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A Family Affair

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During the last threo months of the year Ha.lewood House did not belie its reputatlon for ealm regularity of lts domestic concerns and Immunity from the roany petty Hls and annoyances whlch afflict less methodically conducted establishments. So far as could be seen all promised well for a quiet, placid and uneventful winter. Horace and Herbert employed themselves as was their wont. They were men who could spread out a little occupation over a large slice of time, so never found the hours drag wearlly. Beatrice seemed fairly happy with her bright-haired boy. The little fellow was now beginning to prattle merrily, and hls manner toward the Talbert's was more audacious and familiar than ever. Altogether it looked as if nothing would occur to di.sturb the even tenor of life at Hazlewood House, until the building hedgea once more brought round the usual spring cleaning. Out, all undreamed of by the trothers, slorms were biewing which were to shake their house to the foundation. Christmas came. Now, Christmas day was a day on which the Talberts made great sacrih'ces for the good of their fellow ereatures. Syl vanus Mordle. who believed that those in poverty were as much entitled to creature comforts as to-spiritnal consolations, always sent the hat round at Christmas, and col ected a special fund for the purpose of giving all hls very poor people a hearty dinner. At this dinner the Talberts were nis henchmen. No one who kimw their fastldious tastos could have seen them carving huge Joints of sanguinary-looking beef or serving out sticky segment of plum pudding without feeling sure that, at heart, they were thoroughly good fellows. Herbert did onceplaintively nsk Mordle if the meat need be quite 83 red. The cúrate chuckled. "If it wasn't red, they'd say 'twas American, and leave it," he answered. It is to be feared that experience had taught Mordle that charity is often looked upon as a right to be demanded, not a bounty for which to be thankful. It was no doubt the terrible sights of the forenoon which made the Talberts rigidly taboo. so far as their own table was concerned, all conven tional Christmas fare. As Horace gravely said, there is to educated minds, something savoring of vulgarlty in supposlng that the celebration of a certain holiday mustbe attended by the consumption of a certain class of comestibles. So their dinner consisted of clear soup, fish, a brace of birds and an omelet "We never thought of Beatrice," said Herbert penitently. "Beatrice miglit have liked roast beef and plum pudding." But Miss Clauson did not yearn for Christmas diet Moreover, her thoughts were far away from eating and drlnkins. Indeed, during the last three months the glrl had been, even for her, strangely quiet and thoughtful. As for a little whilo longer we must be contented to regard her from the outside only, her musings cannot be divulged. To-day, no doubt, she was thinking a great deal about an impending vlsit to her father's hou se. Horace and Herbert liad urged it earnestly. Not, as they kindly and truthfully told hor, that they wished tolose her even for a day, But it was weli that the world should think that the Clausons were a unitod family. It is curious what a simpleton most people think the world, and how easily they fancy it can be taken in. Beatrice consented to be guided by her uncle's advice. So on the day after Christmas she left Oakbury. Sir Maingay and his family were wintering in London. It is surprising the number of respoctable people who do winter in London. Sir Maingay met her at Paddington. The baronet looked a little rounder and a littlu more commonplace than when las she saw him. He greeted his daught r aiïcctionately, but told her she looked ill and careworn. Then he inqulred for Horace and Herbert. As from the very first day they had kept Sir Maingay In his proper place, he looked upon them with the greatest respect "Is it true they have adopted a chlld?" he asked. Some garbled version of the atfair had reacho l him. "Xo," said Beatrice. "I have." "You, my dear! Adopt a child! Why, it is time you thought of the possibility of having ciiildren of your own, I have for months been hoping to hear you were engaged to be marrled." "1 shall never