Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

he \a reported to have done, to have refused to meet Mr. Bancroft subsequently in private. For our part, we should as soon have thought of refusing to meet a jester. The mischief of these fiascoes is, not in any immediate effect, which is nil. but in the false impression they produce of the emptiness and vanity of one of the greatest and most earnest nations on the face of the earth.

The erroneous European prejudice that braggadocio and a noble earnestness of purpose can never go together is so strongly rooted, that a few official displays of Young Columbianism do almost as much to eradicate the impression produced by the great actions of the great men of silence, like Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman, as if they were displays of unstable national purpose, instead of mere symptoms of " gas on the brain." Some of us know how false and injurious that notion is, but it obtains nevertheless, and it would do more to give America her true place among the nations, that her tongue should become a little less glib and her language a little less grandiloquent, than even that her actions should grow rapidly in magnitude, and her substantial statesmanship in wisdom.

THE LAW OF BOROUGH ENGLISH.
A Lawyer's Story.

We often speak of " an adverse fate," or "a piece of good luck," and with that definition of our good or bad fortune most of us stop; only a few thinkers go deeper into the question m what fate or luck may be. Philosophers and theologians have expressed many and diverse opinions thereupon; their explanations usually taking the view, either that the world, with its vast and multitudinous lives and activities (including its journey round the sun and the pilgrimage of a child to the school round the corner), is one great machine, wound up by some unknown power ages ago, and now left to go on wheels by itself, like a clock, — those wheels being what they call "the laws of nature"; or that it is under the constant supervision and interfering care of some great Being whose hand is, continually turning on earth round and round, and arranging the minutest accidents of our lives. Between these two extreme views are various modifications, — one of the simplest of which seems to be this: The world is ruled by an individual, supervising Being, who has given laws for its government, and who has multitudinous servants at his command to carry out His behests. His servants vary in the perfection of their obedience, and His laws are diverse, and sometimes apparently contradictory. Some of them are known to us, of others we have no idea, and hence what may seem to us an unexpected piece of luck or an unfortunate accident may simply be the interference of one law with another, or superseding it. An example of this, drawn from daily life, will show what we mean.

Sir John Williams, knight, of Eastwood Park, Co. Herts, who died a few years ago, began life as "John Williams, yarn and worsted merchant, Clerki uwell, City." He started in business with a small competence as junior partner in an old house. The firm was prudent, and trade was good, and as the elder partners died off he purchased the whole business. By degrees he amassed a large fortune, and became a member of the corporation. He had married early, and his first abode after that act was over the shop; but as his children increased in number and requirements, a cottage was occasion

ally taken in Clapham. The cottage, in a few years, was exchanged for a house, and as more money came in, the country house was left for a mansion in the then fashionable Russell Square. During his residence there he was elected Lord Mayor; and a grand civic reception being given to royalty that year, he was knighted.

His children, two boys, were now at school. John, the eldest, was at Eton. He had been destined from his cradle to be the "gentleman," and representative to the world of the Williams family. But the mode in which he was to represent its greatness altered with the increasing wealth of the yarn and worsted shop. So that at the period of which we now speak, the business having been sold to a "Limited Liability Company," and Sir John having purchased Eastwood Park, young John was to enter the cavalry for a few years, so that, if a baronetcy could not be obtained, he might put something more than mere " Esquire " after his name. The second son, William, might go into any profession and work his own way; he would have a comfortable fortune; but it was absolutely necessary that the ex-city merchant should make more impression on the world than he would have done by merely leaving two sons well off. No! there must be an " eldest son and heir, and the world should know it: unfortunately John knew it too soon, — he was utterly spoilt: and still more unfortunate, though destined to be the "gentleman," he was not one. The cloven foot would peep out through the polished boot, meanness would display itself despite the well-filled purse; in short, the prudence and sharpness which had enabled John Williams, senior, to make an honest livelihood, were exaggerated into meanness and cunning in John Williams, junior; and, with the addition of selfishness, gross, tastes, and want of principle, helped to make him a scamp and a scoundrel. As is, however, so often the case, the more anxiety and trouble he gave his parents, the more favor did he receive. William, the second son, was, on the other hand, a puzzle and mystery to his parents. They did not know what to make of him; he was a sort of ugly duckling,—an oddity. He was not dashing like John, nor mildly commonplace like his parents. What was he? No wonder he was a puzzle to himself as well as to others: for he was — a thinker and an honest man.

