A Reed Shaken with the Wind (3).

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CHAPTER XX.


"O Love, O fire! Once he drew
 With one long kiss my whole soul thro'
 My lips, as sunlight drinketh dew."

ALFRED TENNYSON.


    AS the hall-door of No. 10 Grosvenor Crescent was opened to Mr. Lane on the following afternoon, he was informed that Lady Harewood wished to see him alone in her boudoir, into which Watson ushered him with unusual formality, in evident obedience to some special command.

    "I thought it was better to see you at once, Wilfred, as you requested me to do so," said his aunt, and she paused, thinking it would perhaps be better to allow her nephew to open the case himself, for she began to have a strong sense of the difficulty of her own position.

    "After this long separation, which has tested Tiny's feeling for me, I hope you will consent to our marriage, and forgive me for coming to the point at once."

    "My objections are only strengthened," said Lady Harewood, coldly.

    "Surely you will not withhold your consent now I am in a better position?  Indeed I have always regarded it as promised in the event of Tiny's remaining attached to me on her return from Rome."

    "I never made any promise of the kind."

    "But you followed the plan I suggested," said Wilfred firmly, "and that condition was attached to it.  I shall scarcely think that I am fairly dealt by if you still oppose our marriage.  I am aware that Tiny might make a better match in a worldly sense, but you would find it impossible to confide her to any one who will love her more than I do, or seek her happiness more earnestly."

    "I think your professions would be better proved by your yielding at once to the decision I feel bound to make for my daughter's good.  Her father had the greatest possible objection to the marriages of cousins, and I am only acting in accordance with his wishes in opposing yours."

    "That may be," he replied, with warmth, "but my uncle would have had some consideration for his child's affections.  I am sure he would never have sacrificed Tiny's happiness to any theory."

    Lady Harewood was conscious of the truth contained in Wilfred's answer, and, feeling somewhat beaten on this point, she resolved to start another.

    "It is my consideration for Tiny which compels me to remind you, Wilfred, that she has not even had the test of six months' absence from you.  But I will not allow for one moment that, in following out what you are pleased to consider as your suggestion, I am bound by any condition you take the liberty of attaching to it."

    "You surely remember that, after my conversation with Sir Anthony Claypole, the winter at Rome was planned by me, because I felt unwilling to urge that which you so strongly disapproved of, without giving Tiny an opportunity of judging if a marriage (unfortunately in opposition to your wishes) was really essential to her happiness.  Sir Anthony saw me at your request, and when I told him I should consider Tiny free to make any other choice during her absence if you consented not to oppose her ultimate decision, he said I could not do more, and expressed himself perfectly satisfied with my proposal."

    "I had long thought of spending this winter abroad, and it is quite absurd of you to lay such a stress on your having talked it over with Sir Anthony.  I asked him to tell you how undesirable such a marriage was for Tiny, and what an ungrateful return you would make for the kindness I have always shown you, if you persisted in pressing the point, but Sir Anthony had no right to answer for me; I should never authorize any one to do so," and Lady Harewood grew quite angry at the bare idea of such a thing.

    "He did not answer for you, but he said he thought you would see I had acted fairly in allowing Tiny plenty of time to think over the matter; when away from my personal influence."

    "I do not see that your mere separation has much to do with your influence, when you were constantly writing to Tiny, although you knew how I disapproved of your having any communication with each other.  You appear to think that you have acted in a very magnanimous manner, Wilfred, but I confess I fail to see your conduct in that light."

    Wilfred Lane felt thoroughly indignant, for Lady Harewood's tone was even more offensive than her words.  With a great effort he controlled the angry remark which rose to his lips.

    "I do not desire to appear magnanimous, but I have tried to act rightly," he replied, with dignity.  "I felt you had every right to object to my proposal, and, still more, to think that my position had given me an undue advantage over Tiny; I was therefore ready to submit to a fair test, and Sir Anthony considered this was one."

    "I am not bound to agree with even Sir Anthony Claypole's opinion," said Lady Harewood, sententiously, "and I repeat again that, keeping up by your constant letters the feelings you had already excited in Tiny's mind was not, in my opinion, giving her a proper opportunity of testing her feeling for you."

    "Without seeing my letters," said Wilfred, firmly, "I submit that you are unable to judge me fairly."

    "That in itself is a sufficient proof of their nature; Tiny would have shown me her cousin's letters," said his aunt, with an emphasis on the word cousin, and with a manner which, to Wilfred, was intolerable.

    "I think not," he replied, gravely, "and I am not the person who is to be blamed for your daughter's want of confidence in you."

    "Anyhow," said Lady Harewood, angrily, "I have quite made up my mind.  I will never consent to your marriage with Tiny; and I tell you, Wilfred, plainly, that unless you are content to forfeit your position in my house, you must show some deference to my wishes.  If you will promise me to forego this idea with regard to your cousin, I have sufficient reliance on your honour to allow you to visit here on your old footing; but if you persist in persuading Tiny to act in opposition to my commands, it will be my painful duty to deny you the house;" and opening the door which led into the drawing-room as she spoke, Lady Harewood put an end to any further conversation by joining her three daughters, who were talking to the two Miss Cunninghams and Colonel Fitzroy Somerset.

    Wilfred followed his aunt, and when Tiny saw him she read in the troubled expression of his eyes something of the contest which was going on in his mind.

    Sensitive to a degree which would be considered absurd by mere men of the world, the sensitive Wilfred was shrinking from the idea that, in order to secure his own happiness, he must bring dissension into his aunt's house, and that Tiny must defy her mother's commands.  He did not feel, however, in the least disposed to relinquish Tiny, except at her own bidding; he had already sufficiently sacrificed himself and her by this weary separation, and his delicate sense of honour was shocked by Lady Harewood's manner of evading what appeared to him a tacit agreement.

    Feeling disinclined to listen, in his present mood, to the "small talk" which was being carried on very vigorously by his cousins, after a few friendly words with Madeline, he asked Tiny to come down into the library, under the pretext of looking for a book he had lent her; an excuse which was made not to blind her mother, but to avoid exciting in the minds of her visitors any suspicion as to the real state of affairs.

    When Wilfred closed the library-door, and found himself alone with Tiny, in spite of the unpleasant interview which had just taken place, he gave the answers he had promised to her letters, and did not attempt to control the passionate love, repressed during the weary weary weeks which had elapsed since last he stood alone in that room with her.

    "My own darling," he said, as he kissed the head nestling against his shoulder; "if you really love me I will never give you up."

    "Has Mamma consented?" asked his cousin, looking up eagerly into his face; "she was so unkind again last night about it, and said poor Papa would never have agreed to it.  I feel sure Papa would, if he had ever promised to do so, and Mamma ought to be bound by her word, now I have been to Rome."

    "That is just what she disputes," said Wilfred with just indignation; "your mother says that she never made any promise."

    "But she did," persisted Tiny; "I am sure Sir Anthony will think her very wicked for denying it, for he said if I went to Rome for the winter, Mamma would be bound not to oppose us when I came back.  What did she say to you, Wil?"

    Wilfred repeated his whole conversation with Lady Harewood; and when he came to the closing sentence, Tiny's indignation knew no bounds.  She declared she would not remain at home, even if Wilfred agreed to desert her; in less than a month she would be of age, and nothing should induce her to live with her mother after such cruel conduct.

    Tiny relieved her excitement by a good fit of crying, but Wilfred soothed her by the assurance of his love, and promised to induce Sir Anthony Claypole to mediate in the matter.  He could not believe that Lady Harewood would refuse to listen to the representations of the old friend whose counsel she herself had sought, and if she did, Wilfred resolved on taking the matter into his own hands, and securing his own and Tiny's happiness with as little open defiance of the wishes of the family as was consistent with such a course of action.  Kissing away her tears, he assured her that as her happiness was bound up in him, he would allow nothing in the world to separate them for long.

    "You promised me that if I really loved you, nothing should part us, and I claim your promise now," pleaded Tiny, looking up into Wilfred's face in a way which caused his heart to beat quicker than usual, and sent his blood throbbing through every vein.

    "No, my darling," he said, holding her still closer to him; "I will never sacrifice such love as yours for any earthly consideration.  I hardly know how to tear myself away from you now; but if I don't go very quickly, I may lose the chance of seeing Sir Anthony to-day, and it is important to talk to him before your mother sees him, as she doubtless will to-morrow."

    The number of times Wilfred said good-by would have been very inadmissible save in an affianced lover, but he had been parted from Tiny for so long, and had so completely restrained his deep, passionate love, that, now he allowed it expression, he found it difficult to control it at all.

    Before he left, Tiny had taken from his watch-chain the signet ring, with the words "AD FINEM FIDELIS" engraved on the seal, which had belonged to his mother, and which Wilfred had often said should be his first present to his own wife.

    As he placed it on Tiny's finger, she said to him, "Now you will always think of me as your own little wife, Wil; for no horrid wedding breakfast and long white veil will ever make me feel more yours than I do at this very moment."

    "God bless you, my darling one," said Wilfred.  "I hold you to be my own true wife in the sight of God.  I love you with all my heart, Tiny, and long for the hour when I shall call you mine in the eyes of the whole world."


