« НазадПродовжити »
irresistible desire to kiss her- he did so—and then their eyes met-hers so full of love and boundless faith, that he could no longer bear it, but seemed struck to the heart as by a spasm, and turned so deadly pale that Hirell was alarmed, and somehow from that moment the day lost for her-what, she knew not-but something of which there was no return, then or thereafter.
Hirell,' said he, 'I am curious to know how you-a woman-have so lost all curiosity ?
I-I really don't understand,' and she certainly did look puzzled ; then suddenly her face flushed, and flushed again as she thought to herself he meant why she did not ask about his name, his condition, vocation, &c.
Cunliff saw the flushes, and attributed them to the letter. which he was determined to have forth, or know something about.
'I mean that I could not exercise so much self-denial as to keep a letter in my pocket, unopened.'
Oh, I know who it is from !' and as Hirell said this her cheek undoubtedly did colour a little, though instantly there followed a kind of tender severity of expression.
'Indeed!' said Cunliff, in a tone so significant, that Hirell found it impossible to pass it without notice.
'It is—it is,' she said, with an ingenuous smile breaking forth over her face, “it is from my relative-Robert Chamber. layne.'
Indeed!' again commented Cunliff, and the tone and look said plainly, 'Why did you not say so before ?
He saw Hirell grew more and more uncomfortable, and at last he drew from her the whole story of Robert Chamberlayne's devotion, offer, and rejection, which the present lover listened to with chequered feelings. He could not but admire Chamberlayne : could not but acknowledge there was something more than mere sunny pleasantness of character in the man who had so behaved; but for that very reason he was only tho more annoyed that Hirell should have been so mysterious about the letter.
The incident suggested to him quite a new field of speculation, and apparently it was a very unpleasant prospect he thought he saw.
Hirell, meanwhile, had drawn forth the letter from her pocket, and began to read it; Cunliff turned a little away, but not so far but he could see, under his half-closed lids, her every movement, look, or thought, as he fancied.
As she went on with the perusal, her face became very serious for a time, then fall of strange light; and as she ended there was a rapt look heavenward, such as Canliff remem. bered in an old print of one of Bellini's saints.
Read, dear friend, read! Oh, God is with us still. My father! My dear father! If now we could only find Hugh!'
Canliff took the letter, and also read it with deep interest -for reasons perhaps little guessed by Hirell.
“MY DEAR HIRELL, -A curious thing has happened, which I think it best for you and your father to judge of, without my interference in the matter any farther than I am com. pelled.
‘But I must first tell you that had the letter—of which the below is a copy-reached me only a day sooner, your father would have had it, for he has been here seeking poor Hugh. Unfortunately I could only say I had never seen him-nerer heard from him since his removal to London.
The letter itself I have sent after your father to an address he gave me, for he could not even then give up the idea that Hugh would sooner or later find his way to me, but I have made a copy of it first for you, which I shall here transcribe:
6“ SIR,- Mr. James Morgan, a partner in the late firm of Morgan & Garnet, of Bermondsey, in which you were, we understand, largely interested, and by whose failure you were a great sufferer, has, since the bankruptcy, and the receipt of his certificate, come into some little property; and in consequence is desirous—for special reasons, which he would rather explain personally than by letter—to make you, a countryman of his own, some compensation for the heavy loss you endured, preparatory to his paying the whole of the debts at some future day, should fortune favour him.
6" We may, from ourselves, hint that our client feels very deeply the deception practised in dividing profits, while trading at a loss, but is confident you would exonerate him if you knew the whole truth.
666 For the present, suffice it to say he has lodged five hundred pounds in our hands to be paid to you, as. a part of your own,-morally, not legally, due to you, and it is accom. panied only by this condition, that nothing be said to the other creditors, till such time as he himself may be prepared to deal with them.
6" He makes an exception in your case first, because he knows, he says, of certain facts which you are not acquainted with, which makes your position a peculiarly hard one, as regards the firm ; secondly, because he hears of your debts, and how cruelly the disappointment fell on you; and lastly, because the sum that alone he could spare would, if divided among all the creditors, produce but slight benefit or satisfaction at present, and lead possibly to unreasonable expectations and annoyance as regards the future. We are, sir, your obedient servants,
O" MAXWELL & DODD.".
