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Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87873666
Full Date1903-12-19
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Newspaper TitleChronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954)
Trove TitleThe Christmas Prodigal
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The Christmas Prodigal.

By DOROTHEA DEAKIN, 'Author of 'The Highwayman,' J'The Fog,, an Impostor, and Two Christmas Eves,' &c, &c.

CHAPTER I. .

Ii was Christmas Eve and Christina's birthday. Outside it, was. clear and white nnd sparkling like silver, and inside the bouse a birthday party. The square oak -table in the breakfast room was piled .high with her presents, and the supper twa* a thing to- remember and dream about for years. As usual. she was the most charming parson present, and she was so kind to me that, for the moment, I forgot the insurmountable objection which

«k»i* vii iijj nuuuiuL'i iiku uzticfi care, ana was radiantly and entirely happy. She gave me *wo dances— both waltzes,- and promised to go in to supper with me as often as I liked. 'Not quite as. often as usual,' she said, with a sigh of reminiscence, 'because I am twenty to-night, and must iiave some re gard for appearances.' ' When she had arranged, her 6wn;*pr0' f;rannne and partners to her «oriiplete:Js5tis occion; wbien.^-e had given the waltzes to ,fche duffers 'who C&uldnVtalk, but danced rfwitb. winged feet; the lancers ? to jteeble jiroung. mett^who-Heould do *n either,. and -the («dd dances, such' as polkas andschofc . Jtisches, w'cbafroirigicon^eiteitibnalists^wb]) Jfcad neyierjsarnt to.dance chem.-Hfc&d'^wbd jsrere oriTy-tjo delighlted to sit outmHLher; when she ihsSi done all this she fdufflTiiiat ,«he was Mtqwefty to play the ag|«e&hje {fcostess,isuid;tneii it was that ehe^BebverKl jfche Christinas prodigal: A tall, middte Rged person, with * a bewildered air; stood . 4by the. door -regarding the; pleasant, .noisy young people with some perplexity. Chris-, ftina eyed him for a moment. -.-. .. , ? 'One -of Billy's 'friend^ ho doubt,'' she inunnuredWHe looks rather ? lost:* iHere.

?Billy!' Billy, who seemed to be jin a fcurry, stopped in some alarm before his sister: - * j ; ?- - . 'What is it?' he said. ? 'It's no good trying to introduce me to ; any old -crocks yho can't get partners, Chris, because I -iron't.' .?'''. . ' ' '_.' ? ' '.. Chmtina-la-ugbed. :,,].!: ,v'Uv ; 'WBo'dsSip pei*on$riu have invited; iand l^in5»e-3urcH^niyolur uswial happy way, Billy?- ''That man leaning up against ? 'tte Vftn?*' *-r-\ '? ??? .-.???? ;; . Billy casfcaa hasty glance at Hie stranger. 'Blest if $-, know,? he cried*. 'Someone JTeddy'fl jugged, in most likely,' and de parted.- --? '' . : 'Is itt' shesaaked me.vT'was Teddy. 'YowinDwit isn't. ^ I replied reproach fully. 'X dpn[t ask. men toother people* : fiances, Cbmtina, even if ^hey are given by ?- jKy-eepond cousins.*' .' ;f ;?????? Christina glanced at him4 again. ? ?'? * 4lBfi seem.9, Jiice,' she said ^thoughtfully. . 'Andhelpots as if he ijiought I w,aB nice ? )too*.- 1 mnlcFll take pity on liim.' , 'He !? with the majority,*' I replied ^oomUy, Vii^thatii bis opinion --f, you,' '?- v'^v/U.Ji-ObrisUito'WUed/.'' ' ? ' ^:^^:;.^:!^;^^*jB^:.:jAf ,*aid pleasantly. '?And

anyway someone must make themselves agreeable to him and find him partners.' She crossed the room and I followed close enough in her. -wake to hear what she said to hi&r 1 was genfeiilly in. C&risi3^a?*%al£c luiithdse-dayii--''--;-'^.-.-.. ..--^.r ':??? -:r.-i:;. '' 'Eveiywhere that Mary went— I wae siite to go.' I daresay I was a fool, but I wasn't the only one. ??.;-» . ? „?' , 'I am afraid I don't know you^ name,' She said sweetly. **But can I find any part ners for you? -. Is jour programme full?' ? 'I am an uninvited guest, Ee*eaid slowly. 'An unwelcome one, too, I am afraid, a strayed, sheep come. back to the fold.. In the story: books the black sheep who returns repentant oa Chxietmas Eve to the bosom of his family: ia received with open iarina and forgiven.' Christina stared at him in amazement, - and well she might. 