Isa Craig: 'Deepdale Vicarage' (5)

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CHAPTER LIX.

FATHER AND SON.


FRANK stood a few minutes like one paralyzed.  People were all about him; curious villagers with ears greedy for intelligence.  Phil was looking eagerly into his face.  Dangers and pitfalls of every kind encompassed him—vague and horrible doubts overwhelmed him; and but a single moment was allowed him to decide how he was to act.  Happily, Frank was by nature prompt, or it would have gone hard with him.  He drew Phil on one side.

    "Phil," said he, "we will search the matter to the bottom; you may be sure of that.  But you must remember, that if you did see this man at the vicarage, it proves nothing."

    Phil's countenance looked very crestfallen.

    "And till we have sifted the matter," continued Frank, earnestly, "I must beg of you, as a friend, to hold your peace on the subject.  You are a mere lad; I am a man, and I know how dangerous it would be to bring a false accusation against this—this stranger.  Will you attend to me, Phil?"

    It was the most distasteful turn the affair could have taken.  Phil had been feasting his imagination with the idea of how he would rush back to Deepdale, and blazon abroad, right and left, that he had found the man who had stolen the old vicar's money.

    It took some little time to pacify him.  Frank had to use argument, and authority too, ere he could win from him a promise of silence.  Once made, he knew the promise would be kept with fidelity: Phil had never yet broken his word.  This matter settled, Phil, with a gloomy and disappointed countenance, got into the gig and drove homeward: and Frank went back to the inn.

    The remedies used had already produced some effect.  The sick man's eyes were open; partial consciousness was returning.

    Frank had told the landlord of his intention to remain.  The landlord, who supposed the gentleman to be a man of wealth, if not even a sprig of nobility, did not express any surprise.

    "Them as can pay are sure to get well attended to," said he to his wife.

    In which instance the landlord was at fault.

    Frank then took up his post in the little low room of the village inn.

    The crowd had dispersed ere this, and the street was almost deserted.  The woman who acted as nurse took the opportunity of the doctor's presence to attend to her household arrangements: so Frank was pretty much alone.

    It was very little he could do for the sick man.  Reginald Chauncey lay for some time in a kind of stupor.  Not for some hours did he sufficiently recover to be aware of what had befallen him.  Towards evening, however, he revived; and his eyes began to wander, with an expression of wonder, round the room; then he put his hand to his head, as if bewildered to find himself there.

    Frank had withdrawn himself a little, anxious to spare his father the shock of a discovery which must needs be painful.  But his manoeuvre was unsuccessful: Reginald Chauncey saw him.  His face expressed wonder, mingled now with an expression of alarm.  Where was he?  What had happened to him?  He strove to raise himself on his elbow, but he was too weak; he sank back on his pillow and groaned.  Then Frank came forward; he stepped to the side of the rude couch spread upon the floor; he knelt down and whispered, not tenderly perhaps, it was hardly in nature that he should do so, but still in a tone of compassion, "Father!"

    Reginald Chauncey looked up inquiringly into the face of his son; then he feebly put forth his hand.

    "Frank! how comes it that you are here?"

    Frank told him; he related how he had been sent for, and what was the result.  He informed his father of the accident that had befallen him.

    Reginald Chauncey's ideas on that subject were confused, and without any precise data; he remembered his horse stumbling, but nothing more.

    "Till I awoke and found myself here;—ah my dear Frank, what a wretched hole it is!"

    The old tone, the old scornful look!  Frank knew it but too well.  Reginald Chauncey was evidently somewhat better.  Glancing round the room, he said to Frank, "You will keep counsel, Frank?  Not a word."

    Frank looked at him reproachfully: he was thinking of his mother.

    "And the sooner you can get me on my legs the better.  I could not exist here many days!"

    "I will do my best," said Frank, coldly.

    "So you have become a doctor, eh, Frank?"

    Frank made a gesture of assent.

    "It's a famous thing for me, as it happens.  How long have I lain here?"

    About two hours."

    "I suppose I did not say anything.  Men blab so when their brains have had a knock.  Did I blab, Frank?"

    The flippancy of the tone shocked Frank beyond anything.

    "You said not a word," replied he, at length.

    "Ah, that's right!  Reginald Chauncey always knew how to take care of himself.  Now, my dear Frank, do bestir yourself!"

    Frank looked at his father.

    "You see what a den this is.  Perhaps I could be moved into a better room; the best, in fact, that the landlord has.  Just see about it, will you?"

    "I should not recommend such a step," replied Frank.

    "Shouldn't you?  Would it do me harm?"

    "I feel sure it would.  You ought to be kept perfectly quiet."

    "If you think so, I will stay where I am; but, at all events, I might have some wine."

    "Not a drop!" said Frank, energetically.

    "Really, Frank, I think I shall change my doctor?  Frank was silent.  Silent also was Reginald Chauncey for a time.  Then he began again, "You must order me plenty of good things, Frank.  I won't undertake to live low."

    "Ah!" thought Frank, "how has my mother been compelled to live!"

    He did not judge it expedient to acquaint Mr. Chauncey with the fact of his wife's decease.  Perhaps he knew it already; and yet Frank could hardly suppose it possible.  He had not on a scrap of mourning.

    "I can't live low, Frank.  It is not likely," said Mr. Chauncey, in a complaining tone.

    Frank had now to tell his father that great care and prudence were necessary, or he would not perhaps be able lo live at all.  He represented this in plain language; otherwise his patient would have proved unmanageable.  Reginald Chauncey was one of those men who are terrible cowards at the thought of death.  He yielded at once to the authority of his son; he became all docility and obedience.  He was willing to do anything and everything, so he might live.  Live, on any terms—but live.


 
CHAPTER LX.

"I SHALL HAVE NO NAME."


FRANK went home to sleep.  His patient had so far recovered that he was able to do so.  He went, promising to return in the morning.

    The landlord of the inn had naturally enough inquired the name of the stranger.

    But Reginald Chauncey had refused to give it.

    "While I am here I shall have no name.  You may call me what you like," said he to the landlord's wife.

    This circumstance might have excited suspicion in some minds.  It did not in that of the landlord.  He set it down to eccentricity, and the probability increased that his involuntary guest was a man of title and distinction.

    It is not to be supposed that Frank got much rest that night.  He was haunted by Phil's declaration—"He is the man!"  He did not think Phil was mistaken as to identity.  The Irish lad was too sharp for that.  But if Phil were not mistaken, there would occur an unpleasant coincidence.  What was Reginald Chauncey doing at the vicarage?  There were several passages in Reginald Chauncey's career that had never been thoroughly made out.  Gambling, swindling, betting—from none of these sins had he been altogether innocent.  His brilliant manners and appearance, the hold he had gotten upon society, cast a veil over his sins.  His sins were glossed over and kept out of sight.  But were they less deadly for that?  What was he doing at the vicarage?  It rang in Frank Chauncey's head increasingly.  Was it possible that Reginald Chauncey had taken the old vicar's money?

    He rose in the morning unrefreshed, and feeling as though an incubus were pressing him down.  Dr. Plume, whose curiosity was excited, had prepared a whole string of questions.

    "Well, Frank"—he had begun to call him by this familiar appellative—"and what of the patient?"

    "There is nothing particular in the case, sir," replied Frank, steadfastly regarding his teacup; "a contusion of the head, and a fracture of the leg—not a very serious one, I hope."

    "Then he will recover?"

    "I think so.""

    "Who is he, Frank?"

    "He refuses to give his name."

    "Indeed! and what is he like?"

    "He is like—himself, I suppose," stammered Frank.

    "Ha! ha! very good! very good!" laughed the doctor; "but I mean, what sort of an individual is he—a gentleman or a snob?"

    "I think he wishes to be supposed a gentleman," hesitated Frank.

    "Oh, very well!  By the way, you will have to attend to him.  This odious ankle seems inclined to do its worst."

    Frank rose from table.

    "You don't mean to say you have finished your breakfast?" cried the doctor; "why, you have eaten nothing!"

    "Thank you! I am late," replied Frank, laconically.  As he got into the gig, Phil ran up to him.

    "Mr. Chauncey, may I tell to-day?"

    "Not on any account!" replied Frank, in a tone of alarm.

    "Because it's very tiresome," said Phil, with a look of vexation.  "Mrs. Melrose is fretting, and miserable; and that rascal, Simon Crosskeys――"

    "What is Simon Crosskeys doing, pray?" asked Frank, sharply.

    "Oh, he's doing nothing—I should like to catch him at it!  He and Lewin have promised to wait and see; and now you won't let me tell!" added the boy, in a tone of vexation.

    "No; certainly not, at present."

    "What do you mean by the present?"

    "Until the—the gentleman is out of danger."

    "What's his name?" asked Phil, abruptly.

    "Now Phil," cried Frank, "please let me set off.  Only think how you are detaining me!"

    Phil had hold of the horse's bridle.

    "I will let you go when you have told me his name."

    The boy's sharp black eye rested upon Frank with such persistency, that he had no alternative but to stammer out, "He will not give his name."

    A sense of shame tingled through every nerve as he said the words—burning shame, that dyed his cheeks with crimson.  Seizing the reins which Phil had let go, he set off at full gallop.


 
CHAPTER LXI.

AN ABRUPT QUESTION.


THE embarrassment and the difficulties of Frank's position seemed more than he could bear.  He soon reached the village inn.  The little room was in apple pie order.  Through the open window came in the fresh morning air so grateful to the jaded nerves of the invalid.  Every attention had been paid to his comfort, for it was evident Reginald Chauncey was still supposed to be a person whose means were unlimited.

    "Well, Frank!" was the salutation of Reginald Chauncey, as soon as he and his son were alone; "and how long am I to lie in this den?  Will a week do it, Frank?"

    "No; nor a month."

    "Frank!"—and the invalid turned on him a look of horror—"you don't mean to say that I must lie here a month?"

    "Worse things than that have happened to—to my mother," said Frank, involuntarily.

    "Your mother! she is quite different to me, Frank.  Your mother likes to suffer; she is one of those women who do."

    Frank was silent a moment, partly from the power and vehemence of his feelings.  His father went on to say―

    Your mother ought to congratulate herself on having a husband like me, Frank.  She might have married—a very inferior person."

