"By all that is amazing, I believe you are insane, my son. See here --have you been training with that ass again--that radical, if you prefer the term, though the words are synonymous--Lord Tanzy, of Tollmache?"

The son did not reply, and the old lord continued:

"Yes, you confess. That puppy, that shame to his birth and caste, who holds all hereditary lordships and privilege to be usurpation, all nobility a tinsel sham, all aristocratic institutions a fraud, all inequalities in rank a legalized crime and an infamy, and no bread honest bread that a man doesn't earn by his own work--work, pah!"--and the old patrician brushed imaginary labor-dirt from his white hands. "You have come to hold just those opinions yourself, suppose,"--he added with a sneer.

A faint flush in the younger man's cheek told that the shot had hit and hurt; but he answered with dignity:

"I have. I say it without shame--I feel none. And now my reason for resolving to renounce my heirship without resistance is explained. I wish to retire from what to me is a false existence, a false position, and begin my life over again--begin it right--begin it on the level of mere manhood, unassisted by factitious aids, and succeed or fail by pure merit or the want of it. I will go to America, where all men are equal and all have an equal chance; I will live or die, sink or swim, win or lose as just a man--that alone, and not a single helping gaud or fiction back of it."

"Hear, hear!" The two men looked each other steadily in the eye a moment or two, then the elder one added, musingly, "Ab-so-lutely cra-zy-ab-solutely! "After another silence, he said, as one who, long troubled by clouds, detects a ray of sunshine," Well, there will be one satisfaction--Simon Lathets will come here to enter into his own, and I will drown him in the horsepond. That poor devil--always so humble in his letters, so pitiful, so deferential; so steeped in reverence for our great line and lofty-station; so anxious to placate us, so prayerful for recognition as a relative, a bearer in his veins of our sacred blood-- and withal so poor, so needy, so threadbare and pauper-shod as to raiment, so despised, so laughed at for his silly claimantship by the lewd American scum around him--ah, the vulgar, crawling, insufferable tramp! To read one of his cringing, nauseating letters--well?"

This to a splendid flunkey, all in inflamed plush and buttons and knee-breeches as to his trunk, and a glinting white frost-work of ground-glass paste as to his head, who stood with his heels together and the upper half of him bent forward, a salver in his hands:

"The letters, my lord."

My lord took them, and the servant disappeared.

"Among the rest, an American letter. From the tramp, of course. Jove, but here's a change! No brown paper envelope this time, filched from a shop, and carrying the shop's advertisement in the corner. Oh, no, a proper enough envelope--with a most ostentatiously broad mourning border--for his cat, perhaps, since he was a bachelor--and fastened with red wax--a batch of it as big as a half-crown--and--and--our crest for a seal!--motto and all. And the ignorant, sprawling hand is gone; he sports a secretary, evidently--a secretary with a most confident swing and flourish to his pen. Oh indeed, our fortunes are improving over there--our meek tramp has undergone a metamorphosis."

"Read it, my lord, please."

"Yes, this time I will. For the sake of the cat:

14,042 SIXTEENTH. STREET, WASHINGTON, May 2.

It is my painful duty to announce to you that the head of our illustrious house is no more--The Right Honourable, The Most Noble, The Most Puissant Simon Lathers Lord Rossmore having departed this life ("Gone at last-- this is unspeakably precious news, my son,") at his seat in the environs of the hamlet of Duffy's Corners in the grand old State of Arkansas,-- and his twin brother with him, both being crushed by a log at a smoke-house-raising, owing to carelessness on the part of all present, referable to over-confidence and gaiety induced by overplus of sour-mash--("Extolled be sour-mash, whatever that may be, eh Berkeley?") five days ago, with no scion of our ancient race present to close his eyes and inter him with the honors due his historic name and lofty rank-in fact, he is on the ice yet, him and his brother--friends took a collection for it.

The American Claimant Page 04

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