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For some moments the baronet remained lost in reflection. He then said:

“ You have not told me how you chance to be here. I hope I may infer from the circumstance that you have abandoned your intention of emigrating to Australia ?”

“ No, Sir Hugh, I hold steadily to my purpose. Australia, I feel certain, will suit me better than this country. I have aspirations which I cannot realise here. I am too proud and independent to submit to the drudgery required to work my way up to a good position. I hope to come back in a few years with sufficient to enable me to live like a gentleman. I may not find a nugget, but I may make money in some other way.”

"Well, I admire your spirit,” said Sir Hugh. “But what brings you here?”

“I came here to visit an old gentleman whom I saw at Monk's Heath Hall a short time ago, while he was staying there with Mr. Leycester, and who kindly invited me to pass a week with him before I left England. The old gentleman in question is a friend of yours, Sir Hugh. I have heard him speak of you; and, indeed, it was he who described you to me. It is Mr. Mainwaring of Ridgmount.”

“ This is strange," cried Sir Hugh. “Mr. Mainwaring is a very old friend of mine—one of the few friends I care to retain. I am on my way to call on him now. It is a singular chance that has brought you to this neighbourhood, and still more singular that we should meet in this manner. There is more than mere accident in it."

“I am at a loss to understand your meaning, Sir Hugh," observed Osbert.

“I will explain myself more fully at another time,” said Sir Hugh. “You must be my guest for a few days at Old Court. Nay, I will take no refusal.”

“But it is not in my power to profit by your hospitality, Sir Hugh. My passage is taken in the Wellesley, which sails for Melbourne next week."

“Forfeit your passage-money, and if you should eventually decide upon going to Melbourne, I will make good the loss. But it is absolutely necessary that you should remain with me for a short time, till I can make inquiries,”

“You take me so much by surprise by this proposal, Sir Hugh, that I scarcely know what answer to make. But having fixed my plans, I do not like to change them. No, no. I shall go. All thanks to you for your kind invitation and offer, but I must decline them. I shall sail for Melbourne on Wednesday next."

“ You shall not, I tell you!” cried Sir Hugh, peremptorily.

“ What can it matter whether you sail next week or six months hence? You shall come and stay with me.”

“ It matters little when I sail, certainly,” rejoined Osbert. “But I do not choose to be interfered with. Once more, I thank

you

for your invitation, and beg to decline it.”

“ You are a fool. But I won't allow you to throw yourself away in this stupid manner.”

“Sir Hugh, I have yet to learn by what right you assume this authority over me. I allow no man to control my actions."

“If only from his confounded obstinacy, I should feel certain he is Clarence's son,” thought Sir Hugh. “Harkye, young sir," he added aloud.“ Have you no desire to learn the secret of your birth? Do you think you can discover it by going to Melbourne ?”

“If there is any chance of making the discovery I will readily stay,” replied Osbert. “But I have no such expectation. Mr. Leycester has made all possible inquiries for me, but without

“ But I have a clue which Mr. Leycester does not possess," said Sir Hugh.. “ Remain with me till it can be followed up. If I should be unsuccessful, you can prosecute your design.”

“Nothing can be handsomer or more obliging than your offer, Sir Hugh, and I gratefully accept it. It is the dearest wish of my life to penetrate the mystery enshrouding my birth, and if you can accomplish this grand object, I shall be for ever beholden to

success.

you.”

“Then the matter is arranged. Come to Old Court to-morrow. You will have your own room, and will be quite at home. I will now ride on to Ridgmount, and ask Mr. Mainwaring to accompany you.”

So saying, and with the young man's aid, he mounted his horse, and rode off towards Ridgmount. After proceeding about a hundred yards, he looked back and saw Osbert standing where he had left him, reflecting, most likely, upon the singularity of the occurrence.

“Not a doubt he is Clarence's son," cried Sir Hugh. “My vow made to Amice binds me to find out the truth, and to act when I have found it out.”

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IV.

A POOR GENTLEMAN.

MR. NORTON MAINWARING was a poor gentleman-a very poor gentleman indeed—and perhaps there is no part in the great social drama more difficult to sustain with credit than that which circumstances compelled this poor gentleman to play. Though most assuredly he felt his poverty, he gave no outward manifesta

tion that he did so. You never heard him repine, and he never appeared discontented. What was the actual amount of the poor gentleman's income we cannot precisely determine, but though ridiculously small, it was sufficient for his wants; and if he had barely a hundred a year, as some folks asserted, it was quite wonderful what he did with it. He was always very neatly dressed, though in a bygone style of some forty years ago, when he was one of the leaders of fashion, and used to be seen in the great bay-window in St. James's-street; wore a well-brushed beaver, turned up at the sides, and looking as old-fashioned as his coat; a stiffly-starched coloured choker, with rounded gills, coming half way up his cheek; a buff waistcoat with brass buttons, very tight pantaloons, a thick watchchain with heavy seals dangling from his fob, and wonderfully polished boots. He was tall, but stooped a little, and had a complexion as red as a turkey-cock's wattles, the result probably of the immense quantity of old port which he had imbibed in his earlier days. Now he rarely touched wine at all, for the simple but sufficient reason that he could not afford to drink it. " Mr. Mainwaring's features were good, though rather coarse; he had blear eyes, a large nose, great fleshy lips, and ears which were as scarlet as his cheeks. He was always scrupulously shaved, for he abominated the modern fashion of beards, and his silvery hair was cropped close to the head.

