Page images
PDF
EPUB

“By my music. That is the only thing I am fitted for," returned Philip.

Then the conversation adverted to Mr. Cotton and Mary, and finally to Emily Aldair.

On this last subject Philip grew inexhaustibly eloquent, nor could the most critical observer have detected in Alaric's cheerful, often humorous conversation, the slightest mani. festation of jealousy or regret. As for Philip, thoughtless boy as he was, he extolled Emily's goodness and beauty by the hour, never once imagining that the subject might be less agreeable to Alaric than to himself.

And once or twice he was on the point of speaking of that other beautiful woman they knew so well. He wondered if Pearl had ever seen her early lover again, since that last sad farewell he had witnessed; if she ever wrote to him, or whether she had vanished altogether from his life as she seemed to have done from his own. For to this day Philip had received from her no token, and mindful of his promise he dared not seek her. He longed to tell his friend and hers of all the kindness he had experienced at the hands of that wayward and unfortunate girl. Once he went so far as to relate part of the story, concealing however the name of the heroine. Alaric smiled sadly and betrayed no great interest.

She has told him nothing, thought Philip, and that was a great comfort to him; he would have been much ashamed if his new friend had known all the truth. Yet the secret knowledge of their common interest in the poor girl was a source of sympathy for Philip. And inexplicable as was the past, dark as was the future, he felt that somehow good would be the final goal of all. And in his heart there sprung up a strange yearning that it might come at last in the form of a union between those two erring, struggling souls.

Alaric now discovered he was very thirsty and they returned to the house. He drank off two glasses of raw brandy, and sitting down by the window lit a fresh cigar. He grew quite talkative under the influence of these potations, but seeming suddenly to find himself too communicative he lapsed into thoughtful silence. At last he broke into a merry whistle and threw his cigar out of the window.

“Eureka! Philip, my boy, I have it."

a

[ocr errors]

“What, a cold in the head ?" asked his friend:

“No; an idea," said Alaric. “You shall be a merchant-a merchant, most respected sir; yea, a buyer and a seller of silks, and wools, and of cotton, and of feathers, and of flax, and of adornments, and vanities, and fallals and kickshaws, and every thing that delighteth the eyes of a woman in every land and city under the sun. Yea, put a pen behind thine ear and comport thyself gravely, as becometh a partner of Messrs. Cotton and Co. Alaric infelix dixit."

Philip began to suspect his companion was again on the verge of intoxication.

“But,” he said, “ only last night you told me Mr. Cotton no longer had any need of my poor services."

“Oh, I forgot. I find I can hardly spare so much money as our friend requires just now."

“And how am I to manage this?"

"Oh, that's very easy ; first sell this land of yours-no, first get it, then sell it. I withdraw £8,000 and substitute yours. The business is paying 75 per cent. Cotton is a first rate man, if you only give him sufficient means, and with the help of your valuable services, who knows but his may become the first house in London, not excepting even the stupendous Aldair. Let me see: interest on £8,000 at 7}, £600 per annum; services, 2}d. the first year, 3d. the second, 3}d the third, and so on, increasing according to value. Why it's a magnificent prospect. Allow me to congratulate you, John Champagne.”

“ But how about the music?" asked Philip, dolefully.

"Music bebefiddled,” said Alaric, emphasizing the epithet with the pop of the champagne bottle.

“Now," he continued, " for proposition number two. You will excuse me speaking plain, my lad; as I don't happen to be blind or deaf, it is impossible for me to be ignorant of that little matter between you and Miss Aldair. You don't seem quite to realize your danger. You two young simpletons are billing and cooing on your own account, while her father is arranging a marriage of convenience for his dear daughter's benefit. Why not cut the eligible party out, and marry the girl yourself ?”

“What, on a possible £600 a year?" Philip blushed and smiled incredulously.

P

“No; on a certain six hundred and twopence halfpenny a year, and a progressive income, as I have shown you, to meet the expenses of the family we will venture to predicate."

“ “And you seriously believe Aldair could be persuaded to that?” Philip asked.

His companion burst into a roar of laughter.

“You greenhorn !" he exclaimed. “Why, Aldair would not let you have his darling a penny less than five thousand a year. No, my dear Verdant, you must run for it. Comprennez vous ? run-elope-Gretna Green.”

