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whole affair. Cui bono?' as the lawyers say. Two persons only could have had any motive, so far as wealth and fortune go. The first, and most prominent, your father, who, of course, would come into everything (which made the suspicion so hot and strong); and the other, a very nice gentleman, whom it is wholly impossible to suspect."
"Are you sure of that? People have more than suspected, they have condemned, my father. After that, I can suspect anybody. Who
Please to tell me."
"It is the present Lord Castlewood, as he is beginning to be called. He would not claim the title, or even put forward his right in any way, until he had proof of your dear father's death; and even then he behaved so well
"He did it; he did it!" I cried in hot triumph. "My father's name shall be clear of it. Can there be any doubt that he did it? How very simple the whole of it becomes! Nothing astonishes me, except the stupidity of people. He had everything to gain, and nothing to lose a bad man, no doubt-though I never heard of him. And putting it all on my father, of course, to come in himself, and abide his time, till the misery killed my father. How simple, how horribly simple it becomes !"
"You are much too quick, too hot, too sudden. Excuse me a minute"-as a silver bell struck-"I am wanted in the next room. But before I go, let me give you a glass of cold water, and beg you to dismiss that new ilea from your mind."
I could see, as I took with a trembling hand the water he poured out for me, that Mr. Shovelin was displeased. His kind and handsome face grew hard. He had taken me for a nice young lady, never much above the freezing point, and he had found me boil over in a mɔment. I was sorry to have grieved him; but if he had heard Betsy Bowen's story, and seen her tell it, perhaps he would have allowed for mo. I sat down again, having risen in my warmth, and tried to quiet and command myself by thinking of the sad points only. Of these there were plenty to make pictures of, the like of which had kept me awake all night; and I knew by this time, from finding so much more of pity than real sympathy, that men think a woman may well be all tears, but has no right to even the shadow of a frown. That is their own prerogative.
And so, when Mr. Shovelin returned, with a bundle of papers which had also vexed him-to judge by the way in which he threw them down. I spoke very mildly, and said that I was very sorry for my display of violence, but that if he knew all he would pardon me; and he pardoned me in a moment.
"I was going to tell you, my dear Miss Castlewood," he continued, gently, "that your sudden idea must be dismissed, for reasons which I think will content you. In the first place, the present Lord Castlewood is, and always has been, an exemplary man, of great piety, and true
gentleness; in the next place, he is an invalid, who cannot walk a mile with a crutch to help him, and so he has been for a great many years. And, lastly, if you have no faith in the rest, he was in Italy at the time, and remained there for some years afterwards. There he received and sheltered your poor father, after his sad calamity, anl was better than a brother to him, as your father, in a letter to me, declared. So, you see, that you must acquit him."
"That is not enough. I would beg his parlon on my knees, since he helped my father, for he must have thought him innocent. Now, Mr. Shovelin, you were my father's friend, and you are such a clever
"How do you know that, young lady? What a hurry you are always in!"
"Oh, there can be no doubt about it! But you must not ask reasons, if I am so quick. Now, please to tell me what your own conclusion is. I can talk of it calmly now; yes, quite calmly, because I never think of anything else. Only tell me what you really believe, and I will keep it most strictly to myself."
"I am sure you will do that," he answered, smiling; "not only from the power of your will, my dear, but also because I have nothing to say. At first I was strongly inclined to believe (knowing, from my certainty of your father, that the universal opinion must be wrong) that the old lord had done it himself; for he always had been of a headstrong and violent nature, which I am sure will never reappear in you. But the whole of the evidence went against this; and, little as I think of evidence, especially at an inquest, your father's behaviour confirmed what was sworn to. Your father knew that his father had not made away with himself in a moment of passion, otherwise he was not the man to break prison, and fly trial. He would have said boldly, 'I am guiltless; there are many things that I cannot explain; I cannot help that; I will face it out. Condemn me, if you like, and I will suffer.' From your own remembrance of your father's nature, is not that certainly the course he would have taken?"
