Imatges de pÓgina
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ings of man or woman--it's all affectation, “I did not know you were going to treat Brian."

me so handsomely, mon père." “ That is your creed ? "

“Oh! you did not know who was your “Yes-absolutely mine. I have found best friend ?" out too many of my species in my time, to

“No." believe in one of them,” he said conceitedly; “Or give him credit for having a little of “there is not a man without his price ; it's the family shrewdness ? " the same all over the world—trust me as a “ Not an atom's worth." great traveller and a shrewd observer, Brian. “Well, here's your health, Brian—your I know it."

very good health," said Mr. Halfday, lifting “And you have found out that my price up his glass. for helping you to secure the money, and “And yours," responded Brian, as he to stamp under foot remorselessly all oppo- imitated his father's example. sition to its acquirement, is ten thousand The two men drank, the elder in a pracpounds ?"

tised manner, which tilted the contents at Yes, I have found out that,” said the once out of sight, and then they faced each other, laughing; “ you hid yourself very well other again, both smiling and genial-sire behind the heroics, but the touch of gold and son united after years of silence and brought you to earth.”

distrust between them

-a strange sight for Ten thousand pounds is a sum worth the gods ! having," said Brian.

“Now, Brian," said William Halfday

'" “ It is a fortune to you.”

when he had put his glass on the table, “And may make another fortune, with “the real fact of the case is that your grandcare. I am glad you have come,” said father Adam did not die without a will." Brian, “ I think we will have a glass of grog and a cigar before we proceed further into the affair,—what say you ?” “With all my heart.”

CHAPTER VI. Brian put his papers into his desk, which he locked and set aside, and placed on the table in its stead a decanter, two glasses, and a box of cigars. His whole manner had changed within the last few minutes, RIAN HALFDAY took the cigar from

his mouth to breathe more freely afcongratulated himself on stripping from his ter this announcement. It was a momentson the disguise which had perplexed him. ary spasm of surprise, for he said very calmHere was Brian Halfday his true self at ly the instant afterwardslast !—it would have been very odd to find “Yes, that makes a difference in the posihim different from the rest of the family—it tion certainly. Where is the will ?” would have been absolutely unnatural. “Ah ! that is what I want you to find

Brian walked about the room singing wild out !” snatches of song indicative of the high spir- “That is my share of the work for a share its to which his father's communication had of the plunder," said Brian, “if you will exraised him ; he mixed the brandy-and-water cuse my calling it plunder in the excitement with a smiling countenance above the grog- of the moment. glasses—he pushed the cigars towards his “I don't mind what you call it, so that companion, and was particular in selecting the money falls into our hands." one for himself, which he lighted with all “I suppose not. And the lawyer is not the care and attention peculiar to a man aware of a will?" who smokes his life away.

“He has not the slightest idea," replied “Now, to business again,” he said, drop- the father. ping into an easy chair and stretching his “Who told you anything about it?” legs to their full length, “it is consolatory to “ Peter Scone-one of the brotherhood think that we understand each other at last." an old man who was once cashier in the firm

“You said we never should,” replied the of Westbrook and Halfday.” father.

“I know him," said Brian, thoughtfully

THE FAILURE OF THE MISSION.

B

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at him.

“but he may be dreaming all this—he is in somewhere in the church of the Hospital, his dotage.'

where Peter Scone thought he might find it, “ He is the cunningest old fox that ever ifhe were paid well for his trouble. Otherwise existed,” cried Mr. Halfday ; "why that man he fancied his memory might fail him at the did not make a fortune in his day I cannot last. Oh ! that man's an awful humbug, conceive."

Brian !” “When did he tell you ? how was it that “ How much does he want?” you met him ?” said Brian with his old “ Five hundred pounds if he should be rapidity of utterance. “Go on ; this is getting lucky enough to find it,"

1; serious."

“ Does he know the contents of the “Ah! by Heaven, it is, Brian."

will ?" “We must do something-and that “Oh! yes, he knows ; it is easily guessed quickly."

at, he says, and I say so too. We are both Ay-we must.”

out of the reckoning, that's certain." “Well, well,” said Brian impatiently, "go “ Both of us.

That is bad," said Brian. on with the story, and then we shall see how “ Devilish bad.” to act."