niarry, " said Beatrice rather coldly. "üepend upon It, it is the best state," said Sir Maingay, eagerly. Then he started off on the subject of the precooity which Beatrice's little half-brothers dlsplayed. liow the eider said this yesterday and the younger did that the day before- a record of individual but not general interest But just bef ore they reacho I his house Sir Maingay made a more notable remark. "I made the acquaintance this week of a young relativo of your poor mother's - a Mr. Carruthers, who was staylng witli you some time ago. 1 told him you were coming up and he promised to cali." It was growing dusk, so that the flush thatleapedto Miss Clauson 's check was unseen. She was silent for half a minute tben she said, quietly, "I shall be very glad to see Mr. Carruthers. !' Lady Clauson was gracious and condcscendlng, She had galned some sort of success in town last season, so could aflord to be sa Nevertheless, Beatrice was in various ways shown that she was a stranger witbln her father's gales. The little boys were brought down to see her dressed in their company clothes and manners. They were good, ordlnary. uninterestlno; little fellows, and no doubt Miss Clauson :-intrasted them with a little golden-halreU pet of hers at Oakbury. Although the ladles were civil to each other they dtd not sympathlze. Like many others, I.ady Clauson was uttcrly unable to understand Kratricfi. "Never, lf jou can help lt, marry a widowcr, " she said to a bosoni friend. "No one can teil the anxlety a first wife's child Is- no one who has not experlenced it" "It must be, " said the friend with great feelin-'. "1Í ghe did not always dress so carefully," contlnued Lady Clauson, s irrowfully, ' I should believe she )ia 1 made up her mind to be au old maid, and mlght Uien do somethlng for the boys. She has more money than any young glrl should have." Carruthers called and told Beatriee he had received a letter from Horace, beggjig him to spend a few days at Oakbury before the Leut lerm "lt Is a great compliment, '' lie said. "Yes,'' answered Beatrice, "very great Are jou goin??" "That Is for you to deelde, not me." Beatrice dropped horeyes and was silent He wated. "Do you forbid lt.'" he asked, In that authoritative voice which womeu love to hear with a man. still she was silent. He repeate 1 the questlon. "I have no rlght to forbid lt " she said. "You have every right We do not alIude to the past, but we do not forget lt Look up and answer me. .Miall 1 g lo Hazlewood?" to say, he spoke in a commanding way, such as he had never before displayed wheu addressmg 1 er. l'erhaps she likcd him none the 1 -ss for lt With au cffort she raised her eyis to hls. "It is most unwlse, " she whispered. "Unwlse you mean for me, of course," he said quickly. "That part is for me to decide, not for you." She held out her hand impulsively. "We can be frlends Krank,'' she said. 'Always, " answered Carruthers. "And now we niay as well decido tu g down together. " To thls she made no objectloa, and Frank's love-making ended for the time. Hls dreams that uight may have been picasant ones, but as for Beatrice she sat for hours in her rrotn into the fire with a painel, hopeless loo on her face. The little line which Fran'f had once noticed b twoen her brows seemed tohave gr wn 1( eper and more distinct It' Carruthers had hoped for a great deal from that jour' ey to ilacktown he was doomed to be Hisappo'ntcd. Evento occurred at Ilazlewood House which took Beatrice back in hot liaste and a'.one. One morning Horace and Herbeit were in earnest diseussl n respecting a hlpbath, the paint of which showed stans of wear. The tuestion was whether it should be sent to tin auctioneer's and sold for the best pnce, or should ba re-japanned. Herbert, who was given to te, favored the reparation. H race. who was more thorough in hls ideas, thought it should go at once to the sale-room. The matter was so Important and lnteresting that neither of the brothers heard the sound of carrlage wheels outside the house. The wheels were those belonging to a gig. a genuino unmistakable gig. Whlttaker, who saw it come up the drive and stop at the f i out, not the side door, was inucli disgiisted. He did not know the trad.tional respectability enjoyed by the ilrivi-r of a gig. He drew the line at dogearts. Syl anus's tricycle was only borne with because it carried a clergyman. The gig in question was driven by a man who dismounted and nelped to the ground a woman with a good-tempered looking shiny face, and who was dressed in refreshlngly bright colora. One of them rang the bell tïmidly, and after a betittlng interval the dlgniñcd Whittaker soudescended to open the door. The man asked if the Messrs. Talbert were in. Thls collective style jarred upon Whlttaker, who liad been in the family long enough to remember the time when 'Messrs. Talbert &Co." was a well-known form of addiess. He replied that Mr. Talbert aud Mr. Herbert were In, but at present engaged. 