“No! I’m sure you would not mean it; but, you see, there’s a child coming, and this estate is entailed on ‘heirsmale.’ Now, I want to know if the marriage is legal or not? and it seems to me it’s a ticklish question.”

“Oh!” said Osborne, falling back into repose, “if that’s all, I suppose you’re next heir-male, and I can trust you as I can myself. You know my marriage is bonâ fide in intention, and I believe it to be legal in fact. We went over to Strasbourg! Aimée picked up a friend—a good middle-aged Frenchwoman—who served half as bridesmaid, half as chaperon, and then we went before the mayor—préfet— what do you call them? I think Morrison rather enjoyed the spree. I signed all manner of papers in the préfecture; I did not read them over, for fear lest I could not sign them conscientiously. It was the safest plan. Aimée kept trembling so, I thought she would faint; and then we went off to the nearest English chaplaincy, Carlsruhe, and the chaplain was away, so Morrison easily got the loan of the chapel, and we were married the next day.”

“But surely some registration or certificate was necessary?”

“Morrison said he would undertake all those forms; and he ought to know his own business. I know I tipped him pretty well for the job.”

“You must be married again,” said Roger, after a pause, “and that before the child is born. Have you got a certificate of the marriage?”

“I daresay Morrison has got it somewhere. But I believe I’m legally married according to the laws both of England and France; I really do, old fellow. I’ve got the préfet’s papers somewhere.”

“Never mind! you shall be married again in England. Aimée goes to the Roman Catholic chapel at Prestham, doesn’t she?”

“Yes. She is so good I wouldn’t disturb her in her religion for the world.”

“Then you shall be married both there and at the church of the parish in which she lives, as well,” said Roger decidedly.

“It’s a great deal of trouble, unnecessary trouble, and unnecessary expense, I should say,” said Osborne. “Why can’t you leave well alone? Neither Aimée nor I are of the stuff to turn scoundrels and deny the legality of our marriage; and, if the child is a boy and my father dies, and I die, why I’m sure you’ll do him justice, as sure as I am of myself, old fellow!”

“But if I die into the bargain? Make a hecatomb of the present Hamleys all at once, while you are about it! Who succeeds as heir-male?”

Osborne thought for a moment. “One of the Irish Hamleys, I suppose. I fancy they are needy chaps. Perhaps you are right. But what need to have such gloomy forebodings?”

“The law makes one have foresight in such affairs,” said Roger. “So I’ll go down to Aimée next week when I’m in town, and I’ll make all necessary arrangements before you come. I think you’ll be happier, if it is all done.”

“I shall be happier if I’ve a chance of seeing the little woman; that I grant you. But what is taking you up to town? I wish I’d money to run about like you, instead of being shut up for ever in this dull old house.”

Osborne was apt occasionally to contrast his position with Roger’s in a tone of complaint, forgetting that both were the results of character, and also that out of his income Roger gave up so large a portion for the maintenance of his brother’s wife. But, if this ungenerous thought of Osborne’s had been set clearly before his conscience, he would have smote his breast and cried “Mea culpa!” with the best of them; it was only that he was too indolent to keep an unassisted conscience.

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