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“It is not so bad as I thought,” she said. spite of her doubts pleased, though dubious " Jane was more frightened than hurt. Fancy withal as to the prudence of an engagement a big stout girl like her fainting because in present circumstances. “You choose the some not very hot water fell on her foot ! very moment when one is suffering from a And what have you been talking about all reverse of fortune and the other is perhaps this time ?

on the point of losing her inheritance to be“I was just asking Miss Hardy how the come engaged! All the same, I am very Leytons take the change in her prospects," glad, and wish you every happiness. But replied Balmaine carelessly; “if they are how do you propose to keep a wife, Alas kind as they were when she was regarded fred ?”. as an undoubted heiress.

“I think I can,” was the confident reply. "The very question I was going to ask “ I am not doing badly, and you said only her myself. It must make a difference. If just now that you thought I should do the Leytons are not kind to you, dear-if well.” you are not comfortable-you must come "Always sanguine," put in Cora with a here. Make your home with us. Nothing smile. would give Mrs. Maitland and me more “You forget me, I think, Miss Balmaine," pleasure.

exclaimed Vera proudly, and with more than “A thousand thanks, Cora dear. You are pretended warmth. "Whatever happens, I really too kind; and I need hardly say that shall not be dependent on Alfred. Do you I would rather be your lodger than the forget what that nice gentleman-Mr. Ro Leytons' guest. But I do not feel that I berts is not his name ? at Peter, Paul, and ought to leave them just now, even if I Piper's said when you introduced me to could—as to which, being a minor, I am not him as Miss Leonini ? He said I could quite sure. Whatever may be their motive, easily earn five or six guineas a week with Sir James and Lady Leyton have been very my sketches. There now !” kind to me, and are so still. When Sir “And if the worst comes to the worst," James told me of what he called the weak added Alfred gaily, “we can do as you and point in my armour, which the Fortune Com- George are doing-wait and hope.” pany have discovered, I said at once that I must set about earning my own living.

CHAPTER LXVI.— FAILURE AND SUCCESS. But he would not hear of it-seemed almost THE Leytons were not, as may be supangry indeed—and said that until the court posed, altogether disinterested in refusing to decides otherwise I am the heiress and his let Vera go. Their motives were rather ward and must remain his guest. I have, mixed. They felt instinctively that it would therefore, no alternative. But once the case look mean and expose them to unpleasant is decided against me, and I think it will be, remark if they turned their backs on the I shall certainly come away. I could not girl the moment her prospects worsenedbear to be dependent on the Leytons-nor after they had made so much of her too. on anybody else.

Then, again, Lady Leyton, in her selfish, “You are quite right. You have no need indolent way, liked Vera-her presence made

to be dependent on them,” said Cora warmly. the house brighter, and it was pleasant to Have you any idea how soon you will know have her to talk with and to read aloud, take

her on shopping excursions, and consult on “No; but I hope soon. I have asked Sir the all-important question of dress, for Lady James that no unnecessary delays may be Leyton had discovered that her young guest interposed, and he has promised that he was gifted with exceptionally good taste. It will use his influence in that sense with Mr. had even occurred to her ladyship that if Artful.”

Vera should lose her fortune it might be And so the talk went on, but not for very well to engage her as a permanent compalong. The carriage came earlier than usual. nion and secretary—at a good salary, of There was to be feasting that evening in Gros- course, for the Leytons were not stingy venor Square, and Lady Leyton had asked people. The arrangement would both conVera to be back in good time. So she went tribute to her own comfort and gain her out of the room with Cora “to put her credit with her friends generally and the things on.” When the two returned, a few world at large. minutes later, Balmaine saw at a glance that Sir James had also a personal reason for his cousin knew all.

desiring to keep Vera. He hated to break"Well, you are a nice pair,” she said, in fast alone, and if she went away that would

your fate ?

