Thus was Bartley’s fatal secret in mortal peril on the day it first existed; yet on that very day it was saved from exposure, and buried deep in a jail.
Bartley set Hope over his business, and was never heard of for months. Then he turned up in Sussex with a little girl, who had been saved from diphtheria by tracheotomy, and some unknown quack.
There was a scar to prove it. The tender parent pointed it out triumphantly, and railed at the regular practitioners of medicine.
AN OLD SERVANT.
Walter Clifford returned home pretty well weaned from trade, and anxious to propitiate his father, but well aware that on his way to reconciliation he must pass through jobation.
He slipped into Clifford Hall at night, and commenced his approaches by going to the butler’s pantry. Here he was safe, and knew it; a faithful old butler of the antique and provincial breed is apt to be more unreasonably paternal than Pater himself.
To this worthy, then, Walter owed a good bed, a good supper, and good advice: “Better not tackle him till I have had a word with him first.”
Next morning this worthy butler, who for seven years had been a very good servant, and for the next seven years rather a bad one, and would now have been a hard master if the Colonel had not been too great a Tartar to stand it, appeared before his superior with an air slightly respectful, slightly aggressive, and very dogged.
“There is a young gentleman would be glad to speak to you, if you will let him.”
“Who is he?” asked the Colonel, though by old John’s manner he divined.
“Can’t ye guess?”
“Don’t know why I should. It is your business to announce my visitors.”
“Oh, I’ll announce him, when I am made safe that he will be welcome.”
“What! isn’t he sure of a welcome—good, dutiful son like him?”
“Well, sir, he deserves a welcome. Why, he is the returning prodigal.”
“We are not told that he deserved a welcome.”
“What signifies?—he got one, and Scripture is the rule of life for men of our age, now we are out of the army.”
“I think you had better let him plead his own cause, John; and if he takes the tone you do, he will get turned out of the house pretty quick; as you will some of these days, Mr. Baker.”
“We sha’n’t go, neither of us,” said Mr. Baker, but with a sudden tone of affectionate respect, which disarmed the words of their true meaning. He added, hanging his head for the first time, “Poor young gentleman! afraid to face his own father!”
“What’s he afraid of?” asked the Colonel, roughly.
“Of you cursing and swearing at him,” said John.
“Cursing and swearing!” cried the Colonel—“a thing I never do now. Cursing and swearing, indeed! You be ——!”
“There you go,” said old John. “Come, Colonel, be a father. What has the poor boy done?”