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Mr. Hogarth's Will by Catherine Helen Spence(1825-1910)

Part 8 out of 9

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cleared,' says mother to him.

"Harry had no notion I took things so serious, but he supposed that my
mother had driven me to desperation by her reproaches, so he said he
would do as she wished, and mother fetched Violet Strachan, our cousin,
and a woman called Wilson, from next door to be witnesses, and he said
he was my husband, and I said I was his wife, in their presence. Harry
thought that was enough, but mother wanted to make it surer still, for
she wrote it out, and we all signed it, and here it is." Then
Mrs. Peck drew out this document from her bundle of papers.

"This is a marriage in Scotland. Without the paper it was a marriage,
but mother liked to see things in black and white. Harry never could
get out of it--though he said afterwards that he did not know what he
was about when he signed it.

"Of course after mother had carried her point I was allowed to get
well, but slowly, for the stuff had really half poisoned me. Harry was
in London with his brother when my boy Frank was born; but he came to
me as soon as he could, and by ill-luck it happened that the very day
he came my old sweetheart Jamie Stevenson was paying me a visit, and
Harry heard something that was not meant for him, and off he set
without seeing me or the child either. He sent me a letter, saying I
had cheated him first and last, and he would never look at me again."

"Then your boy was not Henry Hogarth's son," said Brandon, eagerly, who
thought he had got hold of the important part of the story,
"but this man Stevenson's?"

"You're quite out in your guesses, Mr. Brandon, for as clever as you
think yourself; it does not concern my story a bit, but I will say
this, that my Frank was Harry's own son."

"Then, were you married in this irregular way to Jamie Stevenson in the
first place?" said Brandon, who saw no prospect of proving the desired

"No, I wasn't. But Jamie was doing better in the world then, and he was
saying, thinking that I wasn't married, that for all that had come and
gone, if the father would provide for the bairn any way handsome, he'd
marry me yet, and I did not see much good in being the wife of a
gentleman that would always be ashamed of me, and never bring me
forward. Mother thought he would do that, but I knew the man better by
this time. So I was telling Jamie that if I had only thought he'd have
made me so good an offer I'd never have followed mother's counsel, but
have taken him that I liked twice as well as Harry; and, may
be, it would have been better for me if Harry had not been so soft and
mother so positive. This was what Harry Hogarth heard that angered him
so terribly, and he said I had cheated him. He sent me money, but he
vowed he would never look me in the face again. Well, when Frank was
about fourteen months old, Harry's other brother died. There was an
awful mortality in the family at that time--three within two years;
and then he came in for the property. Mother was in an awful passion at
my having had anything to say to Jamie, and losing hold on my rich
husband through my stupidity. But I was his wife, and must be provided
for at any rate. So he wanted to make terms with me, and proposed that
I should go out of the country altogether--to Sydney--where he would
give me a decent maintenance for myself and the child. Mother, at
first, would not listen to this, and neither would I; but wanted to go
to law for my rights. But when he said he would expose everything about
the marriage if we did, we gave in, and agreed to go to the
ends of the earth to please him. And, after we had made up our minds to
it, we rather liked the notion of getting out of Scotland. He would not
trust to us going unless he saw us off; so he appointed to meet in
London, where the ship was to sail from, and he would arrange all
things for our going off quiet and comfortable; and then we was to part
for ever. Mother, and me, and Frank, went to London, and took lodgings
in a very crowded lodging-house, full of people just ready to sail for
America or some other place--here to-day and away to-morrow--and
there Frank fell ill. He had looked a strong enough child; but I think
the stuff mother gave me had hurt him, for he had every now and then
bad convulsion fits. Being used to them, we did not take much notice of
them; but now, when it was of such moment to us that the child should
be alive, and that his father should see him, then by ill-luck, just an
hour before the time appointed for our meeting, Frank took a worse fit
than ever, and died in my arms. I was very vexed indeed, and
sorry, for I liked the child, and he was a very pretty little fellow,
but mother was furious.

"'It's a good hundred a year out of our pocket,' said she. 'If he had
only lived to get on board, we need never have told Cross Hall about
his dying afterwards--and he looked the picture of health only
yesterday. I wish some one would lend us a child! Maybe the woman in
the next room will. He never saw it, and he'd not know the difference
between one child and another.'

"So mother went into the next room. It was let to a woman with one
child, and she was to sail for America the next day to join her
husband, who had written for her. She seemed to be poor, and mother had
no doubt that for a pound or so she would lend us the child; but when
she went into the room the mother was out, and the child was lying on
the bed asleep. Mother was very quick and clever. Our boy was so
changed with the convulsions that I would never have known him again;
and this boy was much the same size and age, and not very
unlike him, so she slipped off the child's nightgown and put poor
Frank's clothes on it, and dressed my dead child in the nightgown she
took off, and put it in the bed. She would not give me time to cry, but
got into a hackney coach and rode off to where we were to meet Harry.
She told me afterwards that she meant to take back the woman her child,
if possible; but, in case of not being able to do it, she got all our
luggage which was ready packed, into the hackney coach, and paid the
woman of the house all we owed her.

"When I saw Harry again he looked changed--far graver and duller. I
was full of sorrow about Frank; and I cried sore when I saw his father.
But then he thought I only cried, out of cunning, to get something more
out of him. Harry took the child in his arms and looked at it all over.
'Poor thing,' says he--'poor thing!' and I saw a tear drop on that
stranger's face. My own boy--his own boy--he had never touched, and
never looked at. I was jealous and fierce at both of them, in
my grief and my rage; but mother was pleased to see him so taken up
with the child, for she thought it would be all the better for us.

"'Well,' says he, 'are you ready to go on board this afternoon? for the
ship will get off to night with the tide, and I will see you all

"'Yes,' says mother, 'we are all ready; but we want to know what
allowance you are willing to make. You must take into consideration
that we are banished, and have to leave everybody we know. What will
you allow for Elizabeth, and what for little Frank?'

"'I think,' said Harry, speaking slow, 'that I will arrange differently
about the child. As he is my son, I think he would be better in other
hands than yours. Will you leave the boy with me?'

"I was just on the point of saying it was none of mine, nor of his
neither; but mother saw her own interest in this, as she did in most
things, and so says she----

"'It's cruel to part Elizabeth from her child, very cruel. Will
you, that has treated her so bad, be good to the boy? Do you mean to
acknowledge him?'

"Harry spoke slow again: 'I don't know if I will be good to him, but I
will try. I will put him in as good hands as I can, educate him, and
acknowledge him, if he deserves it; and I fear if you bring him up he
is not likely to do so.'

"'It is for the child's own good, Bessie,' said mother, eagerly. 'You
must sacrifice your own feeling, and leave him with his father, if he
promises so fair. How are we like to get him educated where we are
going? It is very hard on you, Bessie,' said mother, coaxingly.

"I stood sulky, not knowing what to do or what to say.

"'And Mr. Hogarth will no doubt consider the hardship of your case, and
make it up in some other way to you,' mother went on to say.

"Henry looked up at mother very sharp, and then he looked at me. Though
he did not believe in my tears, he did not like to see them,
for they reminded him of how I had served him before.

"'He is quite innocent now, poor boy, quite innocent,' said Henry; 'we
must keep him so if we can,' and he offered as much to me for my life
as we had expected him to give for me and the child too; and it was so
tempting that we closed with it at once, for it cost me nothing to part
with a baby as was not my own. I had had a mind to tell him, but then I
knew how enraged he would have been at my trying it on with him.
Another cheat would have driven him wild, so I bade him good-bye and
the child too.

"He took us on board and we sailed that night, and I never saw him or
the child again. He sent me money regular till I asked for the fifteen
hundred pounds and signed a quittance for the annuity like a fool, as I
told you."

Chapter X.

Mrs. Peck's Disappointment

Brandon had listened to this strange story of Mrs. Peck's without
interrupting her. After she had concluded, he thought for a minute and
then said----

"Did you ever hear if the mother of the child you stole missed it?"

"How should I hear? We sailed that day for Sydney, and we never heard
nothing about it."

"What was her name?" asked Brandon.

"I don't know at all for certain; there was so many people in the
house, that though she had been there three days, I had not asked nor
had mother, but yet we must have heard it. I fancy it was
Jackson, or Johnson, or Jones, or it might be Brown, but it was a
common name as there's no recollecting. When mother took the child
first, she thought she'd never know the one from the other; but
afterwards she used to say that the mother might find out the
difference. Both was much of a size, and my boy was much changed."

"But," said Brandon, "there might be more or fewer teeth, or a
difference in the colour and length of the hair, or in the shape of the
limbs, though the features and complexion might be changed by the
convulsions. Your child was probably more emaciated than the other. A
mother's eye might have seen differences that you in your hurried
examination did not."

"Oh, the other appeared to be teething too; but, as you say, I think it
is most like she did see the difference, but being out of the country I
heard nothing about it."

"When did this happen?" asked Brandon.

"Thirty-four years ago and more we sailed from London Docks for
Sydney," said Mrs. Peck.

"Where did you lodge in London when this affair took place?"

"At a lodging-house in ----- Street, near the Docks; I think the number
was 39, but I am not quite sure."

"Can you tell me the name of the ship the mother of the present
proprietor of Cross Hall went to America in?" asked Brandon.

"No, but we sailed, as I told you, on the 14th May, 18-, in the
'Lysander,' and the other ship was to sail for New York on the next

"Are you sure this woman was going to America?"

"Yes, for the landlady told us so, and I could see when we was in her
room that she was making preparations for a voyage. I think there's no
doubt of that."

"Was there no mark on the child's clothes? no name on the boxes you
must have seen when you were exchanging the two children?" asked

"Not as I recollect of, nor mother either, for we have
sometimes talked over it and wondered about it. Our time was so short
that we took no notice of such things."

"And how did you two precious colonists like Sydney?" asked Brandon.

"Oh, well enough. We held our heads high there, for we was free people,
you know."

"Though you had both done what you deserved hanging for," said Brandon,
under his breath. "Where did Phillips meet with you and your
daughter?--for I suppose Mrs. Phillips is your daughter: though your first
experiment in child-stealing had been so successful, it might have
tempted you to another of the same kind."

"Oh, Betsy is my daughter, and an ungrateful one she is. We met with
Phillips in Melbourne, just when we came first to Port Philip. Peck had
run through the 1,500 pounds that we got from Cross Hall, and we was hard
up and obliged to leave Sydney under a cloud; but Peck, he said, such a
handsome face as she had should be a fortune to us. It's been a fortune
to herself; but as for me, she never thinks of me. And there's
Frank, when I wrote to him after I had read in an old newspaper at the
diggings that he had come into the estate, and asked him for a little
help, he never condescended to send me an answer or to take the least
notice of me that has done so much for him. If it had not been for me,
where would he have been now? His mother was a poor woman. If you'd
seen the poor old nightgown I took off of him--and there has he been
educated like a gentleman, and getting Cross Hall, and being a member
of Parliament too, and never to take trouble to write me a line or to
send me a penny. I said I'd be revenged on him, and so I shall."

