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“ That's the main point, I reckon. Let us macy, it had become necessary to act with make as sure as we can, whatever else we do. vigour and despatch. It's a good lump is five hundred pounds." “ I suppose they have found out that no
“ Yes; we shall have to make a trip to certificate is producible,” said the lawyer; Italy, and the sooner we start, I think, the “how, I cannot conceive. In any case, it is better.”
a dirty trick and quite like that rascal Ferret. This idea was at once acted upon. They But these Calder people can take nothing by started the very next afternoon, and ten their motion, for even if they should succeed days later Corfe received a draft on London in depriving Miss Vera of her fortune, they for the sum in question-after giving up will not get it. I can promise them that. And Philip Hardy's marriage certificate, which they are, perhaps, counting without their Mr. Ferret very carefully burnt.
host, after all. There were witnesses of the
marriage, of course. We must try to find CHAPTER LXIV.-A HAPPY THOUGHT.
them." WHEN Balmaine called on Mr. Artful, as “ And that would do as well ?" he did the very next day after receiving Quite as well.” Warton's letter, the nature of the flaw in Miss “Don't you think Ferret knows all this ?” Hardy's case, discovered by the Hardy For- “Of course ho does. But he wants to run tune Company, and of which they seemed up a big bill of costs, and so advises his clients determined to take every advantage, was to fight, even though he knows that, whatfully explained to him. “There could be no
ever may be the issue, they have not the question,” he said, “that Philip Hardy and ghost of a chance. But the great point now, Vera's mother were really married, and that so far as we are concerned, is to hunt up
the Vera was born in wedlock. This, Philip's witnesses of the marriage. Will you underletters to his father, announcing his marriage take the task ?” and the birth of his daughter, together with “Go to Italy, you mean ?” the evidence of Martino and Gabrielle Cour- “Yes; you are just the man. You know bet abundantly proved-from a moral point the case, you know the ground, and you of view; and if there were no opposition to know what we want. Will you do it? You Vera's claim, the Court of Chancery and the may name your own terms. trustees would doubtless consider these proofs “Very well; I will go and do my best," as sufficient. But in the event of her legiti- said Alfred, after a moment's thought. macy being disputed—if it were asserted by “When would you like me to start ?” parties claiming to be John Hardy's legal This time Balmaine did not refuse payrepresentatives that she was born out of wed- ment. The world's buffets were beginning lock, then it would be necessary to prove to wear off the edge of his Quixotism, and he the marriage strictly, either by producing a really could not afford to throw away several properly certified copy of the marriage regis- weeks' time, even in Vera's service, or rather ter, or witnesses who could testify that the in the service of the Hardy fortune, which, union had been solemnized in accordance as likely as not, would never be hers. with the laws of the country where it took “When would I like you to start ?” replace."
peated the lawyer. “Well, I don't know In anticipation of this difficulty Mr. Artful that there is any particular hurry. Say in a had some time before requested the British | week's time. Will that suit you ?” Consul at Milan to procure and forward him * Perfectly." this essential document, but he was informed “In that case we may consider the matter in reply that all the public records of Balafria as settled. Look in between this and next (where Mr. and Mrs. Hardy were married), Monday and I will give you your instruchaving been destroyed during the war of tions, and what is quite as necessary, a supply 1859, his request could not be complied with. of cash. These people have fired the first This was unfortunate, but as the Hardy shot_filed their bill—but we need not put Fortune Company seemed to have given up in an answer just yet. When we do, it will the contest, and no other claimants were be to pray the court to administer the trusts forthcoming, he had assumed that they (the of the will.” trustees) would have a walk over and given “But that will be a surrender, won't it ?” himself no further concern in the matter.
“ Oh dear, no.
