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fast table towards his father, who looked at it absently and laid it down, while Jack indulged in reminiscences, chiefly referring to horses and dogs, of his last visit to Trescoe Park.
“You wish to go there, then ?' said the Squire, abruptly, when Jack came to a pause.
“Yes, if you don't mind,' added Jack, slightly confused, for it occurred to him that his father might think it rather soon for him to leave home. Consideration of the Squire's feelings was one of Jack's good points.
• I don't mind at all, my dear boy.'
The Squire left the table, and stood for a few minutes on the hearthrug in silence. Jack felt very uncomfortable; the bad quarter of an hour was casting its shadow before it. His spirits vanished, and he left off eating toast and marmalade.
• I have letters to write,' said the Squire at length, but I want you by-and-by. What were you thinking of doing this morning?'
“There's that pointer pup at Fieldflower Farm that Wynn was talking of,' said Jack, with an unaccustomed sensation of warmth about his ears; ‘I was thinking of having a look at it. But of course there's plenty of time for that in the afternoon.'
*Come to the bookroom in an hour,' said the Squire, and then he went away hastily, regardless of bis newspapers. Poor Jack sat staring disconsolately at the coffee-pot, until an admonitory paw placed on his knee reminded him that Trotty Veck liked a lump of sugar o' mornings.
It's very bad for you, I believe,' said Jack, severely, as he carefully selected the proper-sized lump, which was bolted by Trotty with a grateful snap, “but you may as well have it. Come along.'
* It is as well there has been something to make me do it to-day,' said the Squire to himself, as he prepared to write to Mr. Dexter, 'or I do believe I should still have put it off. But this makes it 80 plain that the change must be thorough, I can't let my boy go on talking of what is never to be.'
Squire Bassett's letter was a long one, and not easy to write. There had been no urgent occasion in the Squire's affairs for that kind of minute method which is to some men a distinct and palpable pleasure, while to others it would be a simple impossibility, and now that he had to look at everything all round, he could not make his resources come up to the general estimate of them at which he and the solicitor had arrived. The purport of his letter was to point out to his adviser that the change in his position
must be even more radical than they had contemplated. At that point the Squire paused, and held his pen suspended over the nearly filled sheet. He wrote a small neat hand, of a kind which generally goes with much reading, annotating, and extract-making, and his epistolary method was of a polished and careful kind that is not so completely discarded by the men as by the women of the present generation. The long pauses, and the effort that it cost him to add the concluding paragraph, were out of proportion to the seeming simplicity of the matter of it, for it contained merely these words :
• The details of your interview with Monsieur Reveillon are curious ; the result is, I should think, much more important than was anticipated. Believe me I thoroughly appreciate your motives, and I quite understand your views, but I must ask you to say no more. I do not wish to be informed, under any circumstances, of anything beyond the facts which you have now told me.'
The Squire, having written his letter, rose and walked to and fro, thinking, until he heard steps on the terrace, and presently saw Jack, with Trotty Veck at his heels, at the French window. He admitted the young fellow, who glanced at him rather shyly as he said, 'Here I am, sir, up to time, I hope,' and his heart was sore for the beloved son who had all his troubles before him.
• Almost the worst of it is that what I have to tell you about myself—for you don't know it all yet—will make this harder for
— you. I've been a fool, and more than a fool.' The young fellow's tone was full of remorse, and tears stood in • The best of it,' replied his father, is that you feel so.
( The worst of it to me, much the worst, is the change to you. We will not talk or think of any follies or mistakes on your part now; they are swept away by a more serious calamity, and I am sure nothing of the sort would have occurred again.'
'I hope not, father,' said Jack, much moved by the Squire's ready forgiveness and unshaken trust; but I've had a lesson in not thinking too well of myself, and so I won't say I'm quite sure.'
* That is right. You do well to distrust yourself, and I do well to trust you. As things are, we may both take it as certain that you will never incur debts which neither you nor I can hope to pay, and, that being so, let me have a memorandum of everything you owe. Everything, mind, Jack; don't make the mistake of keeping anything back; it will only be a skeleton in a closet if
you shall have the money at once. The lecture I meant
you do, and
to administer to you in writing shall be taken as read, and you and I will look the future in the face together.'
Jack Bassett was not then or ever given to introspection or afflicted with self-consciousness, but, if he had thought about it, he might have assigned to that particular hour his ceasing to be a boy and becoming a man.
He was conscious that there was an immense gulf get between yesterday and to-day, and that he had as completely done with his old self in certain respects as he had done with the short jacket and peaked cap which distinguished the garb of boyhood in his time. The facts were bewildering, even with his father's full and free explanation ; but Jack had never heard much about the big lawsuit. It had been a dim but not a terrible image to him, something which he did not distinguish from mortgages, charges, and so forth ; things impartially set down by him as nuisances, inseparable, he supposed, from the possession of landed property, and exclusively within the province of Mr. Dexter. He bad never been troubled with a prevision that it might interfere with him personally, to blight his hopes and obstruct his purposes. The revelation that his father had to make to him took him entirely by surprise. No latent suspicion or apprehension leaped up into light, to aid the Squire in his task, which was quite as hard as he expected to find it.
