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dice, he could defy, not with airs of importance, but with easy
indifference. He could bear most things good-humoredly where he felt that he had the superiority. The object of the meeting was discussed, and the memorial agreed upon without any clashing. Mr. Lingon was gone home, but it was expected that his concurrence and signature would be given, as well as those of other gentlemen who were absent. The business gradually reached that stage at which the concentration of interest ceases—when the attention of all but a few who are more practically concerned drops off and dispenses itself in private chat, and there is no longer any particular reason why every body stays except that every body is there. The room was rather a long one, and invited to a little movement: one gentleman drew another aside to speak in an undertone about Scotch bullocks, another had something to say about the North Loamshire Hunt to a friend who was any thing but goodlooking, but who, nevertheless, while listening, showed his strength of mind by giving a severe attention also to his full-length reflection in the handsome hall-mirror that filled the space between two windows. And in this way the groups were continually shifting.
But in the mean time there were moving toward this room at the White Hart the footsteps of a person whose presence had not been invited, and who, very far from being drawn thither by the belief that he would be welcome, knew well that his entrance would, to one person at least, be bitterly disagreeable. They were the footsteps of Mr. Jermyn, whose appearance that morning was not less comely and less carefully tended than usual, but who was suffering the torment of a compressed rage, which, if not impotent to inflict pain on another, was impotent to avert evil from himself. After his interview with Mr. Transome there had been for some reasons a delay of positive procedures against him by Harold, of which delay Jermyn had twice availed himself; first, to seek an interview with Harold, and then to send him a letter. The interview had been refused—the letter had been returned, with the statement that no communication could take place except through Harold's lawyers. And yesterday Johnson had brought Jermyn the information that he would quickly hear of the proceedings in Chancery being resumed—the watch Johnson kept in town had given him secure knowledge on this head. A doomed animal, with every issue earthed up except that where its enemy stands, must, if it has teeth and fierceness, try its one chance without delay, and a man may reach a point in his life in which his impulses are not distinguished from those of a hunted brute by any capability of scruples. Our selfishness is so robust and manyclutching, that, well encouraged, it easily devours all sustenance away from our poor little scruples.
Since Harold would not give Jermyn access to him, that vigorous attorney was resolved to take it. He knew all about the meeting at the White Hart, and he was going thither with the determination of accosting Harold. He thought he knew what he should say, and the tone in which he should say it. It would be a vague intimation, carrying the effect of a threat, which should compel Harold to give him a private interview. To any counter-consideration that presented itself in his mind—to any thing that an imagined voice might say--the imagined answer arose, “That's all very fine, but I'm not going to be ruined if I can help it, least of all, ruined in that way.” Shall we call it degeneration or gradual completion—this effect of thirty additional winters on the soft-glancing, versifying young Jermyn?
When Jermyn entered the room at the White Hart he did not immediately see Harold. The door was at the extremity of the room, and the view was obstructed by groups of gentlemen with figures broadened by overcoats. His entrance excited no peculiar observation: several persons had come in late. Only one or two, who knew Jermynwell, were not too much preoccupied to have a glancing remembrance of what had been chatted about freely the day before-Harold's irritated reply about his agent from the witness-box. Receiving and giving a slight nod here and there, Jermyn pushed his way, looking round keenly, until he saw Harold standing near the other end of the room. The solicitor who had acted for Felix was just then speaking to him, but, having put a paper into his hand, turned away; and Harold, standing isolated, though at no great distance from others, bent his eyes on the paper. He looked brilliant that morning; his blood was flowing prosperously. He had come in after a ride, and was additionally brightened by rapid talk and the excitement of seeking to impress himself favorably, or at least powerfully, on the minds of neighbors nearer or more remote. He had just that amount of flush which indicates that life is more enjoyable than usual; and as he stood, with his left hand just playing with his whisker, and his right holding the paper and his riding-whip, his dark eyes running rapidly along the written lines, and his lips reposing in a curve of good - humor which had more happiness in it than a smile, all beholders might have seen that his mind was at
Jermyn walked quickly and quietly close up to him. The two men were of the same height, and before Harold looked round Jermyn's voice was saying, close to his ear, not in a whisper, but in a hard, incisive, disrespectful, and yet not loud tone,
“Mr. Transome, I must speak to you in private."
The sound jarred through Harold with a sensation all the more insufferable because of the revulsion from the satisfied, almost elated state in which it had seized him. He started and looked round into Jermyn's eyes. For an instant, which seemed long, there was no sound between them, but only angry hatred gathering in the two faces. Harold felt himself going to crush this insolence; Jermyn felt that he had words within him that were fangs to clutch this obstinate strength, and wring forth the blood and compel submission. And Jermyn's impulse was the more urgent. He said, in a tone that was rather low, but yet harder and more biting,
“You will repent else—for your mother's sake."
At that sound, quick as a leaping flame, Harold had struck Jermyn across the face with his whip. The brim of the hat had been a defense. Jermyn, a powerful man, , had instantly thrust out his hand and clutched Harold hard by the clothes just below the throat, pushing him slightly so as to make him stagger.
By this time every body's attention had been called to this end of the room, but both Jermyn and Harold were beyond being arrested by any consciousness of spectators.
“Let me go, you scoundrel !” said Harold, fiercely, “or I'll be the death of you.”
“Do,” said Jermyn, in a grating voice ; “ I am your father."
In the thrust by which Harold had been made to stagger backward a little, the two men had got very near the long mirror. They were both white; both bad anger
and hatred in their faces; the hands of both were upraised. As Harold heard the last terrible words he started at a leaping throb that went through him, and in the start turned away from Jermyn. He turned it on the same face in the glass with his own beside it, and saw the hated fatherhood reasserted.
The young strong man reeled with a sick faintness. But in the same moment Jermyn released his hold, and Harold felt himself supported by the arm. It was Sir Maximus Debarry who had taken hold of him.
“ Leave the room, sir !" the baronet said to Jermyn, in a voice of imperious scorn. “This is a meeting of gentlemen.”
“Come, Harold,” he said, in the old friendly voice, "come away with me.”