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E shall never meet in Mr. Cotton's house again, per
haps never again anywhere in the world,” thought
Emily. But the next moment, almost ere the echo of Philip's footsteps had died away, her heart reverted to the friends who had more urgent need of her sympathy.
Now for the first time in her life she felt she was a woman, with a woman's weakness and a woman's strength. Weak, only in that she had no knowledge of the great practical world and its ways; strong, only in the impulsive love and generosity of her pure woman's nature. Now, too, she remembered that she had another source of strength which hitherto she had almost forgotten. She was an heiress. Money, her mother's money, was hers in her own right. Why should not that be used to preserve her good uncle and her dear cousin from ruin? Her father was rich, and could have no need of her poor portion. It is true he had never loved Mr. Cotton or Mary, but then he was just. Yes, he would not refuse his permission-he could not refuse it-and a smile of happy impulse gleamed though Emily's tears as she crept to Mary's side and wound her arms around her, and nestled her bright locks on her bosom in soft girlish fashion. Darling cousin," she whispered, “do not fear. I have lots of money, you know, and uncle shall have it all if he wants it."
Mary kissed the little kind-hearted girl, and glanced anxiously at her father. But Mr. Cotton had not heard the whispered generosity. He sat with averted face; he only heard a thousand voices wafted from the noisy city--ten thousand voices, babbling in heartless scorn, “Cotton has failed, Cotton has failed! Have you heard the news ? Cotton has failed!” And he only saw an old, broken, homeless man, with a delicately-nurtured girl at his side, wandering to his grave with only a dim hope beyond and none before.
Mary gratefully repeated her kiss, and Emily tore herself away in search of her bonnet and shawl.
Emily found her brougham in waiting, and after the longest, the weariest miles she had ever known, she stood once more in the portico of Curtice House. The coachman rang the bell, clambered sleepily on his box, and drove away. John De la Plush promptly opened the door, and Emily was again alone with her father in the great sumptuous dining room where a month ago she had received his inexorable command to marry the man of all men she detested.
The great merchant greeted her with a formalgood evening, as was his custom. Yet there was that in his voice and face which foreboded a storm. Emily did not fear. She had resolved on doing a good deed and was strong in the consciousness of her mission.
“You are late to night, miss; you have kept me waiting an hour," said Aldair, pointing to a seat.
Emily sat down in silence. She never spoke while her father might have a word to say. The great man would not tolerate an interruption.
“I have waited for you very anxiously, since I learned you were at Mr. Cotton's. It is my duty now to tell you that Mr. Cotton has disgraced himself, and that disgrace unfortunately all his friends must share, by a course of most reckless prodigality and negligence. To-morrow he will be gazetted a bankrupt. I need not tell you, Miss Aldair-for, despite your obstinate and rebellious conduct, you have still, I trust, enough of just family pride to be aware that under the circumstances all intercourse between you and my unfortunate brother-in-law must cease-the Aldairs have no commerce with bankrupts and swindlers."
Aldair rose, frowning as he spoke, but Emily looked calmly into his darkening face. She was annoyed and hurt at hearing her dearest relative characterised as a swindler ; but she had been from her youth so used to hearing bankruptcy and swindling coupled in the same category, that both the one word and the other had lost its due significance. Her uncle might be a bankrupt, and, consequently, according to her father's creed, a swindler, Emily hardly knew what these terms meant, but she did know that Uncle Cotton was the kindest and best uncle in the world, that he was in misfortune and bitter sorrow, and that she was pledged to help him.
I wonder whether Aldair ever reflected that he owed his own vast fortune to the bankruptcy of his father, who still lived at the country-house of the family, in the village of Otley on Surf. Bah! I wonder whether the worthy magistrates who imprison starveling poachers for trespassing on their preserves ever pause to reflect that all the land in England was once the property of somebody else and that four-fifths of the present owners neither bought it nor had it given them by its original owners ? Bah! Possession is nine-tenths of the law and honour and honesty into the bargain. What mattered how Aldair obtained his fortune if he possessed it ? Emily nodded a reluctant acquiescence, and when she was quite sure her father had nothing more to say she timidly approached him.
"Papa, how much money have I in my own right? I mean what you have told me I should have when I am twenty-one. The money which my mother left me ?"
" The question startled Aldair to the very verge of apoplexy.
