A Reed Shaken with the Wind (4).

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CHAPTER XXVIII.


"Hopes, what are they?  Beads of morning
     Strung on slender blades of grass;
 Or a spider's web adorning
     In a strait and treacherous pass."

WORDSWORTH.


    IN the middle of March, Tiny went with Lady Harewood on a few days' visit to General and Lady Isabella Drummond.  Her mother insisted on taking Tiny to Bellingham Castle, because she heard that Sir Guy Fairfax would be there; and she felt the time was drawing near when her favourite scheme must be relinquished altogether, unless Sir Guy was aided, both speedily and effectually, in his pursuit of Tiny's hand.

    Tiny left London in happy ignorance of her mother's intentions, which were, however, destined to meet with signal disappointment; for, on reaching the Castle, Lady Harewood discovered Sir Guy was not expected until the very day on which she and Tiny were to take their departure.  Her mortification was extreme; and so was her rage against Lady Isabella, whom she secretly accused of machinations to entrap the wealthy young baronet "for one of those tall, gawky girls of hers, about whom she made such a ridiculous fuss."

    Tiny and the Miss Drummonds had always been on the best of terms; indeed, it was very difficult for any one to resist Tiny's coaxing ways, which perfectly bewitched men, and so fascinated the ladies of her acquaintance, that she generally escaped being judged by the ordinary standard.  This was certainly very fortunate for Miss Tiny Harewood, for she was in the habit of saying and doing in one day more daring and unconventional things than most young ladies would venture upon in the whole course of their lives.

    The Drummonds were getting up some private theatricals which were to take place the week after Easter, and to be followed by a dance.  Tiny was soon pressed into the service; and, after much reflection on the part of Lady Harewood as to the probable result of leaving her, it was arranged that she should stay on at Bellingham Castle after her mother's departure, in order to take her part in the necessary rehearsals.  Lady Harewood and her other daughters were to come for the second performance of the play, which was to be given on two consecutive nights.  The Drummonds' visiting list was so extensive, that no amount of crushing would have enabled them on one night to receive all the people they "ought to ask," and the old General was very particular in never allowing the miniature theatre to be overcrowded.

    The play selected was ''The Hunchback;" and Modus was the part assigned to Reginald Macnaghten, Lady Isabella's nephew, a young lieutenant in the Guards.  Until Tiny's arrival the Miss Drummonds could not agree as to who would best acquit herself as Helen; but, with one accord, they fixed upon her, declaring that she would act the part to perfection.  Tiny at first scrupled to undertake the representation of this forward young damsel, and hesitated about making the necessary overtures to Mr. Macnaghten in his character of Modus; but the girls assured her that, as their cousin was as good as engaged to a certain Miss Lucy Scott, there could be no possible objection to her making love to him in the play.  So all lingering doubts or objections on Wilfred's account were dismissed.  Tiny learnt her part; the different scenes were rehearsed; and the days were spent in preparation for the grand performance which was to crown their labours.

    At first, Mr. Reginald Macnaghten was not over pleased with the idea of Tiny Harewood as Helen.  He made this as apparent as he could, with any show of politeness, before the young lady herself, and expressed his disapproval openly to Gertrude and Isabel Drummond: but they fired up so vehemently in defence of Tiny's capability of doing full justice to the part assigned her, that young Macnaghten perceived that it was a settled thing, and he must make the best of it.

    At the very first rehearsal, however, he was forced to acknowledge the wisdom of his cousins' choice; and, before long, the curious dominion Tiny exerted over men, which made them go down on their knees at once, became apparent in the young Guardsman's case.  His manner in the final love-making scene became a great deal too earnest and life-like, and the whole position enabled him to assume an intimacy with Tiny Harewood which was (to say the least of it) extremely dangerous for both.

    Is it not Thackeray who remarks that it is "fortunate for men that women, like the beasts of the field, don't know their own power; they would overcome men entirely if they did"?  Perhaps it was Tiny's accurate measurement of her own attractions which made them so peculiarly fatal!

    A great deal went on before any one noticed the flirtation; and when the girls first saw how completely épris their cousin was, they considered it excellent fun, and a righteous judgment upon that young gentleman for the slighting manner in which he had at first spoken of Tiny.  Lady Isabella was the last to remark the state of affairs, but when she did observe it she was not inclined to interfere with either of her guests.  Tiny's position with regard to Wilfred Lane was unknown to her; and she thought it always much wiser, in such matters, to let things take their own course.  Besides, Tiny carried on her part of the flirtation in such an exeedingly open fashion, that Lady Isabella doubted if she had any real feeling for Reginald Macnaghten; and as for him, he was old enough to manage his own affairs.  If his attachment for Lucy Scott was of so slight a nature, why, it was better for the poor girl to find it out before marriage than after.

    So Miss Tiny Harewood and the young Guardsman had it all their own way.

    Tiny quickly perceived that Mr. Macnaghten had not in the first instance evinced a due appreciation of her charms, so she resolved to bring him into proper subjection; and it must be confessed she effected this with a rapidity which even astonished herself.  When Tiny determined to fascinate a man she seldom failed to accomplish it; and was scarcely likely to do so in the case of one so inexperienced as her present admirer, whose feeling for Lucy Scott was but the first sentimental affection of a mere boy.

    Tiny was not so heartless as to have any definite intention of bringing pain to the girl, who all this while cherished a belief in an affection which was sensibly diminishing before the bright glances of another.  But she was utterly thoughtless.


"And evil is wrought by want of thought,
 As well as by want of heart."


    Reginald Macnaghten's indifference during the first days of their acquaintance, had fired her with the old love of conquest; and her vanity and love of admiration were insatiable.  Now that she allowed the old spirit to assert itself, it did so with renewed vigour, and after a few days Tiny seemed to lose all power of controlling it, and was soon in the midst of a flirtation which threatened to exceed even those in which she had indulged the season before she accepted the love of her cousin, and promised to regard herself as his affianced wife.

    Wilfred Lane was not there to influence her; and as no one at Bellingham Castle interfered, these young people afforded a great deal of amusement to the whole circle of their friends, and were quite undisturbed in the plans they daily made for their mutual entertainment.  If Tiny rode, it was looked upon as a settled thing that Reginald would also ride; and it followed as a natural consequence, that, when the riding party divided into pairs, Reginald and Tiny fell behind and kept at a distance, which was by no means as necessary for the convenience of the rest of the party as their own.  If Tiny walked, Reginald's horse was countermanded; and if he did not actually take her in to dinner, somehow or other they always found themselves side by side.

    Sir Guy Fairfax came down at the appointed time, and left in despair.  He could never get a word with Tiny "for that confounded puppy Macnaghten;" and began to weary of this fruitless pursuit of a girl who seemed utterly indifferent to attractions readily enough appreciated by most of the young ladies of his acquaintance.

    General Drummond and Wilfred's father had been great friends in early life; and, as it was no uncommon event for Wilfred to spend a few days at Bellingham Castle, it excited no surprise, when Lady Isabella announced at breakfast one morning, that she had invited him to join the party on the following Saturday.

    Tiny was absolutely delighted when she heard Wilfred was coming; and not only gave full vent to her feelings in public, but privately indited a note, begging him to remain over the Monday if he could get leave of absence, because Monday was the day for the first dress rehearsal, and she wanted him to be present above everything.

    In the meantime Mr. Macnaghten's feeling for Tiny was fast passing all bounds; and, whenever they were alone, she had enough to do to laugh away his serious speeches.  It taxed her ingenuity not a little, to keep him to the absurd and ridiculous style they assumed towards each other in public.  Once or twice Reginald had been on the point of declaring his affection for her, but as, in her opinion, this would have spoilt the whole affair, Tiny kept such a firm hand over him, that he feared to risk his position by a premature avowal, conscious that, at present, Tiny would cut the matter short, and thus bring to an end their free and pleasant intercourse.

    So he contented himself by giving Tiny to understand, as far as he dared, that he was resolved to wait, in the hope of inducing her some day to return the affection she had inspired malgré lui in his own breast.  He even alluded to Lucy Scott, when he found that Tiny was in possession of his little secret, and assured her that no engagement had ever existed between them, and that he should "pitch into his cousins for such an unwarrantable use of Miss Scott's name, at the first possible opportunity."  Mr. Reginald Macnaghten was discovering that "absence makes the heart grow fonder ― of somebody else.''

    It was all very well to assure Tiny Harewood that he had never loved Lucy Scott; but the young lieutenant was somewhat troubled in his own mind about his conduct.  He felt himself in an awkward position; for Miss Scott and he had exchanged sundry words which he now wished altogether expunged from her memory.  He was not engaged to her; but he knew he had taken as much trouble last summer to secure the confiding heart of that quiet retiring girl, as he was now bestowing to capture this provoking little butterfly, who seemed to elude him just when he made most sure of winning her; and who yet continued to draw him on in a manner which so tantalized him, that more than once he was on the point of losing his well-sustained control, and risking his fate by an immediate declaration.

    Tiny's interest in the arrival of Mr. Wilfred Lane was by no means pleasing to her present adorer, who never felt less inclined to obey her commands than he did on that Saturday afternoon, when she requested him to gather a fresh sprig of ivy from the wall they were passing, because her cousin liked her to wear it in her hair in preference to all the wreaths which ever came out of Regent Street.

    His displeasure amounted to absolute exasperation when the gentleman in question made his appearance.  True to his promise to Lady Harewood, Mr. Lane was guarded in society, in order to prevent his real position with his cousin being remarked upon.  But the eyes of a jealous lover were too keen to be deceived by a disguise which did well enough for the rest of the world; and, in spite of all caution, there was a quiet sense of ownership in Wilfred's manner with Tiny, which perfectly infuriated Macnaghten.  He thought, too, that Tiny seemed afraid of Lane; doubtless he exercised some authority over her, for Reginald noticed that she avoided him after Lane's arrival, and for the first time purposely went to the other side of the table at dinner, and transferred all her attentions to this odious cousin.

