Allerton and Dreux (Vol. I) III

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CHAPTER X.

ROSINA.


Mr. Bishop's father (one of the most sweet-tempered and simple-minded old gentlemen that ever lived) seemed to think it part of his duty to pay attention to his son's intended during his absence; and finding Marion almost always with her, soon began to include her in his kind recollection.

    He was a short old gentleman, rather stout, and bald; he generally wore a long great-coat, and took very short steps; he had a pair of twinkling black eyes, expressive of the most paternal tenderness, and always called his son "my dear child," and Elizabeth "my pretty dear."

    One morning Mr. Bishop had brought the two girls a pretty offering, in the shape of a fairy rosetree in a pot, and they had taken it up-stairs to Marion's little parlour, where they were admiring its beauty, when young Greyson came in, and said,

    "Elizabeth, my aunt told me to remind you of the District Meeting to-day at Mr. King's."

    "How tiresome!" exclaimed Elizabeth;—"I wanted to take Marion out to-day; and now I shall have all the way to go to Mr. King's, and then to return for her."

    "But cannot I go with you, and wait till the Meeting is over?" said Marion.

    "Oh yes, if you will, dear Marion," said Elizabeth; "but I wonder where the district books are?"   

    "Rosina has got them, no doubt," observed young Greyson; "she is often going out with tracts or a little bag in her hand.  I see her go past the study-window almost every day while I am at my writing."

    "I thought it was Elizabeth's district?" said Marion.

    "Yes, so it is," replied Elizabeth, blushing; "but really I begin to feel it too much for me.  The little houses are so hot that they always give me the headache, and then the poor women have so many grievances to relate that it makes me quite low.  But Rosina likes going, and besides, she keeps the books very neatly, so that I have only to make an abstract of what she has done when I have not been able to go myself."

    "Which abstract runs thus," said Wilfred:— "'Mrs. Black—Groats and sugar, 9d.; child has the measles; husband out of work; promised her a hat for her boy.—Mem., not to forget it.  Mrs. Reeve—Very impertinent; wanted to know why I gave so much more to her neighbours than to her; gave her child a pound of beef for tea; declined to take the tract; said she would see about it next time.  Mrs. Collet's father ill; gave her tea, sugar, and sago, for him; heard him whistling before I opened the door; when I came in he began to groan audibly, and declared his cough was "killing of him."  Found the Wilsons toasting muffins; did not give them anything.— Mem., not to take my gloves off there; eldest child has the ringworm.'"

    "How came you to be so well acquainted with my district-books?" said Elizabeth, who, though she could not help laughing, had tried to stop him several times without success.

    "Don't I go into the school-room whenever I like?—and don't I find Rosina poring over the accounts?   Of course, I help her.  You'll see my name down as a subscriber, 'W.  F.  Greyson, Esq., one pound a-year.'  I help her, too, to cover the tracts, for I like to make myself useful.  I know all about it, Elizabeth, my dear!  You have not been into your district for five months.  Rosina says, 'Dear Elizabeth is so kind as to let me take it for her.'  She thinks it quite a treat and a privilege to have it, poor little dear!  And the people are so fond of her,—they say she talks so prettily to them!"

    "Well, I am sure she may have it altogether if she likes," said Elizabeth, in a tone of pique, "for I have a great many other things to do."

    "Yes, of course, and she does not like going to the meetings," said Wilfred, "which is a part you do not so much mind.  She has no time for them, because all the morning she is at her lessons with Miss Woods; and then Dora's schools, which she used to be so fond of, Rosina says, 'Dora is so kind as to let her go to them when she has other things to do.'  I think she goes most days to the girls' school, to teach them arithmetic.  She says they are getting on very nicely.  Dora used to be wild about those schools when first they were built, but now she seldom goes to them;—she lets Rosina have that treat, as well as take her class at the Sunday-school.  Mr. Dreux says she is a capital teacher."

    "You seem to know all Rosina's plans," said Elizabeth, rather tartly; "perhaps you can tell me where these district-books are?"   

    "Yes, I will bring them," he replied, "and then I must go, for I am rather late."

    When he had left the room, Elizabeth said nothing to Marion.  She felt vexed that Wilfred, in his joking way, should so plainly have let her see that he thought too much was left to his favourite Rosina.  However, the little girl presently came in herself, with the books in her hand, knocking first at the door, and entering with her usual charming modesty.

    "Well, Rosina," said Elizabeth, looking up with rather a heightened colour.

    "I asked Miss Woods to allow me to bring the books myself, dear Elizabeth," said Rosina, "because I wanted to remind you of that dispensary ticket which you said I should have for old Larkins."

    "Oh, I forgot it," said Elizabeth,—"how tiresome!  Well, he must wait till next month."

    Rosina looked disappointed.  "And there are several subscriptions due, Elizabeth; would you mind calling to ask for them, or if I might call myself for them, with Miss Woods?"   

    "No," said Elizabeth, "I do not wish you to do that,—I will call for them myself; perhaps not today, for I am busy; but I will lend a sovereign to the district purse in the meanwhile.  It is a great deal of trouble collecting those small sums."

    Rosina gratefully received the sovereign, and put it into her little purse.  Elizabeth thought she had spoken rather sharply to her, so, as she gave her the money, she drew down her face and kissed her.

    "Why, there is not one penny in your purse, Rosina," she said; "what a wasteful little thing you must be, to have spent all your money so soon!"

    Rosina trifled with the tassels of her purse, but said nothing, and Elizabeth began to examine the books, to see how much had been spent.

    "Why, Rosina," she said, "the district money will never hold out if you spend it so fast."

    "Oh, but there is my own subscription," said Rosina; "I subscribe half-a-guinea a quarter."

    "What! half your allowance?  Well, you must do as you please about that; but still you are spending too much; you know you must not get my district into debt."

    "But papa always gives me a sovereign on my birth-day," said Rosina, "and Mr. Raeburn said he meant to give two guineas a-year, if I would remind Marion to ask him for it."

    "But how came Mr. Raeburn to know that you had anything to do with the districts and schools?"   

    "I don't know," said Rosina, blushing, "unless Wilfred told him."

    Elizabeth coloured deeply; but whatever she might think, she said nothing.  "Well, that is all," she observed, when she had finished the abstract of the month's proceedings.  "You may go now, Rosina; I will not forget to ask for the ticket."

    "And will you ask for a new book for your coal club?" said Rosina, lingering at the door; "the old one is quite full."

    "I will see about it," said Elizabeth, in a fretted and rather ungracious tone, and Rosina withdrew.

    "Now, Marion," said Elizabeth, "we had better put on our bonnets; it is quite time to go."

    The District Society was a partnership concern between Mr. Dreux and Mr. Lodge, and the subscriptions were equally divided between them.

    When the two girls entered, they found twelve or more ladies already assembled, and talking with volubility on various subjects, but all in some degree tinged, as it were, with the phraseology of the Evangelical school.  Marion was astonished at the ease with which they alluded to some of the most awful truths; talking of conversions, death-beds, prayer-meetings, all in a breath and without the reverence which such topics would seem to demand, and the next moment bringing in some trifling anecdote about a favourite clergyman,—mingling the whole with the gossip which always prevails in a country town.  At length the two clergymen came in.  Mr. Dreux was evidently in a hurry, and wished to begin the business immediately; but his colleague was instantly assailed with questions as to why he had put a stranger into his pulpit on Sunday, and pathetically requested not to do so again, various strictures and criticisms being offered on the stranger's sermon, which made Mr. Lodge laugh.  He was a much more easy man to deal with than Mr. Dreux, who often appeared not to understand implied compliments, or was so reserved and dignified that it seemed taking a liberty to pay him one.

    The actual business of the meeting could easily have been transacted in a quarter of an hour; but there were so many compliments, which rendered so many disqualifying speeches needful, so many digressions, so many anecdotes related, and so many appointments to meet at different places, made before it began, that it was more than an hour before Mr. Lodge declared that his accounts were finished, and paid over the money to his colleague as treasurer, who immediately after rose, and bowing all round, took his leave with alacrity.

    "Dreux is excessively busy just now," said Mr. Lodge, when he had left the room.

    "Something like you in that respect, I imagine," said an elderly lady, who had shewn herself well versed in the art of flattery.

    "Well, I really do sometimes wonder myself how I contrive to get on, beset as I am; I never have a moment to myself.  Then there are my pupils, and I have visitors from morning to night," said Mr. Lodge, half laughing.

    Marion stole a glance at him, and thought he looked none the worse for his work, whatever it might be.

    "Well," said one of the most fashionably dressed among the ladies, "a minister's time is never his own.  I do not see how it can be otherwise; if people are always coming to you for advice, it is no more than you ought to expect, who are so well able to give it."

    "And so willing, I am sure," said another lady.

    Elizabeth then rose to take leave, and Marion followed, half wondering what sort of adieu Mr. Lodge might give them, and whether he counselled them to abstain from worshipping the creature more than the Creator; at the same time she was surprised at the active benevolence of those ladies, who seemed to spend the greater part of their lives in doing good, visiting the sick, teaching the ignorant, and organizing clubs and provident societies.  After this several days passed without any acquaintance on Marion's part with the society of Westport, but she heard Mr. Dreux preach twice, and, to her surprise, found it superior to her expectation; its masterly earnestness astonished her, so that she felt very serious the rest of the day, and could not understand the levity of her cousins, nor approve of the way in which they spent their Sunday.

    Not that they talked on absolutely secular subjects,—their conversation always bore on religious matters, more or less remotely,—but there was something so ready-made and so fluent in it; they talked with so little feeling and so much ease, as could not fail to suggest to a stander-by the idea that they had been brought up with the understanding that they were to hold certain opinions, and possess a certain character, and they had the dialect of those who did, whether or not they were truly of their number.

    Rosina was apart from the rest of the family, no less on Sunday than on other days.  She was completely occupied with her Sunday-school class; and young Greyson, who also was a teacher, escorted her there.  On Sunday evening, as she had a very bad cough, her mother desired that she would remain at home, and Marion wished to stay behind and read to her.  Her cousins seemed to think it most unnecessary, but as she evidently wished it, they did not oppose her.  So Marion went up stairs to her cousin's room to tell her of the arrangement.  Rosina was lying on her bed, reading; she looked very poorly, and Marion persuaded her to come down to her own little parlour.  "I am going to read to you," she said, "for your eyes are weak, and you must keep them closed."  The little girl blushed, and did not like to give her cousin so much trouble; she, however, followed her advice, and lying down upon the couch, and putting her arm round Marion, laid her head upon her shoulder to listen.  Marion read to her for some time, and she was so still that she thought she must be asleep; she put aside the book, and looking down upon her face, she opened her eyes, and Marion said, "I thought you were asleep, my sweet Rosina."

    "Oh, no," replied the little girl, "I was only thinking," and then, without either affectation or bashfulness, she began to talk about the evening lessons which Marion had been reading, as if she was sure that her cousin could both understand and sympathize with her.

    Marion was not slow to fall in with the strain of conversation, and they continued to converse till it was dark.

    Rosina said nothing brilliant, but the childlike sincerity and simplicity of her religion struck home to Marion's heart with a delight that she had not felt since she left her village home, and this oneness of feeling increased tenfold the affection which from the first had drawn them together, and made the time pass so swiftly, that Marion could not repress a sigh of disappointment when she heard her cousins' footsteps in the gallery.

    "Is it possible the service is over?" she said, as they entered.  "What a little time you seem to have been away!"

    "My dear Rosina, do sit up," said Dora; "you must tire Marion very much, I am sure."

    "Oh no, she does not," said Marion, preventing the little girl from rising; "do not move, my dear."

    "How is your cough?" asked Elizabeth.  "You should have told me, Rosina, that you were not well, and I would have taken the class myself."

    "Oh, my cough's better now," was the reply; "and, besides, the last time you took it, don't you remember you said it gave you the headache?"   

    "Yes, I—I am rather subject to the headache," said Elizabeth, blushing, as she stooped to kiss her sister's forehead.

    The next day Mr. Raeburn passed through Westport on his way home.  It was evening, and he found the ladies of the family, and two or three strangers, assembled after dinner in the drawing room.  The guests were all uninteresting people (at least so Dora and Elizabeth said,—people whom it was necessary to invite now and then), always with the bright exceptions of old Mr. Bishop, Mr. Dreux, his sister, and Frank Maidley.

    The gentlemen soon entered the drawing-room, and as soon as possible Mr. Raeburn took young Greyson aside into the little study before mentioned.

    The drawing-room was a spacious, old-fashioned apartment, opening by French windows into the garden, and on each side of it, and divided from it by folding-doors, was a little room about ten feet square.  These two rooms (each of which was furnished with a heavy curtain, which was seldom drawn over its entrance) had merely the appearance of wings to the main room.  One of them was fitted up with china, and in the other stood the harp and piano.

    Into the former of these little rooms Marion and Elizabeth had retired.  They were going to play a game of chess, and while the former was setting out the men, Elizabeth said to her, "Well, Marion, what do you think of him now you have seen him in a room?"   

    She spoke in a low voice, but it unluckily chanced that Mr. Dreux was sitting on a sofa near the entrance of the room, and hidden from them by the folds of the curtain.  He was languidly listening to the conversation of one of the uninteresting people, who sat beside him, pouring her nonsensical nothings into his ears.

    Marion made a movement of impatience when the question was asked, and as he turned involuntarily he caught a glimpse of the smile that played about her lips as she answered, "I shall soon begin to wish him the fate of Aristides, Elizabeth, to be banished (for a while, at least) from the conversation.  I am a little tired of hearing about him."

    Of course Mr. Dreux had no business to think the conversation related to him.  He tried to give a listening ear to the talk of the old lady.

    "Well, but," said Elizabeth, "I really wish to know what you think of him."

    Either his hearing must, in spite of himself, have been very acute just then, or Marion must have spoken during a pause.  He distinctly heard the answer, given in the softest tones of her sweet voice,—

    "Think of him!  Oh, I think he was worthy of a better fate."

    "Better than what?" said Elizabeth.

    "Than to be spoilt and made an idol of," said Marion, in the same subdued tones.

    "Than to be spoilt!" answered Elizabeth; "why, you don't mean to say that he is spoilt?"   

    "I wish this old woman would talk louder, or let me go," thought Mr. Dreux, as he resolutely turned away.  Of course he could have had no idea that they were talking of him,—at least, so he said to himself,—but he did not relish being an eavesdropper, and they had no reason to suppose any one was so close to them.  In spite of this, his ears would not shut themselves—they would persist, against his will, in hearing Marion's answer, which was floated softly to him through the folds of the silken curtain.

    "Considering the laudable pains people have taken to spoil him," she said, "perhaps they have not succeeded quite so well as might have been expected."

    The old lady happily here came to a pause, and Mr. Dreux left her, feeling greatly dissatisfied with himself and her.  "Am I spoilt, then," he thought; "is my demeanour really the worse for the flattering speeches that continually reach me?   Do I show in manner or words that I know they make an idol of me?   What a mortification!  I do not care for the good opinion of any one person who has thought proper to flatter me; and yet their flattery in the aggregate must have done me mischief if its effects are visible to an almost stranger.  Well, I am vexed.  I wish Miss Greyson were not so discerning.  I had rather have heard of my faults from the lips of any other person whatsoever!  But, after all, why should I think they were talking of me?"   

    The Paton family were moderately fond of music.  The two elder girls played very fairly—just well enough to entertain their visitors when music was desirable,—but neither of them sang.  The gentlemen had no sooner joined them than old Mr. Bishop demanded that the piano should be opened, and Dora and one of the uninteresting ladies played a duet by way of commencement.  They had no sooner finished than he attacked Elinor, and asked her for a song.  Now Elinor, though she had high spirits, and was very much at her ease in society, could not endure to sing before strangers, especially if she thought they were good judges of music.  She accordingly excused herself, and offered to play instead.

    "Oh, no," said the old gentleman, "we will not be put off in that way.  I know you can sing like a nightingale.  Come, Miss Dreux, what will you favour us with?"   

    "Indeed," said Elinor, "I assure you my singing is not worth hearing.  I scarcely ever sing."