The court will review the Now, however, that their opponents had facts and decide the case on its merits. The thrown down the glove-in other words filed Calder Company will produce their proofsa bill—and openly challenged Vera's legiti- if they have any—and their supposed claim
will doubtless be urged by competent counsel. Mr. Manifold was able to see him, be faWe shall, of course, represent Miss Hardy, voured with an interview. and I have no doubt that, whatever may be All this Alfred did. He knocked at one the issue, the Vice-Chancellor will allow the door, and after ascertaining that the manager costs out of the estate."
was in, pressed the button of the other, Balmaine did not say, albeit he thought, whereupon it was slowly and cautiously that Ferret was, perhaps, not the only solicitor opened and he was let inside. in the world who liked to make a big bill of “ You want to see the editor ?” said the costs. Neither did he hint to Mr. Artful that attendant, and, without waiting for a reply, the prospect of Vera losing her fortune was he led the way up a broad flight of stone far from displeasing to him. In point of fact, steps, then along a corridor to a door, and he left the office in Lincoln's Inn Fields in a throwing it open, told Alfred to be pleased happier frame of mind than he had known to take a seat until the editor came, and then for many a day. It was probably this sere- incontinently withdrew. It was a large, wellnity of spirit that suggested a happy thought furnished room, with sofas, easy-chairs, a —and happy thoughts are often more fruitful long table, and a handsome bookcase—not in in results than hard work. As he turned the least like the “ den" of the traditional into Fleet Street it occurred to him that it editor. might not be amiss to call on the manager of Alfred sat down in the twilight, feeling the Day, tell him that he was bound for almost as if he were engaged in some conNorth Italy, and ask if he could do anything spiracy, and wondering what like was the for the paper there. He by no means anti- man who forged the thunderbolts of the Day cipated a favourable answer, but there was and wielded the power of a minister of state, just the off chance that it might be favour- how he would be received, and thinking what able; if it were not, he would be no worse off he should say. He had ample time for reflec than before.
tion. Mr. Manifold did not put in an apMr. Nonpareil received him somewhat less pearance for a full half-hour, and when he cordially than on the occasion of his first did come the door opened so quietly, and he visit. The manager was evidently both very entered so softly, that before Balmaine be much occupied and pre-occupied. Balmaine came aware of the editor's presence he was seeing this, explained his business in the half-way across the room. fewest possible words.
“How do you do, Mr. Balmaine ?” “Going to North Italy, are you ?" said the The great editor spoke as softly as he manager. “Well, we have no correspondent walked—a man of middle age and middle there, and if anything should occur-any- height, with a high forehead, a pale, intelthing very particular, you know you might lectual, weary face, bent shoulders, and send us an account of it. But you had better grizzly hair. He looked to Alfred like an see the editor. He may, perhaps, suggest overburdened Atlas, a mentally strong man, something. You know him, of course ? perhaps, yet whose physical strength was not Only by name."
equal to his day. “Indeed? Well, I will send in your name “ I'm glad to make your acquaintance, and tell him you will call this evening-shall Mr. Balmaine," he said. "Your letters from we say nine o'clock ? Good. The porter Geneva were very good. I am sorry for below will tell you how to proceed.” our sake that you have left. What can I do On this Balmaine made haste to take his for
you leave, and when he got below addressed him- Alfred told him of his proposed journey self to the porter for an explanation of the to Italy. manager's rather enigmatic instructions. "Well, if you can find any good subjects, Obtaining access to the editor of the Day and send us a few letters, I will do my best seemed to be an undertaking of some diffi- to use them. Italy is always interesting, and culty. He was first of all to knock at a I think the time is not far off when she will certain door in the court, pointed out by the complete her unity by the redemption of porter, and ask if Mr. Manifold was in the Rome. France and Prussia are ready to fly office. Should the answer be in the affirma- at each other's throats, and when they do, tive, Balmaine must cross to a door on the the Temporal Power must come to an end." opposite side of the court, press a button, “ You think there will be war then ?” the position of which the porter minutely “I look upon a war between France and described to him, and when the attendant Prussia as inevitable. France cannot lose came hand in his card. He would then, if her supremacy in Europe without a struggle.
