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stared sternly at him. Captain George, by no means daunted, kissed his hand; and as Susan, amazed and indignant, was going to ask him what he meant by it, he added, with a wink, “ Good
-eh?” in a tone so evidently meant for a third person, that Susan at once looked round.
Peering through the banisters of the kitchen staircase, she saw the face of a boy, eating, with evident relish, into a goodsized tart. At once Susan left the parlour door, and, making a dart at the boy, she shook him soundly.
“So you have been and eaten your poor ma's tart. Eh! have you?-have you?”
Every question was accompanied by a shake. The culprit attempted resistance; a scuffle followed, and the noise attracted a lad of thirteen, fair, and very handsome, who at once put away Susan, and stepped between her and her victim.
“You must not, Sue," he said, sharply; "don't you be afraid, Neddy-I am here." Do
you know what he has been and done, Master Robert?" asked Susan; “ been and eaten missus's tart_and how am I to get her another?”
“He did wrong, but you must not touch him," doggedly said the elder boy; "I don't allow Neddy to be beaten at school, and no one shall lay a finger on him at home.”
“She pulled my hair!” whimpered Neddy ; “and if I ate the tart, William ate the pigeon."
“Well, then, if I don't settle master William for it!” cried Susan, exasperated, "that's all."
“I tell you—you shall not touch William either," said the elder brother; " no one shall beat my brothers whilst I am by. I shall punish them. Send William to me; and you, Neddy, just come this way.”
He pushed the boy before him, through what seemed a garden door.
Susan stood looking sullenly at them; and Captain George, an amused and observant spectator of this scene, now that it was over, coolly opened the parlour door, and, putting in his head, without waiting to have his name taken in, said, in his pleasant way, “It's only me. Never mind me.
It's only Captain George.”
The parlour which Captain George thus unceremoniously entered was a peculiar one; and not having seen it for something like seven or eight years, that gentleman allowed his keen
brown eyes to examine it curiously, whilst he exchanged a cor. dial greeting, coolly received, with Mr. Ford.
Captain George's first impression was, that he had never seen so comfortless, so untidy, so dirty a place; his second, that his cousin was even a poorer man than the outward appearance of his house, the behaviour of Susan, and the scene on the staircase, all strengthened by some private information, had led him to - suppose. There was everything to justify both impressions. Tobacco smoke hung in clouds in the air; the paper hangings were dark with dirt and stains, where they were not torn away in strips, leaving the white walls bare. The table near the window was a litter of books, papers, dirty tumblers, cigar boxes, and bottles of various sizes. The old horse-hair sofa was broken in many places, and recklessly allowed its stuffing to escape. The chairs looked rickety and insecure. The carpet on the floor was full of holes and rentsa trap to unwary feet.
The dusty mantel-shelf, above which hung a dull looking-glass with a long crack, was covered with dreary attempts at ornament. An old picture, a broken china vase, an empty watch-case, stood far apart on that long line of yellow board. The untidy hearth, still strewn with the ashes and cinders of a long-extinct fire, crowned this picture of domestic discomfort. Captain George saw it all, whilst he shook his cousin by the hand, paternally patting it with both his, proofs of affection which, as we have already said, Mr. Ford received coldly enough.
Mr. Ford was a man of forty-two, who had once been handsome, but who was now too worn and haggard to have
claim to the epithet. He was tall and sharp-featured, with goodnatured though obstinate brown eyes, and a weak nether lip, that betrayed temper as well as weakness. His high, broad forehead had intellectual claims, but it was both feeble and haughty. His look, his smile, offered the same contradictions. There was shrewdness in the one, and kindness in the other; but Mr. Ford's look was not always intelligent, and his smile was often sarcastic, when it was not envious. He was, indeed, made up of the contrasts which are found in unsuccessful men, the result of broken aims and ever disappointed hopes, and unsuccessful was written in his whole aspect. His uncertain carriage and half-stoop, his loose gait in spite of great physical strength, his very hands thrust in his pockets, and his feet shuffling in a pair of old slippers, completed the story of the dismal ruin, one of the saddest eyes ever gazed on, that of a man.
Of these unpleasant facts, Captain George chose to remain unconscious. He closed his mental vision, and saw a cheerful parlour, and a happy, prosperous man.
“ Went to your chambers, and not finding you, came here,” he said, gaily sitting down on a broken chair, and heroically disregarding its warning groan. “A comfortable place you have of it. Poor Mrs. Ford-poor Mrs. Ford—a great trouble.” And Captain George meditatively smoothed his mustachios, and, in his compassion for Mr. Ford's troubles, abstractedly poured himself out a glass of rum.
“How is Mrs. George?" rather sulkily asked Mr. Ford, thrusting his hands deeper in his pockets, and leaning back in his chair.
"Not very well—not very well,” replied Captain George, speaking softly, as if he were addressing the invalid lady herself; “Mrs. George is very delicate very much so—like Mrs. Ford-all the ladies are, I am afraid.”
"And so you went to my chambers," impatiently said Mr. Ford.
