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business. May I ask if it is consistent with concluded, he drew open a drawer of the your business feelings and intentions to give table before him, and selected from a numme any information concerning myself? I ber of papers which it contained a folded am aware that you placed me under Mrs. sheet of foolscap, indorsed in his own handWood's charge, and that she knows nothing writing,— Henry Hurst's accounts.' of my parents. Will you now, when I have A tempest of anger and dislike had arisen to begin life as a man, tell me who I am, in the young man's heart while the lawyer who my parents are, in what station of life was speaking, which it was as characteristic I was born, to what extent I am defrauded of his temper. to control as to feel. His of my just rights, and why I have been hith- dark face was pale, and his stern brows erto deprived of that knowledge which is were knit into a frown widely at variance the birthright of the meanest of mankind ?' with soft youthful features, which seemed
The young man had risen as he spoke in so unfitting a vehicle for the display of the earnestness of a demand which might such passions; but he did not speak until have had more effect had it taken the form Mr. Eliot Foster had told him to sit down of an appeal. He stood by the table, and and attend to the contents of the paper in looked at Mr. Eliot Foster with frowning his hand. intentness. The lawyer made no reply for
• Pardon me, sir,' he said then; if you some minutes, during which the young man's are going to an upon the money-matters impatience became extreme. Then he de- between us, I cannot attend to them until liberately took off his spectacles, wiped you have either answered or refused to anthem on his large silk handkerchief, laid swer my questions. Will you now tell me them down on the desk before him, and an- who I am, who my parents are, and what is swered, holding the edge of the table with my rightful position ? ' both hands, and looking at Henry Hurst as • No,' said Mr. Eliot Foster, in a tone of closely as Henry Hurst was looking at him. cold decision, ‘I will not. The nature of
• Many years ago I accepted a trust con- my trust as regards you, and the sole porcerning you, which I have fulfilled hitherto tion of it from which it is not in my power in the letter at least, if not in the spirit, as to discharge myself, preclude my giving that spirit might be interpreted by persons you now, as heretofore, any information on of a more sentimental disposition than mine, these points. You can never know more and less knowledge of the world. I under- of your own history than you know at prestook to have you well cared for and hon-ent. Let me advise you to dismiss all specestly, brought up, to provide you with a ulation on the subject from your mind. It sufficient education to enable you to earn must be utterly vain, and it may militate your bread, and to administer the small seriously against your future prospects by property which is yours well and profitably; filling your head with chimeras, and preI might have done much more than this had venting your going steadily to work to make you interested or pleased me as a child ; a career of independence for yourself.' but you did not. I watched you closely, • Do you mean, then, that you will tell and I did not see anything in you to justify me nothing ? ' said Henry Hurst. •Do you or encourage me in converting the formal mean that I am to be forever ignorant ? relation I held towards you into a real one, * I do mean that,' said Mr. Eliot Foster; and therefore I have done no less, but not it is hard, I confess, but it is no fault of more. The time has now come when I can mine. I act according to the instructions discharge myself of this trust. I do it with- which I received, and the pledge which I out regret and without self-reproach. I hope gave. I never will tell you anything more.' you will conduct yourself well, and prosper;
Not whether my parents are living or indeed, I do not doubt it, for I think you dead ?' are possessed of many of the qualities which •No,' said Mr. Eliot Foster, 'not whethpeculiarly command success, and lead to er your parents are living or dead. The prosperity. I do not pretend that you owe only thing I will tell you is, that you are me any gratitude; but if there be any no relative of mine, nor connected with me others to whom you do owe gratitude, I in any way. The circumstances which inhope they may not find you destitute of that duced me to accept the trust I did undervirtue. To me you owe nothing but a re- take were purely fortuitous.' ceipt.
The old man and the young looked at Mr. Eliot Foster was almost surprised each other during this brief dialogue with himself at the length of the oration he had increasing dislike, of which feeling in the pronounced. It would have astonished his mind of the other each was distinctly confamiliars, accustomed to his deliberate scious. terseness of speech, very much. When he *Your determination is final?'