"Well, Mrs. Peck," said Brandon, "I will just write down the
particulars of this curious story, and you will sign it if you think I
have put them down correctly." So with clearness and brevity Brandon
sketched the facts, if facts they were, which Mrs. Peck had narrated,
and then he read what he had written.

"I don't see as there's any call to put in all about how I got Harry
Hogarth to marry me; that has nothing to do with the case in
hand," said Mrs. Peck.

"I think," said Brandon, "that if the young man is to lose the property
through this confession, he has a right to know what sort of mother he
loses with it. I think you had better sign this as it stands. I have
signed something for you, and you must do the same for me."

Mrs. Peck signed her name rather reluctantly as Elizabeth Hogarth,
known as Elizabeth Peck, and was proceeding to give some account of her
relations with Peck, of rather a romantic character. Perhaps, after so
long a stretch of trying to tell the truth, she needed some relief to
her imagination; but Brandon soon stopped these revelations, and sent
her thoughts in quite another channel.

"Now," said he, "I believe this to be a true statement--a perfectly
true statement--but it is of no use whatever to be used against Mr.
Hogarth. The property was left to him by will, as distinctly as

"By will!" said Mrs. Peck, looking aghast; "my newspaper said he was
the heir-at-law; but it would never have been left to him if
Harry had not thought Frank was his son."

"It was left to Francis Ormistown, otherwise Hogarth, for fifteen years
clerk in the Bank of Scotland," said Brandon, reading from Elsie's

"But he is neither Ormistown nor Hogarth, nor Francis, neither," said
Mrs. Peck, triumphantly. "He can claim nothing. Francis Ormistown, or
Hogarth, is dead--dead thirty-four years ago: this man has no name
that any one knows. I will swear that the child Harry Hogarth took out
of my arms was neither his child nor mine, and that he had no right to
inherit Cross Hall. The nieces must have it; they were his nearest
relations. None of his brothers left no children, and the Melvilles
should get the estate, and I should get my thousand pounds."

"I wish your oath was worth more," said Brandon, regretfully. "I wish
you could prove what you state as a fact; but all you have told me is
absolutely worthless in a court of law. You say you told a parcel of
lies to one whom you should have kept faith with, for pecuniary
advantage, and now you want to contradict them in hopes of getting a
thousand pounds from the Misses Melville, and in order to revenge
yourself on the boy whom you so cruelly injured. I am sorry to say
nobody would believe a word of this story except myself; and I do."

"But could you not look up in old newspapers to see if there was any
stir made at the time about a changed child?" said Mrs. Peck, trembling
with excitement and disappointment. She had been so long accustomed to
look on this secret as capital to herself: her mother, and Peck, and
herself had always thought that in case of Mr. Hogarth's death a good
deal might be got out of the heir; and she had not parted with the
certificate of her marriage, or of her child's baptismal register, in
case he had left no will, and the heirat-law had to be found. She had
sent copies of these documents, very admirably executed by a Sydney
friend, who had been sent across the ocean for similar instances of
skill, to Mr. Hogarth, so that he did not think she had any
proof to bring forward to support her claims to be Francis' mother; but
it was only recently that she had thought of making more favourable
terms with regard to her other secret with the disinherited nieces than
with the ungrateful heir, and their coming so near just when she was
exasperated at Francis' neglect, had made her overlook the want of
proof. She had now fatally injured herself with Francis, with a very
faint chance of success with the Melvilles. She therefore repeated
nervously, "Look over the old newspapers--the mother must have known
the difference--there must have been some inquiry about it that would
prove my statement, which is all true, every word of it, as I hope for

"Yes, that might be of some use; that might be seen to," said Brandon,
doubtfully. "Our data are meagre enough. Your mother is dead, I
suppose, and she is the only person besides yourself who knew of the
crime you both committed."

"She is dead and gone a dozen years ago, and it was her as
committed the crime, as you call it, and not me. I won't answer for it
to nobody."

"Well, we must make inquiry in the house, though I fear that is
hopeless, and in the newspapers. If you had had the sense to have got
the mother's name, we might advertise in America; but I suppose you
thought then that the less you knew about it the better. Though you
cannot expect the thousand pounds-----"

"But you promised it," said Mrs. Peck. "I'll say nothing more, unless I
can get something first. You have basely deceived me. I never heard of
a more scoundrelly action than getting me to tell you all that old
story, and put myself into such a wrong box, on the pretence that I was
to get a thousand pounds, and now you say that what you signed is waste
paper. I'll get my own statement from you back again, before you leave
this," and Mrs. Peck, with eyes of fury, planted herself at the back of
the door. The next thing you'll do will be go and give information, I

"Be cool, Mrs. Peck; I do not mean to injure you. As I said,
though there is no chance of our depriving Mr. Hogarth of property left
to him so clearly as this, I think I may take it upon me to say, as his

"His friend!" interrupted Mrs Peck. "Oh, how you have deceived me! And
you call yourself a gentleman, I suppose; and serve an old woman like

"Yes; as his friend," said Brandon, firmly, "I think I may say that he
would be disposed to reward you, if you can prove that you are not his
mother. I do not hesitate to say that he would give you five hundred
pounds for such information as would hold in a court of law that he is
not your son."

Mrs. Peck brightened up a little at this offer, though she could
scarcely imagine any valid reason for it. "I think I could prove that;
I really think I could prove that. There was my cousin that we lived
with in Edinburgh, Violet Strachan, one of the witnesses to my
marriage. She saw a great deal of my child, for, till we went to
London, we lived in her house, and Frank was born there. She
knew that he took convulsion fits very badly, and that he had a brown
mole on his shoulder that this boy cannot have. I don't know of any
other birth-mark," said Mrs. Peck.

"And this woman lived in Edinburgh. Do you think she is alive? Was she
older or younger than you?"

"Oh, older by ten years," said Mrs. Peck, feeling the ground give way
under her. "I hope she is not dead--she lived in 57, New Street,
leading down to the Canongate, up three pair of stairs; her husband was
a saddler, and she kept lodgers. His name was George. He would
recollect something about Frank. Peck could swear that I have told him
over and over again that my boy was dead, and that the boy Cross Hall
brought up was none of mine."

"But Peck's word is worth nothing," said Brandon.

"Betsy could say something of the kind. I am sure she must have heard
us hint at it often, but she is not sharp. Perhaps she did not notice."

"Does no one else know anything about it?" said Brandon, in

"No one;--but surely I ain't got no cause to take such blame on
myself, if it was not true," said Mrs. Peck, sulkily.

"You unfortunately had a motive--two strong motives. A deathbed
confession, for no hope of gain or revenge, might have carried weight--but
this carries none. The only accomplice of your crime is dead. The
mother from whom you stole the child is probably dead also, and at any
rate gone out of England--you do not even know her name, or that of
the ship she sailed in. The witness who you think could prove the
non-identity of the present possessor of Cross Hall is most likely dead
also, and if alive must be an old woman who has probably forgotten the
trifling circumstance of the existence of a mole on a child after
thirty-five years and more--and people outgrow these peculiarities.
You have not the ghost of a case for the Melvilles. Hogarth might give
you something for the chance that you are speaking truth, to get rid of
your claims for ever, and the satisfaction of feeling that you
are nothing to him."

"That's what I ought to have done. Peck always said I was too hasty;
and his words has come true," said Mrs. Peck. "I might have got
something handsome out of the heir--and but for your interference I
might have got something out of the Melvilles."

"Nonsense!" said Brandon; "they have nothing to give, unless you gave
the property to them; and you cannot do that."

"I'm glad you're to get nothing with your sweetheart," said Mrs. Peck,
maliciously. "My daughter's maid, I suppose, is the person Half of
Cross Hall would have been a good fortune, but you're not to get it."

"You must not come to Mrs. Phillips's again. I am going to stay in the
house till her husband returns, and will protect her from you," said

"Protect her from her own mother!" said Mrs. Peck. "Let them hold their
heads as high as they like, they can't get out of that. I am
her mother, and if I like I will publish it. Her father was a
gentleman. I was in clover when I lived with him; but he married, and
then he died and left no provision for us; and then I fell in with
Peck, and have stuck by him ever since. He is in Adelaide now, where I
wish I had stopped with him with all my heart. Do you think as Phillips
would overlook this if I went back quiet, and keep sending me the poor
little allowance as I need to keep soul and body together, for I'm an
old woman now, and past working?"

"I do not know. I will speak to him on the subject, and will probably
see you again in a few days. If you can think of any collateral
evidence in the meantime, it will be as well that you tell me. In the
meantime, I must go to communicate to Miss Melville what you have told

Elsie was sadly disappointed at the doubtful nature of the evidence
which Mrs. Peck had to give. She had had such brilliant visions of the
happiness which Jane and Francis might have together if it
could only be proved that they were not cousins; and she could not help
seeing with Brandon that the chance of establishing it was very small.
Brandon told Mrs. Phillips the reason why Mrs. Peck had so assiduously
courted Elsie, and then asked if she could recollect anything which she
had heard from her mother, her grandmother, or Peck, which would
corroborate these unsupported statements.

"I cannot say anything--I will not say a word till Stanley comes home,
and then I will tell him. He would not like my mixing myself up with
her in any way when he was gone, and I never will keep anything from
him," said Mrs. Phillips.

"You are quite right," said Brandon, who, nevertheless, was rather
impatient for any information she might give, and thought it might be
valuable, from her hesitation about the matter. He had not long to
wait, however, for Mr. Phillips came down on the following day, and
heard all his wife had to say and all Brandon had to say.

"You know, Brandon, that it would be horrible to me to have my
wife's name brought into a court of justice as the daughter of that
woman--cognizant, even in a very vague way, of such a serious crime,"
said Mr. Phillips. "And what purpose can it serve? You can neither
enrich Jane or Alice Melville by proving that the crime was committed.
Mr. Hogarth is as worthy a successor as the old man could have found,
and neither of the Melvilles grudges him his good fortune. Alice will
be as comfortable as you can make her, and I wish you both joy from all
my heart, and I believe you will be happy. Miss Melville will be as
comfortable and happy as we can make her till she chooses a home for
herself. Why wish to rake up old stories for no good end whatever? I
dare say the story is true. I said to Hogarth when he and Miss Melville
consulted me about the first letter she wrote, that for the very reason
she claimed to be his mother I believed she was not. I advised him not
to write to her or send her money, and requested Miss Melville never to
mention her name."