Now thinkers and honest men are raroe aves, and are not generally the best climbers to the top of that tree whose fruits are the good things of this world. Though thought and honesty are grand qualifications, it is odd to see what useless creatures, some thinkers are ; and as to honest men, — why, in this clever world of ours, some of them seem absolute fools! The fault lies partly in themselves, and partly in the world, which cannot understand them, or understands them only enough to abuse them. The mere theorist is only half a man: to complete himself he must be practical also ; thought and honesty are useless, unless they can be brought to bear on the matters of daily life. The thinker is simply a dreamer, unless he can seize hold of facts and mould them and his theories together. As to the honest man who cannot understand selfishness and deceit, he is truly to be pitied, for he must suffer; he must go to the wall, unless he can kill his conscience and learn to cheat like his neighbors: not even the tcixtlom of the serpent united with such innocence would be sufficient now-a-days.

William, luckily, was not a mere dreamer; he was of a practical and combative disposition, and consequcntly could not be moulded into any form to which his parent might desire to shape him. At school he had held his own and had more warm admirers than enemies, though he could not bring himself to the school-boy's code of honor: the master was not fair game, in his eyes, just because he was the master, nor the "softy " because he was a simpleton. He had strong ideas of right and wrong, and in a quiet way he put them into practice; and though not a general favorite, in time he commanded a great deal of respect, and was hated by none but the most evil disposed.

When he left school his profession could have been easily chosen, as far as his parent's choice was concerned; for Sir John was growing daily more indifferent to the interests of his younger son in his anxiety to transmit to posterity "a name": this he thought could be done only by making an heir of the eldest son and by changing the knighthood into a baronetcy, which feat he hoped to accomplish in his son's person if not in his own. And as a baronetcy cannot be obtained by merely the asking, he thought the nearest road to it would be via politics, for which purpose money must be spent. So Sir John became a strong conservative, and purposed standing at the next election; and by thus diligently serving his Marty, and by cleverly making a show of his good deeds, he hoped in time to receive from the government a reward for his zeal in the shape of a baronetcy. But all this would require money; therefore much could not be spent on William, who might thus have chosen any profession in which he could make his way. Had he not been a thinker he might have gone into the Church, — but his honesty prevented him from entering a profession (the highest of all in intention, he called it) for which he would have to belie himself and to forswear liberty of thought. At a counting-house he kicked and shied. The bar was open to him, and he would at once have joined it, but that for some time he could not find it in his conscience to "make the worse appear the better part," as he might be called on to do. So he went abroad for a year or so, and at nineteen behold him at home (" more crotchety than ever," his mother said), an idle fellow, but a little demigod to a certain set of youngsters, who had a glimmering notion that somehow Will Williams had got hold of a good idea when he said that honesty would master falsehood in the long run, and that there were other things in this life more desirable than money and the praise of men. These quaint ideas of his gave a charm and grace to his demeanor, and made him a true gentleman.

He was not really idle; he was reading, thinking, learning, teaching his adorers, and making love to Mary listed, the eldest of the Rector of Eastwood's six daughters; and so after half a year's wooing, having found out Miss Mary's opinion, he asked his father's leave to marry at once. Of course by "leave" he meant "the money." Arguing that since he and Mary loved each other, they ought to marry, he did not imagine that any substantial objection could be raised; but Sir John was not a philosopher, at least not of the same school as was his son. "Too young, too young," said he ; "no profession, no means yet." And Lady Williams chimed in,—

"She 's a penniless girl, William, and with your expectations you might marry anybody "; anybody meaning an heiress.