 
CHAPTER XXI.


"Ah me! For aught that ever I could read,
 Could ever hear by tale or history,
 The coui'se of true love never did run smooth."

SHAKESPEARE.


    A HANSOM CAB was standing at the door of Lady Harewood's house as Wilfred made his exit.  It had just deposited Sir Guy Fairfax, who had heard at his club of the Harewoods' arrival from Rome, and had come at once to pay his respects to them.

    Wilfred jumped into the Hansom, and induced the driver to proceed as fast as possible to Hyde Park Gardens, by the promise of an addition to his ordinary fare.  He could not refrain from smiling when he contrasted Sir Guy's probable haste to the house in which he would see Tiny, and his own despatch in leaving it, in order to promote wishes which must put such an effectual barrier to the hopes of his unfortunate but wealthy rival.

    Sir Anthony Claypole was dressing for dinner when Wilfred arrived, but he sent word that if Mr. Lane would wait in the library, he would be with him in a few minutes.

    When he heard the state of the case, he felt very sorry for the young people, and was much perplexed as to the best way of helping them out of their difficulty.  He thought Wilfred had every right to feel aggrieved by Lady Harewood's conduct, and could not wonder at his regarding it as a breach of faith.  He and Tiny had made the sacrifice on the understanding that Lady Harewood would waive her objections, if Tiny was proof against the test Wilfred voluntarily imposed upon her.

    Wilfred had rigidly refused himself much expression of his attachment during her absence, and had forced himself to write cold and cousinly letters; but now, finding that Tiny's heart was so entirely his own, he determined to oppose Lady Harewood's refusal with the same persistency with which he had hitherto controlled himself.

    "You must stay and dine with us, Lane; we are quite alone this evening, and Lady Claypole will excuse your not being in evening dress," said Sir Anthony, after listening to Wilfred's account of his interview with Lady Harewood.  "After dinner we will talk over the matter quietly, and if I can see my way to help you, you may rely on my doing so.  I think you have behaved very well," added the kind old baronet, after a pause, laying his hand on Wilfred's shoulder, "and, by Jove, Lane, your aunt does not know a true man when she sees one; and, as to her talk about good matches," added the honest old baronet in a somewhat scornful tone, "she has never yet managed to marry one of her daughters, with all her efforts, and who knows if Fairfax would really come to the point after all?"

    Now this was a view of the case for which Wilfred was quite unprepared.  He had an idea that every man would come to the point with Tiny, if he had only a chance of doing so.  He had even serious misgivings about Colonel Fitzroy Somerset, who was as innocent of any matrimonial intentions towards Tiny, or her sisters, as any man who had never even seen them.  But, in this matter, Wilfred's love blinded him.  His usually calm judgment was unavailable in more instances than one where Tiny was concerned.

    The dinner passed off rather slowly and stiffly as far as Wilfred was concerned, for though he liked both Lady Claypole and her daughter, he was anxious to talk alone with Sir Anthony over his future prospects and his present position with his aunt.

    After the recent interview in the library, Wilfred knew he could never resume a mere cousinly relationship with Tiny, and though he felt extremely anxious to avoid an open rupture with her mother, he had firmly resolved to submit to no further barrier being placed between himself and that little being who had so thoroughly twined herself round his heart.

    If Lady Harewood persisted in refusing her consent, Wilfred Lane felt he should defy her authority before very long.

    As soon as the ladies had withdrawn, Sir Anthony took Wilfred into a small room, known by the household as "Sir Anthony's Study;" Lady Claypole laughingly called it "The Tavern," for Sir Anthony used it as a smoking-room, and the apparent bookcase it contained, with its handsomely bound backs of volumes, disclosed, when opened by the pressure of a concealed spring at the side, sundry pipes, cigar boxes, tobacco jars, as well as some decanters containing French brandy and Scotch and Irish whiskey.

    Not that Sir Anthony was addicted to drinking spirits, but he always smoked after dinner or before he went to bed, and liked to have something at hand, for the use of guests less abstemious than himself, without the trouble of ringing for his butler.

    Wilfred only drank coffee when he smoked, but it must be confessed that he smoked a great deal.  He had been obliged to do so for his health at first, and had learnt to look upon it as a pure enjoyment very soon.  Besides this, he found that smoking soothed him, and often helped him to get through more work than he fancied he should have done without his pipe.  In his excited nervous state, that evening, he was especially glad of


"Clouds of the peace-breathing Nicotiana,"


and, after an hour spent in Sir Anthony's sanctum, he felt considerably calmer, and far better able to take a hopeful view of his love affairs, though no definite course of action had suggested itself.  Sir Anthony had seen a great deal of his young friend during the past winter, and had formed a very high opinion of his character and intellectual powers, which he thought would some day secure Wilfred Lane a very high position.  He felt more than ever surprised at Lady Harewood's persistent refusal in the face of Tiny's evident attachment, and shocked at her disinclination to keep a promise which once made should have held sacred.  With Tiny's money, and Wilfred's present income, the young people would be far removed from anything like poverty, and a better match, in a worldly sense, was still only problematical.  Sir Anthony Claypole really thought that if Lady Harewood had any sense (and he always had strong doubts upon that point), she ought to be too thankful to secure such a husband for a daughter whose wildness and waywardness might very easily have taken a different and less satisfactory turn.


 
CHAPTER XXII.


"Ah, what will the world say?  The World ― therein lies
 The question which, as it is uttered, implies
 All that's fine or that's feeble in thought or intent."

OWEN MEREDITH.


    SIR ANTHONY CLAYPOLE'S interview with Lady Harewood was not a pleasant one.  He gave her to understand in the most courteous language that he considered she was not dealing fairly by her nephew.  Of course she inwardly resented this interference, and attempted to justify her conduct by reference to the lamented Sir Henry's opinions, whom she always quoted as an authority when she desired to carry a point more than usually unreasonable ― a habit which suggested to his friends the very natural regret, that she had not shown more consideration to her husband's wishes when he was able to define them in person.

    Sir Anthony Claypole apologized for any seeming presumption, but requested Lady Harewood to remember that she had called forth his interference, in the first instance, by persuading him to represent her feelings to Wilfred Lane.  After having induced that young man to propose what appeared to him a fair test of Tiny's affection, he felt himself bound to remind Lady Harewood that the time had arrived when she was called upon to fulfil her part of the bargain, namely, to waive her objections to the marriage, and to show the consideration which, in Sir Anthony's opinion, her daughter's attachment for a man of Lane's high character deserved.

    Lady Harewood made one excuse after another; first as to the time of her daughter's absence falling short of the prescribed six months; next as to Wilfred's letters, and so on through a host of difficulties, such as Tiny's age, her nephew's health, etc.; but she began to see that matters were assuming a serious aspect, and that a persistency in refusing her consent would be probably followed by an open rupture between herself and the Claypoles.

    Sir Anthony did not even appear likely to remain neutral, but would probably support Wilfred and Tiny in their evident intention to disregard Lady Harewood's authority.  Encouraged by this, she felt there was no saying what Tiny might not do, and it would be quite impossible to guess how the affair would end.  Besides the feeling that she should not like to be openly defied by her daughter, the great dread of "what people would say" was always before her eyes.

    The possibility of even a runaway match suggested itself!

    Lady Harewood shuddered at the bare idea of such a scandal!  She knew Tiny would not hesitate about it for a moment ― in fact, such a step would have its attractions for this lawless little individual who was so Bohemian in her tastes; and although she had more confidence in her nephew, still there was a determination about him in their last interview which made Lady Harewood uneasy, for Wilfred had shown by his manner, even more plainly than by his words, that he considered his aunt had broken her promise, and had acted very badly towards both Tiny and himself.

    He might not be capable of running away with his cousin in a base and underhand manner; but Lady Harewood thought him quite headstrong enough to marry Tiny in defiance of her wishes, especially as he declared that she had failed to keep her part of the engagement which he considered existed between them.  If Sir Anthony meant to desert her, and give Wilfred and Tiny his support in this view of the matter, it was clear that something must be done.  So Lady Harewood resolved on a compromise; and, knowing Wilfred's repugnance to set aside a parent's authority, she thought she would gain time by pledging her consent in a year, during which she determined to lose no opportunity of forwarding Sir Guy Fairfax's wishes.

    So, after reiterating her previous objections, and bemoaning afresh over the loss of the lamented Sir Henry's guidance at this critical moment, she promised her consent in a year's time; meanwhile Wilfred should be allowed free access to the house, provided neither he nor Tiny paraded their feelings.  Lady Harewood refused to acknowledge any "engagement," and stipulated that it should never be put forward as such.

    It had taken such a long time to extract this concession, that Sir Anthony Claypole, not being an ardent young lover, but the sober head of a well-organized household, felt disposed to rest satisfied with it.  But he had no inclination again to undertake the task of representing Lady Harewood's sentiments even to her nephew, and thought it wiser under the circumstances to induce her to express them in writing.

    So, before he left Grosvenor Crescent, he secured a promise that she would write to Wilfred, and that the year of probation should date from Tiny's birthday ― the 1st of June.