“ Then it is Dorcas, whom he did not “Do you mind my helping myself to half-love a great deal, and to whom he was ala-glass more of your excellent brandy ?—it ways as hard and uncharitable as—I was,"

steadies my nerves, and you have probably mused Brian. • observed an awkward habit I have of trem- “ Yes—Dorcas—as if she could not wait bling like an aspen.”

until her poor father's death," whimpered “Drink away,” said Brian carelessly. Mr. Halfday, “ before superseding him in

Mr. Halfday mixed his second glass of this way. spirits-and-water whilst Brian looked gravely “ Dorcas !” said Brian again ; “into

whose hands next is this accursed money to “Shall I mix for you also ? ” asked the pass ?” father.

“ Don't curse the money, Brian," implored “Not now-presently."

his father, “it is profanity to go on like that. “As you please."

It is not business." Mr. Halfday drank deeply, set his glass “It must be Dorcas," said Brian to himaside, and recommenced.

self, "and there is more misery ahead of “ You must know, my dear boy," he said us. very confidentially now, “that when it “Misery," cried the father, catching at struck me I might require proofs of identi- the word, “I should rather think there was, fication, I wrote to Peter Scone. He met unless we can raise-I mean you can raise me in the city, and we had a few words at five hundred pounds to pay this cormofirst-not many—about a trifling and ridi- rant, and then no one need know about the culous loan which he had once advanced. I will." told him he should have the money with “Why did Adam Halfday make this will ample interest to boot, and that appeased at all ?” said Brian. him. He remembered me as William Half- “You offended your grandfather one day very clearly, and was prepared to swear day—" to me in any court of law, providing his ex- "I was always offending him." penses were paid, in the United King- “And he had saved a little money," condom.”

tinued the father;" he had scraped together, “ And this will ?”

as you know yourself, some seventy pounds. “Don't be in a hurry, my dear boy,"con- He thought that you wanted it, or had some tinued Mr. Halfday," he did not tell me idea he had saved it, and he swore to Peter anything about the will then; bat a few Scone that you should not be the better for days afterwards he came to me again, and his death by a single penny. He made a in an artful, roundabout way that disgusted will, and Peter Scone and one of his brethme, he let out that he remembered Adam ren since deceased were the witnesses to Halfday's making a will a few weeks before the document." he died. He remembered witnessing it with

“ So Peter Scone says ? " another brother-and Adam's hiding it away “Oh, it's true enough," groaned the

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father, “it's no use building on the hope that “The money is safer in Dorcas's hands Peter has told a lie.”

than in yours." “ He can be compelled to give up the The will may not be found.” will," said Brian.

"It shall be found," said Brian decisively. “ By law, you mean? But that will not I am sorry you should see it in this suit our book."

light,” continued the father ;“ I don't mean “Ah! I had forgotten we do not benefit any one harm, for, of course, I should reby the document."

member Dorcas, who would not have been “Besides, Scone does not own to possess- put in the will if your grandfather had known ing it-swears he has it not-but thinks he that I was alive. He was always particumay be able to find it,” said the father. “Ilarly fond of me.' have told you all this before. How dull you • He always spoke of you as a scamp," are.

answered Brian. “ Yes," assented Brian, “I am very dull.” " Ah ! that was his facetious way. He

“ Take some brandy,” he said, stretching called me a young scamp when I was two out his hand for the decanter, “I always years old, but he never meant anything by find that brandy-”

Brian had risen and set the decanter out Brian looked at his watch. of his father's reach.

“ I have no more time to spare,” he said “No more in this house," said Brian, bluntly. " or you will go reeling to your home, bab- Mr. Halfday senior took the hint, and, bling your wretched secrets to any one who When he was standing before Brian, cares to listen."

twirling his hat nervously in his hands, he “ I am not such a fool as that,” replied saidMr. Halfday.

“All that I have said, Brian, is in the “You are not wise,” said Brian contemp- strictest confidence between us.” tuously, or you might have discovered I was “ I am bound to no promise.” the last man whom you could trust.”

“I have told you the whole truth, think“I trust you because it is your interest to ing you would see the matter in the same help me.”

light as myself," Mr. Halfday continued, “ I have no interest in the matter." “and you were acting all the time.”