"Out of consideration for you, then, he did not answer her
letter, and this has been the result of it. But we have no wish to
deprive him of his property; and the only end we aim at is to prove
that he is not Miss Melville's cousin. Alice tells me they love each
other; but their marriage is forbidden by the will, unless at the
sacrifice of the property, which in that case goes to some benevolent

"Ah," said Phillips, thoughtfully, "in that case, if I thought Mrs.
Phillips's evidence could establish it, it would perhaps be right to
give it; but it cannot--I see it cannot. Mere vague hints, half
recollected now that the subject has been brought prominently forward,
though they may convince you and me, could not stand before a court of
law. I think when you hear what Mrs. Phillips has to say you will
confess that it would be wrong to put her and me to such distress, for
so little good purpose. I am sure Miss Melville would be the first to
dissuade you from such a course. It is for the sake of our children
that I am so anxious to conceal the connection. I can trust to
you and to Alice, I hope, never to mention it."

Brandon felt the justice of Mr. Phillips's reasoning, and yet was very
sorry that he could not gratify his promised wife by anything
satisfactory in the way of collateral evidence.

"Now, Elsie," said Brandon, who now took the privilege of love, and
called her by her pet name, "what do you mean to do with this
information? I think it quite useless for the end you wish to gain. Is
it worth while to disturb Hogarth's mind, to lead him to make fruitless
inquiries, to wear himself out in attempting to prove what I fear
cannot be proved, to make him feel that he has robbed you with even
less semblance of justice than before? Can you not leave him to his own
life, which will be a useful and a distinguished one? Let us keep this
vexatious confession, at least till you consult Jane."

"No, no; I think as we have done everything without consulting Jane, we
will make up our minds on this matter too for ourselves. I know
Jane will say with you that we should not communicate the news to
Francis; for anything that appears to sacrifice herself and to save
other people is what she thinks she ought to do."

"I don't think she can be very fond of Hogarth, after all."

"But she is," said Elsie, "in her own quiet, deep way. She could give
her own life for his; but she could not feel that she was worth the
sacrifice he offered to make."

"I feel I could throw up everything for you, Elsie," said Brandon.

"But I should not like to see you do it, so I am very glad you have not
got it to do. Poor Francis!"

"Well, I suppose he will marry some one else, and she will do the same,
and they will always be very excellent friends," said Brandon.

"But then the wrong is to the somebody else," said Elsie. "It seems
quite wicked to think of such a thing. Can they not keep single for a
purpose, as Peggy Walker did? Francis may immerse himself in
politics to his heart's content; and Jane, she will be very happy in my
happiness. You must love her; you must not be jealous of her. She has
been everything in the world to me--my sister, my mother, my friend;
and if she cannot have a home of her own, let her always be welcome to

"Always," said Brandon. "We must try to do our best to make up for what
we cannot give to her. But you say that Jane would be disposed to keep
back this?"

"Yes; but I will send it, and write to him besides. If I were in his
circumstances I should think I had a right to know. I would rather hear
the truth so far as it can be ascertained about my parentage, than have
it concealed for fear of hurting my feelings. He may act upon the
information as he sees fit; so I will send him a certified copy of this
confession, and write him a few lines besides. I want to tell him how
happy I am: he was a friend to us in our sorrows, and he ought to know
when any prosperity, or pleasure, or happiness, comes to either
of us. I must tell him I can confide in you now."

"That is a very pleasant piece of news, I am sure," said Brandon.

"Jane will write to him from Wiriwilta, but she cannot know of our
engagement till too late for the mail."

"I think Jane formed a very shrewd guess as to my intentions, and, if
she writes fully to Hogarth, will mention them. But, by-the-by, you
must write a few lines to my mother. She will be delighted to hear this
good news; and, as for Fanny, the idea that there will be some one at
Barragong to take a motherly care of Edgar, and make him change his
clothes when he gets wet, and see that he wears flannel in winter, will
be very soothing to her maternal anxiety."

Chapter XI.

Elsie Melville's Letter

Francis Hogarth had devoted himself to public life even more
assiduously after the departure of Jane than before, and had made
himself more prominent in Parliament as practice strengthened his
powers of debate and study increased his stock of information. He was
invaluable on a committee to those who really wanted to elicit the
truth; while those who had anything to conceal dreaded his searching
questions and careful weighing of conflicting testimony. His own
peculiar crotchet--the reconstruction of electoral districts, so as to
secure the rights of minorities--to increase the purity and diminish
the expense and the bitterness of elections in the meantime,
and to pave the way for the elevation of the masses by the gradual
extension of the suffrage, by securing that the new voters should not
have all political power in their hands--was one that, of course,
found little sympathy within the walls of Parliament.

"There never has yet been," says Mr. J. S. Mill, "among political men
in England any real and serious attempt to prevent bribery, because
there has been no real desire that elections should not be costly.
Their costliness is an advantage to those who can afford the expense by
excluding a multitude of competitors; and anything, however noxious, is
cherished as having a conservative tendency if it limits the access to
Parliament to rich men. This is a rooted feeling among our legislators
of both political parties, and is about the only point on which I
believe them to be really ill-intentioned. They care comparatively
little who votes, so long as they feel assured that none but persons of
their own class can be voted for. They know that they can rely on the
fellow-feeling of one of their own class with another, while
the subservience of NOUVEAUX ENRICHIS, who knocking at the door of the
class, is a still surer reliance, and that nothing very democratic need
be apprehended under the most democratic suffrage, as long as
democratic persons can be prevented from being elected to Parliament."

But outside of the walls of the House of Commons, Francis had found
many who agreed with him as to the necessity for some great change. All
accounts from America, and even those from Australia, proved that the
wide extension of the suffrage without some precaution to secure the
minorities from extinction, tended to political degeneration, even in
countries where there was great material prosperity, abundance of land,
considerable advantages of education, and greater equality of condition
than in Britain. The march of affairs was all steadily towards more
democratic institutions, and Francis was not deceived by temporary and
partial reactions. The extension of the suffrage must come, and England
ought to be prepared to meet it. He was willing to take
advantage of every suggestion and every discovery that might be made;
and when a scheme more comprehensive than that of Sir Rowland Hill for
our first Adelaide Corporation, and incomparably better than Lord John
Russell's, was first launched into the world, amid many sneers that it
was utopian, crotchety, and un-English, he adopted it with an
enthusiasm which he knew Jane Melville would approve of. The criticism
and the ridicule only strengthened his conviction of the feasibility of
the scheme, and his hopes of its success. Jane was sure to be proud if
he could be the means of bringing about so great a reform. They had
often talked on the subject, but had never been able to devise anything
comparable to this. Mr. Sinclair, with whom the matter had been gone
over most carefully, was quite as enthusiastic about it as the
discoverer himself, and Francis wished more than ever that the entrance
to Parliament was less expensive and less difficult, so that he might
have so good a coadjutor.

Old Thomas Lowrie was dead, and Peggy and her young folks were
all full of preparations for the outward voyage to Australia. Tom hoped
to serve out his time to as great advantage in Melbourne as in
Edinburgh; and he really was as clever and as skilful as if he had been
seven instead of less than two years at the engineering. Francis had
visited much at Miss Thomson's, and had Seen a great deal of Mary
Forrester, but not with the result that Jane had anticipated; and now,
before she had made any impression on him beyond the conviction that
she was an exceedingly amiable girl, the plans of the whole family were
changed, and they, too, were going to Australia. As Mary had said, they
had cost Aunt Margaret a great deal of money first and last. Mr.
Forrester had been indolent, and perhaps unlucky; Mrs. Forrester had
been occupied with the cares of a very large family, and had not the
force of character of her single sister. Her eldest son had gone to
Australia some time before, and though he had not made a fortune, he
had done pretty well; and he was perhaps ashamed that so much
had been done for his family by his aunt and so little by himself. So
he wrote advising them to come out to Melbourne, at least all but John,
who was now of service to Miss Thomson; and James, if he thought his
business was worth staying for. If Margaret and Mary were inclined to
take situations as governesses, he had no doubt they could obtain them.
Robert and Henry could work for themselves, and with his help could
assist their parents to better advantage than in Scotland. The family
council met on this proposal, and it was ultimately acceded to, and the
family were busy with their preparations to go in the same ship as
Peggy and the Lowries. It seemed to Francis as if everybody was going
to Australia.

He had dined out one day, and had brushed against some of the greatest
men of the age, and felt himself brightened by the collision. He sat
beside the most benevolent, the most enlightened, and the most
sober-minded of political economists, on the one hand; on the
other by the most brilliant of French conversationalists. He--Francis
Hogarth, the obscure bank clerk, who had had no name, no position, and,
he used to think, no ability--was admitted on equal footing with such
men as these. He had not felt so much on the occasion of his dining
with the Earl, and meeting with people there of title and political

After an evening passed in conversation on the subjects which
especially interested him, Francis returned to his club. He sat down
before going to bed with a cigar, and took up his letters. An
Australian mail was in, and a letter from Jane and from Elsie. Jane's
was first taken up and read. It described her life at Wiriwilta, the
house, and the scenery, so far as she could do it justice; Miss
Phillips's relations with Dr. Grant, and Jane's hopes that Brandon and
Elsie would come to an understanding, for his manner had been very much
like that of a man in love. How cautious, yet how affectionate were her
expressions to himself! How she seemed to live in others, and to care
for the happiness of everyone in the world, while regardless of
her own and of his.

"Ah, Jane," said he, half aloud, "how different it would be to come
home, after such an evening as this, to you; to see your dear eyes
brighten at the recital of all I have seen and all I have heard; to
hear your beloved voice inspiring me to more exertion and more
patience. After sitting through so many party debates, so much
transparent self-seeking, and so much ungenerous opposition as I cannot
help seeing in Parliament, how refreshing to see, among such men as I
have met to-day, the pure, genuine public spirit which Jane first
showed me the example of in the midst of her hardest trials. This
reform does not bring personal advantage to one of these people, and
yet they are as enthusiastic about it as if their lives depended on it.
It may bring fame; but, as M. ----- says, 'The laurels will be late, and
we will have lost the care for them by the time they fall on our
heads.' The pleasure is in the work--the disinterested work itself--as
Jane used to say. There is one half the globe between us. I
cannot fancy that she is sitting over the fire thinking of me at this
moment; it is morning with her; and she is up and busy. But in my
business, and in my pleasure, or my trouble, she is always in the
background--if not in the foreground--of my thoughts. But then she
does not love me as I love her." And a long fit of silent musing, with
the letter in his hand, followed these half-spoken regrets.

"But I must read Elsie's letter too; it appears to be long, and the
first she has written to me--later in date than Jane's, which is
posted in the country, and I suppose asking for congratulations--well,
she shall have them."