These expectations were well known to the boys. It was their father's intention to leave £ 20,000 to

William, and the remainder of his fortune, £40.1X4, to John with the estate.

"If my expectations are good," said William, "then I don't need an heiress. But good or bai Mary and I love each other, so there is no furtbt: question. Father, will you give me £ 300 a year to start on?"

"Not a penny till you have a profession and can make an income for yourself."

The wisdom of this economy did not appear te William, who was thus brought to a standstill. Now this peculiar young man had thought it best not to ask Mr. listed for his daughter till he could say it had the wherewithal to marry upon. But, after this decided rebuff from his father, five went to the Rwtor with this simple statement and request: —

"Sir, I love your daughter Mary, and she kiss me; will you give your consent to our enwawmt m till I have the means of taking care of her. ;e m; father will not give me the money to marry two yet?"

And the Rector, counting over the pros and rat, consented; for he thought, " the money must! vox some day to the lad. I have six girls and no portion for them; and living here they are not likely it take the world by storm." Moreover, he had an <•teem for William, knowing his sterling worth mi being able to appreciate it. This conduct of ti^ Rector gave great affront to Lady Williams, "l caused a coldness between their two families.

William having now an object for making money. went to London at once, entered at the Inner TVapie, and worked closely for the law. Here he re ruained till startled by the news of Mr. listed'? widen death, by which his family were thrown ailriii on the world, nearly beggars The change1 in ttar circumstances was greater than can be imagined ly any one who has not witnessed the effect of a rater's death. With the small but certain tithes ftcni the living, Mr. listed and his family could live wicfortably, though not affluently; they were rwpectd and looked up to by the lower and middling claw-. and could mix with their wealthier neighbors on life footing of equality given by the rector's olotiBut when her husband died Mrs. listed w.is no lager mistress of the Rectory; she was merely"' clergyman's widow," and she soon learnt the paint difference of her position. Of course she left Ei*wood, and as she obtained a clerkship for her ion B the city, she went to live in the suburbs of London so as to be near him.

The poverty of the Ilsteds' circumstances in*'1' William more than ever anxious to marry at oaf. but his father would still do nothing for him. s>V returned again to London; and, after keeping s' his terms, he took up any law business that lie <f"-' find, and made a small purse by writing, prepiric: notes on divers subjects for other men, and »« f"rt'So that when, at the end of three or four years. S" was sure of a small income, he went to Mrs. IbW and asked for her daughter. Mary's prudem* urged her still to wait, but consideration for k" mother's scanty means urged her the other TOTherefore they were quietly married, and as mist they lived in London. Before his marring* M i& formed his parents of the step he was taking; •* mother wrote to "hope he would be happy, dcsp:;r his unfortunate circumstances." As he solicited"' aid, he was agreeably surprised by the £ 500 rhflj which arrived on his wedding-day; but that *J*" the notice or help he ever received.

John, now a dashing captain, had of course not-

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

ing to say to one "who had so disgraced the family and had made such a fool of himself"; indeed, beyond the tie of blood there was no affinity between the brothers. Their ideas and tastes, pursuits and society, were not only different, but entirely opposite; and the strong preference shown to John by both parents would alone have precluded much intimacy between the brothers; for even in early days, he, presuming on their indulgence, was overbearing and insulting to William.

Thus five or six years passed on, William graduallv rising in his profession and becoming distinguished in the literary world, though unrecognized by the family.

