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A Crooked Path A Novel   By: (1825-1902)

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Author of "The Wooing O't," "A Life Interest," Etc.





The London season had not yet reached its height, some years ago, before the arch admitting to Constitution Hill had been swept back to make room for the huge, ever increasing stream of traffic, or the plebeian 'bus had been permitted to penetrate the precincts of Hamilton Place. It was the forenoon of a splendid day, one of the earliest of June, and at that hour the roadway between the entrance to Hyde Park and the gate then surmounted by the statue of the Duke of Wellington on his drooping steed was comparatively free, when two gentlemen coming from opposite directions recognized each other, and paused at the gate of Apsley House the elder, a stout, florid man of military aspect, middle age, and average height, with large gray mustache and small, slightly bloodshot eyes; the younger, who was tall and bony, might have been thirty, or even forty, so grave and sedate was his bearing, although his erect carriage, elastic step, and clear keen dark eyes suggested earlier manhood.

Both had the indescribable well groomed, freshly bathed look peculiar to Englishmen of the "upper ten."

"Ha! Errington! I didn't know you were in town. I thought you were cruising somewhere with Melford, or rusticating at Garston Hall. I think your father expected you about this time."

"I don't think so. I was summoned by telegraph from Paris. My father was seized with a paralysis last week. He had just come up to town, and for a few days was dangerously ill, but is now slowly recovering."

"Very sorry to hear of it. A man of his stamp would have been of immense value to the country. He had begun to take a very leading part in local matters. I trust he will come round."

"I fear he will never be the same again. I doubt if he will be able to direct his own affairs as he used."

"That's bad! You are not in the business, I believe?"

"No; I never took any part in it. I almost regret I did not. It would, I imagine, be a relief to my father, now that his mind is less clear, to know that I was at the helm. But we have a capital man as manager, quite devoted to the house. I shall get my father down to the country as soon as I can, and I trust he'll come round."

"No doubt he will. He was wonderfully hale and strong for his years."

"Ay! how d'ye do, Bertie?" interrupted the first speaker, holding out his hand to a young man who came up from Hyde Park and seemed about to pass with a smile and a nod. "Who would have thought of meeting you in these godless regions? I hear you are busy 'slumming' from morning till night."

"Well, Colonel," returned Bertie a slight, fair, boyish looking man "I am so far false to my new vocation as to have lost some irrevocable moments looking at the horses and horsewomen in the Row."

"Aha! the old leaven, my dear boy! You are on the brink of perdition. Don't you know Bertie Payne?" he continued, to his newly met friend. "He was one of my subs before he renounced the devil and all his works. He was with us at Barrackbore when you were in India."

"I do not think we have met," the other was beginning, when a young lady toward whom the Colonel had already cast some sharp, admiring glances as she stood on the curbstone holding a hand of the smaller of two little boys in smart sailor suits uttered a cry of dismay. The elder child had rushed into the road, as if to stop a passing omnibus, not seeing that a hansom was coming up at speed.

The young man called Bertie dashed forward, and barely succeeded in snatching the child from under the wheel. A scramble of horses' feet, an imprecation or two shouted by the irritated driver, a noisy declaration from the "fare" that he should lose his train, and the scuffle was over... Continue reading book >>

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