• Yes,' said Mr. Eliot Foster, quite| be done with him forever; there would be no final. Nothing but an accident, so improb- more, even the slight restraint of an authorable that it may be said to be impossible, ised influence or opinion over his life. Lonecan ever make you acquainted with the cir- ly, deserted, disowned as he was, and must cumstances which led to your being con- continue to be- for he entertained no fided to my care.'
hope of shaking the resolution which Mr. * Very well,' said Henry Hurst; “then no Eliot Foster had expressed — he should at more need be said on the subject.'
least be his own master. Henry Hurst was There was extraordinary strength of char- of a disposition to enjoy such a reflection acter, though not of a kind which any one thoroughly, and to cherish it, in the exasinterested in the young man's moral nature peration of his temper, with a vague sense would have been particularly pleased to of spiteful satisfaction, as though he injured recognise, in the resolute composure with and outraged somebody by this compensawhich Henry Hurst accepted Mr. Eliot Fos- ting and prized independence: so difficult ter's refusal to enlighten him, and immedi- was it for him to realise his utter isolation, ately turned his attention to the statement even while he fancied himself proudly inwhich he made to him, and which was in different to it. He listened sullenly, and brief this : Mr. Eliot Foster had employed Mr. Eliot Foster spoke coldly. The upshot the sum of one
thousand pounds, handed to of the explanation and discussion was, that him by Julia Peyton, judiciously and prof- Henry Hurst should return to Coventry, itably, and had turned it to sufficient advan- bid adieu to his friends there, and go to tage to be able to produce it intact when Paris to prosecute his studies on a humble the boy should require it for his establish- but effective scale. On being apprised ment in life on any such modest scale as it that he had placed himself respectably, Mr. would represent. He had made up his Eliot Foster would transmit his money in mind, from the time at which he had aban- such portions as he desired. The young doned his first half-formed notion of adopt- man informed the lawyer that he had a ing Julia Peyton's child, that, even at a friend who could put him in the way of doloss to himself, the boy should have this ing what he proposed advantageously. He sum of money in its entirety, and he had was thinking of Hugh Gaynor; but Mr. Elmade many advances on his account at iot Foster asked him no questions, and the own expense. This was a sort of winding- curate's name was not mentioned. At this up to an affair in which Mr. Eliot Foster point the colloquy came to an end, to the had experienced some twinges of con- regret of neither; and Henry Hurst walked science, which seemed to him satisfactory, out into the quiet, grave old square, with and a termination to all possible self-re- as much anger, hatred, vindictiveness, and proach. He had seen too little of the boy, passionate pride raging within him as ever and sought too little to understand him, to furnished a foretaste of hell to one young be able to realise the bitterness of spirit, human heart. the injury to character and disposition Henry Hurst went out into the noisy which had been wrought by his sense of street, and mingled with the busy crowd. being unjustly treated; and as there was He knew the best and worst now, — knew nothing attractive to the lawyer about him that there was a small provision for him, he did not take the trouble to moralise, on just enough to keep him above want, until grounds of instinct, on the inevitable effect he should be enabled to do some of those on its victim of the compact into which he great things for himself which, always in a had entered.
