to speculate in matters he is unused to deal with rarely flourishes.'
Mr Davenant inwardly acknowledged the truth of these remarks. It was by speculation that he was brought to his present embarrassments; but he said nothing.
'Take my advice, Sam,' continued Mr Atkinson, placing his hand impressively on his nephew's arm, 'and have nothing to do with these railways. Whether you gain or lose by them, they distract your attention, you see, from your business, and so you lose one way at all events. Don't meddle with them.'
Mr Davenant felt it imperative to make one grand effort more.
'Nay, my dear uncle,' he said smiling, 'whether you can accommodate me with this sum or not, it's of no use trying to persuade me out of my scheme. I am determined to invest the money, but shall not afterwards trouble myself more about it. I shall purchase the shares; and whether I eventually make or lose money by them, I shall not worry myself respecting them. At a fitting opportunity I shall turn them into money again, and whatever they produce is (but this is entre nous, you understand) to be divided equally between my two girls.'
Mr Atkinson's face brightened. 'Oh, I begin to see, he exclaimed; 'I perceive—it is for your two dear children. You are a good fellow, Davenant: forgive me that I misinterpreted your object. Certainly, if ever speculation is justifiable, it would be in such a case,' continued the old man in a ruminative tone; 'and you shall not lose your object, Sam; your girls shall have the chance; the L.5000 shall be invested, and they shall have whatever it may produce. Don't you trouble yourself; don't in the least embarrass or inconvenience yourself in order to raise this sum; leave it to me—leave it to me: I'll arrange it for the dear girls' sake.'
Mr Davenant, never doubting that a cheque for L.5000 would soon be forthcoming, was profuse in his acknowledgments, and the uncle and nephew parted mutually satisfied—the one to enjoy his matitutinal walk, the other to exchange congratulations with his wife, and receive proper praise for his successful diplomacy.
Still, he could not but wonder, and feel somewhat uncomfortable, as the day appointed for Mr Atkinson's departure drew nigh, and he had yet heard nothing of the L.5000. At length he grew so very apprehensive, that it had been forgotten, or that something would interfere with his possession of it, that as the money was becoming every day of more vital importance to his interests, he ventured again to speak to his uncle on the subject. His first words were checked; and the old man, by rapidly speaking himself, prevented his saying more.
'Rest easy—rest easy,' said he; 'it is all right: I haven't forgotten anything about the affair, I can assure you. You shall hear from me on the subject after I get home; meanwhile make your mind quite easy. The girls shall have their railway shares, Sam; don't worry yourself.'
With this Mr Davenant was fain to be content; yet it was not without sundry uncomfortable feelings of doubt and perplexity that he watched his uncle enter his travelling-carriage, and waved his hand to him, as two post-horses rapidly whirled him away from B——. A fortnight passed, and excepting a hasty letter, announcing his safe arrival in Gloucestershire, nothing was heard from Mr Atkinson. Mr Davenant's creditors were clamorous, and would no longer be put off; a complete exposure of his affairs appeared inevitable; and in this extremity he wrote to his uncle, saying that he wished to purchase the shares in the —— Railway immediately, as it was a desirable opportunity, and every day might render it less advantageous. Therefore he intreated him to enclose a draft for the amount, that he might forward it to his broker, and obtain the shares.
By return of post an answer arrived:—
'My Dear Sam,' ran the letter, 'you need not be so very impatient. I was only waiting till the whole affair was concluded to write to you. I have heard this morning from the broker I have employed. The purchase of the shares is concluded, and very advantageously I think. Your dear girls may expect, I think, pretty fortunes in time; but don't say a word about it to them, in case of disappointment. I've transacted the whole business without you, because I don't want you to turn your thoughts from your own affairs, and, more or less, your attention would have been distracted from them by dabbling in these railway matters. I've managed it all very well. The broker I employ is, I am told, an honest, trustworthy fellow, and I have given him orders to sell out when the shares are at what he considers a fair premium. So you will have nothing to do with the matter, you see, which is what I wish, for I fear you are rather disposed to speculate; and if once you get into the way of these railways, perhaps you may be led on further than you originally intended. And you needn't be disappointed; for instead of lending you the money, I give it to the two dear girls, and all that may accrue to it when these shares are sold. I hope it will be a good sum: they have my blessing with it; but, as I said before, don't say a word to them till you give them the money. Enclosed are the documents connected with the shares.—Yours faithfully,
Poor Mr Davenant! This letter, with the enclosed documents (which he had fondly hoped were cheques for the L.5000)—documents utterly useless of course to him to aid him in his present difficulties—this letter drove him to despair. Mrs Davenant and Selina were likewise confounded: Lucy, by her father's express request, was not informed of their defeated plans.
But matters now grew worse with Mr Davenant, and bankruptcy was looming in the distance. His affairs were now more involved than ever; and even the L.5000, had he obtained it, would not now have availed to restore his sinking credit. In this dilemma he proposed raising money on the security of the railway shares, but here Selina showed the result of her education in worldly wisdom.
'Nonsense, papa,' was her dutiful remark in reply to this suggestion; 'it will do you no good, you know, and only render me and Lucy poorer. I am of age; and as the shares are mine, you can't sell them, you know,' she added in some confusion; for even her selfishness could not quite supply her with a proper amount of nonchalance in thus speaking to her father.
'I can sell them with your permission, of course?' said Mr Davenant, hardly comprehending the full extent of her meaning.
'Yes, I know. But you see, papa, it's bad enough for me as it is: I shall not have the fortune I was always taught to expect; and really, as it wont do you any real good, I think I should be very unwise to let you sell them.'
'You refuse your permission then?' exclaimed the father. Selina bowed her head, and left the room. Mr Davenant clasped his hands in anguish, not at the failure of this last hope, but at the agonizing ingratitude of his favourite child, and wept; and while he yet groaned aloud in his misery, Lucy entered the room. It is always a sad thing to behold a man weep; but to Lucy, who now, for the first time in her life, beheld her father under the influence of feeling, it was a great and painful shock. But it is one of the first instincts of woman to console, and in a moment she was kneeling by his side, her arms wound about his neck, her tears mingling with his. All his harshness to her—the little affection he had ever shown her—the many times her love had been repulsed—all was forgotten; she only remembered that he was her father, and in trouble, and either of these ties was sufficient to insure her affectionate sympathy. Mr Davenant felt deeply the ingratitude of Selina; but yet more intensely did the tenderness of his youngest child cut him to the soul. It was a lesson which he never forgot; and from that day he was a