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The Queen of Hearts

Brother Griffith's Story Of The Family Secret
Chapter I
WAS it an Englishman or a Frenchman who first remarked that every family had a
skeleton in its cupboard? I am not learned enough to know, but I reverence the
observation, whoever made it. It speaks a startling truth through an appropriately grim
metaphor--a truth which I have discovered by practical experience. Our family had a
skeleton in the cupboard, and the name of it was Uncle George.
I arrived at the knowledge that this skeleton existed, and I traced it to the particular
cupboard in which it was hidden, by slow degrees. I was a child when I first began to
suspect that there was such a thing, and a grown man when I at last discovered that my
suspicions were true.
My father was a doctor, having an excellent practice in a large country town. I have heard
that he married against the wishes of his family. They could not object to my mother on
the score of birth, breeding, or character--they only disliked her heartily. My grandfather,
grandmother, uncles, and aunts all declared that she was a heartless, deceitful woman; all
disliked her manners, her opinions, and even the expression of her face--all, with the
exception of my father's youngest brother, George.
George was the unlucky member of our family. The rest were all clever; he was slow in
capacity. The rest were all remarkably handsome; he was the sort of man that no woman
ever looks at twice. The rest succeeded in life; he failed. His profession was the same as
my father's, but he never got on when he started in practice for himself. The sick poor,
who could not choose, employed him, and liked him. The sick rich, who could--
especially the ladies--declined to call him in when they could get anybody else. In
experience he gained greatly by his profession; in money and reputation he gained
nothing.
There are very few of us, however dull and unattractive we may be to outward
appearance, who have not some strong passion, some germ of what is called romance,
hidden more or less deeply in our natures. All the passion and romance in the nature of
my Uncle George lay in his love and admiration for my father.
He sincerely worshipped his eldest brother as one of the noblest of human beings. When
my father was engaged to be married, and when the rest of the family, as I have already
mentioned, did not hesitate to express their unfavorable opinion of the disposition of his
chosen wife, Uncle George, who had never ventured on differing with anyone before, to
the amazement of everybody, undertook the defense of his future sister-in-law in the most
vehement and positive manner. In his estimation, his brother's choice was something
sacred and indisputable. The lady might, and did, treat him with unconcealed contempt,
laugh at his awkwardness, grow impatient at his stammering--it made no difference to
Uncle George. She was to be his brother's wife, and, in virtue of that one great fact, she
 
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