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Nearly Too Late

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I was left an orphan at the agre of four, bnt was broght up by a kind aunt and unció. My childhood passed merrily enough until I was .".bout eight, hen my unole, hearing of the Áustralian gold-iields, determined to seek a fortune abroad, instead of toiling for a mere pittance at lióme. So I was transferred to a f amily by the name of Graham. ïhey were middle-class, plain, homely people - working goldsmiths, in fact - and lived in Northampton Square, Clerkenwell. They had but one ehild, adaughter, named Lilly, and, she being only threo yeara younger than mysélf, we became greal frii ■■■''■■ It was natural, also, that as I grew up and went proudly out to earn my few shillings a wee!;, and drew nearer to manhood, I should [earn to love my prettylittle playmate. Cireumstances went" on tlms happily nntillwas twenty and Lilly seventeen years of age, and Uien a communication from my unele in Australia inEormed me laat Üiej hada capital opening forme. 1 was loth to leave Lilly; vet, as I was doing very indifferently and had beard of such rapid fortunes acquired in such short spaces of time by eneretic men, I summoned enough courage to teil tlie Grahams and poor Lilly I as determtned to go to Australia. I shall never forget our patting1 a Blackwall Pier. I shall never forget my pretty little Lilly cliuging to my neek and sobbing aloud, and imploring me not to go. and I, Btruggling bebween the influenee of love and enterprïse, trying not to be a eoward, wheu I feit alreadythat I was one. It was in vain I tried to eheer her; think I did not look so very comforting, thoagh, if I remember rightly, I recollect saying: "Kever mind, Lüly darling, I shall return one day and make you a grand lady. l shall be sure to succeed, and sliaP : I ■;'!" My tears, I knewwere threatening to break the feeble barriers tliat held them back. and wben she said: "Ah! but suppose }'ou never do return - I shall break my heart, Robert!" Why, then I think f did hed a tear or so:' only to keep her company. Al last the boa pushie] ofl", and T.frs. Graham - good, kind old soul! - slill kept her arms around Lilly, a she waved her final adieu to her orplian protege. I arrived at last atMclboarne. Iwent miles overland, and at last reached my uncle's settlement: but I had not long been there ere 1 i'ound Life in Australia than I had anticipated. I etayedwith for a little time, until I took a dislike to farming- for that was my unele had made most of his money at - and joined a party of young fellows starting for a ncw gold field farther up the country. Three 3'ears passed slowly awuy, snrt I began tío get along much better, and had sent many a nuget to Melbournc. Ihad only received one dear, c letter from Lilly, written en her ei eenth birthday, and sendíng rae a lock of her pretty chestnut h;i:r; vet I thought I had no cause to fear, as 1 knew that writing letters does not give young ladies half the joy of reoeiving them. and I wrote oiten enough. Well, time went on. I liad found a stanch, true friend about my owa e were like brothers. We al. worked together, and whcn we had been onr foor years and a half lom Thompson - for "that was the name of my faitbiul fricad- and I were getting rich. I knew that I was nearer home, and more likely to gain my dear little Lilly cvery monthl worked; but I also was aware of the desperate crimes and terrible deeds that were being cömmitted around ur; by the ra : other villains. I knew that our reputation was as dangerous as gratifying; and so it was; perhaps I should not mention the incideat, as it seems to prolong a part of the story that needs most brevity; but, as it bears directly upon the uliim of the tale, 1 siiail tfei upon your kidness to giveit in full. One, night Torn and I had retirea to tbe bed-room we had built aboye the basement of our liUlc house, raid 1 was already dozing, while Tora, having careiuily seen to the revolvers (for I need not teil you how necessary they are in a country wliere justice is obtainedin such arough and ready manner) , was also yielding to the drowsy god, when we fanciad we heard something move in the room below. Both were quickly, though silently, on the alert, for we" knew that, though not much, we had still some gold that had not been dispatched