“ That's a cool remark," said the father, “ Not all the time." when you have just agreed to

“You led me to think I might put faith “Nothing, Mr. Halfday. Pray do not in you. You did indeed.” misunderstand me.”

Did you put faith in me when you came “ But you will raise this five hundred to Datchet Bridge ?” asked Brian sternly. pounds ?

“You frightened me then—it was meet" It is a sum almost beyond my power to ing a stranger and expecting perfect confiraise for any honest purpose—I shall not at dence at once-it was natural I should be tempt the experiment in order to bribe that upon my guard," was the reply. poor old rascal at St. Lazarus,” said Brian. Brian- now I have made inquiries and found

“You foolish fellow, don't you see it puts how good and earnest and strong-minded and ten thousand pounds in your pocket?" careful a fellow you are, IAnd I don't want you

“I will hear no more,” shouted Brian as he to have ten thousand pounds."

sprang to his feet, “ I will bear with you no “You will never betray my confidence," more. Do your worst, or best, I am oppossaid the father, beginning to tremble once ed to you; you are a villain, and had hoped more ; “1 have put my whole trust in you, to find your likeness in the son you ran Brian.”

away from. Now, sir, let me see you from Finding it difficult to discover a confed- this house for ever.erate elsewhere, you come to me," said The man cowered at the wrath of Brian's Brian, "and I have to meet deceit with de- words and looks. He was afraid of him, ceit to get at your vile plans."

and he slunk towards the door without “Hard names to your own father. This another protest against the reception he had is 'sharper than a serpent's tooth,' consider- met with; he had shown his hand and been ably sharper," said Mr. Halfday abjectly. defeated ; he had discovered an honest man

“ But now,

“ And in yours.

a

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whose behaviour had perplexed him, and “ Did you take me for a policeman, Halfwhose disregard of his own interests was past day ?" asked the old man. all comprehension. He had been led to ex- “ I have nothing to fear from the police; pect so very different a man in Brian Half- but I hate to be taken off my guard,” he day; he had found an enemy where he had answered. believed a friend and confidant would rise “Well, well, what does he say?" asked up for a bribe. He could scarcely see his Peter very eagerly ; "you haven't told me way to the end now—ruin and disgrace one scrap of the news for which I have been stared him closely in the face.

waiting and shivering here this hour." He went along the public rooms of the “Let us get into the Close, where we can Museum preceded by its custodian ; he crept talk in safety," said Mr. Hálfday; "there like a shadow of evil down the broad may be listeners at every corner of these oaken staircase into the hall; he sidled cursed alleys." from the hall into the street without another “So there may," assented Scone, as he word to Brian, or even a furtive glance at put his left arm through William Halfday's him as he passed him on his way.

and toddled on by his side. Am I leaning too heavily upon you?”

“Yes, you are,” said Mr. Halfday frankly.

“ I can't help it. I'm a very old man,

William, and require support. I have not CHAPTER VII.

your robust youth and strength.”

“Don't talk like a fool,” growled HalfKNAVES IN COUNCIL.

day.

They passed through the open gates into HEN he was fairly out of sight of the Close, and made for the broad road be

his son, who remained at the open tween the elms and the tall houses of the door of the Penton Museum as though dean and chapter, and where there were the night air was grateful to him, Mr. Wil- some yards of open ground on either side liam Halfday came to a full stop. The of them. An eavesdropper under the giant curves of this narrow, old-fashioned street trees, or lurking in the shadow of the oppohad left him nothing save the top windows site wall, could have learned nothing from of the Museum to shake his clenched and their conversation, and might as profitably trembling hands at, but this he did with en- have been concealed in the cathedral towers ergy, and with a considerable amount of which loomed before them in a starlit sky.

a violent and improper language.