    Frank made no reply.

    "Between ourselves, Frank, she is not a woman calculated to shine in the society in which I have been accustomed to move."

    Not a word from Frank.

    "And to which I am now, in fact, returning.  My difficulties, thank goodness! are at an end.  Mr. Twist is a capital fellow.  I wish you knew him, Frank."

    Frank was all this time debating whether it was safe to tell his father that the woman, of whom he had been speaking so lightly, was a saint in heaven.  Sometimes he felt as though the words would burst from him, whether he would or not; and as, viewed in a medical light, it would not be safe, he thought he had best retire.  He had risen for that purpose, when his father stopped him.

    "What an unsociable dog you are!  You might hear me to the end."

    Frank sat down again.

    "You never were any company for me!" whimpered Reginald Chauncey.  "I believe if I had had suitable associations in my own home," added he, in a moralizing tone, "it might have been better for me."

    Many such speeches would have driven Frank to extremities.  Perhaps his father had a suspicion that they would, and he hurried on to say―

    "Mr. Twist has arranged my affairs to my perfect satisfaction.  I am now a free man—a man without a taint upon his character.  I can go or come, or do whatever I like.  That's something to boast of!"

    "Father," said Frank, abruptly, and every nerve tingling with a strange sensation of alarm and curiosity, "were you ever in the neighbourhood of Deepdale before?"

    The sick man started suddenly up on his couch.

    "Frank, put that blind down.  Don't you see how the sun is glaring me to death?—put it down."

    He spoke sharply and savagely.  His face, pallid before, looked white and fierce.  He turned away, and drew the coverlet over his eyes.

    Frank put down the blind.  The sunbeam, that had struggled in, was partly obscured by the shadowing branches of the elm tree.  When he had done so, and had returned to the couch, his father said―

    "You may go now, Frank.  I am tired to death with talking.  Good night!"

    Frank—an undefined sensation of dread stealing to his heart—stood a moment, hesitating whether to go or to stay.

    Should he probe the mystery again?  Should he again attempt to remove the veil? or was it premature?

    A respite would be almost welcome, and he agreed with himself to grant it.

    The cloud might come; it might burst with violence.  He feared it would; but, at least, not vow!  At least, for the present, he could hold back the evil.  And, fearing and trembling, he went his way.


 
CHAPTER LXII.

A "PHILOSOPHER."


REGINALD CHAUNCEY had now been ill a month.  He was, to be sure, decidedly, though slowly, improving.  In another week he would be able, not to go home, for he had no home, but to drift away, and be lost sight of.

    Things had been tolerably quiet at Deepdale during this interval.  Simon Crosskeys had prevailed with his friend Lewin to suspend the matter for the present.  In fact, Simon had not been altogether comfortable in his mind, since the interview with the widow.

    The widow's health and spirits began to decline.  Perhaps the ban which the populace at Deepdale had placed upon her was getting heavy to bear.  Perhaps the alternations of hope and fear tried her sorely.  Perhaps she had become the victim of suspense.  Certain it is, that she drooped, like a flower that lacks the genial moisture of heaven.  Phil watched her with a tenderness and solicitude far beyond what might have been expected.  He would sit for hours, his eyes fixed upon her.  If she wanted anything, he would fly to fetch it.  He spared her all the trouble he could over his learning.  But of the man at the inn he said nothing; most unwillingly, his lips were sealed.

    Dionysius Curling had not altogether a pleasant time of it.  His visits to the cottage were much embittered by the presence of Phil.  Phil was always there; there was no getting rid of him, for he refused to go and he never failed to set the vicar at open defiance.

    When, one evening, Dionysius, glad of the opportunity, ventured to observe "that Mr. Chauncey seemed as if he would do nothing," Phil was up in arms in a minute.

    "He's doing more than you think for, Mr. Curling; he's the best friend we've got!"  A speech very unpalatable to Dionysius, inasmuch as it implied some secret understanding between the trio, to the exclusion of himself.  Nor did the widow resume those delicious tête-à-têtes on the grass.  She was languid and spiritless, and seemed disinclined to renew the slightest approach to the subject which was next to the heart of Dionysius Curling; so that that worthy gentleman was for the present under a cloud.

    The month had passed, and another month began; still Frank had not elicited the information he wanted; nor had he, as yet, alluded to the mournful bereavement which had taken place during Mr. Chauncey's absence from his home—the death of Mrs. Chauncey.  He meant to relate the circumstance, with all its details—details which must needs cause bitter regret to the man who had broken that tender and faithful heart!

    "I can tell him she has forgiven him," thought Frank.

    It was strange that Reginald Chauncey should have no further allusion to his wife.  Frank thought that he supposed her to be living with himself, at Deepdale; and it was characteristic of the man to endeavour to shirk his responsibilities.

    No doubt he had little wish to disturb the convenient arrangement he fancied had been made between his wife and her son.  He could come and go at pleasure.  He could ride about on his gallant steed, and dip into the cream of existence.  Saddled with a wife, his pleasures might run the risk of being somewhat curtailed.  Frank did not fear, now, any ill results from the disclosure he was about to make; and, armed at all points, he went forth one morning to open up the subject.

    Reginald Chauncey had quitted his couch, and was able to take moderate exercise.  Frank found him in the garden of the inn, sunning himself in a warm sheltered corner.  He had contrived to get about him as many luxuries as that part of the country afforded.  He had his bottle of Madeira on a table before him; his Times newspaper, which he was reading as he reclined in the easy-chair, borrowed for his especial comfort; a dish of grapes, from a neighbouring hothouse, was placed by the bottle of Madeira.  Reginald Chauncey's palate was accustomed to delicacies of this sort.  He had been discussing both ere Frank arrived.

    The sight of the grapes and the wine, the air of Epicurean enjoyment about the man, and the remembrance of what Mrs. Chauncey had suffered—her privations, her actual want of those necessaries deemed essential by her poorer neighbours, stung Frank to the quick.  He could not find it in his heart to spare his father a single pang.

    "He shall know everything," thought he—"everything!"

    Yet it seemed difficult, at once, to thrust so painful a subject on the ears of Reginald Chauncey.  Filling his glass, the disciple of Epicurus glanced at his son.  "Your good health, my boy.  I mean to start tomorrow!"

    Frank bowed coldly in recognition of the compliment.

    "You are quite out of my hands now, father."

    "Exactly: no evil can last beyond a certain period.  Are you in business for yourself?"

    "No, I am not, at present."

    "You are Dr. Plume's assistant, I suppose?"

    Frank nodded assent.

    "Perhaps you will acquaint that worthy individual, to whom I have not had the pleasure of being introduced, that he had better send in his account this evening—else he may run the risk of losing his money."

    "Father," said Frank, and the mournful expression of his face might have served as a kind of preface, "I did not like to tell you while you were ill――but――" He paused.  His father nodded his head, and smiled blandly.

    "Say on, my son—say on; Reginald Chauncey has learned to be a philosopher."

    "Once only, during your illness," resumed Frank, his sorrowful countenance contrasting with the jocund air of his father,—"once only have you referred to my mother."

    "Indeed!  I was not aware of that fact," said Reginald, gaily and airily.  "You have a faculty for observation, Frank: a capital thing for a doctor!"

    Frank was silent.

    "I suppose the excellent woman in question—for excellent she is, in the main, despite her little peculiarities—I suppose she is quite well?"

    Frank looked steadily at him.  There was a solemnity in that look which cast a shadow even over the levity of Reginald Chauncey.

    "On my word, Frank! what is the matter?"

    Then Frank told him.  He did not spare anything in the recital.  He told him of the anguish, the consuming sorrow, that had embittered the last days of Mrs. Chauncey; how she had watched and waited for him who came no more; how cruelly she had suffered from his desertion; how she had wasted away, and died of that worst and most torturing malady—a broken heart!


 
CHAPTER LXIII.

THE MEMORY OF THE DEPARTED.


"ON my word, Frank! you don't mean to tell me this is a fact—that Mrs. Chauncey is really dead?"

    He had not dropped his cigar; but he had laid it carefully on the table, with an evident intention of resuming it at some more convenient opportunity.  He was feeling for his handkerchief, which, of the finest cambric, and abundantly scented, he now drew forth.

    "It is very shocking—very shocking, indeed!" and the scented handkerchief was applied to his eyes.

    The fountain of Frank's tears had been opened afresh while he was speaking of his mother, he wept with all the bitterness of a recent bereavement.  Now, ceasing to weep, he sat, his head resting on his hand.

    "You see, Frank," continued Reginald Chauncey, removing his handkerchief from his eyes, which, at present, were guiltless of a single tear, "I am a man of feeling; I can hardly bear—this—shock!"

    And then, as if he suddenly reminded himself of a favourite solace, he laid hold of the bottle of Madeira, and, pouring out a glassful, tossed it off in a moment.

    "There, I feel better!  Frank, allow me;" and he again seized the bottle.

    Frank shook his head.  "Not on any account," replied he, firmly.

    "Just as you choose, my dear boy; but indeed it is a capital remedy in case of depression.  You give way, Frank; you always did.  Look at me!" and Reginald Chauncey drew himself up with the air of a philosopher.

    Frank had hard work to control his feelings at that precise juncture.  Reginald Chauncey, meanwhile, had taken up his cigar, and was coaxing it into relighting.

    "And where—you need not mind telling me, Frank; I can bear it now—where was your dear mother interred?"

    Frank told him.

    "I thought so!  Ah, what an uncertain, fleeting thing is human life—even as a vapour!"

    Here he paused, as if wholly overcome by the moral and religious considerations suggested.

    Then he asked, with some abruptness, "And who—you need not mind telling me, either—who bore the expenses of the funeral?"

    "I did," said Frank, shortly.

    "That was good of you, Frank; that was filial piety!"

    Frank looked reproachfully at his father.

    "It was unfortunate, just then," continued Reginald Chauncey, who was smoking his cigar with the utmost composure; "I was cleaned out, Frank, to the very last shilling.  It was a terrible time for me!"

    "And do you suppose it was less so to my mother?" asked Frank, quietly.

