Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- The Hallam Succession - 6/43 -
lives in another generation. I can hardly hope he will be so thoughtful."
"Do you fear that uncle will object to your marriage with Richard?"
"No; he is very fond of Richard, and very proud of him. Yesterday he made me notice now strongly Richard resembled Colonel Alfred Hallam, who was the cavalier hero of our family. And the likeness is wonderful."
"Has money any thing to do with it?"
"Parting with Richard?"
"I think so--the feeling is one of a fear of long or final separation-- a shadow like an abyss which neither my love nor my hope can cross. I find that I cannot follow out any dream or plan which includes Richard; my soul stumbles in all such efforts as if it was blind. Now is there any promise for an uncertain condition like this?"
"Yes, dear, there is a promise with a blessing added to it. 'I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight.'" Isa. xlii, 16.
"Dear Phyllis, what a little comforter you are! I will be happy. Indeed, I have reason, for I never dreamed of a lover like Richard--and he says it was the merest accident that brought you to Europe this summer."
"Did Richard say 'accident?' Do you know, Elizabeth, I think what men call 'accident' is really God's own part--his special arrangement or interposition. We were going to Saratoga, and then one night Bishop Elliott called, and said he was going to Europe, and as he spoke we received a letter saying the rooms which we had always occupied were not to be had, and the Bishop said, 'Go with me to Europe,' and so, in five minutes we had decided to do so. Richard will dislike to return to America without you; have you thought of the many changes you must face? and some deprivations also, Elizabeth. We are not rich. Our home, beautiful in its way, is very different from Hallam Hall; our life altogether is unlike yours."
"I fear nothing of all that, Phyllis. But my marriage until Antony marries is out of the question. I could not leave father until he has another daughter. That is a thing not to be contemplated."
"Ah, Elizabeth, in my selfishness I had forgotten that! I was only thinking that when Richard had you, he could better spare me, and that John and I might have a hope also. But, of course, Uncle Hallam comes first."
"Yes; as long as my father needs me, my first duty is to him."
"Even if it be to the end of his life?"
"That is an event I never dare to call to mind. My soul shrinks back from the thought. A good parent is immortal to a good child, I think."
She said it very calmly, but no one would have thought of disputing her position. The still assured face partially uplifted, and the large white hands firmly clasped upon her knee, were a kind of silent amen to it.
Then Phyllis said "Good-night" and went away; but dim as the light was, she took with her a certain sense of warmth and color. The long pink dressing-gown she had worn and the pink rose in her hair had made a kind of glow in the corner of the wide window where she had sat. "How beautiful she is!" The words sprang spontaneously to Elizabeth's lips; and she added to them in her thoughts, "Few girls are so lovely, so graceful, and so clever, and yet she is as pure and unspoiled by the world as if God had just made her."
The formal ratification of the engagement was very quietly done. The squire had a conversation with Richard, and after it went for a long walk in the park. When he next met his daughter he looked at her steadily with eyes full of tears, and she went to him, and put her arms around his neck, and whispered some assurance to him, which he repaid with a hearty "God bless thee, Elizabeth!"
Antony was the least pleased. He had long had a friendship with George Eltham, Lord Eltham's younger son; and among many projects which the young men had discussed, one related to the marriage of Elizabeth. She had, indeed, no knowledge of their intentions, which were on a mercenary basis, but this did not prevent Antony from feeling that Richard had in some degree frustrated his plans. But he allowed Himself no evidences of this feeling; he gave Richard his congratulations, and in a merry way "supposed that the kindest thing he could now do for all parties was to choose a wife also."
But very soon he ordered his horse and rode thoughtfully over to Eltham. The Hon. George was in his apartments reading "Blackwood," though there was a riding party gathering on the lawn.
"Are you not going with them?" asked Antony, indicating the laughing group outside with a motion of his hand.