    Mr. Macnaghten considered himself aggrieved, and not unnaturally hated Wilfred Lane from the bottom of his soul.  After the ladies retired, he sat opposite his enemy, cracking nuts, and feeling there was no injury in the world he would not do him if a benevolent providence ever placed it in his power.  Quite unconsciously Wilfred increased the young man's wrath; noticing Macnaghten's silence, and attributing it to shyness, he tried to draw him into conversation, which Reginald mistook for malicious condescension, and resented accordingly.

    During the evening Tiny was asked to sing; Wilfred, being near the piano-forte, opened it for his cousin, and helped her to find her music (which was of course in confusion and in everybody's portfolio instead of her own).  Macnaghten watched them; scowling at Wilfred with a rising anger, which nearly burst all bounds when the latter in his quiet easy manner removed the song before Tiny, and insisted on her singing one selected by himself from the mass of music before them.

    ''The cool impudent beggar!" muttered the disconcerted Macnaghten between his teeth; "how she can stand his interference I can't think.  If I asked for a particular song, it would be quite enough to make her say it was the very one which did not suit her voice."

    When Tiny finished singing "Dove sono,'' Reginald found every fault he could think of with it, in a way which Wilfred thought exceedingly rude.  Tiny was secretly amused; she knew well enough what was passing in both their minds, and resolved to excite the indignation of her youthful admirer still more; so she paid no attention to his remarks, but, turning to Wilfred, asked him to sing her favourite song by Hatton, "To Anthea who may command him anything," the accompaniment of which she knew by heart; Wilfred did not understand much about music.  He was a little too fond of taking his "own time" to please Tiny; but then he had a pleasant voice and a perfect ear, and his enunciation was so clear and distinct that his singing was generally liked.  On the present occasion he did full justice to this spirited song; and when Macnaghten saw the glance he gave Tiny as he came to the words ―


"Thou art my life, my soul, my heart,
     The very eyes of me;
 And hast command of every part
     To live and die for thee " ―


which he sang with intense feeling, Reginald thought he should like "to pitch the confounded fellow out of the window, and the music-stool after him."

    As the proprieties of the nineteenth century forbade this summary way of proceeding, he was forced to content himself with the observation that he thought "the accompaniment extremely loud and noisy; and the words the most foolish he had ever heard in his life," leaving Mr. Lane wavering between doubts as to the sanity of this young man, and a growing conviction that Mr. Reginald Macnaghten was, without exception, the rudest and most ill-mannered individual in Her Majesty's service!

    When the music ceased, whist was proposed, and Wilfred was placed at a table with General Drummond, Mrs. Wilmot (a pretty young widow staying in the house), and Miss Robertson, who was dining there with her father that evening; not far off was another quartet, composed of Gertrude, Tiny, Captain Reynolds, and Reginald.

    Now that Wilfred was at some little distance, and Tiny resumed her old playful manner, Reginald began to thaw; indeed it would have been a difficult task for a more ill-tempered man than he was to remain sulky under the influence of the fun and merriment Tiny Harewood always introduced at cards ― much to the displeasure of graver people, who generally seem to regard whist as a serious game, in which their reputations as well as their purses are at stake, objecting to the utterance of a single unnecessary word during the whole game.  Tiny openly avowed that she abhorred such solemnity, ― she hated whist unless allowed to cheat and talk as much as she pleased!  With or without permission Tiny's tongue seldom stopped; and she certainly neglected no opportunity of looking over her neighbour's cards, and proclaiming, for the benefit of the entire party, the trump card she discovered in an opponent's hand.

    It was now Wilfred's turn to look somewhat eagerly across the room to the table from which all this fun and merriment proceeded; and it required no small effort on his part to conceal how fearfully his own game bored him.  During the last rubber he made a mis-deal; twice he failed to return his partner's lead; and once, to Mrs. Wilmot's great disgust, he nearly trumped her trick.  To his relief the third rubber at last came to an end; and, paying up his losses, Wilfred rose, in order, as he said, to make room for a better player.  So Mr. Robertson, encouraged by Mr. Lane's misfortune (yet declaring himself no player at all), ventured to hope Mrs. Wilmot would accept him as Wilfred's substitute, and that he should help her to retrieve her past ill-luck.

    Wilfred Lane strolled to the other table, and stood behind Macnaghten, watching the game.  His familiarity with Tiny was extremely distasteful to Wilfred; and the way in which he addressed her as "partner" did not at all diminish the dislike which the young man's rudeness had already excited.

    When the ladies left the drawing-rooms, Gertrude took such firm possession of his cousin that Wilfred saw he had no chance of a word with her unobserved by the company at large; so he said good-night to them both, his eyes resting with a loving longing expression upon Tiny.  Just as they reached the door, Reginald Macnaghten jumped up, and catching hold of Gertrude's arm, to Wilfred's great annoyance left the room with the two girls.

    Some minutes later, when Wilfred crossed the hall with General Drummond on the way to the billiard room, he looked up and saw Tiny and Gertrude still talking on the staircase to this obnoxious little Guardsman; and heard him say, as he turned from Tiny ― with a gesture and familiarity which absolutely enraged him ―


            "Her lips shall be in danger
"When next she trusts them near me!"


    Wilfred Lane knew all about the play; but, in his anger, it did not occur to him that Mr. Macnaghten's speech was a simple quotation.

    It was, perhaps, well for all parties that only Captain Reynolds joined the billiard players that night, and that Mr. Lane's anger had time to expend itself on the unlimited number of cigars which he smoked before he went to bed.


 
CHAPTER XXIX.


"Sundaies the pillars are
 On which heav'n's palace arched lies;
 The other dayes fill up the spare
 And hollow room with vanities.
        .            .            .            .            .
 The Sundaies of man's life,
 Thredded together on time's string,
 Make bracelets to adorn the wife
 Of the eternall glorious King.
 On Sunday heaven's gate stands ope;
 Blessings are plentifull and rife,
 More plentifull than hope."

GEORGE HERBERT.


    BREAKFAST at Bellingham Castle on Sunday morning was always at nine, instead of ten o'clock.  Lady Isabella Drummond wished her servants to go to church, and this could scarcely be managed unless the rooms were vacated at an earlier hour than usual.  So the gong sounded as the clock in the turret struck nine.  As it did so, Wilfred Lane opened the door of the gallery which led on to the general staircase from the set of rooms in which his own was situated; and Tiny did precisely the same at the opposite end.  Seeing Wilfred she ran towards him, exclaiming in her bright and joyous way ―

    "The top of the morning to you, Wil, dear.  Isn't this a pleasant house?  I am so happy here; now you have come, it's perfect."

    "I think you made yourself very comfortable before," replied Wilfred, with a shadow of coldness in his tone, for he could not forget last night's episode; it had rankled in his mind ever since.

    "Now, Mr. Gravity," said Tiny ― linking herself on his arm with both hands, and looking up into his face, with an expression which set his heart off thumping as quickly as ever ― "you don't wish your little wife to be as sober as a judge before she really takes upon herself the fearful responsibility of keeping you in order?  Come, Wil," she added in a pleading voice, which touched his heart directly, "I have not been so very light-hearted lately, that you need reproach me because my spirits run away with me now I find myself with girls of my own age."

    The gallery door opened again as Tiny spoke, and Gertrude and Isabel appeared; as they greeted one another, Wilfred Lane was calling himself hard names, for his want of generosity in having harboured such ill-conditioned thoughts about Tiny; and, in his genial pleasant manner, he began to make amends for it, by talking to the three girls as they went down the stairs together into the pleasant breakfast room; which looked cheerful enough, until young Macnaghten thrust himself into the very seat next Tiny which Wilfred was standing by, and intended to occupy.

    The facetious conversation which ensued annoyed Wilfred exceedingly.  He had seldom seen Tiny in this kind of mood; and it was so infinitely below the rest of her character, that it grated upon his taste and sense of propriety.  Young Macnaghten's noisy mirth, and the nonsense they talked, seemed but little in accordance with the quiet Sunday morning, which was always a double rest, in the country, to this man who worked half the night, as well as all the day, in London.  Wilfred Lane made it a rule, from which he seldom deviated, to keep one day out of the seven clear from the working atmosphere of the rest; and as free from care and anxiety as he could make it.  Breathless and weary with the labours of the past week, and the full weight of the world's temptations, he had looked forward to this special day, as one from which he should gain fresh strength and hope; and anything more discordant than this foolish flippant jesting could scarcely be conceived.  He walked round the table, and took the vacant seat between Gertrude Drummond and Mrs. Wilmot; very nearly opposite to Tiny and her companion.

    Several times he found himself looking at them with positive amazement; for their absurdity was unredeemed by any particular wit or originality, and it appeared to Wilfred only fit for the nursery or school-room.

    It was no relief to see that the Drummonds were accustomed to this style of behaviour: nor was he better pleased when Mrs. Wilmot remarked with a significant nod, "What a charming cousin you have, Mr. Lane, and what a perfect little coquette!  She has quite turned poor Reginald Macnaghten's head; and I don't think she really means to be merciful to him in the end."

    Wilfred stammered out some answer about Tiny's amazing life and spirits, and her extraordinary powers of attraction; but he differed from Mrs. Wilmot in calling her a coquette, "for any one less conscious of her powers of fascination he never saw;" a remark which considerably diminished Mrs. Wilmot's respect for his judgment, and somewhat jarred against a conviction which was gaining strength in his own mind.

    As the church was at some little distance, the open carriage started from the hall-door at halfpast ten; and those who liked to walk followed rather later, as they could take a short cut through the shrubbery, and across the deer park.