    And then Sir Anthony made his way down the staircase, resolving he would never again undertake the office which his friendship for Sir Henry Harewood and his interest in Wilfred Lane had in this instance induced him to accept; and he muttered to himself as he walked to his club across the park, "women are queer cattle," a favourite reflection of his, but, happily for him, one which was rarely called forth in his own home.

    The writing of the promised letter was extremely distasteful to Lady Harewood, yet she fell there was no escape from it.  Therefore she resolved to despatch it at once, and then intended to give herself up to the headache which this disregard of her judgment and disrespect for her feelings would of course entail.  So she began accordingly:―


"MY DEAR WILFRED,

    "You are doubtless aware of Sir Anthony Claypole's intercession on your behalf, and, as he was such a respected friend of my dear and lamented husband, I feel anxious to listen to his representations, although obliged to reserve my own judgment.  The responsibility, which rests alone upon me, is very hard for any woman to bear; and is rendered doubly painful by the headstrong disposition of Tiny, which you have, in my opinion, so inconsiderately fostered.  Knowing my child's volatile and excitable nature as well as I do, I cannot possibly consent, in such a hurry, to your wishes, especially as I consider they are most ill-judged.  I do not believe that such a marriage would eventually promote your happiness any more than hers, and I fear you will live to regret your rashness if you follow your own desires in defiance of the mature judgment to which it would only be right for both of you at once to submit.

    "However, as Sir Anthony urges it, ― most reluctantly, and fearing that I am acting in a way which your uncle would not have countenanced, ― I will consent to your marriage in a year from this date, provided that you and Tiny, during that time, appear before the world as cousins, and never, by word or act, pretend that any kind of engagement exists between you.  Upon this condition, I will allow you to visit at my house as before.


"Your affectionate aunt,
                                   "J
ANE HAREWOOD."


    Before this letter reached Wilfred, he received a visit from Sir Anthony, who warned him of its contents, and advised him to avoid a family scandal by the acceptance of terms which appeared to Wilfred exceedingly hard.  Lady Harewood was, in Sir Anthony's opinion, the most impracticable woman he had ever met in his life; and he considered any reasonable concession a great deal more than could be expected from her.  Anyhow, he totally declined to undertake further negotiations.  Wilfred Lane must either accept what Sir Anthony had, with so much difficulty, wrung from her ladyship after three hours' talking, or else manage his affairs for himself.

    So, when his aunt's epistle came, Wilfred felt disposed to be thankful that, in the absence of special directions from the "lamented Sir Henry," Lady Harewood had refrained from taking the patriarch Jacob for her example, and commanded her unlucky nephew to wait seven years for his Rachel, and then married him to Charlotte instead.

    A year was not so very long after all, and it was not as if he were to be altogether shut out from Tiny's society.  He was to have free access to Grosvenor Crescent, and could see her every day.  Then, too, he would be able to save more money, and when the time came for the marriage, would be better able to make a comfortable home for his wife.

    After all, the waiting was harder for him than for Tiny; a reflection which again disposed Wilfred to a plan which not only avoided a family quarrel, but (what appeared to him a far more serious thing) an open and undutiful revolt on Tiny's part against her mother's authority.

    When Wilfred told Tiny that Lady Harewood had been with difficulty persuaded to promise her consent in a year's time, and of the condition she imposed upon them meanwhile, that young lady was by no means pleased.  And as to "their friends not knowing they meant to marry each other," she thought it "sheer nonsense," and held up the little ring on her engaged finger most defiantly.

    But after a conversation with Lady Harewood matters were finally arranged.  Wilfred and Tiny agreed to act in society scrupulously as cousins, whatever they chose to consider between themselves; and if, on the 1st of June in the following year, they still sought her consent to their marriage, Lady Harewood promised to withdraw all opposition, and to allow it to take place without further delay.


 
CHAPTER XXIII.


    "The stronger will always rule, say some, with an air of confidence which is like a lawyer's flourish, forbidding exceptions, or additions.  But what is strength?  Is it blind wilfulness that sees no terror, no many-linked consequences, no bruises or wounds of those whose cords it tightens?  Is it the narrowness of a brain that conceives no needs differing from its own, and looks to no results beyond the bargains of to-day; that tugs with emphasis for every small purpose, and thinks it weakness to exercise the sublime power of resolved renunciation?  There is a sort of subjection which is the peculiar heritage of largeness and of love; and strength is often only another name for willing bondage to irremediable weakness."

GEORGE ELIOT.


    FROM this moment Wilfred Lane never doubted Tiny's love.  The proofs she had given of her attachment for him during her absence in Rome, and the difficulty he had to persuade her to submit to her mother's subsequent decision, made it impossible for him to suspect the depth of her affection, though her mother and her sisters evidently entertained a very different estimate of its value.

    The year's waiting was very trying; for Wilfred Lane was a man who didn't care for the things which make the life of a bachelor very pleasant in London.  He hated the butterfly existence which so many are content to lead, and longed for the pure and steady influence of a home he could call his own, sweetened and sanctified by the presence of the woman he could honour as well as love.

    Wilfred had not been without temptations, and to some of these he had succumbed; but he had never revelled in wickedness as many of his companions did, nor dissipated his affections by flirtations with every girl who came within reach of his attractions.  The only strong feeling he had ever had, and to which, alas! he had fatally yielded himself, was for a young and fascinating woman, whose husband cruelly neglected her; and into whose society Wilfred had been most perilously thrown at an age when he was most liable to fall a prey to an influence exerted over him without intermission or remorse.

    But years had passed since he had broken this spell, though the memory of it often haunted him still.  Once he spoke of it to Tiny, for the remembrance sometimes made him feel unworthy of the pure love which she lavished upon him.  To his surprise Tiny appeared to know a great deal about it; for, although Wilfred was aware that the tale had come to Lady Harewood's ears, he was hardly prepared to find it had been made the subject of conversation with his young cousins.

    Tiny, however, dismissed the unpleasant story as a thing of the past, and Wilfred felt that this early attachment had not really diminished his power of loving this pure true-hearted girl who pledged herself to become his wife.  Perhaps it even made him more capable of appreciating the feeling with which he regarded his cousin; he loved her with the same passionate intensity, but the passion was sanctified by the completeness of the union to which they both aspired.

    Whenever he could leave his work, Wilfred made his way to Grosvenor Crescent, and shared with Tiny all the pleasures he allowed himself; and though they studiously avoided in society showing that a closer and stronger link than mere cousinhood bound them to each other, Tiny would often hold up her hand, when she saw Wilfred look at her, as if to assure him that the meaning of the ring she wore was never absent from her mind.

    The pleasant readings, and the visits to the old haunts in search of favourite pictures, were all resumed, for Lady Harewood certainly kept to her promise of never attempting to control them.

    "Society" troubled itself very little about the matter; people had always been accustomed to see Wilfred Lane with the Harewoods, and this constant attendance on Tiny excited little or no remark.

    Of all the strange things of which this world is full, the unwarrantable power of will seems the strongest.  Wilfred Lane's feeling for Tiny could scarcely be called simply love; it was the moral harnessing of a whole being to the will of another.  As the action of the noblest horse is controlled by a slight leather, so is often the human heart by the will, which unconsciously (and in that often lies the secret of its power) directs it to the right and left at pleasure; and it is often the finer nature which is subjected to this magnetic power of will.

    It was wonderful to see how completely Wilfred was swayed by Tiny.  She was a wilful little maiden, with such coaxing winning ways, that she invariably did exactly what she liked with every one but her own mother.

    For a long time Wilfred thought that all this would be altered when Tiny became his wife; but this was the license young ladies were allowed to indulge in towards their lovers; and as Tiny in general only required some little sacrifice of his personal wishes, he was ready enough to yield; but occasionally a sense of disappointment flitted across his mind.

    There were also several subjects of dispute in the home circle.  Tiny's determination to absent herself from the balls and parties, at which she knew Wilfred would not appear, gave her mother great displeasure.

    These were the very places to which Lady Harewood was most anxious to take her, especially when there was the remotest chance of meeting Sir Guy Fairfax, who was kept in blissful ignorance of the understanding, or, as Tiny would have it, of the engagement between herself and her cousin.

    Lady Harewood appealed to Wilfred; but as Tiny made her health a plea for not going into hot and crowded rooms, he declined to interfere in the matter.

    Sir Guy Fairfax, however, had other opportunities given him, of which he took every advantage, and at last Wilfred could not refrain from feeling sorry for the young man; for it appeared unfair of his aunt to encourage him so openly, when she knew the state of Tiny's mind precluded all hope of the result for which Fairfax was now so earnestly and honestly striving.

    Concealment and secrets of all kinds were foreign to Wilfred's nature; knowing that both he and Tiny regarded themselves as pledged to each other, Wilfred often felt he acted dishonourably in even consenting to pass as her mere cousin.

    The season, at last, came to an end.  The last dinner engagement had been kept; the last ball had afforded the dancers, for the first time, sufficient space to enjoy themselves; the opera was about to commence its series of "cheap nights," and the West End of London was beginning to look deserted.