As he opened the envelope, and saw the curious legal-looking document
enclosed, containing the certified copy of Mrs. Peck's confession, his
curiosity was strongly aroused; he read it through first with surprise
and agitation. Elsie's own letter was not long; it ran as follows:----

"My dear Francis,--I enclose you this, because I think you
ought to know that Mrs. Peck is not your mother. I think you must have
had good parents, though you may never be able to find them out. You
are still as much entitled to Cross Hall, and all that my uncle left
you, for you know it was given to you because you deserved it, and I am
sure that he could have found no worthier heir. I had hoped very much
that the evidence would have been sufficient to prove that you are not
Jane's cousin, because you might then have done as you pleased without
losing the property, and the position and the opportunities you make
such good use of; but I fear--and Mr. Brandon fears--that it cannot
be conclusively proved. We have sent you all the information we can get
from Mrs. Peck. You will observe a few additional memoranda at the end
of the confession. I am quite convinced that what she says is true, for
I have often remarked that you were not at all like my uncle or any of
his family, and you are still more unlike Mrs. Peck. Consult your own
judgment about making inquiries; I know you will do rightly and

"You will be very glad to hear that I am engaged to Mr. Brandon, who
has taken all the trouble about this affair, and I think elicited all
that Mrs. Peck knows. It is most unfortunate that she is so little to
be believed, and that she wanted to get money for her information, as
well as revenge on you for not answering her letter or letters. I
believe I am going to be very happy, and I only wish I could make
everybody as happy as myself. Give my love to Peggy when you see her,
and say that I should have liked to have been married from her house
rather than from any other, but I do not think Mr. Brandon will let me
wait so long. Jane will be writing you all the Wiriwilta news, and
about Miss Phillips and Dr. Grant. Mrs. Phillips has been very kind to
me, kinder than ever she was before; and as for Mr. Phillips, you know
how good he has always been to both Jane and myself. We both like
Australia, even more than we expected, and I am going to try to make a
good bush wife to one who loves me very much. He desires me to
send his kindest regards to you; and believe me

"Always, your very affectionate friend,

"Elsie Melville."

"Well," said Francis, "here is one person who cares about my happiness.
If I cannot prove that Jane is not my cousin, I can at least give up
the property, which never would have been left to me unless Henry
Hogarth had believed me to be his son. Jane must love me--her sister
must know it, or she would never have written to me thus. I will have
her after a time. If I can combine the public duty and the career I
have entered on with happiness, so much the better; if not, farewell
ambition! She cannot blame me for such a course. Henry Hogarth wronged
his nieces to enrich me, supposing me to be his son: he must have
supposed it, or he would not have forbidden our marriage on account of
the cousinship. If I can restore it to Jane by marriage, well and good;
but otherwise I cannot keep it. To-morrow for inquiries. First
a file of the TIMES for 18-; the police reports, the coroner's
inquests, the passenger-list of the Sydney ship and of the American
ship, inquiries at the lodging-house near the wharf--then to Edinburgh
to inquire at the house in New Street, and consult with MacFarlane and
Sinclair. I surely can work through it--at least I will try."

Chapter XII.

What Can Be Made Of It?

Early on the following morning Francis began his researches; but the
TIMES and other journals of the date Mrs. Peck mentioned, which he
searched through, proved quite barren of intelligence. The
passenger-lists he could not find complete anywhere; the newspapers
more especially devoted to these matters contained the passenger-list
of the 'Lysander' bound for Sydney, for the first and second cabin, and
in the latter the names of Mrs. Ormistown and Miss E. Ormistown were
mentioned; but for the American ship, in which he supposed his real
mother had sailed, there was no mention of any passengers except those
in the first cabin; and in all probability, she being a poor
woman, would sail in the steerage. There were also three vessels
sailing for New York very close upon one another at the time, and he
could not be sure in which the passage had been taken. Mrs. Peck said
the ship was to sail the next day; but her own vessel had been rather
hurried to go with the tide, and there was no saying whether that was
the case with the American one. But in all the American ships there was
no mention of the names of the fore-cabin passengers. Then the police
reports gave no account of any complaint having been made about an
exchanged child, and when he eagerly turned to the coroner's inquests
there was nothing to be seen there either. The mother had probably been
too distressed with grief to observe the substitution, or too anxious
not to lose her passage to stop to make inquiries if she had had any
suspicion--teething convulsions are not at all uncommon among children
of that age, and a stranger in London was likely to get no redress
under such circumstances, even if she had the courage to attempt it
There was so little likely motive for any one to take away a
living child and leave a dead one, that she was sure to have been
laughed to scorn if she had suggested such a thing to the landlady of
the house.

Francis, disappointed in the newspapers, next went to the
lodging-house, but it had been pulled down and another substituted in
its place, and of course no one could tell anything about the obscure
woman who had kept it. A London Directory for 18--gave her name as Mrs.
Martha Stubbs, which did not agree with the name which Mrs. Peck
reported, which was Mrs. Dawson. This was a bad beginning to his search
for corroborative evidence; but he put an advertisement in the TIMES
and WEEKLY DISPATCH for her under both names, in hopes that she might
recollect something about a child dying in convulsions in her house, in
the absence of its mother, just before a lodger left her house to go to
Sydney with another child of the same sex and age. This, after a lapse
of thirty-five years, was a desperate chance, but it was the only
course open to Francis, and he took it.

Next he went to Edinburgh and inquired in New Street, in the
old town, for the woman, Violet Strachan, who had let the lodgings
where the real Francis Hogarth was born, and where the irregular
marriage had also taken place. Thirty-five years in a city like
Edinburgh, with an eminently migrating population, is a far more
unmanageable period than in a country town, where people inhabit the
same houses from one generation to another, and where, even if the
persons whom you wish to discover are dead, there are neighbours who
recollect about them. This second search was fruitless, so he could
only advertise for Violet Strachan, and that he also did.

Next he went to his friend Sinclair, and opened his budget of news to
him. Sinclair had been in America, and he might have chanced to have
heard something of some one who had had a doubtful baby found dead on
the bed just before its mother sailed. If this had been a sensation
novel, Mr. Sinclair would have been sure to have known all about it,
and have turned out to be the father or the uncle of his friend--he
was of the age to be either; but as this is not a sensation
novel, he could not throw any light on the dark subject, and could only
give his sympathy, and offer to take any amount of trouble on Francis's
behalf. His only advice was that he should advertise in the States'
leading papers, if he really wanted to know, for some one who emigrated
in May 18-, in one of the three ships which had sailed about that time,
who had lost a child in convulsions that might not have been her own;
requiring some particulars about the age and the house at which the
death was believed to have taken place.

"It is a thousand to one against your getting an answer," said Mr.
Sinclair. "But what makes you so anxious to prove this? It can do no

"Only this, that if Jane Melville can be proved not to be my cousin, I
can marry her and keep Cross Hall and my seat in Parliament. If it
cannot be proved, then I must give up everything, and go to Melbourne
and ask if she will have me without a penny."

"Oh, is that it?" said Sinclair. "I am the more bound to do all
I can to help you. We cannot spare you from the House, nor from the
country. But, after all, Hogarth, one woman is as good as another, and
your career should not be lightly sacrificed."

"One woman as good as another!" exclaimed Francis.

"Not exactly so; but there are many women as good as Miss Melville. I
grant that she is a fine woman, and one of excellent principles and
understanding; but not just the sort of person one could go into
heroics about. I do not say that as a companion and friend her place
could be filled up to you by such women as Miss Crichton or any of the
Jardine girls, or even by Eliza Rennie. But Mary Forrester--what do
you think of Mary Forrester? You should not let such a girl leave the
country. She is handsomer, younger, and every bit as good as Miss

"She is a very fine girl, no doubt, but do not speak of her in the same
breath with Jane Melville. I owe so much to Jane: if it had not
been for her, I would never have been so valuable even to you."

"Well, then, let us see what is to be done to suit your wishes. Shall I
go with you to MacFarlane's?"

"I will be very glad indeed of your company," said Francis.

Mr. MacFarlane was very much surprised at the strange business which
had brought Hogarth from his parliamentary duties to consult him upon.
He read carefully the document which Alice had forwarded, and listened
to Francis's account of the inquiries he had made so unsuccessfully,
before he ventured on giving any opinion.

"This is very possibly true, Mr. Hogarth," said he, at last; "indeed
very probably true. I think with you that this woman, Elizabeth
Ormistown, and her mother, were capable of doing anything that would
bring them in money; but the secret has been kept too long--much too
long. They did their work skilfully, without accomplices, and
without leaving any traces of their proceedings. This confession is not
worth the paper it is written on in a court of law, and you have failed
in all your efforts to get corroborative evidence. There is no use in
inquiring about Violet Strachan; she is dead three years ago. I paid
her, on Hogarth's account, a small weekly sum, that she used to come to
my office for to keep her from destitution, but that payment is at an
end. The other witness could only prove the irregular marriage, which
there is no doubt about, as Henry Hogarth owns to it in his will. The
only evidence that would be worth anything is that of your real mother,
and there is no saying if she is not dead too. I think the chances are
that she is," said Mr. MacFarlane, turning up the annuity tables for
the chances of life at the supposed age of thirty-two, which Mrs. Peck
had given as the probable age of her neighbour in the lodging-house,
after a period of thirty-four years. "If alive, there is no getting at
her, and after all--CUI BONO?"

"I am attached--very deeply attached--to my supposed cousin,
Jane Melville. I want to be free to marry her. I am convinced that she
is not my cousin, and you know the will said that it was on condition
of not marrying or assisting either of my cousins that I was to hold
the property. If I have convinced you of the feasibility of the case--that
I am not related in the slightest degree to the Misses Melville--would
not the benevolent societies to which Mr. Hogarth left his
property, in case of my disobeying his injunctions, see it also?"

"One man, or one society of men, might be convinced," said Mr.
MacFarlane, "and would make a compromise with you on very easy terms;
but I doubt if five distinct corporations would do so."

"There is no one who has any right to object, except these societies,"
said Francis, "or any object in doing so."

"Those clauses forbidding marriage as a condition of inheriting
property, or of receiving yearly incomes, are always michievious," said
Sinclair; "they are contrary to public morals."

"Henry Hogarth," said Mr. MacFarlane, "who was a clever man,
and in some respects a wise man, did the foolishest things in important
matters that ever I heard of. First, his marriage with that girl. I saw
her once at the house he lodged in; and a glaikit lassie I thought her.
Next, the education of his nieces, which was absolutely nonsensical;
and then putting such a clause into his will, as if he meant that you
should take a fancy to each other--for prohibitions of that kind just
put mischief into young folks' heads."

"Then do you see the absence of family likeness that Elsie relies so
much upon? You knew Elizabeth Ormistown when she was young--she saw
her an old woman."

"I am no hand at likenesses," said MacFarlane, "and did not pay much
attention to the girl; but I think both she and Henry were fair and
low-featured, and you are dark and high-featured. But that is of no use
either, as you know."

"Then, by a rigid interpretation of the will, you think the
societies would be able to dispossess me, if I married Jane, and could
not prove this story of Mrs. Peck's to be true."

"I think I know it pretty well by heart, but we had better turn to it,"
said Mr. MacFarlane, and he looked out the document he had himself
drawn out, and read it aloud to Francis and Mr. Sinclair.

