Page:What will he do with it.djvu/81

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And so departed Lionel Haughton upon an emprise as momentous to that youth-errant as Perilous Bridge or Dragon's Cave could have been to knight-errant of old.

"Before we decide on having done with each other, a short visit,"—so ran the challenge from him who had everything to give unto him who had everything to gain. And how did Lionel Haughton, the ambitious and aspiring, contemplate the venture in which success would admit him within the gates of the golden Carduel an equal in the lists with the sons of paladins, or throw him back to the arms of the widow who let a first floor in the back streets of Pimlico? Truth to say, as he strode musingly towards the station for starting, where the smoke-cloud now curled from the wheel-track of iron, truth to say, the anxious doubt which disturbed him was not that which his friends might have felt on his behalf. In words, it would have shaped itself thus,—"Where is that poor little Sophy! and what will become of her—what?" But when, launched on the journey, hurried on to its goal, the thought of the ordeal before him forced itself on his mind, he muttered inly to himself, "Done with each other; let it be as he pleases, so that I do not fawn on his pleasure. Better a million times enter life as a penniless gentleman, who must work his way up like a man, than as one who creeps on his knees into fortune, shaming birthright of gentleman or soiling honour of man." Therefore taking into account the poor cousin's vigilant pride on the qui vive for offence, and the rich cousin's temper (as judged by his letters) rude enough to resent it, we must own that if Lionel Haughton has at this moment what is commonly called "a chance," the question as yet is not, What is that chance? but, What will he do with it? And as the reader advances in this history, he will acknowledge that there are few questions in this world so frequently agitated, to which the solution is more important to each puzzled mortal than that upon which starts every sage's discovery, every novelist's plot,—that which applies to MAN'S LIFE, from its first sleep in the cradle, "WHAT WILL HE DO WITH IT?"