    Tiny and Wilfred were looking forward to a delightful expedition, which had been planned especially for their benefit by the thoughtful kindness of the good-natured Sir Anthony Claypole, who had invited the Harewoods to go with him for a cruise, in his yacht, as soon as Wilfred Lane could get leave of absence from the War Office.


 
CHAPTER XXIV.


"No, there's nothing half so sweet in life
 As love's young dream,"

MOORE'S IRISH MELODIES.


    ONE Saturday afternoon in August, Lady Harewood, Madeline, and Tiny met Wilfred at the London Bridge station, and travelled together to Gravesend.

    Sir Anthony, at first, proposed to start from Southampton, but had ordered his yacht round to Gravesend, out of deference to Lady Harewood, who hated railway travelling as heartily as she considered it ladylike to hate anything.

    Sir Anthony and Miss Claypole awaited their friends' arrival on board the Highflyer, where they found an excellent dinner ready for them, during which Sir Anthony advised his guests to drink plenty of champagne, recommending it as the best possible thing to enable them to maintain their reputation as good sailors.

    After dinner every one came on deck, and soon the yacht gave sundry signs of "getting under weigh," and, before long, she was moving slowly down the Thames.  Tiny showed a singular inclination to improve her geographical knowledge, and Wilfred found plenty of occupation in telling her the names of the different places they passed on each side of the river.  There was a splendid moon that night, and long after Lady Harewood retired, her daughters and Miss Claypole remained on deck with the two gentlemen, enjoying the calm beauty of the evening, and rejoicing in the thought of the freedom which would be theirs for the next four weeks.

    London, with its close stifling atmosphere, and its still more stifling conventionality, was surely, if slowly, being left behind, and now that Lady Harewood ― the only element which reminded them of that oppressive atmosphere ― was safely shut up in her cabin, a more congenial party could hardly have been found.

    The time slipped away so pleasantly, that it was nearly twelve o'clock before even Madeline suggested that they ought to think of following her mother's example; but they were all so loth to go below, that they agreed to cast lots as to who should repeat a favourite poem, and sing a song in order to gain a few more moments' enjoyment of the exquisite starlight night.

    Strangely enough, and to the great satisfaction of the ladies, the lots fell upon the two gentlemen; Sir Anthony caused considerable merriment by immediately serenading London in Lord Byron's words, "Isle of beauty, fare thee well," to a new and original melody; after which Wilfred appropriately repeated Heine's delightful lines on the wisdom of the stars:


"The flowerets sweet are crushed by the feet,
     Fall soon, and perish despairing;
 One passes by, and they must die,
     The modest as well as the daring.

 The pearls all sleep in the caves of the deep.
     Where one finds them, despite wind and weather;
 A hole is soon bored, and they're strung on a cord.
     And there fast yoked together.

 The stars are more wise, and keep in the skies,
     And hold the earth at a distance;
 They shed their light in the heavens so bright,
     In safe and endless existence."


    With many lingering good-nights and regrets the first happy evening of the yachting excursion came to an end, the deck was deserted, and the friends separated for the night.

    When the morning dawned, every one on board the Highflyer realized the fact that they were "at sea;" for the wind had risen during the night, and the little yacht was tossing and dancing about off the South Foreland in anything but a pleasant manner, and beating to windward in a way enough to discomfort any ordinary landsman.  The ladies were far too sick and sorry to leave their berths; and though Wilfred just managed to get on deck, and was trying to put a good face on the matter, any ardour for salt water, with which he had started, seemed permanently cooled; and he was forced to confess to himself that he was glad there was no one to witness his discomfiture, or notice the pertinacity with which he held on to the side of the vessel.

    Even Sir Anthony Claypole's affection for the sea was of the most subdued and sober description; and his position as host made him feel somewhat guilty of the miseries old Father Neptune was inflicting on his confiding guests.

    The weather continued, in nautical language, so exceedingly "foul," and the ladies so hopelessly sick, that the Highflyer put back into the first convenient harbour.  An hour after she was fairly anchored in quiet waters, one pale face after another appeared on deck, until the whole party reassembled, but in very different spirits to those in which they had separated the night before.

    A walk on shore, however, revived those who felt strong enough to take it; and some cold chicken and champagne, the first food any of them had tasted that day, completed the cure.

    Sir Anthony allowed his friends to retire to rest in the happy belief that they should remain all night in the harbour; but as the wind had changed at sunset, he determined to put out to sea, for the captain thought they could manage to reach Southampton soon after daybreak.  The whole party slept so soundly that they were unconscious of the movement of the vessel, and to their delight and surprise they breakfasted the next morning in Southampton waters.

    Finding he had such a sorry set of sailors for his guests, and that their notion of yachting was to hasten on shore at the first opportunity, Sir Anthony Claypole resolved to sacrifice his own intentions of a more extended cruise; and, to make the month's holiday as enjoyable as he could, he determined to hover between Cowes, Ryde, and Freshwater, and to explore the interior of the island, using the yacht chiefly as a movable sleeping-place.

    Tiny was in the wildest spirits; she and Wilfred delighted in the most perfect freedom, for there was no Sir Guy Fairfax or "society" at hand to oblige them to keep forever on their guard lest they should break the compact to which Lady Harewood compelled such a rigid outward adherence.

    During the last week of their stay at Cowes, the Ariel, General Hallyburton's yacht, anchored in the night next to the Highflyer.

    The General was an old friend of Sir Anthony's, and shortly after breakfast the Ariel's boat pulled alongside, and he came on board, accompanied by his yachting companion, Captain Foy.

    When Tiny saw Captain Foy she was so completely taken by surprise, that Wilfred's attention was attracted by her nervousness and evident want of ease.  Captain Foy was, of course, perfectly self-possessed; he knew that Lady Harewood and her daughters were cruising in the Highflyer: and had quite recovered from the fears which induced him to avoid Tiny immediately after the vehement Windsor flirtation, and finding a long sail with General Hallyburton somewhat dull, he sighed for the variety which the proximity of the Harewoods seemed likely to afford.

    So, after the first greetings were over, he warmly seconded a proposed excursion to the back of the island, where they all had mutual friends, on whose hospitality they contemplated throwing themselves for a few hours during the middle of that day.

    This was no sooner planned than put into execution, and the whole party landed before eleven o'clock at the point to which the steward had already been despatched to meet them with carriages for the day's expedition.

    Somehow or other Tiny took her place in the carriage containing Lady Harewood and Sir Anthony, and Captain Foy quickly availed himself of the fourth seat, compelling Wilfred, to his great disgust, to join Miss Claypole, Madeline, and General Hallyburton.  Later on in the day, as they all walked on the Downs at Freshwater, Wilfred told Tiny they must manage better in going back, but strange to say she did not appear half so eager about it; and while final arrangements were being made with the hostlers who had taken charge of the horses, the ladies settled themselves in their different places for the homeward drive, and returned as they came, with the exception of Sir Anthony and his daughter, who changed places at the last moment, to enable the former to drive back in the same carriage with General Hallyburton.  Before the friends parted, Sir Anthony promised, if the wind proved fair, to bring his guests the following day on board the Ariel, for a sail as far as the Needles.

    The day's expedition certainly did not seem so successful to Wilfred Lane as it promised to be when they all left the yacht that morning; and Tiny apparently was indulging in the same reflection.  Anyhow she was clearly out of spirits, and unusually thoughtful and silent.

    After dinner every one came on deck; the evening was peculiarly still and lovely, and the new moon exquisitely beautiful.

    Talking over the events of the day, Lady Harewood expressed her astonishment at finding Captain Foy had never been engaged to Miss Peel, notwithstanding the rumours they had heard to that effect, during the season previous to their visit to Rome.  Tiny's face flushed as her mother spoke; rising from her seat, she complained of being chilly, and began to walk up and down the deck.

    In a few minutes Wilfred joined her, but neither of them seemed inclined to talk.

    Tiny had already begun to be conscious of a return of the old Windsor feeling, and, in spite of herself, she was engrossed in wondering over the state of Captain Foy's mind.  Perhaps, after all, thought Tiny, he had mistaken the way in which she regarded him; and his apparent sentiment for Miss Peel was a mere screen for the disappointment he experienced when he thought he had failed to reach her heart.  She recalled many little speeches she had made, which might easily have been misinterpreted; and ended by thinking that, but for these, Captain Foy would long ago have declared his love.  Of course he was too proud and sensitive to risk a proposal, when she always made a point of turning his attempts at tenderness into ridicule, or else appeared annoyed and offended by the very words she longed to hear from his lips!

    Wilfred and Tiny had ceased to pace the deck, and were now leaning over the side of the yacht.  The foolish little maiden had just arrived at the conclusion that she had given Captain Foy a lifelong sorrow as well as herself, and that she was alone to blame for their mutual disappointment, when Wilfred took her hand and pointed to the beautiful reflection of the moon, and the sparkling ripples of the water.

    For the first time Tiny impatiently repulsed his affection.

    "I am so tired to-night," she said, somewhat peevishly, drawing away her hand.  "I wish you would go and talk to the others; my head aches, and I want to be quiet."

    Wilfred left her, and, asking leave to light his cigar, sat down by Madeline.