"I have not an atom of doubt about it. His flight and persistent dread of trial puzzle me beyond imagination. Of his life he was perfectly reckless; except, at least, for my sake.”
"I know that he was," Mr. Shovelin replied; "as a boy he was wonderfully fearless. As a man, with a sweet wife and a lot of children, he might have begun to be otherwise. But when all those were gone, and only a poor little baby left▬▬
"Yes, I suppose I was all that ? "
Forgive me. I am looking back at you. Who could dream that you would ever even live without kith or kin to care for you? Your life was saved by some good woman who took you away to Wales. But when you were such a poor little relict, and your father could scarcely have seen you, to have such a mite left must have been almost a
mockery of happiness. That motive could not have been strong enough to prevent a man of proud honour from doing what honour at once demanded. Your father would have returned and surrendered as soon as he heard of his dear wife's death, if in the balance there had been only you." "Yes, Mr. Shovelin, perhaps he would. I was never very much, as a counter-balance. Yet my father loved me." I could have told him of the pledge exchanged-" for my sake," and, "yes, for your sake," with love and wedded honour set to fight cold, desolate repute-but I did not say a word about it.
But a man who has had seven
"He loved you afterwards, of course. children is not enthusiastic about a baby. larger motive."
There must have been a
"But, when I was the only one left alive. Surely I became valuable then. I cannot have been such a cipher."
"Yes, for a long time you would have been," replied the Saturnian banker. "I do not wish to disparage your attractions, when you were a fortnight old. They may have begun already to be irresistible. Excuse me; you have led me into the light vein, when speaking of a most sad matter. You must blame your self-assertion for it. All I wish to convey to you is my belief that something, wholly unknown to us, some dark mystery of which we have no inkling, lies at the bottom of this terrible affair. Some strange motive there must have been, strong enough even to overcome all ordinary sense of honour, and an Englishman's pride in submitting to the law, whatever may be the consequence, Consider that his 'flight from justice,' as it was called, of course by every one, condemned his case and ruined his repute. Even for that he would not have cared so much as for his own sense of right. And though he was a very lively fellow, as I first remember him, full of tricks and jokes, and so on, which in this busy age are out of date, I am certain that he always had a stern sense of right. One never knows how love-affairs, and weakness about children, may alter almost any man; but my firm conviction is that my dear old school-fellow, George Castlewood, even with a wife and lovely children hanging altogether upon his life, not only would not have broken jail, but would calmly have given up his body to be hanged-pardon me, my dear, for putting it so coarsely-if there had not been something paramount to over-ride even apparent honour. What it can have been, I have no idea; and I presume you have none."
"None whatever," I said at once, in answer to his inquiring gaze; "I am quite taken by surprise; I never even thought of such a thing. It has always seemed to me so natural that my dear father, being shamefully condemned, because appearances were against him, and nobody could enter into him, should, for the sake of his wife and children, or even of one child like me, depart or banish himself, or emigrate, or as they might call it, run away. Knowing that he never could have a fair trial, it was the only straightforward, and good, and affectionate thing for him to do."
"You cannot see things as men see them. We must not expect it of you," Mr. Shovelin answered, with a kind but rather too superior smile, which reminded me a little of dear Uncle Sam, when he listened to what, in his opinion, was only female reason; "but, dear me, here is Major Hockin come! Punctuality is the soul of business."
"So I always declare," cried the Major, who was more than threequarters of an hour late, for which, in my heart, I thanked him. My watch keeps time to a minute, Sir, and its master to a second. Well, I hope you have settled all questions of finance, and endowed my young
maid with a fortune."
"So far from that," Mr. Shovelin replied, in a tone very different from that he used to me, "we have not even said one word of business; all that has been left for your return. Am I to understand that you are by appointment, or relationship, the guardian of this young lady?"