The unification of Germany would be fatal to “What does Vera say about it?” her supremacy, and Napoleon will try at all “Not very much. She will be here soon hazards to hinder its consummation. Yes, and you can ask her yourself.”. sooner or later, and rather sooner than later, Cora, as Alfred had already discovered, we shall have a European war.
was not in the most serene of tempers. Truth As he spoke the editor rose from his chair, to say, she was greatly perplexed by the turn and Balmaine taking this as a hint that the things were taking. For months she had interview was at an end, “ made his adieux.” | been trying to make Vera and her cousin fall
He went away in good spirits. Something in love with each other, and now when the might come of the interview after all, for it goal was in view and she had almost perwould be strange indeed if he could not suaded Alfred to propose, came this stroke find matter for a few letters in North Italy, of the Fortune Company; and though she letters which might possibly lead to a perma- hoped for the best, she could not conceal nent connection with the paper. Balmaine from herself that her friend was in imminent having a sanguine temperament could not danger of being reduced to penury. Cora, help being hopeful, any more than he could though not mercenary, was essentially prachelp being unduly depressed under disap- tical, and being blessed with a more than pointment, for one extreme begets another. average share of common-sense, it seemed to Circumstances in the present instance did her that in the changed condition of things not, perhaps, justify great expectations ; it would be nothing less than a misfortune but when, two or three days later, he dined for Alfred and Vera to become engaged. with Mr. Wilkins, that gentleman made him How could her cousin, with the two hundred a proposal which offered tangible grounds for a year, of which he was so proud, and a few encouragement. It was to take the editor- pounds more precariously earned, keep a ship of a monthly commercial and financial wife? Yet with the proverbial perversity of magazine, “ to be run," as Mr. Wilkins put lovers, they would probably regard the preit, in connection with a similar undertaking sent as being an especially propitious time in the United States.
for an exchange of vows and the swearing of “But I know so little about commerce and everlasting constancy. But what could she finance," said Balmaine.
do, without laying herself open to the imputa“You will soon learn," was the answer. tion of being actuated by unworthy motives, "I can get you facts and information. You to avert this consummation ? And was not will only have to put them into shape. It she herself a poor girl, engaged to a poor will not take very much of your time." man? Taking all this into consideration
The salary was to be two hundred a year, Cora came to the sensible conclusion to let and, as the enterprise could not be launched matters take their course. for two or three months, there would be “I have meddled and muddled," she ample time before its inception for the con- thought, “and, perhaps, if I meddle any templated journey to Italy. Alfred, of course, more I shall only make the muddle worse. accepted the offer with both hands, and went I'll leave it to Providence. People who do away as much rejoiced as if he had come not possess the gift of foresight have no into a fortune as big as Vera's, or that business to weave elaborate schemes for the which ought to be Vera's. With two hun- benefit of their friends. They may not dred a year and his other earnings he would prove beneficial after all.” be almost as well off as if he had retained the editorship of the Helvetic News. Cora,
CHAPTER LXV.- BALMAINE PROPOSES. whom he saw on the following day, though The cousins were still discussing the inishe congratulated him, did not seem as much quities of Saintly Sam and his familiar spirit, surprised at his rise in life as he had expected. as Ferret was called at Calder, and the chances
“Of course you will get on,” she said, of the chancery suit, when Miss Hardy was "better, I dare say, than if you had stayed announced. She did not appear to be much at Geneva. But what a terrible thing this concerned, while, as for Alfred, his spirits is about poor Vera and her fortune! I de- seemed higher than ever. A bad sign, thought clare I am quite ashamed of Calder. Saintly Cora. She knew her cousin's impulsive naSam is a wretch and Ferret a villain. They ture, especially in affairs of the heart; and cannot get the fortune themselves and they remembering how easily declarations are are trying to take it from Vera! But I do made she feared the worst. As ill-luck would hope they won't succeed! You must find have it, too, Vera had hardly come in when these witnesses, Alfred."