    Tiny was a great walker; and, a few minutes after the less active members of the party had driven off, she appeared with Gertrude and Mrs. Wilmot.  They were at once joined by the gentlemen who had made up their minds to go to church ― a resolution which was confined to Wilfred, Captain Reynolds, and young Macnaghten, whose attraction was neither the service nor the sermon, but the prospect of a walk with Miss Tiny Harewood.

    The ladies went in single file through the shrubberies, and, in crossing the park, they were all together, so the conversation was pretty evenly distributed; and the fresh, pleasant country air gave Wilfred such a sense of enjoyment, that, by the time they reached the quaint little country church, all traces of annoyance had disappeared; his eyes were resting lovingly upon his cousin, and he was longing for the time when her acknowledged position would prevent any man from taking the shadow of a liberty with one who had promised to love and honour him alone.

    The pew belonging to the Castle was reached by outer steps, which led into a comfortable square room, with a huge fireplace at one end, and luxurious arm-chairs all round.  It was no wonder that when the General did come to church, he always went fast asleep during the second lesson, and seldom awoke till the sermon was ended; even Lady Isabella declared that the walls of Bellingham Church were sown with poppy seed, and the curate's voice was "somnolent and sleep-compelling."

    Wilfred hated these kind of pews; they seemed to him to spoil the meaning of the beautiful Church Service, which calls together "rich and poor, one with another," into the presence of their Maker, as brethren in this world, and heirs together of one blessed home in the world to come.

    He had not the least tendency to ritualism, for he could not endure the introduction of practices which appeared to him to make the heart sad of those whom God had not made sad, and laid burdens upon men, grievous to be borne, and increased in an unnatural manner the distance between the soul of man and its Maker.

    Perhaps he could scarcely be called a good churchman; though he belonged to the Church of England, and nothing would have induced him to quit her communion, for he loved her noble Book of Prayer, which is so catholic and so comprehensive, and so much in advance of the practice of the Church.

    He liked, too, the open churches and their free seats, where all mingled together without respect of persons; he cared, too, that the music should be of the best and highest description ― such as might really elevate the hearts of those who wished to sing to the honour and glory of God ― and it always grated against his sense of the fitness of things, when he heard (as you yet may in too many English country churches) the hymn given out by an illiterate clerk (whose mispronunciation would spoil the best words which were ever written), and sung by a congregation who neither care nor know whether they keep to the tune they attempt to sing or not.

    The service on the morning in question was very well performed; the chants and anthem were sung with real feeling and without display; the prayers were read by a curate, who was devout without being unctuous; and the hymn ―


"Nearer, my God, to Thee,
     Nearer to Thee,
 E'en though it be a cross
     That raiseth me ―"


which preceded the sermon, was a special favourite, and one which often came back to Wilfred in after days, when he remembered the quiet service in this little country church.

    The sermon was preached by a stranger, and addressed particularly to the younger members of the congregation, who were preparing for confirmation.  The preacher warned them that they had in a special sense their choice to make, and that the complexion of their after life depended very much upon the line of conduct they adopted during this period ― not because their younger days were likely to be more sinful than those of after life, for each time had its special sins, and perhaps the less prominent sins of later years are even more hateful in the sight of God.

    He implored the young men who were present, to believe that the enemies of their souls were real and very deadly; that "the world is an enemy, with its temptation to set the affections on things beneath, not on things above; to have the mind choked up by worldly ambitions ― the eyes dazzled with the sight of the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them ― a temptation of which every middle-aged man in that church would confess the power, and of which perhaps nearly each had experienced the danger."

    "The flesh," he continued, with increased earnestness, "is a real enemy, and an enemy in the camp; one, moreover, which will assail us under the most insinuating disguises, and which finds special strength and support in the ardent temperament of young blood.  The devil, too, is a real enemy ― never believe that the devil is a fiction, but regard him as the most awful of facts.  Here, then, I say, are real enemies, and who shall overestimate their power?  Young men and women!  These are terrible enemies if any there be; and that was God's truth in which you were baptized, where you were pledged with the sign of Christ's cross to fight against them.  And what I desire to impress upon you is, that you can only fight successfully by ruling yourselves according to the Word of God.  Let me beg of you to mark those words, ruling yourselves ― implying, as I conceive, that constant drill which makes the soldier ― constant discipline ― constant energy in doing good ― not implying a few good resolutions now and then ― not implying mere religious fits; fits of exercise never yet made a soldier, and fits of religious feelings will never make a soldier of Christ."

    When they came out of church, Wilfred Lane felt but little disposed to talk.  Several words in the sermon had come home to him with such power, that he was unable to shake off the thoughts they brought as soon as he crossed the church portal.

    But he was obliged, like Felix, to put them aside for "a more convenient season," and to help the ladies with their sundry wraps and books into the carriage, which was waiting at the farther end of the churchyard ― then he joined the walkers.

    Though he took no share in the conversation on the way home, it disturbed and distracted him.

    "Now, that is a nice kind of sermon," said the sprightly little widow; ''I can't bear all those long discourses about 'predestination' and 'baptismal regeneration.'"

    "No," said Captain Reynolds; "those are things, as Lord Dundreary would say, 'no feller can be expected to understand.'"

    "Well ― I liked it, because it was short," said Gertrude; "Mr. Williamson sometimes preaches for an hour, and by the time I come out of church I have forgotten even the text he began with."

    "You would like to have 'sat under' Peter Pindar, perhaps;" exclaimed Reginald Macnaghten ― eagerly seizing the opportunity of bringing in a favourite story of his, which he never lost the chance of telling, since he heard it two years before.  "Did you ever hear, Miss Harewood, of a sermon preached by that celebrated divine on the text 'Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards'?"

    Tiny said she had not; so he continued ― "Well, if you don't know it, and it isn't long, I must repeat it to you.  'Dearly beloved brethren; I am going to preach to-day from the verse "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards," and I shall divide my sermon into three heads:

    " 'I. Man's ingress into the world.

    " 'II. Man's progress through the world.

    " 'III. Man's egress out of the world.

    " 'I. Man's ingress into the world ― naked and bare.  II. Man's progress through the world ― trouble and care.  III. Man's egress out of the world ― no one knows where; and if I were to preach for a year I could tell you nothing more ― so now ― Amen.'"

    Of course, every one laughed when Mr. Macnaghten concluded, and Peter Pindar's point and brevity were duly appreciated.  But, when Mrs. Wilmot proceeded to remark upon the profanity attributed to that departed worthy, Tiny, watching her opportunity, slipped away from the others to join Wilfred, who was walking a little apart from the rest.

    Gradually they fell behind, and began to talk of what was uppermost in both their minds.

    Tiny, too, had listened to the sermon, and it had made its impression on her; for the moment she felt forced to acknowledge that the power of ruling herself was precisely what she most needed.  She had a wonderful way of analyzing her own character, and of seeing its defects, but there she stopped.  Sometimes, indeed, she made a few valiant resolutions, but the first temptation put them all to flight.  Changeable in temperament, she often seemed worse and often better than she really was; but her unsteadiness in the small matters of life, and her want of ballast, undermined her good intentions before she was aware of it.  When Tiny Harewood was a few years younger, Wilfred used to say of her that she was like "Milton's Eve, the type of the masculine standard of perfection in women; a graceful figure, an abundance of fine hair, much coy submission, and such a degree of unreasoning wilfulness as shall risk perdition."

    There was only one point to which Tiny remained constant ― her affection for Wilfred.  This, she protested, was based upon the deeper part of her mind; his love was essential to her.

    At the time of their first separation she had been so long under Wilfred's immediate influence, that she continued to live in the atmosphere of the high and noble thoughts and interests he was gradually developing in her.  But, on her return to London, the difficulty of her position with Wilfred, and the want of an elevated tone in her mother's house, added to her own love of perpetual "change," kept fallow a soil which Nature had endowed with her richest gifts.  Tiny's good aspirations were at first allowed to rove at large, and finally devoted to vanity and frivolity, until her whole being succumbed to the first temptation which assailed her.  In the present instance this met her in the form of a flirtation with a lively young man, over whom she consciously exerted her power in a way which she knew to be unworthy of her better self, and inconsistent with her position with Wilfred Lane.

    The sermon to-day had aroused her to a fresh sense of this; and when she came up to her cousin and took his arm, she did so with a firm resolution to alter her manner towards Reginald Macnaghten from that very moment.  But she did not feel disposed to own as much as this to Wilfred, not even when he expressed his annoyance at the foolish bantering tone she allowed Macnaghten to assume, which was so ill in keeping with the tie existing between them.  Tiny felt the justice of his reproof; but her wilful little spirit rebelled against his plain unvarnished condemnation of her conduct; and she resented his expressing the very thoughts which were passing through her own mind.

    Wilfred Lane's patience and tenderness over Tiny's waywardness about Captain Foy had been unbounded; but this was a very different sort of thing, and he gave Tiny to understand he would by no means tolerate it.


 
CHAPTER XXX.


"Right thro' his manful breast darted the pang
 That makes a man, in the sweet face of her
 Whom he loves most, lonely and miserable."

Idylls of the King.


    TINY HAREWOOD was extremely quiet throughout the whole of luncheon.  She was either convinced by what Wilfred had said, or else, having found the censure already administered exceedingly unpalatable, she feared to provoke another.  Her conscience told her how little Wilfred knew all that had taken place, and how thoroughly she deserved his condemnation.

    Of course this alteration in Tiny's behaviour was not lost on Mr. Macnaghten.  Nor was he backward in attributing it to the interference of that "conceited prig of a cousin, who was so dull and morose himself that he hated to see other people jolly enough to enjoy themselves."  And the young Lieutenant registered a vow that if ever Miss Tiny Harewood became "Mrs. Reginald Macnaghten," as he fondly believed she ultimately would, that ''kill-joy-fellow" should never darken his doors, if he could help it.  He glanced fiercely at Mr. Lane, longing to deliver Tiny out of his clutches.