    "All a pretence of modesty, to make it sound the sweeter when it comes," said one of the uninteresting gentlemen.  "Mr. Dreux, I appeal to you; your sister sings exquisitely, does she not?"   

    Being thus appealed to, Mr. Dreux was obliged to confess that his sister did sing, though when he looked at her face suffused with blushes, he wished he could have withheld the fact.  Elinor now felt far more uncomfortable than ever.  She knew this delay would greatly raise their expectations.  She began to turn over a portfolio of music which Dora handed to her, and her hand trembled visibly.  Marion, who during this conversation had entered the little music-room, plainly saw the state of things, though no one else appeared to notice it, excepting her brother, who feared that when she began to sing her voice would tremble so much as to be scarcely audible, so he sat, feeling exquisitely uncomfortable.

    "I really do not see anything here that I know," said Elinor, turning over the song; "this music is far too difficult for me."

    Marion, who was accustomed to sing every night, whether alone or in society, was, partly from that circumstance and partly from natural constitution, perfectly free from that miserable feeling called nervousness which very much afflicts some young ladies, and is made up of bashfulness and an over desire to please.  She easily perceived Elinor's feelings, and generously wishing to relieve them, made a step forward, and producing another portfolio, said, "Or perhaps you would prefer to sing a duet?"   

    The grateful assent with which this proposal was met assured her that she was conferring a real benefit.  Elinor felt that it was quite a different matter to sing supported by another voice.  The audience could have nothing to say against it; and Marion, though she would rather not have put herself forward when not asked, felt indemnified by Elinor's evident relief.  She let her choose any duet she preferred, and she fixed on some common-place air.  Marion gave her a splendid accompaniment, and humoured her voice to perfection, managing her own so as not to overpower it.

    Elinor had neither a powerful nor a fine voice, but its tones were sweet, and with these advantages, and the confidence inspired by feeling herself in such good hands, she sung her part extremely well, and the audience applauded both performers at its conclusion.

    "After all," thought Mr. Dreux, looking at Marion's serene face, "I think I am not sorry you are so discerning.  You have saved Elinor from a very ridiculous exhibition."

    During the closing strain Mr. Raeburn and young Greyson returned, and entering the music-room and seeing that Marion was one of the performers, cast a look of amazement at each other.  When the duet was finished Elinor withdrew, and Mr. Raeburn coming up to Marion, and looking at the title of the song, said, in a subdued voice but with infinite expression, "What rubbish is this that you have been singing, my love?"   

    Marion was still sitting on the music-stool, and Mr. Dreux (of whose relationship to one of the fair singers Mr. Raeburn was by no means aware) was standing beside her, having been occupied in turning over the leaves.

    Marion was sure that he could not have failed to hear the remark, and as she rose she gave a gentle admonitory look to Mr. Raeburn, which was intended to silence him, and said, with a blush of uneasiness, lest her innocent little ruse should be discovered, " Dear uncle, you are singular in your disapproval; our duet has had great success."

    "I never heard such stuff in ray life," proceeded the discomfited amateur, and Mr. Dreux went away and joined his sister, to whom Mr. Bishop was talking gaily, rallying her on her disinclination to sing, and declaring that it was only that she liked to be pressed.

    "Marion's voice sounded very poor to-night," whispered Dora to her mother.

    "I cannot think what was the matter with it," replied the discerning Mrs. Paton, "I never heard her sing in that style before.  Perhaps she is not in voice."

    At this moment Mr. Paton came in, and said to Marion, "Well, my dear, I hope you are going to favour us?   I never hear any singing that delights me so much as yours."

    Not wishing to sing again so soon, lest the contrast between her first and second performance should be remarked, Marion made some slight excuse, and her aunt said, "Well, then, Rosina shall play her last new piece,—where is she?"   

    The little girl, who, as usual, was quite in the background, came when she was desired, and played her piece remarkably well for her years, Mr. Raeburn standing by and testifying his approval.

    "Rosina will play very well, I think," said young Greyson, addressing Elinor; "her style is very pure, and she has excellent taste."

    Elinor could never hope to play as well as Rosina did already, and she said so.

    "Now, Marion, you will sing, my dear?" said Mrs. Paton.

    Marion came up to the piano, and her brother prepared to accompany her.  Mr. Raeburn chose a splendid song of Handel's for her, pointed out a passage which he said must be sung more piano than when she last sang it, and desired her not to dwell too much on the closing strain.  It had been very evident to him, from the remarks on Rosina's playing, that there was no one present who really understood and could appreciate good music.  He was sure they would not appreciate her singing, however much they might be delighted with the beauty of her voice.  Such being the case, he did not much care to have her sing beyond the pleasure of hearing her himself, and he sat down to listen in a place where he could see her face.

    Truly beautiful voices please all ears, however uncultivated; and on this occasion both the interesting and uninteresting people testified their delight by the most breathless silence.  When she sunk her thrilling voice to the softest audible sound, in the passage which had been pointed out, she glanced rather timidly at Mr. Raeburn; and when he smiled and nodded she gathered courage, and went on triumphantly to the end.

    "Oh," thought Mr. Dreux, "I see Miss Greyson is singing to Mr. Raeburn,—not to us."

    The audience declared that they had not had such a treat for a long time, and protested that, though they did not know much of the science of music, they knew very well what pleased them, upon which a slight smile quivered about Marion's lips, which rather increased when old Mr. Bishop remarked, that no doubt that song of "Wise men flattering" was very fine, and so was that other Italian air, and no doubt Miss Greyson knew best, but he should have thought nothing would have suited her so well as a good old English ballad, such as "Alice Grey," or "The woodpecker tapping," which were very popular songs in his youth.

    "It is very evident," thought Mr. Dreux, "that we are all mere nobodies."  He had listened with far more real delight than any one else, but did not venture to commend, from the feeling that he did not quite understand what had so much enchanted him, and should not like to betray his ignorance.

    Marion then left the piano to Elizabeth, and went and sat down with Mr. Raeburn in the little China-room, where they were presently joined by Mr. Dreux, Wilfred, and Dora.  The rest of the party had dispersed themselves about the main drawing room,—some playing at chess, and some amusing themselves with books and drawings.

    On their entrance Dora and Mr. Dreux were still talking of music, though at sight of Marion they dropped all reference to her particular performance.

    "If there is anything that I ever feel inclined to quarrel with in music," said young Greyson, "it is that it agitates the feelings so much."

    "It is certainly a direct appeal to the feelings," rejoined Mr. Dreux.

    "And I do not like to have my feelings appealed to," said young Greyson.  "I had rather be let alone, or appealed to through my reason; and though I cannot help being affected and distressed when people attack me with touching appeals, I often experience a kind of resentment against them afterwards."

    Mr. Raeburn smiled, and said, "I agree with you, my boy, in not liking to have my feelings aroused,—at least, in an agitating manner.  But music has a different effect upon me; I never willingly pass an evening without it,—it is both soothing and elevating."

    "Most probably it is uniformly delightful to those who have studied it as a science," observed Mr. Dreux; "but us, to whom it is almost like a beautiful foreign language, as far as its structure and the means of its power are concerned, it must be regarded as holding more completely in its thrall.  We receive each sensation obediently, and do not know what feeling it may arouse next.  It sometimes takes us thoroughly by surprise.  Among the uninitiated, a man of joyous disposition and cheerful temper will not at all dread to hear the most pensive music, provided his sensibilities are not acute; it does not do more than gently rouse the even surface of his mind and touch his slumbering sensibility with a pleasurable excitement.  But a man of an excitable temperament, strong and keen sympathies,—one, with high hopes, who has yet many regrets, will seldom dare to put himself in the way of music when these last are uppermost.  His ignorance enables it to subdue him; he perceives neither the science nor its artifices, but finds himself suddenly living over again among passionate regrets which he is always trying to tranquillize, and recollections which he hoped had faded into oblivion.  He resists the appeal, but not till it has had its will, and perhaps betrayed him to some before whom he would fain keep a calm face always; and betrayed to himself, moreover, unfathomed deeps which may never have been thoroughly tested yet, in their capacities either for sympathy or suffering."

    Mr. Raeburn's face became troubled, and Marion cast a slight glance towards the speaker, which had the effect of checking him.

    "I am inclined to think that music is a wilful thing," said Dora, "and generally goes by contraries; those who are in high spirits it lowers, and those who are depressed it soothes."

    "Perhaps so," remarked Mr. Raeburn; "human minds are often not so easily acted upon by their like as by their contraries.  In fact, I think contraries attract us all."

    "One may see that in a man's choice of his friends," said Mr. Dreux; "and even of his wife."

    Dora laughed, and said, "I have certainly observed that in external things.  A fair man's wife has generally dark eyes.  You seldom see a tall couple; or a clever man with a clever wife.  And how often the most lovely, brilliant women, marry taciturn men."

    "I do not know whether one might found a theory on what I must now advance," said Mr. Dreux, "but I have known more than one man of fine feelings and great sensitiveness who has preferred to marry a woman conspicuous for nothing but the repose of her character, though her sympathies might be too obtuse to admit of her thoroughly understanding or appreciating him, and though, by the face, she could fathom his thought no further than he chose to reveal it to her; because, I suppose, he was willing to give up the pleasure of being fully understood, for the sake of the soothing influence her unbroken repose would have on his own sensitiveness."

    "I must say that I like to be surrounded by calm and quiet things," said Dora.

    "I sometimes fancy you may form a guess as to a man's character by the pictures he hangs about on his walls," remarked Mr. Dreux, with a smile.  "You find some men pleased to have before their eyes pictures of bustle and strife and action,—battle-pieces, perhaps, or even the representations of the martyrs' legendary sufferings; other men have plenty, both of action and passion, in their own minds to make them wish to be outwardly surrounded by stillness and tranquillity."

    "Then I suppose you would infer that the first man was of a sluggish disposition, and that excitement was pleasurable to him?"   

    "The first man might have some other reason for such pictures," was the reply; "but I think I could pronounce on the character of the second."

    Mr. Raeburn thought this very fanciful, and Dora was surprised to hear Mr. Dreux talk so openly of his theories and imaginings,—he who generally conducted himself with such gravity and reserve, and whose opinions were so difficult to fathom.

    Marion, who, not knowing him so well, saw nothing unusual in this scene, sat tranquilly looking from one speaker to the other, till, as they arose to leave the room, Mr. Raeburn said playfully to her—

    "So you see, my sweet child, no person can be both calm and sensitive."

    "Oh," interrupted Mr. Dreux, "I do not admit any such heretical doctrine.  I only intimated (for I did not assert it) that the two things were rarely combined."

    "You did not assert that the pictures in your study were of the tranquillizing order," said Marion; "notwithstanding which, I assert it as an undoubted fact."

    "Be so good as either to confirm or contradict that statement," said Mr. Raeburn.

    The person thus appealed to laughed, and seemed well pleased to be the subject of such a remark; but he parried the question, and the conversation was just then brought to a close by the entrance of a servant, who told him that Miss Dreux was waiting for him.

    He accordingly took his leave, rather surprised himself at the open manner in which he had been talking, but perfectly satisfied that Miss Greyson, though there was no particular appearance of penetration in her unusually serene face, knew more about him than he had incidentally unfolded that night, and this had been the idea that had made him talk.  Where was the use of silence?   he thought,—she had read his character through and through.

    His character, in fact, was of that kind the full extent of whose power will always be felt by others, but the depths of whose sensitive affections will remain in the deepest secrecy to all common observers, as well as its weaker points and temptations, from the great and successful efforts made to conceal them.

    The next morning the eclipse of the sun was (as Walter phrased it) to "come off."  The great luminary was to rise partially eclipsed, and all the young people had agreed that it was well worth taking a walk up-hill to see it.

    Very early, indeed, Greyson and Walter were astir, invading the slumbers of the girls by violently knocking at their doors.  The only two individuals who obeyed the summons were Rosina and Marion, who came down just as Frank Maidley was ringing at the bell, with the intention of going with them.

    The morning was very grey and dull, and there was something falling without which Wilfred declared was not exactly rain,—he thought it was dew; so they set out, but found it had much the same effect upon their clothes as if it had been rain.

    Dora and Elizabeth heard the street-door shut, congratulated themselves that they were not of the party, and then went to sleep again.  They came down at the usual time, and found the hungry party enjoying their ham and eggs.

    They looked unusually blooming, and the stay-at-homes had the inhumanity to hope they had had a good view of the eclipse, though they knew it had been drizzling all the morning.

    The sun had risen partially eclipsed, and they had only caught a short glimpse of him, yet they declared they had enjoyed the walk very much.

    "We went into a house on the hill," said Wilfred;—"you know it, Dora, it is not yet finished.  The indoor workmen were there, painting and papering.  They cleared away the shavings for us before some of the windows; but what amused me most was the curiosity of a builder's boy about it.  I was behind the others, and he showed me which room they were in, and said, 'You'd better make haste, Sir!—they're all doing the eclipse there with a long tube.'  I have not the slightest doubt, that whatever he might think was the matter with the sun, he firmly believed it was something that we were helping in!  The workmen scarcely looked at the sun, only at us;—they thought we were concocting the eclipse up there."

    "Yes," said Elizabeth, "and I should not wonder if they demand a little more rent for the house in consideration of there having been an eclipse in it."

    "'Fragments of which are visible to this day,' they may assert," proceeded Wilfred; "for we left numbers of pieces of smoked glass on the chimneypiece, which they seemed to regard with some veneration;—they were Irishmen."

    In the middle of the day, as Marion declared herself not at all tired, Mrs. Paton proposed to take her and Dora a drive through a beautiful park a few miles distant.

    Marion, being dressed first, was sitting alone in the drawing-room, when Joshua, the stupid servant, came in, with a beautiful bouquet in his hand, which he gave to her, saying that a gentleman had left it for her.

    "Mr.—Mr.—I forget his name, I'm sure," said this model footman.

    "It does not matter," said Marion, holding out her hand, and not doubting they were from Frank Maidley, for they had talked a good deal about flowers that morning.

    "'His compliments to Miss Greyson,' Mum, he said," proceeded Joshua, first smelling the flowers with an admiring air, and then saying, with the greatest composure, "Lawk!  how sweet they are!"

    Marion's astonishment was great.  However, she took the flowers, and remained ignorant of an important fact; for though Joshua could not recall the name, yet if Marion had encouraged his rising talents, and drawn him out, he would have characterized the gentleman as "him as preaches at Pelham's church, and dined at our house yesterday."

    And here let it be observed, that though Mr. Dreux's church had, as tradition said, been built by a grateful inhabitant of the town some centuries before, in consideration of the fortune he had made in it, and had been called after his name, the common people generally put St.  before it; for, indeed, no doubt Pelham was as good a saint as some others that have had churches called after them, and the name Pelham had got corrupted into "Plum."  It was often called "Plum's Church," or "St. Plum's."

    But to return to the bouquet.  The cause of this offering was, that the day before, Mr. Dreux being seated between Marion and Elizabeth at dinner, they talked of a visit which they had paid that morning to an old lady in the neighbourhood, who had a most beautiful conservatory, and described their sensations, when, while mentally lamenting over the ruined appearance of their own, she said,—"I am sure I need not offer you any flowers, you have such nice ones at home,"—and thus had permitted them to leave her, hopeless of obtaining any.

    They particularly regretted some myrtles in full flower, and a certain azure-flowering creeper, with long pendant flowers, which neither of them had seen before.

    "It is very difficult not to covet sweet flowers," Marion had said, "and even at this moment I cannot help wishing I had some of those!"

    Mr. Dreux called upon the old lady next morning, perhaps scarcely acknowledging to himself why; and when he beheld the flowers, the temptation was too great for him, and he asked her point-blank to give him a bouquet.

    "Well," said the old lady, "as you are bent on having some, I suppose I must indulge you.  Let me see,—which do you wish for?"   

    Mr. Dreux pointed out the myrtle and azure-flowering creeper.

    The old lady cut some flowers of each, and said, "There, now mind you don't give that bouquet to a fair lady!"

    "Why not?" asked Mr. Dreux.