"Now you see that the great purpose and bent of Mr. Hogarth's will was
to impoverish his nieces, to force them to act and work for themselves.
Not merely marriage, but any other way of assisting them was forbidden.
He certainly meant to enrich you, because he thought you deserved it,
but in case of your not co-operating with him in his principal object,
the property was to go away from you altogether. The Misses Melville
have made their way in the world remarkably well--much better than I
could have thought possible. I think he acted both cruelly and unjustly
to them, but as they have so well conquered their difficulties, the
matter had better be left as it is."

"Then," said Francis, "you think that even if I had
satisfactory proof from my real mother to corroborate Elizabeth
Ormistown's confession, and could make it incontestably plain that I am
not related to Miss Melville, so that I do not, in marrying her, marry
my cousin, it would be considered in law as invalidating my right to
the property--that by doing so I am assisting Jane Melville, which was
forbidden as clearly as the marriage."

"It is a very strong point. If I were the legal adviser of any one of
these benevolent associations, I certainly would recommend them to
contest it; at the same time, with the proof which you speak of, I
would enjoy fighting it out with them. In a court of law the decision
would be against you, under the most favourable circumstances; but if
we took it to the Equity Courts I think your chance would be better,
for there is a growing feeling there that it is not right for people to
bequeath property clogged with vexatious restrictions. Yet, at the same
time, all who think well of these five charitable institutions--and
they are the very best-managed of the kind in Scotland--Mr.
Hogarth showed judgment in his selection--will think taking the
property from a man who had, according to his own showing, no right to
it, for the sake of the poor and afflicted, really a good work. Public
feeling will be against you where you are not personally known."

"God knows it is not for myself that I wish to keep Cross Hall, nor yet
for Jane herself," said Francis. "But my life lies out before me so
clearly that at no period have I had more to give up than now."

"If you had the evidence you wish for (which I see very little chance
of your getting), and married Miss Melville, then, of course, the
societies would come upon you. You have got possession, you might keep
them at bay for years, and in the meantime you might have interest
enough with your political friends to get something good in the way of
a government appointment. We hear you well spoken of in the House as a
man likely to distinguish himself."

"Not in the way of getting government appointments," said
Francis--"quite in a contrary direction. But without the evidence,
then, what would you advise?"

"To let the matter rest. Indeed, I think it is useless to disquiet
yourself about discovering your real parents. These long-lost relations
never amalgamate well. I have seen several instances of it, and they
were very disappointing."

"Then," said Francis, "I suppose the only thing for me to do is to make
out a deed of gift to each of these societies in the order in which Mr.
Hogarth left the property to them. The personal estate I have certainly
trenched upon a little, but all to the benefit of the heritable estate.
Cross Hall is in better condition now than when I succeeded to it. If I
have given away on the very easiest terms some of the worst land on the
estate, I have improved the better, and I have spent a large sum in new
cottages. I have lived within my means; even my election expenses were
saved out of the current income."

"You do not mean to say," said Mr. MacFarlane, "that you are
going to take so wild a step as this? What good end can you secure by
throwing up your handsome fortune in this way?"

"Don't propose such a thing yet; think a little, Hogarth," said

"I am sure the figure you are making in the House would delight my old
friend Harry's heart," said Mr. MacFarlane; "just in the way he would
have liked to do himself; getting in in such an honourable way too. I
heard Prentice say that he never saw anything so open and above board
and so pure as your canvassing. If you are not Harry's son, you deserve
to be, and it is no fault of yours. You are like a chip of the old
block in your ways of thinking. It is quite possible you are his son
after all: this woman is not to be believed one way or another. To give
up all this for the sake of a pair of grey eyes, and a pair of
healthy-looking cheeks that nobody ever even thought handsome, is a
young man's folly."

"Yes, and a head and a heart, and a few other things," said

"She would never be so unreasonable as to wish or expect you to do it,"
said Mr. Sinclair.

"She would not expect me to do it, I know. I cannot regret my career
more than she will do; but I love her, and I believe she loves me; and,
please God, we will begin the world together."

"I was sorry for the girls," said MacFarlane, "very sorry. You could
see that when I read the will to you; but they have really done very
creditably. In spite of the most absurd education in the world, one of
them got a capital situation as a governess; and the other did very
well indeed, I hear, at some sort of woman's work. It's the youngest
that is going to be well married in Australia, and very likely the
other will do the same."

"I think it is very likely she will," said Francis.

"But if she is married to some one else before you go out--they do
these things very quickly at the antipodes," said Mr.
MacFarlane. "There--the first mail after their arrival, we hear of
Alice Melville being engaged to be married."

"I will trust her," said Francis. "She will surely wait till she hears
how I receive this news. Even at the worst I can console myself with
your friend, Mr. Sinclair; she will be at hand, and that is a great

"Don't give it up so rashly. I'd rather fight it out to the death than
that. At any rate, you might keep possession of Cross Hall for a while
till you made your way in public life," said Mr. MacFarlane.

"The plan of action I had laid out for myself was not likely to succeed
for ten or twenty years, in all probability; and the lawsuit, if
protracted to the utmost, would likely go against me at last--I see it
would; and the only effect would be that the benevolent societies would
come to the property when it had been reduced about one half by
litigation. With all due respect for you personally, Mr. MacFarlane, I
think money spent in law the very worst investment for all
parties concerned, and for the world in general. No, it shall be given
up at once."

"But," said Sinclair, "it would be unfair to yourself to begin the
world at greater disadvantage than before you were left the property."

"Yes, I think it would," said Francis. "I might represent the case to
them in that light. I am satisfied with your opinion, Mr. MacFarlane;
but on a question of such importance, you will, of course, have no
objection to my consulting another adviser--the Lord Advocate, I

"Certainly, you could not have a better man," said Mr. MacFarlane.

"Give me the will or a copy to show him," said Francis. "I must make a
note of the names and addresses of these societies, in case his opinion
coincides with yours, for I must write to each of them to send a
delegate or deputation to meet me. I should see them all at once, and
explain matters to them. Rather a hard matter for a shy man like myself
to bring his love affairs before five charitable associations."

"Shy!" said Sinclair. "You are as bold and frank a politician
as I ever saw."

"Oh, politics are another matter; but until I met with Jane, I never
had any one in whom I could confide--I never even knew the blessing of
friendship before. She taught me to be frank, for she had confidence in
me and felt for me. You see I am practising for the associations by
speaking to two elderly gentlemen on the subject. Another lesson at the
Lord Advocate's, and I hope to be equal to the emergency."

The Lord Advocate agreed in all points with Mr. MacFarlane as to the
legal chances of keeping the property; and although he thought it a
very quixotic thing to give it up, Francis was determined on that
subject. The letters were written to the associations, and a day was
appointed for his meeting a delegate from each of them, intrusted with
powers to decide and act. Mr. MacFarlane wished to be present, for he
had no confidence in the prudence of his client, who would be sure to
show his hand to the opposing party, and let them know too soon how
little there was in it, and Francis rather reluctantly
consented. In the mean time he worked off some of his excitement by
visiting Peggy and the Lowries to deliver Elsie's messages. She was
busy, as usual, but laid aside her work at the sight of the unexpected

"Have you any news?" said she, "for I have had no letter from Miss Jean
this month, and next mail I'll no be here to get it. You look as if
there was good news, Mr. Hogarth."

"Good and bad," said Francis; "can you guess the good?"

"Miss Elsie and Mr. Brandon," said Peggy. "I see by your eyes I'm

"You are a good guesser, Peggy. She is only sorry she could not be
married from your house; but she did not think Mr. Brandon would wait
so long."

"Oh, I dare say no. But indeed I marvelled that he went to Australia
without her, for I thought it was a thing that was to be, from the
first day he spoke about her. But there's no much time lost after all.
There's to be a Mrs. Brandon at Barragong at last--and what
says Miss Jean about it?"

"It is Elsie herself who writes to me that it is a settled thing, and
that she hopes to be very happy, and sends you this message. But what
would you say if Miss Jane were to be married herself?"

"You don't say so!" said Peggy, looking surprised and puzzled. "I never
thought upon her being married. And that's the bad, is it? I wonder
what man about Wiriwilta has got the presumption to even himself to
her. I misdoubt she's throwing herself away, as many a sensible woman
has done before her. One marriage is quite enough for me at a time."

"Perhaps it is premature in me to speak of it," said Francis, "for the
Saldanha will be three months, or nearly so, on the way, and she has
not been rightly asked yet."

"The Saldanha! What in the name of wonder do you mean?"

"I mean to go with you in the Saldanha, if I finish the little matter
of business I have got to do on this side of the world before
she sails. But I see I must let you read my letters, so that you may
judge of the news."

"It's fine big writing," said Peggy. "I hope it's easier made out than
what you say," and she proceeded to read Elsie's letter and enclosure,
with a running comment.

She scarcely understood the drift of the beginning of the letter, but
when she came to Mr. Brandon's name she knew her ground. "Happy! she's
sure to be happy! Mr. Brandon will give her all her own way, and she
does not want for sense.--That's a kind message to me; but she might
have been married here if Mr. Brandon had had more gumption, and asked
her before he went away.--And Mrs. Phillips is more reasonable. I'd
like to see her show any airs to her now, when Mr. Brandon is by; he'll
let her know her place.--And they like Australia--both of them. Who,
in all the world, is it Miss Jean can have taken up with?--And so that
was the way Cross Hall got his bonny bargain of a wife; he was young
and simple to be entrapped with such a pair. Well, well! it was
a home-coming to hear such words passing between her and an old
sweetheart. I'll be bound he never wanted to see her again.--But,
mercy on us! and so it was no you that was the bairn after all, Master
Francis, and the old laird had really no call to care about you. But
that woman should be punished. Men and women have been hanged for less
guilt. I'd hurry no one into the presence of the Great Judge; but that
she should be at large, boasting of her wickedness, and hoping to make
siller of it, is a thing that should not be permitted."

"Then you believe this story, Peggy?" said Francis.

"What should ail me to believe it? It's all of a piece; no woman that
was not as wicked as that would make up so wicked a story."

"Every one that I show the narrative to believes it, yet they all say
that it would not hold in a court of justice; so I am going to give up
Cross Hall to the benevolent associations, as Mr Hogarth made
them his heirs, in case of my not obeying some of his directions, and I
will then sail with you in the Saldanha, to begin the world afresh, and
to ask Jane Melville to begin it with me."

Peggy made no doubt that that was the only thing Francis could do under
the circumstances. She did not know the value of what he lost, she only
thought of what he was likely to gain.

"Well, Mr. Francis, or whatever your name may be, if that is the
marriage you spoke of, I think that news is GOOD too. I'm not a woman
of many words, but I think you'll never repent of this, or grieve for
the loss of this world's gear; and so far as my poor judgment goes, I
think Miss Jean is not the woman to say you nay;" and she shook his
hand warmly, and entered into his plans for beginning life in
Melbourne, as neither Sinclair nor MacFarlane had done. "There's good
work to be done in Australia, Mr. Francis, and there's one there that
will help you to do it. There's no doubt Providence intends to
make something of you. After all this chopping and changing, it would
be a queer thing if you would not rise as high at the other end of the
world as you have done in this."

