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which he occupied in the Chamber of her Majesty's most faithful and devoted Commons. Both those seats, it is almost needless to say, were looked upon by him as the sure inheritance of his nephew, the future Sir Philip.
He was a widower, and in the days of his youth had become the father of a son, whose only child had followed his father to the grave some few months before Philip left India. There remained besides, of lineal descendants, only a grand-daughter, the Mrs. Wraxham of whom mention has already been made, and who was now a widow with one son, a boy who was being educated on the Continent, and was about fifteen years
age. About a week after Helen's establishment at the cottage (her residence in which rural retreat was as yet quite unsuspected by Sir Edgar), the uncle and nephew were seated together before the fire in the spacious dining-room of Thornleigh Abbey. The old man, who was chilly with the winter of his own years as well as with that of a snowy December evening, cowered over the huge logs that lay upon the hearth, the ruddy glow of which shone through his almost transparent hands, and shed a faint rosy tinge over his white hair. He was a handsome old man, small in stature, and beautifully neat in his dress; with a sprinkling of powder on his bald head, and an odour of fresh lavender-water pervading his person.
“Will Parliament meet early, uncle?” asked Philip, who recollected that the old man liked being thought a party to the little secrets of Government.
“In March, I believe. We shall have hard work this session; it will be a near thing, and I fear
the Whigs will run us hard.” And the octogenarian senator pricked up his ears as though scenting the battle afar off.
"They say that Fuller will be opposed for the other division of the county, and that Brandreth means to stand on the Liberal interest."
“So I heard so I heard; but he hasn't a chance. Thank God, we have no Radicals in this part of the world.”
Philip was not so sure, as was his uncle, that the minds of all the freeholders were so closed against Reform, or so choked up by the unhealthy weeds which grow out of the soil of rich men's prejudices, as to yield without an effort to the imposition of two representatives in whose vocabulary Progress stood for Perdition; but he forbore to disturb his uncle's faith in the stand-still powers of his county, and merely inquired when Sir Edgar intended going to London.
"For the meeting of Parliament, of course, the answer; for the honourable member was clearly of opinion that the eyes of the political world were upon him; and was resolved that he at least would fulfil the expectation of confiding England, and do his duty.
“You will reside in London with me, I conclude," said the uncle, looking rather doubtingly at his nephew's handsome face; for he remembered the days when he too was young, before latch-keys were, and what a wearisome place of abode he – in those days sidered the family mansion.
“I am afraid not, my dear uncle. I fancy I shall be very little in town. It would not suit my
plans, and Helen
is 'so fond of the country."
Sir Edgar, who had for some time been employed in picking up with the tongs minute particles of wood, and laying them as carefully on the fire as though the expense of fuel was “an object” to him, now let his shining implement fall with a heavy crash on the hearth, and said slowly, and with an effort at calm
"Helen! and who, may I ask, is Helen?”
one is living with me?" answered Philip, reluctantly; for he found it rather difficult to talk of his pleasant vices to an old man of eighty, in whose shrivelled veins not one drop of youth's hot blood remained, and who sat there looking so immovably moral.
"And who, may I again be allowed to ask, is some one? Some coloured woman, I suppose; some fortunate half-caste, picked up in India, by whom you have half-a-dozen children, as dingy as herself?"
“Not quite so bad as that,” said Philip, smiling at the old man's rapid jump to the worst conclusion. “Helen is the most lovely
“Of course she is.”
“But you must not confound her with others in her position. No wife could love me more devotedly, or behave with a more faultless propriety —
"A very praiseworthy person, I have no doubt,”
interrupted Sir Edgar, damping this burst of enthusiasm ruthlessly. “But I should be glad to know the terms on which you stand with this faultless lady. Nothing binding, I hope? No promise, eh?”
“No reason why you should not marry to-morrow, if you wished it?”
“None in the world only I don't wish it.”
“Pshaw! You will wish it; every one wishes it who has a name and a 'fame to continue to aftergenerations. And you are the last of the family, Philip. Don't let me think there will be none after you, my boy. Don't let your old uncle die, without seeing an heir born to Thornleigh."
Philip was touched by the pathetic tone in which Sir Edgar seemed to be so humbly apologising to the dead, who had done their duties as Thornleighs should.
“Time enough,” he said, “time enough, my dear uncle. I never saw you look better these five years haven't aged you a day. Why, you might be thinking of marrying again yourself,” he added, with an attempt at jocularity.
Sir Edgar chuckled, and stroked his thin knees coaxingly.
“So you have heard that foolish story, have
His nephew had heard nothing, but humouring the old man's fancy, he nodded affirmatively.
"Not a word of truth in it, upon my honour. A mere Platonic feeling on both sides. Mrs. Ellerton is a charming woman, but it is her daughter that I have Recommended to Mercy. I.
been thinking of; and for you, my dear boy, not for myself. If I were ten years younger, perhaps”
Philip looked at his uncle's dried-up atomy of form, and wondered whether at four-score he too would retain within him smouldering ashes which could still be stirred into a lingering life. The thought of such unnatural flames bursting forth from rotten touchwood was unpleasant, and he dismissed it summarily,
"Really," continued Sir Edgar, "the daughter is charming" charming was his word for the “very nice," which so often epitomises the eulogies of the present day - "fine figure, well brought up, good connection, elegant girl, very — but now I think of it," he added, in a voice of alarm, “I have not asked you where this person is I hope to Heaven she is not at the cottage, that would be indeed an insult to the whole county, and one which could not be overlooked."
"My dear uncle, what has the county to do with any private business or pleasure of mine? Helen” (“Confound Helen," muttered Sir Edgar,) "Helen went with me to India. She left a comfortable home to follow my fortunes, and has for more than five years behaved incomparably, so I am not going to part from her now, to please a few humbugging squires and their stupid wives, who vegetate in the heart of the slowest county in England!"
Did Sir Edgar's ears deceive him, or was it indeed one of his own household who was a foe to his own county, and faithless to its immortal traditions? It is true that from the rapidity of his wrathful nephew's utterance, the whole force of his vituperations did not make their way to his understanding; but he had