    It must be confessed that Wilfred did not appear at this moment to advantage at Bellingham Castle.  Naturally of an easy and genial temperament, his friends were surprised at a taciturn and crude manner most unusual to him.  His disapproval of the intimacy between Tiny and Mr. Macnaghten was evident to the Drummonds; but, being ignorant of the real tie between the cousins, they were unable to understand his conduct, and felt inclined to resent it as most unreasonable.

    Never had an exhortation to ''rule himself" come at a more seasonable time to Wilfred; for he felt very angry with Tiny, exceedingly sore with Reginald Macnaghten, and hurt at the suspicions entertained by his friends.

    When Tiny made him miserable on board the yacht, there was a depth and earnestness about the matter which drew out the finer parts of her character and claimed a certain kind of respect.  In the present instance, however, Wilfred had a very different sort of feeling, in which respect did not mingle in the least.

    There was something so peculiarly aggressive in Macnaghten's manner towards himself personally, that Wilfred almost lost sight of the fact that the young man was unconsciously injuring him by his attentions to his affianced wife; and perhaps Wilfred did not care to open his eyes to what made Tiny's share in the blame so much the heavier.

    Lady Isabella Drummond next came in for a share of his displeasure.  He thought her wrong to countenance her nephew's open admiration of a young guest left completely under her protection.  The least she could have done would have been to compel Reginald to cease from making a conspicuous display of his feeling for Tiny: and, as these thoughts passed through his mind, he became moody and silent.

    When he had finished blaming the whole party, he began to condemn himself; for he was fond of the Drummonds, and hated himself for having hard thoughts of the people by whom he was surrounded, and of whose hospitality he was partaking.

    Finding Tiny surrounded by the girls in the drawing-room after luncheon, he resolved to go for a long walk.  He was indisposed for any company but his own, and hoped that exercise might disperse the ill-conditioned state of mind in which he found himself.  So off he started, unobserved by any one; thinking of Tiny the whole time, he paid no heed to the direction he took, and walked so far that the first bell had already rung when he returned, and there was scarcely time to dress for dinner.

    Tiny, too, had been revolving matters in her own mind, during the short time she had been alone.  But first of all she had accompanied the old General and his daughters to the stables, where the horses were duly inspected, according to the regular Sunday-afternoon practice, and a piece of sugar administered to each with scrupulous impartiality.  Then they made the tour of the kitchen gardens and forcing houses; after which Tiny Harewood retired with Gertrude and heard certain confidences touching Horace Alvanley, who had been for some time paying her very marked attention.

    It was wonderful, considering the frank and open manner Tiny possessed, to see how very closely she could keep her own concerns to herself, while she gave people the impression of always saying whatever was passing in her mind.  Tiny never allowed a human being to know her one bit more intimately than she thought convenient; and on this occasion she considered it was better for her friends to know nothing of her engagement to Wilfred Lane.  She even allowed Gertrude to remark how much more self-engrossed Wilfred appeared, and how far less agreeable he was than usual, and still refrained from giving her friend the key to her cousin's conduct.

    At the same time, next to feeling out of conceit with herself, she was really vexed at the unfavourable impression Wilfred was making upon everybody; but she was selfish enough to be still more sore with his plain condemnation of her own conduct, and not at all disposed to overlook his absenting himself the whole afternoon; this she regarded as a great slight to herself, and exceedingly rude to everybody.

   Tiny went down to dinner with a wicked little demon sitting in the coils of her beautiful hair, prompting her to all kinds of extravagance, with plausible reasons attached to each.  If she altered her manner to Reginald while Wilfred was in the house, it suggested she would make matters infinitely worse; not only would every one accuse her of fearing her cousin, but they would attribute to her conduct a greater degree of blame than she considered it deserved; or else Wilfred would be placed in the odious position of a marplot.  Next the little demon whispered that, by making herself doubly agreeable, she would not only atone for Wilfred's behaviour, but divert attention from him by directing it to herself.

    While the servants were in the room things went on pretty quietly; but at dessert Tiny astonished them all, and yet was so exceedingly original and daring that it was impossible for any one but Wilfred to refrain from laughing.

   After dinner, the gentlemen adjourned to the smoking room; for, a long Sunday evening, without whist or music, induced them to postpone their entrance into the drawing-room to an unusually late hour.

   Lady Isabella objected to music on a Sunday, because her mother had done so before her; and the girls had tried in vain to introduce sacred music by Handel and Mozart, which would not only have relieved the tedium of those evenings, but might have supplied the very spiritual element of which they were so sadly destitute.

   When Wilfred entered the drawing-room, about half-past nine o'clock, he found Tiny and Mr. Macnaghten seated on a sofa, with a large photograph book into which they were looking; or rather, behind which they were talking.

   Tiny looked uncomfortable when she saw the expression of her cousin's face; and this was immediately attributed by Reginald to her imagined fear of Lane, who appeared to him to act the mentor over her in a most unwarrantable manner.

   "You seem very much afraid of Mr. Secretary Lane," said Reginald, while pretending to look at another page; "for my part I hate fellows who think such a lot of themselves, and interfere with other people's affairs."

   "Indeed, I'm not in the least afraid of him.  Wilfred is the best creature in the world," she added; coming, with a true woman's instinct, to the defence of the man she loved directly any one attacked him.

   This did not mitigate Macnaghten's wrath, and he ventured on another depreciatory remark, which Tiny effectually silenced by rising from her seat and saying she did not care to look at any more photographs.  She went to Wilfred, and in a low voice asked him not to look so cross.

   Wilfred was conscious of feeling exceedingly savage.  He was indignant with Tiny for raising up, in his own nature, passions he heartily despised ― and he was rendered still more angry, when, in answer to the reply he made her, Tiny told him that the whole thing arose from his being "so ridiculously jealous and disagreeable to the poor boy, that she was forced to be extra kind and amiable to make up for his want of manners."

   A stronger expression and nearer to an oath than Wilfred Lane was at all in the habit of using, escaped from his lips, as Tiny uttered this mean and ungenerous subterfuge.

    Bound by the peculiar circumstances of his promise to Lady Harewood, he was forced to accept one of the most intolerable positions in which any one can be placed.

    No honourable man could stand quietly by, and see the girl to whom he is pledged suffer another to approach her with attentions which would not be offered her as his wife.  The very concealment of the tie between them only made it more wrong of Tiny to take advantage of such a position.  It was for her to check Macnaghten's advances, not to encourage them as if she were free to receive all he might feel disposed to offer.

    The long-suffering that Wilfred had shown in the matter of Captain Foy, only made him less inclined to take a lenient view of Tiny's present conduct.  She ought to have learnt from her own sorrow something of the pain she had inflicted upon him; and when her feeling for Captain Foy ceased, and she refused to accept the freedom Wilfred had pressed upon her, he felt he had a right to expect that this girl ― for whose love he had waited so patiently and for whom he had suffered so much ― should cleave to him with her whole heart and soul.  To find her amusing herself by a flirtation with Reginald Macnaghten thoroughly roused his indignation; and, for the first time in his life, Wilfred Lane was not only angry with Tiny, but a shadow of disgust crept into the feeling with which he had hitherto regarded her.  As he stood, apparently turning over the leaves of a book which lay on the table beside him, his whole soul was in a tumult ―


"For, to be wroth with one we love,
 Doth work like madness on the brain."


 
CHAPTER XXXI.


"People who love downy peaches are not apt to think of the stone, and sometimes jar their teeth terribly against it.

GEORGE ELIOT.


    WHEN Tiny came down to breakfast the next morning she found to her amazement that Wilfred had already left for London.

    Late on the previous night, while smoking with General Drummond, he suddenly remembered some important papers which required to be despatched without delay.  Never suspecting Wilfred's real motive, the General proposed to send a telegram; but on Wilfred's assurance that no one could find the despatches but himself, it was arranged that the dog-cart should be ready at eight o'clock, in time to catch the morning express at Farnham.

    So, while Tiny slept, Wilfred was taking his solitary breakfast; and the noise which awoke her, and for which she could not account, was made by the wheels of the dog-cart which carried him rapidly away over the fresh gravel-path under her bedroom window.

    Wilfred Lane had passed a restless night.  He could not shut his eyes to the impropriety of Tiny's manner.  It was a new development, for which he was totally unprepared.  In the midst of what he had suffered about Captain Foy, he had been sustained by the belief, that when once Tiny recovered from her glamour all her affections would return to himself.  He knew that she could neither mistake nor doubt his entire devotion to her.  This pure and true love had utterly effaced the fevered and troubled passion of his youth, and Wilfred had not a thought apart from Tiny.

    Her love was his very life.  She had entwined herself so completely around his whole being, that the world was to him Tiny ― and Tiny was the world.

    He realized that their position was a difficult one; a secret understanding must always be such; and fearing that his presence hampered her, he resolved to leave the Castle without seeing her.  One thing was obvious; it was high time Tiny should abstain of her own free will from actions which the commonest sense of right and wrong condemned.  If she could flirt with the first man into whose society she was intimately thrown after her feeling for Foy subsided, Wilfred felt the love she professed to give him unworthy of his acceptance.  His holding her to their mutual promise would only sooner or later bring about a calamity to both.  At present there was time for Tiny; no one knew of the tie between them.

    When General Drummond told Miss Tiny Harewood, as she sat down to breakfast, of Wilfred's departure, that young lady was, for one moment, disconcerted; but, seeing Mr. Macnaghten's eyes fixed upon her, with a presence of mind worthy of a better cause she carelessly observed that her cousin had told her on their way from church that he feared he should be forced to leave early the next morning.

    Lady Isabella was just about to say she understood that Wilfred had only remembered these papers late on the preceding night, when something in Tiny's face arrested the words on her lips; and, as Gertrude at that moment began to discuss a letter just received from Dublin, the conversation was fortunately turned into another channel.