    For some time he smoked in silence, wondering over Tiny's pale face and irritable manner.  He felt certain something had moved her deeply, and yet he could not imagine what it was, for he never dreamt that day of connecting Tiny's change of mood with Captain Foy's presence or absence.

    Very shortly there was a general move, and Tiny, instead of staying behind as she was accustomed to do, for a few minutes' talk with Wilfred, went below with the others, only wishing him and Sir Anthony, who was also smoking, a careless good-night as she passed them.

    The next day's sail opened Wilfred's eyes to one fact.  He could not tell what had gone before, but certainly, at the present moment, Captain Foy paid Tiny very marked attention, and she betrayed a greater interest in him than Wilfred thought her relation with himself and acquaintance with Foy at all warranted.

    This went on for days; for if General Hallyburton and his guests were not on board the Highflyer, Sir Anthony and his party sailed in the Ariel, or they made some inland excursion together.  All this time Tiny successfully eluded being alone with Wilfred without appearing to do so intentionally.

    One bright morning, when Wilfred came on deck, he could not suppress a feeling of satisfaction on discovering that the Ariel had forsaken her moorings.  He knew by this that General Hallyburton had carried his threat into execution, and sailed at daybreak for Cherbourg.

    Before Foy could return, the Highflyer would have left for Dartmouth, according to the arrangement of the previous night.  For once Wilfred blessed Lady Harewood for carrying her point about seeing the Devonshire coast, which she had done rather in opposition to the rest of the party, who were evidently in favour of still coasting round the Isle of Wight.

    Tiny's apparent indifference when Sir Anthony announced at breakfast the departure of his friends somewhat re-assured Wilfred, who straightway accused himself of mean and jealous feelings, unworthy of himself and of his love and devotion for Tiny.

    It had been agreed the day before that the two yachts should sail together to Ryde, unless the Cherbourg plan came off, which Captain Foy heartily hoped it would not.  So the Highflyer was already under weigh before breakfast was finished, and a fair wind soon brought her within a convenient landing distance from the pier.

    Just as they were preparing to leave the yacht, Tiny excused herself from going on shore, on the plea of a headache, and when Wilfred offered to stay with her, she for once heartily echoed her mother's objection, and declined his proposal on the ground that she would be more likely to get better if left quite alone.

    So they started without her; but to Wilfred the day was thoroughly spoilt.  He had looked forward to it so eagerly, directly he found the Ariel had set sail for Cherbourg, hoping that the happy freedom of the first fortnight would return.

    There were atmospheric clouds, too, about, which threatened to damp their pleasure after another fashion, and the party returned to the yacht much sooner than they had intended.

    When Wilfred saw Tiny he felt certain that she had been crying.

    At dinner, however, she seemed in her usual spirits, and lingered on deck as before, when her mother and Madeline retired.

    Sir Anthony and his daughter were talking over some second post letters which had only just been brought on board, and Wilfred took this opportunity to ask Tiny suddenly, as he drew her hand within his arm for a walk up and down the deck, what had made her look so unhappy?

    The question seemed to startle her; acting on the impulse of the moment, as she generally did, Tiny told Wilfred the whole story about Captain Foy; confided to him her feelings during the winter spent at Windsor, and her subsequent doubts and disappointment.

    She was so perfectly engrossed with her own thoughts that she was utterly unconscious of the effect of her disclosure upon her cousin.  But when Wilfred asked her if Captain Foy had now told her that he loved her, his voice was so unlike his own that Tiny looked up in his face, and the pain she read in it awoke within her a sudden sense of the sorrow she had inflicted upon him.

    "Oh, Wil," she cried, "I know I have done what is wrong.  I ought not to have concealed this from you; many many times I have longed to tell you, but the words have died on my lips.  I could not bear that any one should know about it.  And there is nothing to know," she added, passionately, "for he has never said that he loved me."

    "There is something for me to know, Tiny," he replied, his voice trembling with suppressed emotion.  "If you have such a feeling for this man, how can you say you love me?"

    "I do love you, Wilfred; but it is not exactly the same.  I never could care for two people in the same way.  Don't blame me," she said, clinging with both hands round his arm, and looking up eagerly into his eyes, "don't blame me for not having told you.  I thought I never should see him any more, and that he would marry Miss Peel.  And I have felt so happy in loving you ― "

    She paused as if she had not finished her sentence.

    "Until you saw him again," said Wilfred, calmly.

    Tiny burst into tears.

    They were standing on the side of the vessel, looking towards Ryde; Sir Anthony and his daughter had already gone below, and they had the whole deck to themselves.

    Presently Tiny looked up.

    "You are not angry with me, Wil, darling?  I can't help it; you see it was before I cared for you.  I did not know how weak I was till I saw him again, but it will be all right soon," she added, in a firmer tone.

    "It can't be all right, Tiny, if you feel this now.  But, thank God," he exclaimed, with great effort controlling his own feeling, "it has come in time.  You are still free.  Your mother was right, after all," he added, with a sigh.

    "But you will not leave me, Wil?  He has never said he loved me, and I don't believe he does.  Don't leave me, Wilfred," she continued vehemently, "now that I feel as if I wanted you more than ever."

    Before Wilfred could reply he became conscious of the presence of a third person.  Madeline came with a message from her mother, who considered it unwise for Tiny to stay so late on deck after her indisposition; and whilst she waited for her sister, Tiny had only just time to whisper, "Don't say a word till I speak to you to-morrow, Wil, darling," and, with the most affectionate look she had given him since the Ariel came into Cowes, she disappeared down the cabin stairs.

    Wilfred Lane felt bewildered.  He had never thought it possible that Tiny would prove faithless to him, nor imagined her capable of such a concealment; nor had he ever doubted that she had given him her first and best affection.  It was a new revelation, and one which scattered all his previous belief in Tiny's disposition and character.

    He paced up and down the deck hour after hour, thinking over what he had heard that night; scarcely able to realize that Tiny had ever cared for any one but himself.  When he recalled her tenderness to him, and the letters she had written from Rome, it was impossible to believe she had ever loved another.

    Since the day Tiny had worn his mother's ring Wilfred had regarded their union as indissoluble, in spite of Lady Harewood's opposition.  Tiny's unexpected confession respecting a love which was not the growth of to-day, but which had existed even before she consented to be his wife, and which it seemed to him she had strangely nourished ever since, absolutely stunned him.

    His thoughts beyond this took no definite shape; he never attempted to consider how to act with regard to their present relative position, or Captain Foy's ultimate intentions towards Tiny.  He had to grow familiar with one great fact, which stood out clear at last; his belief in Tiny's first love was a delusion.  She had deceived him, and he had deceived himself.

    He could think no more; but as he rested his head against his hands, which were clasped round a rope above him, the pain of parting at Folkestone, and the desolateness of the winter which followed while Tiny was in Rome, seemed nothing to his present misery.

    Presently he was startled by a hand laid on his shoulder, and, turning round, he saw Sir Anthony, who exclaimed, "Why, Lane, whatever are you doing?  It is just five o'clock, and you have never been to roost."

    Wilfred stammered out as an excuse that he had been restless; that, as he shared Sir Anthony's cabin, he feared to disturb him, and therefore had remained on deck.

    "My head aches, too," he added, "and I thought the cool air would do me good, but I'll go and turn in now, and perhaps I shall sleep it off."  And Wilfred moved away, glad to escape any further questioning.


 
CHAPTER XXV.


"Alas! how easily things go wrong,
 A sigh too much ― or a kiss too long ―
 And there comes a shower and a driving rain,
 And life is never the same again.

 Alas! how hardly things go right,
 'Tis hard to watch through the summer night,
 For the kiss will come, and the sigh will stay,
 And the summer night is a winter day."

GEORGE MACDONALD.


"People are always talking of perseverance, courage, and fortitude; but patience is the finest and worthiest part of fortitude ― and the rarest too."

JOHN RUSKIN.


    AT breakfast Wilfred's countenance bore but little trace of the suffering he had gone through during the night.  Had any one noticed him particularly, they would have remarked he was more silent than usual; but as he was never a great talker, his silence was unobserved on this occasion.

    Tiny, however, was in the best of spirits, and surprised everybody by her outbursts of fun and merriment.  It seemed impossible that beneath this joyous exterior she could be enduring much mental pain, and Wilfred began to think he had exaggerated the matter in his own mind.  But then again came the recollection that for all these months Tiny, while professing to treat him with entire frankness, had concealed from him the very fact that she had ever cared for any man except himself, and Wilfred was exceedingly troubled as he thought of this.

    By eleven o'clock the yacht was under weigh, and a smart steady wind bore her on towards Portland.  As far as outward circumstances went, this was one of the pleasantest sails they had yet made, but everything seemed changed to Wilfred.  All the joy and brightness he had known during the last few weeks was gone.  There was a dull leaden pain in his heart, and a dark though undefined dread over-clouded the future which but yesterday seemed charged with happiness.

    The first moment that he was alone with Tiny she slipped her hand in his, and said in her gentlest voice, "Wilfred, I am so sorry I made you unhappy last night; I should have told you ages ago, but for this; and now I have spoken, I dare say you have lost all confidence in me?"

