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not believe one-half of what was said

about any one. He instanced Silcote, and so persistently argued from that example, that he triumphantly proved to himself and his hearers, by lunch time, that Silcote was in all human probability rather a good fellow than other wise. At all events he, with his wife's entire concurrence, ordered his horse, and rode gently over through the wood to leave his card on Silcote, and to get his address.

"It is an uncommon nice place, this," he said to himself, as he came out of the forest into the glades of the park, and saw the way in which artificial order was growing out of nature. "A monstrous nice place; one of the best places in the whole county. What a sad pity it is that a clever man and a gentleman, as he is, should not be more civilized. The best landlord and the best farmer for miles, too. I will see more of him when he comes back; I feel certain that he is a good fellow."

And then he uneasily remembered the general and off-hand accounts of Silcote which he had been accustomed to give, and pricked his horse into a trot, and so came round the corner of the drive on an exceedingly fine groom, whose master was close before him. Lord Hainault passed the groom, and rode up beside the master, a withered, handsome old gentleman, on a valuable cob.

"My dear Sir Godfrey Mallory!" said Lord Hainault. "You are riding far from home."


"I am only from Shiplake. I cannot ride far now. But I have a letter from Italy which tells me that Silcote is dead; and I, quite unconsciously, years ago did him a wrong, and I wish to find out whether there is time to explain my share in it in this world. fear that Silcote has been sadly abused in his lifetime. He was not a bad fellow when I knew him, but jealous and ill-tempered. I wish I could have a talk with him. I have reason to believe that he has owed me a grudge about a very unhappy business, in which I was innocent. I am not long for this

world, and I cannot bear to leave a grudge behind."

"It is like your good-heartedness, Sir Godfrey," said Lord Hainault.

"You mean my good nature," said Sir Godfrey. "We selfish men of pleasure are generally good-natured. I should say that I have been the most good-natured and the most worthless man on the face of the earth. I can really feel nothing-not even this." "Not even what?"

"Do you not see that the house is shut up, and that I am too late with my explanations?"

The house was shut up in reality, and the two rode forward in silence.

"Is your master dead?" said Lord Hainault to the butler, taking the bull by the horns.

"Master is alive, my lord," said the butler; "but we are in sad trouble; sad trouble indeed, my lord."

Sir Godfrey Mallory left his card and rode away, waving his hand to Lord Hainault.

"What has happened?" asked Lord Hainault.

"The young master is dead, my lord."

"Which young master?"

"Mr. Thomas, my lord." "I thought he had been dead long ago," said Lord Hainault. "I want Mr. Silcote's direction."

"Master is expected home at once, my lord," said the butler; and so Lord Hainault rode away also, saying to himself as he went, 'Well, that scamp is well out of the way. Better the schoolboy than him."" And that was all which the county represented by Lord Hainault had to say about Colonel Silcote.

One part of the great Silcote machine which was still in perfect order was the kitchen. Experts generally find that they make their very best efforts after a rest. The Silcotes cook, not condescending to cook for servants, had had an idle time of it for two months, and had taken to fishing at Wargrave. But when Mr. Betts, the senior Mr. Sugden, Miss Dora Silcote, and the children

arrived suddenly at the hall, he put aside his fishing-rods, and did his best. Betts knew what good eating and drinking was, and was an old acquaintance of the cook's. Knowing that he had some one to appreciate him, he put his soul into the work, and Mr. Sugden and Mr. Betts sat down to a very good dinner indeed.

Not that Mr. Betts had the slightest business to take possession of Silcotes.. Sugden was staying with him at St. Mary's when they got the news of Tom Silcote's death. There was not the slightest reason for Betts moving; but he claimed great credit for taking active possession of Silcotes. As he put it to the Squire, "The moment I heard of it I came off. I did not let the grass grow under my feet, sir; I came off at once." Silcote himself was half-persuaded that Betts had done him. a personal service by "coming off" so promptly, though he failed to perceive entirely why Betts should take that particular occasion to kill his bucks. and tap his Madeira. But Betts did both these things, and perfectly persuaded himself the while that he was piling obligations on the Squire's head, which a life-time of devotion on the Squire's part could never repay.

"So you did not see your way to the Italian campaign, Mr. Sugden?" said Betts after the soup.

"Why, no," said Sugden. "I got so heavily used in the Crimea, that after a feeble attempt I gave it up.'

"A wise resolution, nephew."

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"Nephew?" said Sugden, raising his great patient, handsome face to Mr. Betts.

"Certainly," said Mr. Betts, promptly. "Your sister married the late lamented Mr. Thomas Silcote. My daughter married his half-brother, Mr. Algernon Silcote. Consequently I am your uncle. Don't you see?"

"I daresay I shall in time," said Sugden. "Am I to call you Uncle Betts, then?"

"My dear sir, that is entirely a matter of detail a matter entirely between man and nian. I would not for an instant urge a man in your position to

give such a title to a man in my position. Still, there are rules about these things, I believe, and it would be flattering to me."

