Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

3

He turned very red as he spoke, and Mr. Strafford, who was on the watch for every point of law, pressed for further explanation.

" It was my own fault,” the man said. “I am a teetotaler now, and hope to remain so; but the mischief is done.”

Mr. Strafford understood him then.

“Well," he said, "you must give me all the information necessary, together with a copy of the will, and then we will see what can be done. It seems to me that you have sold what was not altogether yours to sell, your mother having a life interest in it.”

“Yes, sir, and that's what worries me. To think that I should have turned my mother out of house and home at her time of life, and my sister, too, when she ought to have been married comfortably and stayed where she is. I shall bear the sorrow and shame of it to my grave, Mr. Strafford.”

“ All this will have to be made public, I'm afraid, if we go into court about it," Mr. Strafford said, after some minutes' reflection. “ Could you make up your mind to that ?”

“I'd make up my mind to anything that would set things right,” Dean answered. “I would stand at the street corners and tell every passer-by what I have done, and how I came to do it, if that would be of any use. I'll do anything you bid me, Mr. Strafford. Only say the word, and I'll do it.”

"Give me your hand upon it.”

Joshua Dean put forth his hand impulsively, but drew it back again.

“No, sir," he said, “not now; when I am an honest man again-prove me.” He laid his hand upon his heart as he spoke, and his eyo glistened. Mr. Strafford was more than satisfied, and rose to go.

While this conversation was going on in the parlour, another, ot less momentous, was proceeding in the kitchen, where Captain Broad was talking in low, but earnest tones to Lucy; old Mrs. Dean sitting in her high-backed chair, and looking on well pleased, not having the slightest idea of what was passing between them.

Lucy had told the captain of Mr. Strafford's visit and the object of it; and the captain had made a proposal, which seemed to his mind to meet the case exactly. He was always ready with expedients, and seldom missed an opportunity of urging his strong reasons upon Lucy Dean.

"It might be all done in a fortnight, Lucy,” he said. “You know that my house is in nice order, and almost as large as your own; and there is nobody to occupy it, since my poor dear mother went to her rest above. I have had it done up so nicely, if you would but go and look at it. There would be a room for your mother, and three good bedrooms, and a little one besides. You could take them all in, and make them so happy and so comfortable in your own house, Lucy, dear ; and nobody could ever turn you out of that; and very likely Mrs. Howard would like to stay with you all my next voyage, and she would be pleasant company."

Lucy would have been very glad to make them all happy ; but that was not her first thought at that moment.

"You will have to leave this house, you know; and where are you to go, with your mother? I can't go on board ship again until I see you settled. It's impossible. Why won't you just say 'Yes,' and let me go and see about it?”

Lucy continued silent while he spoke, but it was too evidently not the silence of consent. She had resolved not to leave her mother, and also not to take her where she would be a burden to any one else. Her brother, too, was hardly to be trusted yet, she thought; she could not expect that he would make his home in Captain Broad's house, as the latter had proposed, and if he were to live by himself he would be again exposed to

[ocr errors]

temptation, and, apart from all other considerations, might not be able to fulfil his engagements towards his mother and to provide for her support.

She liked to hear the captain's voice, and to feel her hand clasped in his, while he urged his suit, but she continued firm to her resolution. She would be a helpmeet for him some day, she said to herself, if he should renew his proposals at the proper season, but so long as her mother lived she could not marry. It would have been so different if they could have continued where they were. He might have let his own house and taken up his abode in theirs; it would have been only for a few weeks now and then, for he was generally at sea.

“No," she said, at length; "we must not think of it. Some day, perhaps, things may be different, but, but you and I must be nothing more to each other than friends—dear friends-at present; that is all. And if you will not feel hurt, I think you had better leave me to myself in future, it is so painful, so trying to have to refuse again and again, when—"

“When what, Lucy? When your heart would bid you say 'Yes'?"

She was silent, and he took it for assent.

“Say 'Yes,' then,” he pleaded ; "it is only for my sake that you refuse: for my sake, I entreat you to say 'Yes'!”

She rose from her seat, pressed her lips firmly together, and, shaking her head, left him.

He looked at her gloomily, feeling that his last hope was gone, and turned away from the house.

" I'll go up to London to-night,” he said to himself, as he walked away, mortified and half ashamed, he scarcely knew why. “I'll get aboard ship at once, that's the only thing to be done now; I've had my answer."

Mr. Strafford was in the shipyard as he passed through it, and Joshua Dean with him. The latter spoke to him, but he

[ocr errors]

son.

would not stop, and pushed forward with only a passing word. “That's Captain Broad," said Dean ; "he knows your grand

He commanded the Neptune when Mrs. Howard took passage to India; he knows him very well, and was very fond of him the short time he was aboard.”

“ Yes," said Mr. Strafford, "he was very kind to my boy. I saw him when he came over to Abbotscliff to inquire after him. I should have liked to shake hands with him."

Joshua called after the captain again, but he neither stopped nor turned to look round.

“Never mind,” said the old squire, “I shall see him again soon, no doubt. I do not mean to lose sight of any one who was kind to my boy if I can help it."

That same evening, after his return to Abbotscliff, Mr. Strafford wrote to his solicitor in 'London, and in the course of a day or two received a reply. Mr. Trimmer thought it was a doubtful case. Everything would turn upon the intention of the testator in making his will—whether he meant to give his widow a lien upon the estate itself or only upon his son. The case was worth trying; he would submit it to counsel and get an opinion upon it. Mr. Strafford did not gather much encouragement from Mr. Trimmer's letter. Many questions were worth trying from a lawyer's point of view which it would be better for their clients to let alone. Counsel's opinion came after a few days, and confirmed all that the solicitor had said. Cases were cited for and against. The result would depend in some measure upon the court, and still more upon the view taken of it by the judge. It was "worth trying." An evident wrong had been done, and theoretically the judicial function ought to set it right. Mr. Strafford decided to go on with it, and went up to London at once to consult with Mr. Trimmer as to the steps which should be taken,

CHAPTER XLIV.

POSSESSED.

The selfish heart deserves the pain it feels.
More gen'rous sorrow, while it sinks, exalts;
And conscious virtue mitigates the pang.

Young.

[ocr errors]

HILE Joshua Dean, aided by his new friend, Mr. Strafford,

is meditating an attack upon Mr. Chaffin with a view to the recovery of his property at Sandy Frith, the affairs of the company which had taken in hand to convert that primitive little town into a fashionable watering-place are not going on satisfactorily. The Sandy Frith Investment, etc., Company, though it had been started under favourable auspices, had not met with that general and enthusiastic support on the part of the public which the directors had anticipated. A sufficient number of shares had been placed to make a start, and operations had commenced upon the Sandy Frith Estate. It had been calculated by the original promoters that as soon as the scheme should become generally known there would be a great demand for building sites, and that land which had been purchased by the acre would be sold by the yard, bringing immediate funds into the treasury, and so avoiding the necessity of calling up the payments of the shareholders. But the public had not shown sufficient alacrity in adopting the scheme of the directors. There were notices on various parts of the estate and in the newspapers offering most desirable plots of land on building leases, but no one came to lease them or to build on them. Public promenades were laid out, but there was no public to “do them " in the usual fashionable style. The company kept pushing forward its own buildings in order to

« AnteriorContinuar »