    "No, Tiny; but you have surprised me so much that I don't know what to think, except that you must be free, after what you have told me.  I don't want to blame you, darling, but you never should have hidden it from me."

    "I was afraid to tell you, Wilfred, because I thought how it would be.  You don't love me any longer, I see," and Tiny looked into his eyes with an eager longing gaze.

    "Yes, Tiny, I do love you ― it would seem as easy to root out my heart itself as to root out the love it holds for you.  I should not feel the misery I do, in the thought that I have not the power to make you happy, if I did not love you."

    "But you do make me happy," she answered impulsively.  I have been happier and better ever since you loved me, and till this week I never thought that other feeling would come back."

    "Then your feeling for this man has come back to you?" asked Wilfred, in a tone which betrayed his suffering.

    "Not exactly come back to me," she answered thoughtfully.  "I don't know how it is, but it seems impossible to shake off altogether the remembrance of that winter at Windsor."

    Tiny's hand with Wilfred's ring on it was in his own as she spoke; as she finished her sentence, he said quietly, "Let me put this back on my chain, Tiny; you must indeed be free; there could be no happiness for either of us in this now.  We have made a mistake, but it is not yet too late for you."

    "Oh, Wil; how can you be so cruel?  I wish I had never told you.  I do not seem able to make you understand me.  It is not that I love Captain Foy; it was only the remembrance of the past which upset me while he was here.  You know what a strange mind I have, and sometimes I think if I could only tell whether he loved me or not I should feel quite content; but now I cannot help dwelling on it, and all the little things he used to say.  It was very wicked of him," said Tiny, pensively, "to seem so miserable whenever I would not walk or ride with him, if he did not really care for me.  What did he mean by it, Wilfred?"

    "How can I tell you, Tiny?" he answered, betraying for the first time an impatience it was hard to restrain as his cousin's selfishness became too palpable for even his deep love to remain blind to it any longer; "I know so little of this man, and love you so much, that I am no judge.  I can scarcely even tell what is best for us; but you must be quite free.  Give me back the ring, Tiny; now I know of your feeling for Captain Foy I dare not ― will not claim your sweet promise to be my wife."

    "That is just what I feared" ― and Tiny grew quite pale and shook with her little piteous sobbing ― "and that is why I never told you before; it is cruel, Wilfred, of you to forsake me now, just when I want you more than ever."

    "I don't forsake you, child," cried Wilfred; "God knows I want your happiness before my own!  I love you well enough to wish to see you happy in your own way; but I never thought that happiness would be apart from mine."

    "But it is not, Wil; I never could do without you; have patience with me," pleaded Tiny.  "I don't know what brought up this old feeling, and I was very foolish to tell you of it last night.  Oh, Wil, it seems so cruel to think you will love me less now.  I will not give you back my ring," she added with a vehemence which startled Wilfred; "I could not do without you!"

    Neither of them spoke for a few minutes, until Tiny said in a quiet tone, "I don't think, Wilfred, men ever do understand women.  I thought you would; but you don't seem in the least to know what I really feel."

    "Tiny, you cannot love me and Captain Foy; the thing is impossible.  One of us must give place to the other."

    "But he has never said he loved me," persisted Tiny.

    "But you love him," replied Wilfred, as if the very words scorched him.

    "No, I don't," Tiny answered, as if she had that very moment arrived at that conclusion.  "I have a strange interest in him; whatever happens I shall have that all my life.  He was the first to awaken in me any real feeling, and that is what you, as a man, cannot understand.  No girl can ever be quite the same again."

    "You ought to have told me of this before, Tiny, and not have allowed me to believe that my love first called forth yours.  And you seemed ready enough to give it when I asked it from you."

    "If you had come to me as a stranger, Wil, it would have been very different; but my affection for you as a cousin led me on step by step, until unconsciously you crept into my heart. You came to me as the best and highest influence I ever had in my life. Don't forsake me, Wil; I think I should grow wicked if you left me now. Why should you not love me all the same? I am the same as I was yesterday; the only difference is that you know more of me than you did. It ought to show you," said Tiny, in a pleading voice, and looking up at him with her old passionate expression, "how much I love you and have trusted you."

    Wilfred Lane did not quite see this, but he felt the power of Tiny's fascination.  Perhaps she was right, and that he could not enter into a girl's inmost heart.  It did not seem, however, as if Captain Foy loved Tiny; it was more than probable that he had only trifled with her after the fashion of men of his kind.

    And then, too, Tiny evidently depended on him for support; she had even pleaded for his love; how could he be so base and cruel as to desert her in such need?  Had everything in his own life been so clear and blameless that he should claim as his lawful due the first undivided affection of this girl, and because he found that another man had once had power to move her, was it generous of him to say "I also will give you up"?  It would be quite another thing if Captain Foy had claimed the love he had awakened; then Wilfred's path would have been very clear; he must have accepted his own misery at once, and perhaps in time his heart might have ached less when he remembered that each pang it suffered secured his darling's happiness.

    To leave her now, was only to make her position more difficult.  If Captain Foy really loved her, he would return and say so, for, as he had no idea of Tiny's engagement, ― there was nothing to prevent his coming forward.

    But Wilfred could not help thinking Captain Foy never intended to come forward.  He therefore resolved to do as Tiny asked him; she might keep his ring, but he would consider her free.

    He would do still more.  As far as he could compass it, she should have fair play.  His love for Tiny was deep enough to enable him to sacrifice himself.

    After a day at Portland, the Highflyer cruised round the Devonshire coast for a week.  The morning after she reached Plymouth, Sir Anthony received a letter from his wife, telling him that she was glad his month's yachting had nearly come to an end, for she had been very sick, and during the last few days had been obliged to call in the family physician.  As Sir Anthony believed that more people "died of the doctor" than "by the visitation of God," this information naturally made him anxious; so it was settled that Margaret should go to London by train, and rejoin her mother at once, while her father returned with the rest of the party, via Southampton, for which place they set sail the same evening.

    It was naturally a matter of constant pain to Wilfred to see how completely all Tiny's thoughts were taken up in the feeling which she had expended on one who was in his opinion utterly unworthy of them.  And sometimes it was almost more than he could bear to listen to her continual perplexities about the meaning of some trivial circumstance, which had been treasured up in her mind as something of great consequence ― for, now that the ice was broken, Tiny did not scruple to confide to Wilfred, with a frankness which utterly amazed him, every little incident which happened that winter, including even the secret meetings in the shrubberies, and Captain Foy's parting kiss.

    Few men would have borne this with such perfect self-command; but Wilfred seldom betrayed to Tiny the pain she inflicted upon him.  His love for her was of too deep and unselfish a nature to admit of his shrinking from any suffering which might give his darling even an instant's relief.

    Sometimes Wilfred Lane thought that the very repression of Tiny's past feeling had tended to foster it; at any rate he hoped that the complete confidence which now existed between them would tend to increase her trust in him.  He could not doubt that she had by degrees given him a far stronger affection than mere cousinship warranted, and he earnestly prayed for that day to come when Tiny's little mind would cease to be disquieted at all about this Captain Foy.  Her perfect openness with him certainly seemed a rivet in the chain which bound them together, and, resting content with this reflection, Wilfred shut his eyes to any future sorrow he might be heaping up for himself.


 
CHAPTER XXVI.


                                "Places are too much
    Or else too little, for immortal man;
Too little, when love's May o'ergrows the ground,
Too much, when that luxuriant robe of green
Is rustling to our ankles in dead leaves.
'Tis only good to be or here or there.
Because we had a dream on such a stone,
Or this or that, ― but, once being wholly waked
And come back to the stone without the dream.
We trip upon't, alas, and hurt ourselves;
Or else it falls on us and grinds us flat.
The heaviest gravestone on this burying earth."

MRS. BARRETT BROWNING.


WEEK after week flew by, but Captain Foy never made his appearance in Grosvenor Crescent.  The Harewoods knew he had not returned in the Ariel to Cowes, for they had seen General Hallyburton again, at the Claypoles', who told them that his guest had deserted him at Cherbourg, having met a friend who persuaded him to join in a walking tour through Normandy.

    Lady Claypole had quite recovered from her indisposition, and all the Harewoods and Wilfred Lane were dining at Hyde Park Gardens in order to talk over the "cruise in the Highflyer," when General Hallyburton happened to look in for a quiet smoke with his friend in "the tavern," and was at once brought upstairs into the drawing-room, as a person immediately concerned with the cruise in question.  So he contributed his share to the evening's entertainment, in which was included much information about Captain Foy.

    But this was soon after their return from the yacht.  Since then Tiny had heard from the Howards that Captain Foy was in town and had been there on the previous Sunday.  So it became evident that he was least in no hurry to call on the Harewoods.

    Gradually Tiny's mind seemed to settle down; her speculations respecting Captain Foy's past, present, and future intentions became less frequent, and her anxiety to hear about him perceptibly diminished.  Wilfred Lane at last fancied himself in sight of the "promised land" which he had striven so hard to win, and he really thought the time was not far distant when his darling's undivided affection would be his own.

    Towards the end of October the Harewoods again left town, and were scattered about the country, visiting different friends.

