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ou’re alive or dead?” “My dear chap, the only thing that the Bolinghams have ever worried about as far as little Anthony Christopher’s concerned was that he2

87 mightn’t have the grace to die before one of his waggish pranks landed him in jail or actually cost them something in pounds and shillings instead of mere lamentations! That’s why I gratified them by throwing over my share of the title when I came of age. Lord Anthony, what? No, thanks. But it’s all too clear that you don’t know Aunt Pamela and Aunt Clarissa, the last of the Bolingham vestals, or those splendid fellows, Roderick, Cyril, and Oliver.” “Good-night, I’d hate to be as bitter as that about my worst enemy.” Ledyard’s honest drawl was chilled and thoughtful. “Bitter? About my priceless family?” His careless mirth flooded the quiet room. “No, I swear that’s good! Why, my child, I revel in ’em; I ha

ve ever since Oliver used to jerk me out of bed at two in the morning to wallop the everlasting soul out of me because he’d lost at écarté—ragging along all the time about how it was his sacred duty as head of the Bolingham family to see that I learned not to disgrace it again by getting in through the scullery window at nine o’clock of a fine August night. I wasn’t more than three feet high, with a face no bigger than a button, but I couldn’t keep it straight then and I can’t keep it straight now when I thin

k of that enormous red mug of his with all those noble sentiments pouring288 out of

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it—and the harder he walloped and the nobler he gabbled, the more I knew he’d lost. I was Satan’s own limb even in those days, and he generally managed to dig

up some excellent and fruity reason for improving the witching hours with a boot-strap, but it undeniably was one on both of us that the night that he lost one hundred and thirty-seven golden guineas I’d been in bed in a state of grace since early dawn, with a nice bit of fever and a whopping toothache.” “And just what did he do about that?” inquired Ledyard grimly. He did not seem to be as carried away by the humour of the situation as the Honourable Tony, whose carved dimples had become riotous at memory. “Oh, you simply have to credit Noll for resource—he trounced the skin off me for adding hypocrisy to my list of iniquities! And there was I, innocent a

s a water baby of guilt or guile for twenty-four priceless hours—you’ll have to admit that it was a good one on me. I’ve taken jolly good care from that day to this that I didn’t let a night come around without deserving a simply first-rate caning, let me tell you!” Ledyard made a gesture of fierce disgust. “Do you mean to tell me that your own brother beat you night after night and no one lifted a hand to stop him?” 289 “Oh, well, come, who do you think was going to stop him?” inquired the Honourable Ton

y with indulgent amusement. “After all, the noble Duke had a fairly good right to

see that a cheeky brat learned all of the sacred traditions of the family from th

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e sacred head of the family, hadn’t he? Well, rather! All the more to his credit that the little jackanapes wasn’t his own brother.” “Wasn’t?” echoed Ledyard blankly. “Oh, com

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e, come—you don’t mean to say that no one’s told you the true history of the little black sheep rampant on the Bolingham ar

ms? No? Oh, I say, I am let down—— I thought all you chaps used to jaw about it for hours between flights! No one even said a word about it down the river? Well, there’s glory for you; it begins to look as though I’d won your kind attentions under entirely false pretences, my dear

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