    "Don't you know the language of flowers?  If you were to present those to a lady she would say you had tendered her your heart!"

    Mr. Dreux laughed; notwithstanding which he took the offered flowers, which he carefully conveyed homewards, and, reckless of consequences, rang at the Patons' bell; and when Joshua opened the door, handed them down to him, as he sat on horseback, and desired him to give them, with his compliments, to Miss Greyson.

    If he had gone in and presented them himself, like a man, there is no saying how much future uneasiness he might have been spared.  But he made a great mistake.  He did not like to come in and face her aunt and cousins, and he was afraid she herself might think it odd to bring her such an offering on such short acquaintance.

    So he made off, and took care not to let his sister know where he had been, and what he had been about.

    Marion never knew who had brought her the flowers; and the next day, when they were blooming in water in her little parlour, her cousin Elizabeth coaxed her out of them to wear at a fete for poor children, which was to be rather a grand affair.  The children of all the parish-schools were to meet, and be treated to a cold dinner, which was to be spread under some tents.

Mr. Dreux and Elinor were there.  As his school children were figuring at the collation, he presently came up to speak to Elizabeth, who was standing, leaning on old Mr. Bishop's arm, with his bouquet in her hand, and he instantly recognised it.  Marion was there, but she was at another table with her aunt and the rest of their party.  He could not come near to her, but he particularly noticed that she had no flowers; indeed, she and Dora were in riding-habits, ready to go out when the children's feast should be over.  Mr. Dreux had therefore the choice of three suppositions respecting this celebrated bouquet; either that Joshua had given it to the wrong lady, or that Marion had given it to Elizabeth (which supposition was not a pleasant one), or that this was not the same bouquet, but another exactly like it, which supposition he preferred.

All the élite of the place were there, and several of the noble families from the country round.  Some of the ladies assisted in waiting on the children at dinner, and afterwards superintended the giving away of the prizes.

    Mr. Dreux, with his sister and Mr. Allerton, retired early from the scene of action, for the former had, as usual, a good deal to do, and the latter kept more with him than ever since Elinor's arrival.  She had made what is popularly called a complete conquest of him; but like other gentlemen (as she herself had told her brother), he paid her no compliments, and his love, from the first, had made him much more quiet and grave than usual.  He had never addressed a word of admiration to her, but everything she said and did pleased him; and Elinor was beginning to be aware of that fact, though, from her unusually slender experience, she could scarcely fathom the reason.

    She had perceived from the first how unusually anxious he was to possess her brother's regard,—to be important and necessary to him: her brother, unconsciously to himself, seemed to exercise a kind of fascination over him; he felt that he did not perfectly understand him, and erroneously thought the principal affection was on his own side.  She therefore determined to think that his pleasure in her society was only a part of the regard which he extended over everything that belonged to her brother, who, in speaking of him on the second day of her visit, had said, "I never knew a man with such a warm heart as Allerton, and he has not a relation in the world.  An only child, left an orphan in childhood, no near relations,—he was taken up by a distant cousin, handed from one school to another, his property shamefully mismanaged, and himself not kindly treated.  He told me himself some time ago, that if he were to die he did not know of one individual who would go into mourning for him.  Who can wonder, then, if he feels the same affection for his few friends that other men bestow on their most endeared relatives?"

    Mr. Dreux was not the only person who made a mistake about this time.  For it so happened that Frank Maidley called on Wilfred that afternoon, and not finding him in the usual sitting-room, went into the little room before mentioned as being dignified with the name of a study, and sat down to wait for him.  He no sooner entered than his eyes were attracted by a picture of a young girl, seated on a bank, and dressed in white, with what is usually called a shepherdess hat on her head, with a long white feather depending from it; her hands were dropped rather listlessly on her knees, and the face was turned slightly toward the shoulder, so as to look full at the spectator.  "It's Marion!" he exclaimed, as he came nearer.  "Dear me, how pretty!  and yet it's not at all flattered."

    He drew a chair, and sat down opposite to it.  The eyes, with their sweet, tender expression, seemed to speak directly to his heart; and a crowd of recollections swarmed upon him, of days and times when her face had worn that tender look.  Her living self had never struck him with that sudden astonishing sense of how desirable a companion she was in herself, and how sweet a girl.  The soft blue eyes had become inexpressibly touching, and he was amazed to think that he had hitherto seen nothing in them to distinguish them from other eyes, beyond their colour and shape.  For the first time, the thought which Mr. Raeburn had imputed to him flashed upon his mind, and he did not at all like it when young Greyson came in and called him away.

    The living original met him at the drawing-room door, and held out her hand as usual.  He perceived that she was quite as charming as her portrait, and that her eyes had that same expression,—facts which he had doubted while gazing at her picture; for if it were so, he thought, I should surely have found it out before.

    Marion was mindful of her brother's request, that she would not address him by his Christian name; and as she entered the drawing-room, leaving the two young men in the hall, she said, "Good morning, Mr. Maidley."

    "Mr. Maidley!" repeated Frank, very much disconcerted, though he had heard her say so several times before, with perfect indifference.  "How very ceremonious the air of Westport makes my friends!"

    Marion looked gently at her brother, as much as to say, "You see he does not like it," and then said to Frank, with a little, not ungraceful embarrassment, and with a smile, "One must not speak too familiarly to a gentleman about to take a double first class."

    "Am I to do so?" asked Frank, quite indemnified for her distant manner.

    "So it is said," replied Marion; "let us hope the prediction will prove a true one."

    "It shall not be my fault if it fails, Miss Greyson," said Frank, laughing.  "In the meantime I do not venture, you perceive, to speak familiarly to a lady who has already achieved a double conquest."

    "What does he mean?" thought Marion; but she did not ask for an explanation, and as he offered none, she took up her work, and remained no more conscious of the change in his mind than of that other change which had occasioned the gift of the flowers.

    Elizabeth presently came in; she was in high spirits, and told Marion she had got a note from old Mr. Bishop, to say that he expected Fred home that very night.

    Marion congratulated her, and was glad to hear that she should see him so soon.

    "Yes," said Elizabeth, "and I am so glad he will be in time for our large dinner-party."

    "Why, you had one yesterday," said Marion.

    "Ah, that was a small affair; but this is partly in your honour, Marion.  Papa thinks you ought to be introduced to some more of his friends, and Mr. Athanasius Brown and his mother are to be here.  Mamma says she is quite ashamed of the length of time it is since she invited them; no party can be dull when they are present."

    Fred Bishop came in the evening.  He was introduced to Marion, who perceived at once that he was a gentlemanlike young man, and rather good-looking; but after some hours spent in his society, there was nothing more to be said respecting him.  He was rather silent, but evidently devoted to Elizabeth, who behaved to him with the acknowledged preference generally expected from their relative position.

    Marion rather wondered at Elizabeth's choice, but she had not much time for speculation, as her uncle asked her several times to sing; and knowing it gave him pleasure, she never thought of declining.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XL

FRANK MAIDLEY MORALIZES.


NOTHING particular transpired after this for two or three days.  Fred Bishop made no change in the house beyond withdrawing Elizabeth from conversing much with the other members of the family, to talk to him, and walk and ride with him.

    When Marion came down on the day of the dinner-party, ready dressed for dinner, she found no one in the drawing-room but Frank Maidley and Walter, the latter of whom ran into the hall, and presently returned with a bunch of late violets in his hand, saying, "Look, Marion; are not these pretty?"

    "Lovely," returned Marion: "do you think I might venture to adopt them?"  

    "I should think you might," said Walter, "as they were brought from Fernly on purpose for you."

    Marion took the violets and fastened them into her sash.  She knew that Walter and old Mr. Bishop had been to Fernly that morning, and supposed the latter had brought them for her; she therefore said, in a grateful tone, "How kind of the dear old gentleman!"  

    "No," said Walter, laughing, "it was not an old gentleman."

    "How kind of the dear boy, then!" said Marion, looking at him, and smiling.

    "It was not a boy, either," said Walter, shaking his head.

    "What! you are grown too proud to be called a boy.  Well, I am determined to have it right.  How kind of the dear young gentleman!  Will that do?"  

    "Yes, very well," said Walter, "but it wasn't me."

    Now Marion had found out that her myrtle bouquet had not come from Frank Maidley, for when she thanked him for it, he stoutly denied having sent it; in fact, he declared, with a bluntness not unusual with him, that he never should have thought of such a thing.  Subsequently to this his hint about the double conquest had puzzled her, and though she could not make out who had sent the flowers, she coloured, and was silent, feeling secretly annoyed at having called the unknown "a dear young gentleman," and wishing she could find a pretext for taking them out of her sash.

    Now the fact was that in their walk Mr. Bishop and Walter had overtaken Frank Maidley, and when they got into the wood Walter said, "How delighted Marion would be with these violets!" upon which the old gentleman advised him to gather some for her, but to his lasting disgrace, he replied that he did not like stooping on a hot afternoon, and, besides, if he did gather them they would all wither before he got them home.  Upon this Mr. Maidley applied himself to the work with great alacrity, groping among the leaves with his spectacles on, with an earnestness that it did one good to see.  However, as he left them in his hat instead of bringing them in and giving them to her himself, he had no right to have felt piqued at her obvious annoyance, which he did notwithstanding, accusing her, mentally, of affectation in pretending not to know who the violets came from.

    "Are they not pretty? " said Walter; "don't you wonder who brought them, Marion?"

    "Not particularly," replied Marion coldly; "I shall find it possible to wait till you tell me."

    "I dare say you would never have put them on if you had known," said young Maidley, in a tone of pique, as Walter left the room.

    Marion looked up, surprised.  "Why not?" she inquired.

    He made no answer, but looked sullen.

    "Perhaps you would advise me to take them off again?" she added, still thinking about her last offering, and curious to find out where they had both come from.

    "I think you had better," he replied; "I am sure you put them on by mistake."

    "What does he mean," thought Marion.  However, she was relieved at the turn the conversation had taken, and unfastening the violets she gently tossed them towards the table near which she was sitting.  If she had thrown them with a little more force they might have rested there, but as it was, they dropt over the edge and fell on to the ottoman at her feet.

    "The person who brought them seems to have fallen under your displeasure," she said, after a short pause.

    "Only because he is a great fool," replied young Maidley, who had no sooner made her take out the flowers than he repented it.

    Marion felt much puzzled, but a slight glimmering of the truth reached her mind as she rose from her place and went to a sofa in the window.

    Womanly curiosity was not to be resisted, and as Walter had left the room, she could not help saying, "After all, Mr. Maidley, I should be glad to know who gave me those flowers.  Perhaps you will favour me with his name."

    "How oddly Frank behaves," she thought, as he looked about him, as if he felt ashamed of himself.  "Who brought me those flowers, Mr. Maidley?"

    "I did."

    Marion paused for a moment, scarcely knowing what to reply, but her natural tact coming to her aid, she presently said, "I am surprised you should think so slightingly of a person for whom I feel so much regard, still more so that you should hurt my feelings by calling any friend of mine a fool.  However, as you are probably the only person in the world who thinks he merits such an appellation, perhaps you will oblige me by picking up the flowers again, and bringing them here."

    Frank Maidley did as he was desired, and brought the flowers with the air of a rebuked school-boy.  Marion took them and reinstated them in their former place, saying, with as much composure as if she had really been speaking of some other person, "I hope you will never speak ill of my friends again, particularly of those whom I have known from my childhood."

    While he stood before her quite undecided whether to feel reproved or flattered, and before he had made up his mind, a bevy of Miss Patons entered, and immediately after the dinner company began to arrive.

    But neither the presence of many strangers, the necessity of talking to them, the singular traits of character displayed by some, nor, to crown all, Mr. Dreux's conversation, which was chiefly addressed to her,—not all these things could keep her from pondering on the sudden change in Frank Maidley's behaviour, and perceiving, with many uneasy sensations, what it must portend.  She was still thinking on this subject, when the ladies retired to the drawing-room, and started when Elizabeth laid her hand upon her arm and asked where those beautiful violets came from.

    "Come with me, dearest," she said, without awaiting the answer to her question, and leading Marion to the little wing of the drawing-room before described as the china-room; " I want to tell you something."

    Marion followed her cousin, and they established themselves on a couch, with a sofa-table before it, while Elizabeth, with great animation, began to detail various particulars relative to her own prospects.

    Marion did her best to seem amused, and succeeded.  Elizabeth continued to talk till the increased sound of voices announced the return of the gentlemen, and immediately after, Fred Bishop drew aside the partially-drawn curtain and established himself beside Elizabeth.

    He was followed instantly by the Rev. Athanasius Brown, who was in the middle of a sentence when he entered, on the subject of the prospects of the turnip crop; and if he expected Fred Bishop to answer it he must have been surprised as well as disappointed, for that gentleman seemed no longer conscious of his existence.  In a few minutes Frank Maidley came into their sanctuary, and leaned his broad shoulders against the doorway.  Mr. Brown, who for the last few minutes had been looking forlornly about him, searching for something to do, now espied a chess board, and inquired of Elizabeth whether he might have the pleasure of a game at chess with her.

    Upon this Fred Bishop looked a good deal annoyed, and Elizabeth was about to give a reluctant consent, when Marion said, "Dear Elizabeth, you know I am the family champion!"  

    "O yes," said Elizabeth, looking gratefully at her, "you play so much better than I, Marion, that it will be best to leave our reputation in your hands."

    "So if Mr. Brown has no objection," Marion began.

    Hereupon Mr. Brown gracefully signified that it was all the same to him which of the ladies he played with, and drew a chair opposite to Marion, and began to set the men, the narrow sofa-table serving for the board to stand on.

    The Rev. Athanasius Brown, whether he moved a resolution at a board of gentlemen or moved a pawn at a game of chess, was equally in earnest and equally absorbed in what he was about.  After the first few moves he became perfectly abstracted from all around him, and incapable of hearing the conversation or remarking the movements of the various guests who passed in and out of their little retreat, and laughed and talked on all sides of him, while, with his brows knit and his eyes intent upon the board, he weighed all the consequences of some impending aggression on the part of his adversary, or hovered with uneasy fingers over the piece which he intended to move.

    Elizabeth and Mr. Bishop could talk quite at their ease, though sitting so near the combatants: it was quite obvious that he was utterly absorbed; and Elizabeth, as the evening wore on, felt increasingly obliged to Marion "for her obliging self-sacrifice."  Mr. Bishop also remarked, quite fearlessly, that he had often heard of heroines in humble life, and he now had the pleasure of seeing one belonging to the upper classes,—one, he continued, who deserved to have kings, queens, and knights at her disposal, and to be unchecked in her progress through the game of life.

    "I find a Bishop the only thing that troubles me at present," said Marion, casting an admonitory glance towards him, of which he took not the slightest notice, but waxed yet more incautious in his remarks, feeling perfectly secure in Mr. Brown's state of oblivion.

    At length, after a pause of at least a quarter of an hour, he made his move, and Marion, who had had abundance of time to consider what she would do, whatever piece he advanced, moved almost instantly, and Mr. Brown relapsed into another fit of abstraction.

    It was certainly not a very lively occupation playing at chess with Mr. Brown, and as the time wore on Marion began to wish for a little change.  The game had lasted more than an hour when this was afforded her by the entrance of her uncle, who beckoned away Fred Bishop, and bore him off among the gentlemen who were talking in the main drawing-room.  At the moment of his disappearance Frank Maidley took his place, and Mrs. Paton came into the room, with Mrs. Brown, Wilfred, and Dora.

    "Why, Marion, my dear," said her aunt, "I wondered what had become of you.  What, at chess?  Ah, I know you are a famous chess player."

    Marion looked up and tried to seem amused, and Mrs. Brown, observing her son's abstracted air, and that he seemed quite unconscious of her presence, nodded mysteriously round, and whispered to Mrs. Paton that "she believed if you were to tell him that the Parliament itself was burnt down you would not rouse him till he had made his move."

    "Dora, my dear," said her mother, "why have we had no music?  Go find Rosina, and play those new duets of yours."

    The obedient Dora needed no second bidding.

    "Don't you think Athanasius is looking better the last few days?" said that gentleman's mother, addressing the standers-by generally.