'If you are tKe daughter of the bouse,' be said quietly, 'if you are little Christina, I am your second cousin George, I am the Christmas I^odigal, and very repentant, but so far I have not found the open arms. You are all the family I have left to me now.' ?? ? Christina held out her hand with a laugh, 'Welcome back to the fold,' she said. '1 didn't know you were a black sheep though. Have you seen mother and daddy?' ''No,' said he. 'Kot yet— I— in fact I hardly dared— I left 'England in a hurry, you see, without any farewell formalities with my relations.' '- -. ? . ;? Christina laughed again. 'They're neither of them very alarming,' she said, 'and Til go and find them. 1 m sure they'll be glad to see you. You can talk to Teddy while I'm gone. He- is an other relation of yours.' She slipped away, and the prodigal and I shook hands with suspicion and mutual distrust. He appeared to have returned in affluent circumstances, judging by his dress suit, which was new and expensive, and his diamond stud and rings. He was very hand some, too; tall at»d impressive; and his face was full of good humor and affability. With the arrival of Christina's parents he was warmly received into the family, and appa rently the past straying of the black sheep was to be buried in oblivion. Christina was delighted with him, and I could see from the, first moment of all that he waa destined to become another of her victims. 'It's because he is a stranger,' she ex plained hastily, 'and a relation— I really ought, you know, Teddy.' 'A quarter of the men here to-night are strangers to you,' I remarked gloomily. 'And I am a relation. But do as you like.' Christina's father gave me an explanation of his changed feelings to the prodigal; the gist of which seemed lo be that he had more than expiated his youthful follies by the enormous fortune he bad brought home. The stranger gave Christina a diamond bangle for a Christmas present, which must have cost a hundred pounds. It was nice for her, but a little bard on the mother-of-pearl opera glasses which had meant merely a week's salary to me. How ever, no one could help liking him, and I was bound to acknowledge that in spite of his disgusting affluence, he was a decent sort of chap. I couldn't nurse the jealous dislike to him — which would only have been natural under the circumstances, because he took a fancy to me and gave me his en tire confidence in the most open and friendly manner. Until the subject turned on Christina, I was pleased by his frank ness; then he bega.n about her, and I had to listen Avith civility at least. I couldn't help feeling that it was rather inconsiderate of Iiirn, because he knew perfectly well by, that time what were my own hopeless views with regard to her. My affection for her had been the standing joke of the family since we had both worn short socks. It was on Xew Year's Eve that he broke the subject first. We were sitting up waiting for the rest of the family, who had gone to the midnight service.! 'Teddy,' he said slowly, 'you have a sympathetic soul. I should like to tell you something.'.' 'You've told- me a good many things already, haven't you? I asked, wich a yawn. Cousin George smiled. 'I sunDose I have, but it's such a relief to confide in you. I should like to tell you something about Christina.' I started, 'The deuce you would,' said I. He was staring at me fixedly— in absence of mind— and heart, I suppose. 'She is adorable,' he murmured, 'a little peach of a girl.' . ? I got up. and said I was going to bed. 'Ob. don't go. to- bed, Teddy, old chap; I should like to hear your views on the sub ject of Christina.' ? . 'I decline to discuss Christina,' said -I, 'and -as, to. my views .on her— you know them perfectly well.' 'Then I'll- go straight to the point with out any preliminaries,' said lie, 'I am going to ask her to marry me.' . 'Do,' said 1, 'I daresay she will,' 'You think .1, have s. chance) then?' 'You are rich,' %'jra.ul coldly, .' 'and fairly good-looking. , You have burie^ .your dis reputable past and 'beeft forgiven. I should say i^ou have_ an excellent chance.' 'Good!' said he. ; 'You are encourage ment itself,; Teddy; Wish me .luck, old chap.' v ' I laughed bitterly. 'No,' I said, 'I'm hanged if I will.' He 'was still staring at me reflectively. VWhy not?' he'askea. . 'Because/' said I bluntly. 'I'.ve been 'in love with Christina myself since I was three, ?without' the faintest hope' of tnarry- ing her.' ' : ? ? He smiled a little. . . ' f'l rather gathered that -you' had,' . he said, fbut why without hope?' : : 'Ugh,' said I, 'you know. Because! am earning three pounds a week, without the Seast prospeefc^of a rise.' ? '.'