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be his fate for at least six mornings in the as an acceptance would have done. He exweek.

pressed a hope that they should always Husband and wife of course talked the remain firm friends, and assured Vera that matter over.

he would do his very best to protect her “It is very well,” said Sir James, after interest and defeat the machinations of they had arrived unanimously at the conclu- Saintly Sam. sion that Vera should continue as their guest It was partly out of consideration for and be treated for the present at least—as Sydney that Vera wanted to keep secret her she had been. “It is very well that Sydney betrothal to Balmaine. It might hurt his has not made any advances—and I rather feelings, she thought, if he were to know pressed him to do.

that almost the day after she refused him “I look upon it as quite providential,” she had accepted another. answered the lady. “Of course he won't Before Alfred left for Italy the lovers had think of such a thing now.”

one more stolen interview-short but sweet “Of course not. Trust Syd; he is too —contrived by Cora. It was agreed that wideawake for that. I wish he would get during his absence, which he was to make done sowing his wild oats though."

as short as might be, they were to write to 'Marriage would steady him, don't you each other as often as possible. think ?”

“Write to me at Grosvenor Square,” said "Very likely. But wait a bit. Vera will Vera; “I have so many letters that one perhaps get her fortune after all. It will be more or less will never be noticed, and à dreadful shame if she does not.”

nobody but myself so much as glances at the The worthy couple little thought that outside of them.” their son had proposed to Vera twice and And so they parted, and Balmaine went been refused each time.

on his way ; but his second visit to Italy Sydney Leyton was far from being a man was no more successful than his first had of noble nature; but even ignoble natures been. He made first for Balafria, where may have generous impulses. He felt his Philip Hardy and Vera Leonino were marfirst repulse keenly, for though he did not ried, and knowing from the former's letters love Vera passionately, he liked her well, to his father the date of the marriage, he and respected her even more than he liked had no difficulty in ascertaining who, at the her; and he inferred from her manner when time in question, was the parish priest. he made his first proposal that she rather Everything depended on his finding this despised him. So when he heard that she man, for if he had not himself solemnised was likely to be bereft of her fortune he the marriage, he would doubtless know who resolved to ask her a second time to be his had. But Alfred failed to find him. After wife, if only to show her that he was not the war and the fire Father Ariosto—for so the frivolous fortune-hunter she thought he was called-had gone to another part of him. If she accepted him he would stand the country-to Livorno, thought the syndic to his guns, whatever his father and mother of Balafria. Alfred went to Livorno, and after might say, and if she did not he would have a good deal of trouble found that the syndic the satisfaction of knowing that he had be- was right. It appeared, however, that from haved well and deserved Vera's good opi- Livorno Father Ariosto had gone somewhere nion.

else, and Balmaine followed on his traces from She refused him, as he had rather feared place to place until he reached Genoa, where —perhaps if he had analysed his motives he learnt that the reverend gentleman had rigidly he would have said hoped—but in a embarked on board a vessel bound for the very different fashion from the first time- Southern Seas, with the intention of proseriously, and with many expressions of sym- ceeding thither as a missionary; but as the pathy and regret. She could not love him, ship ran ashore on a cannibal island, and there she said—from no fault of his—and to marry was reason to believe that all the ship’s coma man whom she did not love would be a pany—except an able-bodied seaman, who double wrong, a wrong to him and a wrong alone escaped to tell the tale-were either to her; but she should always take the drowned or eaten-possibly both-it did warmest interest in his welfare, and hoped not seem likely that the priest would be to see him one day a Member of Parliament available as a witness in the suit of Hardy and a great man.

against Hardy, and to this effect Alfred It is probable that the refusal so gra- advised Artful and Higginbottom. As for ciously given pleased Sydney quite as much the other witnesses—and there were beyond

XXVIII-55

" What a

doubt two-- he failed to find out their not yet reported himself at the office of the names, and could not, therefore, very well Day. He feared that his letters had misfind out them, nor did he, albeit he adver- carried or been suppressed. He would ask tised extensively in divers Italian papers. Cora to see Vera that very afternoon, and