    As soon as Tiny got back to her own room, this strange little damsel gave vent to her disappointment; and, after crying for a good half hour, opened her writing-case, and, taking out a sheet of foreign letter paper, wrote as follows:


    "Oh! Wil, I am so thoroughly ashamed of myself; do forgive me this once for making you angry, and I will never do so again.  I am utterly miserable, and I think you have punished me very cruelly by going away without saying one word to me.  I don't know how this state of things came about, and I look upon the whole affair as so curious that I don't understand myself in the least.  I frankly confess that I have given way to my old wicked spirit, and I know your confidence in me is completely shaken.

    "But is it not better, Wil, for you to know me as I really am?  You cannot help and guide me, if you do not.  I think one of your highest points is your entire belief in those you love; but you never can be sufficient or good for a person, if you are blind to their faults.  And the sort of life I am leading, away from you, is so bad for my disposition, that you ought to pity, rather than to blame me.  You will find that I shall be quite different after June; and you don't know how intensely I long for the time when we shall be always together.  Have patience till then, with this little girl you have made so miserable today.  I would rather you should write me volumes of scoldings, than have thoughts of which you will not tell me.  Believe me, Wil, as you love me, the hope of our future life together is the most precious thing in the world to me, for I feel my life fast clinging round yours.  It would indeed be a terrible wrench to break it asunder now.  So don't punish me any more for what has really been a foolish piece of nonsense, of which I am heartily ashamed.  I don't know how it all came about; I suppose it was through this odious play, which I now hate and detest.  Shall I throw it up?  Write by return of post; for if you don't like me to act, I will give up my part at once.

    Oh, Wil, I am so wretched!  I think I scarcely deserved such a severe punishment after all.  I shall not have a moment's peace till I hear you have really forgiven

"Your penitent little
                                                     "T
INY."


    What could Wilfred say when he received this letter?  Poor infatuated fellow!  He began to agree with Tiny, and to think he need not have left the Castle so hastily.  The foolish nonsense between Tiny and Macnaghten had by no means deserved such a severe measure.  After all, it was that noisy young man who was really to blame ― it was his conduct which had drawn every one's attention to Tiny; and Wilfred, instead of letting his wrath fall on the right object, had deprived himself of the day in the country to which he had looked forward with such pleasure, and made his poor little Tiny wretched as well.

    He was clearly a stupid blundering idiot, and unable to fathom the mysterious depths of a woman's delicate nature!

    He sat down and wrote to Tiny, and begged her not to give up the play.  He confessed he had left, because his private relationship with her made it impossible for him either to witness or prevent the attentions another man chose to pay her.  He thought she had been wrong to allow Macnaghten to assume such a footing with her; but he could not doubt her real fidelity to himself after the letter he had just received.  "At the same time," he added, "it seems to me, Tiny, that, lacking as we do the public acknowledgments and safeguards which such ties as ours generally receive in the world, we are doubly bound to cherish our private position, and to remember the duties we owe to each other."

    Before Tiny received this answer, she was evidently anxious and depressed; and discomfited the young Guardsman not a little by the snubs she administered whenever he attempted to resume the old familiarities she had allowed before her cousin's visit.  Once assured of Wilfred's forgiveness, Tiny soon recovered her spirits, and, with them, her dislike of appearing disagreeable to any one; and, as it was obviously disagreeable to Mr. Reginald Macnaghten to be checked in his advances, Tiny soon permitted them as freely as before.

    The play went off gloriously; and on the afternoon of the second performance Lady Harewood and her two daughters arrived.

    Tiny acted her part to perfection, for, in truth, the character of Helen in Sheridan Knowles' "Hunchback" exactly suited her.

    Her sisters, who were in total ignorance of the flirtation with Reginald Macnaghten, noticed the peculiar look exchanged between them on the stage, when the latter, as Modus exclaims:

    "Your hand upon it!"

And Tiny answers:

    "Hand and heart.
     Hie to thy dressing-room, and I'll to mine.
     Attire thee for the altar ― so will I,
     Whoe'er may claim me, thou'rt the man shall have me."


    Encouraged by that glance, and Tiny's excited manner, Reginald induced her, later in the evening, to throw an opera cloak over her shoulders, and to come on to the terrace, away from the crowded and heated rooms.

    The night was cold and clear, for the moon was at the full, and every little blade of grass could be seen as plainly as at noonday.  They walked slowly to the end of the terrace, and then Reginald insisted on sitting down for one moment in the summer-house, which commanded a fine view of the exquisite landscape before them.  Everything looked so lovely and mysterious in the moonlight, that Tiny's senses were quite bewitched.

    There was something in Reginald's manner which told her that it was impossible to escape the inevitable explanation.  "Under all the circumstances," thought Tiny, "would it not be better to have it over at once?"

    She had not long to wait before he told her how he loved her, and entreated her to be his wife; and without waiting for any answer, the impetuous young man put his arms round her and kissed her passionately.

    "Stay, Mr. Macnaghten," cried Tiny, disengaging herself as best she could; "you have quite mistaken me.  I thought you understood me better than to do this.  I have often said enough to make you know that we could never be anything but friends; and if you do not control yourself, I shall feel very angry.  It is unmanly of you," she continued, hastily springing up from her seat, and getting out of the summer-house on to the terrace, where the moonlight seemed to offer her some protection, "to abuse my confidence by such conduct.  I feel very angry with you, indeed I do."

    If Tiny had said "very frightened of you" it would have better expressed her meaning, for Reginald's violence had positively alarmed her.

    He had felt so sure of a different answer, and was so excited by the acting and various glasses of champagne imbibed between the scenes, that Tiny's rebuff fairly staggered him.  The way in which she had acted the part of Helen was so real and lifelike, that he had allowed himself to be carried away by the notion that, if an engagement existed (of which he had some dim surmise) between herself and that grave cousin. Tiny was ready to throw it over for his sake, and meant him to understand this, when she exclaimed with so much significance ―

    "Whoe'er may claim me, thou'rt the man shall have me."

    Stammering out an apology, Reginald declared he was so excited, he was more like a madman than anything else that night.

    "Well then," said Tiny, feeling more secure as they neared the little side door, through which they had made their exit from the ball-room, "let us consider that your temporary fit of insanity is over, and do not let this subject ever be resumed."

    He was on the point of speaking, when Tiny stopped him by saying, in a gentler voice, ''I am sorry to pain you.  You cannot think how it hurts me;" for she saw the young man was growing deadly pale.  "It has been a great mistake.  I am already engaged to my cousin, but you must not speak of it."

    Reginald Macnaghten was silent.  Tiny's words and manner told him he had nothing to hope, and he was struggling with his disappointment, which was real; for he had learnt to love this girl who had only trifled with him.

    "Come, Reginald," said Tiny, calling him for the first time by his Christian name, "give me your hand on it, and let us be friends.  I like you very much," she said, holding out her hand, "and should care to have you for a friend."

    He kissed it, for he could not speak; but, instead of following her into the house, allowed her to pass in alone, and without another word, walked rapidly from the terrace into the dark shrubbery beyond.

    That night Reginald Macnaghten never reappeared in the ball-room; some hours later he was found in his room; having retired, he said, with a violent headache.

    Now that Tiny realized what she had done, she was sorry for it; but, unfortunately, her repentance came too late; and, in this instance, was accompanied by so many fears on her own account, that she had enough to do to think of how she should get out of this business with the least blame to herself.

    It was a great relief to think that she was going away the next morning, or rather that very day; for the sun had risen long before her sisters left her in undisturbed possession of her room, and with thoughts which were anything but calm and pleasant.

    "At any rate," said Tiny to herself, ''it was fortunate that Wilfred could not get leave of absence; and yet, perhaps, if he had come down to the play, this last catastrophe might have been avoided."

    She felt she should never dare confess all to him, for she knew she had acted foolishly in going out on the terrace; her own sense told her that, in doing so, she provoked the declaration which followed; and when she recalled the pained expression of Reginald's face as she last saw it, before he strode away into the shrubbery to conceal his emotion, a genuine regret came over her, and a sense of shame for having indulged her vanity at his expense.

    But Tiny hated to think of what pained her, and consoled herself with a sweeping condemnation of her mother, for forcing her to conceal her position with Wilfred ― of Wilfred, for not being present to take care of her ― and of Reginald Macnaghten, for not restraining his feelings ― and then she fell into a peaceful sleep, as if nothing whatever had happened, and she had never given a human being a moment's disquietude.


 
CHAPTER XXXII.


"O purblind race of miserable men,
 How many among us at this very hour
 Do forge a life-long trouble for ourselves,
 By taking true for false, and false for true."

Idylls of the King.


    FOR the next few weeks Tiny astonished everybody by her eagerness to go to all the balls and parties for which the Harewoods received cards.

    When alone with Wilfred she was constrained and nervous.  She had not told him about Reginald Macnaghten's proposal, and was in constant dread of his hearing more about her conduct at Bellingham Castle than he knew already.  If that displeased him, Tiny wondered what he would say if he knew all which had taken place since she wrote that penitent letter.  The whole thing made her so restless and unhappy, that she craved for fresh excitement, and was never satisfied without it.

    Nor was Wilfred happy.  He could not disengage his affections from this enticing little piece of naughtiness, and yet his illusion was gone ― gone far more completely than he thought it even that miserable night when he paced up and down the deck of the yacht at Ryde, and for the first time learned that Tiny loved another when she promised to be his wife.

    And so these two, who, a few weeks before, had seemed so bound up in each other that nothing could sever them, began to grow wider and wider apart, until they were once more united by a common sorrow.

