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DEDICATION

DEAR LADY O'CONOR,

It is very kind of you to allow me the pleasure of dedicating this book to you. We have been friends during the greater part of our lives-much the greater part of yours-and your friendship towards me and mine has been unvarying and constant, and illustrated by a hundred acts of warm and ready hospitality. You have always shown interest in my writings, and encouraged me by generous appreciation of them. All these are good reasons for my desire to associate you with a book of mine by setting your name in the dedication of it. There is another reason in your kindness to the two people who have been dearest to me on earth: for that I am even more grateful than for your steady friendship for myself.

To look back to the beginning of that friendship is to look back on a world much more different from the present than it was from the times in which the first chapters of this book are placed. Those chapters are, I confess, a little too much like the opening of a novel for a book that is not a novel at all, and was never intended for a novel; but they serve, or are meant to serve, as the introduction of the character who had, till her death, the foremost place in Fernando's life.

When Gracechurch appeared, some of its best reviewers picked out for special praise the parts which were most autobiographical, and, like Oliver Twist, asked for more: and that, particularly, in reference to the passages in Gracechurch most indicative of the foregone conclusion of "Johnnie's ” conversion. Hence Fernando.

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As for the beginning, so for the end of the book, some apology may seem necessary: it has no end. But to the writer it appears that it could have none. It is only a Preface-a preface to a book never to be written.

That you may like it, I hope; if only because it may help to bring back far-away days over which lies that light that can never come again, under which lay the undiscovered country of our lives. Whether strangers will like it I cannot tell-in writing one never thinks of that.

Anyway I thank you for accepting so readily a gift so slight.

Yours sincerely,

JOHN AYSCOUGH

Fernando

CHAPTER I

HIS GRANDPARENTS AND AUNTS

WHEN Fernando Burscough's grandparents and aunts heard that Hubert was engaged to marry an Irish girl they shook their heads over it. There was, of course, no Fernando then-Hubert Burscough was his father, and Fernando did not arrive till seven years after Hubert had married Miss Desmond.

"An Irish girl!" said Mr. Roger Burscough-all the elder sons among the Burscoughs had been christened Roger for many generations.

That was all Miss Desmond's future fatherin-law said, but it meant a good deal. And he pursed his lips as he left the room.

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"With no more notion of management and economy than a . began Mrs. Burscough, and paused for a simile.

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Than poor dear Hubert," sighed his sister Eleanor.

"Perhaps she has money," suggested Henrietta, whose disposition was sanguine. She was ten years younger than Eleanorwho had always been plain-and retained the idea of becoming engaged herself. She was better looking than Edith, who had not married badly, and as pretty as Maria, who had married quite satisfactorily.

"Money!" cried Fernando's predestined grandmother. "Not a penny, I'll be bound. If she had money Hubert would never have thought of her."

Miss Burscough shook her head sighingly, as though constrained to admit the correctness of her mother's position. She did not understand Mrs. Burscough as accusing her youngest son of an unnatural objection to money -he liked it, to spend-but merely of a constitutional incapacity for enriching himself.

"If there were twelve sisters in a family and all with money except one," declared Hubert's mother, "he would fall in love with the one without a sixpence."

"Has she eleven sisters?" exclaimed Henrietta, whose mind, though sanguine, was

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