Yet notwithstanding Alfred's failure in arrange for a tryst later on in the day. the main object of his expectation, it had “ Is Miss Balmaine in ?” he asked the not two important consequences. Wherever he very intelligent maid who answered the bell, went he was struck by the abject poverty and, without waiting for a reply, went to of the masses of the Italian people, and he the room in which his cousin was wont to do wrote some letters on the subject, which her literary work. pleased the editor of the Day and rather Cora was not there; but somebody else was. startled his readers. They gave so much “ Vera !” satisfaction, indeed, that he was requested “ Alfred !” to continue them, and with that object The next moment they were in each other's visited the south, and in an interesting arms. series of articles he was able to show the “ You here?” he exclaimed. close connection which obtained between the delightful surprise !" indigence of the people and the twin curses “What, did you not get the letter I sent of brigandage and the Mafia and the Camorra, to Naples? I am here altogether." and other secret societies of black-mailers, “Here altogether!” which the authorities, in spite of their utmost “Yes ; I have left the Leytons, and see efforts, were unable to suppress.

(pointing to some sketches that lay on the When Mr. Manifold thought the British table), "I am earning my own living." public had had enough of this sort of thing “But what has happened ? Tell me all he instructed Balmaine (who for the previous about it, for in an hour I should be at the six weeks had been acting exclusively for office of the Day." the Day) to return to London, informing Vera told him all about it. As she said him at the same time that the proprietors laughingly, he was the cause of all the and the manager and himself were so pleased trouble. Their secret had been discovered, with his letters that they were prepared, on by one of those accidents which so often terms which he would learn on his arrival, mar the best-laid schemes. The greater to offer him a permanent place on the paper. part of her letters came by the first delivery,

Nothing could well be more satisfactory, and were always lying on the table when and the young fellow was naturally in high she went down to breakfast. Those that feather, as well by reason of the improvement came later were sent up to her room. But in his prospects as on account of the handsome one morning several which came by the manner in which his employers had recog. second delivery were placed by mistake in nised his services. Altogether he profited the breakfast-room, and when Sydney Leyton greatly by his Italian journey, and no less entered at his usually late hour he found in experience than in pocket and reputation. them on the table, near his own. Lazily

. But there is a drawback to everything, and looking over the addresses, without any parhe feared that his new duties would be in- ticular motive, he noticed that one of the compatible with his retention of the editor- letters bore the post-mark of Genoa. ship of Mr. Wilkins's financial journal. If “Who on earth can be writing to her from he had to sacrifice one, however, it would Genoa ?” he soliloquised. “An English hand certainly not be the Day.

too. Some beggar, I suppose. "

The next day he called at Artful and HigCHAPTER LXVII. —HAMMER AND TONGS.

ginbottom's office to ask about the progress of DURING his absence in Italy Balmaine the suit, when the head of the firm showed wrote to Vera regularly and often ; owing to him Balmaine's letter from Genoa announcthe uncertainty of his movements, however, ing the failure of his quest. she wrote less regularly to him; some of the "The same handwriting and the same letters she did write he never received, and place, by Jove !” he thought.

“What can when he reached London he had been without it mean? Are those two carrying on a cornews from her for more than three weeks- respondence, I wonder ? I must find out.” in his love-heated imagination quite an age. By keeping a sharp look out on the letters Boiling over with impatience he rushed off delivered by the postman, and occasionally to Bloomsbury Square-albeit the time was overhauling the contents of the letter-box unconscionably early for a call, and he had in the hall

, he was not long in arriving

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at the conviction that Vera and Balmaine James, but without offering a word in reply, were carrying on a lively correspondence. Vera left the room. Half an hour later she

Now, albeit Vera's denial of his suit had left the house. not broken his heart, the thought that he “ Did I do right?” she asked Alfred when had been rejected in favour of so obscure and she had told her story to the end. impecunious a rival as Alfred Balmaine riled “Quite right,” he answered warmly. “You Sydney exceedingly. It seemed to him, could not have done less, and it would have moreover, that Vera was not acting sin- been a mistake to answer Sir James's insults. cerely, and he straightway informed his But are you as happy here as you were at father of the discovery he had made and the Grosvenor Square, Vera ?” suspicions it suggested.