Chapter XIII.

Not So Bad, After All

Perhaps there never was a romantic communication made to five more
prosaic-looking people than the accredited agents of the societies.
Middle-aged and elderly men, who, if they ever took up a novel, skipped
the love passages, and in all instances preferred to read newspapers.
They were very much bewildered at the purpose of their being called
together. They had thought there must have been a codicil found to the
very strange will of which they had had a copy sent to their societies,
as being, though in a very unlikely contigency, possibly interested,
and that it was possible they were to receive a small sum IN ESSE,
instead of the large one IN POSSE. But when Mr. MacFarlane
produced no codicil, but read to them gravely Mrs. Peck's confession
instead, and paused at the conclusion, as if he expected them to
express an opinion, they looked at each other for a few seconds,
unwilling to commit themselves by initiating any remark whatever. At
last the boldest of the number observed that it was a strange story,
which the others agreed to unanimously.

"Do you think it is true?" said Francis.

"Perhaps it is," said the director of the Blind Asylum; "there is no

"Of course it does not at all invalidate Mr. Hogarth, my client's right
to the estate, moveable and heritable, of the late Hogarth, of Cross
Hall," said Mr. MacFarlane, "for you know that was left to him by

"Of course not," said the director of the Blind Asylum; "one can see

"But what was the use of calling us all here," said the representative
of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, "to tell us that Cross Hall left his
property perhaps by a mistake? Had he claimed as heir-of-entail or
as heir-at-law the case would have been different; but it would
have been our business to have found out that, or the next heir's, and
certainly not the present possessor's."

"You will observe," said Francis, "that I hold the property under
conditions--one is, that I shall not marry either of my cousins. If
Jane Melville is not my cousin, marrying her, and restoring her to the
property, which she has a better right to than I have--should not
invalidate my right by this will."

"Oh, that is a very different affair," said the Deaf and Dumb delgate.
"You want to marry Miss Melville, and to keep the estate too."

"Yes, if I can legally. I know that if Mr. Hogarth was alive at this
day, and could see this confession, he would believe it, and he would
no longer see any bar to my marriage with his niece. If he could see
how well and how bravely his nieces have battled with the world he
would require no further trial of their fortitude or patience."

"We would never think of disturbing you in possession of Cross
Hall, so long as you fulfil the conditions of the will," said the
delegate from the Blind Asylum.

"Certainly, you need never think of it, for you cannot," said

"But such a step as you contemplate is so flagrant a violation of the
spirit and purport of Mr. Hogarth's will--for, right or wrong, he
never meant Jane Melville to be mistress of Cross Hall--that we must
claim our just rights. This confession, given with the hope of
extorting money from the supposed heirs of Mr. Hogarth, is worthless,
particularly considering the character of the person who makes it. I
think you have no case whatever: do not you agree with me?" said the
director of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum--one who took the greatest
possible interest in the working and the prosperity of that charity,
the funds of which were rather at a low ebb at this time. "We cannot be
supposed to be actuated by selfish motives; we are perfectly
disinterested trustees for great public interests; but if property is
left to these institutions, we would be wanting in our duty if
we did not claim it."

The other four directors took the same view of the case. None of them
would agree to leave Francis unmolested, if he took the step he

"But you observe," said Francis, "that this will has been the cause of
great injustice. In the first place, Mr. Hogarth's two nieces had been
brought up as his heirs, and they were left to struggle with
difficulties and hardships which were harder and more severe than any
man has to go through--and for which the education their uncle had
given them had not made them more fitted. In the second place, he left
the property to me as supposing me to be his son. If this confession is
true, I am not his son; but if I marry the woman who in that case is
not my cousin, you will not allow me to keep the estate for her, so I
am forced to----"

"Stop, Mr. Hogarth," said Mr. MacFarlane, eagerly.

"I am forced to make a deed of gift to each of you, as I am
really in possession of the estate. I save you all the expense and
trouble of litigation, and I have to begin the world again at far
greater disadvantage than when I was taken from my bank-desk and my
250 pounds a year two years ago. I have acquired expensive habits; I am
two years older, and I shall have a wife and probably a family to

"There is a great deal of truth in what you say," said the director of
the Institution, for the sub-matronship of which Jane Melville had
applied in vain. The other four were speechless with astonishment at
the extraordinary proposition which Francis made to them. "Litigation
is long and expensive. I may say, for my body of directors, that we
would be very happy to give some consideration for the very handsome,
the very generous, offer you make to us. It is not right to marry
without being a little beforehand with the world; and it would be very
unfair to accept of all you gained by the will without making a little
compensation for what you have lost. Any personal property,
books, and furniture, that you would like to keep, to the value of
200 pounds, or thereabouts, and a sum of 400 pounds from each of us, I
think would be fair, to give you a start in a new country. I believe Miss
Melville is a very deserving lady. If it had not been for her youth we
should have had her with us. I hope my friends here will agree with me
that this is reasonable and just."

"You get the estate too cheaply," said Mr. MacFarlane, with warmth.
"Think that Mr. Hogarth might have kept it for ever if it had not been
for this romantic crotchet; think that he might marry Miss Melville,
and having possession might defy you to oust him, and drag you through
court after court, and run you up 10,000 pounds of costs, and after all
the Chancery Courts would decide that he should keep it. Public feeling is
against these restrictions, for they lead to people living PAR AMOURS
if they are forbidden to marry; and Mr. Hogarth's position and
character would be all in his favour. You get property worth 50,000 pounds
divided amongst you, and you offer my client a paltry 2,000 pounds
out of consideration for his generosity and forbearance."

"I am satisfied with it," said Francis; "and I think Jane will be the

"It IS too little," said the director of the Infirmary, who had never
spoken before. "We must make it 500 pounds each; and we are very much
obliged to Mr. Hogarth; and we should not limit him so much with regard to
the personal property. Cross Hall library was valued at more than 1,000
pounds; and as they are all such reading folk, they might take 200 pounds
of books alone. Let us be liberal, and say 700 pounds for what he may like
to take from Cross Hall."

"If I have any voice in the administration of the property I make over
to you, I should like to have it applied specially to paying your
officers better--particularly in those situations which are filled by
women. I know you think it right to economize your funds; and I believe
that all Scotch charities are much better managed, and much more
honestly administered than those on the other side of the Tweed. But
I think you pay your surgeons and your matrons very shabbily.
You say you get so many applications, that it shows you do not underpay
them. But it would be much better to demand better qualifications, and
to pay them more highly. Out of sixty applications for a matronship
worth 30 pounds a year, there is perhaps one or two only fit for the work;
and if they are fit for it, they are well worth 70 pounds," said Francis.

"We have raised THAT salary," said the director of the ----- Institution.

"I am glad to hear it--very glad to hear it," said Francis.

"We will take what you say into consideration," said the director of
the Deaf and Dumb Institution, who was speculating on all that could be
done with a sum amounting to more than 9,000 pounds.

"I object to specify sums in making the deed of gift, or I should make
some special provision on that score; but the value of money changes so
much that what is a fair salary in one generation is not a fair one the
next, and if salaries are fixed too high they are apt to lead
to favoritism and jobbing. I dare say it would be better to trust to
your own sense of honour on the matter."

"I think you may safely do so, Mr. Hogarth. With regard to the
property, I suppose we should advertise it for sale and then divide the
proceeds. The payments to Mr. Hogarth must be made at once, however, as
I suppose he is bound for Australia," said the director of the Deaf and
Dumb Asylum.

"Yes, in the first ship, in which some friends of mine are going," said

"I am sure we wish you all prosperity and all happiness in the marriage
you contemplate, which has been so fortunate for those in whom we are
interested," said the last speaker, and the sentiment was echoed by all
the others.

"Could not you buy Cross Hall?" said Francis to Miss Thomson on the day
after this matter was settled. "I should feel half my sorrow at
parting with it removed if I knew you could have it."

"No, no; I am not going to buy a property that I cannot pay for. My
father did something of the kind once, and all the time he was a laird
we were poor. He sold the property at a great loss, and then things
looked up again with him. I'd rather be a rich farmer than a poor

"If I could see you in possession of Cross Hall, and Mr. Sinclair in my
seat in Parliament, I should really have very little to give up; but it
appears I cannot. I have accepted the stewardship of Her Majesty's
Chiltern Hundreds to-day, and the burghs will be declared vacant
directly. But Mr. Sinclair cannot afford it; and he could not carry the
election. His manner is not good enough; he does not conciliate people.
If our scheme were carried there would be no fear of Sinclair getting
in, for he is a man really wanted. He could get a sufficient number of
votes here to carry him half in, and the remainder of the quota would
be attracted by his original genius and upright character,
which he could show by his speeches and addresses; and we hope to make
a seat in Parliament a much less costly affair--50 pounds or 100 pounds
should cover it all. But I fear the burghs must fall back on either the
Duke's nominee or the Earl's."

"Then are you more sorry to leave your people at Cross Hall, or your
parliamentary duties?" said Miss Thomson.

"The people at Cross Hall I think are really in a much better position
than when I came; and, perhaps, it is as well for them to be left to
work out things for themselves. I have become much attached to them,
but perhaps if I stayed there, they would depend too much upon me. But
in Parliament, I have not yet broken ground in the work I had set
myself to do: and I confess that I do regret it, both for my own sake,
for the sake of my friends who depended on me, and for the sake of the
dear old country itself. There may be more able men and more energetic
men in Parliament; but I am sure there are none whose heart was
more in the work than mine. But that was Jane's doing. I know if she
had not urged these matters on me, I would very likely have spent my
life in indolent enjoyment. Without the one drop of bitter in my cup,
in the sufferings of Jane and Elsie, I never could have felt the
responsibilities of wealth. I should have made a fine picture-gallery
at Cross Hall, and probably acquired a name as a man of good taste, but
the higher objects of life would have been lost sight of."

The farewell address to his constituents was next written and read,
with genuine sorrow on both sides. The farewells at Cross Hall were
taken, and the establishment broke up; but Susan (the housemaid), when
she heard that the master was going to Australia, with the purpose of
marrying Miss Jane, begged to go with Peggy Walker's family, in hopes
of being engaged in the service of the best master and the best
mistress she ever saw. And her request was acceded to.

Next came the journey to London, and the preparations for the
voyage, and the hardest task of all--the parting from the friends and
the objects he had so much at heart there.

He had written a full explanation of his conduct to his coadjutors in
London on his resigning his seat; and, though there was no reproach,
there was a great deal of regret, for there was not another man either
able or willing to take the part which Francis had purposed to hold for
any number of years in which he might be in Parliament.

Chapter XIV.