    "Your mother!  Ah, Frank, she—somehow or other—she did not mind.  I cast no reflections!" for Frank had hastily risen, and with an air of disgust which could not be concealed.  "No doubt, poor thing, it was uncomfortable for her !" added he, by way of a compromise.

    And the poor woman had fancied this man would grieve for her!  She had with her dying breath bequeathed him her forgiveness.

    He might crave for her forgiveness some time, in that dread hour when his sins would be set in order before him—when the memory of wrongs inflicted, and injustice dealt out, would crowd round his departing spirit, if indeed space were left even for this;—when the careworn face and wistful eyes of her who was gone would rise up, as it were, in judgment against him.

    But, for the present, he had escaped death, and was about to plunge again into the giddy whirl of a life of pleasure.  He wanted no forgiveness.  It did not seem to occur to him, that he had been the means of hurrying his wife to her grave.  His view of the case was from a different point of view.  When he had mourned for her, in the finest broadcloth, with black gloves of the best quality, and crape round his hat, he would suppose he had done all that was required of him.

    "See what respect he pays to her memory!" would be the observation made on that occasion.

    As for Frank, his heart was full.  He could not enter into any further discussion.  Yonder was the dread mystery that he needs must fathom, ere he allowed his father to depart; but he could not venture on it now.  Nor could he endure to dwell longer on the subject of his late bereavement.  I say his bereavement, for to Reginald, Chauncey it was no bereavement at all.

    Reginald had no wish to detain his son.  The conversation had taken a turn so unexpected, and so gloomy, that the sooner it was ended the better.

    He readily promised to be in attendance the following morning, when Frank should bid him farewell, and also settle with him the account due to Dr. Plume.

    After that, Reginald Chauncey would go his way!


 
CHAPTER LXIV.

WAS HE GUILTY


FRANK meant to do it.  On no account whatever would he let the opportunity slip.  He was bound by every principle of honour and of integrity.  He meant to search the matter to the bottom.  He intended to find out the reason why his father had been seen at Deepdale Vicarage.  The circumstances of the case were suspicious.  Nay, the absolute certainty of the thing, for Frank did not for a moment think there was a mistake of identity.

    The fact of the robbery taking place that very day; the confusion and alarm exhibited by his father; the probability of Clara Melrose being an innocent woman; the unscrupulous character of his father; his money embarrassments—all these things suggested themselves to Frank's mind, during the weary hours of that day, and of that sleepless night.

    He could hardly realize the misery of his position, should these suspicions prove correct.  His soul recoiled, as with loathing, from the bare idea.  Still, be the consequences what they might, he would hold to his word.  He would go through with it.

    He rose the next morning, with this full determination in his mind.  He was pale and haggard.  There was a compression about his month, and a wan, weary look in his eyes, which excited the compassion of Dr. Plume.

    "Poor fellow!  I am working you to death," said he, kindly.

    "Indeed, I think the work trifling," replied Frank, endeavouring to speak cheerfully.

    "It is like you to say so, Frank; but, as soon as my ankle is well, you will see that it will be more trifling still," replied Dr. Plume.

    The moment breakfast was over, up came the gig, to take Frank his rounds.

    "I suppose that gentleman who chooses to go incog. will be leaving to-day," said Dr. Plume.

    "Yes; he intends to leave to-day," replied Frank, mechanically.

    "You will do all that is right and proper, Frank; I think he might have come down to Deepdale, and called upon me."

    "There will not be time now," observed Frank.

    "No; of course not.  Has he a wife?"

    "I don't suppose he has."

    "If he had, we should, perhaps, have seen her; though those fellows who ramble about the country incog. don't often make the best husbands."

    "They do not," replied Frank.  After which remark he stepped into his gig, and drove off.

    It was a clear, bracing morning in the autumn.  The fields had mostly been reaped, and the harvest gathered in.  Here and there, however, some tardy farmer was carrying the remnant of his corn.  The air was cool and pleasant.  The country had not changed much in its aspect; yet the tints and hues of the declining year were just beginning to be apparent.  Soon would the harvest be past, and the summer ended.

    Frank drove, in a leisurely manner, towards the village which his father was about to quit.  He had no reason for haste, and he had many considerations to entertain.  He knew not how be should introduce the subject of the robbery.  He felt a nervous terror at the thought of what might ensue.  Perhaps a disclosure of guilt.  Perhaps the bare, naked fact, that Reginald Chauncey had taken the old vicar's money!

    So terrible was this idea, so torturing to the brain, that, had the drive lasted much longer, Frank would not have been in a fit state for the interview.  But yonder was the spire of the village church, and yonder, too, the village inn, nestling beneath the great spreading elm.

    Frank stopped his gig at the garden gate, and, dismounting, went in.  The morning air was too chill for Reginald Chauncey.  He had his table and his bottle of Madeira within doors.  As soon as he had finished his wine, and Frank had paid his visit, he was intending to depart.  He was going to see a friend, who had some shooting on the other side of Deepdale.

    "Not that I am particularly fond of this neighbourhood," said be, carelessly; "but Tom White is a capital fellow, and his preserves are first-rate.  I shall stay there till the hunt begins.  That is, when I have run up to town and got my mourning:" and he glanced at his light summer apparel.

    Frank's time had now come.  He felts as if the opportunity lost, would be gone for ever.  Dr. Plume's account was settled.  Nothing remained but to bid his father farewell.  At this identical moment be fixed his eyes steadily on the countenance of Reginald Chauncey, and said, in a tone of keen anxiety―

    "Father, were you ever at Deepdale Vicarage?"  Reginald Chauncey had the glass in his hand holding it up to the light.  The next thing Frank remembered was a loud crash.  The fragments of the tumbler lay scattered on the floor.

    "Father," repeated Frank, impelled to it by a kind of fascination, "will you answer my question—were you ever at Deepdale Vicarage?"

    The two bold eyes glared at him over the table.  It was a frightful face—so white, so fierce, so haggard.  All these expressions had come over it with the question.  They were not visible before.

    Neither of the two men spoke for a minute.  Frank was looking steadily at Reginald Chauncey; Reginald Chauncey was glaring back at Frank.

    During that silence, Frank felt convinced of his father's guilt.  It was a conviction that seemed as though it would wreck and uproot his whole being—one of those sudden desolations that bring utter and hopeless ruin.  But it was a firm, unshaken conviction.  His father was the criminal!

    The bearings of the case were wrapt as yet in darkness.  How he came there—what was his motive—how he was able to accomplish the cruel and heartless robbery, Frank knew not.  But of one thing he was assured.  It had been accomplished, and by Reginald Chauncey!

    His eye still rested on the face of his father.  His was that kind of look, by which a superior intelligence quells that which is base and brutish.  It subdued the hard bold front of Reginald Chauncey.  Gradually, the eyes that had attempted to hurl a species of mute defiance, sunk.  The head drooped.  Presently, he raised his hand, and covered his face.  Then, the silence grew more awful still—it was the silence that precedes a confession.

    Frank rose.  All throughout, he had been upheld by a powerful excitement.  A keen sense of justice, and what was due to a person whose character had been blasted, urged him on.  His own heart was bleeding.

    Ah! for many a day would this wound smart and fester.  But still he must go forward; he must tear the veil from before the sin, even of his parent!

    He approached his father.  He told him, in a low, hurried voice, that he suspected him of this crime.  He related to him the story of Clara Melrose.  He conjured him, by all that was sacred on earth or in heaven, to reveal the truth.  Was he guilty?

    The man was not wholly hardened.  He had a lingering touch of some better nature.  As Frank spoke—he trembled—it might be that, for the first time, he felt compunction.

    Certain it is, that when the sad tale was ended he uncovered his face, not defiant now, but sorrowful, and said, in accents of bitter self-reproach, and of remorse,  "Yes, I did it;  I took the old vicar's money!"


 
CHAPTER LXV.

THE VICAR'S MONEY.


BY degrees, the whole story was revealed.  Had that revelation come sooner, better would it have been for the populace of Deepdale.  They would not then, for six whole months, have been the persecutors of Clara Melrose.  The true facts of the case were these:—

    Reginald Chauncey was, as usual, involved in difficulties of a pecuniary nature.  His difficulties, indeed, had become so pressing that he knew not where to look for relief.  While revolving in his mind what he should do to escape them, it occurred to him that he had a friend in the neighbourhood of Deepdale who might be prevailed upon to assist him.  This friend was steward to the Marquis of Crutchley.

    Reginald Chauncey, who was driven to actual extremities by the importunities of his creditors, resolved to make a purposed journey, in order to solicit help from his friend.  He did so, but he failed to meet with that ready response for which he had hoped.  The steward declared himself unable to meet the demands of the case.  "He had no money," that was his expression; and he added, immediately after, the ill-omened words―

    "I have just paid the rent-charge to the Vicar of Deepdale.  You might try and borrow something of him."

    Reginald Chauncey had not, at this time, the slightest intention to commit a crime.  Such an idea had never occurred to him.  He simply had the feelings of a man in desperate circumstances; and, with these feelings, be turned his steps towards the vicarage.

    The generosity of Mr. Melrose was proverbial in that part of the country.  His hand and heart were ever open.  Far beyond his means did he extend his charities—an appeal to his tender mercies was rarely made in vain.  These particulars respecting him were known to Reginald Chauncey, and encouraged him to make the application as suggested by his friend.

    When he reached the vicarage, his knocks and rings at the door met with no attention.  No one came.  He was eager to obtain the interview; most unwilling to go away without it.  Cautiously, but still bent on finding some one, he tried to open the door.  The door yielded to his touch.  He opened it and entered.  Still he had no sinister design; no thought of doing harm to any human being.  His motive was to find some one who should give him information touching the vicar's whereabouts.  Unfortunately, he could find no one.  He wandered from room to room, each one being apparently deserted.  At length he found himself in the study.

    The study was a small room, one side of which was taken up with an old-fashioned cabinet or bureau, a kind of heirloom in the family.