strictly material sense, his imagination preThere was little friendliness and no sym- sented and made so easy to him. He knew pathy in the manner in which Mr. Eliot that his absolute isolation from all known Foster explained to Henry Hurst, whom he ties of relationship was confirmed, and the did not enlighten as to his pecuniary obli- only supposition he had ever entertained, gation to himself, how small the sum at his that of his possible kinship to Mr. Eliot disposal was, and the great need which ex- Foster, was dispersed. He was glad of that ; isted for his careful and deliberate choice, he hated the lawyer; hated him for the cold and diligent pursuing of a career by which formality with which he had carried out the he might attain independence. In the law- trust reposed in him— by whom? – hated yer's exordium, there was a tone of finality him for the evident disapproval with which which Henry Hurst was not slow to feel and he regarded him. His brain was weaving a understand, and which, while he bitterly re- tangled web as he pushed his way through sented it, was somewhat of a relief to him. the crowd in one of the great thoroughfares; When he should leave the presence of this sometimes thinking, with cynical bitterness, hard, barsh old man presently, he should how strange it was to be like him, ignorant
of himself. Why, the first man, any man, ness meant one thing to her and something he met, might be his father; any woman quite different to him, held but a small and from that fine lady sweeping by him in her insignificant place in Henry Hurst's thoughts luxurious barouche, whose wheels sent the as he passed in review all that had taken sticky London mud lavishly over his clothes, place between himself and Mr. Eliot Fosto the tardy servant loitering at the cross- ter, and resolved, so far from seeking the ing, on her way to or from an errand sympathy and advice of Hugh Gaynor, that might be his mother. And he should never he would conceal from him, as far as possiknow; he felt sure of that; he knew that ble, the defeat he had sustained, and break, . whatever the bargain had been between at the earliest possible date, with all his laté Mr. Eliot Foster and his own parents, or associations. their representatives, it had included invio While Henry Hurst was wending his way lable and everlasting silence, and would be towards the small city hotel to which Hugh strictly adhered to. Therefore, amid the Gaynor had directed him, Mr. Eliot Foster confusion of ideas, regrets, wishes, aims, was engaged in deep and not complacent ambitions, and resentments, which reigned cogitation on the scene which had just taken in the breast of Henry Hurst, one impres- place. He was but little satisfied with sion was singularly distinct. It was, that if Henry Hurst, but he was still less satisfied he could do it with safety to himself, he with himself. As a younger man he would should particularly like to kill Mr. Eliot have roused himself and made amende honFoster. The young man was of a danger- ourable to his conscience, but he was too ous temperament, and his notion of punish- indolent for that sort of thing now; and ing any one who injured or annoyed him at when people and things did not suit him, all seriously seldom stopped, theoretically, he was apt to let them slide.' short of murder.
I wonder what will become of him,' It was also characteristic of Henry Hurst thought Mr. Eliot Foster; he is clever that though he loved Alice Wood after his and pushing, and will make his way, no fashion quite sincerely, and even strongly, he doubt; and yet he impresses me singularly never dwelt in the rage and trouble which unfavourably: Shall I open any communipossessed him upon the idea of her as a cation with his mother ? Shall I write to her consolation. It might have been supposed guardedly, and tell her that I have disthat the isolation of them both, the slender charged my trust? Have I any reason or hold on the sympathies and charities of the right to do so, to break the compact, as she world possessed by either, would have meant it, or as I did ? No, she has kept added to his love something of the sense of silence, so will I.' And Mr. Eliot Foster, mutual dependence, of sufficiency to each who had laid a sheet of paper on his desk, other, in which her purer, simpler, nobler taken up a pen, and drawn his grimy brassmind experienced an ineffable charm; but topped inkstand to within a convenient disthis was not the case. Henry Hurst enter- tance of his hand, pushed these preparatory tained no liberal and ennobling theories arrangements away from him and rose. about the dignity and the helpfulness, the There's no knowing what may happen,' worth and the unselfishness, of woman. He he said, making the commonplace admisloved Alice because she had a beautiful face, sion of a possibility familiar to us all in and a pure, fanciful, innocent, poetic tem- forced contemplation of the only human perament, which he had sufficient artistic event within the category of the absolutely sense to understand and artistic taste to ap- certain ; 'I may die, and it is better now preciate ; but that she could suffice to him there should be no record of this business.' in lieu of all the family ties of which he was Then he unlocked his iron safe, took from deprived never occurred to him, because he it a meagre packet of old yellowish letters, regarded that deprivation from an entirely and deposited them in the breast-pocket of materialistic point of view. That to win her his greatcoat, which hung behind the dusty and make her happy ought to suffice for his door. After some further search, he found life's ambition was as far from his thoughts, and added a small roll of extracts from newsbecause love to him was a mere ornament papers and sundry memoranda, saying to to be sewn on the fabric of life, the gratifi- himself, “I suppose no one but myself recation of the senses and the fancy, with members that Wallace ever existed, or left out any share in the higher meaning and to a wife and child the shameful inheritance purpose of the intellect and the conscience. of his name. I will take these home and
Thus, the girl whose innocent heart was destroy them, and then no one can ever, all her lover's, whose day-dream was the hap- even accidentally, betrayher but herself.” piness hidden in the future for them both, Mr. Eliot Foster took the letters home with who never had a suspicion that that happi- him to the staid and eminently-respectable
villa at Hampstead, which represented, in that her mother had been ailing a little of very massive furniture and a quantity of late; a rare occurrence; for Mrs. Wood was plate which might safely challenge inspec- a woman of strong constitution and insention by Silversmiths' Hall, the savings of sitive nerves, who held illness, in her own the prosperous and undivided business of case, in contempt, as more or less of a Foster of Gray's Inn. The lawyer burned weakness to be acknowledged as little and the letters without reading them, merely repressed as much as possible. But she had loosening the ribbon with which they were been obliged to confess to not feeling quite tied for greater facility of conflagration; well' lately, and to submit to the transfer but he looked over the roll of newspaper of a few of her more fatiguing duties to her extracts, and muttered as he added them to daughter. So that, altogether, the period the little heap of ashes which littered the of her youthful lover's absence was one of generally spotless brightness of his study complicated trial to the girl, which drew her fender,
from her habitual dreaming to serious I wonder whether that sort of thing real- thought, and gave her a first insight into the ly runs in the blood!'