Miss Balmaine was called out. No invented
excuse this time, but a call of real necessity. and left more than half a million for charitable The cook had scalded her foot and fainted. purposes; but the banker-peer who died at There was a terrible hurry-skurry in the the same time, and was worth six millions, kitchen, and in the absence of Mrs. Mait- did not leave a pound of it for any higher land Cora was compelled to descend to the object than the aggrandisement of his family.” basement and take the part of mistress. “I don't much admire pill-makers," said
“Are you very much concerned at the Vera, “but I honour that man far more turn things have taken, Miss Hardy ?” asked than the peer. The peer was an egotistical Balmaine rather vaguely when they were wretch!" alone.
"I would not say that. He was selfish “ About the poor cook, you mean? Yes, I certainly, but he acted according to his lights. am very sorry. I fear her foot is badly He had never gone through a course of scalded.”
poverty. I don't mean penury. And you, “No, I don't mean about the poor cook. Miss Hardy, if you had been all your life I mean about the Fortune Company, and the cradled in luxury and brought up as a great possibility that "
heiress, would not have looked upon your " --The fortune will never be mine,” said fortune as a responsibility too heavy to be Vera, finishing the sentence. “Yes, for some borne." reasons I am sorry. I shall have to abandon “ Thank Heaven, I was not. I would plans on which I had rather set my heart; rather be a Vaudois milkmaid than a great and I must give up Reindeer-poor Rein- heiress.” deer! What will become of him, I wonder ?” “There, I think, you are wrong. For a sighing.
great heiress may, if she likes, become a Happy Reindeer, thought Alfred.
milkmaid, but a milkmaid cannot very well “But I am far more glad than sorry, Mr. become a great heiress. The one has a choice Balmaine," she added with brightening eyes, of destinies which the other does not possess. and a look that confirmed her words.
I am not sure either that the lot even of a “Glad to lose a fortune of two millions ! Swiss milkmaid is altogether to be desired. How
many there are who would give their In summer time and fine weather it is all very souls for a few years' enjoyment of very well-poetic, romantic, and healthysuch wealth.”
but in winter, I should think, the calling has “They are very poor creatures then. They its drawbacks. And, I fancy, milkmaids can never have known what it is to be rich.” have not much opportunity for the cultiva
“That is very probable, I think. They tion of literature and art, and you love litewould like to know though. And if the rature and art, Miss Hardy.” wealthy did not find that their wealth gives “How practical you are, Mr. Balmaine. them more pleasure than pain they would But you misunderstand me. I meant that I not cling to it so tenaciously.
would rather be brought up as a Vaudois “They have perhaps never known what it milkmaid than as great heiresses are generally is to be poor,” said Vera mock seriously. brought up. You speak of literature and
"Perhaps not,” returned Alfred with a art. Well, I have met at the Leytons some smile. “All the same, it is not pleasant to girls who are said to be very rich, and I am be poor, or to feel that you are in danger of sure they have fewer ideas than any milkbeing poor. But, do you know, I think maid in our commune.” people are none the worse for having felt, “ And what arrangement could be more adonce in their lives, the pinch of poverty. mirable ?" returned Alfred with assumed graThe experience enables them to sympathise vity. “Dame Fortune is much less capricious all the more with those who are less well with her gifts than we sometimes give her off than themselves. It makes them more credit for being. She gives Swiss milkmaids generous too; for, if you notice, our greatest ideas and idealess English girls money. It public benefactors are generally men who is only rarely, as in your case, that she behave risen, and who some time or other have stows on the same fortunate maiden both known what it is to be
and ideas.” anybody giving or bequeathing a large sum “You are in a merry humour, I think, of money for the promotion of learning or Mr. Balmaine. Fortune is capricious whatthe alleviation of poverty it is almost sure to ever you may say. And I'm not the excepbe a self-made man, hardly ever a great noble tion you would make me. You are pleased or wealthy squire. The millionaire pill-maker to say I have ideas, but I have not the money who died the other day is said to have given that is as good as gone.”