    "I could never account for it,"—this was his own language—"but from the first moment, an irresistible desire seized upon me to open that bureau.  Frank, it is true as I am a living man!  I was impelled towards it!  It flashed into my mind that it contained money.  Money was the thing I thirsted for; for want of which I should be a ruined man!  My credit gone, my position lost, my very name blotted out.  Yes: I was certain that it contained money!  A kind of trembling seized upon me; my eyes looked wild; I could see them in a mirror that hung over the fireplace.  They had a greedy wolfish look that almost frightened me.  I stepped towards the cabinet.  A cold perspiration broke out upon my forehead.  I tried to open it; it was locked, of course!  But I had keys in my pocket that could overcome almost any obstacle of that nature.  I felt for them.  All this time, I was like a man suspended from the mast of a vessel.  I was giddy, almost faint with excitement and with terror; for it became clearer to me every minute, the thing I was going to do.  It was to steal the old vicar's money!  I did not intend to take it all; a tithe of it would save me from immediate ruin.  I never contemplated the idea of taking the whole.  But when my key had fitted the lock, when I had opened the cabinet, and my hand had grasped a small bag placed therein, then I lost all reason, all self-possession.  I clutched it!  I had it!  I held it!  Now nothing would satisfy me, unless I obtained possession of it all.  I could feel the gold.  I did not stay to look; such a terror laid hold upon me.  But when I raised my head, and caught a glimpse in the mirror, I hardly knew myself.  What a haggard, guilty wretch I looked!  There was nothing for it but to fly.  I secreted the bag about my person and prepared to go.  I dared not return through the house, lest I should be detected.  I raised the window and escaped.  Frank, I knew I was a villain.  Believe me, that money has been a curse!  Before the week was over, I had gambled away every farthing.  You need not speak to me again.  You need not breathe the air I breathe.  I will go, Frank; only do not give your own father up to justice!"

    He had finished the recital.  Frank had listened, his face white and stern, his brow knit as with intolerable pain.

    Reginald Chauncey rose; so did his son.

    "You will not give me up, Frank, for the sake of your mother!"


 
CHAPTER LXVI.

THE CONFESSION DULY WITNESSED.


REGINALD CHAUNCEY was a coward.  Such men usually are.  He had made the revelation on the impulse of the moment, and had made it to his son!  In so intimate a relation of life, a confession of such a serious nature might be supposed to carry with it the hope of inviolable secrecy.  He had acted on the supposition.  Frank would not, as a matter of course, betray his father.  But when he beheld Frank's countenance—when he read its expression of indignation and abhorrence—he felt afraid of what he had done.  Then, with all the cowardice of a guilty conscience, he trembled.

    "You will not betray me," repeated he, in accents of alarm, "for the sake of your mother!"

    To hear that revered name in those lips was almost more than Frank could bear.  His immediate impulse was to hurry from the spot, to wander he cared not whither.  But it could not be; the bearings of the case forbade it.  He could not let the innocent stand any longer in the place of the guilty.  He would have to tell the little world at Deepdale who it was that had taken the old vicar's money.  He would have to vindicate, once and for ever, the character of Clara Melrose.

    To do this effectually, he must have a written confession, duly signed and attested, of his father's guilt.  He knew how to obtain such a confession.  He would do it.  Not by a useless appeal to his father's honour, or sense of manliness, but by rousing his fears.  On such a condition only would he allow him to take his departure.

    It was evident that Reginald Chauncey was alarmed.  His jocund air had given place to an expression of craven terror.  But when Frank told him what be had to do, he revived.  He had feared a worse alternative than having his name branded with infamy; he had feared a prison!

    Frank told him what he was required to write.  A clear and circumstantial account of the robbery committed at Deepdale Vicarage.

    "There, Frank—that is what you want, I suppose."

    He spoke in his usual jocular tone.  His face was as gay and self-possessed as ever.  It was incredible how soon Reginald Chauncey could be himself again.

    "Now, I will spare your feelings," continued he, ringing the bell.  "I will not require of you to witness the signature I am about to affix to this paper.  It might be too much for your sensibilities."

    Frank's amazement was so great that he hardly noticed the sneer.  He was but too well accustomed to his father's taunts.  What, however, could Reginald Chauncey be about to do?—to do, in this moment of imminent peril and embarrassment?

    Frank was standing, with the paper in his hand, when the landlord entered.  He had evidently expected a summons; for he know that his guest was about to depart that morning, and had "kept in the way," as he informed his wife, "in order to see the gentleman off."

    "Well, my good friend," said Reginald Chauncey, addressing him in a tone of perfect good-humour, "you and I have a little business to settle this morning.  Pray have you brought your account?"

    The landlord, all bows and smiles, produced it.  In fact, he had it ready in his pocket.  He rubbed his hands complacently, while Reginald looked over the long list of items, and said he hoped he had succeeded in making all things comfortable.

    "Capital, my good friend!" replied Reginald.  "Here is your money."  And with the air of a man whose resources are unlimited, he drew out his purse, full of gold, and laid it on the table.

    The landlord's eyes sparkled.

    "Wait a minute, my friend," said Reginald Chauncey, "I have a little matter here in which you can greatly oblige me.  It is to witness my signature.  Mr. Chauncey, will you be kind enough to hand me the document?"

    Frank, perfectly astounded at his father's coolness, did so.

    "It is a little affair of business—a mere matter of money.  I will not trouble you to go into it," said Reginald Chauncey, commencing to flourish his signature at the bottom.

    When he had finished, the landlord took up the pen and wrote his name where he was desired.  He had not so much as attempted to glance at the contents of the paper.  Had he been disposed to read it, it would have been impossible.  The gay, jewelled hand of Reginald Chauncey, as if by accident, concealed the fatal words from his view.  He appeared simply to be showing the landlord where to sign.

    While the landlord was settling his bill, with a profusion of polite speeches, and expressions of regret at parting with his guest, Reginald had folded up the paper.  Then he placed it in an envelope, tinted and perfumed as usual, and fastened it down.  With the same easy gesture as before, he handed the envelope to Frank.

    "You must do as you please, Frank.  See, there is my horse.  Good-bye to you!"

    "Good-bye!" said Frank, mechanically.

    "Won't you shake hands?" and the gay, jewelled fingers of Reginald Chauncey were held out in the most condescending manner.

    Frank touched them for a moment.  This man was his father, and they might never meet again!

    Frank, left alone, wandered away into the fields, not caring, for the moment, what might become of him.  Sometimes he thought he would flee the country.  Sometimes he thought be would bury himself in the heart of London.  Anywhere, so he might escape from the prying eyes of the world.  He wandered till he was spent and weary.  Indeed, the sun was sinking behind the hills ere he recovered his self-possession—ere the first sharp agony had subsided.

    For the time, he was like a man beside himself.  What could he do?  Could he keep silence, and allow the innocent to suffer for the guilty?  No!  Honour and humanity alike forbade it.  But if he spoke,—if he told the little world at Deepdale who the culprit really was, should he not brand with infamy his own father?

    Frank groaned bitterly at the thought.  He had sat down on a mossy bank, in the retired spot to which he had wandered.  A tremor seized him, as the idea, in all its hideousness, became apparent to him.  He sat, his hands tightly pressed to his forehead.

    His father!

    Did he not remember her, who, on her death-bed, had charged him to stand by and to screen her husband from disgrace

    "Ah!" thought Frank, tears bursting forth as the memory of his mother came back, with all its vividness, "thank God, she is at rest; thank God, this cup was spared her!"

    Then he began to reflect—more calmly, for tears had eased his tortured brain—he began to reflect how he could reconcile these two jarring ends.  How he could vindicate Clara Melrose, and yet screen his father.

    The mere bald fact of the confession having been made to him, by the sick man at the inn, must come out, and that immediately.  Not a single day would he allow the ban to rest on the head of the widow.  But need that guilty person be Reginald Chauncey?  Need Frank disclose who he was?  The stranger had given no name.  He had preserved a strict incognito.  Surely it was not required that his own son should penetrate and disclose the mystery!  Would it not be unnatural, unfilial, to do so?

    What would happen if Justice, once set upon the track, found her victim, was another matter.  If the disgrace must come, let it.  Frank would calmly abide the consequences.  But need he, with his own finger, point out his father?

    Yet there was the confession!  The confession, signed by Reginald Chauncey's own hand.  What was Frank to do with that?

    Shuddering, he drew the envelope, tinted and perfumed as it was, from his pocket,—the envelope which contained the declaration of his father's guilt!

    He opened and read it.  It was written clearly, and without the least appearance of alarm or hesitation.  Every word stood out, with horrible distinctness, before the eyes of Frank.  All at once, he uttered a strange cry, and started up, the paper in his hand, and the tinted envelope lying at his feet.

    His father might well go off with that easy jocund air.  He, at least, had known how to meet the emergency.  Frank might weep and rend his very heart: the lordly Reginald would not so much as let his equanimity be ruffled.

    He had written the confession, it is true, but the name he had put to it was not his own.  It was that of an individual invented for the occasion.

    The paper was signed, "Richard Canning."

    Frank stood, with the paper in his hand, as if, at first, he could hardly realize the fact.  Yet, after all, he had his own simplicity to blame.

    Would the man of varied wit and devices—the man of the world—who had experience of every possible vicissitude and emergency,—with whom truth was a thing to jeer at, and honour an empty name,—would he have been likely to sign his own destruction?

    Frank's simple nature and honest dealing were sure to be outwitted in the contest with Reginald Chauncey!  Yet it must be confessed, that this discovery, though it made a fresh sense of shame tingle in his cheek, was a relief.  His great object, the deliverance of Clara Melrose from suspicion, might perhaps be accomplished without so painful an alternative.  Let the confession go forth as it was.  It would not be the first time that a criminal had given the world the lie.  Let the world, if it chose, find out the fraud.

    "Surely," groaned Frank, in his anguish, "it cannot be required of me to tear aside the veil.  Enough, if I do justice to the innocent;—enough, if through my instrumentality, the widow can again lift up her head in Deepdale."

    As he thought thus, what he had to do became clearer to him.  At once, he would reveal the matter to the enemies of Clara Melrose; at once, he would hand them the confession; and then he would wait!


 
CHAPTER LXVIII.

THE COUNTESS BAFFLED.


