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WYLDER'S HAND.

PART IX.

CHAPTER LXIX.

I REVISIT BRANDON HALL.

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RACHEL LAKË was courageous and and his sons, and part of a regiment energetic; and, when once she had of foot soldiers, with the usual return taken a clear view of her duty, won- of broken legs and missing arms, derfully persistent and impracticable. stood peacefully mingled upon the Her dreadful interview with Jos board across his bed which served as Larkin was always in her mind. The a platform. bleached face, so meek, so cruel, But little man was leaning back; of that shabby spectre, in the small, his fingers, once so busy, lay motionlow parlour of Redman's Farm, was less on the coverlet, and his tired eyes always before her. There he had rested on the toys with a joyless, earspoken the sentences which made the nest apathy. earth tremble, and showed her dis- “Didn't play with them a minute," tinctly the cracking line beneath her said the maid. feet, which would gape at his word, “I'll bring him a new box, I'm going into the fathomless chasm that was into the town; wont that be pretty?" to swallow her. But, come what said Rachel, parting his golden locks might she would not abandon the over the young forehead, and kissing Vicar and his little boy, and good him; and she took his little hand in Dolly, to the arts of that abominable her’s-it was hot and dry. magician.

He looks better-a little better, The more she thought, the clearer don't you think; just a little better?" was her conviction. She had no one whispered his mamma, looking as all to consult with; she knew the risk of the rest were, on that wan, sad little exasperating that tall man of God, face. who lived at the Lodge. But, deter- But he really looked worse. mined to brave all, she went down to "Well, he can't look better, you see Dolly and the Vicar at home. know, dear, till there's a decided

Poor Dolly was tired; she had been change. What does Doctor Buddle sitting up all night with sick little say ?» Fairy. He was better to-day ; but He saw him yesterday morning. last night he had frightened them so, He thinks it is all from his stomach, poor little man! he began to rave and he's feverish; no meat; indeed he about eleven o'clock; and more or less won't eat anything, and you see the his little mind continued wandering light hurts his eyes. until near six, when he fell into a There was only a chink of the shutsound sleep, and seemed better for it; ter open. and it was such a blessing there “But it is always so when he is certainly was neither scarlatina nor ever so little ill, my precious little small-pox, both which enemies had man; and I know if he thought it anyappeared on the northern frontier of thing the least serious, Doctor Buddle Gylingden, and were picking down would have looked in before now, he's their two or three cases each in so very kind." that quarter.

“I wish my darling could get a So Rachel first made her visit to little sleep. He's very tired nurse, little man, sitting up in his bed, very said Rachel. pale and thin, and looking at her, not “Yes'm, very tired'm; would he with his pretty smile, but a languid, like his precious head lower a bit ? earnest, wonder, and not speaking. No, very well, darling, we'll leave it How quickly and strikingly sickness so." tells upon children. Little man's “Dolly, darling, you and nurse frugal store of toys, chiefly the gifts must be so tired sitting up: I have of pleasant Rachel, wild beasts, Noah a little wine at Redman's Farm; I

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got it, you remember, more than a sum, and I wish to lend it to you, year ago, when Stanley said he was either all or as much as will make coming to pay me a visit. I never you quite comfortable--you must not take any, and a little would be so refuse. I had intended leaving it to good for you and poor nurse. I'll

my

dear little man up stairs; and you send some to you.”

must promise me solemnly that you So coming down stairs Rachel said, will not listen to the advice of that " is the Vicar at home ?" Yes, he bad, cruel man, Mr. Larkin.” was in the study, and there they “My dear Miss Lake, you misunfound him brushing his seedy hat, derstood him-what can I say-how and making ready for his country can I thank you ?” said the Vicar, calls in the neighbourhood of the clasping her hand. town. The hour was dull without A wicked and merciless man, I little Fairy; but he would soon be up say,” repeated Miss Lake, “from and out again, and he would steal up my observation of him, I am certain now and see him. He could not go of two things-I am sure that he has out without his little farewell at the some reason for believing that your bed-side, and he would bring him in brother, Mark Wylder is dead; and some pretty flowers.

secondly, that he is himself deeply “You've seen little Fairy?" asked interested in the purchase of your rethe good Vicar, wit a very anxious version ; I'm ill : Dolly, open the smile, “and you think him better, window.” dear Miss Lake, don't you?"

