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title and estate—that your brother was privately married, and left behind him a wife and child—a son, who is the lawful owner of that which you now possess.
Fearful were the efforts of the agitated baronet to keep his fear and passion from gaining the mastery over him. Self-restraint was not exactly his forte, and it was no easy matter; when this the dread of his whole life had come upon him without a moment's notice; for him to command himself; but he saw how very necessary calmness and care were, and he made strenuous efforts to preserve
“This, sir, you must admit, is intelligence as astounding as it is unexpected,” he said, in a fearfully suppressed and unnatural tone.
“It may be so from my lips; but, between ourselves, I don't hesitate to say, that you must long ere this have had an idea of it."
“Your grounds for such a suspicion ?" inquired Sir Edward, dubiously.
“ In this room, I see a bureau which I understand belonged to your brother. In that bureau he must have kept his papers; and when you examined these after his death, as no doubt you would, you must have come upon documents disclosing this fact.”
"Mr Strickland," said Sir Edward, with forced frankness, “I wonder that you, who are a lawyer, should stand on such presumptive ground. All that you state just now is pure assumption, and goes for nothing in court. Of course, you do not expect me to say ay or no to your very candid utterances. But, waving the question as to my knowledge of the existence of the person you say does exist, we had better come to what is more to the point. How does it happen, that for so many years I have heard nothing from the opposite sides The fact of my brother's marriage, and the result in the shape of a son and heir, were never stated to me till this hour; and though you have been kind enough to say very broadly what you suspect as to the extent of my knowledge, you certainly do not mean to insinuate that I knew where such a person was to be found ?"
“ There, I at once acquit you. I am willing to admit, what I fully believe-that your ignorance here was most profound. You therefore escape the legal crime of deliberate fraud, though not the charge of concealment."
"That is, provided your very gratuitous assumptions were to be established ?"
"Precisely so," answered the lawyer, nodding significantly.
" But which you quite despair of?” added the baronet, looking inquiringly. Then seeing that Strickland did not mean to reply; he continued, “ But why the raising of such a singular question at this time? Nearly twenty years have elapsed since my brother's death, and this mythical heir has never troubled me till now. Gan this remarkable circumstance be explained ?"
• Easily," answered the lawyer. "It was only yesterday that the discovery was made. But let me begin at the beginning of the history, so that you may the better understand it."
The baronet listened with straining ears as Mr Strickland related much with which the reader is acquainted—Mrs Ford's story-the relative position of Henry and Diamond - Mr Everly's connection with the lovers__and other matters up to the result of the search in the bureau on the previous day.
It would be hard to tell all that rushed through the baronet's mind, as the various facts and events were communicated to him; but, amid his rage and vexation, he comprehended that the certifcate of marriage had not been found—that it still lay concealed in the secret drawer; and he well knew, that so long as it was awanting, his position was secure, so he said,
"I have listened to your story, sir, carefully listened to it; and though I admit it to be interesting and romantic enough, yet pardon me for saying, that the claim sought to be founded on it is a most preposterous one. By a most ingenious scheme, you try to connect my brother with this woman and her child. It
be It is possible that Ringald is the father of the boy; but this only speaks to a youthful indiscretion on his part, for it is monstrous to suppose that a marriage took place."
And yet that is my firm belief,” replied Mr Strickland. “As a lawyer, sir, I need not tell you that belief goes
for nothing. In a case like this, the most ample proof is alone admissible. Have you such proof?”
The baronet watched his visitor keenly when he put this question; and, by the falling countenance which Mr Strickland could not conceal, he was satisfied, and resolved to put on a bold, inde
“I perceive, sir," he added, loftily, “ that no such proof is in your possession, and for the very good reason, that it never was and never could be in existence. Now, sir, I am convinced that your visit here to-day is a base and unworthy attempt to extort money from me. Be assured, however, that such an attempt I am determined to resist. You have my answer.
You can go." Very well, Mr Rockhart,” said the other, rising. “I only remain to say, that we shall try the question to the utmost; and being convinced of the justice of our cause, are determined to put in operation every possible energy to procure justice for the wronged; and when I say that the case is taken up by Mr Richard Everly, you need no assurance that a blood-bound is on your track."
Sir Edward rang a bell violently, and Dogwood appeared. 6 Show this person out,” roared the infuriated baronet.
In another minute the chuckling lawyer was walking briskly down the avenue.
MOVES AND COUNTER-MOVES.