my lot "
“Not yet; and it may not go. You are still I would not, if you asked me, give this forthe heiress presumptive, and if I can find the tune away-scatter it to the four winds of priest who married your father and mother, heaven ?” or one of the witnesses to the marriage, as I “I did not know that you loved me then, hope to do, you will be the heiress in fact." dearest,” said Alfred, putting his arms round
* You hope to find them-really now ?” her, and sealing their betrothal on her lips. and she looked straight up to him as if she “B you know now,” she answered smilwould read his thoughts. She was sitting ing, as she pushed back the curls from his cn a low chair knitting, an accomplishment forehead and looked lovingly into his eyes. in which, like most Swiss-bred young women, “And were you not just a little selfish in she excelled; he on a higher one not far hiding your love because you feared to share from her. What did she mean? Had she guessed ?
“Feared ?" Could Cora have told her ?
“Yes, you were afraid of what people would "I shall do my best to find them as in say. I have a strong persuasion that the duty bound. But-"
fortune will never be mine ; but if it should, She looked down again, and went on with you will help me to bear the burden, will her knitting. Alfred's heart beat wildly, you not? With your help I do not think I and for a minute or two neither spoke a word. should feel it to be a burden. You will not
Vera was the first to break silence, but mind what people may say, now ?” A strong only by a single word—“Yes ?” the “Yes” emphasis on the "now!" interrogative, not affirmative. It was an in- "Now that I know you love me,” returned vitation to Balmaine to complete his sentence. Alfred passionately, "let them say what they
“I should be glad not to find them if I like. And perhaps, after all, I was wrong thought—if I thought—if I thought” (im- in resolving not to speak to you of petuously)" that you love me as I love you, but I thought it my duty. I could not bear Vera."
the idea of being considered a fortune-hunter He did not intend to speak thus; the -perhaps by you, certainly by others.” avowal was uttered, as it seemed to him, “It is as Cora says; you are too sensitive without any volition of his own.
on the point of honour—too Quixotic; or is “And whom should I love if I love not it pride ?" you ?” she returned in a low yet collected “Perhaps. And Cora-did she ever hint ? voice. “ Have you not always been good to You know what I mean—she guessed my me, rendering me many services and placing secret. me under great obligation? And have you “Your cousin has always been good and not always shown yourself chivalrous and kind,” answered Vera evasively, “and very high-minded ? In that so like M. Senarclens, anxious to promote your happiness and mine; though in many things so different, caring but don't tell her of this, nor anybody else.' more for high principles than material ad- “Not tell Cora !” vantage.”
“Not just now.
Leave that to me. And And, then, you do love me, dear, dear as you are going to Italy so soon,
be Vera ?” exclaimed Alfred in an exultant away for some time, it would be well, I think, voice, taking her unresisting hand in his. to keep our betrothal a secret for the pre
“Have I not said so? Yes, I love you, sent." Alfred Balmaine, and you are mine and I am “Your will is my law, Vera. And there yours until death do us part—n'est-ce pas ?” is another reason for keeping it to ourselves. “ It is so. But-"
You may be made a ward in Chancery, and “But?”
it inight not please the Lord Chancellor to “I mean that though I love you more than sanction our engagement.” I can tell, the avowal was made on the im- “ But when I am majeure ?” pulse of the moment. I had made up my
" Then you will be your own mistress. How mind to keep my love to myself, lest people do the Leytons take the change in your should say that it was mercenary love, and prospects ? Are they as kind as they were ? that I cared more for your
“There is somebody coming!” interrupted “What, Alfred Balmaine !” she exclaimed, Vera, withdrawing from his side and sinking rising from her chair with an indignant into her settee. gesture, “do you know me so little as to The next moment the door opened and suppose that I heed what people say, or that Cora appeared on the scene.