John was now quartered at Brompton and was paving his addresses to the only daughter of Owen Evans, the owner of enormous Welsh copper-mines; it was necessary, indeed, that he should secure the heiress, for he was in great difficulties, despite the liberal allowance from his father, who had moreover twice paid his debts, — Lady Williams pleading for her son and softening down the irate father, who however told John that, if ever called on again to meet his creditors, he would pay the debts out of the capital to be left to his son. But, alas! John was compelled to exceed his income: money must be spent, to keep him in that position which poorer men held by their birth and gentle breeding: and a lavish expenditure did obtain for him a certain class of friends who were not too proud to sponge on, and yet laugh at, him, — and who led him into habits creditable neither to the gentleman nor soldier. So when creditors again became pressing, he had no choice but to resort to the money-lenders, with whom he found it so easy to arrange that in the course of a few years he had anticipated nearly all his expectations, — including Eastwood, which, not being entailed, was considered by the Jews a bad security, and a heavy interest was put on accordingly. With all these difficulties, John found it very necessary to secure Miss Evans and the coppermines. He was successful in his suit, — father arid daughter consented; and his own parents were delighted with the proposed match: the settlements were grand in prospect, — neither of the old gentlemen knowing that every penny and every inch of ground John would • have left him were already

{mmiised to the money-lenders. But this mattered ittlc to the expectant bridegroom, who was as happv under the circumstances as any man could possibly be; for now he would be able to retrieve his fortune; or at least when the storm should burst he would be able to hide his head deep in his wife's copper-mines and disappoint his creditors by paying them their dues. Only let him secure the heiress, and then no matter how soon the discovery would be made.

But now when all was promising so well, by a piece of ill-fortune there came a slip between his expectant lips and the anticipated cup. The wedding-day, which was fixed, was unavoidably postponed by the death of Sir John Williams, who was killed by a fall from his horse. "No matter," thought the new squire of Eastwood, " three months won't make much, and it is the Jews' interest to keep quiet till I have secured the copper-mines." But his father's death did make a difference; for he had died intestate, having destroyed his old will three months before, without having made a new one; consequently the money would be equally divided between himself and his brother. This was a serious blow, but one which did not quite annihi

late him; Eastwood remained; so he went down there, arranged with his mother that she should stay there till he brought his bride home, and was on the point of leaving her there, when his lawyer appeared in person, bearing a tale of horror which he broke gradually to the unfortunate young man.

"Are you aware of the law of Borough English?" said Mr. Sheepskins.

"No," said the captain; "I don't know anything about law. Why?"

"Estates," said the mellifluous lawyer, "estates which arc not entailed go to the eldest son, when the possessor dies intestate."

"Just so," interrupted John, "therefore here I am; it's little enough I have got."

"But," continued the placid man of law, " there is another law to which some estates are subject by their title-deeds; and which law can be nullified only by a will devising it otherwise. By this law, called the law of Borough English, the estate goes to the youngest son. To this law, my dear sir, Eastwood Park with its demesnes and appurtenances is subject; consequently you see, my dear sir —"

"The devil!" cried young Williams. "Sheepskins, it's impossible! It can't be true! It's nonsense 1 I don't understand you! tell me again."

Carefully did the lawyer repeat the too true tale, — how that, in looking over the title-deeds since Sir John Williams's death, he had discovered that the estate was subject to the law of Borough English, whereby (in default of a will devising otherwise) it became the property of the youngest son. There was no mistake, no eluding it. Mr. Sheepskins was the family lawyer and knew that there was no will existing.

"I am a beggar," was all John could say.

"Nay, nay, you have half the money, £ 30,000."

"Which," sighed the young man, " must all go to the Jews."

It was now Mr. Sheepskins's turn to raise his respectable hands in astonishment, for he had no more idea of this than the departed knight had had. For once the young man was honest, and told his lawyer the true state of his affairs; from which it was obvious that, be the creditors ever so merciful, he would not have enough left to purchase Eastwood from his brother, supposing he would part with it. He requested the lawyer to take counsel's opinion whether or not it would be worth while to litigate the estate with his brother; and suggested at the same time to sell his commission, and then try to compound with William.

"William has not a bad heart, I believe," said John, " though he is such a fool. Anyhow, Sheep skins, if you can but keep my head above water till I have secured the copper-mines, I can face the storm afterwards."