pains and penalties of love, in whieh her
girlish fancy bad pictured naught but peace The few days of Henry Hurst's absence and joy, the glory of earth, the foretaste of ad passed heavily over the gentle head of heaven. To any one who had seen it for the Alice. To her fanciful mood the distance first time then, Alice's face would have to which he had gone increased the sense seemed wondrously and pathetically beauand the pain of parting already, with all its tiful, in its purity, its patience, its look uncertainty and the serious results which it of hope, and yet of submissive sadness. might or must involve, very deep and agonis- Though Hugh Gaynor had seen that face ing. Mrs. Wood was too busy, too com- often enough to be familiar with every phase pletely occupied with the routine of her life, of its loveliness and sweetness, he remarked with its monotonous daily duties, which she it with keen and fresh admiration one day liked, and its cares, which suited her tem- that he went to the school and announced perament, to take much notice of her daugh- himself as the bearer of a letter for Alice ter's variable spirits. She had never enter- from Henry, enclosed to him, and the news tained an idea that Mr. Eliot Foster meant that he would return on the following day. to undertake any personal charge or re-Not to Cheaver's,' said the now middlesponsibility in the case of Henry Hurst, and aged curate; Henry is coming to stay with she made no doubt that his absence would me. I know all about the sort of thing he be but brief.
wants in Paris, and can put him into good * He would have taken him home when he hands there. was a child, or sent him to a first-rate school, 'I was right, then,' said Mrs. Wood, in a and made a gentleman of him, if he inten- quiet uninterested tone ; .Mr. Foster means ded to do anything particular for him, my to do nothing for him, and of course has dear,' the simple-minded but not unwise told him nothing?' mother had said to the still more simple *I presume not,' said Hugh Gaynor, minded daughter, when she had timidly ex Alice said nothing; she was impatient to pressed a fear that Henry Hurst might be escape and read her letter. After a little detained in London, and his things' sent Hugh Gaynor took his leave, and the girl for, to the exclusion of any further leave-made her way to her favourite corner in the takings in Coventry, He will come back, churchyard. Here she had parted with never fear, Alice. Then Alice took close Henry, here she should like him to find her cognisance of her mother, trying to discern when he should return from London, from whether she knew in its full extent the im- that visit which had been, she feared, proportance of that return to her, but found no ductive of much disappointment to hiin; trace of such knowledge, and in her con- here she would read and re-read his own siderate, gentle, self-sacrificing way, relin- account of it. But in this last expectation quished the chance of sympathy from the fear Alice was disappointed. The letter was that her mother might be harassed or dis- brief, and it contained no details; but its turbed by the uncertainty of her prospects, tone hurt Alice, and troubled her sorely, and the dimness and distance of a happy It was fierce and bitter, and something of termination to her engagement with Henry its fierceness and bitterness seemed to sully Hurst. •We shall live on here quietly and the expressions of fondness for herself, happily as heretofore, thought the girl; which nevertheless set her heart beating * and when I can tell her about it without with delight. The day declined as the girl making her uneasy, I will do so.' Alicesat under the ash-tree, her hands clasped was the more ready to adopt this resolution over her lover's letter, which lay open on
her knees, and her eyes cast down. Some-i sterner, stronger counsel. Henry Hurst thing in the letter jarred with her ideal; thought Alice very pretty and bewitching she was too innocent, too unworldly to un- when she urged, in her musical voice, her derstand what it was, but a dim conscious- gentle, simple wisdom; and he told her so ness was upon her that this lover, whom in words which brought bright blushes to she regarded as so perfect, as so far beyond her face and happy tears to her eyes. But and above herself, might be a person whom though Henry Hurst kissed the one while she should be forced to fear as well as love. he merely sneered at the other, the effect
There were tear-stains on her fair, faintly- produced on him by each was identical. tinted cheeks when she went into the house; • Mr. Foster was always kind to my but her mother did not notice them; she was mother and me,' said Alice to Henry one a little tired, she said, and 'low' - a strange day, when the hour of their parting — this admission indeed for Mrs. Wood; and time for an indefinite period – was very Alice put aside her vague trouble, keeping near; and you tell me he spoke kindly of it, as she said in her innocent heart, until us to you. We owe him much, Henry: the her prayers.
