train drew up to the platform, Ernest's eye ran hurriedly over the few people who were in the station. His father's well-known form was not among them, but on the other side of the palings which divided the station yard from the platform, he saw the pony carriage, looking, as he thought, rather shabby, and recognized his father's coachman. In a few minutes more he was in the carriage driving towards Battersby. He could not help smiling as he saw the coachman give a look of surprise at finding him so much changed in personal appearance. The coachman was the more surprised because when Ernest had last been at home he had been dressed as a clergyman, and now he was not only a layman, but a layman who was got up regardless of expense. The change was so great that it was not till Ernest actually spoke to him that the coachman knew him.

`How are my father and mother?' he asked hurriedly, as he got into the carriage. `The Master's well, sir,' was the answer, `but the Missis is very sadly.' The horse knew that he was going home and pulled hard at the reins. The weather was cold and raw - the very ideal of a November day; in one part of the road the floods were out, and near here they had to pass through a number of horsemen and dogs, for the hounds had met that morning at a place near Battersby. Ernest saw several people whom he knew, but they either, as is most likely, did not recognize him, or did not know of his good luck. When Battersby church tower drew near, and he saw the Rectory on the top of the hill, its chimneys just showing above the leaf-less trees with which it was surrounded, he threw himself back in the carriage and covered his face with his hands.

It came to an end, as even the worst quarters of an hour do, and in a few minutes more he was on the steps in front of his father's house. His father, hearing the carriage arrive, came a little way down the steps to meet him. Like the coachman he saw at a glance that Ernest was appointed as though money were abundant with him, and that he was looking robust and full of health and vigour.

This was not what he had bargained for. He wanted Ernest to return, but he was to return as any respectable, well-regulated prodigal ought to return - abject, broken-hearted, asking forgiveness from the tenderest and most long-suffering father in the whole world. If he should have shoes and stockings and whole clothes at all, it should be only because absolute rags and tatters had been graciously dispensed with, whereas here he was swaggering in a grey ulster and a blue and white neck-tie, and looking better than Theobald had ever seen him in his life. It was unprincipled. Was it for this that he had been generous enough to offer to provide Ernest with decent clothes in which to come and visit his mother's death-bed? Could any advantage be meaner than the one which Ernest had taken? Well, he would not go a penny beyond the eight or nine pounds which he had promised. It was fortunate he had given a limit. Why he, Theobald, had never been able to afford such a portmanteau in his life. He was still using an old one which his father had turned over to him when he went up to Cambridge. Besides, he had said clothes, not a portmanteau.

Ernest saw what was passing through his father's mind, and felt that he ought to have prepared him in some way for what he now saw; but he had sent his telegram so immediately on receiving his father's letter, and had followed it so promptly that it would not have been easy to do so even if he had thought of it. He put out his hand and said laughingly, `Oh, it's all paid for - I am afraid you do not know that Mr Overton has handed over to me Aunt Alethea's money.'

Theobald flushed scarlet. `But why,' he said, and these were the first words that actually crossed his lips - `if the money was not his to keep, did he not hand it over to my brother John and me?' He stammered a good deal and looked sheepish, but he got the words out.

`Because, my dear father,' said Ernest, still laughing, `my aunt left it to him in trust for me, not in trust either for you or for my Uncle John - and it has accumulated till it is now over £70,000. But tell me, how is my mother?"

`No, Ernest,' said Theobald excitedly, `the matter cannot rest here, I must know that this is all open and above board.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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