    During this time, Wilfred Lane devoted himself more than ever to his work.  His daily visit to Grosvenor Crescent was no longer expected as a matter of course.  If he came, he found the drawing-room so full that he had no chance of a quiet talk with Tiny; if he dined there, she often left before dessert to prepare for some ball, to which she had promised to accompany Lady Harewood; and their quiet Sunday afternoons were now constantly broken into by interruptions which Wilfred knew well enough Tiny would have evaded in earlier days.

    Still, he clung obstinately to the belief that all this sprang from the unnatural state of things to which Lady Harewood forced their submission.  He thought that Tiny's restless love of excitement would subside, and the happiness she had expressed in her old letters from Rome would be hers, when she was settled in a quiet little home of her own, for which he so impatiently sighed.  Tiny, too, often spoke of her happiness as certain, when removed from an atmosphere which, she assured Wilfred, she loathed and detested.

    Such was the state of things on the 31st of May, between these two who had once thought it impossible to wait till then for the marriage which was to make them as publicly one, as their hearts long since had made them.

    Wilfred was on his way to speak to Lady Harewood that evening, when he met one of his aunt's servants, who gave him a note from Tiny, begging him by no means to come to the house, because Madeline, who had been very poorly for the last few days, had scarlet fever, and the whole household was in confusion.

    He had no fears for himself, having had the scarlet fever at Harrow; but, knowing he might convey the infection to others, he felt he must refrain from going to Tiny; for what would Lady Slade say, if she heard that Mr. Lane attended the War Office as usual, after visiting Grosvenor Crescent under present circumstances?  With an expression which did not sound like a blessing on the rising generation of little Slades, he retraced his steps in the direction of his own chambers.

    During the next few days constant notes passed between them, for Wilfred was not only anxious about Madeline, but in hourly dread lest Tiny should take the fever.

    At first the accounts were favourable; but, by the end of the week, bad symptoms appeared; and the doctors warned them all to prepare for the worst.  After a night of great suspense, Wilfred received a line from Tiny, to say that poor Madeline had sunk from exhaustion at four o'clock that bright June morning ; and Lady Harewood was so much alarmed lest any fresh case should break out, that she had resolved to leave the infected house that very day, and had actually despatched Watson to engage rooms at Walmer, as the quietest place they could think of in their distress.

    Poor Tiny's letter was blotted all over with tears, for she was heart-broken at the sudden loss of her favourite sister, and horrified at the idea of leaving the house as soon as ever Madeline ceased to breathe.

    Of course, Wilfred was thankful to hear of this plan, as it was evident the fever was of a malignant kind; but he felt very deeply the death of a cousin with whom so many early associations were connected.

    How differently this first week in June passed to what any of them had expected!

    Every day brought Wilfred a letter from Walmer, which he eagerly opened, fearing it might contain news of further illness; but the cruel fever had done its work: gradually all alarm subsided; and, at the end of three weeks. Sir Thomas Slade (unknown to his wife) told Mr. Lane he might safely run down and see poor Lady Harewood and his cousins.

    On the following Saturday afternoon, Wilfred astonished his aunt and cousins by walking into the small house they occupied, facing the sea.

    When Tiny saw him her grief burst out afresh, for they had not met since Madeline's death; and directly they were alone, she hid her face on his shoulder, and, refusing to be comforted, wept as if her very heart would break.

    After dinner they walked together on the beach; but although they both shrank from speaking of their hope of future happiness, in the presence of this new sorrow, they seemed to be nearer to each other; nearer than they had been for many weeks.

    The next morning Wilfred took Tiny across the fields to the church at Upper Deal.  On their return, Lady Harewood consulted them about a very kind letter she had received from Lady Lothian, inviting them all to her place in Scotland.  A few years before, Lady Lothian had lost her own daughter in scarlet fever; and she begged the Harewoods to come to her as soon as they felt inclined, promising that no one should intrude on them, for she knew how to sympathize with their deep sorrow.

    Wilfred had never seen Lady Lothian, as the Harewoods had made her acquaintance in Rome; but he was much pleased with her letter, and, when they talked it over, he advised her offer should be accepted.  It was accordingly settled that they should propose to be with her the second week in July; and as it was considered more prudent to avoid Grosvenor Crescent altogether, Wilfred was to engage rooms at the Euston Square Hotel, to enable them to rest one night in London, and to take the day mail to Edinburgh.

    Tiny wrote every day, whilst she was at the sea-side ― letters full of the old love ― and again told Wilfred how she longed for the time which would put an end to a separation which became more and more wearisome.

    On the fourteenth of July the Harewoods left Walmer for the Euston Square Hotel, where Wilfred was waiting to receive them.

    He took the first possible opportunity of telling Lady Harewood that, although this sorrow had prevented their claiming her promise on the first of June, they trusted she would consent to their marriage during the autumn, and added he was about to see a cottage at Chislehurst, to which Tiny had taken a fancy.

    Lady Harewood seemed considerably softened by her recent grief, and said she had been expecting this communication, and would talk to Tiny when they were at Lady Lothian's; she also requested him to write fully about ways and means after his visit to Chislehurst.  Then she wished him good-by, rather more cordially than usual, and retired with Charlotte in order to give Wilfred a quiet half hour with Tiny.

    Before they parted that night, Tiny unburdened her heart, and confessed the extent of Reginald Macnaghten's influence over her.  She spoke, too, again of Captain Foy; of her unrest and craving for excitement; and then assured Wilfred of her perfect love for himself, and her happiness in looking forward to the day which should unite them forever.

    Still, as Wilfred Lane walked home, he determined to give her the chance of once more reconsidering the whole matter, but resolved to wait until she had settled down at Dunoon.  In the meantime he went to Chislehurst, and made every inquiry, as if the result were certain to be in accordance with his wishes.  Tiny soon sent him news of their arrival in Edinburgh, and their subsequent welcome from Lady Lothian at her lovely place on the banks of the Loch Lomond.


 
CHAPTER XXXIII.


"His grand excellence was this, that he was genuine."

THOMAS CARLYLE.


    WHEN Tiny had been about ten days in Scotland she received the following letter:


    "MY OWN DARLING TINY,
        "I have been thinking so much of all you told me the night before you left London, that I feel I ought to ask you to reconsider your position with regard to me.  This separation has been brought about in such a strange and mysterious manner, that it almost seems as if it had been sent on purpose to enable you once more to deliberate before your final decision.  So now, Tiny, believe me, when I say I honestly want you to consider yourself unfettered by any previous promise; as having, in fact, your choice to make.  Do not suppose, my beloved, that I write thus because I love you less, or am a shade less eager for our marriage; on the contrary, Tiny, I seem every day to love and need you more; but I love you so infinitely more than I do my own happiness, that I can surrender it to yours.  Do not fear to trust me.

    If there is any doubt on your mind; if you have the shadow of a suspicion that life with me will not give you all you can imagine possible under such circumstances, I think you are bound to hesitate, even now, at the eleventh hour, in spite of any present suffering and humiliation to me.  You see, my darling, one point has been made clear to you this year, and your doubts and difficulties respecting Captain Foy are forever set at rest.  This gives you a far better opportunity of deciding your own future, than could be the case while your little mind was harassed by all these cruel perplexities which tormented it so long.  But, Tiny, I sometimes tremble lest you should have mistaken your feeling for me, because I was able in the first instance unconsciously to help you to bear your sorrow, and, after you confided in me, to sympathize with every little difficulty and pain it brought you.  Therefore, I want you once more to consider the whole matter.  Do not, for any fear of bringing trouble upon me, hesitate to do what is best for your own happiness.  Remember, my darling, you would bring a far greater misery upon me in the end, if I found, a few weeks after our marriage, that it did not yield you all the joy you expected.  Tiny, the thought that I could never help you, never release you from such a bondage, would be intolerable to me.  For both our sakes I implore you to make no mistake about your love for me.

    "Let me speak plainly to you, which I can do much more calmly than when present with you.

    "It is not that I love you less, or that I can ― even while I tell you to choose afresh ― think of parting with you without a thorough upset of my life and the only happiness I have ever pictured ― the future I have treasured for years!  But I dare not (after what I saw at Bellingham, and what you have since told me about your feeling for Macnaghten) refrain from offering to set you free from the tie which has hitherto bound us.

    "It is easier, Tiny, to say things than to forget them; just as it was easier for me to be angry at Bellingham, rather than wise and patient; but what you said and did then, took away from me the confidence I had in our future, and left in its place a thousand doubts and difficulties.

    "When I first told you I loved you, and asked you to be my wife, you made me believe that your love for me was so completely a part of your nature, that nothing short of our marriage would satisfy you: and that the happiness of such a union would more than counterbalance any trials and drawbacks incidental to our position.  If I had ever doubted this, I should have felt it wrong to offer your mother the decided opposition I did.  When I learnt for the first time at Ryde the existence of a previous attachment, you know, Tiny, what I wished to do.  I allowed you to overrule me, because I believed events would turn out as they have, in one way; but I never dreamt that any other feeling would take the slightest hold upon you ― even to the extent it did at Bellingham.

   "I cannot write calmly, after all; and I don't know that many words are wanted.  All I have to say is, that I implore you, my darling, to be very sure you are making no mistake now.  Unless you love me wholly our marriage will simply expose you to a thousand miseries and dangers, of which you have at present no conception.  Without love, Tiny ― the deepest love of your whole being ― it will be destitute of the greatest safeguard against temptations to which some natures are peculiarly liable.  Think over this while you are away from me, my darling; you are better able now to come to a clear decision about the state of your own mind, and what will best promote your future welfare.  Do not hesitate to choose what seems happiest for you, because your kind little heart shrinks from wounding me; remember I am a great strong fellow, and can better face this trouble, than you could cope with such a life-long difficulty as an incomplete marriage.