Everything that could be done honorably the lawyer undertook. His first business was to inform William of the intestacy of his father, and of the equal division of the money, also of this peculiar law whereby Eastwood became his property.

William's astonishment was intense; such an event had never entered the dreams of his philosophy. Suddenly, after a long struggle to keep love inside the window when poverty had entered the door, he was raised to ease and wealth. But he was not thrown off his balance; he examined very closely into the tenure and title-deeds of the estate before he would allow his fancy to recognize himself as the owner of Eastwood. When this fact was ascertained, then came the more difficult question of

[ocr errors]

"legality versus truth." The estate was certainly his by the law of the land; but was that the highest law which he recognized? Should not his particular duty to his father take precedence of the general obedience due to legal intricacies'? Since his father could no longer enforce his wish bv word of mouth, was it not doubly incumbent on him to attend to that wish? So he made up his mind at once to give it to John. He told Mary of the whole affair, adding instantly his intention of restoring the property to his brother; but rapidly as he had told the tale, it was not quick enough to prevent Mary from running up an air-castle in which she figured as mistress of Eastwood. So that her husband's oracular announcement that "of course it was John's, just the same as if the will had been forthcoming," fell on her as a disappointment. She said nothing just then ; but a few hours afterwards, when her husband was dressing for dinner, she came in, sat down, and opened her mouth.

"William! about Eastwood; — I certainly think, with you, that you owe a duty to your father's memory: that is one duty; but you owe six duties to your six children. Since Providence has given you this estate and money, have you any right to reject them?"

William was at that moment putting a stud into his shirt; the stiff front was crushed as he impatiently turned round.

"Mary! Is that you speaking? Is it not enough that I have been fighting all day with twenty devils suggesting such follies? Must you also turn right into wrong, true into false? How could I sit in my father's chair at Eastwood knowing his intention was that John should be there? How could you and I look each other in the face afterwards V Higher than any legal claim is the call of honor, for it is a moral law. No, no, Mary dear; I dare say you, like me, have had your dreams to-day of all the pleasant flatteries of living in wealth at Eastwood; but it cannot be. You must still manage, dear wife, to drudge on in London, independent and honest, which we should not be if we kept possession of Eastwood."

So William directed Mr. Sheepskins to announce to John that William wished to relinquish the estate to him, and bade the lawyer prepare a deed of gift accordingly. But before this could be done the affair had got published, unfortunately for John; for having consulted counsel, some time elapsed before a decision was received, and during that time the news of the case spread far and wide. It was an unusual incident, and caused much sensation, and soon came to the ears of John's creditors, who were wild with rage when they heard they could not claim the property, and they felt what fools they had been to lend money on the security of an unentailed estate. Mr. Owen Evans also heard of it, and requested his son-in-law to purchase the estate of his brother. John could not do so; and now the storm burst on his devoted head, for his creditors would no longer be silenced, and issued their writs against him. Of course, when Mr. Evans heard of this, he broke ofi' his daughter's engagement, making it quite clear that if she chose to run away with the captain, she would never receive a halfpenny out of the copper-mines. Thus John found every man's hand against him, and was unable any longer to deceive friend or foe. Brought in this manner to bay, he tried three modes of escape. He sued Miss Evans for breach of promise of marriage; he sold his commission, to meet pres

ent expenses; and was on the point of reclcte-K litigating the estate with his brother, when be. received letters from William and from Mr. Sheepskins to say that William gave him the estate, feding it his duty to do so, and also that he l>eg«td b> brother to accept the ten thousand pounds whifb il was their father's intention to give to the eldet son.

