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he said, in that quiet deliberate voice which soonest reaches the intelligence of the intoxicated,
"I came here, Mr. Fane, to consult you, not to share in what I must consider most unreasonable mirth. I had certainly thought to find in you a sympathetic sharer of your friend's grief, and perhaps to obtain from you such help and advice as they had reason to expect-though they would never ask it for themselves,-from a friend who all the world pro. claims to be generous as he is rich.”
Alaric turned a half-serious face, and Philip, perceiving he had made an impression, continued :
“However, since you think so lightly of their sorrow I must try what little I can do from my own resources. I am peculiarly placed, and need some help from one familiar with the customs and laws of England. At another time I should have gone to Mr. Cotton. Now it is impossible.” Philip paused ; seeing his companion still silently attentive,
Fifteen years ago a ship was wrecked off the coast of Spain. She sprung a leak during the night, and in the morning the crew took to her boats. Among the passengers were my father and I. The former, seeing the boats full and escape impossible
, threw me among the escaping sailors. These were
me overboard, but some kinder-hearted fellows, who perhaps had children of their own at home, preserved me. I was carried to Spain, thence to Italy, to an address that had been discovered tied to my neck. There I grew up under the care of a good old Florentine, a brother of my grandmother. The language came almost natural to me, and as I had no single want, and hardly a whim that was not gratified as soon as known, I found myself very happy. My sole occupation was reading poetry, and romances, and music. I learned next to nothing beyond these, till I grew up and discovered the imperfection of my education-alas, too late to remedy it!
year my good old guardian died, and was buried amidst the tears of half the inhabitants of Florence, and most heartily mourned by me who owed everything to his care. Finding myself alone in the world, I gave myself up to a yearning which had long tormented me, and resolved to visit the land of my birth. This I was the more resolved on from the fact
that my old benefactor had died in debt, and I had only my music to support me, and by another circumstance, which I will presently relate. So one fine morning I packed up my little bundle of clothes, took my violin under my arm, and started off. I passed through Lombardy, and Switzerland, into Germany, down the Rhine to Holland, thence to England, having lived almost luxuriously on the ungrudged reward of my music. Sometimes I played in the streets, sometimes in village inns, or at cottage hearths. I lost my poor fiddle in crossing from Rotterdam; some rough drover fellows broke it in brutal sport, and I landed here in a sorry plight, having neither money nor the means of earning it. Heaven, however, sent me friends and I have taken no harm."
“ Your story really interests me, young Will-o'-the-Wisp," broke in Alaric, “but”
“But you don't see what that has to do with the subject in hand ? Pardon me, it has. I have here,” said Philip, carefully untying a little bundle of papers, “I have here a letter which was found among others in my guardian's desk. The date proves it to have been written by my father shortly before we left England. Read it, if you please, and you will see why I need your help.”
Alaric took the letter, and drawing the lamp to his elbow, lay back in his chair and read deliberately :
“ London, Oct. 14, 18Dear Friend,
“I presume you have not had time to reply to my last letter in which I related my sad misfortune. I have now to tell you that I have finally resolved to emigrate. To go back to the scene of so many miseries is impossible ; to remain in this noisy, smoky city after having all my life lived in the pure air is also impossible. I will take my boy, the only treasure I value now, to a new land, where perhaps a better fortune awaits him than his father's has been. I have taken with me all the cash I had at my banker's; that will be amply sufficient for our needs. For the land, I leave it to take care of itself. There is a curse upon it, and from the day I set my foot upon its green sward a curse has depended over me. My young life was blighted, my bride went mourning to an
early grave, and now her child, ah! you cannot tell how I loved the little darling girl, has passed in a cloud of fire to God! His will be done, but it is very hard to bear! This land, my friend, is no longer an estate to me; to me it is only the grave of my wife and child. Let it lie fallow, and grow wild flowers over them, till the day of doom! I will never reap another harvest from it. For it has brought me a harvest of everlasting sorrow.
I have deposited the title deeds with my solicitors, Messrs. Splithoof and Dovecot, and now set out for a new, though I cannot hope a happy life. Happy only if I may bring up my boy to a better fate, and die
. Now wishing you farewell and a long continuance of the tranquil life you now enjoy,
“I am, dear Signor Celini,
growing more sober by the effort of sus
He looked earnestly from the letter to
"So your real name is Clark,” he said. "Yes," replied Philip, “but I have borne my guardian's name so long that I do not care to change it. Besides, Celini is worth five hundred a year more than Clark, if I should ever achieve any position in music.”