. 'But money isn't everything,' eaiQ he slowly. ' ' ; ? ???' ? y 'It s a good deal to a woman,'; X cried bitterly, 'and its Everything to ?TDhristina's father. Look at the way Christina has been brought upl -She isn't likely to give up a comfortable; - h6me and j expensive clothes and theatres' and1 things for horse hair lodgings and Irish -stew with- me! Her ^father- treats my- devotion as an' extremely ;funny joke arid so I believe does she.' ? Cousin George was silent for a moment or.hvo. ? ; ??'?'??????' '? '? - ?' '?' ? ?' '?' '? 'It seems hardly fair,' jhe said '? at last; 'tooome Jiome arid: cut you .put— with my/ money.' '''?' - I laughed recklessly. ? s 'It wont make* -much difference,' 1 cried, 'she has other admirers of means besides you. i shall never ask her to marry ine, bo I'm out of it in any case. ! If I-bavej to see bee throw the handkerchief to some one else, and its bound to come -eooner -or later, it- might as well be you as any other bounder/i. ~ ?*'.?:??.? . : '. ?? , ? 'Uhanlv you, T«ddyT' said Cousin George, and he relapsed into silence again. I w&tched him w;tu miserable jealous eyes. , ' Presently lite rose'and walk-»'d;pv6r to the window to pull up. the middle blin'd. 'They, will be here in « minute or two.'

he said elowly, 'it is nearly twelve. 1 shall speak lo her to-night, Teddy.' . 'Do! eaid I, 'as I 6aid before, I can hardly wish you luck.' - Cousin George sighed. 'You might/' he saM, 'for once I am going to play fair. I don'c think I shall enter against you with such heavy odds, Teddy. I shall play a part and handicap myself.' 'What on earth do you mean?' He smiled rather sadly. 'Why, naturally I don't much care for the idea of being married for my money. It is not a flattering notion, old chap. Suppose I tell Christina that the prodigal is penniless after all, and that the ready, money he has been splashing about 'is al most spent. Suppose I offer her my heart and soid — and an income of three pounds a week?' Was he mad, I wondered? 'I shall 6peak to her to-night,' he jaid, 'she will come home from the midnight service in a gentle Christian frame of mind, no doubt, and with a heart above mere riches and worldly advantages. If she. ever feels inclined to love me for myself alone, I think it will be to-night,' 'Good heavens!' I cried, staring at him, 'you never' would be such a fool.' He sighed — then laughed. 'Ah, you don't know what a fool I can be 'when I try,' he said, 'don't give me away, Teddy.' 'George,' I said hastily» 'it is the mad dest idea I ever heard. It isn't fair tp Christina either. She will t)e wild if she hears that you have been deceiving every body. It isn't fair to her— or to your self. You mustn't do it. It's sheer mad ness.' Almost as I spoke the church bells broke into a ringing chime. 'Happy New Year, Teddy,' said Cousin George. CHAPTER II. But he had no opportunity of speaking to her that night, and the next day was the first of the New Year. The Mere beyond the village was frozen enough to skate on, and we were there all the afternoon. Chris tina skated with me and she looked dis tractingly pretty in her chinchilla furs. 1 was more unhappy 'than ever. She was very kind to me — and kinder still to every body else I told hep-^not for the first time — that her eyes were like stars. 'Cousin George says they ai-e like emer alds,' she murmured, 'emeralds are more useful to me than stare, Teddy.' 'Hang Cousin George,' said I, 'do you like to be told that your eyes are green?' 'I like Cousin George,' said 6he, and I wondered to myself how much sbe would like him after the revelation he proposed to make— if he kept his word and did make it. 'He is a fool,' I said to myself, 'but it's his look-out, not mine. After all he's so confoundedly nice himself that she may accept him in spite of the handicap. You never know what a girl will do.' It was a glorious afternoon. A pale sun came out arid turned the lake with its fringe of trees and church spire in the middle distance, to a gl6rified and much -frosted Christmas card. The keen air filled -the lungs and cheered in spite of deep-rooted gloom, and whether Christina intended to marry George or any other affluent person who might ask her, for that ?moment «he was mine, and I made the best of U. 