    One of the last visits Madeline and Tiny intended to pay together was to The Cedars.  Mrs. Wroughton's former kindness to Tiny made it quite impossible for her to go on inventing excuses, whenever an invitation to spend a few days at Windsor arrived.  Her sisters had already remarked upon former evasions, and Charlotte often called Tiny very ungrateful for not caring to go to her old friends.  So, in spite of Tiny's unwillingness, a visit was at last arranged.  She and Madeline engaged to spend a week at The Cedars, where Lady Harewood and Charlotte were to join them for a few days, after which they were all to return to London together.

    As the carriage which had been sent to meet them at the Windsor station drove rapidly into the park gates, there was a keen and frosty feeling in the air, which reminded Tiny vividly of the visit she seemed destined never to forget.  Her heart beat with a thousand recollections which instantly crowded upon her, and she almost felt as if she could not bear to see the place which was full of such sweetly bitter memories.  As she turned her face away from the path which led down to the lake, where she and Captain Foy used to go and feed the lonely black swan who had lost his mate, her eye caught the curling blue smoke of Miss Foy's chimneys, above the trees which concealed her cottage at the further end of the park.  Tiny could almost fancy that, if she looked long enough, she should see the figure of Captain Foy treading its way through the clump of trees which led by the shrubbery to the rose garden, which had often served as their trysting-place.

    Several times Madeline spoke to her; but Tiny was so wrapped up in her own thoughts that she never even heard her sister, until she took hold of her arm, exclaiming ―

    "Whatever are you thinking of, Tiny?  I have spoken twice, and you don't answer me."

    "I was thinking" ― began Tiny, and she paused for a moment, and then continued hastily ― "I don't know what I was thinking of; but I know I hate talking in a close carriage, and my head aches so dreadfully that I wish I might go to bed when we get in."

    There was no time for further speech or reflection, for the carriage had already reached the door, and Mrs. Wroughton came out to welcome her guests in the hall ― a good old fashion which she never neglected.  Five o'clock tea was going on in the library, and the first person Tiny saw, as she entered, was Miss Foy, who had come up early to dine and sleep at The Cedars, for her delicate state of health still obliged her to avoid the night air.

    There were several other people in the room, among them Admiral Merryweather, Colonel and Mrs. Ashburton, and Mr. Philpots, the incumbent of the small church which the Wroughtons attended, when they had no visitors who wished to hear the music at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

    As Tiny knew nearly all Mrs. Wroughton's county friends, much shaking of hands ensued, and Madeline was introduced to Mr. Philpots.

    A general re-distribution of seats taking place,Tiny went over to the sofa on which Miss Foy was sitting, and there installed herself.

    When Miss Foy had discussed the journey the Miss Harewoods had just made, the disagreeables attendant on railway travelling in general, and the excellence of the Windsor line in particular, Tiny turned the conversation upon the weather, hoping, by sundry comparisons between this winter, last winter, and the winter before that, to carry back the listener's mind to the time of her nephew's visit, knowing that when she was reminded of Captain Foy's existence she would be sure to mention him.  Tiny felt shy about speaking first herself.  Conscious of her own intense longing to hear of him, she did not even dare to make inquiries which would have simply appeared to his aunt natural and polite.

    Her little stratagem had its desired effect.  As soon as Miss Foy recalled that peculiarly severe winter, and her consequent confinement to her room, she thought how her good Philip had refused to leave her, and how thankful she then was that.  The Cedars and its pleasant occupants, including the Harewood family, afforded him an occasional solace, during the days when she was too ill to see him at all.

    "Speaking of that winter reminds me of Philip," she said; ''you remember him, I think, for you were kind enough to help my friends here to entertain the dear fellow.  I never shall forget how good he was," continued the old lady, gratefully.  "Nothing would induce him to leave me till the spring, when his sister returned from abroad, and I am sure it must have been very dull work to stay with a wheezing old aunt like me."

    "I hope you are stronger now," said Tiny, rather hypocritically, for she could not resist wishing in her heart that Miss Foy was ill again, and once more enjoying her nephew's solicitude.  "I remember how anxious Captain Foy was about you, but he told us when we met him in the Isle of Wight that you were much better."

    "Yes, thank you, I am really stronger, I believe; so I tell Philip he has lost his chance of coming into possession of the Wilderness soon enough for it to be of any use to him.  Such a small place," she added, smiling, "will scarcely do for Lady Susan, though it would have suited Philip very well as a bachelor."

    Tiny could not understand this reference to "Lady Susan."

    Lady Susan who? she felt inclined to say eagerly; and she thought it so provoking of people to talk in such a way.  She was quite angry with Miss Foy for supposing that she must be acquainted with every circumstance connected with her nephew's future requirements, and her heart, beat so violently that she feared Miss Foy would hear it if she did not speak.  Controlling herself with a great effort, she remarked that "the Wilderness was one of the prettiest little places she had ever seen."

    Miss Foy was exceedingly pleased with Tiny's appreciation of her home.

    "I am naturally fond of it," she replied, "for I have watched the growth of every little plant and shrub in the place, which was really a wilderness when I first came to it about fifteen years ago.  Philip was then at Eton, and used to come over for his holidays, so now I tell him he had better come here for his honeymoon; the Wroughtons will be away, and the young couple would have the park all to themselves."

    Tiny's face grew very pale; she gasped out ― "Is Captain Foy going to be married soon?"  She could not command her voice during a longer sentence; it was evident from Miss Foy's last speech, and previous reference to some unknown Lady Susan, that some marriage was really in contemplation.

    "Well, I think it will be soon after Christmas; and would you believe it, Philip has the face to complain of waiting so long?  But Lord Fitzwilliam is immovable, and insists upon having his family about him without any change for another Christmas-day.  You see," said Miss Foy, who was always delighted to find any one who would listen to all she was willing to tell respecting the nephew she had so helped to spoil, "Master Phil has such a sad character for the havoc he makes in the hearts of young ladies, that, I think, the old earl was thoroughly taken by surprise when he found Philip had really succumbed to Lady Susan's charms.  You know, my dear," she added, confidentially, in a lower tone, ''soldiers are very naughty people; they will love and ride away.  I began to think I should never live to see Philip settle down into a respectable married man."

    Tiny made an attempt to say something which would sound like an appropriate congratulation.  Fortunately for her, Miss Foy was so engrossed with her own thoughts, that she never noticed the quivering lips of the pale girl beside her, who faltered out the ordinary phrase expressive of the ordinary feelings to which people are expected to give utterance on such occasions.  Oh! she thought, if something would put a stop to this conversation, and enable her to slip away unobserved to another room; she wanted air, she wanted ― anything to stop this rising in her throat, which seemed likely to choke her.  And still she yearned to hear all Miss Foy could tell, of the man who had taken such a hold upon her life.

    Thanking Tiny for her kind wishes, Miss Foy replied that, on the whole, she thought the marriage likely to prove a very satisfactory one, but she added, "I cannot get over my surprise about it, for, until I received Philip's letter on Thursday, announcing the engagement, I had never even heard him mention Lady Susan in more than a passing way, and did not know he was going down to stay at Coombe Hall."

    At this moment Mr. Philpots took his departure, and the other guests soon followed his example.  Mrs. Wroughton then proposed to show the Harewoods their rooms.  Miss Foy was already well acquainted with the one assigned to her.  It was a small bachelor's room on the ground-floor, which was always placed at her service, to save her the exertion of going up and down stairs.

    As Mrs. Wroughton took the girls away, she noticed Tiny's pale face, and its expression of weariness.  Laying her hand on her young guest's arm, she rallied her upon her appearance.

    "You look as if you wanted another winter of Windsor air, indeed you do.  You must allow," she continued, turning to Madeline, "that I sent Tiny home looking all the better for her visit, so I think you ought to trust me with her again.  Come, Tiny, what do you say?  I am very lonely here in the winter, and it will be quite a charity if you will come and make the house as lively and cheerful as you did before.  Oh, how you and Captain Foy used to make us all laugh, and how very badly you did behave to him.  I believe he was desperately in love with you, but you snubbed him so unmercifully, you sad little coquette, that you reserved him for an earl's daughter," said Mrs. Wroughton, laughing.

    Every vestige of colour fled from Tiny's cheeks, and her knees knocked together as she rested a moment against the balustrade.

    "Do you know," said Tiny, trying to account, in some reasonable manner, for her sudden indisposition, "I think I am very ill; I ate some Bath buns at the refreshment-room at Slough, and I think they have poisoned me."

    Mrs. Wroughton was greatly concerned at Tiny's paleness, but thought the Bath buns were quite sufficient to explain it; one would have been enough to make her uncomfortable, and Tiny talked of them in the plural number, as if they had been so many sugar-plums.

    "The little gourmande has probably made her luncheon on these horrible indigestible cakes," she said to herself as she hurried to her room, in search of sundry globules which, she assured Tiny, would do her all the good in the world, whether she believed in them or not.  Mrs. Wroughton was a devout homoeopathist, and was only too eager to seize every opportunity for administering these mysterious little sugar-plums to her friends.