to Melbourne. We knew that somebody, acquainted with its hiding-place, had, eacaping our notice, secreted himself in the eabin to gain possession of it. Wheft we heard him move again, and, as we coi-rectlv thonglit, he had gained our hidden nuggets, we crawled silently to the hole that ave entry to our üttle bedroom, andlooked down. All was dark, yet we could see the dim outline of a man moving hither and thither, as though he knew every inch of the ground he trod. Now, we knew he would bc certain to carry arms, and so we had to be exceedingly cautious. Torn coolly placed an old fur hat on a stick he had beside him, and hung it over the hole, shouting as he did so: "Whos there?" We reoeived ao answer, bnt tliought we saw the figure move nearer to the cabiii. "Answer," continued Torn, wavïng the old fur hat, "answer, or Til lire.' But Tom had no time to do anything of the kind, for the rascal fired directly and looking throngh a ohink in th rough and dlrided üooring, saw am raxnized the tbief ae . one to whor Toffi and I had_fecen tile best of friend_s. I ltwas siman i::.i. a man wnose repulí had been of late far trom síuis;'.■. tory. ïom aird I were unhnrt, and ere we could gel down, for we had noticed the villain liad removed the ladder, Kiiuou Rail had escaped to eover. AU the settlemei was alarmed, and seareh made, but he was not f ound uiUil afterward. Well, three years moro of hard work found me a rich man, and Tom and I reached Melbourne and sailed with hope, lovc and joy íor England's happy shores. When I reached Immo no one would have known me with my beard and peculiar ature - half settler, half nar.tical. I need not tell you how eagerly I sought out No. - Northampton square. It all seemed 1hc samo. í 3 and a half had verv llítle altered London, so far as I could seo. Yes, it all seemed the same until I reached lier house. "How dirty and neglected,'1 thought I, as I gazed up at the dïngy yet familiar oíd place. "1 aro certain Lilly cíinnni bo here, or eyerjthing would look Drighter anJ they have moved; Til knoek and seo." Sflgave the door aseries of ioud rapa iu I to cnhanee its wakefulness. "Well, su-, what ía it?" It was an oíd, dirty-looking woman that spoke, as she half oponed the door. "Do the Grahams live here still?" "Live here!! They are rich folks now." "Rich?" said I, andlbelievel looked dreadfully angry, as though I thought fchej had no right to bo rica. "Yes, rii-ii!"' replied the dirty oíd gossip, (';; nearerand opening the door wider when she foiuod my business was so simple. "Yes, rich! and al] throngh some ; a who started okl Graham n bu ce months The oíd 'onse 'as bin to let ever since they left it, ten months i Live- why, le( mesee - somewhere near Readnig, I think, a little viüage called U . But tliat's not the shop. The 's in town somewhere. A stationer's. Tve heard gay, " "Thankyou, thank yon, that will do! Uerc is a trine to drink success to my search." 1 managed lo get away at last, and was soon beiiiL' conveyed over the lines of the Southwestem llailway to Readtnr. It was i lovely afternoon when I entercd the 1511 Ie village of D . I soon espied the litt'e cottage to which I had been directed, half hidden from the road by a row of poplar trees, and it with very little hesitation I was soon walking up the little garden path and ringing i he bril. The Gra rere out, but I explained that 1 was a friend of the famií liad come a rery long way expressly to See them. This gained me the deairod "opsn sesame, and Í was soon ushered mto the Jittle parlor. ï es, tuis was Iiilly s home. I gazed aronnd me as though L was in the et of some : spot. As my eyes wandered around tlie svcetly-scented little i they resto ion somo milliner's boxes tiiat lay upon the table. I had them to contain the appurtenances oí marri 'üts. 1 - n'l her, my Lilly's, name on them. I ■ lids sli alas! my fears were too trae; they were the brid:d decorations of Lilliau Graham. I could only just marinee to recover myself ;-; an open eari'iage drove op to the garden-gate. I couht not aco them alight, luit L r-oon s:xv an old lady and tleman, whom I recognized as Mr. and Rlrs. Graham, and then I saw the dear face of Lilly- saw it to notice it was palc, tlmi and s;id - saw it to quickly teil that even prosperity, and perhaps tl í an advantageous marriage, liaa not made her look botter iliaii' tiio