    "Oh, much better," said Frank Maidley, in a tone of the deepest interest.

    "Ah, it's the country air.  Dr.  Tring always said he ought to have a good walk every day,—and to do the Doctor justice, I must say, Mr. Maidley, he practises what he preaches, and takes a long walk every day with Mrs. Tring.  I met 'er and 'im this morning on the Fernly road; or at least I should say, 'im and 'er.  Ah, there's nothing like the country, Mr. Maidley! "

    "No," replied that gentleman.  "Let me wander not unseen by 'edge-row elms and 'illocks green."

    Mrs. Paton turned quickly round on hearing this quotation, and looked with astonishment at young Maidley, under the impression that he had actually dared to ridicule her guest before her face, but seeing the benevolent smile that lighted up his broad, good-humoured countenance as he looked up at Mrs. Brown with an air of respectful interest, she thought she must have been mistaken, and the notes of the harp and piano beginning to sound in the distance, the two elderly ladies went away together.

    "Pray take a seat," said young Maidley, looking at Wilfred.  "You had better settle yourself comfortably, for we—that is, my excellent friend and myself (nodding towards Mr. Brown)—we have no intention of going home till morning, ' 'till daylight doth appear.'"

    "You seem determined to make us acquainted with the writings of the poets," said Marion, turning towards him.  "You are particularly rich in quotation this evening, Mr. Maidley."

    "I'm inspired by your presence."

    "I like you much better," replied Marion, "when you are not in a state of inspiration."

    "I know Miss Greyson wishes me to go," said Frank, addressing Elizabeth.  "I wish I might be allowed to enjoy myself in my own peaceful way."

    "Don't you think you should find the society of the gentlemen more improving than ours?" said Elizabeth, smiling.  "I see papa and Mr. Ferguson talking on what seems to be a very interesting subject."

    "No, I can't go to old Ferguson, for I know he would patronize me, and I hate to be patronized."

    "Well, you may stay here then, provided you promise not to laugh at your betters any more."

    "Which are my betters?" inquired Frank, looking round with an air of innocent bewilderment.

    "Every one here present," replied Elizabeth, laughing.

    "Perhaps, then, one of my betters will propose some improving theme on which we may discourse with advantage to our young minds.  I do so love to hear people hold forth on virtue and morality."

    "Check," said Mr. Brown, in a deep portentous voice which made them all start.

    Marion moved her piece out of danger, and the conversation went on.

    "After all," said Frank, "when one ridicules a good man it's not him or his principles, but merely some little oddity in his manner or appearance that one laughs at."

    "Well," thought Marion, looking anxiously at her vis-à-vis, "I know he does not hear, poor man; but I wonder at their daring."

    "And it does not at all lessen the respect that one feels for such a man to be able to see that in some respects he is open to ridicule; besides, 'censure is the tax that people pay to the public for being eminent,' and so ridicule is the tax they pay for being better than their neighbours."

    "Very bad morality, and I don't agree with you that it does not lessen the respect one feels for such an one."

    "Besides," continued Frank, "ridicule is a kind of tacit avowal that the man has something excellent and exalted about him; for if he were altogether a mean or commonplace character there would be nothing out of keeping in those very points which are now, in consequence of their incongruity, felt to be laughable."

    "Exactly so," said Elizabeth, following on the same side.  "The little blemishes of a fine character are more conspicuous than the grave faults of a common one.  Think of the splendour of Dr.  Johnson's genius! and yet, because he was a great man, his putting his fingers into the sugar-basin when he went out to tea is remembered to this day, because people wondered that a man who could write a dictionary, and use so many fine words that scarcely any one else understood the meaning of, should not know how to use a pair of sugar-tongs; whereas, a man who only just knew how to read and write his mother tongue might have done the same thing all his life, and the world would not have taken the slightest notice."

    "The more eminent a man is," said Frank, "the better target does he present for the shafts of ridicule.  Ahem, I hope Miss Greyson hears that."

    "I hear," replied Marion, in a tone sufficiently subdued not to interrupt Mr. Brown's cogitations; "but I think, though what you say may hold good with respect to men of genius, it does not with respect to men who are only eminent for piety and a desire to influence others for their good; if you make them ridiculous you take away half their power."

    "Certainly," said Frank.  "But we were not talking about MY making them ridiculous, but about their making themselves ridiculous."

    "Ah, I think if they make themselves ridiculous," said Marion in the same soft voice, "we should do our best to think charitably of them, remembering that very likely we are as absurd in their eyes as they in ours."

    "Marion is getting very severe," said Elizabeth, undauntedly, "but let us try to think charitably of her, for she has had enough to try her temper this night."

    Marion blushed deeply, from fear lest the remark should be heard by her partner, and Elizabeth happening to turn her head, saw Mr. Dreux leaning against the doorway, apparently an amused spectator of the scene.

    "Checkmate," said Mr. Brown.  The event had been so long expected that when it did at last take place they were quite surprised.

    "I hope you have had an interesting game," said young Maidley.

    "Very much so," replied the Rev.  Gentleman.  "Miss Greyson plays extremely well, and I should have been very happy to have given her her revenge, but unfortunately I have an engagement at home which will oblige me to take my leave early."

    Marion turned away her face to conceal a smile which she could not repress, and Mr. Brown bowed all round with his usual stiff formality, and took his leave.

    "I hope you have been amused with our conversation, Mr. Dreux," said Elizabeth, turning half round.

    "Very much so," he replied.  "I did not agree with the speakers, but I perceived that only one of them uttered her real sentiments."

    "Of course," began Elizabeth, a little abashed, "we should not seriously defend the practice of laughing at any good man, particularly at a clergyman."

    Mr. Dreux bowed, but in a manner which seemed to express neither assent nor dissent, but simply informed her that he had heard what she said.  He seemed occupied in looking at Marion, who was putting away the chess-men, and whose face was still rather troubled, for she fancied Mr. Brown must surely have heard her cousin's last remark about her temper.

    Elizabeth began several sentences relative to her not wishing to defend the practice of laughing at others, but she could not finish them; and, as Frank Maidley showed not the slightest inclination to help her, she was not sorry when Mr. Dreux joined the rest of the party in the main drawing room.

    "I wonder how all the nonsense we have been talking would look in print," said Elizabeth, in a tone of vexation.

    "Luckily," said Wilfred, "there is no one present who will be likely to give it to the world.  I can only say, that if I ever become sufficiently celebrated to have my biography written, I shall begin to talk in the most elegant periods possible, and always in praise of all the cardinal virtues and the discouragement of vice, and all that.  I shall also fill my letters with sentences that will do me credit, and all the moral axioms I can think of; for of course I shall wish to improve my age.  As for Athanasius and his mother, nobody shall ever hear me make game of either 'er or 'im,—or, at least, I should say, 'im or 'er."  This last remark was so precisely in the old lady's voice, that they all burst out laughing.

    "Yes," said Elizabeth, spitefully, "it's very well to laugh at us.  By the bye, your portrait must be in your biography, and in profile, of course, to display the proportions of your nose."

    "No; I think I shall not have a portrait," replied young Greyson; "but let it be said of me,—'He was about the middle height.  We have no objection to admit that his nose was large, but otherwise he was good-looking and well-proportioned.'"

    "I am afraid you scarcely reach the middle height, dear," said Marion.

    "Well," said Elizabeth, "there's not the slightest chance that his biography ever will be written; but if it should be, I think they'll say, 'rather below the middle height,—all but short.'"

    "Then I won't have it written at all," was the reply.

    "Come to facts," said young Maidley,—"what is your height?"  

    "Why, five feet nine."

    "Very well, then, let that be stated, and leave the invidious world to judge for itself."

    "He has a habit," said Elizabeth, "of saying of rather tall people,—'Oh, he's a fellow about my height.'  But he never says so of any one who is even a shade shorter than himself."

    "As for you, Marion," remarked Wilfred, turning the conversation, "I really should like to know what a biographer would say of you."

    "He shall say whatever he pleases," said Marion.

    "Let him describe her as she now appears, beginning with—'Miss Marion Greyson was a young lady possessing moderate talents and a serene temper.  At the time when this biography commences she was seated at a table with one of her accomplished cousins, who, like herself, was occupied in tossing little balls of brown braid over her fingers whereof to make watch-guards.  She was arrayed in a lilac silk-gown, with flounces snipped at the edges.'"

    "Pinked, you Goth!" interrupted young Maidley.  "Don't you know that those wriggles are called pinking?"  

    "Well, it's all the same thing.  'She had round the top of her dress an article which I understand is called a berthe, and round her arm a bracelet in the shape of a snake, with its head dotted with blue stones (she chiefly valued the latter because it was a present from her justly esteemed brother).  Now for her face."

    "The eyes good," interrupted young Maidley.  "Let the biographer compare them to stars."

    "He shall compare them to two blue stars on a misty night.  As to her nose—I should be sorry to hurt your feelings, Marion,—but don't you think it has just a slight leaning towards the genus of pugs?"  

    "Nothing of the kind," said Elizabeth; "it's quite a straight nose."

    "Well, I should have said it was a mild pug; but I don't wish to be contentious."

    "Then we'll have her portrait put into the biography," said Elizabeth; "and if the world says it is not a Grecian nose, I shall think the worse of the world's discernment."

    "Let it also be said in her favour, that she has a great respect for the Church, and never laughs at clergymen, in which respect she does not resemble some other young ladies whom I could mention."

    "Why will you talk about that again?" said Elizabeth, "I am sure you might have seen that I was sorry for what I had done."

    "O yes! very sorry that Mr. Dreux heard you laughing at one of your father's guests."

    "Well," said Elizabeth, in a tone of levity which was not unusual with her when she was in high spirits, "then, ridiculous people, and people whose mothers cannot speak their own language properly, have no business to go into the Church.  If all clergymen were like Mr. Dreux, I should never think of laughing."

    "No, I am sure you would not, Elizabeth," said Marion, looking up with a smile, "for you seem quite afraid of him."

    "Because he is so grave and so silent; and then he has so much dignity about him, that it's quite natural he should meet with respect."

    "Yes, as a man he will no doubt meet with more deference than most others; but you know, Elizabeth, we ought to respect a clergyman for his work's sake."

    "I can easily respect Mr. Dreux, both for his own sake and his work's; but Athanasius is very different."

    "How, different?" said young Maidley.  "Now I should have said that in all points that ought to command respect they were exactly alike,—they both preach the same doctrines, are each equally devoted to their work, and each equally anxious to set a good example.  So far from being very different, I can see no difference at all between them."

    "I admire your remonstrance, Mr. Maidley!  Why, you were the principal offender in our late conversation; you did far more to make our friend appear absurd than I did."

    "That's perfectly true,"' said the accused party; "but though I do so, that's no reason why I should approve of it.  I do not.  On the contrary, I know it's very wrong, and I am now confessing my fault, on the principle that 'he who acknowledges an error has gone half-way towards correcting it.'"

    "But that proverb was never meant to apply to a case like yours.  Every one present has seen you commit the fault, therefore there can be no merit in acknowledging it."

    "It's impossible to please you, Miss Paton.  Shall you be satisfied if I promise to call on Mr. Brown to-morrow evening and propose a game of chess with him, by way of penance?"

    "I am not sure that I should," replied Elizabeth; "but if you like to call on him, and explain how we laughed at him and his mother, and how wrong we feel that it was, I think that will quite set my mind at ease.  There will be no need for you to mention names, you know, but merely say, 'Myself and one of the young ladies.'"

    "No; I have too much respect for the Church to show a clergyman that his presence has been felt to be tedious.  Besides, when I asked him,—'Will you forgive me for having laughed at you?'— perhaps he would answer, 'Are you sorry you did it?'  And then I might feel it necessary to say 'Yes.'  I am almost sure," continued Mr. Maidley, in a musing tone, "that I should say yes; and how very wrong that would be.  It would hurt my conscience.  In fact, it would be telling an untruth."

    The party could not help laughing at this sally, it was so gravely uttered, and with an appearance of so much good feeling.

    "I remember," said Wilfred, "that when I was a little boy I used to bite my nails, till one day Mr. Raeburn promised me that if I would leave it off, he would give me five shillings and a fishing-rod; so I began the cure by restricting myself to the little finger of each hand.  Now, don't you think it would be a good plan to leave off laughing at our betters in the same way, confining ourselves strictly to one or two people, and not making jokes on any others on any pretence whatever?"

    "I don't know that it would be a bad plan," said young Maidley, "if one could keep to it.  So, as Miss Paton told me that you were all my betters, I think I shall choose herself and you to be, as it were, my two little fingers, and from this time I shall laugh at you only."

    "Then I hope you will at least always have a good end in view in your ridicule, Mr. Maidley," said Elizabeth.

    "Yes, there will always be a good moral in my sarcasms, which I will tell you myself, in case you should not find it out.  Now I am going to begin! Ahem.  The absurd opinion which Miss Paton expressed—namely, that there was a great difference between the respect we owe to our two clerical friends (about whom we have been talking the whole evening)—proves, I think, that her mind is like a picture out of keeping, or as it were out of perspective.  She puts together all things that go to make a clergyman in equally prominent positions; such as his piety, and his voice, and his gown, and his character, and his creed, and his bands, and his features, &c.  Now this is a mistake against which I must direct my sarcasms; for it often causes her to form wrong conclusions."

    "Please to observe," said Marion, "that this is invective, not sarcasm."

    "It does not matter what we call it," said Frank, "if it does good.  Now listen to me, Miss Paton.  I am going to tell you a pretty little story, to illustrate my meaning.  It is about the Church."

    "Oh, I am not afraid to hear it," said Elizabeth.  "I dare say it will not shake my principles."

    "That would be very undesirable in a lady who destines the honour of her hand to a Bishop."

    "What a wretched pun, Mr. Maidley."

    "Shocking: but will you hear my story?"  

    "Oh yes, certainly, if it is not too grave."

    "Well, Miss Paton, once upon a time there was a nation of fairies, who having reached a highly civilized state, were told by a mortal who was in their confidence, that all the most refined nations of mankind professed the Christian religion.

    "'And I would strongly advise you to do so also,' said the confidante.

    "'But we have no souls,' said the fairies.

    "'Oh that does not signify at all,' replied the mortal; 'to see how a great many of my country folk go on, you would never find out that they had souls either.'

    "'Well,' said the fairies, 'then you may bring us down a bishop to-morrow, and if we like him, we'll profess your religion.'

    "So the next day he brought them down a bishop, dressed in his gown and lawn sleeves, you know, and his prayer-book on an elegant cushion."

    "How can you talk such nonsense, Mr. Maidley!"  

    "I find it comes as naturally as possible.  Well, before he introduced the bishop to them, he muttered a spell over him, by the power of which he became as small as the fairies themselves.

    "'Here is my Lord Bishop,' he said, bringing him up to the fairy King.

    "But the fairies were not at all pleased with him.

    "'A very pretty bishop indeed!' they said.  I dare say he's only an old worn out one that your King has done with—why, look at him, all the gilding is rubbed off his mitre!!!'

    "'So it is,' said the mortal, 'I never observed that before; but, you know, nothing human is perfect, and really in a matter of such very small importance—'

    "'Small importance!' shrieked the Queen; 'only hear the impudence of mankind!'

    "'Small importance!' said the fairy King.  'How dare you tell me such a falsehood!  Why his mitre is the most conspicuous part of him.  Take him up again directly, and if you don't bring us down a better one to-morrow, a large gooseberry bush shall begin to grow out of the top of your head.'

    "Well, the next day the mortal presented himself again, with a very rueful countenance, for he was in a dreadful fright.

    "'Now,' said the fairies, 'have you brought us a better bishop?'

    "'I told you, good people,' said the mortal (shaking very much, and looking very humble), 'that nothing human is perfect.  All of our race have some defect, and I have looked in vain for a bishop who has no blemish whatever.'

    "'Let us see him,' said the King.

    "So the bishop was brought in, and they all walked round and round him.

    "'How white his robes are!' said one.

    "'And how beautiful his mitre is!" said another.

    "'And what curious buckles he has in his shoes!' said a third;—'he looks quite perfect.'