'I wish the ice would give wayand drown tie together,' I thought recklessly. And as we were stating in the loneliest and thinnest parts if was hardly ten minutes before my wish was gratified — in part. Cousin George pulled us out and earned the eternal gratitude of Christina and her relations. The wetting didn't do either of us anv harm, but Christina's manner to rme for ihe rest of the. day was .distinctly reproachful. Sbe Baid I had spoiled her chinchillas, and no doubt her annoyance was fully justified. When I realised that after dinner that very night the prodigal was to speak to her my neart sank. 'He is handsome and. clever,' I . told my self despairingly, 'and he has just saved her life. Above all, be is experienced m the nrt of love-making, which I am not.' After-dinner Cousin George invited Christina to play billiards with him, -and I gave myself up to the inevitable with grim ?despair. It wae an '.hour before I heard the billiard-room, door open and Christina run. upstairs, and when the pro? digal- came into the drawing-room again I saw with gloomy satisfaction that he looked .grave and unhappy. ??-??. 'Had a good game?' «a}dBaiy. 'Pretty fair,' eaid Cousin George. ,.: Billy- chuckled. ? : ?:... . . ..-. , 'I suppose Chria- beat you,' he said, 'she's a demon at billiards is Chris. And at other things, too.' . ? 'Yes,' said Cousin George, with a quick glance at mcjj'at other things,, too/' . He came into my room that night and found me smoking over my. gas fire. 'Well?' said I. ...:,- He sat down and lit a cigarette. . .. : 'All up/' said he. ;?...'':-',-??. I-was fiilent fo,r some minutes after he bad spoken. : -.r ?-: - ' -.? \ 'Did you tell bet all that fairy tale about die penniless prodigal?' I, asked-slowly. 'Y«b,' *aid CpusiiijrGfiprge, -.'-3 told her everything.' ???- ,': .,-. ? -.' : 'What did she say?' .-?-,. ??-. Cousin George mghed.- . ~ ? - - 'Reproached mo with my villainy . and deceit, of course. Said- the pioney was nothing to her, but ;lke deceit was everyr tljingF- ?-. . '- -?- '-- ????? -... ,;. '?' 'daid she say she didn^t care iot your/ latfced. - - i . ?: 'TJof said Cousin George, with- a side glance at me/?'sJ»e didn't say that' ;, ?;?? :-?? 'Then if you hadn't invented all that rubbish you think she might have accepted 3,-ou.V*

. 'I am almost sure of it,' said Cousin George. I arose in eome agitation to look for an ashtray. ' „ 'What do you think yourself?' he asked. 'I think you are a fool,' said I. 'I don't want her to marry me for my money,' he. said, with another curious glance at me. 'She will never marry you for your sense,' I answered with some asperity, ic's not fair to the girl, George, I'm banged if it is.' 'l think I'll go to bed,' he said gravely. 'Good-night. Teddy.' 'Good-night/' said I shortly., — For some reason I couldn't sleep that night. There seemed to be some unplea sant thing to be done, and my conscience, which is a sickly one at the best of times, informed me that I ought to do it. 'It isn't fair to her,' I thought miser ably, 'and it isn't fair to him. Christina must be told the truth before it is too late.' And the very next afternoon I found .Christina in the drawing-room alone and made up my mind to do the only thing my conscience would be satisfied with. 'Chris,' I said quietly, taking a chair very near to her, 'I want to tell you something.' She looked up quickly and half smiled. 'About Cousin George,' said I. 'Oh,' said she, and her eyes fell. 'Yesterday,' said I, 'he made a confes sion to you. 'He dbd,' said Christina coldly. 'He told you that he was an impostor and a fraud, and that he had come back to England almost as penniless as he went away. 'Yes,' said Christina. 'That confession,' said I, 'was a fairy tale! He wanted to try your love; he wanted to have an equal chance with — with others. The poor chap had a kind of wild idea that he wanted to be loved for him self alone. He is a good 6ort, Christina.' Christina breathed a deep sigh. 'Either I am going mad or you are,' she said; 'or^-but why do you tell me this, Teddy?' in a low voice. I laughed bitterly. 'Heaven knows,' said I, 'unless it is be cause I have some sense of decency about me. It— its not an easy thing to do, Christina.' Christina glanced at me queerly. 