    Tiny took the globules upon condition that she should be left alone with her maid, declaring she felt so exceedingly sick, that Mrs. Wroughton and Madeline must go away directly.

    When Madeline went back to her sister in half an hour, she found that Pearson had already tied a pocket-handkerchief steeped in vinegar and water round Tiny's head, closed the shutters, and put out the lights, and but for the faint flickering flame which came from a peculiarly dull fire, the room would have been in total darkness.  Madeline groped her way to the sofa, and, as she did so, she heard Tiny sobbing.

    "Is your head so bad, Tiny dear?" she asked, for it was no unusual thing for Tiny to cry if troubled with the slightest physical pain.

    "Don't speak to me," she answered; "it only makes me worse, and I was just going to sleep, and now you have disturbed me!  Do tell Pearson to leave the things," she added impatiently; "she does nothing but tramp up and down the room, till I am nearly frantic.  I am sure she had time enough to unpack our trunks while we were talking downstairs."

    Madeline understood by the sound of her sister's voice that it would be better to leave her quite alone, so, without answering, she followed the offending Pearson, who was disappearing at that moment with a fresh load of silk dresses into the next room; and, closing the door behind her, said that Miss Tiny must not be disturbed, and the rest of the things must remain as they were at present.

    When Tiny heard the door fairly closed, she gave herself up to the passionate grief she had been forced to repress in the presence of others.  It was so strange and cruel, she thought, that here in this very place, so full of the memories of that Winter, where everything reminded her so vividly of her past happiness, and in the dreams in which she had indulged, that she should learn how utterly false and heartless Captain Foy was.

    Relieved by the first tears she had dared to shed, Tiny began to reason with herself.  After all, it was nothing new, except that at Cowes Captain Foy had again encouraged her belief that he cared a great deal for her, but did not consider his prospects sufficiently good to enable him to marry at present.  Otherwise, she had long ago given up all hope, ever since she saw that he did not care to call at Grosvenor Crescent, and rumour had connected his name with Miss Peel.

    Before the Roman visit, Tiny had begun to suspect the truth as to Captain Foy's real character.  Why, then, did she feel such surprise now?  Well, it must be, she supposed, because she had attached too much importance to his attentions on board the yacht, when he appeared once more to yield himself to the pleasure of watching her innocent fair cheeks flush with joy at his approach, and noting the little flutterings by which she betrayed her feeling for him, whenever he managed to steal her hand and hold it in his own for a few minutes.

    "Why did he come and stand so close, and look so earnestly into her eyes, if he did not love her?"

    And Tiny gave way to another passionate fit of crying.

    By this time her poor little head ached in good earnest.

    Before Madeline went down to dinner, she helped Pearson to undress her sister, and they left with the understanding that no one should come in until she rang her bell; then Pearson was to bring a cup of tea and some buttered toast.

    Tiny very soon sobbed herself to sleep, and did not wake until nearly midnight, long after Madeline had been in her room; Pearson had already been dismissed for the night, after duly providing the teapot, having substituted bread and butter for the toast as less likely to increase her young mistress' bilious headache, so everything was in readiness against the time when Miss Tiny should awake.

    As soon as Madeline heard her sister's voice, she carried in the little tray prepared for her.  Tiny sat up in bed, and after a strong cup of tea and two pieces of bread and butter, began to feel so much better that she wanted to hear the news; who had been at dinner, what everybody had said, and whether Madeline had talked to Miss Foy?

    So Madeline amused Tiny for the next half hour with all the gossip of the evening, including Miss Foy's information about "my nephew and Lady Susan," which she did not in the faintest degree connect with Tiny's violent headache.

    Finding her sister knew no more than she did about Captain Foy's intended marriage, Tiny wished her good-night, and resolved to go to sleep without thinking any more of anybody.

    Just as a dreamy drowsy sensation was creeping over her, she remembered Wilfred's tenderness and thoughtful love, and prayed that she might be able to give herself up entirely to him, and be made worthy of his generous devotion.


 
CHAPTER XXVII.


There are loves in man' s life for which time can renew
All that time may destroy.

LUCILE.


    THE next morning Tiny looked a little paler than usual, but otherwise she seemed in excellent health and spirits.  There were several people staying in the house, and what with the walks between the late breakfast and luncheon, and the riding and driving afterwards, with billiards from five-o'clock tea till the dressing bell rang for dinner, whist, and the round games which occupied the evening, there was little or no time for thought.  Lady Harewood and Charlotte joined the party at the appointed time, and carried off Madeline and Tiny after a few days' visit, in spite of Mrs. Wroughton's endeavours to persuade the latter to remain a little longer at Windsor.

    But Tiny was far too anxious to return to Wilfred.  She was longing to talk to him over the altered state of affairs with regard to Captain Foy.

    When Wilfred heard of the intended marriage, it appeared to him natural that this intelligence should rekindle all the old interest in Tiny's breast; and if Captain Foy again engrossed a larger share of their conversation and Tiny's thoughts than Wilfred at all liked, he hoped it was the dying flicker of the lamp before it expired altogether.

    And so it proved.  Gradually the subject seemed to pain her less; she talked more reasonably about it than formerly, and at last one day positively amazed Wilfred by laughing over her episode with Captain Foy.  She had long ago burnt one or two little notes which he had contrived to send her when he first knew her, and the only memento she retained was a little horseshoe charm, which she now ceased to wear.  One day, in a sudden burst of endearment, which reminded Wilfred of those happy days before the Ariel anchored next the Highflyer at Cowes, Tiny threw her arms round his neck, and declared she would not exchange him for fifty Captain Foys.

    Wilfred's heart beat tumultuously; he reaped at last the reward of his long and patient waiting.  Taking Tiny in his arms, he held her closely to him, and told her to look up in his face, that he might read in her eyes the same truth her lips had spoken.

    When he saw the passionate expression with which Tiny answered him,


"They kissed so close they could not vow,"


    And once more holding her at arm's length and gazing into her face as if to make himself sure of her love, he hastily disengaged himself and left the room.

    Now that the sorrow was over, Wilfred Lane realized the heavy strain which had been upon him ever since that evening at Ryde when Tiny confessed the secret she had previously concealed.  For a long time he had watched her and tried to sound the depths of her strange character; but whenever he thought he had arrived at an understanding of the different motives which influenced her actions, Tiny would by some curious inconsistency scatter his conclusions to the winds.

    One thing only she persistently maintained, namely, that the bond between herself and Wilfred had acquired fresh strength and sanctity from the day on which she confessed to him her attachment for Captain Foy; and she quoted George Eliot in support of her feeling, in these very words: "Every day and night of joy or sorrow is a new ground, a new consecration, for the love that is nourished by memories as well as hopes ― the love to which perpetual repetition is not a weariness but a want, and to which a separated joy is the beginning of pain."

    When Wilfred had seen how Tiny brooded over every incident connected with Captain Foy, how she recalled his looks and tones, how perversely this loving little soul would endow his careless speeches with a meaning and a warmth never acquired from him, he had sometimes feared that she would never cease to care for him.  He knew there were souls thus constituted, thus frail and delicate and tender, and he trembled lest his own true passion should fail to recall Tiny to happiness and love.

    But in that last embrace she had seemed to assure him that she had lived through her first mistake without having lost the capacity of loving, and after a few weeks of despair the rebound was so great that it carried his hopes at once to the utmost point they had ever reached.

    Tiny had really learnt to love him ― at last her heart was entirely his own.

                .                .                .                .                .                .                .                .

    Towards the end of January the Court Circular devoted two columns and a half to the description of the "marriage in high life of Lady Susan Fitzwilliam and Captain Philip Foy."  The ingenious chronicler of that event dwelt ad nauseam upon the extreme loveliness of the bride, the gallant devotion of the young and distinguished officer who led her to the hymeneal altar, and the rich and tasteful toilettes of the six noble maidens who officiated as bridesmaids.  The exquisite and valuable cadeaux which the happy and fortunate newly-married pair received as wedding presents from their numerous and aristocratic acquaintances ― one and all ― were all duly detailed, and the whole affair seemed to afford Tiny a great deal of fun, until it appeared to Wilfred that she simply regarded it as so much food for merriment.

    Certainly he could not accuse her of too much feeling now; and but that he was overjoyed at the change which had lately come over her, he would have wished that her amusement had been indulged in a quieter and less demonstrative manner.  But Tiny had a way of her own about everything, and it was useless to expect that she would ever act like other people; and when Wilfred came to think of it, he never wished to see her like anything but herself!

    The next few weeks were the happiest in Wilfred Lane's life.  The black cloud which had threatened to engulf him had disappeared; his darling seemed to lean entirely on him, and to find life sweet for his sake.  On the first of June he promised himself that his felicity would be perfect.  Day after day, when he reached Grosvenor Crescent, he saw Tiny's little face pressed against the library window, in order that she might catch the first glimpse of her lover as soon as he came in sight; and both began to count the days which divided them from that on which Lady Harewood had promised her consent to their marriage.  Tiny repeatedly assured Wilfred that her life was bound up in him, and Wilfred certainly had no thought apart from Tiny, and could imagine no future of which she was not the central figure.



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