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CHAPTER XXIII.

A LITTLE INNOCENT.

"EGAD, Strong," one day the Baronet said, as the pair were conversing after dinner over the billiardtable, and that great unbosomer of secrets, a cigar; “Egad, Strong, I wish to the doose your wife was dead."

“So do I. That's a cannon, by Jove! But she won't; she'll live forever — you see if she don't. Why do you wish her off the hooks, Frank, my boy?” asked Captain Strong.

“Because then you might marry Missy. She ain't bad looking. She'll have ten thousand, and that's a good bit of money for such a poor old devil as you," drawled out the other gentleman. “And egad, Strong, I hate her worse and worse every day. I can't stand her, Strong; by gad, I can't.”

"I would n't take her at twice the figure," Captain Strong said, laughing. “I never saw such a little devil in my life.”

“I should like to poison her,” said the sententious Baronet; “by Jove I should.”

“Why, what has she been at now?” asked his friend.

“Nothing particular," answered Sir Francis; "only her old tricks. That girl has such a knack of making everybody miserable that, hang me, it's quite surprising. Last night she sent the governess crying away from the dinner-table. Afterwards, as I was passing

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the lates, hang me, itoto her ?

Frank's room, I heard the poor little beggar howling in the dark, and found his sister had been frightening his soul out of his body, by telling him stories about the ghost that's in the house. At lunch she gave my lady a turn; and though my wife's a fool, she's a good soul — I'm hanged if she ain't.”

“What did Missy do to her ? " Strong asked.

“Why, hang me, if she did n't begin talking about the late Amory, my predecessor," the Baronet said, with a grin. “She got some picture out of 'The Keepsake,' and said, she was sure it was like her dear father. She wanted to know where her father's grave was. Hang her father! Whenever Miss Amory talks about him, Lady Clavering always bursts out crying: and the little devil will talk about him in order to spite her mother. To-day when she began, I got in a confounded rage, said I was her father, and -- and that sort of thing, and then, sir, she took a shy at me.”

“And what did she say about you, Frank ?" Mr. Strong, still laughing, inquired of his friend and patron.

“Gad, she said I was n't her father; that I was n't fit to comprehend her; that her father must have been a man of genius, and fine feelings, and that sort of thing; whereas I had married her mother for money.”

“Well, did n't you ?” asked Strong.

“ It don't make it any the pleasanter to hear because it's true, don't you know," Sir Francis Clavering answered. “I ain't a literary man and that; but I ain't such a fool as she makes me out. I don't know how it is, but she always manages to - to put me in the hole, don't you understand. She turns all the house round her in her quiet way, and with her confounded sentimental airs. I wish she was dead, Ned."

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