"I will call you Uncle Betts with the greatest pleasure," said Sugden, “if you like it."

"My dear sir, not for a moment. Between men of the world, like you and me, such distinctions are invidious. If you could possibly induce Mrs. Silcote, your sister, to greet me with the title of uncle, I should have nothing left to desire in this world."

"Oh! she would never do that," said Sugden. "She is very proud."

"You are quite sure that she would not?" said Betts. "Then let us say no more about it. She is the leading member of the family. which I have entered, and her wishes must be studied. It would have been gratifying to my feelings, but let it go. I and you have other claims on Silcote besides those of mere recognition. The instant that you and I heard of this lamentable misfortune we came off promptly and rallied round him. That is a service which he is not likely to forget. Silcote is not ungrateful."


"I think myself," said Sugden, painfully and with difficulty, but with honesty also, just like the mere agricultural labourer which he was, "that we had better not have come at all. is death in the house-the death of my sister's husband, which is bad enough: and also, from what I have gathered, disaster worse than death. It seems to me ill that we should be feasting here in the house of mourning. I am sorry that I came."

"There should always be a gentleman in the house at such times as these, my dear sir," said Betts.

Sugden wondered which of the two was the gentleman, and concluded, in his agricultural mind, neither; but he said

"We will not discuss that matter. Tell me about Anne Silcote. Is the business so bad as I have guessed?"

"It is as bad as bad can be, and there is the whole truth, Sugden," said

Betts, thumping his fist on the table. "There are no servants in the hall, and Dora has not appeared; so I can tell you the truth in a few minutes. I am a vulgar man, and a cunning man, and a man who will only cease to scheme for money when I am nailed in my coffin. But I am not an ungrateful man. I am not the mere snob which you would judge me to be from my manners. Algernon Silcote took me in when I was a bankrupt beggar, and showed me the beauty of a morality more noble than my own. The Squire heaped favours after favours on my head, and put me in the way of having cash again in hand to turn over. have turned that money over. If there is a man in England who understands the handling of money it is myself. I am rich again, richer than you dream of. I only stay at St. Mary's because I think my benefactor Silcote would like it. Yet I tell you, Sugden, that I would have gone into the Bankruptcy Court again to-morrow, have given up every pound which I owned, if I could have prevented this last terrible scandal."



"What is it then?" said "Here are the servants. Will you put those dishes down, and go away, if you please. Mr. Betts and I are talking business.”


When they were gone Sugden resumed: "You seem to me to be two people, Betts," he said; just now you seemed to me to be scheming about an utterly ignoble matter; and then immediately after you came out most nobly."

"I am two people," said Betts. I was bred a share and stockjobber, and shall die one, and at times I try to be a Christian and a gentleman, like Algy Silcote, my son-in-law. Think it out for yourself."

66 Well, I will. But about Anne. Is there anything like dishonour?"

"Utter dishonour, I fear, and utter ruin. She has gone off with a low Italian Austrian. A young Roman. Let us say no more about it."

"How did you hear it?"

thurm. He is a great liar, but he dare not lie to me. He has made the Continent too hot for him generally, by universal political rascality, and must get back to England. He would not dare to lie to me. He has feathered his nest here pretty well, for I made four thousand pounds over his last telegram from Vercelli, in which he told me that the Austrian right was fairly turned, and that the Austrian army would not face the French rifled ordnance. I am afraid that the poor girl is lost."

"I am deeply sorry for this," said Sugden.

"So am I," said Betts.

"You say he is a noble Roman?" said Sugden.

"And a great scoundrel," said Betts. "Why, he is an employé of Kriegsthurm's."

"When Italy is free," said Sugden, "he might make a good match for her."

"You have a good imagination," said Betts, "but he is a great scoundrel. Here is Dora."

Here was Dora. "Well, you two people," she said, "what treason you been talking that you should have banished the servants? If you have done talking treason, I should suggest that they were recalled. If we are to take possession of grandpa's house without the slightest reason, I think we might make use of his servants."

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"From a friend of mine, Kriegs- added Dora.

"They are at peace," said Mr. Sugden; "they won't hurt. I wish that Anne was as well off as they."

Do you believe this about Anne?" said Dora,

"Of course I do."

"I don't," said Dora, emphatically; "not one single word of it."

"You cannot quite help it, I fear," said he.

"I can help it perfectly well," said Dora. "The whole story is a very clumsy falsehood. I tell you that it is the very last thing which Anne would do. And I know something which I could tell you, if I chose; but I don't choose-yes, I do-no, I don't. Look at me, and I shall make up my mind."

Sugden turned his handsome brown face, as calm as a Memnon, as gentle and simple as a child, on hers. She looked at it for a moment, and made up her mind.

"Yes, I do choose. I can tell you what I never could tell Grandpa Betts. You are a gentleman, and he, though the best of men, is not. See here: Anne has done something very foolish indeed, I do not doubt; but it has been all done for spite, and nothing more."