There was a silence for a little Why, I can't say that, because while, and Rachel resumed. you know, so soon as he's better, he'll “Now William Wylder, I am conbe quite well; they make their reco- vinced, that you and your wife (and veries all in a moment."

she kissed Dolly), and your dear little "But he does not look worse ?” said boy, are marked out for plunder; the the Vicar, lifting his eyes eagerly objects of a conspiracy; and I'll lose from his boot which he was buttoning my life, but I'll prevent it.” on the chair.

"Now, maybe Willie, upon my “Well, he does look more tired, word, perhaps, she's quite right; for, but that must be till his recovery you know, if poor Mark is dead, then begins, which will be, please heaven, would not he have the estate now; is inmediately."

not that it, Miss Lake, and—and, you “Oh, yes, my little man has had know, that would be dreadful, to sell two or three attacks much more se- it all for next to nothing, is not that rious than this, and always shook what you mean, Miss Lake Rachel them off so easily, I was reminding dear, I mean. Dolly, always, and good Doctor Bud- “Yes, Dolly, stripping yourselves dle assures us, it is none of those of a splendid inheritance, and robbing horrid complaints.”

your poor little boy; I protest, in the And so they talked over the case of name of heaven, against it, and you the little man, who with Noah, and have no excuse now William, with my his sons, and the battered soldiers offer before you; and, Dolly, it will be and animals before him, was fighting, inexcusable wickedness in you, if you though they only dimly knew it, allow it." silently in his little bed, the great “Now, Willie dear, do you hear battle of life or death.

that-do

you

hear what she says ?" Mr. Larkin came to me the even- “ But Dolly darling--dear Miss ing before last,” said Rachel, and Lake there is no reason whatever to told me that the little sum I men- suppose that poor Mark is dead,” said tioned-now don't say a word till you the Vicar, very pale. have heard me-was not sufficient; I tell you again, I am convinced so I want to tell you what I have the Attorney knows it. He did not quite resolved on. I have been long say so, indeed; but, cunning as he is, intending some time or other to change I think I've quite seen through his my place of residence, perhaps I shall plot; and even in what he said to me, go to Switzerland, and I have made there was something that half betrayed up my mind to sell my rent-charge him every moment. And, Dolly, if on the Dulchester estate. It will you allow this sale, you deserve the produce, Mr. Young says, a very large ruin you are inviting, and the re

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There was,

morse that will follow you to your Rachel, that the sale must be stopped, grave."

and she would do whatever dear Ra“Do you hear that, Willie ?” said chel bid her. Dolly, with her hand on his arm. “But do you think Mr. Larkin

But, dear, it is too late-I have really thinks that poor Mark is dead?” signed this, this instrument-and it is “I do, dear—I suspect he knows it.” too late. I hope-God bless me-I “And what makes you think that, have not done wrong. Indeed, what- Rachel, darling ?” ever happens, dear Miss Lake, may “I can't define-I've no proofs to Heaven for ever bless you. But re- give you. One knows things, somespecting good Mr. Larkin, you are in times. I perceived it—and I think I error; am sure you have quite mis- can't be mistaken ; and now I've said understood him. You don't know all, and pray ask me no more upon how kind-how disinterestedly good that point. he has been ; and now, my dear Miss Rachel spoke with a hurried and Lake, it is too late-qúite too late." fierce impatience, that rather startled

“No; it is not too late. Such her companion. wickedness as that cannot be lawful It is wonderful that she showed her

- I won't believe the law allows it,” state of mind so little. cried Rachel Lake. “It is all a fraud indeed, something feverish, and at -even if you have signed-all a fraud. times even fierce, in her looks and You must procure able advice at once. words. But few would have guessed Your enemy is that dreadful Mr. Lar- her agony, as she pleaded with the kin. Write to some good attorney in Vicar and his wife ; or the awful London. I'll pay everything." sense of impending consequences that

“But, dear Miss Lake, I can't," said closed over her like the shadow of the Vicar, dejectedly; “I am bound night, the moment the excitement of in honour and conscience not to dis- her pleading was over

“Rachel, are turb it-I have written to Messrs. you mad ?- Fly, fly, fly!" was always Burlington and Smith to that effect. sounding in her ears. The little street I assure you, dear Miss Lake, we have of Gylingden, through which they pot acted inconsiderately-nothing were passing, looked strange and ha done without careful and dream-like. And as she listened to deep consideration.”

