Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

16 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



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AN INTRIGUE BELOW STAIRS. BY ROBERT H. 8HERRARD. I ut'iioi- uf Uiiogs matrimonial. A mild flirta- tion in which he had engaged in his youth, and which bad resulted in his being mulcted in heavy damages and in heavier costs on a breach of promise suit, had led him to look upon all love- making as a foolish, empty, and expensive pur- suit. Shunning therefore all female society, except when it came to him in the course of busi- ness, he had devoted himself exclusively to his occupation as a West-end bill discounter, and to such good purpose that at the age of fili,y he was able to retire with a very handsome fortune. His retirement coincided with the suicide of one of his clients, a gentleman to whose definite ruin he had largely contributed. This person left behind him. for all property real or personal, a prettily-situated villa at Surbiton, which it had long been the ambition of Mr Finch to pot-sesn. As the deceased gentleman was largely indebted to him, the transfer of the coveted villa to the ex-nsurer was speedily effected, without any out- lay of cash on his part. Mr Finch had not been settled in bis new resi- dence over a month when be received through his solicitor the information of the death of bis only brother—melancholy tidings which he received with all the more equanimity that he had not seen this relation since he left school. All that be knew of him was that he was established in the same line of business as himself in Manchester; that he bad married foolishly, and had had a sou. This son, accord- ing to the rare letters he received from his brother, was ascapegraco and an unbusinesslike youth, who was wasting his father's hard-earned cash in idltj dissipation at the University of Oxford. The solicitor's letter contained an enclosure 'which turned out to be a note to Mr Fiuch from his brother, written a day or two before his death. I hope," said Mr Finch, an he began to peruse it, that John is not going to ask me to interest myself in that scapegrace son of bis. That would be much too ridiculous." The letter, however, did contain such a request, but put in such a way that it by no means ap- peared ridiculous to Mr Finch. It ran as follows "My dear Amos,—Being convinced that it is all up with me, and that in a few days at the latest I shall be no more, I write to you to in- form you of the state of my affairj and of how I have by will disposod of my estate. When this will, of which I have constituted you sole exe- cutor, is proved, ycu will see that I die pos- sessed of about £ 20,000. This money I leave to you on trust for my son John, to be paid to him on his attaining his twenty-fifth year. He is now twenty-one. During the next fonr years you will pay him an annuity of JB200. The residue of the revenue of the capital to go to you during that period. And if before he at- tains his twenty-fifth year he shall contract a marriage without your full consent and ap- proval, the trust money will revert to you absolutely, subject to your paying him an annuity of B52 during your lifetime. This codicil I have only recently annexed to my will. I hear that John, whose behaviour has been far from satis- factory of late—fancy, ha has recently published a book of poems with our name upon it—has fallen in love with some penniless girl, a governess, I believe, and has gone so far as to make her an offer of marriage. My own wretched experience, and your brilliant example, convince me that I am right in asking you to see that this matter comes to nothing. It will be to your interest to oppose my boy's folly to the utmost. If, in spite of your sage advice, he persists in it, he will have to bear the consequences. I leave the matter in your hands with the fullest confidence. My solicitors, through whom I forward this letter, as I am unaware of your real'address, will give you all furthef information relating to my affairs. Yours truly, JOHN FINCH, P.S,-In case my anticipation is unfounded, I should like to know how Lord S- stands in the London market. A heavy bill accepted by him was'proposed to me yesterday." "Good John good, practical John. Alas be is no more," sighed Amos, as he put away his brother's letter. 44 Oppose your boy's folly to the utmost. That I will. But if I can get him to fancy that, in tpite of his father's will, lie will not be disin- herited by marrying without my consent, why —— Now what is the present value of £20,000 At four years' date ?" During the few weeks which elapsed before the proving of his brother's will, Mr Finch busied himself with the internal arrangements of his new bouse. Being well off, and having an almost certain prospect of an increase in his wealth at no very distant date, be determined to enjoy those luxuries which during his previous life be had systematically stinted himself. A housekeeper, a footman, a parlour-maid, a cook, and other domestics were engaged, and every- thing else was appointed on the same comfortable scale. As he had traded as Middleton, Garnett, and Co., there was no stigma attached to: his name, and the ex-usurer was accordingly allowed to enjoy his ease with dignity complete and full. It was some time before he heard from his nephew, but when this did happen it confirmed in the fullest degree the hopes he entertained of being able to enjoy his brother's money to the end of his days. In a wild and rhapsodical letter, in which the charms and graces of Rose Smedley were vaunted in Swinburnian prose, the young now begged his uncle to consent to their imme- diate union. Silence gives consent," chuckled Amos Finch, but not in the shape of a legal document," and acting on this Jesuitical reflection he put his nephew's letter into the fire, and left it un- answered. In three days, however, a fresh appeal was delivered to him' through the post. It was more piteous and urgent than the first, and ended with the phrase, I am pining away, 0 my uncle." "Pine away, my lad," said the uncle, as he took up his pen to reply. His answer was handed to John Finch the next morning bv his scout as he set at breakfast in his rooms in University College, Oxford, with his chum, Harold Carey. A letter from theold boy at last," be cried, -teadcg open the envelope. f P.ead it (jut. old chap," b;i,] his friend, who I was well acquainted with the who]a storjfc I I John Fioch read aocordiugly. I Eldorado, Surteton, j {C Deir Nephew John,—I am tnily sorry to | near y-Ovi are pining, and.most deeply regret that IIdt u) aQt. mthia ay powec to^beck this Eawifetai, complaint. Your dear father'sdying instructions to me were most definite. If you marry Rose Smedley, or any other Rose, Jane, or Polly, without my consent, you will be disinherited. How can I give my consent to your union with a girl who has pursued the degrading vocation of a daily governess, and who is penniless ? But whether, with the fortune that I already posses*, and at my time of life, I should be cruel enough to withhold your fortune in obedience to the will, if you disobey me, is quite another matter. I have natural feelings and, I may add, a con- science.—Your affectionate uncle, "AMOS FINCH." "Why, it's as good as a consent," cried John, excitedly, springing up from the table. What an old brick he must bp. I'll run over to Rose ot once. We crin be married in a week." Hum coughed his friend. "Eh What do you think? Tell me," asked Fine's eagerly. "Ig it a plant 7" It looks vary like it to me," answered Carey. But, of courM, one can't tell without knowing the old boy's character. I should strongly recommend you, however,, not to act on such a vague promise. Write to him again anti ask for a definite answer one way or the other. If he gives you a written consent, well and good, but if he shuffle" Again I should advise you to wait." To his nephew's third letter Mr Finch gave no answer, whatever, and waited patiently and confidently for the good news of his marriace. The good news did not, however, come, and, anxious to know what his nephew was doing, he wrote to his former agent in Oxford, requesting him to find out all particulars for him. This agent, a tobacconist in the High-street, wrote to him in a few days to tell him that John Finch had left the University at the beginning of the Long Vacation—it was then about the middle of August—and was said to be travelling on the Continent. Miss Smedley had also left Oxford, and no trace of her whereabouts could be found. It was while Mr Finch was reading this com- munication that his housekeeper, Mrs Marchaunt, demanded an interview with him on urgent domestic business. It appeared that she wished for his authorisation to dismiss two of the ser- vants at a moment's notice. She said she was dissatisfied with them, and strongly suspected them of dishonesty. Which two are they ?" asked Mr Finch. "James, sir, the footman, and Mary, the parlourmaid. I want them off the premises at once." "But," said Mr Finch, "will it not be very inconvenient, Mrs