? Philip started aghast at the daring proposal. But at that moment, further consideration of the subject was postponed by the entrance of an individual of so singular an appearance and deportment, that the young men set down their glasses and burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

He was a tall, gaunt man, broad-shouldered, and erect; with something of a military expression of carriage, which was sadlyat va riance with his grotesque dress, his shy face and timid, dreamy eyes. He had no beard or moustache, but compounded for these manly ornaments by a mass of strag. gling iron grey hair, which fell over his forehead and eyes when he removed his hat with a suddenness of so many wire springs. All the efforts he made to clear his dark dreamy eyes of this obstruction were of no avail, and he remained bowing blindly, with one hand combing back the refractory locks, the other waving his battered hat. Alaric nodded kindly and motioned his eccentric visitor to a seat.

“Thank ye, sir. I have na time to spare just noo. A letter, sir, from the young leddie. Will ye see if it's recht ? ”

Alaric eagerly opened the note. It contained only a few lines, yet he looked long at it as if unable to fully comprehend its import.

“It is quite right, Mr. Kannyman. There is no answer required,” he said at length, placing the missive abstractedly in a pocket-book, that was bulky enough to have belonged to the great Bellhaven-street merchant himself.

Mr. Kannyman was too busily engaged with his perverse locks to notice what Alaric said, so he had to repeat the words a second time

“Eh ? Aye,” gasped the messenger, rousing himself as if

,

champagne :

a

curl of the lip.

about to go. But he immediately subsided into what seemed his natural state, diligently combing back his hair from his clouded face.

Alaric exhibited no surprise at his visitor's eccentricity; he merely explained to Philip casually, as he sipped his

“This is Mr. Kannyman. A Scotch gentleman of reduced circumstances and a good friend of mine," “Que c'est un drôle ami,” remarked Philip, with a slight

“Don't sneer, Monsieur ; it is an honest friend. And you need not use a language you do not perfectly understand. There is no fear of Mr. Kannyman hearing anything that is not most explicitly addressed to him.” Then, turning to the subject of his remark, he said for the third time. “ There is no answer, Mr. Kannyman. You may go.”

" Eh ? Aye,” replied he of the dreamy eyes. “I beg your pardon, I was thinking—thinking.”

He slowly rose, and bowing abstractedly the while, he gathered his shaggy hair in his great hand, and confining its vagaries under the battered old hat, he backed against the door post and out of the room, leaving Philip to marvel more than ever at his friend's equivocal and mysterious

[ocr errors]

acquaintance.

" There is a man,” Alaric observed, “who, like the parrot in the story, is always thinking and never doing; he'll die with all his music in him. You, my lad, are always dreaming and never doing. I fear your dream will prove as barren as his wisdom. Aye, Philip,” continued his senior and admonitory friend, who by this time was growing eloquent, under the influence of his fifth glass, “ Believe me, I have known some men—with generous impulsive natures like yours—men with talent and energy, that might have brought a blessing to themselves and to others, but their lives have had no goal in view, and all their actions have proved but the seeds of curses to spring up by and by, choking all the ways of life with thorns and briers.”

There was something in his manner so sad and earnest, that Philip felt that he was speaking of himself, and he thought, what some few had suspected before him, “What if

P 2

[ocr errors]

1

[ocr errors]

this man's wild mirth and his ever ready smile be but the disguises of some silent misery hidden in his heart?"

Celini,” he said, abruptly breaking silence, “ I am leaving England." “Leaving England ? " cried Philip. “What's the matter

"
now? Why did you not tell me this before ?"

“ Because I did not know if it were imperative till now.”
And where are you going?"
“I can hardly say. Paris first; then, perhaps, Italy."
“And when do you propose returning ?”

I don't know; perhaps never. Ask me no more. I cannot answer you."

Philip clasped his friend's hand—the truest friend he had

ever had.

“ God bless you, Mr. Fane, wherever you go," he said. “Come, don't be down-hearted, old fellow," cried Alaric. Consider how near you are to the consummation of your happiness, and be cheerful for your own sake, and," he added, softening his voice and speaking very earnestly, "for Emily Aldair's."

Next morning Alaric Fane had shut up his house by the river side, and was far away, to-day drinking at Paris, next week gambling at Baden, then climbing snowcapt Alps, and again sunning himself in the streets of Rome, soon to move onward again to Florence, Naples, Athens, unresting ever; and Philip Celini was walking swiftly down a Teddington lane on a visit to the Cotton's and Emily Aldair.

But Emily was a prisoner at her grandfather's house, a hundred miles away, thinking distractedly of her swiftly nearing marriage morn.

CHAPTER XXV.

MR. KANNYMAN. We must now return to the old man whose dreamy presence interrupted the last chapter.

With long swift steps Mr. Kannyman pursued his way, and in less than an hour and a half he halted under the shadow of St. Pancras Church. There he was speedily joined by a tall, graceful woman, who despite her thick veil we have no difficulty in recognizing as our long lost Pearl.

"Is it all right?" she asked.

« PreviousContinue »