HIS road home lay by the Manor.  He could not choose but look up at it.  It was the fond look with which one regards a pleasant thing ere it departs from us for ever.

    The Manor did not present that deserted appearance which it had done of late.  The blinds were drawn up.  It seemed as if the family had returned.

    Such a thing was not impossible, considering the sudden and unexpected movements of the countess.  Besides, Phil might have sent for her.

    If so, Lucy had returned.  Lucy, whom he so dearly loved—from whom he must be severed for ever!

    He was hurrying by, his face averted, when some one called him by name.  It was the footman, with the familiar request―

    "If you please, Mr. Chauncey, my lady is wishing to speak to you."

    Frank stopped.  He had no other alternative.  His mind was so full of the sense of disgrace, that it occurred to him the countess might have heard of it.  He was in a state to imagine improbable and impossible things.

    In the hall of the Manor another footman, equally resplendent in lace and gold, awaited him.  His office was to conduct Mr. Chauncey to the presence of the countess.

    It was evident she had not heard, for she came forward to meet the young man with the utmost cordiality.

    "Well, Mr. Chauncey, so you see we have got home again."

    Frank, whose spirits could not on the instant be rallied, muttered something about not having expected them back again so soon.

    The countess smiled benignantly upon him.'

    "You see, Mr. Chauncey, events happen for which one is hardly prepared.  I came home on account of Lucy."

    "Indeed," said Frank, somewhat sadly.

    "You will be glad to know," continued the countess, "you will be glad to know that Lady Lucy is a great deal better."

    Frank was glad.

    "The sea-air has set her up wonderfully.  You never saw anything like it in your life," said her ladyship, joyfully.  "Now, do sit down, Mr. Chauncey."

    This was the countess's usual mode of proceeding when she meant to be confidential.

    "Mr. Chauncey," said the countess, her quick eye noting his abstraction, "are you attending to me?  I want to tell you something."

    Frank felt ashamed of the rebuke.  He was all attention.

    "After what had passed," said the countess, hesitating, and looking down, "you will not be surprised to hear that—that the engagement between Lady Lucy and Sir Geoffrey Willet has been broken off."

    Frank was not surprised in the least—for the simple reason that he knew it before.

    "Of course," said the countess, in an apologetic tone, and still looking down, "I could not be expected to know how strongly the poor child felt on the subject, or else—I would not—have insisted upon it," added she, after a pause.

    It was evident she wished to screen her conduct somewhat in the eyes of Frank.  At another time, this phase in the conduct of the imperial woman who ruled Deepdale might have been interesting and complimentary; but now, alas! Frank's thoughts were too much engrossed with his own bitter woe to receive the confidence with the consideration it deserved.

    "I wish again to thank you, Mr. Chauncey, for your attention to my daughter," said she, in a tone of cordial kindness.  "I shall ever think that Lucy owes her life to you."

    Frank bowed, in reply to this speech.

    "It is of my daughter I wish to speak," said the countess, softly.

    Frank made no reply, though the countess paused, as though expecting that he should do so.  During the brief interval of silence, exceeding bitter were the memories that came crowding into the young man's mind.  But yesterday, how brightly shone the sun of his prosperity! how tenderly he had been dwelling on the thought of Lucy's return!  How joyful had seemed his life!  Now, alas! this tempest had upriven all things.

    Lucy he might never see again!  For though—and the reflection passed swiftly through his brain—though he might screen his father, he could by no means escape himself.  The innocent must suffer for the guilty.  The earliest dawn of love must be extinguished between himself and Lucy.  Was not his name disgraced? was he not the son of a criminal?

    "She shall never know," thought Frank, "the reason why I fled from her—and flee I will—ay, miles and miles away from Deepdale!"

    The countess, having vainly paused for a reply, continued her speech.  Not, however, until she had scanned Frank's face narrowly.  It was a face just then of utter and blank despair.

    When she had scanned it, she smiled.  "I can soon settle him," thought she.

    "Mr. Chauncey, I think you take somewhat of an interest in my daughter."

    She said it still softly.  Indeed, her manners were subdued, almost tender.  He had never seen her in this mood before.

    She thought she had the clue to Frank's despondency.  She thought he was afraid of not obtaining her consent to become the lover of Lucy.  And it was a bold thing, the countess reflected—very bold indeed—for a young man of no position, or wealth, or name—(the Chaunceys were an extinct race, as far as their glory went)—for him to seek to ally himself with the Landons!  At first the countess had recoiled from the idea, but sundry considerations had reconciled her to it.

    To begin with, Frank had a share of manly beauty and accomplishments that had been rather dazzling to the countess.  He was a young man of parts, as she boasted to the select circle of her acquaintance.  He had good blood in his veins, though the world might be oblivious of the fact.  And—which consideration did more honour to her heart—Frank had been instrumental in rescuing her daughter from an early grave,— instrumental, in fact, in undoing the mischief she had done, and in saving her from undying remorse.

    Yes, she was eternally indebted to Frank!  Then Lucy loved him; Lucy, who had been so difficult to deal with—so unlike the rest of her race—would be thus happily disposed of.  The countess was sadly haunted by the dread lest Lucy should never marry at all.  Lucy would be disposed of.  The girl's fortune was ample, and she and her husband might occupy as brilliant a position as any young married people in the country.

    "He can give up his doctoring, and turn gentleman," she had thought to herself.

    When, however, in spite of her soft speaking, Frank stood, pale, and rigid, and silent, she began to feel uneasy.  It was strange that her delicate hints should be disregarded—hints, one would think, that a lover might have caught up with eagerness.  It is true, that at the conclusion of her last speech, a gleam shot from Frank's eye, a quick, passionate gleam, that rested for a moment on the face of the Big Countess.  But it soon changed to one of despair, or, as it might have been interpreted, blank indifference.

    What was she to think? how was she to proceed?  For once the countess felt baffled.

    Yet the old imperious will began to assert itself.  Lady Landon was not to be trifled with.  She was not intending to be the confidante of a love affair which had no existence, save in Lucy's romantic brain.  No, indeed!  She would find out the truth of the matter then and there.

    "Mr. Chauncey," said she, coming close up to him, and taking his hands in her vast grasp, "am I right in my conjecture—is it not you who love my daughter?"

    The kindness of her tone, the genial expression of her face, admitted of no doubt, no hesitation.  Swift as lightning passed through the young man's mind the thing he had lost—the happiness of his whole life!

    He could not bear it.  It half maddened him.  He tore his hands from the countess's grasp, and staggered towards the door.  To attempt to explain, even to speak was impossible; and with the wail of his dying hopes ringing in his ears, he fled away from Deepdale Manor!


 
CHAPTER LXVIII.

DR. PLUME IN A BEWILDERMENT.


WHEN Frank reached Dr. Plume's house, after his interview with the countess, he put his horse in the stable and hurried in at the front door, dreading lest any one should meet him.  Hastening to his own chamber, he threw himself on the floor and groaned aloud.  Happily, he could not abandon himself to the excess of his grief.  He had to make a simple wholesome effort, which might do him good: he had to dress for dinner.  As he stood before the glass, and saw his dishevelled hair and wild eyes, he scarcely recognised himself.  Then he smiled—not such a smile as we have been used to see on the face of Frank Chauncey.

    "If I can live through the next few days, I shall leave England," he thought.  Whither he would go he knew not.  Just then he hardly cared.

    A bell sounded presently, as a warning that the punctual, orderly doctor was ready for his dinner.  He usually dined at six o'clock, and after dinner he and Frank would sit and talk cozily together.  He was getting more and more attached to Frank.  He was at the head of the table waiting for Frank to make his appearance.  His ankle had taken a turn for the better, and he was in excellent spirits.  Indeed, he seemed inclined to be actually jocose.

    "I hope you have an appetite, Frank," said he, cheerfully; "you have been in the fresh air long enough."

    Frank murmured something about having been detained; he did not say how or where.  Then he took some meat upon his plate, and began the arduous task of trying to swallow it.

    "Your ride has not improved your looks," said the doctor, scanning Frank's face through his eye-glass.  "Pardon me the suggestion, my dear fellow, but you look as if something had happened to you."

    Frank's face, from deadly pale, turned to crimson, and then to deadly pale again.  The doctor, who had his own opinion on the subject, smiled good-humouredly.

    "So we have been to the Manor, I suppose," said he, filling his glass.  "I hope you found Lady Lucy all the better for her journey."

    "I did not see her," stammered Frank.

    "No?"  And the doctor looked up at him with an air of surprise.

    Frank's eyes were fixed on his plate.

    "I thought you went there on purpose."

    "Her ladyship sent for me," replied Frank, trying to speak calmly.

    "Which ladyship?" asked the doctor.

    "Lady Landon."

    "Why did you not see Lady Lucy, pray?" asked the doctor, who was getting vexed at Frank's stolidity.

    "I went to speak to Lady Landon," replied Frank.

    "Bah! you had better marry the Big Countess, if you are so fond of her!" cried the doctor.

    "Sir?" said Frank, coldly.

    "When, if you had a grain of spirit, there is my little Lucy―"

    "Dr. Plume!" exclaimed Frank, rising, and every vein standing out in his forehead.  Then he sat down again, and hid his face in his hands.

    Dr. Plume was now absolutely frightened.

    "Goodness me, Frank! what is the matter?"

    Frank made no reply.

    "Ah!" thought the doctor, after a few minutes' silent survey.  "I see, I see!  My lady has changed her mind, and is playing with him as a cat does with a mouse.  I know the Big Countess well; and I'll be even with her, too.  Don't I know she loves him?"

    She, in this case, meaning Lady Lucy.

    "Don't I know she loves him?" he repeated, when Frank, silent and moody, sat with his untasted glass beside him.

    "Don't I know she loves him?" he repeated, when Frank was tossing to and fro on his bed, as he did all that weary night; resolving, ere many days were over, to put the wide ocean between himself and—yes—the Lady Lucy,—for ever!


 
CHAPTER LXIX.

PHIL'S ATTACK UPON CRANK.


IT was the most natural thing in the world to suppose that Reginald Chauncey would, as soon as he could, get clear of Deepdale.