    "'Now,' said the King, 'you have brought us down a very different bishop to-day.  Understand, that the fairies are not a people to be trifled with!  But if he has any defect let us hear it.'

    "'All the beginning is torn out of his Prayer book,' said the mortal, trembling very much, and thinking that now something dreadful would certainly be done to him.

    "'Is it?' said the King, looking at the bishop with his head on one side.  'Well, I don't think that will matter particularly, for it does not show on the outside; and as the defect is so very trifling, you shall be forgiven this once, and nothing shall be done to you.'"

    "A very pretty story indeed," said Elizabeth, "and well suited, no doubt, to my infant mind.  People who are going to take high degrees are certainly very conceited.  The moral is so obvious that I think I need not trouble you to tell it me!"


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XII.

MAIDLEY'S EDIFYING CONFESSION OF HIS FAULTS.


MR. ALLERTON all this time had never allowed a day to pass without seeing Elinor, and yet he never spoke to her on any but ordinary subjects; and having never been alone with her, had not ventured to be very explicit, even in looks of admiration.

    "How late you are!" said Mr. Dreux to him one evening when he entered the library;—"what can have been detaining you?" 

    "It was neither man, woman, nor child," replied the delinquent.  "It was nothing more than the button of a wristband!  Buttons and button-holes are the plagues of my life!"

    "Ah!" said his friend, "when buttons won't go right, then's the time to feel the power of woman.  The misery they can inflict by means of such things is astonishing!"

    "The number of passions I have been put into by them," pursued Mr. Allerton, "is dreadful to think of.  Why, look here,—how does my laundress suppose I am to get a button nearly as big as a cheese-plate through a hole scarcely visible to the naked eye?" 

    "I don't know; my buttons are never bigger than half-crowns,—hardly so big, I should say."

" You must have been talking of something very amusing," said Elinor, as they entered the drawing room.

    "We have been inveighing against women, my dear," replied her brother.  "I know we shall be late.  Allerton has lost his riding-gloves and whip, my love; he says he left them here this morning, but the servants know nothing of them."

    "I think Mr. Allerton took off his gloves in the verandah, and laid them on the bench, Arthur."

    "You have a good memory," said her brother, going out, and presently returning with them in his hand; "women are of some use, after all."

    "And my whip,—I wonder what I did with that?" said the Rector of St.  Bernard's, beginning to look for it in the most improbable places; for he was very careless with his possessions, and generally laid them down wherever he happened to be standing.

    Elinor, who was at work on the sofa, cast a glance here and there in search of the missing whip, and presently drew it out from behind the sofa-cushion; her brother was already at the door, when she held it out to its possessor, saying, with a smile, "Is there anything else that I can find for you, Mr. Allerton? pray have you lost anything more?"

    Mr. Allerton took the whip, and said, with rather an embarrassed smile, "Why, yes, I have; I have lost my heart.  Can you tell me what has become of it, Miss Dreux? for I think you must know."

    Elinor looked up, astonished and confused; and her brother's voice calling to Mr. Allerton from the foot of the stairs to make haste, he took his leave in a great hurry, and left her to her meditations.

    It would appear that they were not altogether of a pleasing nature, for as she stooped over her work a few tears dropped from her eyes and fell upon her hands.  She felt ashamed that she should have been so much taken by surprise, and alarmed as she confessed to herself how much Mr. Allerton's implied affection had for the moment delighted her.  Then she was angry at her present emotion.  "His remark," she argued, "was nothing but a passing compliment.  If he should go abroad tomorrow, and I should never see him again, I could not blame him for those few words.  He thinks it necessary to say polite things to Arthur's sister; but if he had felt anything more than ordinary kindness for me, he would not have addressed me as he did to-day for the first and only time."

    After all this reasoning, Elinor was still not satisfied; and as she sat with her work before her, and her hands dropped upon her knees, she remembered, with a painful kind of shrinking, certain remarks, slight in themselves, but containing allusions to some of the principles she held most sacred, and which, by an indescribably slight smile, or some peculiar tone of voice, he had contrived to show her that he held in contempt.  That he was exceedingly attached to her brother she could not doubt; but in spite of his occasional efforts to conceal it, she had always seen that, though he endured to hear him speak on religion, it was only his affection that made it palatable, and prevented him from openly expressing his disapprobation.

    This he had shown strongly a few days before, during one of the very few arguments they had held in her presence.  As long as her brother had said, "I think so and so," Mr. Allerton had treated the matter in hand with gravity and respect; but on his happening to quote a remark of King's on the subject, Mr. Allerton had thrown himself back in his chair, with a burst of laughter, exclaiming, "Now, don't, Dreux; now, don't.  I really cannot listen to the absurdities of the whole fraternity; and as for that wooden-legged old fellow, I always thought him one of the greatest spooneys that ever breathed."

    Her brother, who did not join in the laugh at poor Mr. King, had replied, "I quoted the remark because I quite agree with Mr. King." Upon which Mr. Allerton looked at him with that curious mixture of pity and respect which he often exhibited,— pity for his supposed delusion of mind, and respect for that species of personal dignity which many fear, but none despise.

    Her brother then went on with his own ideas on the subject, Mr. Allerton's face gradually becoming grave.  Elinor had seen from the first that they strove with each other for the mastery, but that Mr. Allerton knew he should never get it.  It is impossible for two minds in constant communication to preserve a strict equality; the one must give in, and as the other gains power, it must begin to bend that one, and make it revolve around it.

    Mr. Allerton had brilliant talents, but he wanted tact; he lost his own advantage, and was not clever in catching at his adversary's weak point.  He was equal to her brother in most respects, but he wanted his masterly energy and steadiness of principle.  They were both remarkable for strength of feeling, and each had a warm temper; but the one had struggled with his temper and mastered it, while the other was the slave of his.

    Elinor, who had all her brother's penetration, and a good deal of womanly tact besides, soon perceived that Mr. Allerton was playing a losing game.  She also saw that the contention in which they were engaged was, with him, head work only.  It was obvious that he was never disturbed with the idea of what would become of him if "these things were so."  Their arguments, when he was vanquished, and admitted the fact, did not lead to any change in his proceedings; it scarcely seemed to occur to him that the matter was one which involved practical consequences.

    "I'll tell you what," he one day said to his friend, "I wish I could hear you having a good tough argument with Hewly; you'd find it rather a different thing, I fancy.  He would put you in a passion before you knew what you were about."

    "I don't desire the honour," was the reply, with a laugh.  "One of you is enough; besides, I like an antagonist who is sincere, and whom I can respect.  I do not consider Hewly an honest man."

    "You dont?" 

    "No, nor manly either.  He has not sufficient respect either for himself or his principles to state them openly and without shuffling; and he takes underhand means to accomplish his ends.  He pretends to be very much attached to you before your face."

    "No, he doesn't," retorted Mr. Allerton.  "He does nothing but scold me, as if I were a school-boy; he wanted me to bear him out in all his plans, and let him go whatever lengths he likes."

    "Well, but I mean he appears to be devoted to your interests."

    "To be sure, and so I suppose he is."

    "He takes a singular way to prove it, then," said Dreux, deliberately, "for he does not speak so well of you behind your back as I could wish."

    Mr. Allerton's sudden change of countenance made Elinor particularly attentive.  He looked indignant, and coloured with mortification, as her brother, leaning forward, said, "Listen to me, my dear Allerton; I do not tell you this without regret; I would not willingly point out a man's failings to his friend, but I consider it a duty to tell you of this, because it makes Hewly quite unworthy of your future confidence."

    Mr. Allerton changed his position, and nodded to her brother to go on.  Elinor wondered how he could care for the friendship of a man like Hewly, for she had met with him once, and found the interview quite enough to make her fear him a little, and dislike him a good deal.

    Her brother went on,—"You know something of the Paton family and their principles, therefore, of course, it cannot be new to you that they are very much disturbed that their eldest daughter should have taken up some of your views, and wished to join herself to your congregation.  Yesterday I called there: only Mrs. Paton was at home, and she said to me, 'I wish you would speak to my eldest daughter, Mr. Dreux; you once had considerable influence over her.'  Just then she happened to come in, with a Prayer-book in her hand; she had been to Hewly's morning prayers.

    "I immediately entered on the subject of her having in a great degree left my church, and in the course of conversation she advanced several of your opinions, and advocated them much as you do.  At last she said something that I was quite certain she had never learned from you, and I answered, 'But Allerton does not sanction any such proceedings, nor do I believe he would consider you right in leaving your parish church and attending his, particularly against the wishes of your parents.'  'Oh,' she said, in rather an embarrassed manner, 'but Mr. Hewly thinks it quite right, and he says Mr. Allerton is a very weak man, and I must not be too much guided by what he says,—for he is afraid of giving offence, and is not willing to bear the reproach of the Cross openly; he only cares about having a large congregation, and being talked of as a popular man.'  At this instant she recollected that I was your friend, and stopped short, looking much vexed.  I was so surprised and angry that I could not answer for a moment, and she tried to qualify what she had said.  'Hewly does Allerton gross injustice,' I answered, not in the best possible temper, 'and he knew perfectly well that there was no truth in what he then told you.  But,' I went on, 'whether true or otherwise, Miss Paton, he told you this of a man for whom, in public, he professes (and you must often have heard him) the very strongest feelings of esteem, friendship, and brotherhood; therefore I submit to you—and I hope you will bear in mind what I say—that a man who is capable of such meanness as to stab his friend in the dark, to serve his own ends, is quite unworthy of your future confidence; he is either a disgrace to the principles he professes, or, if he is acting up to them, he proves them to be vile.  But,' I said, as I got a little cooler, 'I do not wish to pour contempt on any principles which you have adopted.  Of course, I should be thankful if I could see you happy in the belief of those in which you have been educated; but it is of no use my declaring to you how much I dislike Hewly's principles; all I have to do is, if possible, to show that they are not worthy of your approval.  I do not wish to argue so unfairly as to insinuate, that because Hewly has proved himself dishonest, that others professing the same belief are not likely to be honest men; but I do say this, that your duty is now made plain.  And I think, Miss Paton, as it is Allerton's church which you have attended, and Allerton's influence which first brought you there, you should at least have so much deference for the judgment of him whom you call your spiritual guide as to yield to his so-often expressed opinion, that it is an evil to leave your parish church; and as in your case that has been done contrary to the known wish of your parents, you should retract that error, and return to your place, at least till Mr. Allerton shall testify his disapproval.'"

    Allerton heard him to the end, and then broke out into severe expressions of disgust against his Curate, which would have been stronger still if it had not been for the presence of Elinor.

    Her brother then said, "Did Miss Paton ever speak to you on the subject of attending your church?" 

    "Yes, several times.  She asked me whether I thought she ought, and I distinctly told her no.  She began by saying that she greatly wished it; that she had had several conversations with her parents, and they strongly disapproved, but that it had ended in their saying they did not command her to continue to go to church with them, but they should be grieved if she did otherwise.  She had then said, 'May I go to the week-day services?' and that they did not deny her.  So I told her that her duty to her parents was always paramount, unless they desired her to do anything sinful, and that she must content herself with coming to us during the week, which she did at first, but now she frequently comes on Sunday."

    "Which is Hewly's doing, of course?" 

    "No doubt of it; she always came with Miss Ferguson.  Do you think she will come back to you?" 

    "I cannot tell, but I incline to think she will.  She was most deeply hurt at what I said about Hewly; I could see tears in her eyes, and I wished to prolong the conversation, but one cannot do so with a lady unless she chooses to permit it.  She intimated that she would give her best attention to what I had said, and then began to introduce other subjects, so I presently took my leave.  Mrs. Paton had told me she did not wish to force her daughter's conscience, and thought that a proceeding more likely to do harm than good; so it is left to herself.  But I was surprised at the degree of influence Hewly had obtained over her, and could not help thinking that, though she disliked to hear me hold forth on his meanness, she was more sorry to have betrayed it thus accidentally to me, than shaken in her own exalted opinion of him."

    Elinor pondered on this conversation during the evening with pain and anxiety, because it had opened her eyes more fully than ever to the fact that her brother and his friend were not only opposed in principle, but that they both fully acknowledged that it was so, and conducted their intercourse accordingly.  It did not disturb her at the time to know that it was so, but she now looked back on the matter in a different light; and as she reflected on Mr. Allerton's affectionate heart, his agreeable manner to herself, his talents, and his great regard for her brother, the tears filled her eyes again, with the earnestness of her wish that it might have been otherwise.

    It was quite a relief to her when at last her brother came in, and enabled her to cast off these uneasy thoughts for a while, by occupying herself with him.

    "How late you are, dearest," she said, as she met him at the top of the stairs.

    "Late!" he replied.  "Why, I told you that I should not be home till ten."

    Elinor rang for tea.  "Then you walked home," she said.

    "Yes; don't you remember my telling you that Allerton was going to drive me to the church where I was to preach, and that you said the long walk home would do me a great deal of good?" 

    "O yes, I remember it now," said Elinor.

    "What a forgetful little thing you are, my dear! what's the matter with your eyes?  You have been reading in the dusk!" he exclaimed, answering his question himself.  "Never do so again, Elinor, it is a most injurious habit.  Why, if you had not often told me how happy you are here, I should almost have thought you had been shedding tears!"

    "You know I am happier with you than anywhere else, Arthur," said Elinor, earnestly.  "I wish we could always be together."

    "And so we will when you are of age," said her brother; "then don't read any more in the dusk."  And so saying he lifted up her face to inspect her eyes, permitting her to return to the table just in time to conceal the fact that they were filled with tears again.

    "Did you call at the Patons' as you came home?" asked Elinor.

    "Only at the door, I had no time to go in; the message was, that Rosina's cough was rather better —she had quite lost it till yesterday, and now it is more hollow than ever.  I do not at all like the sound of it.  I hope they take care of that sweet little creature."

    "You really must find time to call there with me to-morrow," said Elinor; "the Patons are very polite to me, and I owe them a visit."

    "I will see what can be done," replied her brother; but the next day he was very busy, and the next—the next day, to her great annoyance, the Patons called on her, with Marion and Fred Bishop, leaving her to make the best apology she could for her apparent neglect.  They asked her to go with them to a certain wood in the neighbourhood, where they meant to spend the afternoon, and from the outskirts of which they would show her a very beautiful view.

    Elinor gladly consented.  Rosina was with them: she said her cough was much better, but she looked pale and delicate.  The wood was about a mile and a-half from the town, and the path to it lay principally through wheat-fields.

    It so happened that Frank Maidley had got up early that morning to enjoy a long day with the fishing-rod.  His brother Peter was with him, and after breakfast they both set out with a basket of provisions and their fishing-tackle.  The wood was principally on elevated ground, and sloped gradually down to the margin of the river, the ash and chestnut trees, which composed its western border, descending to its brink and overhanging it.  On the opposite margin was a towing-path, but it was scarcely ever used, the river after passing through the town taking a sudden sweep in the form of a horse-shoe, and becoming so shallow and narrow, that it had been found worth while to connect the two ends of this waterloop by digging a canal across, from one to the other; thus saving two or three miles in distance, and leaving the loop or river in a state of absolute seclusion.  It was about the middle of June, and the wheat-fields on the opposite side to the wood were green and in full flower, but much too gay with red poppies and blue cornflowers to please the husbandman.  Near the one-arched bridge, which led over the river into the wood, grew a fine ash-tree, its trunk for two or three feet upwards concealed by the leaves of the yellow flags among which it grew.  Underneath this tree the two youths prepared to enjoy their morning's sport, and sat for several hours, talking of home, old scenes, and past fishing parties.

    The day was perfectly cloudless, and the air perfectly still.  The massive foliage of the wood made a pleasant resting-place for the eyes, and the soft lapse of the water had a sleepy, idle sound.  The songs of the skylarks, whose nests were in the wheat-fields, were so delightful to listen to, that they gradually left off talking: their sport was not good enough to be very exciting, and as the heat of the day increased, they moved under the arch of the bridge; for it was considerably wider than the stream, and cast a broad distinct shadow, from under the shelter of which they could watch the gradual changes of light on the landscape.