Such, dear Hirell, was the letter which was sent first to the solicitors I before employed, and by them forwarded to me, when they were made aware of the contents; they thinking, I suppose, that I had managed so wonderfully well before, it would not do to employ anybody but me now-confound them!
“Of course I went to my lawyers and asked them whether the thing wasn't mere humbug.
They replied that the five hundred pounds were ready to be paid to them at a moment's notice, on receiving Elias Morgan's authority, and left me to judge whether that was humbug.
“Greatly puzzled, I went then to Maxwell and Dodd, strongly inclined to ask them to let me see and handle the said fire hundred.
• The upshot is, the money is there—so they say ; and that your father-so they say—can get it either personally, or by getting a Dolgarrog attorney to prepare and send up a proper document.
So they say, mind—not I. “If you ask me whether I believe they mean what they say, I reply, “Yes, but will be responsible to your father for nothing, after what happened before."
'But now, my dear Hirell, I want to speak to you. I have not been a very exacting relative, companion, or friend, I think, and if you think so too, I want to get some benefit from some such a character.
Your father, when I saw him, seemed to me under such a
strain as no man can long stand. Either he or that must give way. Hugh, too, whom I love as a brother, and in whom I have still full faith-what is to be done with him in your father's present poverty ?
Well, then, I want you to accept from me, as an advance out of this new and most fortunate acquisition, a hundred pounds, to be used as you and Kezia shall see fit, saying nothing to your father till he has received and is quite satisfied about the five hundred pounds. .
Should he reject the proffer—as he certainly will, if he can find any loophole or crevice through which a moral doubt may pass, and take possession-then let me be Kezia's cre-. ditor only, if you are too proud, or too unkind, to give me this one single pleasure that might be given.
'I entreat you for your father's sake to accept this—and for Hugh's.
'I will not ask you to be sure I shall never seek any kind of return, for you are quite incapable of thinking so ill of me as the words might imply.
Unluckily I am not likely to remain your and Kezia's creditor long enough even to believe in my own merits, so no more from your true friend,
Cunliff smiled once in reading this—a very curious smile, which Hirell saw; but before she could ponder on its meaning, it was gone-never to return, and she forgot it almost as soon.
No wonder he did give one brief smile at the ingenuity of Mr. Jarman in obeying the instructions he-Cunliff-had given; and which seemed to leave the business-however seemingly improbable in the abstract-quite beyond cavil practically.
But Chamberlayne again ! He saw tears in Hirell's eyes, and was foolish enough, while divining their meaning, to obtain confirmation from her own lips.
Yes, it was Chamberlayne's behaviour, she owned, that had drawn forth those sweet tears. She confessed it, while calling on him to say whether he did not share with her in the general emotion she felt.
“Yes,' he said aloud, and then to himself he added—'D_n him !'
With a cry of surprise, Hirell now took a cheque from the envelope, that had not before been noticed.
See, Mr. Rymer, see; he has sent the money without even saying so. That is so like him, is it not?'.
*You will send it back of course ?' said Cunliff.
'I think not,' said Hirell, thoughtfully; yet with a kind of decision in the tone that struck Cunliff as new—or at least new towards him.
* You must ! you must indeed! I will do instead what he proposes.
Are you so rich ?? asked Hirell, wistfully. “Will you oblige me, Hirell ?'
'Dear friend, do you not see, I could not so offend my own relative and old companion, neither could I take from you
Hirell stopped in quite a fit of distress, that she could not make her lover understand without words, how indelicate she would have felt it, to take money from him, to say nothing of her father's thoughts.
Cunliff was silent and moody, but her next words restored peace.
'I would not take it even from Robert Chamberlayne, but I know—that he knows-that
Cunliff finished the broken sentence by another kiss, as if to show her he understood and perfectly appreciated the distinction between a friend who was and a friend who was not a lover.
But the thought of Chamberlayne, and the tears and smiles and high glow of colour that his name, character, and letter had brought into Hirell's face, continued not merely to trouble and perplex Cunliff, but to give a certain hardening and crystallizing character to purposes that before swayed to and fro in a state of flux.
WERGE CASTLE. It was a great effort that Cunliff had to make to keep up the flow of talk, and yet avoid the topics that were pressing constantly upon his mind with ever-increasing urgency. He concealed the efforts from Hirell, but only at the cost of feeling his own burden the more heavily.
The railway was reached, passed over, and again they were driving in a hired vehicle, which soon set them down within