"Not I. I hope to do something more with my life than be my elder brother's lieutenant. Last night I spoke to Lord Eltham concerning our intentions. He thinks well of them, Antony, and promises all the help he can give us."
"I am sorry to tell you, George, that Elizabeth is to marry cousin Fontaine. The engagement is formally made and sanctioned."
"I am very sorry. It is a great disappointment to me."
"You were too dilatory. I advised you to speak to Elizabeth some months ago."
"I tried to do so, but it was impossible to say pretty things to her. I felt abashed if I tried to compliment her, and she always appeared so unconscious of a fellow, that it was depressing."
"Well, it is too late now."
"How do you know that? When Mr. Fontaine has gone--"
"It will not make a particle of difference, George; let me tell you that. Elizabeth will be true to him, if she never sees him again. I know her, you do not."
"What is to be done, then?"
"I was thinking of Selina Digby."
"O you know she is not pretty at all!"
"We agreed not to let such things as that influence us."
"And she is older than I am."
"She has L50,000, that is more than double Elizabeth's fortune. A man can't have every thing. It is entirely at her own disposal also. Your brother-in-law is far too much absorbed in politics to interfere--the ground there is clear for you."
"If I succeed?"
"I will promise to find capital equal to yours. What did my lord say concerning our plan?"
"He said we must have some instruction, and that he would speak to Sir Thomas Harrington. My father secured his seat in Parliament, and he is sure to allow us to enter his house. We shall have every facility there for acquiring a rapid practical knowledge of banking and finance. I told father it was that or the colonies. I have no idea of being 'only Lord Francis's brother.'"
"Money is the axle on which the world turns, George. When you and I have it we can buy titles--if we want them."
The fever of fortune-making had seized both young men. They were ambitious in the most personal sense of the word. George's position as younger son constantly mortified him. He had had dreams of obtaining honor both as a scholar and a soldier, but he had satisfied himself that for one career he had not the mental ability, and for the other neither the physical courage nor endurance necessary. Of mere rank he was not envious. He had lived among noble men, and familiarity had bred its usual consequence. But he did want money. He fully recognized that gold entered every earthly gate, and he felt within himself the capacity for its acquirement. He had also precedents for this determination which seemed to justify it. The Duke of Norham's younger son had a share in an immense brewery and wielded a power far beyond that of his elder brother, who was simply waiting for a dukedom. Lord Egremont, a younger son of the Earl of Soho, controlled large amounts of railway stock, and it was said held a mortgage on the family castle. To prove to his father and mother that no law of primogeniture could disinherit him, appeared to George Eltham an object worth striving for.
With these thoughts simmering in his heart he met Antony Hallam at Oxford. They speedily became friends. Antony wanted money also. But in him the craving arose from a more domineering ambition. He wished to rule men, to be first every-where. He despised the simple provincial title to which he was born, and the hall, with all its sweet gray antiquity, was only a dull prison. He compared its mediaeval strength, its long narrow lattices, its low rambling rooms, its Saxon simplicity, with the grand mansions of modern date in which he visited. It must be remembered that it is only recently old houses and old furniture and early English have become fashionable. Antony's dream of a home was not of Hallam, but of a grander Eltham castle, whose rooms should be twice as large and lofty and splendid.
He would control men through their idol, gold; he would buy some old earldom, and have orders and honors thrust upon him. His long, honorable descent would be a good foundation to build upon. He told himself that the Hallams ought to have built upon it generations ago. He almost despised his ancestors for the simple lives they had led. He could not endure to think of himself sitting down as squire Hallam and ruling a few cottagers and tilling a few hundred acres. In George Eltham he found a kindred spirit. They might work for different motives, but gold was the aim of both.
Many plans had been entertained and discussed, but they had finally settled upon a co-partnership in finance. They would discount bills, make advances, and secure government contracts. The latter was the special aim of Antony's desires. But they were not foolish enough to think they could succeed without some preliminary initiation, and this
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 20 30 40 43
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything