+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

followed the settling of the persons present in
their places, indescribably oppressive. It was
a relief to every one, when Mr. Pendril spoke.

"Mr. Clare has told you already," he began,
"that I am the bearer of bad news. I am
grieved to say, Miss Garth, that your doubts,
when I last saw you, were better founded than
my hopes. What that heartless elder brother
was in his youth, he is still in his old age. In
all my unhappy experience of the worst side of
human nature, I have never met with a man so
utterly dead to every consideration of mercy,
as Michael Vanstone."

"Do you mean that he takes the whole of his
brother's fortune, and makes no provision whatever
for his brother's children?" asked Miss

"He offers a sum of money for present
emergencies," replied Mr. Pendril, "so meanly and
disgracefully insufficient, that I am ashamed to
mention it."

"And nothing for the future?"

"Absolutely nothing."

As that answer was given, the same thought
passed, at the same moment, through Miss
Garth's mind and through Norah's. The decision
which deprived both the sisters alike of the
resources of fortune, did not end there for the
younger of the two. Michael Vanstone's
merciless resolution had virtually pronounced the
sentence which dismissed Frank to China, and
which destroyed all present hope of Magdalen's
marriage. As the words passed the lawyer's
lips, Miss Garth and Norah looked at Magdalen
anxiously. Her face turned a shade paler
but not a feature of it moved; not a word
escaped her. Norah, who held her sister's hand
in her own, felt it tremble for a moment, and
then turn coldand that was all.

"Let me mention plainly what I have done,"
resumed Mr. Pendril; "I am very desirous you
should not think that I have left any effort
untried. When I wrote to Michael Vanstone, in
the first instance, I did not confine myself to the
usual formal statement. I put before him,
plainly and earnestly, every one of the
circumstances under which he has become possessed of
his brother's fortune. When I received the
answer, referring me to his written instructions
to his lawyer in Londonand when a copy of
those instructions was placed in my handsI
positively declined, on becoming acquainted with
them, to receive the writer's decision as final. I
induced the solicitor on the other side to accord
us a further term of delay; I attempted to see
Mr. Noel Vanstone in London for the purpose
of obtaining his intercession; and, failing in
that, I myself wrote to his father for the second
time. The answer referred me, in insolently
curt terms, to the instructions already
communicated; declared those instructions to be final;
and declined any further correspondence with
me. There is the beginning and the end of the
negotiation. If I have overlooked any means
of touching this heartless mantell me, and
those means shall be tried.

He looked at Norah. She pressed her sister's
hand encouragingly, and answered for both of

"I speak for my sister, as well as for myself,"
she said, with her colour a little heightened,
with her natural gentleness of manner just
touched by a quiet, uncomplaining sadness.
"You have done all that could be done, Mr.
Pendril. We have tried to restrain ourselves
from hoping too confidently; and we are deeply
grateful for your kindness, at a time when
kindness is sorely needed by both of us."

Magdalen's hand returned the pressure of her
sister'swithdrew itselftrifled for a moment
impatiently with the arrangement of her dress
then suddenly moved the chair closer to the
table. Leaning one arm on it (with the hand
fast clenched), she looked across at Mr. Pendril.
Her face, always remarkable for its want of colour,
was now startling to contemplate, in its blank
bloodless pallor. But the light in her large grey
eyes was bright and steady as ever; and her
voice, though low in tone, was clear and
resolute in accent as she addressed the lawyer in
these terms:

"I understood you to say, Mr. Pendril, that
my father's brother had sent his written orders
to London, and that you had a copy. Have you
preserved it?"


"Have you got it about you?"

"I have."

"May I see it?"

Mr. Pendril hesitated, and looked uneasily
from Magdalen to Miss Garth, and from Miss
Garth back again to Magdalen.

"Pray oblige me by not pressing your
request," he said. "It is surely enough that you
know the result of the instructions. Why should
you agitate yourself to no purpose by reading
them? They are expressed so cruelly; they
show such abominable want of feeling, that I
really cannot prevail upon myself to let you see

"I am sensible of your kindness, Mr. Pendril,
in wishing to spare me pain. But I can bear
pain; I promise to distress nobody. Will you
excuse me if I repeat my request?"

She held out her handthe soft, white, virgin
hand that had touched nothing to soil it or
harden it yet.

"Oh, Magdalen, think again!" said Norah.

"You distress Mr. Pendril," added Miss
Garth; "you distress us all."

"There can be no end gained," pleaded the
lawyer—" forgive me for saying sothere can
really be no useful end gained by my showing
you the instructions."

("Fools!" said Mr. Clare to himself. "Have
they no eyes to see that she means to have her
own way?")

"Something tells me there is an end to be
gained," persisted Magdalen. "This decision
is a very serious one. It is more serious to
me——" She looked round at Mr. Clare, who
sat closely watching her, and instantly looked
back again, with the first outward betrayal of
emotion which had escaped her yet. "It is