    "I know too much of the wretchedness and sin such marriages produce, ever to forget it; and therefore solemnly conjure you, Tiny, not to link your fate with mine if you have one doubt about your affection for me.  The thought that I might prove your evil, and not your good, has sent me down on my knees more than once, and I would welcome any present desolation for myself rather than run such a fearful risk for you, my own dear one ― dearer far than my own soul.

"Yours,
                                         "W
ILFRED LANE."
 .                .                .                .                .                .                .                .


"DUNOON.

    "I would not answer your letter, my darling Wil, in a hurry; so I kept it for two days in my pocket, and have read it through a great many times since it came.

    "You are a dear, noble, generous-hearted fellow; but there was no occasion for you to write as you did, or to place so much weight upon what I have said and done, when I was in an ill-conditioned state.

    "If I wanted anything to convince me that I never could be happy without you, this separation would have done it.  I feel such a blank, and one does not quite know why it is, till I picture what this place would be like if you were only here; and then I find it is your absence which makes the want.  My own Wil! our life together is the only one I can think of with any satisfaction; and I feel sure it will be a happy one, if, as you said in our last sweet talk together, we make up our minds to do all we can for each other's happiness.  Certainly, it is only by doing my duty by you that I shall ever get any real happiness, or do myself any good; you must think the same, and then our little home will be a sweet and peaceful one.  I do indeed realize this, and am ready to do my best.  I think I must succeed better than I have before, because all seems so much clearer.  You may be sure that it is no sudden impulse which makes me say this.  I may be changeable in temperament; but I am certain that my feeling for you is based upon the deepest part of my mind, and life would be incomplete without you.

    "I quite understand your letter, Wilfred, and feel for you in a way which will, I hope, make me in the future more considerate to you than I have been in the past.  I know I was very wrong about Reginald Macnaghten, or rather, I missed the highest right, chiefly from not seeing what I was doing; and, as I am quite, quite certain that a life with you would secure for me a far greater amount of happiness than anything else in the world, I will be more unselfish in the future. I am writing this after some very serious thought, Wil.

    "Believe me, I could not part with you, any better than you could part with me.  The happiest moment in the day is when I come down and find a letter from you on the breakfast-table; and the next best ― when I sit down to answer it.  Every day makes me more dependent upon you ― no, my darling, I never could do without you now, and you would be more than satisfied if you knew how I am longing for the time when we shall always be together in a peaceful little home of our own.  I was counting even yesterday the days to that dearest event, and wondering if Mamma would insist on our waiting until the six dreariest months I have ever spent in my life are completed.  So good-by, my own; for my own you always, always must be, and that is your answer.  I kiss your dear ring as I write.  I have no time for more.

"Your own little
                                    "T
INY."


    This letter extinguished Wilfred's last lingering suspicion; his whole nature rejoiced in the thought of his darling's love; and he thanked God for this rich gift, and prayed to be able to make her happy.

    He pursued the owner of the cottage at Chislehurst with renewed vigour, and at last obtained his definite answer.  Mr. Hall was about to leave England, and wished to sell his cottage, together with the old oak furniture and the curious cabinets it contained.  The house was fitted up with such perfect taste, that Tiny used often to say if she herself had planned it, she could not have succeeded better.

    After a few days' negotiation, matters were finally arranged; and, in spite of the heavy sum it required, Wilfred succeeded in obtaining the cottage, as Mr. Hall agreed to give him immediate possession, and to let part of the purchase-money stand over for another year.  So, when the night mail travelled down to Scotland on the following Monday, it carried a letter which much delighted the little person to whom it was addressed.


    "MY DARLING TINY,
        "Your letter has made me the happiest man in the whole world!  I will never again have another doubt about your love, so I shall 'let the dead past bury its dead,' including Mr. Reginald Macnaghten, and, by way of acting in the 'living present,' as the poet says, I have just signed, sealed, and paid over the greater part of the purchase-money for that queer little place at Chislehurst, which took your fancy so last year.  As Mr. Hall is going to live in Florence, he wished to sell the whole house as it stands; so you may now consider yourself the mistress of this quaint little cottage.  How I wish you could put yourself into an envelope, and come back in the next post-bag, to preside over your new possession and me!  I am getting so hungry for you, Tiny, that, when I do get hold of you, I shall devour you altogether ― there will be nothing of you left.  I shall be like the old bear in the story, 'who growled over her a little while and then ate her up.'  Well, if we had not waited all this time, I should never have saved enough money, so it is all right, I suppose.

    "But we shall not want to buy any more houses, so please tell your mother we really cannot wait any longer.  I don't see at all why she should not agree to our being married in September, without any fuss or ceremony.  It will then be two years since that day when you found out what those little marks meant in my Browning.  Well, my own, if I felt so for you then, I do ten thousand times more now.  You seem a very part of me ― and the best part, too.  And, after that sweet letter you have written in answer to my offer to let you spread your little wings and fly away, I feel as I used to do when I was a schoolboy at Harrow, the day before the holidays.  If I don't take care I shall be playing off a practical joke upon Sir Thomas Slade!

    "So you were kissing my ring for want of something better, eh? Ah, my little sunshine, if I could only gather you up in my arms at this moment! Well ― Christmas Day will, I hope, find us sitting by our own fireside at Chislehurst. The very thought of it makes me feel like a giant! God bless you.

                                  "Yours forever,
                                                                    "W. L."


    This news made Tiny wild with joy.  She had taken such a fancy to this cottage, that she declared she would rather live there than in any other place in England; and, for the next fortnight, she was continually suggesting a hundred little alterations she wanted made in their future home; and told Wilfred, above everything, to "cultivate earwigs, as no place was really delightful without them."

    Lady Harewood was interested in hearing about the house and their future plans, but still said she would not allow the marriage to take place before the end of the prescribed six months.

    "So," wrote Tiny, ''it must be November instead of June."


 
CHAPTER XXXIV.


"I would not have that exotic virtue which is kept from the chill blast, hidden from evil, without any permission to be exposed to temptation.  That alone is virtue which has good placed before it and evil, and, seeing the evil, chooses the good."

REV. FREDERIC ROBERTSON.


    ONE lovely morning towards the end of August, Lady Lothian and her guests stepped through an open window on to the lawn at Dunoon, while discussing the contents of the letter-bag, which had arrived during breakfast.

    Lady Lothian had been surprised by a letter from her son, who had reached London from St. Petersburgh nearly a fortnight before he was expected.  He wanted to bring a friend down for some grouse shooting; and Lady Lothian was extremely uncomfortable, because she fancied that any society would at present be distasteful to Lady Harewood.

    On reading this letter, Lady Lothian had expressed her astonishment at her son's return, and she felt it was useless to delay mooting the other point to which it referred.  "Herbert wishes to come here next Saturday; and talks of bringing his friend, Henry Talbot, with him.  Will you tell me frankly, dear Lady Harewood, if this would be disagreeable to you and the girls?  If you feel it an intrusion, Herbert can easily go to his own moor in Aberdeenshire, without coming here at all."

    "I would not, on any account, keep Lord Lothian away," replied her guest.  "The very thought of such a thing makes me uncomfortable at trespassing so long on your hospitality; and we really ought to be going home."

    "I will not hear of that.  You promised me to stay until the end of September, and by that time I do hope to see you looking a little stronger.  Poor Tiny, too, is only just beginning to get a little colour on her cheeks."

    "Oh, I am very well," said Tiny, slipping her hand into Lady Lothian's, with whom she was a special favourite, for she often reminded her of the daughter she had lost.  For her sake and Charlotte's, Lady Lothian was glad that her son talked of coming with his friend; for though the young men would spend the greater part of the day on the moors, the very fact of their being in the house would add to its general liveliness.

    There is a certain amount of decorum which ought to be observed; but when grief is genuine, people need not be afraid of making their outward circumstances as cheerful as possible.

   And certainly the arrival of Lord Lothian and Mr. Talbot made a difference to everybody in the house, although at first the days were spent in the pursuit of grouse; and when they returned, tired with their sport, they did not always join the ladies after dinner.

    But, before very long, an excursion was planned to Loch Katrine and the Trossachs, and sundry boating expeditions followed.  Tiny's letters to Wilfred were filled with descriptions of the lovely scenery through which they passed; and he rejoiced to find how rapidly she was recovering her spirits, and that the seclusion Lady Harewood at first rigidly enforced had come to so timely an end.

    But when Tiny's letters became shorter than before, he almost grudged the time spent in these mountain and boating excursions; and, at last, when a whole week passed and he never heard at all, he felt anxious, and despatched a grumbling epistle to Dunoon.

    Tiny answered by saying "the days were so full, that even letters to him 'seemed a push;'" ― an expression which somewhat astonished him, though he did not wonder at her raptures over "an atmosphere which seemed to have so little of the nineteenth century about it."  "I cannot describe the feeling," she said; "but there is such an absence of that irritating shallowness of perpetual go, which means nothing, and produces nothing lasting, and never can do any one any good."

    In the same letter she said:


    "I read Thomas-a-Kempis every day, as you asked me to do.  The thing he appears to dwell on most is the necessity of training the mind to the inward, and not to the outward condition of life.  That is, as you often say, my greatest difficulty; and habit has increased my natural tendency to externals.  But, Wil, I can honestly say that I derive very little pleasure from them; at least, the pleasure which comes is so unsatisfactory that it is nearer like vexation.  I read such a glorious chapter in Proverbs this morning; one verse in it made me think for a long time: it was about the spirit of a man being the candle of the Lord reaching the inmost parts; that spirit, I find, is the only finger-post to the path where one's duty lies, and I try to test my feeling for you by that, and to act accordingly.  I quite understand your complaining about my letters.  I don't know why I feel so disinclined to write about our proceedings; but you don't know the people here, and details of going out and coming in are only interesting when connected with people you know something of."


    This last sentence seemed to Wilfred strangely inconsistent with Tiny's previous delight in telling him every passing incident of her daily life.