"God forbid!" cried Major Hockin, shortly. I thought it very rude of him, yet I could not help smiling to see how he threw his glasses up and lifted his wiry crest of hair. "Not that she is bad, I mean, but good, very good; indeed, I may say the very best girl ever known outside of my own family. My cousin, Colonel Gundry, who owns an immense estate in the most auriferous district of all California, but will not spoil his splendid property by mining-he will, he will tell you the very same thing, Sir."
"I am very glad to hear it," said the banker, smiling at me, while I wondered what it was, but hoped that it meant my praises. "Now I really fear that I must be very brief, though the daughter of my oldest friend may well be preferred to business. But now we will turn at once to business, if you please."
MR. SHOVELIN went to a corner of the room, which might be called his signal-box, having a little row of port-holes, like a toy frigate or accordion, and there he made sounds which brought steps very promptly, one clerk carrying a mighty ledger, and the other a small strong box.
"No plate," Major Hockin whispered to me, shaking his grey crest with sorrow; "but there may be diamonds, you know, Erema. One ounce of diamonds is worth a ton of plate."
"I fear that Thank you, Mr. Robinson ; Strictly speaking, perhaps I
"No," said Mr. Shovelin, whose ears were very keen, you will find nothing of mercantile value. by and by perhaps we shall trouble you. should require the presence of your father's lawyer, or of some one producing probate, ere I open this box, Miss Castlewood. But having you here, and Major Hockin, and knowing what I do about the matter
(which is one of personal confidence), I will dispense with formalities. We have given your father's solicitor notice of this deposit, and requested his attention, but he never has deigned to attend to it; so now we will dispense with him. You see that the seal is unbroken; you know your father's favourite seal, no doubt. The key is nothing; it was left to my charge. You wish that I should open this?'
Certainly I did, and the banker split the seal with an ebony-handled paper-knife, and very soon unlocked the steel-ribbed box, whose weight was chiefly of itself. Some cotton-wool lay on the top to keep the all penetrative dust away, and then a sheet of blue foolscap paper, partly covered with clear but crooked writing, and under that some little twists of silver paper, screwed as if there had been no time to tie them, and a packet of letters held together by a glittering bracelet.
"Poor fellow!" Mr. Shovelin said, loftily, while I held my breath, and the Major had the courtesy to be silent. "This is his will; of no value, I fear, in a pecuniary point of view, but of interest to you his daughter. Shall I open it, Miss Castlewood, or send it to his lawyers?"
"Open it, and never think of them," said I ; "like the rest, they have forsaken him. Please to read it to yourself, and then tell us."
Oh, I wish I had known this before," cried the banker, after a rapid glance or two; "very kind, very flattering, I am sure! Yes, I will do my duty by him; I wish there was more to be done in the case. He has left me sole executor, and trustee of all his property, for the benefit of his surviving child. Yet he never gave me the smallest idea of expecting me to do this for him. Otherwise, of course, I should have had this old box
opened years ago."
"We must look at things as they are," said Major Hockin, for I could say nothing; "the question is, what do you mean to do now?
"Nothing whatever," said the banker, crisply, being displeased at the other's tone; and then, seeing my surprise, he addressed himself to me; "Nothing, at present, but congratulate myself upon my old friend's confidence, and, as Abernethy said, 'take advice.' A banker must never encroach upon the province of the lawyer. But so far as a layman may judge, Major Hockin, I think you will have to transfer to me the care of this young lady.".
"I shall be only too happy, I assure you," the Major answered truthfully. "My wife has a great regard for her, and so have I-the very greatest, the strongest regard, and warm parental feelings; as you know, Erema. But-but, I am not so young as I was; and I have to develop my property."
"Of which she no longer forms a part," Mr. Shovelin answered, with a smile at me, which turned into pleasure my momentary pain at the other's calm abandonment. "You will find me prompt and proud to claim her, as soon as I am advised that this will is valid; and that I shall learn to-morrow."
In spite of pride, or by its aid, my foolish eyes were full of tears, and