    The associations connected with the neighbourhood were anything but pleasant, or even safe.  True, no human being, so he thought, beheld him take the old vicar's money: but yet, if walls have ears, it was just possible they might have eyes also.

    It was just possible that he might fall into some pitfall, and be taken unawares.  A circumstance had once or twice occurred during his enforced stay at the inn which caused him a pang of uneasiness.  While sitting in the little parlour, he had been startled by a sudden apparition, as it seemed, at the window.  A pair of intensely black eyes, with a menacing expression, had been fixed upon him;—only for a moment; ere he could sufficiently recover his composure to rise, and see who it was, the eyes had disappeared.  When he reached the window, no trace was to be seen of any living thing.

    Once, again, when taking air and exercise in the narrow strip of garden attached to the house, the same thing had startled him.  From behind a gap in the hedge, there peered suddenly forth the same menacing eyes, and the eyes he now perceived belonged to a short grotesque figure, which—yes, certainly, which he had once seen before!

    Where was it?  He reeled back a few paces, as if he were about to fall—so fast, so thick, so hurrying came those memories!

    He had seen these eyes, that figure, when coming out of Deepdale Vicarage, after he had stolen the old vicar's money!

    A cold perspiration broke out upon his forehead.  He fled to the shelter of his room.  Not for worlds, dare he look again!  Perhaps the eyes would recognize him,—perhaps the voice would denounce him as the culprit!

    That night was the last he had spent at Deepdale.  He was gone in quest of other scenes, with his lordly air, his polished exterior, and his courtly smile.

    "A real gentleman," as the landlord observed, "every inch of him!  Every inch of him repeated he, making the assertion twice over, for the benefit of Phil.

    The boy stood with clenched fists, and fiery eyes, looking as savage and untamed as ever he had been in his life.  Gone!" he shouted in his wild impetuous way—"Gone!"

    "Yes, my lord," said the landlord, glibly, and clinking his money in his pocket.  "He went off this morning, as comfortable as could be.  Mr. Chauncey, he's pulled him through wonderful.  A clever young man is Mr. Chauncey—I shall always stick to that," added he, in a patronizing tone.

    "Did Mr. Chauncey know that he meant to go?"

    "Bless me! yes, my lord, I think so!"

    "But are you sure?" thundered Phil, "are you sure he knew?"

    "Well, my lord, I'm as sure as can be!  Leastways, they shook hands, and Mr. Chauncey saw the gentleman off."

    "Saw the gentleman off!"

    "Yes, my lord.  I knew it by the token, he was here after the other had gone.  And he left his horse—"

    But the landlord talked to thin air; Phil was on his way back to Deepdale!

    He soon reached Dr. Plume's house, the door of which he opened without any ceremony, and ran upstairs to the room where he felt almost sure he should find Frank; indeed, it was Frank's private sitting-room.

    "I say, Mr. Chauncey!" shouted Phil, imperiously.  At first, no one answered, and no one was in sight; but a moment after, the door of Frank's bedroom opened, and the young man came forth.

    It was evening by this time, and the blind was down, and the room somewhat dark.  Frank's white face was not therefore so apparent.  If it had been, I hardly think it would have made any difference.

    The blood of the Landons was up!

    "I say," cried Phil, rushing up to Frank, and laying hold on him, "what have you done with him?"

    Frank stood still, for a moment, speechless.  Then he said, quietly--

    "Is this my Lord Landon, or who is it?"

    Phil relaxed his hold, and fell back a little.  Frank's cool, cutting tones brought him to his senses.  But he was still in a furious passion.

    "Mr. Chauncey," cried he, "do you know the man has gone?"

    Frank sat down in the easy-chair, his back to the window.  One hand grasped the arm of the chair.  Frank clutched it in his agony.

    "Gone!" repeated Phil, coming and standing before Frank.  "Gone! and I've watched, day after day, as for my life.  I've been—and been—and been, to see that he did not give me the slip!  I'd have held one to him, and would――"

    "Phil!" cried Frank—"Phil, be silent.  Give over.  What do you want?  I will not have it!"

    "What do I want?" said Phil, more quietly, and coming close up; "I want that man to be given up to justice!"

    Frank sat immovable.  He might have been turned to stone.

    "If you try to hide him," continued Phil, growing less violent, but more earnest, "I will find him!  What reason you have for screening him, I know not; but, wherever he may be, villain that he is, I will have him dragged to punishment!"

    "What reason you may have for screening him"—"villain that he is"—"drag him to punishment"—these words had a terrible meaning in the ears of Frank Chauncey.  Yet, all the while, he neither stirred nor spoke.  Motionless lies the shipwrecked vessel at the bottom of the ocean!  Frank Chauncey felt as though the waves had closed over him for ever!

    "You do not speak," continued Phil.  "You have been false to me, Mr. Chauncey; you have been as wicked as the man whom you have let escape!"

    Have let escape!

    Frank smiled a strange, curious smile.

    "And now," continued Phil, "just hear what I have to say.  I retract my promise; I will be silent no longer.  I shall tell all Deepdale that you have let go the man who stole the old vicar's money!"

    He opened the door and fled.  Frank heard him clattering down the stairs, as though he would rouse the whole neighbourhood; and that was precisely what Phil was intending to do.


 
CHAPTER LXX.

FRANK'S VISIT TO SIMON CROSSKEYS.


AT first Frank sat still, not moving hand or foot; then he rose suddenly, and began to walk up and down the room.  All at once, he uttered a low, wailing cry, and sank upon his knees, stretching out his hands to heaven.

    In his extremity he took refuge in prayer.  As a Christian, he had this tower of strength into which he might run and be safe.  He prayed for help, for guidance, for consolation; and he obtained the help he needed.  When he rose from his knees, he felt strengthened, and better able to cope with the difficulties that threatened him.

    He began calmly to reflect what it would be best for him to do.  One thing he must do, and that immediately.  He must acquaint the persecutors of Clara Melrose with the fact of her innocence.  It would not be right to close his eyes in slumber ere this act of justice had been accomplished.  The widow had been living under the ban of a cruel and false suspicion.  Perhaps few women had suffered so keenly and so undeservedly.

    "All that should be set straight ere morning!"  Thinking thus, he prepared to sally forth on his errand, not of mercy, but of justice.  He resolved to place the confession in the hands of Simon Crosskeys.

    It was a clear starlight night.  The air felt soft and balmy, and fanned his feverish brow as he walked along.  He looked up to those serene orbs of light, and took comfort in thinking, that the mighty hand, which hung them in their spheres, could control his vexed and unhappy destiny.

    Again he fell back on the mercy and goodness of his Father, and His promises to succour all who put their trust in Him.

    As he passed along the village street, lights were twinkling in the cottages.  Here and there a door stood open, and the little homely circle were seen within.  Then a cordial "Good-night, Mr. Chauncey," would greet Frank as he passed.

    Everybody in Deepdale respected Frank Chauncey.  Very soon he came to the garden-gate which led to the dwelling of Simon Crosskeys.  Here he paused, and drew a paper from his pocket.  Holding this paper tightly in his hand, he stepped up the garden-walk, and knocked at the door.

    "Come in!" said the well-known voice of Simon Crosskeys.

    Frank opened the door and went straight into the kitchen, or common sitting-room.  Simon Crosskeys was not alone, as Frank had hoped.  His friend and colleague, Nathanael Lewin, was sitting on the other side of the fireplace, enveloped in a cloud of tobacco.

    Simon Crosskeys got up directly.

    "Dear, dear, Mr. Chauncey!  I'm sure I beg your pardon, sir, speaking so short.  I thought it was one of the lads from the village."

    Frank Chauncey was a favourite of Mr. Crosskeys.

    "Howsoever, sit down a bit.  I'm right glad to see you!"

    And he placed a chair for Frank, with the utmost alacrity.

    "Doctor—pretty well, to-night, sir?" asked Simon Crosskeys, somewhat at a loss to account for Frank's visit.

    "Yes, thank you," replied Frank.

    Simon, whose conversational powers were of a limited description, paused for a new idea to occur to him."

    "Very warm to-night, Mr. Chauncey," he began again, "for the time of year.  I've known us to have a catch of frost by now."

    "It is warm," said Frank, abstractedly.  All the time he was considering how he was to begin the thing he had to do.

    Mr. Lewin, who was a shy man, and taciturn, had carried his pipe to the door.  He was vexed at being interrupted in a bargain he was driving with Crosskeys, about "the shorthorns in the home close."

    Frank roused himself, and looked Mr. Crosskeys in the face.  Mr. Crosskeys, somewhat puzzled, returned the look.

    "Well, Mr. Chauncey," said he, blandly, "what is it?"

    "It is this," said Frank, in a strange, husky voice, quite unlike his own: "I have come to tell you—that—I have found out the person who took the old vicar's money."

    "Eh, what cried?" Nathanael Lewin, coming in hot haste from the doorway;—"what did you say, Mr. Chauncey?"

    Frank, deadly pale, and agitated beyond measure, repeated the words,―

    "I have found out the man who took the old vicar's money!"

    "Man!" echoed Simon Crosskeys and Nathanael Lewin in a breath.

    Their eager eyes, and blank faces, it would be difficult to describe.  A terrible suspicion flashed into their minds;—a dread of what they might have been doing.

    "Tell us, Mr. Chauncey," said Crosskeys, rubbing this hard hand over his forehead, "what is it you mean? speak, sir; quick!"

    Frank had sat pale and repressed before these two eager excited faces.  When he spoke, it was in the same husky voice.

    How could these men guess what it cost to wring this declaration from him?

    He began, by reminding them of the mysterious individual seen by Lord Landon,—an individual whose very existence they had doubted.  Here he stopped.  Every word seemed to be drawn forth by an effort.  He stopped as if, for the moment, he could hardly proceed.

    "Go on, sir," cried Crosskeys, impatiently; "we want to know the end."

    Then Frank went on.  He told them that the gentleman he had been attending at the village yonder, had been identified by Lord Landon as――

    Again he paused.  He had miscalculated his strength.  It was scarcely possible to endure the anguish he was suffering.

    "Do you mean to tell us," said Simon Crosskeys, sternly, and fixing his eyes on Frank,—"do you mean to tell us that the gentleman you have been doctoring out there is the villain who stole the old vicar's money?"