Jane Melville was very much surprised at the extraordinary news that
Elsie wrote to her with regard to Mrs. Peck's revelations to herself
and Mr. Brandon. Though she was quite prepared for a very interesting
letter on their own private affairs, she felt this touch her still more
nearly. She was sorry that Elsie had written to Francis on the subject
without consulting her, and that she had to wait a whole month before
she could assure him that this confession made no difference in her
feeling of regard and affection towards him, or in her pride in his
career, saying that she hoped he was now satisfied that he was the son
of honest and loving parents, though unknown ones; rejoicing
that he had got quit of such a mother as Mrs. Peck; and expressing the
pleasure with which she read his speeches, and her interest in the
objects with which he had in a measure identified himself. She tried to
think that all was with them as before, and that, though no longer his
cousin, she might continue to be his affectionate and sympathizing

Elsie s marriage gave to her sister great and unmixed pleasure. It took
place very shortly after Brandon had obtained her consent, and Emily
and Jane went to Melbourne to act as bridesmaids; and Edgar, too, was
needed on such an occasion as this. Although there were twenty miles
between Wiriwilta and Barragong, the sisters contrived to see a good
deal of each other. Mrs. Phillips was kinder and more cordial to the
Melvilles than before; and now that Elsie had an ascertained position
as Brandon's wife, even Miss Phillips could not condescend quite so
much to her.

During Brandon's honeymoon, Dr. Grant had got matters in such excellent
train that he made his proposal in due form, and was accepted;
but there could not be such promptitude in carrying it out as in
Brandon's case, for he could never think of taking a lady of Miss
Phillips's pretensions to Ben More without making considerable
additions and improvements on it, and the masons and carpenters were
very slow about their work. The pangs occasioned by delay were
sweetened by frequent and long visits; and the plan of his house, and
of the garden which he was laying out and planting, was constantly in
the hands of the betrothed lovers for mutual suggestions and
admiration. At last the day was fixed, and it was to be a very grand
affair. There was to be a special licence, and she was to be married
from her brother's house, as there was no English church within
reasonable distance. The Lord Bishop of Melbourne was to come out to
perform the ceremony, and all the neighbours from far and near were
invited;--the Ballantynes and some of their town acquaintance besides.
There were to be thirty-five at breakfast; and little or nothing could
be had from town, so there was an extraordinary amount of
cooking going on at Wiriwilta. Mrs. Bennett, who was worth any two of
the women servants in the house, was going hither and thither, and
surpassing herself in her culinary successes. Emily was instructing
Harriett how she was to behave on the following day as bridesmaid, for
the two little girls were to support their aunt on the trying occasion;
and after officiating in that capacity at the marriage of her
favourites, Brandon and Alice, Emily felt quite experienced on the
subject. Their dresses were very pretty; and as for Miss Phillips's, it
was magnificent, for she thought, if there ever was an occasion on
which one should be richly dressed, it was on an occasion like this.
Mrs. Phillips had been persuaded for once to allow her sister-in-law to
outshine her, at least so far as she could do so. Jane was as busy in
the kitchen as any one; when she was called away by Miss Phillips, to
be consulted as to how her veil should be disposed of, for Mrs.
Phillips had declined to give an opinion--and there were two modes of
arranging it that she was doubtful about. Could not Miss
Melville settle that knotty point?

"I really cannot say; one seems to me to look as well as the other,"
said Jane.

"That is very unsatisfactory," said Harriett. "I know they are not
equally becoming."

"Elsie will be here this evening," said Jane, "or early to-morrow
morning; and I am sure she will be most happy to give the last touches
to your dress. Her taste is good, and you know how wretched mine is."

"Well, I suppose I must trust to that; but I should prefer to have
everything settled to-day, so that my mind might be quite easy. I
should not like to look flurried to-morrow. I must ask Dr. Grant when
he comes in. Perhaps he will give me an idea. Your sister's dress was
very simple, she told me; but then the affair was so hurried--there
was no time to make preparations. We have not that excuse, thanks to
those tiresome tradespeople. But Alice and Brandon seem to get on
pretty comfortably."

"Very happily, I think," said Jane.

"Oh, yes, he is good-natured enough, and I dare say, very kind
to her, and she seems quite satisfied. But I have been just thinking
how difficult it would have been for me to have been suited in such a
colony as this if I had not been so fortunate as to meet with Dr.
Grant. Being a professional man, he is necessarily an educated man, and
you know how much that weighs with me; and he has the manners of a
gentleman, which are also indispensable to my happiness in marriage.
None of your rough, boorish bushmen, who can only talk of sheep and
cattle, could possibly have done for me. Then, his family connections
are most unexceptionable; my own relations cannot feel in any way
compromised by such an alliance. The near neighbourhood (as I suppose
it must be called) to Wiriwilta, and even to Barragong, makes it very
pleasant. I should not have at all liked marrying to be at distance
from my brother and his family. Coming out, as I did, on their account
principally, it would be dreadful for all of us if we were separated. I
am sure I am quite pleased, too, to have your sister and
Brandon as neighbours. Alice looks quite a different person now she has
a house of her own. I don't call her pretty--I never did; but she
looks very well indeed at Barragong, and seems to get on wonderful
well, considering."

"Considering what?" was about to come from Jane's lips, for she had
never liked Miss Phillips's condescending way of talking about her
sister; but she checked herself, for it was no use to argue with the
bride on the eve of her wedding-day, and gave an indifferent and
conciliatory reply; but the conversation was here interrupted by the
entrance of two old friends, not any of the party invited for the
morrow, but two large beautiful dogs, who ran up to Jane with the
wildest expressions of canine delight.

"Oh, Nep! oh Flora!" said Jane, "where have you come from? Who can have
brought you here? Poor old fellows! dear old fellows!" And the
favourites from Cross Hall laid their happy heads in her lap, and
rejoiced in their old mistress's caresses.

"What beauties!" said Miss Phillips; "but I do not like dogs in
the drawing-room."

"I will take them out," said Jane, trembling with wonder and agitation.
She went out of the room, and at the hall door, which stood (bush
fashion) hospitably open, she saw Francis standing, allowing Nep and
Flora, who seemed to know there was a friend in the house, to make an
entrance and introduce themselves. She extended her hand, but he
clasped her in his arms.

"Not farewell this time, dearest Jane. I have come for you, and I will
not be refused. When we parted I said you knew I loved you, and now I
believe you love me. I have given up everything--the property, the
seat in Parliament; and now that I have no career to relinquish,
perhaps you will acknowledge that you love me?"

"Oh, Francis, I have always loved you! but I could have lived without
you all my life if I had thought it for your good and your happiness. I
could not bear to be your stumbling-block. But is it really the
case? did you believe that strange story? have you given up what you
made such good use of?"

"Come out into the garden with me, and I will tell you all about it;"
and Francis led Jane where they were more secure from interruption.
Flora and Nep followed them in the greatest exuberance of spirits.

"I had to stay one day in Melbourne, and found that I could get a
situation there as accountant in a merchant's office, at 300 pounds to
begin with. I had Mr. Rennie's testimonial to speak for me. It is not so
much as my 50 pounds in Edinburgh; but will you marry me on that?"
said Francis.

"I would marry you on less," said Jane, "for my own part of it; but you
care more for comfort and luxury than I do. If you will consent to be
cheerfully without what we cannot afford, I will do my best."

"I have been roughing it a little on board ship; you may ask Peggy and
Mary Forrester if I have not. But I hope to get on, for your
sake, if not for my own. I feel just like a boy again beginning the
world, and feeling it is all his for the winning."

"But your plans--your ambitions--are they all given up? You know the
property was really yours--as much yours without a name as with my
uncle's. I am sorry you were so rash."

"No, Jane, don't be sorry; don't be anything but very glad. I never was
so happy in my life. I left all my regrets on the other side of the
world. Now, when I have your hand in mine, your heart in my keeping,
when you have promised to give yourself to me, I will not feel that I
have cause for anything but devout gratitude to our Heavenly Father,
and humble but confident hope that He will bless our union. My dearest
love, do look in my face and say you are happy."

"Yes, I am happy," said Jane, "very happy. Thank God for all his

"But what are we to do for a name? I ought not to be Hogarth, or
Ormistown, or Francis either. Can you give me a new name to
begin our new life with?"

"I think we will still call you Francis Hogarth; it is the name I
learned to love you by, and I think if my poor dear uncle saw us now,
and saw how we love each other, he would be pleased that my husband
should have his name. Then you have really given up everything?" said
Jane, who could not at once believe in the fact.

"To the benevolent societies. But they behaved very handsomely, and
gave to me--or rather, to you--a sum of money sufficient to better
our position. I have not only the 300 pounds a-year--I have 2,500 pounds
besides, and a lot of things from Cross Hall to furnish a cottage with.
I had to leave the horses, but I thought you and Elsie would like the
dogs. Susan helped to pack the furniture; and I have brought her out to go
into your service in any capacity. I suppose we can afford to keep one
domestic on our small means, even in Melbourne."

"I suppose the rest of the establishment were sorry to lose a
good master," said Jane; "and the labourers, too--what about your
arrangements there?"

"The cottages were built and the allotments made over securely, and I
think they are the better, and not the worse, for my two years' tenure
of Cross Hall. As for the political and social reforms, I have no doubt
that there are five hundred men in England as good as me. Sinclair is
as good an apostle of my crotchets as I could be, only he is not in the
House. I will not be so insincere as to say that I did not give up my
parliamentary life with the greatest regret. That really was THE
sacrifice. You must be very, very kind to me on that account; but you
know that I could not, as an honest man, keep property which had been
bequeathed to me under such a mistake. You would not have done it under
the circumstances. I tried to save it for you, to whom it ought to have
been left; but after consulting the best authorities I found I could
not do so, for your uncle's will was so distinct in excluding you from
any benefit from his estate. So, Jane, you must say that you
are glad. Don't look as if you were anything but my guiding-star--the
life of my life--all the world to me. A hindrance, a stumbling-block!
Without you I should have had no high aims, no noble ambition. If I had
done little or nothing, I have learned a great deal; so

"'Love me for the sake of what I am,
And not of what I do.'"

"You know that I will be only too happy to be your wife, Francis," said

"And perhaps if I get on well here I may go into political life in the
colony and do the work I was sent into the world for at the other end
of it. Then when are you going to give yourself to me?"

"As soon as I can possibly leave this family. We must let Mr. Phillips
know immediately. How surprised Elsie will be!"

"Not so much as you are, I fancy. Bless her for writing me that letter;
there is not one of yours that I prize more. But with regard to
the Phillipses, Miss Marry Forrester, I think, would be very happy to
take your place; and, from all I can see of her, she will do admirably.
Did you really want me to fall in love with her?"

"I wanted you to be happy, and I thought she could make you so. You do
not understand how unselfish a woman's love can be. Then, if Miss
Forrester can take my place here, there need be no delay."