This was another and most wonderful rhan^ in the aspect of affairs. John scarcely apprehended it at first; he fancied himself restored to wealth aoJ "respectability," for the happiness was too great, and the complication of his affairs too puzzling fur him at once to understand his new position. One thinj. however, was prominent in his mind. William it is either a downright fool, or he was—what? Tie alternative was at first beyond John's range of perception; but slowly it dawned on him that t< brother was an honest man. Having once perceived this, William's conduct acted on him as tliir sun does on mists and fogs; it chased away (with the help of the severe winds of misfortune) his ow selfishness and dishonesty, and worked such a marvellous change in him that he went to AVilliam, anJ grasping his hand, he said, —

"Brother, you are a brick, and I am a scoimdrt!' The fact is, I can't make you out! Why do y« give me the estate? Don't you believe it is really vours? I can't find any flaw in your right of clan: to it Why do you give it up? Is it really becana of our father's wish?"

"Why, what else should it be for?" answer^ William. "Don't you think that his wish is b*'' Would not you have done this yourself, had n« been in my place?"

"No," said John, " I certainly should have dor* nothing of the kind; and I must say, William, tin you are either an angel or a fool."

"I don't think I am either. But now. all we have to do is to sign a deed of gift, and then y« will be all right, though not so wealthy as I co'iU have wished; I had no idea, John, that you were w heavily in debt as I hear you are. Why, what 'f the matter, John?" he exclaimed, as John's far* suddenly gathered blackness; and he rose Justify to leave the room.

"Stop a bit, my dear fellow," said John, " 111 1* back in half an hour; wait for me."

He rushed out of the house, and took a cab to li lawyer's.

""Sheepskins ! — Mr. Sheepskins, the world i; certainly going mad; for here is William matin; •' present of Eastwood to me, and I am going to p« it him back again, or, rather, I won't take it! 1M you ever hear of such generosity as that?"

John spoke excitedly, and it was some time before the placid lawyer could draw from his eDenl u explanation of his words, which was to this offivt, —" That as he had raised money on the expectation of having Eastwood, and as he was not ablet" meet his creditors, they would, of course, seize I1* estate directly he came into possession. Consequently, if William gave it to him, it would in; mediately pass from his hands into that of the J>'*J

"Now, Mr. Sheepskins," continued John, " ^J" liain may just as well have it as the Jews; in 6ft-3 deal better. I am nearly at my wits' end; -in" really William's honesty puzzles me much W"1^ than'all the chicanery I ever met with. Come «'* me, and let us make him keep it."

Arrived again in William's house, John left it'" the lawyer to explain this new idea. But. strain"' to say, having made up his mind to relinquish tin

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

estate, William could not be prevailed on to retain it. "Let us do justice by everybody, even by those extortionate money-lenders," said he. "John, how much money do you owe?"

"£ 20,000 at least, including the ten per cent interest; but of course they claim a higher interest, and bring it up to about £ 60,000 or £ 70,000; so that if you thrust Eastwood upon me, it must pass on to them. Do keep it, there 's a good fellow: even Sheepskins thinks with me."

"Give me time to think about it," said William, "give me two days before I decide."

The first thing he did was to look closely into the details of John's debts. Mr. Sheepskins showed him that really all lawful and ordinate demands of the creditors could be satisfied by £ 30,000; and that the best way to assist his brother, and the most substantial kindness to him, would be to stand for the present on the law of Borough English, to claim and keep Eastwood and the money. "I should rather enjoy," continued the passionless lawyer, "seeing the Jews balked of their unrighteous usury, and yet fairly paid; both of which ends will be accomplished by letting Mr. Williams take the consequence of his extravagance by declaring himself bankrupt, and by allowing his creditors to have the £ 30,000. And then (after he is whitewashed) you can satisfy all the demands of honor by giving your brother the extra £ 10,000, now yours by your father's intestacy, but which Sir John meant him to have."