    Frank never went out without a small library of books and pamphlets in his pocket; he was not a very ardent fisherman, and on this occasion he laid down his rod, before noon, and took out a book of poetry, as being more suited to his mood than the somewhat lazy sport of fishing.

    Peter grumbled a little at first, but the peaceful influence of the scene stealing over him, he left off wishing to talk, and amused himself with watching the swallows, whose nests under the arch were almost within reach of his hands.  The mother birds, with their bright black eyes, kept looking out at him with a suspicious air, and their mates dashed backwards and forwards, making the thick chattering noise peculiar to the swallow tribe.

    The shadow of the bridge fell distinctly over the clear water.  They could look down into it and see shoals of tiny fish glancing round the stems of the rushes: the chattering of jays in the wood came across to them, as an evidence that the spirit of activity and restlessness had not utterly died away out of the world.  But with the sound came also the soothing notes of the wood-pigeons and cuckoos, making Peter feel so sentimental that he began to think he should like to write some poetry! and with that view had taken out the back of a letter and begun to bite the end of his pencil, when he was surprised to hear several voices near at hand, and a laugh which was familiar to him.

    "The Miss Patons, I declare!" he exclaimed, "with Marion and Greyson, Mr. Bishop and Walter."

    Frank hastily put away his books, and declared that nothing could be so lucky.

    The two emerged from their hiding-place, and met the party of new-comers just as they reached the brink of the river.  Fred Bishop was carrying two or three books under one arm, and had Elizabeth on the other.

    Walter and Wilfred were lagging behind: the former looked hot and cross,—he had got a large basket to carry, which Peter was glad to see was full of strawberries.  Marion, whose bonnet-strings were untied, was walking with Elinor; her face wore its usual serene expression, and she evidently enjoyed the beauty of the scene.  They meant to spend the whole afternoon in the wood, and had brought the strawberries at Fred Bishop's suggestion.  Dora hoped Mr. Maidley would join them, for they wanted a good reader.  Wilfred wanted to make haste, for Rosina was fatigued, and he was sure she ought to sit down and rest.  Walter thought it was very odd Marion should wish to come to the wood when she had so many woods at home; and how anyone could wish to see a wood instead of a pin manufactory he could not think!  At any rate he thought it was extremely unfair that he should have been obliged to carry all those strawberries; and, as was usual with him when he was cross, his pronunciation was more defective than ever.  Frank released him of his burden, and offered his other arm to Marion.  Peter was in high good humour, and ran with characteristic gallantry to fetch his own basket of provisions, to be added to the store, assuring Dora and Rosina that it contained some sandwiches of the most delicious tongue she had ever tasted.

    Thus the cavalcade proceeded into the wood; for the first hundred yards the ground sloped upwards, but when they had gained the top of this little elevation, it descended suddenly into a very deep dell, the trees being principally chestnuts and planes, and the ground free from underwood.  Walter, however, objected to this place as a resting station, and proposed that they should go down deeper into the wood, where there was a slope quite covered with Muscovy violets, and where the trees were thicker overhead.  There were many more birds in that dell, he said, and the last time he went through it "the blackbirds were singing like mad."

    "Like what, did you say?"   asked Frank.

    "Well, like charity children, then, if you like that better," replied Walter, with some heat.

    "In all my experience I never heard of any birds that could sing like charity children," exclaimed Frank.

    "Excepting in the 'Pilgrim's Progress,'" remarked Greyson, "where the birds sing, 'He that is down need fear no fall.'"

    "No, that song belongs to the shepherd-boy, who wore the herb called heart's-ease in his bosom," said Dora.

    "This is the place," cried Walter, suddenly recovering his good humour, and dashing up the bank; "I know it by those two larch-trees, when we found the cwoss-bill's nest last year."

    "What a delightful scent of violets," said Marion.  "I commend your taste, Walter, as to resting-places."

    "This is the only place in England," remarked Dora, as they sat down on the bank, "where Muscovy violets grow wild; at least, so it is said."

    "Yes, but I suspect the first roots must have been planted here years ago by some public-spirited individual, for you see they have only spread down as far as the spring; it would seem as if they stopped there, for there are none on the other side."

    Wilfred was very anxious that Rosina's place should be sheltered and shady, and when she was established to his mind the other girls took off their bonnets, and Peter being mindful of their fatigues, and thinking they must want refreshment, immediately began handing a little glass of lemonade to one after the other, greatly to their amusement; but Peter always treated the fair sex as if he thought their feet were not meant to walk with, nor their bands capable of holding anything heavier than a fan or a smelling-bottle.

    Frank let him alone, and he presently began to hand round the fruit, while the girls amused themselves by decorating each other's hair with the blue cornflowers which they had gathered in the wheat field.

    "Now if we only had a flute," said Marion, "how delightful it would be."

    "I really have a great mind to go and fetch mine," said young Greyson.

    "What, to go back a mile and a half!  Why, politeness is really uppermost to-day."

    "Yes, if you will promise not to stir from this place I really will.  I shall not be a quarter of an hour getting home, and I shall come back in the pony-gig, and put it up at the little inn just by here, and then, if Rosina likes she can ride home."

    No one could object to his plan, so he set off with the plaudits of the assembly.  He had not been gone more than ten minutes when two gentlemen were seen making their way towards them.

    "It is Mr. Allerton and my brother," exclaimed Elinor, as they came nearer.  "How remarkable that they should have chosen this path out of so many!"

    But when the thing came to be explained there was nothing remarkable in it.  Elinor, when she left home, had desired a servant to tell her brother that she was going to Fernly Wood with the Miss Patons.  He happened to come in very soon, having made time to go with her to pay her call.  It was very natural that he should decide to follow her, thinking it most probable that Marion was of the party.  It was also very natural that Mr. Allerton, who met him in the street, should wish to go with him.  And extensive as the wood was, it was far from wonderful that they should have found the group they were in search of, for they had met Wilfred at the entrance, who had given them such minute directions as could not fail to ensure their success.

    Elinor blushed deeply when she saw Mr. Allerton, who, coming up the knoll, was introduced by his friend to such of the party as were not acquainted with him, and then took his place between Dora and Elinor, while Mr. Dreux secured a seat where he could see Marion.

    When people have taken a long walk on a very hot day, and have just found a delightfully cool resting-place, they are, generally speaking, not much disposed for conversation, excepting of that desultory kind which consists of passing remarks on what they have before them.  Agreeably to this observation, very little was said by any one for the next half-hour, the two new-comers not taking any pains to enliven the others, who sat quietly happy, waiting for young Greyson and his flute.  Mr. Allerton gathered some flowering grasses for Elinor, confining himself, however, to such as were within reach of his arm, and Marion twisted corn-flowers together, by means of the said grasses, to make a wreath for her hair.

    Rosina, as usual, sat a little withdrawn, and Walter beside her.  He was cutting a pop-gun out of a bit of wood with his knife.

    Marion made an exquisite wreath for Elinor, and when she had put it on, Mr. Allerton declared it was almost as lovely as the wearer.  He spoke in a low tone, so that no one heard but herself, and for the moment she was pleased, but she presently lifted the wreath from her head, and asked Marion to wear it for her.  Marion was a little surprised at her earnest manner, but perceiving that she really wished it, submitted very quietly to have it placed among her long silky curls.  It looked extremely well in its new destination, but Mr. Allerton felt that he had received a check, and that Elinor was much less lively and open than usual.

    "How quiet we are," thought Dora, "and how dull these two poor gentlemen must be.  I dare say they are wishing for an excuse to get away.  If I could only get Marion to sing.  But I am afraid she will not."

    Now it happened that some of the same thoughts had been passing through Marion's mind, for though extremely happy herself, she had an idea that their two new friends could scarcely feel so well content as they looked, knowing how remarkably active and energetic they both were.  As for Mr. Dreux, the fact was, that, besides the pleasure of being in Marion's society, he was luxuriating in the unwonted bliss of an idle hour.  Leisure was a thing he knew so little of that he regarded those who possessed it with somewhat of the same interest with which one looks upon the lives of the normal tribes.  There was from its very rarity quite a spice of romance in reclining on mossy grass in a wood, and having nothing particular to do.

    "Marion," Dora ventured to say, "would you favour us with a duet?  You have taught Walter several, and it would be delightful to us to hear one now."

    Marion consented with her usual tranquillity, and Walter said he did not mind singing if Marion would beat time for him.

    "No, young man; that's rather too much to expect," said Mr. Allerton.  "Look at me—I'll beat time for you with this little bough of alder."

    "I know I shall laugh," said Walter.  "What are we to sing, Marion?"

    "Suppose we begin with 'Come, ever-smiling liberty!'" said Marion; "you know that duet perfectly."

    "Then you must look at me exactly when I am to say 'come.'"

    Marion smiled, and began.  Her thrilling voice sounded better without the accompaniment, and Walter, who had a considerable taste for music, forgot everything but the anxiety to do his part aright, for he was exceedingly proud of being thought able to take a part with her.  He had a very sweet child's voice, and the defect in his pronunciation was less observable in singing than in speaking.

    Mr. Allerton had never heard Marion sing before, and his earnest delight, which he expressed with characteristic energy, brought a pang to Elinor's heart, which was not unmixed with self-reproach.  She could no longer conceal from herself how desirous she was of his good opinion, and of how much importance he was to her.

    They asked Marion to sing again, and she did so with perfect ease and grace, receiving the thanks of her hearers in a manner which marked her own pleasure in being able to please.  In answer to a question of Mr. Allerton's, as to whether she did not feel very proud of her voice, she laughed, and said, "I often feel very grateful for it; it makes up to me in some degree for the want of conversational powers; besides, it always pleases my uncle."

    "And what may you be pleased to mean by conversational powers, Miss Greyson?"   he replied.  "I don't like to hear ladies hold forth on law, physic, and divinity.  But perhaps you mean those delightful conferences which we men often overhear between ladies, as to their knitting and crotchet work,—I think that's what they call it.  Dear me! the quantity of talk I have heard about worsted work and lace work has often made me wish the fair creatures had no conversational powers!  Why, you have paid yourself the highest possible compliment."

    "I had no such intention," said Marion, with a gentle smile.

    "Here comes Wilfred," cried Walter, dashing down the slope to meet him.

    "But he is not alone; I see some other people behind the trees," exclaimed Elizabeth, in a tone of vexation.  "Oh, how provoking!  Actually Mrs. Brown and her son!"

    Mr. Allerton's look of amazement on hearing this was not lost on Dora, who cast a glance at her sister expressive of her wish that she would be more cautious.

    Greyson came walking up the slope, looking at his cousin Elizabeth with steady gravity, while old Mrs. Brown, leaning on his arm, panted up, and her son followed, looking as discontented as ever.

    "And how do you do, ladies and gentlemen?" said Mrs. Brown, with a countenance redolent of good humour and heat.  "Very kind of Mr. Wilfred, I am sure; he met me and my son on the road, and told us where you was, and, in short, he took us up, and brought us on in the pony-gig."

    "And very kind of you to join us, I'm sure, Mrs. Brown," said Frank, casting a peculiar look at young Greyson.  "How pleasing are these little social réunions!"

    Wilfred with his disengaged hand was holding a small hamper, out of which they speedily unpacked a cold fowl, a loaf of bread, some cake, wine, and water, and plates, besides the flute and music-books,—for young Greyson had represented to his aunt that they would like to stay two or three hours more, and she knew they had left home before luncheon.

    Wilfred and Frank began to busy themselves in distributing this refreshment to the assembly.  Mr. Athanasius Brown seated himself as near Mr. Dreux as he could, for he had a dim idea that something like ridicule often mingled with the smiles of these elegant young ladies, and fancied that he should do well to get under Mr. Dreux's protection.  But being a restless little man, and not feeling quite at his ease, he had no sooner demolished his cake and strawberries than he got up and wandered away in search of ferns.  He was no sooner out of sight and hearing than Frank Maidley signified to Marion that he intended to draw Mrs. Brown out, and would not stop till he had made her laugh; in pursuance of which object he came and sat next that worthy matron.

    Marion immediately turned away, and began resolutely to talk to Mr. Dreux,—that gentleman not feeling so much flattered by the attention as he might have done, if he had not distinctly seen that she was determined not to lend any sanction to the conduct of Elizabeth and Frank.

    "So you don't understand philosophy, Mum," she heard Frank say during a pause.

    "No, I don't, Mr. Maidley," replied the good woman, "at least not that I know of, for really things are called by such fine names now-a-days that one can scarcely tell what one knows and what one doesn't know."

    Mr. Dreux kept his countenance, and made some remark, but Marion could not answer.

    "Exactly so, Mum," proceeded Frank.  "As the immortal Newton says—you've heard of Newton, of course, ma'am?—he was a very great philosopher.  Have you read any of his works? "

    "Yes, I 'ave, Mr. Maidley," replied Mrs. Brown, complacently, "but I was not aware that he was a philosopher.  Dear me, what things people do find out.  You mean 'im that used to preach at St.  Mary Woolnoth?"

    "To be sure, to be sure," replied Frank, after a moment of perplexity.   "Newton was a very great man.  'Ah, Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest what mischief,' &c.  You know that little anecdote of course, Mrs. Brown?"

    "Can't say I do, Sir."

    "Read his 'Principia?'" inquired Frank, coolly.

    "No, I've not, Sir; but I've read a good many of his writings.  I've read his 'Cardiphonia.'  Principia is Latin for principle, I suppose?" 

    "You've exactly hit it, Mum; that's just what it does mean.  Well, he was one of the greatest philosophers that ever lived."

    "Only to think!" said Mrs. Brown, "and I'm sure I never knew it when I read his works."

    Frank Maidley by this time being in excellent spirits, now began to impart some still more extraordinary pieces of information to Mrs. Brown, and the party were edified with the singular opinions she expressed in reply.  Mr. Allerton no sooner perceived what was going on than he leant his hand to this good work with a diligence worthy (to use a common remark) of a better cause, and between them they contrived to make the old lady so perfectly absurd, that even Marion could not help joining in the laugh, though it annoyed her to be compelled to do so.

    Frank Maidley had begun in apparently the sweetest spirit of humility to confess his faults to Mrs. Brown, and also to ask her advice about his studies, upon which the unconscious and gratified victim favoured them with a wonderful amount of valuable information as to how Athanasius used to go on when he was at College, and the advice she used to give him on his health and morals.  "For you know," she said, appealing to the assembly, "he was but a lad, about Mr. Greyson's age, as I should judge, and it's a lucky thing he had me to advise him, for, dear me, he knew no more of the world—in short he'd never been to London."

    Frank Maidley listened to all this without relaxing from the usual benevolent smile that played about his lips, and reclining his lengthy limbs upon the grass, gazed at the worthy matron as with laudable zeal she began to favour him with many a moral maxim that he might have attended to with advantage, but instead of which he looked up with an air of respectful deference, mingled with admiration at the excellence of her sentiments.

    Going on with the catalogue of his faults, and willing to show how far he dare go, Frank presently said with a sigh, "I have such a sad habit of making game of people, Mrs. Brown, you can't think how I reproach myself for it afterwards; but it grows upon me.  If you could hear me sometimes you would be quite shocked."

    "Indeed!" said Mrs. Brown, in a tone of condolence, "that's a bad habit, Mr. Maidley; it's a great pity when people give way to it."

    "So it is," said Frank, "but it's so strong upon me, that even if you were to say or do anything absurd I couldn't help laughing at you."

    Mrs. Brown seemed to have difficulty in believing this, but Frank assured her it was a fact.  "I say If you were to behave in a ridiculous way (though of course you never do), but If you were, I could not help laughing at you."

    "Why, of course.  I understand you, Mr. Maidley," said Mrs. Brown in a complacent tone; "but as I often say to my son, depend upon it, Athanasius, there's nothing so absurd as a person pretending to be what they are not.  Why, my dear, I often say when he talks about it, why can't you let me alone?  I behave in a very proper manner, and if I was to pretend to the breeding of a lady I should only make myself ridiculous; but as it is, I say to 'im, there's nothing ridiculous in me, and it must be your mistake that the ladies and gentlemen laugh at me."