Mrs. Crinkle's babble over the counter, You must employ an able attorney and choose his toys for poor little immediately. You have been duped. Fairy,” she felt like one trifling on Your little boy must not be ruined.” the way to execution.

“But-but I do assure you, I have But her warnings and entreaties, so pledged myself by the letter I have I have said, were not quite thrown mentioned, that I could not-no, it is away; for, although the Vicar was quite impossible,he added, as he re- inflexible, she had prevailed with his collected the strong and pointed terms wife, who, at parting, again promised in which he had pledged his honour Rachel, that if she could do it, the and conscience to the London firm, to sale should be stopped. guarantee them against any such dis- When I returned to Brandon, a few turbance as Miss Lake was urging mornings later, Captain Lake received him to.

me joyfully at his solitary breakfast. “I am going into the town, Dolly, He was in an intense electioneering and so are you," said Rachel, after a excitement. The evening papers for

"Let us go together.”. the day before lay on the breakfast And to this Dolly readily assented; table. and the Vicar, evidently much trou- “A move of some sort suspectedbled in mind, having run up to the the opposition prints all hinting at nursery to see his little man, the two tricks and ambuscades. They are ladies set out together. Rachel saw whipping their men up awfully. Old that she had made an impression upon Wattles, not half recovered, going Dolly, and was resolved to carry her by the early train to-day, Wealdon point. So, in earnest terms, again tells me. It will probably kill him. she conjured her, at least, to lay the Stower went up yesterday. Lee says whole matter before some friend on he saw him at Charteris. He never whom she could rely ; and Dolly, speaks only a vote-and a fellow alarmed and eager, quite agreed with that never appears till the last minute.”

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little pause.

“ Brittle, the member for Stony- can't be worth much, and it's in his Muckford, was in the next carriage to way—I'd make it up to him somehow. me this morning; and he's a slow Will you just look at that--it's the coach, too,” I threw in. “It does Globe-only six lines, and tell me look as if the division was nearer than what you make of it ?” they pretend."

“It does look like it, certainly." Just so. I heard from Gybes last Wealdon and I have jotted down evening--what a hand that fellow a few names here,” said Lake, sliding writes-only a dozen words—look a list of names before me;" you know out for squalls,' and 'keep your men some of them, I think-rather a strong in hand.' I've sent for Wealdon. I committee; don't you think so ? Those wish the morning papers were come. fellows with the red cross before have I'm a quarter past eleven—what are promised.”. you !--The post's in at Dollington “Yes; it's very strong-capital !" fifty minutes before we get our letters I said, crunching my toast. “Is it here. D-d nonsense—it's all that thought the writ will follow the disheavy 'bus of Driver's—I'll change solution unusually quickly ?" that. They leave London at five, and “They must, unless they want a get to Dollington at half-past ten, and very late session. But it is quite Driver never has them in sooner than possible the Government may wintwenty minutes past eleven ! d- -d a week ago they reckoned upon humbug! I'd undertake to take a eleven.' dog-cart over the ground in twenty And as we were talking the post minutes.

arrived. “Is Larkin here?” I asked.

“Here they are !" cried Lake, and Oh, no-run up to town. I'm so grasping the first morning paper he glad he's away--the clumsiest dog in could seize on, he tore it open with a England-nothing clever-no inven- greater display of energy than I had tion-only a bully—the people hate seen that languid gentleman exhibit him. Wealdon's my man. I wish on any former occasion. he'd give up that town-clerkship-it

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CHAPTER LXX.

LADY MACBETH.

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"HERE it is," said the Captain. opened a large-sealed envelope, with Beaten "-then came

an oath

S. C. G. in the corner. three votes—how the devil was “This is from Gybes—let us see. that?—there it is, by Jove-no mis- Oh! before the division. ' It looks a take-majority against ministers, a little fishy,' he says--well, so it three! Is that the Times ? What does —'We may take the division todoes it say.”

night. Should it prove adverse, you A long leader-no resignation, are to expect an immediate dissoluimmediate dissolution. That is what tion; this on the best authority. I I collect from it."