"Money! What do you mean, Miss Aldair? You are aware that your mother's fortune of some twenty thousand reverts to you. What of that?
"Only,” said Emily, waxing bold, but stillspeaking very low, "I should like, papa, if you please, to give the money to Uncle Cotton, and then he will not be either a bankrupt or a swindler."
Aldair leapt from his seat; the great veins of his forehead swelled thick and blue and his face grew fiery red. For a full minute he stood, with open mouth and eyes, contemplating his audacious little daughter in speechless horror. Enlightened
o And pray,
Lear never thought Goneril and Regan half as heartless and wicked as the pompous merchant thought little loving Emily. What virtues some wickednesses must be that bad men hate them so! Aldair thought on all the cost of this girl's rearing, education, and surroundings, thought on all the wasted advice he had given her, on the duties of children to their parents, on the supreme importance of wealth, on all the expensive opportunities he had given her of bringing honour to herself and him, and here she was ungrateful and perverse as ever. Poor rich Aldair !
The outraged father found his voice at last. Miss,” he asked, sternly, “ how do you suppose I am to find you a husband if I were for a moment to entertain the preposterous idea of permitting you to throw away—criminally to throw away-your small fortune on worthless acquaintances ! Listen, Miss Aldair. Two months ago I commanded you to countenance the addresses of my friend Mr. Abraham Moss. That command I regret to learn has not been fully obeyed; but it shall be so. Your mother's paltry portion remains mine at present; you are mine, and every thread you wear is mine. According to law and religion, you are mine, body and soul, to dispose of as I think wisest. Mr. Moss has this day again urged me to exercise my authority. You are anxious to part with your money. Here is a man who needs it and deserves it, for in his hands it will soon be doubled. You will find him in the drawing room waiting for you.
Go and try to be less a sentimental idiot than you have shown yourself to-night.”
“And you refuse to let me give my money to Uncle Cotton ?" asked Emily, turning deadly pale, and trembling so that the substantial chair in which she sat seemed to tremble too.
“Certainly, Miss ! ”
“ Then I refuse to marry Mr. Abraham Moss,” cried the girl, the proud obstinate blood leaping to her face, and her little heaving bosom all bursting with the indignant courage of an outraged woman. "Yes, father,” she said, advancing and confronting him with the fearless rage of a wounded panther, "you may deny the money which is mine to your sister's husband and her child, though for the want of it they may be left to beggary and scorn, but it will not avail. The day
rather go into
I am one and twenty it shall be theirs if they need it, as freely as the wealth they once had would have been ours had we needed. And as for this man you would wed me to.
I hate him, and I swear that neither I nor my mother's money shall ever be his. You may shut me up in my own room, you may feed me on bread and water, you may kill me if you like, but I will never be his. I know you and he have arranged matters, that you have bought the marriage licence, and fixed the wedding day; but you may clothe me in my wedding dress
, you may drive me to the altar, and I will refuse him before the whole congregation. I will say: I was sold to this man for money, I neither love nor honour him, and I will
my grave than bear his name.” With flashing eyes and burning cheeks she dropped a baughty curtsey and swept upstairs to her chamber. Aldair stood spell bound. Not when, two months ago, that
, ever to be remembered wail of despair rang through the room at his threatened curse, not when she had fallen and lay so still and deathlike at his feet, had he experienced so terrible a shock as this. He was yet standing meditating with knitted brows, when the door stealthily opened and the fox-like eyes of Mr. Abraham Moss peered craftily in.
“By —, Mr. Aldair, we have had a narrow escape,” gasped Emily's money's admirer. Walking rapidly to the great merchant's side, he said : “You are too peremptory, my dear sir. You will excuse me, I have told you before you do not understand these little creatures. Your intellect is too vast to bend itself to their whims and caprices; it is only by cunning and stratagem that one can cope with them.”
“Do you intend, sir, that I should stoop to humour my own daughter ?” asked Aldair, sternly.
“Yes, unless you want your daughter to humiliate you," Moss boldly returned, and continued : “Excuse me, my dear friend. I was about to enter this room when your daughter's voice arrested me, and I became an unwilling witness of all
My dear Mr. Aldair, I have had great experiences-harmless experiences, you understand with girls , and I know that you have bent your bow too far in this
You will never tame this girl now she
that has just passed.
case and it is broken.