“This is a bold game I am playing," muttered Mr Strickland, as he posted rapidly back to Edinburgh—"a very bold game, and it will require prompt moves. It was a dangerous step to beard the baronet in the way I have done; but it is a desperate case, and requires desperate measures. So powerless are we for want of proof, that it is not we, but the other party who has to stir and bring on events; and I am much mistaken if this visit of mine to Rockhart Hall does not bring the enemy to action. Two things it bas produced, at least. In the first place, it has convinced me of what indeed I was very sure before, that the wily fox knew all along of the existence of his brother's child; and secondly, it has given me a clue which, when followed out, may result in something. She's wonderful girl that Diamond -a brave, heroic, sensible girl, or she could not have behaved so nobly and prudently in this late affair. It seems she has come to learn something about the heir, and I must at once know what it is. Ha! old fox, with all your cunning, you outwitted yourself there. Gad! I was right.
There was nothing like a bold stroke for us."
Musing thus, the little active-bodied, busy-minded lawyer travelled at great speed to Edinburgh, which he duly reached, and, after some refreshment, found it too late to go to Newington that night, but walked thither at an early hour on the following morning. He found Diamond in the garden, and at once requested a private interview, with an air which brought blushes of excitement to her face.
“Now, young lady, I am going to catechize you, and you must give me plain and direct answers," said the lawyer, with assumed gravity, though, not to distress his companion, he smiled, and showed a twinkle in his
eye. "That depends upon the kind of questions you put," answered Diamond, returning the smile.
“What! won't you promise to answer, whatever they are ?"
" And therefore very prudent and cautious with our sex, eh?" said he, with a laughing nod.
FRAUD AND FRIENDSHIP,
“Yes; especially with lawyers,” answered Diamond.
“You are called tricky, at any rate, and always ready to entrap
And, in deference to the general rumour, you mean to be on your guard with me? A very prudent resolution, doubtless, and which as a rule I myself admire; but exceptions occur sometimes, and it is possible that, even with a lawyer, you cannot be too open. Such an exception you must consider the present, and prepare to act accordingly."
“ Not if you mean to keep me in the dark, as you are doing," replied the girl, archly.
“O no; I will deal frankly with you, depend upon it. During your late residence at Rockhart Hall, did you come to know any thing about the existence of another and more lawful heir than its present possèssor ?”
Diamond turned pale, but remained silent.
“ There now, you are not answering me,” said Mr Strickland, getting up his old smile.
“I am sorry I cannot,” replied Diamond, gravely. "If any knowledge of such a kind came to my possession, it was by accident, and I do not desire to mention it.”
“Miss Gray, you are a most prudent, right-thinking girl,"
“ The legitimate son !" echoed Diamond, grasping his hand, and
"O yes, yes," cried the girl, with wild eagerness. “I did hear something. I heard Dogwood and Sir Edward speaking of something of the kind, that night I discovered the secret panel. What was it? O, I forget_I forget."
“ Take time, my dear young lady. Do not agitate yourself thus.
try to recollect the words you overheard.”
Where was it you overheard them?"
• O, I feel so
"In the room next to mine. The panel opened, and their voices became quite distinct.”
“And were they speaking of this at the moment ?".
1-I rather think not. No; now, I recollect. It was about their plans respecting me, and about my parents—what my father did for Mr Everly, and the revenge Sir Edward owed him for it.”
"Ah! very likely," observed Mr Strickland, with a sigh of satisfaction,
“ Then they spoke of the object Sir Edward had in view, in endeavouring to get me to marry him. It was to secure my father's gold, in case, as he said, the true heir, his brother's child, should turn up, and deprive him of the estate.”
“ Exactly. I thought the old fox had a deeper reason than the avowed one for taking such a risky step. But go on, Miss Hunter. You are giving me most important information,"
“The baronet next spoke of two letters he had found in his brother's bureau, which gave him to understand that there was a wife and child. The letters, I think, must have been from the lady, and said something about having the certificate all safe in the bureau."
“Ah! are you sure of this ?” cried the lawyer, eagerly.
I gathered it distinctly from the conversation. And I learned likewise, that Sir Edward had not burnt the letters he had found, but that they are in the same secret drawer in which he got them."
“Better and hetter; the mystery opens up beautifully. This servant, then, must be the baronet's confident?"
“Yes; but he seems to have discovered the secret accidentally. The baronet, however, offered him a thousand pounds, if Dogwood could discover that they were dead, or rendered unable to annoy him."
· Ha ! indeed—a temptation to crime. We must be wary. But go on, Miss Hunter.".
"I don't think I heard any more," said Diamond, reflectively. No, the conversation went back to their plans respecting me."
“Very good," returned Strickland, rubbing his hands. Now, Miss Hunter, or Gray rather, I need not ask if you will be guided by me. I know you will. Your past conduct in regard to this gery matter is enough to convince me how very prudent you are. I wish you to refrain from making any one acquainted-your parents, or even Henry-with what you have now told me. Do you agree to this ?”
Willingly," responded Diamond. “But I wonder much that Henry hinted nothing of the discovery he and Mr Everly had made. I observed a strange gaiety about him yesterday, but could not understand the cause.