 
CHAPTER XXXV.


"Till from the straw the flail the corn doth beat
 Until the chaff be purged from the wheat,
 Yea, till the mill the grains in pieces tear
 The richness of the flour will scarce appear.
 So, till men's persons great afflictions touch
 If worth be found, their worth is not so much,
 Because, like wheat in straw, they have not yet
 That value which in threshing they may get.
 For, till the bruising flail of God's corrections
 Have threshed out of us our vain affections;
 Till those corruptions which do misbecome us
 Are by thy sacred Spirit winnowed from us;
 Until from us the straw of worldly treasures,
 Till all the dusty chaff of empty pleasures,
 Yea! till His flail upon us He doth lay
 To thresh the husk of this our flesh away
 And leave the soul uncovered; nay, yet more
 Till God shall make our very spirit poor.
 We shall not up to highest wealth aspire.
 But then we shall; and that is my desire."

WITHER.


    SEPTEMBER passed away, and the first week in October found the Harewoods still at Dunoon.  For ten days Wilfred had not heard from Tiny: one morning, however, he found a thick envelope on the breakfast-table; eagerly seizing it, and pushing aside his breakfast, he sat down to devour its contents.

    It commenced with an account of two days spent in Arran, and then continued, after a break:


    ''This autumn weather, the falling leaves, and the lovely tints, have such a strange effect upon me.  Such a view we saw yesterday as we were walking home ― thick mists rose in the valley, which were bright pink where the sun shone through them ― deep blue where they were in shade ― and the woods a thousand colours; cherry, orange, and every conceivable shade.  The outlines were as magical as Turner's, or some of Gustave Dore's drawings."


Here the letter broke off, and was, apparently, continued a few days later:


"Oh, Wil, life is very difficult, with all its complicated feelings and necessities!  But I suppose we are given something inside us to guide us in these complications.  We stumble, fall, and dissemble; and the dissembling returns upon ourselves.  The heart alone knoweth its own bitterness, but also alone knoweth its own comfort.  Wilfred, the more I see of myself the more diffident I get about myself.  Such a curious feeling has come into my life that I dare no longer deceive you. I have a feeling for Lord Lothian.

    "Dishonest I have not been, because I have deceived myself more than you.  I came to you full of the intensest feeling towards another.  Your superiority to me, in so many ways, gave me such a respect for you that it blinded me to the sin I was committing ― and so it has been all along.  The great good and strength you were to me, deadened the feeling that I was not all I should have been to you; and my real affection ― a thousand times greater now than when you first told me that you loved me ― made me shrink from not trying to be all you wished me to be to you.  This is the truth, Wil.  You may well say that I ought to have said so when you wrote to me that letter some weeks ago, and asked me to think seriously of our life.  I did think, to the best of my power, Wil darling; and it then seemed to me that a life with you would be the best and happiest I could imagine.

    "I thought that episode at Bellingham Castle was entirely my own fault, arising from self-indulgence and love of admiration.  So it was; and if this feeling were like it, I should consider it as unworthy as I consider that.

    "God knows my strongest desire now is that you may not suffer from my being what I am if I can help it.  Though you would be wrong to think I am happy, yet, when Lord Lothian asked me for my love, I felt if I refused it him I should be shutting out of my life the brightest glow of happiness I have ever imagined since that miserable affair with Captain Foy.

    "Since that winter at Windsor, I have not even imagined any happiness in life till this time ― I mean happiness which God puts into your nature without your asking for it or seeking it in any way.  I know that happiness is not the goal of life, nor is it to be got by seeking it irrespectively of duty; and, Wil, believe me when I say I have tried to do what I ought to do in this matter.

    "Throughout all my weaknesses and changes there is but one thing I am able steadily to believe and think of ― the strength and help you have been to me.  Wilfred, the growth of the little that is worth having in me, is solely connected with the time I have been so much with you.  If the thought of me gives you pain, I would, if I could, obliterate myself from your memory; though I can hardly tell you what that would be to me.  Whatever you may say or do, I shall never be able to be anything but your own Tiny; own in the best sense of the word ― for the only part I respect in myself is closely united with something in you.

    "Pity me, Wil, for I cannot be happy, knowing the wrong I have done to you.


''T
INY."


    When Wilfred finished reading this letter, he began it again, and read it through from beginning to end.  He did not seem able to understand it.  At last his eyes fixed upon the words, "I HAVE A FEELING FOR LORD LOTHIAN."  He repeated them aloud; and then seemed so startled by the sound of his own voice, that he sat looking at that sentence without attempting to move.

    He was disturbed by the entrance of the servant who came in to remove the breakfast, wondering why Mr. Lane lingered such a long time over it; wondering still more when she saw he had not touched it.  Before she could speak, Wilfred thrust his letter into his breast-pocket, and, taking up his hat, went down the stairs at once to avoid observation.

    The blow had so crushed him that he wandered about the streets like a man in a dream.  He was neither conscious of where he walked, nor of the crowd around him.  Mechanically he took his usual route to the War Office, but passed it without knowing he did so.  He turned to the left, up Regent Street, passed the Langham Hotel, on through Portland Place, the Regent's Park ― on, on, to Primrose Hill, with his eyes on the ground, and his lips every now and then murmuring, ― "Tiny, Tiny!"

    At last he suddenly remembered that it was Saturday morning.  There was some special work to be done that day at the War Office; and after this he had arranged to go to Chislehurst, for he wanted the place to be in perfect order before Tiny returned.  Oh, how he loathed the very name of Chislehurst now!  It seemed to stab him in every vulnerable part, and brought ten thousand pangs in place of the happy confidence which had been his at this very hour yesterday.  He hastily retraced his steps, and calling a Hansom cab, told the driver to hurry on to the War Office; and, as he walked up the steps, he involuntarily exclaimed, "God help the man she now says she loves!"

    When Mr. Lane apologized to Sir Thomas Slade for his late arrival, there was but little need to say he was ill; his face told the tale plainly enough.  A headache, however, did duty for the real pain he was suffering; and after vainly attempting to work, Wilfred was forced to return home.

    He locked himself into his room.  Feeling faint and chilly, he poured out a tumbler of brandy and water, and drank it off; then putting a match to his fire, threw himself into the arm-chair before it, and sat hour after hour vacantly staring at the flickering blaze ― perfectly stunned by this unexpected blow.

    At last he drew out Tiny's letter; yes, there were the words ― "I have a feeling for Lord Lothian."  Wilfred could see nothing else on the whole sheet but those terrible words ― "I have a feeling for Lord Lothian.''  He staggered to the writing-table, and, unlocking a drawer, took out several bundles of letters.  Here was the packet from Rome ― these, tied up with a lock of fair hair, were the letters from Berkshire.  Opening the foreign ones, he read them through; and, as he laid them back in the drawer, he thought the novelist was right when he said there are no better satires than letters.


    "Vows ― love ― promises ― confidences and gratitude ― how queerly they read after a while!  There ought to be a law in Vanity Fair ordering the destruction of every written document (except receipted tradesmen's bills) after a certain and proper period.  The quacks and misanthropes who advertise indelible ink should be made to perish along with their wicked discoveries.  The best ink for Vanity Fair use would be one that faded utterly in a couple of days, and left the paper clean and blank, so that you might write on it to somebody else."


    Sweet and bitter thoughts were crowding through Wilfred's mind, as he sat resting his head on his hands against the table ― memories of infinite tendernesses he had received from Tiny; days and hours which never could be forgotten; love which no future falseness could ever quite efface!  Recollections came, too, of the hot and fatal passion of his youth ― his sin was finding him out after many days!

    Morning dawned, and Wilfred still sat battling with his misery.  He took up a pen, and, drawing closer to the table, he began to write:


    "Your letter, Tiny, was such a shock to me, that I could not answer it as you requested, by return of post.  I feel bewildered.  It is scarcely three weeks since I received that dear and loving letter which I prized and believed in so ― and now!  What am I to think? what am I to say?  When did you deceive yourself ― then or now?  There is but one conclusion, Tiny ― you are utterly unstable; and I am powerless to save you, because the feeling of love and honour which you ought to have is wanting.

    "After hours of battling with my own feelings, I can only pray that you may not live out your present fancy as you have your love for me.  If you will indulge your perilous love of power, it must end in corrupting the high and glorious spirit which God meant to be the best part of you; but which you are extinguishing by this perpetual crucifixion of your higher nature.

    "I do not want to blame you.  Tiny; I know our position has been a very difficult one; with every one seeking to undermine our tie instead of strengthening it, none but a very firm true heart could have stood the test.  But when you returned from Rome ― but that was before you had lived through your feeling for me.

    "Tiny, it is useless to write, and I am too bewildered to think ― the misery of the last twentyfour hours seems simply unreal; you, another person.  To think of life with you out of it, almost drives me mad; my mind seems to have lost its balance, and my very body seems shaken already by the blow.  You ask me to help you.  Tiny, I want help myself.  The thought that you have any pain from which I cannot shield you, tortures me.  You cannot be happy, my poor child, though you have not the misery I have to bear.  Oh! Tiny, my own ― I cannot write.  No words can recall the past: all we have now to do is to bury it reverently, without recriminations ― and may God help us both in our different kinds of need and misery!  Tiny, though you have sinned in the past, I implore you to be good and true in your next relationship― for this I will never cease to pray.

    "As for me, I have deserved this bitterness ― you are simply the instrument of a just retribution; nothing short of having my own happiness torn up by the very roots would ever have punished me as I deserve."

                .                .                .                .                .                .                .                .

    Just as Wilfred Lane finished writing, the Sunday-morning church-bells rang out as usual; when he heard them, he gave a cry of pain, and, kneeling down, hid his face in his hands.  The bitter sobs which broke from him for hours after told that the iron had entered his soul as only the hand of Tiny could have driven it.



FINIS.

 


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