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- Hector's Inheritance - 3/41 -


said.

"If I only knew what you know!" he repeated.

"Yes; that's what I said."

"What is it?"

"You'll know it soon enough, and I can tell you one thing, it'll surprise you. It'll take down your pride a peg or two."

Hector stared at his cousin in unaffected surprise. What could Guy possibly mean? Had his father perhaps made a will, and left the estate to some one else--his uncle, for example? Was this the meaning of Guy's malicious mirth?

"I don't know to what you refer," he said; "but if it's anything that is of importance to me, I ought to know it. What is it?"

"Go and ask father," said Guy, with a tantalizing grin.

"I will," answered Hector, "and without delay."

He turned to enter the house, but Guy had not exhausted his malice. He was in a hurry to triumph over Hector, whom he disliked heartily.

"I don't mind telling you myself," he said.

"You are not what you suppose. You're a lowborn beggar!"

He had no sooner uttered these words, than Hector resented the insult. Seizing the whip from Guy, he grasped him by the collar, flung him to the ground and lashed him with it.

"There," said he, with eyes aflame, "take that, Guy Roscoe, and look out how you insult me in future!"

Guy rose slowly from the ground, pale with fury, and, as he brushed the dust from his clothes, ejaculated:

"You'll pay dearly for this, Hector!"

"I'll take the consequences," said Hector, as coldly as his anger would allow. "Now, I shall go to your father and ask the meaning of this."

CHAPTER III.

HECTOR LEARNS A SECRET.

Hector entered the library with some impetuosity. Usually he was quiet and orderly, but he had been excited by the insinuations of Guy, and he was impatient to know what he meant--if he meant anything.

Allan Roscoe looked up, and remarked, with slight sarcasm:

"This is not a bear garden, Hector. You appear to think you are on the playground, judging by your hasty motions."

"I beg your pardon, uncle," said Hector, who never took amiss a rebuke which he thought deserved. "I suppose I forgot myself, being excited. I beg your pardon."

"What is the cause of your excitement?" asked Mr. Roscoe, surveying the boy keenly.

"Guy has said something that I don't understand."

"He must have said something very profound, then," returned Allan Roscoe, with light raillery.

"Indeed, Uncle Allan, it is no laughing matter," said Hector, earnestly.

"Then let me hear what it is."

"He intimates that he knows something that would let down my pride a peg or two. He hints that I am not the heir of Castle Roscoe."

The boy used the term by which the house was usually known.

Allan Roscoe knit his brow in pretended vexation.

"Inconsiderate boy!" he murmured. "Why need he say this?"

"But," said Hector, startled, "is it true?"

"My boy," said his uncle, with simulated feeling, "my son has spoken to you of a secret which I would willingly keep from you if I could. Yet, perhaps, it is as well that you should be told now."

"Told what?" exclaimed Hector, quite at sea.

"Can you bear to hear, Hector, that it is indeed true? You are not the owner of this estate."

"Who is then?" ejaculated the astonished boy.

"I am; and Guy after me."

"What! Did my father leave the estate away from me? I thought he did not leave a will?"

"Nor did he."

"Then how can anyone else except his son inherit?"

"Your question is a natural one. If you were his son you would inherit under the law."

"If I were his son!" repeated Hector, slowly, his head swimming. "What do you mean by that? Of course I am your brother's son."

"It is very painful for me to tell, Hector. It will be distressing for you to hear. No tie of blood connects you with the late owner of Castle Roscoe."

"I don't believe you, Uncle Allan," said Hector, bluntly.

"Of course, therefore, I am not your uncle," added Allan Roscoe, dryly.

"I beg your pardon; I should have said Mr. Allan Roscoe," said Hector, bowing proudly, for his heart was sore, and he was deeply indignant with the man who sat, smooth and sleek, in his father's chair, harrowing up his feelings without himself being ruffled.

"That is immaterial. Call me uncle, if you like, since the truth is understood. But I must explain."

"I would like to know what is your authority for so surprising a statement, Mr. Roscoe. You cannot expect me to believe that I have been deceived all my life."

"I make the statement on your father's authority--I should say, on my brother's authority."

"Can you prove it, Mr. Roscoe?"

"I can. I will presently put into your hands a letter, written me by my brother some months since, which explains the whole matter. To save you suspense, however, I will recapitulate. Where were you born?"

"In California."

"That is probably true. It was there that my brother found you."

"Found me?"

"Perhaps that is not the word. My brother and his wife were boarding in Sacramento in the winter of 1859. In the same boarding house was a widow, with a child of some months old. You were that child. Your mother died suddenly, and it was ascertained that she left nothing. Her child was, therefore, left destitute. It was a fine, promising boy--give me credit for the compliment--and my brother, having no children of his own, proposed to his wife to adopt it. She was fond of children, and readily consented. No formalities were necessary, for there was no one to claim you. You were at once taken in charge by my brother and his wife, therefore, and very soon they came to look upon you with as much affection as if you were their own child. They wished you to consider them your real parents, and to you the secret was never made known, nor was it known to the world. When my brother returned to this State, three years after, not one of his friends doubted that the little Hector was his own boy.

"When you were six years old your mother died--that is, my brother's wife. All the more, perhaps, because he was left alone, my brother became attached to you, and, I think, he came to love you as much as if you were his own son."

"I think he did," said Hector, with emotion. "Never was there a kinder, more indulgent father."

"Yet he was not your father," said Allan Roscoe, with sharp emphasis.

"So you say, Mr. Roscoe."

"So my brother says in his letter to me."

"Do you think it probable that, with all this affection for me, he would have left me penniless?" asked the boy.

"No; it was his intention to make a will. By that will he would no doubt have provided for you in a satisfactory manner. But I think my poor brother had a superstitious fear of will making, lest it might hasten death. At any rate, he omitted it till it was too late."

"It was a cruel omission, if your story is a true one."


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