There was, however, solace in the good and noble trait that showed itself in Jack's first spontaneous utterance, and the Squire's burden was sensibly lightened by this. The very change that fell upon his son's face, as the conversation proceeded, was pleasing to the Squire to see; for it was the impress of strength and composure set upon the countenance of one who had hitherto had no call for either.
The talk that was begun in the book-room was continued upon the terrace; the two walked up and down there in the spring sunshine, the father leaning closely on the arm of the son, and feeling, in the very depth and intensity of his concern and coinmiseration for him, a closer companionship than had ever before existed between them.
Jack was not even like what the Squire must have been in his youth ; the lines of his face were different, and the thoughtful inward look of the father was not to be found in the
of the son. The one bad the expression of a man of books; the other that of a man who was ready for a life of action when the chance should come to him. There was courage as well as lightheartedness in Jack's merry blue eyes, and determination in the lines of his well-cut, not too delicate, mouth and chin. A bright, sociable,
honourable young fellow, who might, perhaps, have no extraordinary brains, but would belie his looks if he ever failed to produce at need sufficient intelligence to get him creditably through life; this is just what Jack Bassett looked like and what he was.
Not an heroic figure, but a simple and a manly one; the sort of person of whom gentle, kindly-natured women were apt to say, 'How fond of him his mother would have been !'
Not with the details, but with the result of that conference, this record of some incidents in Jack Bassett's career has to do. That result was entirely confirmatory of the Squire's view of his son's character; the tenacity, which he had been inclined to rate more highly than Mr. Dexter regarded it, came out very strongly. Jack had never thought of himself in the future as anything but a soldier, and he was not going to be moved by what had happened to think of himself as anything but a soldier now. A soldier he would be, and if the dazzling portion of his vision, the career of the light dragoon, with its dash, its extravagance, its pleasure, its prestige, and the tinge of romance that still hung about it, and was so soon to be deepened in its tints by war, glory, and poetry, had to be relinquished—and Jack comprehended at once that it must be there would be left the plain and solid portion. It was not difficult to get a commission in a line regiment; if his father could not allow him anything, why then he could, and would, live on his pay. He knew what that would mean-the next thing to the impossible, but only the next; while it was not the absolutely impossible he could do it. But rather than not be a soldier, rather than be anything else, Jack Bassett would serve in the ranks. Did his father know the splendid chances that were coming, and how impossible it would be for Jack to turn his mind to any civil pursuit ? The Squire, although he had never been troubled with a military aspiration of his own, entered with perfect sympathy into the feelings that he had foreseen.
If it lay within his power to get for Jack his own way, the boy should have it. A thwarted desire should not be added to fallen fortunes. There was something in Jack's resolution that rang true ; at all events it had not been the mere external glitter of a military life that had attracted his son. This pleased the Squire, although, so far as the desired object was concerned, no hen could less have shared the propensity of her duckling-chick to take the water.
Perhaps this very strangeness also pleased him. Like most studious and scholarly men, Squire Bassett was a great novelreader. The romance of military life as Maxwell depicted it, its pomp and dash as Lever drew them, had given him pleasure of an intense kind, but pleasure as abstract and as uninfectious as that with which he read the Arabian Nights' or narratives of Arctic exploration. From the first, he had acquiesced in the boy's choice of a profession; but now he seemed to see that it was something more, that it was a vocation, and with that perception came a resolution that this thing should be.
The machinery that converted a youth who could pull through at Sandhurst into a young gentleman bearing her Majesty's commission, in the good old times before Abolition of Purchase, was very different from that which now accomplishes a like result. It implied not only the expenditure of more money, but the employment of interest; and both had been provided for in Jack's case, on the supposition that he was going to be a light dragoon of the approved type, with a liberal allowance, and the prospective inheritance of the Bassett estate to lend ease and distinction to that career.
But the money had now to be withdrawn, and the interest turned into another channel; and the talk between the Squire and his son did not come to an end until the proceedings to be taken in this new conjuncture of affairs had been arranged.
It was surprising, but true, that at the close of this momentous interview Jack was in much better spirits than he had been at its beginning. He knew the worst; and was it so very bad after all ? Yes, it was very bad ; not all Jack's youth and spirits could obscure his common-sense; but it might have been so much worse! There might have been nothing at all saved out of the wreck of their fortunes, and then what should he have come to ? A clerk's desk, perhaps; but no, that could never have been while the Queen's shilling was within reach. However, he had to be grateful that the worst was only what it was, and, as Jack obeyed his father's suggestion that he should go and try to walk it off, while the Squire himself was adding a postscript to his letter to Mr. Dexter, to tell him how uncommonly well the boy had behaved, there was about him some of the strange elation that sometimes comes to strong natures when a great demand is made upon them, however painful its nature may be.
It would, however, have been pitiful to a keen observer to notice the quickened interest with which Jack Bassett looked around him as he took his way past the stables and the back of the fruit gardens, down by the old fishpond, and struck into the roadside plantation out of which Trotty Veck had run the day before. There was in his look something like the quickened curiosity of a stranger. This was his home; all these places and objects were familiar to him; why did he look at them to-day as though they were full of novelty? Because, for the first time in