'Wewill watt until they can see us," said the man. So Wliittaker let them come into the house. They wiped their feet on entering socarefully an 1 thoroughly that all doubts as to their being persons of any importance were at once set at rest, Whittaker feit he was quite ri!ht in offering Uu-in ctialrs in the hall. They were too respectable to be left standing, but the gig and the feet-rubbing tombined showed they were not to be ushered Into the drawing rojni. "What name sluil I say:'" he asked. 'We are strangers, " said the man. "Vou can say we have called on private and conñdential business." 'Vou had better give me your name,'' said Whit aker. ''Mr. and Mrs. liawlings," answered the woman. So VVh ttaker went up stalrs, found hls masters, and told them that a Mr. and Mrs. Kawiingí wanted to see them on private and confidential business. "Rawlings," satd Herbert with a shudder. "We know no one witli such an awful name. Who are they, Whittaker?" "I have no Idea, sir," said Whittaker. As hls masters adjudged the name horr - ble he feit half offended at it belng supposed that he knew any one named Rawlings. "Where are they?" asked Horace. "In the hall, sir." Whittaker feit thankful that he had not been tempte:! to give them sit ing room honors. "Whittaker," said Horace, gravely, "we shall be extremely annoyed if jou have let persons come inside our house who are book-liawkers, or, worse still, those who try to buy up second-hand ciothes, as these people say they come on private and confidential business." However, they put their eye-glasses up, and went down to the hall and confronted the r vlsitors. They found a woman whose philistinic attire set their teeth on cilge, and a pale-faeed man with rather prominent light blue eyes, and a weak looking agitated kind of face. The brothers wondere! mightlly what these people could want with them. "You wish to speaktous?"sa!dtlorace, suavely. Although they kept persons at a distance a long as possible at arm 's length. the Talberts were always polite and kindly spoken. "If you please, sr, " satd the man. Horace and Herbert waited. 'We should like to see you In private," said the woman, glancing around the hall. So Herbert o; ened the drawing-room door, an I they all walked inside. "Now, theu." "d Horace, encouraglngly, "what can we or you. Mr. Rawlings- I l;elieve that . your name?" "Yes, sir," said Mr. Rawüngs, drawing out a po.'ket-book and handinir Horace a card on which was printed, "Kawlings Bros., Purveyors of Pork, 142 Gray Street, London. " Horaco shivered. He feit very angry. "Pork," he sa'd, "Is a meat we never touch." Then he moüoned to Herbert to ring the bell. But Mr. Rawlings interposed. "1 didn'tcome on that sort of business str. The fact is, 1 have heard that some time last year a oh: ld, a litt'.eboy, was left at your house, sent from no one. knows where. Is this correct, gentlemen?" "It is quite true,' answered Horace. He was sorry he had mlsjudgeJ the man In tli nking hlm a touting tradesman. "But why do you ask?" he added. The man grew vislbly exclted. "Me and my wife. " he said, "have strong hopes that the littlo boy is one we lost. or had stolen from us more than two years ago." The brothers' faces were perfect studies. That two people like this should lay claim to Beatrce's boy was simply absurd. "Imposslble ." they ejaculated in one breath. 'Don 't say Impossible,"' said Mr. Kawlings. "We may (ind our little boy at last; we have been hunting about all over I' ïuhuul for fdundlings such as this. It may be this one Is ours." "Why should it havo been sent here?" "1 can t teil, sir. But 1 won't leave a stone unturned. May we see tho boy?" fTO BE COSTINUEDl


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