writé to mention this, as I may be “How on earth could they have too much hurried to-morrow.?" miscalculated so. Swivell, I see, voted We were discussing this note in the majority; thats very odd; and, when Wealdon arrived. by Jove, there's Surplice, too, and 'Well, Captain ; great news, sir. he's good for seven votes. Why, his The best thing, I take it, could have own paper was backing the ministers! happened ministers, ha, ha, ha! A What a fellow that is! That accounts rotten house-down with it-blow it for it all. A difference of fourteen up—three votes only—but as good as votes."

three hundred for the purpose-of And thus we went on, discussing the three hundred, grant but three, this unexpected turn of luck, and you know-of course, they don't think reading to one another snatches of of resigning.” the leading articles in different inte- Oh, dear, no--an immediate disrests upon the subject.

solution. Read that,” said Lake, Then Lake, recollecting his letters, tossing Gybe's note to him.

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“Ho, then, we'll have the writs down he was thinking of the shabby letter hot and heavy. We must be sharp. he had just received. The sheriff's all right; that's a point. But, no matter; the election was You must not lose an hour in getting the pressing topic, and Lake was soon your committee together, and print- engaged in it again. ing your address.”

There was now a grand coup under Who's on the other side ?” discussion—the forestalling of all the “You'll have Jennings, of course; horses and vehicles along the line of but they are talking of four different railway, and in all the principal postmen, already, to take Sir Harry Twis- ing establishments throughout the den's place. He'll resign; that's past county. a doubt now. He has his retiring "They'll want to keep it open for address written ; Lord Edward Mor- a bid from the other side. It is a dun read it; and he told FitzStephen heavy item any way; and if you want on Sunday, after Church, that he'd to engage them now, you'll have to never sit again.

give double what they got last time." 'Here, by Jove, is a letter from But Lake was not to be daunted. Mowbray, said Lake, opening it. He wanted the seat, and would stick “All about his brother George. Hears at nothing to secure it; and so, WealI'm up for the county. Lord George don got instructions, in his own phrase, ready to join and go halves. What “to go the whole animal.” shall I say ???

As I could be of no possible use in “Could not have a better man. local details, I left the council of war Tell him you'd desire no better, and sitting, intending a stroll in the will bring it at once before your com- grounds. mittee; and let him know the moment In the hall, I met the mistress of the they meet; and tell him I say he house, looking very handsome, but knows Wealdon pretty well-he may with a certain witch-like beauty, look on it as settled. That will be a deadly pale, something a little hayspoke in Sir Harry's wheel.”

gard in her great, dark eyes, and a “Sir Harry who ?” said Lake. strange, listening look. Was it watch

“ Bracton. I think it's only to fulness ? was it suspicion? She was spoil your game, you see," answered dressed gravely but richly, and reWealdon.

ceived me kindly-and, strange to “Abundance of malice ; but I don't say, with a smile that, yet, was not think he's countenanced ?"

joyful. “He'll try to get the start of you; "I hope she is happy. Lake is and if he does, one or other must go such a beast; I hope he does not to the wall ; for Lord George is too bully her.”' strong to be shook out. Do you get In truth, there were in her exquiforward at once; that's your plan, site features the traces of that mysCaptain.”

terious misery and fear, which seemed Then the Captain recurred to his to fall wherever Stanley Lake's illletters, which were a larger pack than omened confidences were given. usual this morning, chatting all the I walked down one of the long time with Wealdon and me on the alleys, with tall, close hedges of beech, tremendous topic, and tossing aside as impenetrable as cloister walls to every letter that did not bear on the sight, and watched the tench basking coming struggle.

and flickering in the clear pond, and “Who can this be,” said Lake, the dazzling swans sailing majestilooking at the address of one of these. cally along. “Very like my hand,” and he exa- What a strange passion is ambition, mined the seal. It was only a large I thought. Is it really the passion of wafer-stamp, so he broke it open, and great minds, or of little. Here is drew out a shabby, very ill-written Lake, with a noble old place, inexscroll

. He turned suddenly away, haustible in variety; with a beautiful, talking the while, but with his eyes and I was by this time satisfied, a very upon the note, and then he folded, or singular and interesting woman for rather crumpled it up, and stuffed it his

wife, who must have married him into his pocket, and continued his for love, pure and simple; a handtalk; but it was now plain to me there some fortune ; the power to bring his was something more on his mind, and friends-those whom he liked, or who

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