    Frank's eye gave a strange flash, something like indignation.  Then his head sank on his breast, and he replied, calmly and sadly, "I do.  He was the man!"


 
CHAPTER LXXI.

THE CONFESSION PASSES INTO OTHER HANDS.


CROSSKEYS and Lewin recoiled a few paces, like men staggered by a blow or a surprise; then they stared blankly one at the other.

    Clara Melrose was innocent!  This was the first idea that occurred to them, in all its force and vividness.  Clara Melrose—the woman they had been determined to hunt down—the victim of their unrelenting persecution she, whom they had esteemed guilty, was innocent!  As innocent as they were!

    They were not impulsive men, or demonstrative, or with a single tinge of sentiment in their nature.  But their common honesty, their manliness, their love of justice, had been appealed to.  They responded to the appeal heartily, and at once.

    When the first shock of the discovery was somewhat over, Crosskeys began again to address Frank Chauncey.

    "Now, Mr. Chauncey," said he, quickly and excitedly, "perhaps you'll tell us all about it."

    Frank had not appeared to see the effects produced by his disclosure.  He was sitting, his face hard and stern, his eyes fixed on the glowing embers in the grate.  He did not even hear the ejaculations of the two horror-stricken men before him.  A louder voice than theirs was sounding in his ears—a voice which said, with cruel distinctness, "The criminal is your father!"

    When he was addressed by Simon Crosskeys, he roused himself by a great effort.  In reply, he stated the particulars as briefly as he could.  He told how the gentleman (there was a slight embarrassment as he pronounced the word) had been thrown from his horse, and how Frank had been sent for to attend him.  How his suspicions had been roused by sundry circumstances, as, for instance, the agitation displayed by his patient on the mention of the word Deepdale.  How he questioned him (Frank's lips grew white as he proceeded), and at length drew forth a confession.  Yes, a confession of guilt!

    There was a pause.  The faces of Crosskeys and Lewin had a hushed expression.  The great clock ticked at Frank's elbow; but not a sound else was heard.  An awful stillness seemed to have fallen on the house.  In the ears of these simple-minded men, the word confession was fraught with unusual terrors.

    Then Frank, who had the tinted and perfumed envelope still in his hand, gave it to Simon Crosskeys.

    "This," said he, "is the written declaration of the—the crime."

    Simon Crosskeys snatched the paper eagerly, and Frank, scarce able to restrain his feelings, took up his hat to depart.  Tearing open the envelope, Crosskeys held the candle close to the writing, in order that his eye writing greedily devour every word.  Not so greedily, however, but that Frank's movement caused him to look up.  Caused them, I might say—Nathanael Lewin was peering, full as anxiously, over the shoulders of his colleague.

    "Stop a bit, Mr. Chauncey," said Crosskeys, putting his finger on a word, the better to keep his place.  "Don't you be in a hurry.  Of course, sir, you had him took up?"

    Frank's face was towards the door.  He did not turn round as he replied

    "No; I did not."

    "What!" thundered Crosskeys, letting his clenched fist fall upon the table with a blow that might have felled an ox.  "What!"

    Frank turned partially round.  He was in deep shadow, or the deadly whiteness of his face must have startled them.

    "You forget," he replied, in a tone of forced calmness "you forget that the confession was made to me in strict confidence, and with the understanding that I was to allow him to depart."

    Crosskeys looked puzzled.  Lewin scratched his head dubiously.  It was evident that neither of them was satisfied with the explanation.

    "And pray where may he be by this time?" asked Mr. Lewin, breaking the silence that had followed Frank's words.

    "I do not know," replied Frank, his face again turned towards the door.

    "And do you mean to say," exclaimed Crosskeys, giving a few hasty strides in the same direction,—"do you mean to say that you have let the villain escape?"

    The villain!  Again the word rang in his ear with a strange, doleful sound.  He had as much bravery as any man; yet his heart beat with a convulsive movement analogous to that of fear—fear lest his father should be taken.  He might have guessed, from the bitter, unrelenting persecution of Clara Melrose, how it would fare with him who was really guilty.

    He told Crosskeys that the confession would never have been written down, except for the promise spoken of above.  He had acted as he thought best under the circumstances.

    Mr. Crosskeys looked at Mr. Lewin, and Mr. Lewin nodded back at Mr. Crosskeys.  "Happen Mr. Chauncey is right, Crosskeys.  Yes, I think he may be right."  But the words were spoken with a great amount of doubt and hesitation.

    Crosskeys stood perplexed and half-satisfied.  "It seems to me, Mr. Chauncey, as though you had let a good bit of time be lost.  Why did you not tell us sooner?"

    Frank did not answer immediately.  At length he said, in a cold, constrained voice, "I have given you all the information in my power.  I beg you will not detain me any longer."  And he laid his hand on the latch of the door.

    "Well, well," said Crosskeys, with the same half-satisfied air, "you can go to-night, Mr. Chauncey: but happen you'll keep in the way, sir.  We shall want you to give evidence."

    Frank bowed.

    "It's like enough he'll be pulled up by this time to-morrow," asserted Nathaniel Lewin: "at any rate, we'll set about hunting him down."

    Frank bowed again.  Then he opened the door, without uttering a word, and walked out of the house.


 
CHAPTER LXXII.

REGINALD CHAUNCEY'S SET.


"IF Chauncey does not come back soon, I shall emigrate!"

    "I wish you would do something, Sir Peter, it does not much signify what," replied his aunt, testily.

    Miss Barbara Silcox, aunt to Sir Peter Silcox, was getting tired of hearing the complaints of her nephew on this head.

    Sir Peter, being in the flower of his youth, and having a large fortune and a brilliant circle of friends, ought, in the nature of the case, to have been one of the happiest and most contented men alive.  The world, if it had wished to point out a man born, as the old saying is, with a silver spoon in his mouth, might have pointed out Sir Peter.  Yet to look at him, as he lounged about the room, his hands in his pockets, and his face drawn up into wrinkles, you would not have been disposed to agree with the world at all.  You would have said that Sir Peter was a man to be pitied.  And so he was, in one respect.  In himself he had no resources whatever, and one is disposed to regard such an individual with compassion.

    Sir Peter depended for amusement on his associates.  When they were at hand, it was well with him.  But if, from any cause, they were absent, and he was compelled to do without them, then came that chronic malady with which he was tortured—ennui.

    "What is a fellow to do?" continued he, gazing ruefully out of the window.  It had rained for three consecutive days, and rained then.  "It's such a bore, Chauncey being gone!"

    "I would advertise, if I were you," said Miss Barbara, sharply.

    She was a lady not yet past the prime of life, but old enough to wear false ringlets, and a tinge of rouge.  She had been handsome, and was certainly rich.  People often wondered how it was that Miss Barbara had remained single.  Perhaps a solution to this problem might have been found in the fact that Miss Barbara had a quick temper and a sharp tongue.

    "For my part," added Miss Barbara, angrily, "if I had known that you intended to grumble all the time I was here, I would not have come."

    "I am very sorry," replied the young man, apologetically; "but I am so lost without Chauncey.  He knows how to help a fellow kill time; and that's such a blessing!" added Sir Peter, with a sigh.

    Ah!  Sir Peter, you had better step outside the brilliant circle in which you live, and see what life is beyond it—life made up of struggling, suffering, sorrowing!  It may be, you would then discover why this heavy commodity of time was given you.  It may be, you would learn a lesson of how to use the precious gift—not remorselessly to kill it!

    But he had never stepped beyond the circle; and he did not know.

    Miss Barbara uttered a few words of expostulation, and then took up her book; Sir Peter stood lounging at the window.  Presently, he uttered a deep groan.

    Miss Barbara looked up again.  "Why cannot you find something to do?" asked she, in a tone of irritation.

    "Don't be angry, aunt.  It rains, and I'm by myself," angry said he, meekly.  He was generally meek to his Aunt Barbara.

    "By yourself!"—and her eye sparkled with indignation―"by yourself, when I am with you!"

    "So you are, aunt, and I am sure I am much obliged to you; but, you see—no disrespect whatever—but you are not Reginald Chauncey!"

    His aunt laughed.  It was impossible to help laughing at the young man's absurdity.  But, happily, the woes of Sir Peter Silcox were coming to an end.

    The butler at this moment entered, and quietly made his way to his master.

    "If you please, Sir Peter, you're wanted."

    "Wanted! eh! what?" cried the baronet, waking up at the welcome sound; "who wants me?"

    The butler was, all the time, handing a silver waiter to his master, on which lay a card; a card edged with the most profound and startling black.

    "He said he wished to see you in private," returned the butler.  But his master heard him not.

    He was hurrying with an impetuosity scarcely to be credited, towards the study.

    The name upon the card was that of Reginald Chauncey.

    Miss Barbara, roused from her book by her nephew's burst of excitement, had vainly attempted to make out what was the matter.  Failing in doing so, she rose, and picked up the card which had fallen on the floor.

    "So," said she, scanning it narrowly, "Reginald has come at last.  I wonder what he is like?"


 
CHAPTER LXXIII.

THE MOURNING SUIT.


"WELL, my dear fellow, what in the world has happened to you?" cried Sir Peter, shaking his friend cordially by the hand.  "On my word, I thought I should have to run away: there's no getting through one's time without Reginald Chauncey!"

    If the reader supposes that the magnificent Reginald descended, at any time, to the manners of a sycophant, he is mistaken.  His way of receiving the young man's salutation was, on the contrary, patronizing.

    "I have been much engaged just lately," replied be, withdrawing his white hand from Sir Peter's grasp, and arranging his cravat.

    "Have you?—those blood-suckers, I suppose, eh?"

    By this epithet, he designated the men with whom Mr. Twist had lately effected a compromise, and to whom the fascinating Reginald was about to pay half-a-crown in the pound.

    "I was not thinking of that," replied Mr. Chauncey.  "Nor is it particularly pleasant to be reminded of it, Sir Peter."

    "I am sure I beg your pardon!  I did not mean to hurt your feelings," said the young man, hastily, and in a tone of apology.