“But these landsland is worth a pretty penny in England to-day, I can tell you. The letter looks genuine. By the way, I know something of Splithoof and Dovecot.
Have you consulted them ?" “I have done nothing,” returned Philip, gravely. “I understand by the tone of that letter my father did not wish me to inherit this estate, and his wish of course controls me. I cannot but think it was merely the superstitious whim of a man broken and maddened by misfortune, but I have respected
it and shall do so."
Then what help do you want of me?” asked Alaric, giving back the letter.
"I want you to assist me to sift this matter with all celerity, to get possession of this property if it is really mine, that I may give it, or lend it to the friends who need it. It
may be as rich in blessing to them as it was prolific of misery to my parents."
Alaric crossed to Philip's side and took the lad's delicate hands in his powerful grasp and held them tenderly as they had been a woman's, and looking into his beautiful enthusiastic face, said earnestly:
“In my heart of hearts I love and honour you for this. But do not think you alone can be magnanimous. Mr. Cotton is already saved. This afternoon the sum of fifty thousand pounds was placed to his credit with his bankers.”
Philip heartily returned the grasp of his hands, and thought this Alaric Fane the noblest man in the whole world.
But Alaric could not be persuaded to renew his visits to Summerville Lodge, nor did Mr. Cotton suspect till long afterwards, when he was again a prosperous man, that the vast sums his relenting bankers placed unexpectedly at his disposal were other than their own.
EARLY next morning Philip awoke and sought Alaric at his home by the river side.
“Mr. Fane, I think,” the servant explained, " has gone for a pull in his outrigger, and he gave orders to have his breakfast ready at nine. That will be his second, for he had one before he started. He will be home in half an hour, sir, unless he gets upset, which is very likely, as the water is rough ; but he's used to that."
As Philip gave no encouragement to the fellow's loquacity he presently withdrew. In course of half an hour Alaric's heavy step echoed through the corridor, and Alaric himself, clad in a button-up frock coat, box hat, ample shirt front, and black tie, looking in fact quite the city man, marched into the room. For once the domestic's prognostications were at fault. Alaric had not been on the water that morning. He had been visiting an old acquaintance, Mr. Splithoof, of the firm of Splithoof and Dovecot, who had a house at Chiswick
. Alaric greeted Philip cordially, and at once commenced an attack on breakfast, and insisting on his visitor partaking that hospitality.
Philip begged to be excused, though in truth he had tasted nothing since the previous evening.
"That's where you are indiscreet, Mio Tenore. Any man can eat a double breakfast if he accustoms himself to it, and breakfast is your only true meal. Luncheon is an excuse for spoiling dinner, dinner an opportunity for conversation with the ladies, and supper is rank ruin. There's nothing like a breakfast for two to be eaten by one."
Finding Philip could not be induced to partake his hospitable meal
, Alaric hastily pushed his plate aside. He had indeed, as Philip suspected, only ordered this second breakfast for his particular benefit. Then Alaric lit a cigar and they strolled
out by the river side.
" It's all right, my lad,” said Alaric, puffing at his cigar.
"What is all right?"
"The letter-and the property-worth about eight thousand. Splithoof holds the title deeds. I know Splithoof - was my father's solicitor at one time-been to see him this morning. Only identity to be proved—that may be difficult–ought not to be impossible.”
"It is really good of you to take so kind and prompt an interest in my perplexity,” returned Philip," but you forget ; I must not, I dare not claim this property for myself.”
"Oh! bah! The sooner you shake this sentimental superstition out of you the better," exclaimed Alaric.
“Besides you will not claim it for yourself. No man can possess property for himself. He must use the greater part for the benefit of others, whether he will or no. A man, were he as rich as Plutus, can only eat and drink a certain modicum of provisions per diem, wear out a few suits of clothes per annum, and live in one room at a time. All the rest of his income it is your plain duty to get this estate out of the lawyers' goes to the feeding, clothing, and lodging of others. Anyhow hands as quickly as possible.”
"And what then?"
Alaric evaded an answer by asking how Philip intended earning a living without it.