begged me to step into the house; his house it is now. It appears the scoundrel has saved a great deal of money whilst in my uncle's service, and is now a capitalist and a millionaire, for what I know. Well, I went into the house, and what do you think he told me? This must be a secret between us all -- at least if we can keep it, now that it is in the possession of that villain. Blanche's father is not dead. He has come to life again. The marriage between Clavering and the Begum is no marriage."
"And Blanche, I suppose, is her grandfather's heir?" said Warrington.
"Perhaps: but the child of what a father! Amory is an escaped convict -- Clavering knows it; my uncle knows it -- and it was with this piece of information held over Claveringin terrorem that the wretched old man got him to give up his borough to me."
" Blanche doesn't know it," said Laura, "nor poor Lady Clavering?"
"No," said Pen; " Blanche does not even know the history of her father. She knew that he and her mother had separated, and had heard as a child, from Bonner her nurse, that Mr. Amory was drowned in New South Wales. He was there as a convict, not as a ship's captain, as the poor girl thought. Lady Clavering has told me that they were not happy, and that her husband was a bad character. She would tell me all, she said, some day: and I remember her saying to me, with tears in her eyes, that it was hard for a woman to be forced to own that she was glad to hear her husband was dead, and that twice in her life she should have chosen so badly. What is to be done now? The man can't show and claim his wife: death is probably over him if he discovers himself: return to transportation certainly. But the rascal has held the threat of discovery over Clavering for some time past, and has extorted money from him time after time."
"It is our friend Colonel Altamont, of course," said Warrington: I see al now."
"If the rascal comes back," continued Arthur, " Morgan, who knows his secret, will use it over him -- and having it in his possession, proposes to extort money from us all. The d -- -- d rascal supposed I was cognisant of it," said Pen, white with anger; "asked me if I would give him an annuity to keep it quiet; threatened me, me, as if I was trafficking with this wretched old Begum's misfortune; and would extort a seat in Parliament out of that miserable Clavering. Good heavens! was my uncle mad, to tamper in such a conspiracy? Fancy our mother's son, Laura, trading on such a treason!"
"I can't fancy it, dear Arthur," said Laura; seizing Arthur's hand, and kissing it.
"No!" broke out Warrington's deep voice, with a tremor; he surveyed the two generous and loving young people with a pang of indescribable love and pain.
"No. Our boy can't meddle with such a wretched intrigue as that. Arthur Pendennis can't marry a convict's daughter; and sit in Parliament as Member for the hulks. You must wash your hands of the whole affair, Pen. You must break off. You must give no explanations of why and wherefore, but state that family reasons render a match impossible. It is better that those poor women should fancy you false to your word than that they should know the truth. Besides, you can get from that dog Clavering -- I can fetch that for you easily enough -- an acknowledgment that the reasons which you have given to him as the head of the family are amply sufficient for breaking off the union. Don't you think with me, Laura?" He scarcely dared to look her in the face as he spoke. Any lingering hope that he might have -- any feeble hold that he might feel upon the last spar of his wrecked fortune, he knew he was casting away; and he let the wave of his calamity close over him. Pen had started up whilst he was speaking, looking eagerly at him. He turned his head away. He saw Laura rise up also and go to Pen, and once more take his hand and kiss it. "She thinks so too -- God bless her!" said George.
"Her father's shame is not Blanche's fault, dear Arthur, is it?" Laura said, very