'I'm glad of that,' she said, 'would you like me to describe my— my interview with Cousin George myself, Teddy? You have heard his account. How would you like to hear mine?' 'You can tell me if you like,' said I. 'Cousin George appears to be misleading you,' she said slowly, 'for some reason. The first thing he told me yesterday was— that — that he loved me and wanted me for his wife.' 'Of course,' said I impatiently. Christina went on slowly. 'Then he made what he called his con fession'; said he was a pauper and 'had deceived me, and could I ever love a poor man?' 1 laughed bitterly. He had kept his word. 'How did you answer him?' I asked. 'I was very, very angfy' she said in a low voice, 'with his deceit and told him that I could never think of marrying him.' 'Well?' I asked eagerly. She looked very grave. . 'Then he gave a hateful kind of laugh and cried out that that was all a fairy-tale about the deceit and offered me his money as— as an inducement,' he said. 'He told me that he could afford to buy me anything in the world I set my heart on, and— and he advised me not to listen, on any account if a — a poor person should ask me. because' it would only mean unhappiness for both of us. That was what Cousin George said to me yesterday, Teddy.' I gazed at her in amazement. 'The deuce be did,' said I. 'Yes,' said Christina. ' 'What answer did you give?'* I asked -slowly, 'to such a magnificent offer as that.' Christina was silent, but I knew. 'Why did you refuse him?' I asked' with a sudden overwhelming rush . of joy to my heart. Still she did not speak. I ..took her', hand in mine and to: my as tonishment ipe did not draw it away. ''Did you tell him the truth?' I asked with a happy laugh. 'What truth?' she whispered. fThat you refused him .because^ — you— cared for — someone else?' ' Byt at. this unlucky moment Cousin George came into the drawing-room. Christina snatched away her hand and in wardly I cursed the penitent -prodigal. He came un with a pleasant smile. 'Explanations, I hope,' said he. We stared- at him. What had - be 'meant, I wondered, by lying so disgracefully to me? I ought to have known that be would naturally make out as good «? case for him self as' possible. ? ??? ? '?'?' -''. 'I ddri't' understand you,' I. said coldly. .Christina' didn't speak.- '?' - i . -? . Cousin ; George leaned back in his com fortable cbair and laughed, ? ' ', -'itjrufes/i'jl better tell the : whole story,' ..he said^ ? '.'!' ' . ' ? ' Y.J-.' I sheered as unpleasantly 'as I could:'. ? -..'I am not in. the liumor for any. .more fairy tales,' I eaid with dignity. .; Chris tina,, ,«yed. him. with severe- disapproval '! 'wae i gladyrtd^seP.- - .. * . '. ?'* ?'.-? ?? - -?-.?.- , . , 'I guess you'll be interested if you listen/' said Cpusitt f George. ,- . ??? :' ' -I eniffed;! so did Chrlateoa. ? , ? ??.-. 'Twenty years ago,' ho said sadly, 'a poor -boy was branded as a black- sheep and kicked out of. bis. native country ior a reason Trfriph is hardly worth nieritioning.' ' 'You had better not mention it,' I Baid haetily. 'before Christina.' Cousin George smiled*

'He ran a bit wild and had a good time as a spirited lad will, and his people, es pecially hie Cousin William, who was Christina's father, made the devil of a fuss over nothing. ' I beg your pardon, Chris tina, for swearing.' 'Teddy swears sometimes,' sbe mur mured softly, 'and Billy often. Go on, Cousin George.' He went on. 'So they hounded him out of the counj try — thie poor young prodigal; and drove him away— to tlie dogs, as they thought.' With much annoyance I saw that Chris tina was gazing at the black sheep with deep sympathy. 'But he didn't go to the dogs. He went instead to New Zealand and made money out of sheep. Heaps and piles of money, until he was satisfied and began to think of home. He was almost afraid to think of it because of the reception he expected.' 'Poor prodigal,' -said Christina gently. 'Hang the prodigal,' said I to mvself. 'He forgot,' continued Cousin George, with a twiukle in his eye, 'that time wince out a good deal in the way of back sliding, and that money, if there is enough of it, buries the rest comfortably in ob livion.' We were silent. 