Happier. I am free here; I can live my Sir James was very angry, and when own life, and I could not there. And, do angry he was apt to be coarse and use rather you know, I find it a real pleasure to earn strong language.

money. Look here” (showing a cheque for “ Confound the fellow !” he exclaimed ; £10 10s.), "I received this only yesterday "I will stop this, and pretty quickly. You for some sketches.” did right to tell me, Sydney. I could not “I congratulate you,” laughed Alfred. have believed that Vera was capable of such “Why, if you go on at this rate you will deceit-I might almost say of such base in become a millionaire by your own efforts. gratitude.”

But where is Gabrielle ?.He opened the attack when they met the Gabrielle, said Vera, was staying with next morning at breakfast.

Lady Layton, as her maid. Lady LeyYou are corresponding with that Alfred ton had called upon Vera the day after Balmaine, Vera,” said the knight abruptly. she left, and tried to persuade her to go “What are your relations with the fellow?" back. But with this request—though Lady

“Sir James !” exclaimed the girl, for the Leyton pressed it, and said her husband had moment quite confounded by the suddenness been too hasty- she found it impossible to of the question.

comply. After the scene with Sir James she “ You do not seem to understand. I ask could not bring herself to accept his hospiwhat are your relations with this Balmaine, tality, and greatly preferred to be with Cora. to whom you write so often ?

“If for no other reason, because we can “We are betrothed,” said Vera quietly, see each other oftener, mon cher ami,” she recovering by an effort her self-possession. said with an affectionate glance at her lover.

“ You are! Well, I call it a piece of “You can come here, but you could not go base ingratitude to go and get engaged to Grosvenor Square." without my knowledge and consent. It must There had been a question of asking the be put a stop to.

Lord Chancellor to order her to return “Pardon me, Sir James, that cannot be. thither; but seeing that Sir James Leyton I am sorry to displease you, but this is a had told her in effect to go, that she would matter about which you must allow me to soon be of age, and that the suit was not please myself.”

likely to last very long, he thought it better “Am I to understand, then, that you not to persevere with the project. From refuse to give this absurd engagement up?". Bloomsbury Square, whither he promised to

Decidedly. Not for all the world would return in the evening, Alfred went into the I give it up

City and waited on Mr. Nonpareil. The “In that case you cannot stay here," re- manager received him with great cordiality, turned the knight furiously.

and after complimenting him warmly on his As you like, Sir James," said Vera, letters, said that if Balmaine liked to take a

” rising from her chair and turning pale. permanent post on the paper he could offer

Besides, don't you see that the fellow him six pounds a week, to begin with ; but wants only your money? A beggarly jour- the staff being very full just then they could nalist without a brass farthing to bless him not find him very much to do; what that self with! He is just speculating on the chance was he would learn from the editor. He of the suit going in your favour. I under- would probably be asked from time to time stand now the cause of those frequent visits to write articles on special subjects, review to Bloomsbury Square. I little thought books, and so forth, and he must hold himthat Miss Balmaine was a mercenary match- self in readiness to proceed to any part of the maker.”

world at very short notice. He could not, With a single indignant glance at Sir of course, contribute to any other daily

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paper ; but for the rest he would be free to continent. So Murgatroyd's evidence amounts dispose of his own time in his own way. to nothing at all. If it were worth while we

