Produced by Barbara Tozier, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
Produced by Barbara Tozier, Mary Meehan and the Online
BY L. B. WALFORD
AUTHOR OF “MR. SMITH,” “THE BABY’S GRANDMOTHER,” ETC.
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
91 & 93 FIFTH AVENUE,
NEW YORK LONDON, BOMBAY, AND CALCUTTA
CHAPTER I. “She Has No Settlement, Damn It“
CHAPTER II. On the Station Platform
CHAPTER III. Speculations
CHAPTER IV. A Dull Breakfast-Table
CHAPTER V. Old Playmates Meet
CHAPTER VI. A Revelation
CHAPTER VII. “I have Lost Something that I Never Had“
CHAPTER VIII. A Cat and Mouse Game
CHAPTER IX. “I’d Like to Have Things on a Sounder Basis“
CHAPTER X. The Third Case
CHAPTER XI. Dr. Craig’s Wisdom
CHAPTER XII. The Photograph and the Original
CHAPTER XIII. “I am to Give You a Wide Berth, Always“
CHAPTER XIV. Paul Goes—and Returns
CHAPTER XV. “You’ve Broken my Heart, I Think“
CHAPTER XVI. Temptation
CHAPTER XVII. A Knight to the Rescue
CHAPTER XVIII. “A Turn of the Wheel“
CHAPTER XIX. Epilogue
“SHE HAS NO SETTLEMENT, DAMN IT.”
“She can’t come.”
“She shan’t come, then—if you like that better.”
“Aye, of course, it’s ‘But father’—I might have known it would be that. However, you may ‘But father’ me to the end of my time, you don’t move me. I tell you, Sukey, you’re a fool. You know no more than an unhatched chicken—and if you think I’m going to give in to their imposition—for it’s nothing else—you are mistaken.”
“I was only going to say——”
“Say what you will, say what you will; my mind’s made up; and the sooner you understand that, and Leonore understands that, the better. You can write and tell her so.”
“What am I to tell her?”
“What I say. That she has made her own bed and must lie upon it.”
“But you gave your consent to her marriage, and never till now——”
“I tell you, girl, you’re a fool. Consent? Of course I gave my consent. I was cheated—swindled. I married my daughter to a rich man, and he dies and leaves her a pauper! Never knew such a trick in my life. And you to stand up for it!”
General Boldero and his eldest daughter were alone, as may have been gathered, and the latter held in her hand, a black-edged letter at which she glanced from time to time, it being obviously the apple of discord between them.
It had come by the afternoon post; and the general, having met the postman in the avenue, and himself relieved him of the old-fashioned leathern postbag with which he was hastening on, and having further, according to established precedent, unlocked the same and distributed the contents, there had been no chance of putting off the present evil hour.
Instead there had been an instant demand: “What says Leonore? What’s the figure, eh? She must know by this time. Eh, what? A hundred and fifty? Two hundred? What? Two hundred thousand would be nothing out of the way in these days. Poor Goff wasn’t a millionaire, but money sticks to money and he had no expensive tastes. He must have been quietly rolling up,—all the better for his widow, poor child. Little Leonore will scarcely know what to do with a princely income, and we must see to it that she doesn’t get into the hands of sharpers and fortune-hunters——” and so on, and so on.
Then the bolt fell. The “princely income” vanished into the air. The problematic two hundred thousand was neither here nor there, nor anywhere. As for “Poor Goff,” General Boldero was never heard to speak of his defunct son-in-law in those terms again.
In his rage and disappointment at finding himself, as he chose to consider it, outwitted by a man upon whom he had always secretly looked down, the true feelings wherewith he had regarded an alliance welcomed by his cupidity, but resented by his pride, escaped without let or hindrance.
“What did we want with a person called Stubbs? What the deuce could we want with him or any of his kind but their money?” demanded he, pacing the room, black with wrath. “I never should have let the fellow set foot within these doors if I had dreamed of this happening. I took him for an honest man. What? What d’ye say? Humph! Don’t believe a word of it; he must have known; and as for his expecting to pull things round, that’s all very fine. It’s a swindle, the whole thing.” Then suddenly the speaker stopped short and his large lips shot out as he faced his daughter: “Does Leonore say she hasn’t a penny?”
“She says she will have to give up everything to the creditors. I suppose,” said Susan, hesitating, “everything may not mean—I thought marriage settlements could not be touched by creditors?”
“No more they can, that’s the deuce of it.”
“Then——?” She looked inquiringly, and strange to say, the fierce countenance before her coloured beneath the look.
If he could have evaded it, General Boldero would have let the question remain unanswered, although it was only Sue, Sue who knew her parent as no one else knew him—before whom he made no pretences, assumed no disguises—who had now to learn an ugly truth;—as it was, he shot it at her with as good an air as he could assume.
“She has no settlement, damn it.”
“No settlement?” In her amazement the open letter fell from the listener’s hands. She recollected, she could never forget, the glee with which her father had rubbed his hands over the “clinking settlement” he had anticipated from Leonore’s wealthy suitor, nor the manner in which it had insinuated itself into every announcement of the match. No settlement? She simply stared in silence.
“If you will have it, it was my doing,” owned General Boldero reluctantly; “and I could bite my tongue off now to think of it! But what with four of you on my hands, and the rents going down and everything else going up, I had nothing to settle—that is, I had nothing I could conveniently settle, and it might have been awkward, uncommonly awkward. I could hardly have got out of it if Godfrey had expected a quid pro quo. And he might—he very well might. A man of his class can’t be expected to understand how a man of ours has to live decently and keep up appearances while yet he hasn’t a brass farthing to spare. I’ll say that for Godfrey Stubbs, he seemed sensible on the point when I tried to explain; and—and somehow I was taken in and thought: ‘You may be a bounder, but you are a very worthy fellow’.”
He paused, and continued. “Then he suggested—it was his own idea, I give you my word for it—that we should have no greedy lawyers lining their pockets out of either of our purses. What he said was—I’ve as clear a recollection of it as though it were yesterday—’Oh, bother the settlement, I’ll make a will leaving everything I possess to Leonore,’—and I, like a numskull, jumped at the notion. It never occurred to me that the will of a business man may be so much waste paper. His creditors can snap their fingers at any will. That’s what Leonore means. She’s found it out, and flies post haste to her desk to write that she must come back here.”
“So she must.”