Marchaunt? You know that I am expecting visitors next weok. Do you think they_can jejsuitably replaced in time?" Oh, ye?, sir, answered the housekeeper • "I have two pearls m my eye, both out of place They would suit you admirably. Philip the man, was page-boy under me at Lady H.'B and Jane, the maid, comes with an excellent character from the Duchesa d. Pimento's. They can enter to-morrow, and I am sure yon will be satisfied with t.hem. with them," "If tbat is so," said Mr Finch, "do as you He had no reason to rec-ref- household. The Duohea?of vX? ?T*,n turned out to be One of the ? t T? had ever seen, while Philip thn f f tir*' ■assr1re on authorities the very model of a dignified preseuce. The same satisfaction with the new servants was mandated below stairs at Eldorado Villa. Mrs "tv«r weary of holding them AatPhilin8 u the rest of the servants. It is t P ways and habits that are not: j" denizens of servants' halls. H"otherwise exliih t eveu in kitchen, and otherwise exl bited extraordinary tastes. t3 and wm 1 a^undantly supplied with ? nn yLrv?mta ^i« St liberal 5n hia T pr*d ^Tnroof Of h;Ju .hu a«st<>cratic educa- things? D* b*m boru to Li&her popular with her ffinftqa and' ami*M°n accounfc of her extreme arpsi & TKSS favour rendered to her if the other domes c! would on all occas^ns assist her in those duties which she might not know how to perform oZ pcrly. ihis patrona^e she carried so far aa to a8S,„t the girl m her work with her own fair ha!Tds • &0 a.,?Port in the servants'hall it was Mrs Marchaunt herself who made Mr Finch's bed. It was not long before the footman and house- maid, who, at first, hud been singularly distant towards each other began to manifest a desire of that ,first ui p reading desiro by moarkin* that such a handsome pair were evidently made one for the other, aud that auch a match would be one of those that were made in "ea vin, fJ After this public declaiation 0f the fitneaa and Z! pnety of anch conduct, the footman was seen to make very biysk advances to the housemaid advances which, considering her beauty and acknowledged value, she received witb singular favour J^or waa it long before it became generally understood in the lower reeioni at Eldorado that Jane and Philip were an engaged couple. Unfortunately, however, for the smooth course of their young loves, j',ne's beauty Kn to attract the attention 0f their bachelor master! The flrafc mai^a tatioa of this was after a heavy lunch, when Mr i^mch, having drunk heavily waa chaffed by one of hia guests on the remarkable prefetiuesa of the maid who waited at his table This joke doubtless made the old bachelor think that a mild fltr ation with so charmiog a girl would assist to lighten the dulness of his worklesa hours, and that no harm would come of it seeing the disparity of. their positions. Nor did the melancholy experience of his youth in this tHree- tion restrain him ia his pm-poge; it rather stimu- lated him. Having systematically deprived him- self of the delicto -s of female society during tliircv years of his l«fe, hei argued that he was all the more justified in making Up fop ios(. time.' On this occasion, therefore, As soon an his guests bad departed, he determined to sag how the girl would take his advances, and ac cordingly returned to the dining-room, where Mia was engaged in clearing the table. But havincr no practice whatever in the arta of love he could find nothing to aayt The girl Rava hint every mute encouragement that she could lingering whue he aimlessly pottered about* cudgelling his brains for B0me neat phrase where' with to open the attack. aere It was just as she was leaving the room with the last tray that he mustered up courage But all that be could say w^-uj^ dear, shall I raise your wages r The courtship thus strangely instituted was pursued with much vIRHur by Mr Finch, who waa delighted to find that in spite of his ae-« and exceeding ugliness he had succeeded in making a favourable impression on his charmine making a favourable impression on his charmine servant; for Jane, far from expressing indigna- tion or disgust at her master's extraordinary behaviour, rather encouraged him in every way she could. Mr Finch's conduct was all the more deplorable and ill-advised that, at the same time, he was endeavouring t«> realise a hope which he had nurtured for some time past. Shortly after his arrival at Surbiton, he had made the acquaintance of Lady Sellum, the widow of a baronet. This lady was exceedingly well connected, and through these connections possessed