Mr. Mainwaring dwelt in a pretty little cottage in the outskirts of the pretty little village of Ridgmount, close to the parsonage and the church, and not very far from the Chetwynd Arms. His little domicile was comfortably furnished, and he was very well waited upon by an old man-servant, Peter Lightfoot, who had lived with him in his better days, and still more carefully attended to by Peter Lightfoot's wife. Mrs. Lightfoot was a good deal younger than her spouse, and made a most excellent housekeeper, and it was no doubt mainly owing to her management that Mr. Mainwaring lived so well and so economically. His little parlour was as tidy and well kept as any old bachelor's parlour need be, and his little dining-room a perfect snuggery. All things considered, as he was of a very contented disposition, our poor gentleman was rather to be envied than pitied. He was blessed with good health, had no cares, and no children or near relations to worry him.

Born seven or eight years before the present century commenced, Mr. Norton Mainwaring belonged to

a good old Cheshire family. He was a younger son, but had a fortune left him by an uncle. Unluckily, he spent it, for in his younger days our poor gentleman was extravagant. He was a remarkably good coachman, belonged to the Four-in-Hand Club, and horsed the Tally-ho between London and Oxford. He was also fond of racing, and, being a good judge of horseflesh, won some money

on the turf, but lost it all when railways knocked stage-coaches off the road. For some years he was greatly embarrassed, but he righted himself in the end, and prudently withdrew with the little he could save from the wreck of his fortune to his present asylum. He was an old friend of the Chetwynds, and had visited at Old Court in Sir Christopher's time, when Sir Hugh was young, and it was Sir Hugh who had recommended him to settle at Ridgmount, and, in fact, had presented him with the cottage—the gift being managed with such delicacy as not to offend the poor gentleman's pride. Norton Mainwaring had been a friend of Clarence Chetwynd as well as of the elder brother; in fact, he was more intimate with the former than the latter, and, in spite of his faults, liked him the better of the two, and he had been generally employed by the baronet in getting that scapegrace out of his many difficulties. All this was over now. Clarence was in his bloody grave, and Mainwaring knew nothing of the dark secret connected with him, but believed, as everybody else believed, that he had been foully murdered by robbers. Of late years, also, he had formed a very different estimate of Sir Hugh's character, and though he stood in considerable awe of the moody baronet, he sincerely respected him.

As Sir Hugh rode up to the cottage, old Peter Lightfoot, who had descried him, came forth, and, by the baronet's directions, took his horse to the Chetwynd Arms. Sir Hugh was received at the open door by the buxom Mrs. Lightfoot, who told him that her master was nursing himself, having got a slight cold, “ though I don't think there is much the matter with bim, Sir Hugh,” she added, with a smile.

“You have got a visitor, I find, Mrs. Lightfoot,” remarked Sir Hugh. “I have just met him. Mr. Osbert Leigh-ha?”

“Yes, that's his name, Sir Hugh,” replied Mrs. Lightfoot, " and a very nice young gentleman he is. We can't accommodate him here, of course, so we've got him a bed at the Chetwynd Arms. My master met him in Cheshire. And pray how is dear Miss Chetwynd, Sir Hugh? I hope we shall have her back soon. We miss her sadly."

“She is still at Brighton with her aunt,” replied Sir Hugh, " and thinks of nothing but balls and musical parties."

“Very natural, at her age, Sir Hugh. What else should she think of?”

“ I don't know what else women do think of, now-a-days,” said Sir Hugh, gruffly.

Not daring to make any response, Mrs. Lightfoot opened a door, and displayed her old master seated in an easy-chair beside a cheerful fire, deeply engaged in the Times. A large brindled cat slumbered on the hearth-rug at his feet, and the whole room

looked excessively snug. Mr. Mainwaring being rather deaf, and his back being towards the door, he was not aware of his friend's arrival till Mrs. Lightfoot went up and announced Sir Hugh.

“Eh! what?” he cried, starting up, and hurriedly taking off his gold eye-glasses. “Sir Hugh here—Lord bless me! Ah! my worthy friend, how glad I am to see you!” shaking him heartily by the hand as he spoke. “Take a seat-pray take a seat near the fire.”

Sir Hugh complied, and Mrs. Lightfoot quitted the room, leaving them alone together. After a little conversation on general topics, Sir Hugh broached the subject uppermost in his mind, and said, “By-the-by, Mainwaring, I must mention a circumstance which occurred to me just now.

While I was on my way hither, a slight accident that befel my horse made me acquainted with a young man who is staying with you, as I understand.”

“ Osbert Leigh! Bless my soul and body have you seen him? My stars ! that is strange. And pray what do think of him, Sir Hugh?” he said, inquiringly.

“I think him tolerably good looking,” replied the other, with affected indifference. “ That's not what I mean. I want to know whom do

you

think he resembles? Do you discern a likeness to any one you have known, eh?"

“ Undoubtedly I was struck with the resemblance he bears

to

“To your poor brother Clarence,” supplied Mainwaring. “The likeness is extraordinary. I was struck with it the instant I beheld him, and it was his likeness to the poor dear fellow who's gone that made me take such a fancy to the lad, that, although I have never had a guest under my roof since I came to reside here, I invited him to visit me. You know how I loved Clarence, Sir Hugh, and it is natural I should feel an interest in a young man whom I believe to be his son. Not that I ever heard that Clarence had a son, but he was a gay fellow, as you know-a gay fellow-ha! ha! And there is a certain mystery about this Osbert Leigh, as he calls himself, which strengthens the presumption. He is quite in the dark as to his actual parentage.”

“So he told me,” remarked Sir Hugh.

“Aha! my friend, you have been questioning him, I perceive,” chuckled Mainwaring.

“I know all his history," rejoined the baronet. really think he is Clarence's son?"

“I could almost swear it. He's as like what Clarence was at his age, as one pea is to another.”

21

6 And you

VOL. LX.

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