“Well, well—what does the curator say?" He was still anathematizing his son with said Peter Scone again; "you put the quesa vigour and eloquence that would have re- tion delicately to him, and without woundflected credit on a better cause, when some ing his feelings, to begin with?” one touched him suddenly and sharply on “You may guess what he said by the the shoulder with a stick. Mr. Halfday was passion in which you found me, Peter," was his natural self at once; he gave a cry of his companion's reply. alarm and fell against the wall for support Ay, ay-you were saying awful words, in his new fright.

but I fancied he had only driven too hard a "Well, how did you get on with him ? ” | bargain with you." croaked a rusty voice in his ears, and Mr. “He will have nothing to do with me,” Halfday, coming back by spasms to more said Halfday. "He treats me like a dog.' self-composure, recognised the form and “What did you offer him?” was Peter features of old Peter Scone. He recollected Scone's next inquiry. also that this brother of the Noble Poor had “Halves of anything I got by letters of spent the afternoon with him, and promised administration." to wait for him near the gates of the cathe- “Did you—did you say anything about dral till the interview with Brian had taken me?" place, and here was the man grinning like a “ Yes—I did.” death's head and waiting for the news. That was exceedingly imprudent—that

“How you have scared me, Scone!" he was a breach of confidence between us, mind said.

you,” said Peter Scone; "you might have

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said that a certain party had told you that ed Mr. Scone, shaking his head vigorously; he knew another certain party who thought you would be off with all the money withit was possible to find a will of Adam Half- in an hour of laying your hands upon it. day's."

You have a most unpleasant way of slipping “I am too straightforward a man to go into obscurity when it suits with your condodging about in that way,” said Halfday venience." scornfully.

I swear that I will pay you every penny “Oh! yes—certainly," was the ironical that I promise you. Bind me down in any reply.

way, Peter-and rely on my good faith.” 'Besides, he would not have believed me, “I never relied on any one's good faith and 1-I thought it was quite safe, he in my life, and I am not going to begin seemed to seize the bait so greedily. And now," said Peter ; " besides life is short, it was all play-acting-vile deception—by and I'm eighty-six years of age. Hale and all that's holy. And that man I am com- strong, but a very old man, William—awfulpelled by the law of the country to call my ly old." son,” he cried.

“Awfully obstinate and distrustful," mut“It is hard,” said Peter.

tered William Halfday. “I will never forgive him. Peter, old fel- “And this may be robbing your own low, I have only you to trust in now. You daughter, although I haven't a doubt but will not desert me?"

that you will provide properly for her." “I am a poor man, and can't do anything “ To be sure I would.” for you, William."

“Although, if this will could be found" You can.

And I can do a deal for I say if it could be found-Dorcas would you when I get rich, if you will only wait." pay as handsomely as you to any one lucky “How do you mean?"

enough to discover it; or Dorcas's mistress, “I have explained it all before, Peter, the rich Miss Westbrook from the States, but you don't or won't understand,” said Mr. would give the man who found it money Halfday in an injured tone of voice; "if down. And, William Halfday, it's the money you say nothing about the will —

-down in these old hands—I want. Six “ I never said positively there was a will," months hence may be too late for me-six remarked Peter cautiously; "I remember weeks hence—six days. Good God, man, witnessing Adam's signature to some docu- don't you understand? I'm eighty-six years ment or other, and Adam's saying he knew of age, and haven't time to enjoy life and where to keep the paper in safety—and I money without I'm sharp about it. I must think I might be able, in a long search, to have money now-a heap of money!" find it, if it's still in existence. That is all Peter Scone's avarice and eagerness were I said."

pitiable things to witness; but they were “Except that you wanted five hundred displayed before one whose feelings were pounds."

not likely to be impressed or shocked. “I never said that, William. You re- | Halfday was fighting for money also, after his marked,"and here the old man's bony fingers own bad fashion, but life was not at a criticclosed tightly on the arm of his companion, al point with him as with this aged man " that it would be worth five hundred pounds who clung to him, and raved of riches, and to any one to find that will, and I agreed would not trust to time to bring them to him. with you. This might be a long search- “I dare not ask my lawyer for more for Adam was an old magpie in storing money; he told me flatly I must not expect things in holes and corners-and to find the any more," said William Halfday, “and will was wealth to the legatee at any rate." that I could afford to wait. To ask him for

“Look here, Peter," said Mr. Halfday, a large sum would be to arouse his suspi"you can keep the will till I am rich. That's cions and setspies upon me. Peter, you must fair. Let me get out the letters of adminis- help me ; you must not turn against me and tration and come into the property, and I send me to beggary like this." will give you two thousand pounds down on “I don't send you to beggary.” the day you bring the document to me. “ You do. They will never help me. You're safe-I'm not."

Brian hates me, and so will Dorcas ; and I “I could not trust you, William," answer- shall be cast down into the lirt of the

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