no small Pariia- mentary influence m a Midland borough which it was Mr Finch s ambition to represent. Like many deluded roen, he fancied that a seat in Parliament would enhance his social position Animated by this ambition, he bad determined to sacrifice his prejudice against the married state, aud to win bis borough by wedding the lady. It was well-known fact that Ladv Sellum was anxious to remarry, and suitors of any solidity being rare in Surbiton, Mr Finoh had faidy well-founded hopes of succeeding in hia project.. When this wa* explained to Jane bv motherly cook, who said that she felt it her duty to dispel any false hopes the girl might be enter- taining, the young woman, far from bursting into tears at her master a treachery, clapped her hand* and cried, Why, then, it s as well aa done The footman, who was standing by, and whose lack of jealousy and indignation at Mr Finch's conduct, which was well known below stairs, had been greatly com men Led upon by the female servants, ap^ei-id to be no luoi elated at this iiiform_uoa. We can put on the screw to-m ^ow ho cried, as ha beskonea to J -'t.&l' Lu can' i-uo the ptntiy, where 1* had just seen 2,Ua Maroliauut. A long and secret, conference, a ku-L cloj, which mightily intrigued the rest of the household, was then held between the two new servants and tua housekeeper. The scolterymaid, who listened at f tfae dow, stfpai&d. ia»iai?ed Uroi a Marchaunt a cheque for JB1,000 in the event of something bappeniiig. The next dny Jane purposely put herself in Mr Finch's way. It was his habit, after lunch, to retire to a smoking room in th i back of the house, and it wa.s here be found the girl, busy in dusting the furniture. 11 1 beg your pardon, sir," said Jane, blushing as her employer entered the room; I forgot to do it this morning." On, no excunfti'. my prutty Juiro," answerfd the ex-u.-urer. "Iam only too delighted to see you. No, don't run away. I should like to talk to you while I smoke a cigar, and if you will bile off the end for me it tvill taste all the better, I'm sure." A few minutes later the footman entered the room, bearing a letter. He found his master try- ing to kiss the housemaid, who was struggling violently to free herself. Instead of discreetly retiring, the servant dropped the salver and rushed up to Mr Finch, whom he sent spinning across the room a well planted blow between the eyes. "You villain," he cried indignantly, "don't you know that is my haffianced bride? How dare you, air ? And you, Jane I Is this beha- viour ?" At the same time Mrs Marchaunt appeared at the door. "Oh, Philip, Philip," cried Jane, bursting into tears, M it's not my fault,, I do assure you. He has been carrying on this way with me for a long time past. But though he has offered me marriage over and over again, I have never let him have a kiss. He tried to force me just now. Oh I'm so glad you came." Is this so, pir ?" cried the footman, turning to his master. "Are your intentions bonour- able ? If so, I am not one to stand in the young lady's way. and humbly beg your pardon fcr interfering. II Mr Finch looked helplessly from one to the other. The presence of his housekeeper made it impossible to hush the matter up, Pooh, pooh," he said at last. Yes, hut 'pooh, pooh' won't do," cried Philip, raising his voica so as to be heard all over the house. Do you many the lady, or do I ? Come, speak." He promised to marry me, he did, ho did," screamed Jane, going off into hysterics. Just then Mrs Marchaunt entered the room. "Lady and Miss Sellum have called, sir," she said. "They are in the drawing-room." Quiet that girl for goodness sake," said Mr Finch, distractedly. Then turning to his footman, he added, I'm sorry I did not know of your prior claim. You are quite welcome to marry the girl if my consent is worth anything; and I'il give you B500 011 your wedding-day if you will both get out of my house at once." "I'll take that in black-and-white, sir," re- joined the footman. "Sit down there and write it out. I don't think Jaue's 'jyslerics will stop before then." Well, be it so," snarled Mr Finch, going up to his writing-table. Mrs Marchaunt, go to the drawing-room and tell these ladies I will be with them in a minute." "What's your name?" he added, as he wrote out his promise, and that howling hussy's?" Philip John linch, sir." said the footman. "And Jane Rose Smedley, sir," added the maid. [THE END.1


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. Glamorgan Antiquities.

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