that we should quarrel. After twenty years' severance, we can afford to let bygones be bygones. I have told you that I am glad to see you. If you come to me with disinterested feelings, that is enough. You may take back your prospectuses. I have nothing to embark in Yankee speculations. If your scheme is a good one, you will find plenty of enterprising spirits willing to join you; if it is a bad one, I daresay you will contrive to find dupes. You can come and see me again when you please. And now good-night. I find this kind of talk rather tiring at my age.'
One word before I leave you,' said Percival. “On reflection, I think it will be as well to say nothing about my presence in England to this Mr. Fenton. I shall be more free to hunt for Marian without his coöperation, even supposing he were inclined to give it. You have told me all that he could tell me, I daresay.'
'I believe I have.'
• Precisely. Therefore no possible good could come of an encounter between him and me, and I shall be glad if you will keep my name dark.'
* As you please, though I can see no reason for secrecy in the matter.'
It is not a question of secrecy, but only of prudential reserve.'
It may be as you wish,' answered the old man carelessly. Good-night.'
He shook hands with his son, who departed without having broken bread in his father's house, a little dashed by the coldness of his reception, but not entirely without hope that some profit might arise to him out of this connection in the future.
• The girl must be found,' he said to himself. “I am convinced there has been a great fortune made in that dingy hole. Better that it should go to her than to a stranger. I'm very sorry she's married; but if this Holbrook is the adventurer I suppose him, the marriage may come to nothing. Yes; I must find her. A father returned from foreign lands is rather a romantic notion—the sort of notion a girl is pretty sure to take kindly to.'
ON THE TRACK. GILBERT FENTON saw no more of his friend John Saltram after that Sunday evening which they had spent together in Cavendishsquare. He called upon Mrs. Branston before the week was ended, and was so fortunate as to find that lady alone; Mrs. Pallinson having gone on a shopping expedition in her kinswoman's dashing brougham.
The pretty little widow received Gilbert very graciously; but there was a slight shade of melancholy in her manner, a pensiveness which softened and refined her, Gilbert thought. Nor was it long before she allowed him to discover the cause of her sadness. After a little conventional talk upon indifferent subjects, she began to speak of John Saltram.
• Have you seen much of your friend Mr. Saltram since Sunday ?' she asked, with that vain endeavour to speak carelessly with which a woman generally betrays her real feeling.
'I have not seen him at all since Sunday. He told me he was going back to Oxford-or the neighbourhood of Oxford, I believealmost immediately; and I have not troubled myself to hunt him up at his chambers.'
Gone back already! Adela Branston exclaimed, with a dis
dainful feelings anywhe in the long-Ithat. I
appointed petulant look that was half-childish, half-womanly. 'I cannot imagine what charm he finds in a dull village on the banks of the river. He has confessed that the place is the dreariest and most obscure in the world, and that he has neither shooting nor any other kind of amusement. There must be some mysterious attraction, Mr. Fenton. I think your friend is a good deal changed of late. Haven't you found him so ?'
“No, Mrs. Branston, I cannot say that I have discovered any marked alteration in him since my return from Australia. John Saltram was always wayward and fitful. He may have been a little more so lately, perhaps, but that is all.'
• You have a very high opinion of him, I suppose ?'
He is very dear to me. We are something more than friends in the ordinary acceptation of the word. Do you remember the story of those two noble young Venetians who inscribed upon their shield Fratres, non amici ? Saltram and I have been brothers rather than friends.'
* And you think him a good man ?' Adela asked anxiously.
Most decidedly; I have reason to think so. I believe him to be a noble-hearted and honourable man; a little neglectful or disdainful of conventionalities, wearing his faith in God and his more sacred feelings anywhere than upon his sleeve; but a man who cannot fail to come right in the long-run.'
'I am so glad to hear you say that. I have known Mr. Saltram some time, as you may have heard, and like him very much. But my cousin Mrs. Pallinson has quite an aversion to him, and speaks against him with such a positive air at times, that I have been almost inclined to think she must be right. I am very inexperienced in the ways of the world, and am naturally disposed to lean a little upon the opinions of others.'
But don't you think there may be a reason for Mrs. Pallinson's dislike of my friend ?'
Adela Branston blushed at this question, and then laughed a little.
"I think I know what you mean,' she said. “Yes, it is just possible that Mrs. Pallinson may be jealously disposed towards any acquaintance of mine, on account of that paragon of perfection, her son Theobald. I have not been so blind as not to see her views in that quarter. But be assured, Mr. Fenton, that whatever may happen to me, I shall never become Mrs. Theobald Pallinson.
'I hope not. I am quite ready to acknowledge Mr. Pallinson's merits and accomplishments, but I do not think him worthy of you.'
• It is rather awful, isn't it, for me to speak of marriage at all within a few months of my husband's death? But when a woman has money, people will not allow her to forget that she is a widow