    "What does she mean?"   thought Elizabeth, colouring, and exchanging a glance with Frank.

    "Laugh at you, Mrs. Brown!" said Frank, looking at her, apparently quite aghast.

    "Ah, you may well be surprised, Mr. Maidley.  Only to think of his taking such a fancy.  But (sinking her voice) Athanasius thinks a great deal of these sort of things.  Why, my dear, I say to him, if my breeding was thought not good enough for gentlepeople's society I should not be invited to go and see them.  Why, bless me, I often say, do you think, my dear, that people of quality would invite anybody to their houses on purpose to make game of them?  That would be a downright breach of hospitality."

    "To be sure," said Frank, a little abashed.  "But what made him think of such a thing, Mrs. Brown?"

    The colour mounted to Elizabeth's temples, when the unsuspicious old lady replied,—

    "Well, I can't justly say, Mr. Maidley, but somehow he does think so.  It was only the other night—was it last night?—no, I think it was the night of Mrs. Paton's party—well, however, he said to me, 'Mother, we should 'ave been a great deal 'appier if we'd kept in our own sphere."

    Elizabeth and Marion both blushed to their temples as they exchanged a glance with Frank Maidley, which seemed to say, "So, then, Mr. What's-his-name Brown was not so oblivious as we thought him, after all."

    But Mr. Allerton, who could not understand this by-play, seemed inclined to go on with the conversation, and had already got it back to the confession of faults and foibles, when Marion, quite hurt and ashamed, started up hastily, and looked as if she would have liked to walk away, if she had not been afraid of losing herself among the trees.

    Mr. Dreux easily perceived her wish, and, rising, offered his arm, at the same time inquiring whether Rosina would not accompany them in a walk through the more open parts of the wood.

    Marion's face was coloured with a soft carnation, and her eyes filled with tears of vexation.  Mr. Dreux said nothing for the first few minutes, but as they got further away from the party she recovered her spirits, and they began to converse on various subjects, Marion saying that this wood reminded her of one in the neighbourhood of Norland House, where she very often went when at home.

    "And in that wood I believe I once had the pleasure of seeing you, Miss Greyson—at least I imagine it must have been you," said Mr. Dreux; "but I dare say you do not remember it."

    Marion admitted that she did not.

    "I was quite a boy," he proceeded, "and was staying with my uncle, Colonel Norland, when one day, as I was nutting in the wood I saw a little girl riding on a grey pony; she had a broad leghorn hat on her head, with some long white feathers in it.  Since I have seen you here I have often thought that little girl must have been you, the more so as Mr. Raeburn was holding the bridle of the pony."

    "Yes, I think it must have been," said Marion, "but I do not remember seeing any youth whom I could imagine had grown up into Mr. Dreux in those woods; most of the boys who frequent them are truants from my uncle's schools, or the children of farmers round, who go there for nests or nuts."

    They had now reached the top of the rising ground, which was covered with fern, thick grass, and heath.  A good many trees had been felled in this particular locality, and seated on one of them was Mr. Athanasius Brown, with a book in his hand.

    When they saw him Mr. Dreux said to Marion, "It must be of course quite evident to you, Miss Greyson, that some of the conversation of a few nights past must have been overheard by Mr. Brown.  If you are inclined to show him some little politeness now I think it might gratify him.  He is a man of very quick feelings."

    Marion and Rosina gladly assented, and they went up and joined Mr. Brown upon his tree, which commanded a delightful view of the still green wood, under whose trees the sunbeams dropped in tiny fractions, broken by the leaves, and quivering as they wavered in the light air.

    Mr. Dreux helped the young ladies to begin a conversation, which was very stiff at first, but he dexterously led it to a subject on which he knew the Reverend Gentleman felt an interest, and then they got on extremely well, and found that Mr. Brown was anything but a stupid man, very well informed, and by no means wanting in either inclination or ability to defend his own opinions.

    At length, after half an hour's conversation, during which Marion displayed so much tact that Mr. Dreux was more than ever amused at her lamentations for the want of conversational powers, she rose to join her cousins; and Mr. Brown, who had nearly lost his stiffness of manner and a good deal of his awkwardness, offered his arm to Rosina, and discoursed on their way back with all possible politeness.

    Their return was the signal for breaking up the party.  There had been a good deal of singing and flute-playing, but the girls began to look rather weary, and Dora, perceiving that the thing grew flat, began to thank those who might be considered their guests for their company, and inquire who would like to ride home, and where they should agree to separate.

    Mrs. Brown, in the kindness of her heart, pressed Mr. and Miss Dreux and Mr. Allerton to come on to the farm, and take a substantial tea with Athanasius and 'er.  Mr. Dreux, having a leisure evening, accepted.  Mr. Allerton's agreement followed, as a matter of course.  The host was secretly much delighted; and Mrs. Brown bore them off, taking a brilliant leave of the Miss Patons, and thanking Frank Maidley for his obliging conversation.

    The Maidleys then said they must go home by the river, for they had left some line and part of their fishing-tackle hidden in a clump of yews.  So it was agreed that Walter should drive Rosina back in the pony-gig, and that the others should walk home through the fields.

    "I do hope that old lady will not remember enough of what we talked about to-day to give her son a connected account of it," said Elizabeth, in a tone of the deepest vexation.  "I had not the most distant idea that he knew we laughed at him."

    "If she remembers anything, I hope it will be what Mr. Allerton said," remarked Fred Bishop, "for that we have nothing to do with."

    Fred Bishop himself had not had much to do with the matter beyond enjoying the jokes of the others, who now seemed rather out of spirits, and walked without any further conversation till they were clear of the wood and had crossed the bridge into the fields.

    "What a fine, handsome man that Mr. Allerton is, Dora," said Elizabeth.  "Did you observe what a face he made when Mrs. Brown asked him whether it was true that clergymen 'of his persuasion' thought it undesirable to marry?"

    "Yes, I observed him," replied Dora, who had included in her observation a glance which he cast towards Elinor, as if he thought it would be the most desirable thing in the world to marry if she were the bride.

    "I know Mr. Hewly thinks it wrong for priests to marry," said Fred Bishop.  "I remember his writing a pamphlet in which he advanced that and some other of his nonsensical opinions."

    "Mr. Hewly does not think so now," said Dora, hastily; "I believe he has changed his opinion on that point."

    Elizabeth and Marion looked at each other, and a dead pause succeeded to the conversation.

    Dora presently observed it, and immediately made some slight observation on the beauty of the wheat through which they were passing.  Nobody answered.  She was nettled, and asked why they were so silent.

    "Dear me," said young Greyson, pretending to wake up from his reverie, with a great start, "were we silent, Dora? I beg your pardon.  It was very inconsiderate of us.  'The wheat is very fine,' I think you said.  Yes, it is a very fine crop; I don't know that I ever saw a finer.  When people make awkward little mistakes you should never appear to notice it," he continued, addressing the others in a loud whisper.  "Yes, Dora, it is a remarkably fine crop.  Now, why don't you say something, Elizabeth.? "

    Being thus appealed to, Elizabeth said: "It's a remarkably fine day."

    "So it is," echoed Fred Bishop.

    "There, now we are getting on beautifully," proceeded Greyson.  "Marion, what are you laughing at? You needn't hold your handkerchief to your face, for I'm certain you're laughing.  I say, Dora, this wheat's fuller of poppies than any I ever saw.  Dear me, how very awkward!—what can you all be laughing at? I should not wonder if it's ready for the sickle in a month, Dora."

    "In a fortnight," said Fred Bishop, who now really wished to let the matter drop.

    Marion then put in a remark, and among them they contrived to keep up a conversation, now and then venturing to put a question to Dora, and receiving a very tart answer.  So that it was quite a relief when they got home and could separate to dress for what was called in the family a tea-dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Paton having dined in their absence.

    A few evenings after this Wilfred remained in the drawing-room after Mrs. Paton and the ladies of the family had withdrawn, and, setting down his candlestick, said to his uncle,—"Were you aware, Sir, that Mr. Hewly always escorts Dora home after the daily morning service?" 

    Mr. Paton lifted up his head in surprise, and desired him to repeat what he had said.

    "Does he, indeed?"   said Mr. Paton, deliberately.  "And pray how do you happen to know it?" 

    "Why, you know, uncle, the shortest way from here to Mr. Lodge's is down Horsemonger-lane,—a very quiet lane.  I go down there often, and meet Mr. Hewly walking along it with Dora till it joins this street."

    "Very well, my boy.  Have you anything further to communicate?"

    "Nothing, uncle."

    "Then I will not detain you."

    It ought here to be observed, that Dora was rather in a different position to the younger daughters of the family, as she had an independent fortune, which had been left to her by her godmother; and though Mr. Paton was supposed to be rich, he had an expensive family, and it was always said that he meant to make a great difference in favour of his son.

    The next day, just at the time when he thought Dora would be coming from church, her father took up his hat, and, walking leisurely down the lane before mentioned, he met Dora and a strange gentleman with her.

    Dora started, but stopped, and with a grace peculiar to her introduced Mr. Hewly.  Her father took off his hat, as if he thought nothing of it, passed on, and, taking the first turning, came back to his own house.

    When he came in he asked no questions, and the affair passed off without remark; but the next day Mr. Paton met them again in the lane, bowed, and passed on.  The third day he did the same thing.  And the fourth, as Dora was coming out at the church-door, she found her father's footman, waiting to escort her home (not Joshua, but the old servant who had been long in the family).

    "Is it possible that my father thinks it necessary to have me watched?"   thought Dora, blushing, and inwardly hoping that Mr. Hewly would not offer to accompany her, as he must know her father had some motive for meeting her daily.

    The servant, who had been waiting in the porch, touched his hat, and said, "Master sent me, ma'am, because he thought the town would be rather noisy to-day after the cattle-market."

    Dora set out, and Mr. Hewly did not follow.  Perhaps he had heard the colloquy with the servant.

    When she got in she quite expected to be sent for to her father's room, but no notice was taken.  And the next morning she did not go to morning service.  The following morning it rained, and in her inmost heart she was glad of the excuse for keeping away.

    The morning after this her father, to whom all the letters were generally taken, and distributed by him to their owners, when he had selected his own, came into the drawing-room, where the girls were sitting, and gave a letter to her, saying, quietly,— "Dora, my love, this letter, I believe, is for you."

    She thought he looked at her attentively as he gave it.  She saw at a glance that it was a Westport letter, and took it out of the room to read it in quiet.

    In less than half an hour she knocked at her father's door and brought the letter in to him.

    "Well, my dear?"   he said, as she gave it into his hand.

    "I thought I ought to show you this, papa," said Dora, colouring.

    "Very well; put it down.  Have you anything else to say to me, my dear?" 

    "Not if you are busy, papa."

    "I shall be at liberty in ten minutes.  Sit down, my dear."

    Dora did so, and her father calmly wrote on at his own letters.  She knew he had given her these few minutes to consider what she had to say; and when he looked up and remarked that now he was quite at liberty, she said,—"I wished to tell you, papa, that I am sorry I have permitted Mr. Hewly to walk home with me so often, unknown to you."

    Mr. Paton bowed.  He generally preserved a certain air of politeness even in talking to his own daughters.

    "I am the more sorry, papa," Dora went on, "because you have always been so extremely kind and indulgent to me, and have never seemed afraid to trust me."

    Here she stopped.

    "Is that all, my dear?" asked her father.

    "And I have brought this letter," Dora proceeded, "for you to do whatever you please with it, entirely as you think proper."

    Mr. Paton opened the letter.  Dora felt that she had rather not be present while he read it; and as she rose to leave the room her father kissed her.  He seemed pleased with her apology, but he said nothing further, and, having opened the door for her, permitted her to leave him.  Having read over the letter five or six times, he buttoned it up in his pocket and walked, not to Hewly's house, but to Mr. Allerton's.  That gentleman was writing, when Mr. Paton was shown into his study and observed, with his usual stately but always courteous manner, that he was come on particular business.  Such being the case, Mr. Allerton was a little startled when, on a letter being handed over to him, with a request that he would read it, he observed that it was in Hewly's handwriting, and that it began, "Ever dearest Miss Paton."

    When he had finished it, he folded it up and laid it down with an appearance of considerable contempt.

    "Well, Sir," said Mr. Paton, "may I be favoured with your opinion on that piece of composition?" 

    "If you wish for my opinion, Sir," said Mr. Allerton, turning very red, and speaking with uncompromising firmness, "I think it is a mean, shuffling, despicable letter; quite unworthy the writing of any man calling himself a gentleman.  I do not at all wonder that it should have been at once given up to you.  A young lady of Miss Paton's pretensions is not much in the habit of being addressed in this style, I should imagine."

    "I am glad you concur with me, Sir," said Mr. Paton.  "You may perhaps think it strange that I should come to you for advice and information in this affair."

    "Not at all,—not at all," interrupted Mr. Allerton.  "I shall be happy to answer any questions you choose to ask."

    The old gentleman bowed, and said, "In the first place, then, I must inform you, that it is by no means thought probable in this place that my daughters will be portionless; independently of which, Miss Paton has a fortune of her own,—eleven thousand pounds.  I am, therefore, particularly anxious that my eldest daughter should marry a man who loves her for her own sake, not a mere adventurer, to whom her fortune may be an inducement.  Now I ask you as a gentleman, to tell me whether Mr. Hewly is, in your opinion, a proper man, in point of morals, family, fortune, and amiability, to marry a lady whose honest uprightness of mind has not suffered, I hope, from his teaching, who possesses a good fortune, is of respectable, I may say, of ancient family,—who has never been used to anything but indulgence, and is by far too gentle to assert her own rights?" 

    "If she were my daughter, Sir," said Mr. Allerton, striking his hand on the table, as he often did when he was heated, "I'd as soon see her throw herself away on any sharper in the town as on Mr. Hewly, my curate.  It's the height of presumption in him to aspire to Miss Paton's hand;—he is no more deserving of her, in point of amiability, or fortune, or position, or anything else ―――"

    "But as to that," interrupted Mr. Paton, "I shall be very glad if you can tell me whether this letter contains an offer of marriage or not?  It is expressed with such extraordinary ingenuity, that it is next thing to impossible to say.  It implies much love and admiration;—the writer wishes he could be always with my daughter.  He then goes on to express a hope that his society is not distasteful to her,—a sigh that he is not more worthy of her.  Finally, he hopes she will consider what he has said, and not too hastily reject him.  Reject him, Sir! why how can a woman reject what has never been fairly offered to her acceptance? At the first reading it seems impossible that any man in his senses could look upon that letter in any other light than as an offer; but I confess that the religious advice and counsel is so singularly blended with it, that if my daughter were to answer it by a decided negative, it would not at all surprise me if he were to reply that she had mistaken his meaning,—he only meant to offer her spiritual counsel!  I think very meanly of the man, Mr. Allerton,—I disapprove of his principles; but as my daughter has adopted them, I would not have opposed her marrying a man who professed them provided he was suitable in other respects."

    "If Hewly is suitable, Sir," said Mr. Allerton, "the suitability must be consistent with his having written a mean, shuffling letter; with his being the son of a village butcher; with his having no fortune but his curacy!—that I know of; and with his having violently inveighed against matrimony till within the last three months."

    "That is sufficient, Sir," said Mr. Paton.  "You remarked that your curate was no way deserving my daughter.  Now, in case she may feel inclined to favour his suit (which, however, I do not expect), there is still one ground on which it may prove that they are equal,—I mean, regard for each other.  Have you reason to suppose that his regard for my daughter, though recent, is sincere? or if you have any reasons to entertain a contrary supposition, will you favour me with them?" 

    Mr. Allerton reddened; he felt what mischief he was doing to his cause by speaking so meanly of one of its chief advocates before Mr. Paton.  "I have often heard Hewly speak of your daughter, but oftener still of her fortune," he replied.  "He does not appear to me to entertain a very exalted opinion of her understanding,—indeed he showed that by his proposition of this morning; but I have also reason to think he makes himself agreeable in other quarters,—that, in short, he aspires 'to have two strings to his bow.'  So that, I fancy, if he is disappointed here, I could name a lady whom he expects to find more willing.  Is that enough, Sir?" 