Alfred accepted the offer and the condi- would prosecute him for perjury. But the tions at once and left the office in great other witness, Clutterbuck, is dangerous. spirits, for, save in the event of his being From all accounts he is a respectable old dispatched on some distant expedition, he fellow, and according to his affidavit was a would be able both to fulfil his duties on the close friend of the Calder John Hardy, when Day and conduct the Financial Guide-per- they were both young. When the latter haps do other work as well. He was thus, went to London he went to Manchester, but as touching income, in quite as good a position in after life he met John Hardy more than as if he had remained at Geneva, and there once, and swears that he is our John Hardy were surely a wider field and better chances and no other. He even produces a letter of advancement on the banks of the Thames from him, which appears to have contained than in the pleasant yet somewhat sleepy a remittance; for Clutterbuck, being at the city of the lake.

time in needy circumstances, had applied From the Day office Balmaine went to to his old companion for help. And that is Artful and Higginbottom and had a long not all. The gift is duly entered in the late talk with Mr. Artful and Warton. The Mr. Hardy's private cash book.” Hardy estate, as he already knew, had been "Saintly Sam has a good case then ?” put into Chancery, that is to say, the execu- “It looks so, and unless we can persuade the tors were acting under the direction of the Vice-Chancellor to accept as sufficient the Court, and had, so to speak, become its indirect yet morally unimpeachable proofs of agents. Miss Hardy's claim to the property Philip Hardy's marriage which we are able was being hotly contested by the Fortune to produce—have produced, in fact—we stand Company, interrogatories and answers put a very good chance of being beaten. But and given, affidavits filed, motions made by we are not beaten yet. The witnesses you counsel

, and altogether the suit was pro- could not find may possibly be forthcoming, gressing very satisfactorily-for the lawyers. and Warton is going down to Calder to look

"We are at it, hammer and tongs,” said into the antecedents of the other John Hardy. Warton.

Time is all in our favour, and if we can get the “And what are the probabilities, Mr. Art- better of Saintly Sam and his crew I think ful?” asked Balmaine.

Miss Vera may come into herfortune even yet.” The old lawyer lifted his eyebrows and Balmaine left the lawyer's office in much took a pinch of snuff.

soberer mood than he had left the office of “Difficult to say; but in the absence of the Day, for though his love for Vera was conclusive proofs of the marriage, I very pure and disinterested, and the loss of her much fear that Miss Vera will not get her fortune would cause him no distress, it was fortune just yet; and I begin to believe her not pleasant to think that it might become grandfather was the Calder man after all.” the possession of “Saintly Sam and his crew,

“Saintly Sam will get it then," exclaimed though probably little more than the jackal's Balmaine. “They say he has bought up so share would be left for the crew. That was a many shares in the Fortune Company that lame and impotent conclusion indeed, and he and it are pretty much the same thing.” Vera and Cora, when he talked the matter

“ He stands a very fair chance, I think. over with them in the evening, were greatly All the same, we mean to prevent him—if we excited by the news he had brought.

And one of their witnesses—a fellow “And they call this English law !” exof the name of Murgatroyd-has so palpably claimed Vera indignantly. “For the slur perjured himself that it will cause the court cast on my father and mother's memory I to look with suspicion on the other man's care nothing. They regarded each other as evidence. Mr. Murgatroyd has committed husband and wife, and that is enough for the fault of being too precise. He takes me. But if this Mr. Samuel Hardy inherits oath that he saw the late Mr. Hardy on a day the fortune destined by my grandfather for which he cannot specify, but in a month and my father and by my father for me, it will year about which he is quite sure, at his be an infamy, a travesty of justice. I would office in London. Now the late Mr. Hardy rather give it to that crossing-sweeper in the was a very exact man, and kept a business street there, or scatter it broadcast to be diary wherein all his movements are care scrambled for by beggars—anything rather fully recorded; and from this diary it appears than bestow it on this unprincipled scheming that at the time in question he was on the Calder cotton-spinner.”

can.

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