“No, you won’t,” roared the Colonel; “I know the law. My comments on your character are not written and signed like your knavish lease; it’s a privileged communication—VILLAIN! there are no witnesses—SHARPER! By Jupiter, there are, though!”
He had caught sight of a male figure just visible at the side of the window.
“Who is it? MY SON!”
“My DAUGHTER!” cried Bartley, catching sight of Mary.
“Come out, sir,” said the Colonel, no longer loudly, but trembling with emotion.
“Come here, Mary,” said Bartley, sternly.
At this moment who should open the back door of the office but William Hope!
“Walter,” said the Colonel, with the quiet sternness more formidable than all his bluster, “have not I forbidden you to court this man’s daughter?”
Said Bartley to Mary: “Haven’t I forbidden you to speak to this ruffian’s son?”
Then, being a cad who had lost his temper, he took the girl by the wrist and gave her a rough pull across him that sent her effectually away from Walter. She sank into the Colonel’s seat, and burst out crying with shame, pain, and fright.
“Brute!” said the Colonel. But the thing was not to end there. Hope strode in amongst them, with a pale cheek and a lowering brow as black as thunder; his first words were, “Do YOU CALL YOURSELF A FATHER?” Not one of them had ever seen Hope like that, and they all stood amazed, and wondered what would come next.
REMINISCENCES.—THE FALSE ACCUSER.—THE SECRET EXPLODED.
The secret hung on a thread. Hope, after denouncing Bartley, as we have described, was rushing across to Mary, and what he would have said or done in the first impulse of his wrath, who can tell?
But the quick-witted Bartley took the alarm, and literally collared him. “My good friend,” said he, “you don’t know the provocation. It is the affront to her that has made me forget myself. Affronts to myself from the same quarter I have borne with patience. But now this insolent man has forbidden his son to court her, and that to her face; as if we wanted his son or him. Haven’t I forbidden the connection?”
“We are agreed for once,” said the Colonel, and carried his son off bodily, sore against his will.
“Yes,” shrieked Bartley after him; “only I did it like a gentleman, and did not insult the young man to his face for loving my daughter.”
“Let me hear what Mary says,” was Hope’s reply.
“Mr. Hope,” said Mary, “did you ever know papa to be hard on me before? He is vexed because he feels I am lowered. We have both been grossly insulted, and he may well be in a passion. But I am very unhappy.” And she began to cry again.
“My poor child,” said Bartley, coaxingly, “talk it all over with Mr. Hope. He may be able to comfort you, and, indeed, to advise me. For what can I do when the man calls me a sharper, a villain, and a knave, before his son and my daughter?”