“Oh! to be sure! Fine little fellows those of yours! Gad, sir, I thought we should have had a battle on the kitchen stairs. William had eaten a pigeon, and Ned had tucked in a tart, and Susan was for immediate justice. But what's the big one's name? Robert, ay ? Robert held out manfully for his little brothers—shan't touch them; I don't allow my little brothers to be beaten at school, and you shan't touch them; I'll punish them; and off he marches with them. Capital-on my wordcapital-ha, ha! A regular trump, that boy of yours.?
“And so you went to my chambers,” said Mr. Ford again.
"That's to say, what brings you here, eh? That big boy is just like you. Just like you."
“So much the worse for himself,” morosely replied Mr. Ford.
Come, old fellow, don't be so sulky,” said Captain George, giving him a jovial thrust with the end of his cane; “if I hunted you out to-day, it was to do you a good turn. Why, man, you know as well as any one that Captain George is a good-natured fellow, rather fiery now and then, but a good-natured fellow.”
A most knowing wink of the left eye, a wink that recalled to Mr. Ford's memory many a merry night, when Captain George had at least put on wonderfully well the appearance, if he did not possess the reality, of good-nature, compelled a smile, an advantage which Captain George at once followed up.
“I have come to make your fortune,” he said, striking his stick on the floor, and giving every word suitable emphasis.
“ Have you made yours?” asked Mr. Ford.
“I have come to make your fortune,” repeated Captain George, disdaining to answer the question. "A hundred pounds, no more, sir, will make your fortune this very day.”
Mr. Ford was just then very much in want of a guinea, and to be asked for a hundred pounds by the least trustworthy of his acquaintance was not soothing, even though the end in view was so excellent as the making of his fortune. He could not even consider the proposal under its ludicrous aspect. He felt sharp, irritable, and full of his wrongs, and humour and Captain George were equally foreign to his mood. An exclamation which did not convey a benediction rose to his lips, but hospitality checked it, and it subsided into a sort of impatient and half-muttered growl.
“Not a hundred !-well, then, five hundred, say five hundred,” facetiously added Captain George.
“You had better not,” exclaimed Mr. Ford, looking much excited—“you had better not, Captain George."
“Why, you are just like that boy of yours now," said Captain George—“shan't touch them, no one shall touch my
brothers. You are just like him now—a regular trump that boy is !"
“I tell you you had better not,” resumed Mr. Ford, with rising anger. "I am not to be fooled out of any more money. And if I had what I lent you, and what I
Now, what's the use of ripping up old sores?” expostulated Captain George; “let bygones be bygones. If you had not been good-natured to me formerly, you know well enough I should not now have this opportunity of doing you a good turn. And, seriously, what is a hundred pounds ? Now, what is it?"
Mr. Ford's glass was by him ; he took and drained it sullenly.
• A wilful man—a wilful man,” said Captain George. Now, just listen to me; hear me, only hear me, my dear fellow, and I will convince you that the money must be found. Now, just listen ; but are you sure we are alone?”
Ay, alone enough.”
“ No fear of that pleasant-looking maid of yours ”_here Captain George winked in the direction of the kitchen stairs“having her ear at the keyhole ?”
Mr. Ford impatiently grumbled that there was no fear; upon which Captain George rose, and, cautiously putting his hand to his mouth, whispered something in Mr. Ford's ear.
Mines," audibly said Mr. Ford.
“ Hush-sh! my dear fellow," and Captain George whispered again.
“There was to be a canal once," surlily said Mr. Ford.
“ The fortune of war,” replied Captain George, with great coolness," the fortune of war. A hundred pounds will do it this time—not guineas, mind; a hundred pounds !”
Mr. Ford rested his elbow on the table and leaned his cheek on his hand. He had not a hundred pounds indeed, but he had been staggered by Captain George's whispers, and Captain George, who knew his face of old, was quite aware of the fact.
“ It is to your strong practical sense I appeal, my dear fellow,” he said, insidiously, praising Mr. Ford for the quality he least possessed. “If any one understands these matters you do; and whether you invest or not, I shall be glad of your opinion on my own account."
“Oh! that is it, is it?” sneered Mr. Ford, “ I thought you had some object in coming here today."
Captain George looked at Mr. Ford with profound admiration, winked, gave him a thrust of his cane, and drawing a packet of papers from the breast-pocket of his coat, he put them on the table with an emphatic thump of his left hand, and a significant " there!"
Mr. Ford took the papers up and glanced hastily over them. Then he began at the beginning, and whilst Captain George leaned back in his chair and surveyed the walls and
the ceiling, he read them through with close attention. Mr. Ford was, unfortunately for himself, an excellent judge of business matters, and he soon perceived that the speculation had every appearance of being sound and fortunate.' Judgment is of two kindsmcritical and practical. Mr. Ford's was critical; no one knew better than he did the weak or the strong point of this world's concerns. In these matters he was keen, clear-sighted and sensible, but even as good critics rarely write good books, so Mr. Ford, who saw so clearly and so well where the elements of success lay, never yet had known how to secure its fruits. The undertakings in which he had embarked were all fair and prosperous, but either he withdrew too soon from them through caprice, or he stayed too long through obstinacy. That practical sense which enables men, ignorant, untaught, and often inexperienced, to do the right thing at the right moment, was that which failed him. He said he was unlucky, and many people said so too; and so