merry, laughing-eyed lillle maicleu of sweet seventeen, And then 1 saw a gentleman, tall and weil dressed, withhis baek toward me, srivin1 some direct ions to tlie coachman. More than this I eould not seo, lor the okl cowple had entcred the parlor. " Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Grraham," 1 said, caire r iw bw?" "Ï . ni I! ■; llUUMT' BU111U what stiöly replied the old gentleman. " What? not blow Bob Phillips, that weut to Australia eightjvears ago?" "Bob Phillips! good God!" This last wíís uttered by the tall gentleman, ia a tone of undisguised surprise. My name had secmed to créate a varied impression upon them all. The little old gentleman looked petrifled, while Mrs. Graham appeared frightened, and presently broke out quitu tragically. " Robert Phillips! risen frorn his grave!" "Risen f rom his grave?" said I, growing still more confused aml surprised at this unexpected turn of affairs. " Yes, sir, from his grave," s?id Mr. Markham; "yes, sir: ii is no use ofyour trying to pasa yotirself oíf as that young man." líe has" been dead ti s. I was present at his funeral my" Indeed," said T, smiling, batalmost chilling Mr. Marldiam to cteatli with the si ■''l! Wm' Ali! I recollect seeing jou in Ausralia, I think." " Yon are au impostor, and I shallbe orced to turn you out of th house if ou do not in.v e." "Veryiinc words, Mv. Simon Rail, alias Markham. 1 shall turn you out nstead - thief, woukl-be murderer, and double-dyed villain.'1 Amid the screams of the serrant and Mrs. Graham, and not heeding the 'eeble expostulations of the old gentlenan, we'closed and struggled to the a,re. Here, with a litiie muscular turn and a well-directed blow between the eyes, I soon threwMr. Marks:im (as he called liimself) sonsei the hall, just as.Lilly, hearing my voice she had not forgotten il ; Bhe did not care even if it was my ghost, or if I had come for a ta-ansitory stay from the other vrorld - carne and threw lierself iuto my arms, exclaiming: " Oli mv own Robert! I did not lieve it. But I waited two long, weary years, and thon father Baid he was eerïtiiii tiiat it wastrue, and it wouldniake Mm happy if I vvould- iL- " Her tears explained the rest. 1 knew whíit she meant, and i drew her fondij' to my heart and! said: "1 knew you would not forget me, Lilly. I am rioh, rioh now, and very unlike dead, eh? But I will aot stay r at present, darling. I will hasten to prove to vou what a thori rascal you were near marrying. I shall send some ono to look af tor your saf ety, and take tliat rascal nway from you." The rascal did not move. I ha n all the "Mr. Markham" out o him, so, without mueli notioe of the ter ror-stricken Mr. and Mrs. Graham, bu ono lonjr, fond kisa irom the dear lips of Lilly, I dopao;ted bastily from tlie house. I liad determined to gvc Ibis episode a t denouement, and I thiuk yon wíl! admit I did so, whcn I tell yon I went to thc autborities of tho parisb and 'oíd i not to let the marri ■ place I next day (as that Was the oate fixed for ií) upon any account. Afterdoing this I went lo London, :v,u there i;iL Tona and told him tfaat I luid found the robi i' our nuggi '■■, nearly robbing me oí my most golden treasure m life. Tom and I n. ' out tha1 il had como lo England ■ I he robbery, found my friends, revi my death (which my neglect In not writing served to corrobórate), obtained a place of trust apon falso representations, and nltimately made the acquaintance of tiic Grahams, to completo liis villainies by marrying my . We found out also tha( hia employers liad that morning discovered they were L1,000 short, uid had patehed two detectives to ñudthefaithful Mr. Markham. Well, after all, when 1 come to look back to it, and think how 1 went down :i y: how they told me au nbout !ie had advanced to the Grahams; wfien 1 was once more recognized as the true, genuino Bob Phillips; when the viliain was sent back to the secne of his first ex)loils for severa! j'ears at HerM ty's expense when Thompson carne i with lus loBg-loved Alice, I said :o Tom: " Ali, il is not our doing, Tom, it is God's ever-watchful care that tests tis, lovcs ns, and bril out of our 1 : ' rWi" illl(i whcn Tom was marr ■' Yes, Bol), and it wa ;t me to lelieve in woman's faith i ancy; md T cannot fi iy until I own that a part of my happiiiess is duo alone to ypn."


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