Never had William passed such anxious hours as he now did, whilst cogitating what course he should pursue. His father's wish, justice to the creditors, and kindness to his brother, had all to be taken into consideration. He soon perceived that the first and last of these three items were the same in result. Whatever would be most beneficial to John would best fulfil his father's wish; and as regarded the creditors, William had to choose between just and unjust claims, or, rather, what he considered just and unjust demands. His thoughts resulted in the following conclusion, which he announced to his wife: —

"Mary, I have been plaintiff and defendant, judge and jury, in my own person, about this matter of Eastwood. Now, my dear, will you please to represent a committee of her Majesty's Privy Council, as a higher court of appeal. I will not go over the ground you already know, but will call your Lordships' attention to the following facts. If I carry out the letter of my father's wish and give the estate to my brother, it will be instantly seized by the creditors. Now I conclude that my father would rather even I should possess it than that the Jews should. So on that plea I would keep it; but — the creditors must be treated fairly. I am dubious if I am doing justice by them if I balk them of their prey, although I am told by the lawyers that £ 30,000 will meet their just claims. This is the first point. The second is simpler. Sir John left £ 60,000, intending that I should have £ 20,000, and John the remaining £40,000. Now, as my father left no will, the money is equally divided between us; £ 30,000 each. Question of her Majesty's Privy Council to decide : — What shall I do V"

"Her Majesty's Privy Council," sighed Mary, " is of opinion that you retain the estate permanently; and the extra £ 10,000 until after your brother has freed himself of his creditors, by passing through the Bankruptcy Court; and that then you give him back the £ 10,000."

William agreed to this decision, with one exception, rather an important one. He could not keep Eastwood permanently, he said; though he would not mention this at present. So he settled with his brother that he would retain both the money and the estate till after John had cleared himself of his debts. There was no escape from the Bankruptcy Court; Philosopher William had strong ideas of justice, and he felt that, though the sinner were his own brother, sin must be allowed to be its own avenger. John himself quietly acquiesced in this plan, so in a few weeks his name appeared in the Gazette.

After this William felt himself at liberty to restore the money and the estate to his brother, on whom the strange vicissitudes of the last few months had taken a great etFcct, and had worked a wonderful change. Adverse circumstances alone, like unchecked prosperity, would have only driven him from bad to worse. The legal justice of the world would have hardened him; but his brother's extraordinary conduct in giving, knowing he could receive nothing again, in pursuing a course so contrary to his worldly interests, and in obeying a code of honor higher than that generally recognized, had done more good than all else to John. His misfortunes had taught him the unreality of his former life, pursuits, and friendships; and his brother taught him the reality of honesty and the power of truth, for the love of which William had striven (to his own detriment) to carry out the wishes of a parent, who, to say the least of it, had been harsh and unkind to him, and had thus benefited one who had shown himself neither a friend nor a brother. So deeply had this wrought upon John that it had awakened in him feelings which had hitherto lain dormant; always impetuous, he was now as anxious to do right as he had formerly been headstrong in folly. So he went to William, and said,—

"William, I take the £ 10,000, because otherwise I should be a beggar; but I neither can nor will accept the estate. If you give it me I shall relinquish it to my late creditors."

But William would not consent to keep it. He completed the deed of gift, which, in the course of a month, was forwarded to John, who had gone to Scotland. He accepted it now quietly and unresistingly, to the private astonishment of Mr. Sheepskins, and to Mary's bitter disappointment at John's "relapse," as she called it. She held her husband's silence to be acquiescence in her opinion. John wrote, courteously and formally thanking William for the gift, after which they heard nothing of him for a long time. Some four months after he called on the lawyer, but forbade him to mention his visit to his brother. He was so changed in manner and appearance that Mr. Sheepskins hardly recognized him; quiet, self-contained, and reserved, all his pretentiousness and overbearing manner had left hinr; and though less boisterously cheerful, he was obviously much more happy. He went several times to the lawyer, and at last, one evening, made his appearance at his brother's. After a little conversation on his visit to the Highlands, he said, —

"William, can you go down with me to Blackwall to-morrow?"

"Well, if another day would suit you, I should be glad, as I have an engagement to-morrow. Will the next day or Friday do for you ''."

"Scarcely," said John; "for the fact is I am going out to Queensland. I have a fancy for farming, and I sail to-morrow. Come, there 's a good fellow?"

« ПредишнаНапред »