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his lawyer's, for he had received an answer to the letter which he had written to Dexter File. The great capitalist was a little embarrassed, it has been shown, by this letter; but a reply was necessary, and only one reply was possible. File did not often write to anybody with his own hand, for there was nothing he disliked so much as either to receive or to answer letters. The amount of time and euergy which was squandered in correspondence and in reading newspapers seemed to File a most striking illustration of the want of serious purpose in the lives of the majority of mankind. All this force properly applied, instead of being dispersed aimlessly in space, would suffice to accomplish some great result. There was no necessity, as a rule, to write a letter, and still less necessity to answer one. Such was File's belief, and he acted upon it. After his clerk had winnowed the mass which came directed to him every day, a very small residuum remained for the financier's consideration; and this, with a few brief instructions, he turned over to his clerk to answer. Thus it was very rare indeed for any one to see his signature, except where everybody was very happy at all times to see it— on a cheque.
The letter from Margrave, however, had to be answered promptly, and File, after much consideration, sent a reply, the length of which certainly did not account for the time he spent over it:—
"Your letter vexes and surprises me. I thought you knew the facts. Your wife was an American by birth, as can easily be proved. I knew both her father and mother well. Your case is hopeless.
Margrave read this note without
much disappointment. From the first moment that the clause in his father's will was brought to his knowledge, he had felt that there was but a slender hope of maintaining his inheritance. No doubt he could await the issue of a lawsuit, but the ultimate result must be the same. His place in his father's house belonged to another. And Margrave knew that it was not simply by misadventure that matters had so shaped themselves. He had never gained any hold upon his father's affections; and it was clear now that his marriage had never been forgiven. In the closing days of the father's life, the companionship which he sought was not that of his only son. No appeal to the absent wanderer to return ever came. The nephew and his wife were always at the Grange, and they acted as masters in it. Years before, stories had come back from America, no one could tell how, that Richard Margrave was about to marry a woman of dissolute life. Beatrice Tiltoff, who understood something about her husband's character, had her own ideas as to the source of these rumours; but no matter where they came from, it is certain that they stirred the wrath of the father to its deepest depths. The will was made under the influence of passion, and if there had ever been any intention of revoking it, the influence which Beatrice exercised over the infirm and broken old man would have sufficed to counteract it. But she was not required to make any great exertions. The father sank gradually into that listless and torpid state which so often comes before the beginning of the last sleep. The sentence remained as it was originally written; and the son knew now, for the first time after all these years, that it drove him for ever from his father's house.
It had been his home in bygone years; and although many of the happy recollections of childhood and youth which soften the spirit in the darker hours of life had never been his, yet each tree and meadow were endeared to him by the indefinable and sacred associations of the past. There are few who, amid the distractions of the world, ever forget the fields and hills which were familiar to them in the early days. We may wander far and wide under other skies, and behold, one after another, the mysteries which our young vision longed to pierce, unfold themselves and disappear like fevered dreams; but nowhere do the weary eyes rest again upon landscapes so bright as those of our youth; nowhere do the flowers bloom so fresh and fair, or the songs of birds fall upon the ear with so sweet a charm. Never had these influences been so strongly felt by Margrave as when he realised that the roof from which he had been so long absent, and which had been his own for so brief a time, must pass to another. Heavy as the blow was for him, he knew that it must fall still more heavily upon his daughter. After the excitement and unrest of American life, there is something even in the outward aspect of English scenery which calms the mind, for it breathes the inspiration of home. So had it been with Kate Margrave; and now there had come a new and great event in her life, and this, too, would be associated henceforth with her English life. Thus it is that youth sets its mark upon its various haltingplaces; each, when regarded from a long distance, is illumined with a ray of magic light. In after years, the scenes which meet our eyes leave comparatively little trace upon the recollection; the pictures soon become blurred and indistinct.
It is the privilege of the young alone to gather treasures for the future as they pass along the road.
Margrave was no longer young, and not many illusions were left to him. He knew that the difference in his fortunes might make all the difference in the world to his daughter's. It had been understood on all sides that there should be no further talk of marriage between Reginald Tresham and Kate for at least a year to come; subject to that limitation, Lady Tresham had been brought by her son to consent to the engagement. She consoled herself by reflecting that very much might happen in a year; and though everything might seem to be settled for the moment, she did not by any means despair of seeing her son take what she believed to be the sensible view of the matter. He would necessarily be much in London, attending to his new duties; and Lady Tresham was well aware how great a hold upon a young man the first office is sure to have. He fancies that the eyes of Europe are upon him, and that the machinery of the Government would all come to a standstill if he were an hour late any morning at the office. After a time, the experienced official gets over these amiable weaknesses; he learns the truth betimes that, with him or without him, the world will jog along much the same as usual.
Lady Tresham's hopes, therefore, corresponded pretty closely with the fears of Richard Margrave. The father shrank from the thought of parting with his daughter, but he dreaded still more the consequences of any severe blow to her sensitive spirit. He knew that the vicissitude which was now impending over him was of that nature which sometimes brings about a very great change in matrimonial engagements; and if he had been aware of the real sentiments of Lady Tresham, he would probably have felt that there was but slender reason now to anticipate the separation from his daughter, which once seemed to him so great an evil. It was nothing less than poverty that stared him in the face; for the little money which he had been able to accumulate had gone chiefly in improving the property to which he had believed himself entitled. It was not very likely that any of this would come back to him now. The remnant that remained of his private fund would scarcely sutfice for the support of himself and his daughter for a single year. Friends in England who could help him in any way he had none. A darker prospect than that which actually surrounded him, it would be, as he believed, impossible to conjure up. He had not been what is called a rich man: since his return his income had never exceeded five thousand pounds a-year. But this had been ample, and now the whole of it was to be swept away. Yet it was of his daughter that he thought almost exclusively as he made his way up to London, with Dexter File's letter in his pocket. How could he bear to tell her that her father no longer had a roof to shelter her? What were they to do even for a maintenance? It was too late to begin life all over again, even if opportunity were favourable. And what opportunity was there? Margrave knew too well that there was none. Once or twice on this dismal journey the thought came into his mind that it might be well to turn back, and let things take their course. But it was instantly repelled. Undoubtedly there was only one right course for him to pursue, and he was resolved to take it at all hazards.
The lawyer, Morgan, had so far
recognised the importance of this business that he put aside all his engagements to meet his client. His manner was never very cheerful, and on this occasion it was, perhaps, intentionally depressing. Margrave placed Dexter File's letter in his hand, and Morgan read it over more than once, not because its meaning was obscure, but because he was wondering what in the world was to become of the man who stood before him. He knew what his client's means were; and although his general opinion was that it was a waste of time to sympathise with any one, he could not repress something which bore a dim resemblance to a sensation of the kind as he stood reading the letter from New York. Then he showed Margrave the summons to surrender which he had received on behalf of Captain Tiltoflf, and instead of giving advice, as it was his habit and duty to do, he contented himself with inquiring what was to be done?
"There is but one thing to be done," said Margrave, "and any delay in doing it would only make matters worse. You will say, in. reply to this letter of Mr Stodgers's, that we relinquish the estate. There need be no delay. I have but few preparations to make, and they shall be made before I leave town. After that we must do the best we can, my daughter and I."
"You have no reason to doubt the accuracy of Mr Dexter File's statement 1"
"None whatever; what motive can he have for deceiving me?"
"I cannot say; but these people, the Tiltoffs, can scarcely expect you to give up a property of five thousand a-year at the first demand. They may not be so strong as you suppose. Might it not be as well to make some further inquiries? It is always an advantage to gain