quiet respectable home we have had for so Though Henry Hurst took up his abode many years, the peace we have enjoyed. I with Hugh Gaynor on his return, and am very grateful to him; I wish you would though the curate entered at once and with try to be a little grateful to him also.' sympathetic alacrity upon the arrangements On your account, you mean, of course,' he had undertaken to make for him, the her lover answered; on my own I have no young man persisted in his purpose of re- reason to feel any gratitude towards him. I serve towards him. He recounted his in- hate the man; but if it makes you unhappy, terview with Mr. Eliot Foster briefly, and I will try not to think of him at all' (he had without any strong comment, concealing, as seen a look of puzzled pain in her face, and far as concealment was possible to him, the read a part of its meaning), 'as, indeed, I bitterness and rage which were in him, and need not; he is only the instrument by accepting Hugh Gaynor's plain and reason- which my parents - I hope they may be able counsel with much outward deference punished as I wish them to be some day – and corresponding inward contempt. The wronged me. It's no use your looking curate's mind was much occupied with the shocked, Alice, and saying how can I say young man's story. He too believed - such a thing - I say it, and I mean it. Am when he found that Mr. Eliot Foster so dis- I to talk sentimental nonsense about them tinctly disclaimed relationship to Henry when they have mercilessly disowned and Hurst, and yet maintained the secret of his deserted me? No; I don't pretend to anybirth inviolable — that his parents were liv- thing I do not feel, and I have little resenting, and he inclined to the young man's own ment against Mr. Foster; it is all for his notions with regard to their position in life. employers.' His own experience had revealed too many The girl hung her head in timid silence, disgraceful, hardened, unprincipled trans- and once more felt the vague thrill of fear actions in family life and conduct to leave trouble her love; but the young man easily him susceptible of surprise or incredulity at charmed away the pain and the misgiving, anything to which unscrupulousness might and led her again into Dreamland. And resort as an expedient; and he did not Alice dwelt in that dreamland until they cherish any romantic theory concerning the parted, when he went away, full of energy young man's origin, but explained the mys- and self-reliance, to begin the new life, and tery by the commonest solution - ordinary she remained to continue in the old, but sin, and its customary, indeed inevitable, without him, as though she had to go on result, anarchy and bewilderment. Hugh living in a world whence the sun by day and Gaynor understood fully the evil effect the moon by night had been withdrawn. which Henry Hurst's isolated position and Henry Hurst had been for some months this final dissolution of his hopes were pro- pursuing his art-studies in Paris, and had ducing on his character. He strove to reported himself briefly but favourably on counterbalance it by dwelling on the power several occasions to Hugh Gaynor, when it of self-respect and self-reliance, and the chanced that that hard-working clergyman real honour and distinction earned by a man found himself at Burnham. The rector had who made a great and good career for him- been ailing of late, and being debarred self, unaided by the material or traditional pretty frequently from field-sports, and assistance of family interest or home ties. thrown for society upon the resources of And Alice, in her gentle way, with the win- the curate, who was so much more rational ning eloquence of love, and a young girl's and practical than the eccentric Hugh, he undoubting faith and trust, echoed the was apt to suffer considerably from bore