"Spite against whom?"

"Against James, and against me," she said. "You see," she added, blushing, laughing, and gently taking his arm, "I have monopolized James, and she wanted to monopolize him herself. She has done something very violent and foolish in her anger, for she has a sad temper, but nothing in the least degree wrong."

"But Reginald?"

"Reginald and she have quarrelled for the last time, that is all," said Dora. They never did anything else. They never would have got on together."

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"You give me some hope and comfort, my love," said Sugden. "I cannot help believing you while I hear your voice; but my reason is against you."

"Oh, indeed. Where did we get this report?"

"From Mr. Kriegsthurm."

"Mr. Kriegsthurm: a pretty authority!

And one would be glad to hear Miss Heathton's account of the matter. Has she run away too?"

"That is a shrewd remark," said Sugden.


Now, I am going to ask you a favour. Let us get the dogs, and go round the old place for the last time."

"Why for the last time?" said Sugden, when they had called the bloodhounds together, and started down the drive towards the forest.

"You only half quote what I said, and alter my emphasis. I said over the old place for the last time. The old place is no more. In less than an hour there will be a new Silcotes."

"It is true, and a more happy one," said Sugden.

"Well," said Dora, "I don't know; I actually do not know. I remember once that Miss Lee read us that fairy story, I forget which (it is often enough quoted), which ends, And so they all lived happy ever afterwards; and Anne remarked emphatically, 'Dear me, how exceedingly tiresome they must have found it, after such a delightful series of accidents and quarrels.' Do you know that I have been happier in this old house than ever I expect to be again? There, what do you think of that, for instance?"

"There is some reason in it, or you would not have said it, my dear," replied Sugden. "Why do you think so?"


Well, Uncle Sugden (I am not quite sure yet whether you are my uncle or my aunt n'importe; Grandpa Silcote is fountain of honours, and must settle the titles of the new Court), I will tell you why. My dear, in old times this house was a very charming one. There was a perfectly delicious abandon about it, the like of which I have never seen, or even heard of, elsewhere. Coming as I did from the squalor of my father's house, this was a fairy palace for me. True, there was an ogre; my grandfather Silcote was the ogre; but then I like ogres. There was a somewhat cracked princess a real Italian princess-in velvet and jewels; and I like people of that kind. Then there was a dark

story, which we never could understand, which was to us infinitely charming; there was almost barbarous profusion and ostentation, which everybody — I don't care everybody loves in their heart of hearts; there were these bloodhounds, which I hated at first, as a cockney, but which I have got to love as the last remnants of the ancien régime; there were horses, grooms, carriages, ponies, deer, as indeed there are now, with all their charm gone; and lastly, one could do exactly as one liked: one could revel in all this luxury and beauty, set here like a splendid jewel among the surrounding forest, without a soul to control one. this was very charming, for I am a Radical."


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"You are quite sure, then, that the old state of things has passed away," said Sugden.

"My good-distant relation (I will not commit myself)-do you know that you are perfectly foolish at times? Is not my Uncle Arthur going to marry my old governess, Miss Lee? Are they not going to take up their abode here at Silcotes? You have heard of this arrangement, because I have heard you speak of it."

"Then you think, my dear," said Sugden, "that Mr. Arthur and his bride will be inclined to look round and put things square."

Dora only looked at him at first. Her opinion was so strong as to the way in which these two would "put things square," that she did not trust herself to speak of it at present. She as good as passed the question for a time.

"There is a chance that your sister, my aunt Mrs. Thomas Silcote, or, to be more correct, Mrs. Silcote, may be able to do battle with them singlehanded. She is in high favour at head

quarters now, and is likely to remain 80. She is an energetic and courageous woman, and it seems has great influence over grandpa. But she is one, and they are two, and she will have her work cut out for her. She will fight like a dragon for James, but James will be of no assistance to her at all. The Arthur Silcotes will beat her if she don't mind. However, we shall have a happy little household."

"My dear Dora," said Sugden, “you are very worldly."

"I am; I have seen the consequences of not being worldly, and, Uncle Sugden, I was trained in a hard school. I only know this, that I shall make James stick to his art, and be independent, for with this wonderful new happy family arrangement, I see nothing to prevent his being cut out of his grandfather's will to-morrow."

"He will have his mother's moneyfour thousand a year."

"I know that. But it is an evil thing for a man to wait for his mother's money. He shall be independent of that before his mother dies, if I know my own will.”

"You are taking a black view of things."

"I have been used to the darker side of things. I will be more cheerful directly. Let us see what has become of our old Silcotes, in this newer and happier régime. The delightful old abandon of the house is gone for ever. Grandpa, our ogre, has forgotten his ways. Altogether, the old house will never be what it was before. I know that the new order will be better than the old, but I am wicked and perverse, and I hate it."

"You have talked yourself into hating it, Dora," said Sugden, "with what seems to me a great deal of common sense."

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