'The prodigal was received with open arms,' said Cousin George, 'especially by his Cousin William, and he made up his mind that if he could give any poor young fellow a helping hand with his superfluous means, he would do it for tlfe sake of that miserable black sheep hounded out of his native country in poverty and- disgrace and received back with so much kindness— in his prosperity.' I stared at liim and wondered what on earth he was coming to. 'Christina^ father was the first person to curse me when I disgraced the family,' Cousin George continued, 'and when I came back — in affluence, Christina's father was the, first to open his arms in welcome. If I can do a good turn to him or any of his family,' I said to myself, 'it shall be done.' Chrktina gave him a quick startled glance. The prodigal went on— 'I looked about me,' he said elowly, 'and the first thing I could Bee was a boy end girl head over ears in love with ~eacu other, and not a penny in the world to 'help them to happiness.' I looked at Christina and laughed. Quite openly she put her hand back in mine and Cousin George sighed and went on — 'Here,' said I to myself, 'is- your chance, George, my man. Christinas father la anxious that his girl Bhall be well satisfied and a straightforward, pleasant young chap is badly in want of help!' Christina laughed, but I was silent. There was something in Cousin George's look and tone I didtvt quite understand. 'But first,' said Couein George, 'I had to find out whether the two young peopld deserved to be helped.' 'Oh!' said I slowly. 'First,' said he, 'I tried the boy's met tle by telling him that I wae going to be- little myself in the girl's eyes by confessing a eham deceit, and asking her to marry mo under even greater disadvantages than hid own.' 'Good heavens!' cried I, 'so that was it.' 'Secondly, I tempted the girl by. the offer of wealth beyond the dreams of something or other.' 'My goodness,' said Chrirtina, 'if I'd only known.' 'And both came through t*ie ordeal with flying colors,' said Cousin George, with a whimsical smile. . 'I'm getting on in years now,' hfe saip sadly. I looked at him in amazement. He ; couldn't nave been a day more than forty* 'And I've no one to leave my money to, I thought once of adopting an orphan, but since I came home I've changed my mind. I shall adopt you two.' 'What do you mean?' 1 cried. Ho smiled again. , 'Don't you want to marry Christina .' ufl asked. 'Of course, but ? \_ ? 'Yon shall. And I will provide for you r-handfiomely. Also I will square Chris tina's father,' he said slowly with, peculiar emphasis. Afterwards I understood what thk meant. ? ? For a month after that we lived in a whirl of preparation. Cousin , George j wanted us to W married at once and h(S » had an interview with Christina's father, 1 wliich made both her parents beam upon S our engagement; Five hundred a year, be ' was going to give' us, and a -third of that was to be settled upon Christina. A houep was taken for us, with the understanding that- in our chimney corner there was always to be room for Cousin : George. ' Everybody said it was the prettiest wed» ding in the world, and Christina's father. gave us a cheque which, from a man of liifl habits, was art eye-opener. The only thing which mfifl-ed the perfect arrangements of, the day was 'tne fact that/Cousin , George , sprained bis -anide and couldn't come. It* ? 'also caused the- postponement of t certain- , necessary legal -matters, although, of .course* it could not postpone the wedding itself.. ; But when we drove back to the house wp found a note from him to Christina's father, which explained everything. : ? : - f 'Dear CouBin i William— By tlietinie yoa get thie I shall be on my way home, with .'.. ^satisfaction of feeling that I have spent every penny 'otiny savings., had a! very *leaeant Christmas holiday, and made two deserving people1 happy for life: ffr.- ? ?? ? ? 'I have, no inoney, but anr happy \ic) know .that all ?yduri: kindness to me/ past and present, is rewarded as richly: as .it de* serves. ' ; I hope Christina will bo happy, J would have married her. myself 5f eha would have hod me, but she declined- the ?' honor, and considering all things, perhaps ifc -- ' js aa well, If Teddy finds he can't keep a wife in luxury on three pounds a week, no

, doubt you will \Mp-hini;-mt with \j'-m usual generosity.— Your affectionate and 1JnitefiaC0U8ia' ^^OEOBXSE. *TJ3.--By ibis 3*sddy will see that the only true story I have told is the fairy- ? tale.' ? ;-«£,v' ??'?/;.? ''.?''' .*' ,?'':??$