    Reginald Chauncey waved his hand in token of forgiveness.  Next he took out his cambric handkerchief.  He had seated himself in the easy-chair, as though he had a right to the best accommodation the place afforded.

    Sir Peter was balancing himself on a high stool just opposite.  He was unfeignedly delighted to see his friend again.

    "I hope you are quite well, Chauncey," said he, unable, at the moment, to light upon any other mode of express in his joy.

    "Quite well in health, Sir Peter; in mind――"

    He paused, and Sir Peter looked down.  He thought Mr. Chauncey's feelings were still pained by the unfortunate allusion to the bailiffs.

    "I am sure if I could have done anything," he began; but the unusual solemnity of Reginald's look stopped him.  Indeed, when the handkerchief was raised to the eyes of his friend, the young man was struck with astonishment.

    "Good gracious, Chauncey! what is the matter?"

    Reginald did not immediately reply.  Off the stage, there could not have been witnessed a more consummate piece of acting

    When he had applied the handkerchief to eyes that, on this score at least, had never known a tear, he said, "I have had a most distressing bereavement."

    "Good gracious, Chauncey!" again exclaimed the young baronet, who had no great choice of language, "what is the matter?"

    Again the white handkerchief fluttered gracefully before Sir Peter, and, looking down, his handsome face expressive of profound disconsolateness, Reginald Chauncey whispered, "I have lost my wife.""

    "Oh! is that――"

    "All," he was about to say, for we know in what esteem Reginald Chauncey's wife had been held by her husband's set.  But Reginald's well-sustained grief caused him, in haste, to substitute another form of speech.

    "I am very sorry to hear it."

    Reginald smiled mournfully.  It was the smile of a man who, though suffering, is resigned.

    Sir Peter, astonished, and not a little bewildered, sat gazing at his friend.  At length, as if he felt himself expected to say something, he jerked out, "Very sudden, Chauncey, wasn't it?"

    Reginald withdrew the handkerchief, and, holding it ready for immediate use, replied that his late lamented partner had been for some time, in a declining state of health—a circumstance which had caused him the deepest uneasiness.

    Sir Peter, oppressed by the solemnity of the occasion, and the unexpected appeal to his sympathies, stared more blankly still.  It was a new light, this, in which the despised wife of Reginald Chauncey was being held up to view.

    "I can never sufficiently estimate the excellent qualities of my dear partner," continued Reginald, "or too much regret the circumstances that compelled me to be absent from her on that trying occasion.  In fact, my bereavement has been of a most distressing nature.  Whether I shall ever――"

    He paused—overcome by his emotion or not, Sir Peter could not discover: the handkerchief prevented him.  For a few minutes he remained still gazing at his friend, and quite at a loss what to say, or to do.  At length he exclaimed, as if glad to find any diversion from the subject, "I say, Chauncey, how is it you're not in black?"

    Reginald's face relaxed, in spite of himself, into something like a smile.

    "There has not been time," said he, shaking his head; "I regret to say it, my tailor has gone out of business."

    "No! has he, though?  What a pity!"

    Reginald smiled mournfully.  His smile seemed to say, "What are these trifling ills to me?"

    "What a pity!" continued Sir Peter, eagerly.  "He was such a capital fit.  What shall you do?"

    "I don't know.  I have hardly thought."

    The fact was, Reginald Chauncey's tailor, having been a considerable loser by that magnificent gentleman's failure, had declined the honour of his patronage for the future.

    "I say, Chauncey!" exclaimed Sir Peter, anxious to divert his friend's mind from the subject that seemed to engross it, "I wish you would try my tailor: he's first-rate, you know!"

    "Ah! Sir Peter, I begin to think of retiring――"

    "Nonsense !  What can I do without you, pray?" asked Sir Peter, sharply.

    "After all that has transpired――"

    "Hold your tongue, I tell you!  I say, now, will you go to my tailor's?"

    Reginald Chauncey's face was clearing up unmistakably.

    "I am sure you are very kind――"

    "Do then, there's a good fellow!  I'll go with you myself.  It will be something for me to do, and what a blessing that will be!" added the young man, with a sigh of relief.

    Reginald thought it his duty to sigh too, and most profoundly.

    "And then you will come back to dinner, and I'll introduce you to my aunt.  She's tired of hearing me talk about you."

    "I am afraid, Sir Peter, that in the state of――"

    "And we'll be in town in an hour's time," said Sir Peter, ringing the bell.  "We'll drive."

    Sir Peter was in what he called one of his little places, within an easy run of the metropolis.

    Reginald made no reply.  He put aside his handkerchief, and was solemnly preparing for his journey.  His whole mien and deportment was that of a man who has done with this world, and its pumps and vanities, for ever.

    A few evenings after, in a new suit of the most stylish mourning, he was in the midst of his own set, in Sir Peter's drawing-room, as handsome and as well got up as ever.

    "Decidedly the most agreeable man I have ever met with!" said Miss Barbara.


 
CHAPTER LXXIV.

MR. TWIST'S SUGGESTION.


"WELL, my good friend and client, I am glad to see you amongst us again!"

    The individual who spoke was Solomon Twist, and the client was Reginald Chauncey, in his fine new suit of the deepest dye, his hat covered with crape, and everything about him intended to show to the world the disconsolate state into which the loss of his wife had plunged him.

    Solomon Twist regarded him with a peculiar twinkle in his eye, and a slight play about the corners of the mouth.  Yet he stood in some awe of his client.  Reginald Chauncey had the art of commanding the submission, if not the respect, of others.  His face, as he sat in Mr. Twist's office, was not that of the gay Reginald Chauncey, the life and soul of his set, without whom no one could kill time fast enough.  It was puckered up, and had lines and marks that he seemed, on other occasions, to have the art of smoothing away.  In fact, he looked decidedly out of temper.

    Mr. Twist was always cautious how he irritated his client; but as the silence was getting tedious, he could not refrain from breaking it.

    "Well?" said he, interrogatively—as if he had said, "My time is precious, and business must be attended to, Mr. Chauncey; the sooner the better."

    At the sound of the word, Reginald looked up.

    "Well," repeated he, peevishly, "you know what I'm come about;" and he took up the poker, and began to hammer at a lump of coal that blocked up the front of the fire.

    "Of course I do, Mr. Chauncey.  Money matters, I suppose," said the lawyer, briskly.

    "Confound them!" muttered Reginald Chauncey, hammering savagely at the coal.

    "Nay, nay; it might have been a great deal worse.  You owe me something on that head, Mr. Chauncey.  I have never taken such trouble before—not for anybody; and, what's more, I never will again!"

    "You can please yourself about that," replied Reginald, sulkily.

    "Come, come, my good friend, be civil," said Mr. Twist, persuasively.

    Reginald Chauncey did not vouchsafe any reply to this speech.

    "Now, Mr. Chauncey," said the Jew lawyer, in the tone of a man resolved to go into business details, whether or no, "I beg pardon for the question—but really it is very important to know—how are you intending to live?"

    "I intend to leave England," replied Reginald, curtly.

    "Oh, indeed! travel abroad?  Well, I've no objection.  But—again excuse the question—how are you to get the means?"

    "That matter must come under your consideration, Mr. Twist."

    "Indeed, you labour under a mistake there, my friend," replied the lawyer, quickly; "a very great mistake!  I cannot advance you another shilling!"

    Reginald started from his chair with an ejaculation we need not repeat.

    "Come, come; take it easy," said Mr. Twist, soothingly.  "A man of your brilliant accomplishments can never be at a loss.  There are several ways open to you."

    "You had best name them," said Reginald, resuming his seat.

    "One would think your old resources might serve you another turn."

    "If you mean betting, and so forth, I am tired of it.  It has been a losing game lately."

    "Has it?  Well, Fortune's wheel goes round.  Try again."

    Reginald shook his head.

    "Mr. Twist," said he, "I am getting an old man.  Yes, I am"—for the lawyer held up his hands in a deprecatory manner.  "I don't mind saying it, between you and me.  I want a snug place abroad, and something comfortable to live on."

    "Nothing more reasonable, I am sure.  But, you see, your bit of capital is sunk.  It wouldn't have held out so long but for me."

    Reginald made a gesture of impatience.

    "There are plenty of appointments to be had," suggested Mr. Twist, delicately; "but you don't like work."

    "Work!  I should think not.  I work!" cried Reginald, disdainfully.

    "Of course—of course!  You naturally would not like to do it.  I didn't suppose you would.  But still the point in hand is the same.  How are you to live?"

    "Without money?" suggested Reginald Chauncey.

    "Exactly.  There is one other way open to you.  I should have mentioned it before, only I thought"—and he glanced at the full suit of black with a half smile.

    "You thought what?  I wish you would speak out!" cried Reginald, who was in one of his worst humours.

    "Well, then, why don't you marry again?"

    "Marry again!  Good gracious, Twist!" and Reginald Chauncey, roused from his apathy, stared full at the Jew lawyer.

    "Precisely.  Marry a woman with money."

    Reginald stared a few minutes longer; then his face relaxed into a more pleasant expression than it had worn during the whole interview.

    "You are a clever man, a handsome man; a man for society.  Society adores you.  Let it find you a wife."

    "Really, Mr. Twist."

    "I am sure of it," exclaimed the Jewish practitioner, getting more and more into the pith of the subject.  "You have rich women in your set.  Why not do one of them the honour to make her Mrs. Reginald Chauncey?"

    "Stop, Twist, hush! you are going too far," said Reginald, in an altered voice.

    Hard, selfish, worldly as the man was, the name woke a lingering echo of the past; of a careworn face and sunken eyes, of a voice that never spoke to him but in accents of affection; of a tender heart, faithful and true, that had not long since ceased to beat!  It was a transient emotion: had it lasted longer, it might have softened his callous nature; but it faded like a morning cloud, and then the man's nature asserted itself.  He began to console himself with the favourite dogma of his set.  Had she not, poor woman, been very inferior to him?—the last sort of person he ought to have married!  He would not make reflections—it would be ungenerous and unkind.  But she was gone, and he was mourning for her, in the best and newest mourning broadcloth.

    There was something in Twist's suggestion.  He was in desperate straits, and he could not be expected to remain a widower for ever.



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