"You make none on your part, like a good, honest girl, as you are."

"Why should I? We have loved each other for two years. Our wedding will
be the simplest affair possible. Why should I pretend to wish to delay
what will be my happiness as well as yours? Oh, Francis! though I could
not have wished you to make the sacrifices you have made for my poor
sake, yet, now that it is done, it is not a half-heart I give you. I
will try to give you no cause to regret what I have cost you. Oh, how
glad I am to be able to tell you frankly how dear you are to me!"


It is Christmas-day, 186-. Jane Hogarth is busy making arrangements for
a quiet family dinner party, in her pretty house, not far from
Melbourne, a little annoyed because the season is so backward that no
fruit is to be had for love or money; but, on the whole, certain that
things will go off very well without it. Francis has succeeded very
well in Victoria. His talents and industry made him very valuable to
the mercantile house he went into. In the course of a few years he put
his capital into it, and got a partnership, which, now that the
principal was absent on a visit to England, was on equal terms. The
Brandons and Hogarths exchange Christmas visits with each
other, and this year it is Jane's turn to be the entertainer, and Elsie
with her husband and children have come down from the bush to have a
little gaiety in Melbourne.

This occasion was one to be especially remarked on, for there was a
bride to be honoured in the person of pretty Grace Forrester, whom Tom
Lowrie, now a rising engineer, had succeeded in winning as his wife.
All the Lowries had made good colonists; the eldest girl had married
respectably; the second assisted her aunt in the shop, which she had
recently enlarged and improved; but Tom's prospects were better than
those of any other of the family, and fully justified Jane's hopes and
expectations. There is no saying where he may stop in his colonial
career. Peggy, now called Miss Walker universally, except by one or two
old friends, was to accompany her nephew and his wife. Is it really
Peggy whom we see at Mrs. Hogarth's door with the dress of rich black
silk, destitute of crinoline, and the bonnet, in these days of tall
bonnets, flattened down in contempt of fashion, but still of
excellent materials?

She is a better-looking woman in her older days than when she was
younger. Brandon declares that in time she will turn out quite a
beauty, and takes more interest in the caps that his wife makes as a
regular thing for Peggy--four every year (nobody can make them to
please her as Mrs. Brandon can do)--than in any other of her attempts
at millinery.

Another member of the party was Mr. Dempster, who had just come over
from Adelaide. He had been seized on by Francis, and begged to accept
of a little corner of their somewhat crowded house. There are a number
of very bright faces collected round the table. How many recollections
of early difficulties faithfully wrestled with and overcome, throng
upon our friends at such an hour of meeting!

Peggy was disposed to improve the occasion. "Well," said she, "to think
of us all being together in this way after all we've come through!
I'm not speaking of you, Mr. Dempster, for I know none of your
harassments--but when I mind of the night when Miss Jean and Miss
Elsie sat in my little room, so downcast, and so despairing, and I told
them about all my troubles just to hearten them up a bit, and to show
what God had enabled me to win through, little did I think of how the
Almighty was leading us all! You mind well of how I spoke of Miss
Thomson that night, and of the money she gave for my help when I was in
sore straits how to provide for my bairns. And to think of my Tam being
married on her niece! It's no for worms like us to be proud, but to be
connected with such as Miss Thomson is a cause of thanksgiving."

"And I have had a letter from Aunt Margaret, and so has Tom," said
Grace, "and she is quite pleased with our engagement. She says she
knows that as Tom has raised himself so far by his own industry and
abilities, helped by the education his good aunt gave to him, that
there is no fear of his ever falling; and she said Tom's letter
to her is the best thing of the kind she ever read."

"Mrs. Hogarth taught him to write letters," said Peggy; "and really
when he reads out anything to me that he has written, it reads like a
printed book. As for Miss Thomson's own letter, it deserves to be
printed in letters of gold; but mind, you young folk, not to be
overmuch set up about being married, and all your friends being so
satisfied. It is a great good Providence that you have happened so
well; but all folk have not your good luck. You must not look down on
your sister Mary--who is the best of the whole bunch of you, I
reckon--because she is six years older than you and not married yet."

"Oh, auntie!" said Grace,--"with such a maiden aunt as I have, and
such a maiden aunt as Tom has, you never could dream of my looking down
on old maids, or fancying I can be compared to Mary."

"Bravo! Mrs. Lowrie," said Brandon; "I wish I could find any one good
enough for Miss Forrester, but I cannot."

"Mr. Sinclair cannot comprehend my going off before Mary. He
says, if he does not hear news of her in two years' time, he must come
to Australia for her himself," said Grace.

"There is likely to be another wedding ere long, at Wiriwilta,
however," said Brandon.

"Emily," said Peggy, "Grace was getting word of it from her sister.
She's young yet."

"So she is, and so is Edgar; but it is a settled thing. A year's
engagement--or something of that sort. Mr. and Mrs. Phillips have
consented very handsomely, but Mrs. Grant thinks that, with Emily's
beauty and education (for Miss Forrester has certainly brought her on
wonderfully), she should make a better marriage."

"But, for my part, Frank," said Brandon, addressing his brother-in-law.
"I do like to see young people falling in love in this natural way, and
willing to begin life not just as their fathers leave off. I talked to
Emily like a father, and told her what she could expect until they
worked for it; and she gave me a kiss, and said that she knew
quite well that she could not have everything just as it was at
Wiriwilta, but if there was twice as much to give up she would do it;
for, as she said very charmingly, 'I am very fond of Edgar, and Edgar
is very fond of me.' To see people beginning life in a love-marriage so
young as the happy pair in company, or even younger, as in the case of
Edgar and Emily, is very refreshing to old fogies like you and me,
Frank, who began our married life a good deal on the wrong side of
thirty, and whose eldest children look out for white hairs in our
heads. The only consolation I have for not being happy younger is, that
if I had married before I should have married some one else, and that
would never have done. Elsie might have taken me a year before she did,
however. I have never quite forgiven her."

"And the young people are very fond of each other," said Peggy. "All
very right, but I don't like to see them make too much fuss. Tom and
Grace are very ridiculous whiles."

"Well, I must say I like to see it," said Brandon. "I quite
enjoy seeing Emily stealing out with Edgar in the gloaming, and meeting
him in the hall when she hears his knock, and getting into corners with
him. Harriett, who has some notion what the thing means, has patience
with it, but Constance, who is younger, despises all this philandering.
I said to her the other day, when she was expressing her disgust at
these proceedings, 'Ah, Constance! three years or so, and you will be
doing just the same. I have another nephew coming out next month, and a
fine fellow he is said to be. You'll be just as foolish.' 'You'll see
me boiled first!' said Constance, with a vehemence which startled her
aunt Harriett, and brought down a serious rebuke, though she herself
thought the young people rather ridiculous, to use Peggy's phrase. But
I know very well that one great reason for Emily's fancy for Edgar is
her wish to call Elsie and myself aunt and uncle. I think it likely
that that weighed with you, Mrs. Lowrie."

"None of your nonsense, Mr. Brandon," said Peggy. "Who would care to be
connected with an old woman like me?" and yet she was pleased
with Brandon's remark, notwithstanding.

"Well, joking apart, I think it is really a great thing for a girl to
marry into a family where they are prepared to love her, and to put the
most charitable construction on all she does and all she does not do,"
said Brandon.

"But, Mr. Hogarth," said Mr. Dempster, "you promised at this family
party to tell me the whole story of which I have got some separate
threads. You recollect that we had some curious revelations one evening
at a seance at my house in London. Shortly after I returned to
Adelaide, I met in a wayside inn an old woman whom I took to be your
mother, who entered into conversation with me; but as the spiritual
directions had been to have nothing to do with her, I did not inquire
sufficiently to get much information from her. Some time after that, I
heard of your giving up your property in Scotland, sailing for
Australia, marrying your cousin, and settling here; but what connection
these three things have with each other, I never knew. Will you
be good enough to explain?"

"The spirit was in the wrong on that occasion in two important
particulars. The letter I had in my pocket was from Mrs. Peck, but she
was not my mother; Mr. Hogarth was not my father," said Francis.

"Not your mother! not your father!" said Mr. Dempster; "can you prove

"No; but I am quite convinced of it," said Francis.

"I would believe the spirits always, if I had no positive proof to the
contrary," said Mr. Dempster.

"Mrs. Peck confessed to Brandon that as her own child died suddenly she
had picked up another, with the view of imposing on Mr. Hogarth and
getting a handsome allowance from him; but when he saw me he preferred
keeping me out of her hands, and educated me, but never loved me," said

"I would not believe that woman on her oath," said Mr. Dempster; "and I
know her motive. She wanted to get something out of your
cousins, and for that purpose invented this confession. That would
never shake my belief in the spirits. Look at the way in which those
names were spelled out--you were convinced of the truth of it at the

"My dear sir," said Francis, "I certainly heard and saw a great many
things which I could not explain. They seemed to echo my own thoughts
marvellously correctly, but whenever I was at fault, they, too, were
misinformed. Elsie had been suspicious beforehand that I was not Henry
Hogarth's son. Mrs. Peck's confession was consistent and probable; she
stuck to it as being true, to her dying day. I went to see her on her
death-bed, and she declared that, as she hoped for forgiveness, I was
not her child or Mr. Hogarth's; so that, though I never got any clue to
my real parents--for she did not know my name, and the advertisements
which I put into American papers were never answered--thirty-five
years being a lapse of time in which such matters cannot be traced--I
am morally certain that I am not Jane's cousin, and
consequently that the spirit was wrong. It might be mesmerism, or
extraordinary quickness of sight; for though I tried to pass over the
letters which spelled out the names, a very practised eye might observe
an infinitesimal hesitation over the particular letter;--but of one
thing I am certain, that if Henry Hogarth had been there in the spirit,
he would have been able to tell me both that he was not my father, and
also whose son I really was, which information I wished to obtain."

"But did not the spirit say you were to have happiness after a time,"
said Mr. Dempster, triumphantly, "and have you not got it?"

"Certainly I have; and if it had any hand in bringing it about I am
very grateful to it," said Francis, looking at his wife with pride and
pleasure; "but I think we owe our happiness very much to each other.
The will, which was as unjust and absurd a one as could have been made,
indirectly did us service. I am quite sure that but for the singular
relations in which I was placed I never could have known Jane,
and could not have loved her."

"If Elsie had been left 20,000 pounds I never should have dared to have
looked up to her," said Brandon; "and what a loss that would have been
to her, not speak of myself! It is a hundred chances to one against two
heiresses getting two such good husbands, and keeping all such capital
friends as we do."

"It is quite true," said Jane; "my uncle's will has resulted in more
happiness than even he could have hoped for."

"Though he certainly would not have contemplated with equanimity the
passing of Cross Hall into the hands of Mrs. William Dalzell, whose
trustees invested her fortune in it when it was sold by the benevolent
societies to whom I relinquished the inheritance," said Francis.

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