    "Quite enough," said the old gentleman.  "Will you favour me with his address?" 

    Mr. Allerton did so, and he wrote it down, saying, "I shall write and desire Mr. Hewly to call upon me this evening, and you may depend on my not giving the slightest hint as to whence my information came."

    "Indeed, I beg you will not think of such a thing!" exclaimed Allerton, hastily; "I should scorn to speak thus of him and not to have him know it.  I beg you will tell him that you got your information from me; that I expressed to you that I thought his letter mean and shuffling; and that I said I believed he was trying to make himself agreeable in other quarters."

    And now, thought Allerton, when his guest was gone, Hewly will come to me to demand an explanation; we shall have a regular quarrel, and I shall get rid of him.  Of course he will throw up his curacy, and never again, as long as I live, will I make an engagement, as I did with him, for two years!"

    Mr. Paton had told him that in the evening he should have an interview with the delinquent.  Accordingly the Rector of St.  Bernard's sat at home, from hour to hour hoping that he should hear Hewly's knock at the door,—that they should have a rupture, and a final parting.  In this idea he was mistaken,—Mr. Hewly never came.  And the next morning, it being his own turn to read prayers, he saw nothing of his curate.  He soon after walked on to his house, but the servant said Mr. Hewly was gone out, and she did not know when he would be home.

    Perhaps he acted on the remembrance, that


"The wise will let his anger cool,
     At least before 'tis night;"


and was carefully cooling his before he went to his Rector; or perhaps he knew his man so well as to be certain that he longed for a good ground for a quarrel, and knowing that his anger would soon evaporate, in spite of himself, was resolved to wear it out.

    At eight o'clock the next evening he called on his Rector.  His manner was perfectly calm and very pensive.  He took great care not to rouse Mr. Allerton; but after a while, said mildly, that he had been deeply hurt at something which had been communicated to him an evening or two ago, but that he wished to cherish a forgiving spirit, in consideration of their long friendship, &c., &c.; and as Allerton made no reply, while he sat determined not to quarrel, and looking as meek as a lamb, he concluded by murmuring a few words of pardon, and holding out his hand.

    Nothing was further from his Rector's wishes than to be forgiven.  He was astonished.  He was certain Hewly must have some special motive for trying to ward off an outbreak.  He tried very hard to work himself up into a passion, but could not manage it; and when he was cool he did not know how to say severe things to any one.

    Hewly observed that his offered hand was scarcely touched, and that his Rector and late friend looked on him with smiling contempt.  Notwithstanding which, he introduced another topic of conversation; and after several expressions of regard and forgiveness, took his leave, having conducted the interview so admirably that there had been no outbreak at all.

    As soon as this unsatisfactory visit was over, Mr. Allerton put on his hat and went to see Mr. Dreux, related the whole affair to him, and inveighed against Hewly's art in not giving him an opportunity to say a single irritating thing.  "So now I am tied to him for another year!" he exclaimed, in a rueful voice;—"I declare it is scarcely endurable."

    "Yes, it must be highly unsatisfactory to work with a man whom you cannot respect."

    "I declare I am sometimes inclined to throw up the living.  Why should I be tormented with his whims, and his company?" 

    "Have you heard anything further of the affair between him and Miss Paton?"   inquired his friend, diverging a little from the matter under discussion, as he often did when Allerton got irritated.

    "Not a word, but Miss Paton has not been to morning service for several days.  By the bye, here's this book of yours, 'The Force of Truth.'"

    "Have you read it?" 

    "Why, yes, I did, as you wished it.  The author, Dreux, is of the same school as that Newton who preached at St.  Mary Woolnoth,—quite a philosopher of that style.  Ah! that was a pretty little scene in the wood, Dreux!—your religious young people shone on that occasion.  I'm glad they got a fright, though; to be candid, I helped as well as I could; and I think, after you were gone, the old lady began to perceive their sarcasms."

    "I was extremely hurt at their conduct.  I certainly should have told them of their fault if I had not been afraid of letting Mrs. Brown know they were ridiculing her."

    "I thought some of them seemed annoyed," replied Mr. Allerton.  "To do him justice, young Greyson was very silent, and as for his sister, she was evidently quite ashamed.  What an elegant girl!—she is a perfect lady."

    Mr. Dreux admitted the fact.

    "Very lovely too," proceeded Mr. Allerton; "but I don't care for beauty.  I'm no connoisseur in it, but I admire that finished grace."  (Elinor, by the way, had no pretensions to beauty.)  Mr. Allerton went on, not at all aware how much he was disconcerting his friend: "There is something in the courtesy of a perfect lady, and her tranquil ease, which charms me very much, I confess."  (Elinor had charming manners, and did the honours of her brother's table with remarkable propriety.)

    "Then," said Mr. Dreux, perversely thinking of any person but the right one, "in my opinion, unless you're suited already, Allerton, you'd better see whether a letter from you would not do better in the Paton family than the celebrated epistle from Hewly; for I think I have heard you remark before that you did not know a more elegant and lady-like girl than Miss Paton."

    This observation put an effectual stop to the conversation.  Mr. Allerton was so grave for some time after, that his friend thought he actually must be pondering the matter over; accordingly he began to rally him again, upon which he took out his watch and declared he must go.  (He knew Elinor was gone to drink tea with the Miss Silverstones.)

    "So you can give me no advice as to Hewly," he said, as they walked across the lawn together.

    "He will not leave you, merely because he knows you wish it," was the reply; "and as you have made an agreement for two years, I do not see what is to be done.  As long as he has any hope of Miss Paton he never will stir, and if that should be put an end to, I think I should venture on the experiment of inclosing him a cheque in a letter for one or two hundred pounds, and advising him to travel for the benefit of his health,—for you say he is anything but strong."

    Allerton greatly admired the ingenuity of the proposal, and declared that he would certainly put it in practice if Hewly did not succeed in obtaining Miss Paton's hand; after which he went home, and wished he could have summoned courage to tell Dreux how much he admired his sister, and was very angry with him for being so blind, or pretending to be so, and for continuing to teaze him about a lady for whom he did not care a straw.  However, he comforted himself with the thought that unless Elinor loved some one else, which he shrewdly suspected she did not, there was very little doubt about his ultimately succeeding.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XIII.

A CHARADE ACTED TWICE.


IT would be rather difficult to describe how the next few weeks were spent by Marion; she herself could scarcely tell in looking back upon them.  She went to a good many dinner-parties and tea-parties, these last being described irreverently by her brother as consisting of three courses: tea, twaddle, and tarts.  She took many rides and walks into the country, and she made a friendship with Elinor, generally seeing her every day.  Mrs. Paton had asked Elinor to come and spend the mornings with her niece and daughters whenever Mr. Dreux was engaged,—accordingly, many a pleasant morning they all passed, sitting out in the garden under the shade of some tall elm-trees which grew close together on the lawn.  Mr. Dreux generally brought his sister on these occasions, and often felt considerable reluctance in leaving her,—a bevy of fair girls sitting in the open air in delightful shades, occupied with their needles and pencils, being just what some men most like to join themselves to, especially as they are generally welcome, and can give piquancy to the group by reading aloud.  Mr. Dreux read remarkably well, and two or three times he stayed for half an hour, and in leaving, detected himself envying Frank Maidley, who contrived to lounge away the greater part of each morning in Mr. Paton's garden.  He was trying to make himself agreeable to Marion, and in so doing afforded an immense deal of amusement to her cousins, especially to Dora, who wanted something to divert her mind from the letter, which she had never mentioned in her family.  Frank's wooing was quite in the gay style, and did not seem to proceed at all the worse for being carried on under the eyes of other ladies.  He used to complain bitterly, but with a slight air of banter withal, that he could make no impression on his fair one; and as Marion resolutely refused to be flirted with, he used to appeal to her cousins what he should do next, upon which Dora would set him to read poetry in an impassioned tone, sometimes to write it, which he did very nicely, and, as Elizabeth said, it kept him quiet.

    "I can't make any impression, I see," he one day said to that young lady, with a sepulchral sigh.

    Marion began to feel a little annoyed.

    "I think," said Elizabeth mischievously, "it may be as well to try to excite jealousy!  Suppose you direct your attentions to me for a while!"

    "Ah, Miss Paton, you are doubtless very charming," replied Frank, "but—but I heard some talk yesterday about wedding-cake."

    "Well, try Dora," said Elizabeth, laughing.

    The despairing swain immediately did as he was desired, and Dora humoured the joke.

    "How do her eyes look now?" said Elizabeth.  "Any chance of jealousy?  I'm afraid they are as blue as ever."

    Frank turned round to look at Marion's eyes.  "She seems much better pleased than usual, and I delight to please her," he remarked; "therefore, Miss Paton, if you please, let us proceed as before."

    With all this he was so good-humoured and droll, so amusing and clever, that it was impossible to be really angry with him, and Marion, having fully made up her mind that nothing on earth—no, nothing should ever induce her to become Mrs. Frank Maidley, was quite pleased to see his attentions directed to her cousin, first in joke, and afterwards, as she could not help fancying, sometimes in earnest.

    Mr. Allerton, finding that Elinor spent so much time with the Miss Patons, easily got up an acquaintance with their father, whose call upon him made a good beginning; and as Mrs. Paton was generally engaged in assisting with various preparations for her daughter's wedding, and ordering the furniture for her house, she was absent a great deal from home, and not quite aware of the extent to which he stretched her husband's invitation, which had merely been couched in some such ordinary terms as these, that he was sure Mrs. Paton and the young ladies would be glad to see him when he liked to call.

    Mr. Allerton accordingly liked to call very often when Elinor was there, and used to join the party under the trees, and take part in whatever occupation or amusement was going on.  As Elinor always looked pained when he said anything of a complimentary nature to her, he had now altogether ceased to do so, confining himself to attentions of a different kind, but not less flattering.  She certainly got dearer to him every day, and he could scarcely believe he was indifferent to her, yet she did not look so happy nor so blooming as when he had first met with her, though this, he tried to persuade himself, must be nothing more than his own fond fancy.

    As for Mr. Dreux, he had often been in Marion's company, and often heard her sing.  He had long made up his mind that he greatly preferred her to any one whom he had ever seen, but his affection had come on by degrees, and partook of his natural character,—it was not demonstrative, but it was deep and patient, quite beyond the power of any circumstances to overthrow, partaking of all the energy and intensity of his character, and, unconsciously to himself, most carefully concealed from view.  Such being the case, it was not strange that he should have been greatly perplexed by the unaffected ease of her manner—the complete freedom from embarrassment with which she met his eye.  And as he had seen early in their intercourse that she perceived the peculiarities of his character, he wondered at an ignorance which he sometimes fancied must be feigned, so completely oblivious did it seem of his preference, his intentions, or his hopes.

    Elinor and Marion being now much together, became attached to each other; and as it was now the Midsummer holidays, Rosina was admitted to be present at most of their conferences, while Elizabeth began to be fully occupied with the arrangement of her new house, and Dora, who had entirely given up attending the morning service, nobody at home exactly knowing why, was often occupied with Frank Maidley, who contrived to engage her attention to an extent that soon became perceptible to her father, who resolutely shut his eyes to it, which was his general habit when he did not disapprove.  As for Marion, she sunk again into the background as suddenly as she had risen out of it; and it soon became obvious enough, that in this new affair, though the lady might be half in joke, the gentleman was quite in earnest.

    It is highly probable that she would soon have forgotten the affair in which Mr. Hewly had figured if it had not unluckily happened that just at this time Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson, with their daughter, came home, after a few weeks' absence at the sea-side.  The latter came the next morning to see Dora, who, after being closeted with her for two hours, came down with unequivocal symptoms of tears about her eyes and in very low spirits.

    "So he's the son of a butcher," said Helen, during their conference, for Dora had told her the whole affair by letter.  "Well, certainly that's a pity.''

    "Yes," said Dora, sobbing.  "And only think, Helen, Wilfred says—"

    "Oh! he knows of it, then?" said Helen, hastily.

    "Yes; and he says he knows his brother is a butcher in Staffordshire to this day, and that Mr. Hewly himself used to wear a blue apron and carry out the meat when he was a little boy?"

    "But if there is no better reason than that for your not accepting him," argued Helen—

    "But papa said it was a mean, shuffling letter, and no one could tell whether it contained an offer or not," replied Dora, weeping still more.

    "He's incapable of such a thing," exclaimed Helen, with enthusiasm.  "What, that dear, good man, with his holy countenance,—that dear Mr. Hewly,—write a mean, shuffling letter!  I can't believe it."

    "Papa said so," said Dora.

    "Then did your father strictly forbid your entering the church again?  Did he desire you never to speak to poor Mr. Hewly, nor to receive any more letters?"

    "No," said Dora, who had not had the satisfaction of being persecuted; "but he said he should think me very imprudent if I ever went there again, so of course I could not do it; and that he should trust to my good sense not to answer any letter without showing it to him."

    "Good sense!" said Helen, scornfully.  "Trust to your good sense,—when your soul is bowed down with grief, and when you love a man like that dear, deserted, excellent Mr. Hewly!"

    "Papa said he did not believe that I did love him."  And really she seemed to have some doubts herself, if we may judge by her dubious tone.  "He said it was a Jesuitical letter, and—oh! Helen, he said he did not believe that Hewly really cared for me.  And, besides, papa has unfortunately found out that Mr. Hewly is very much in debt;—dear, good man, it must be from his charities, or something of that sort.  But papa thought he wanted to marry me for the sake of my fortune."

    "Well, never mind, dearest Dora," said Helen, soothingly, "we cannot expect to be understood by those of opposite sentiments.  If your papa will discountenance Hewly, and if he will look coolly on you on account of your religion—"

    "He doesn't," interrupted Dora, testily; "he is the same to me as ever,—more kind, if anything.  And, oh! Helen, I am sure it is true that Mr. Hewly is in debt,—and—and, oh! how—how unhappy I am!"

    Helen wept in sympathy.  It was quite clear that Dora was not persecuted in any way, nor watched, nor even suspected,—her father "placed perfect confidence in her good sense."  There was a subject for regret and condolence!  Why, he must have concluded that her feelings were but little touched; indeed he had said as much.

    "What have you done with his invaluable letter?" asked Helen.

    "I think I put it in my desk."

    Helen opened her eyes:—"You think you put it in your desk!" she exclaimed.  "Why, don't you know where it is?  If it had been mine I would have carried it about with me to the day of my death."

    Dora blushed for her forgetfulness.  "I remember now," she said, "I gave it back to papa."

    "Then he did not insist upon your burning it?" asked Helen.

    "No; he never insisted on anything.  He only said he was thankful that his dear child had confided in him, and given him an opportunity to investigate Hewly's character before he had had time to make any impression on her heart.  So nothing can make papa believe that I like him or care for him.  But you still go to St.  Bernard's, Helen?"

    "Oh, yes," replied the confidante, with a peculiar twitch of the head.  "I am thankful to say my father makes no objection."

    Thus the conversation ended, and for several days after, Dora was out of spirits; but, as Helen did not come to see her again that whole week, she soon began to recover herself, and take part in all the little arrangements and preparations for the coming wedding, though for  consistency's sake she still tried to keep up an appearance of dejection before her cousin Wilfred, because he was the only person besides her father who knew of the affair; but even this soon wore off, and Dora was herself again, as kind and good-humoured as ever.  She was one day standing alone in the little china-room, when young Greyson came in and, looking in her face, smiled good-humouredly.

    "What are you thinking of, Wilfred?" said Dora.

    "I was thinking," he replied, "how pleasant it is to meet with young ladies who permit their fathers to decide important matters for them, and afterwards turn their thoughts from the subject, and behave as agreeably as if nothing had happened.  And though, to be sure, in some cases there never could have been any real affection between the parties ―――"

    "How do you know that?" exclaimed Dora, thrown off her guard.

    "I know it because the lady has far too much good sense really to care for a mean, sneaking character, and I am not afraid the gentleman should break his heart.  By the bye, of course he has to walk home every day from church with Helen; because the London-road, you know, is such an intricate neighbourhood,—there are so many almost impassable fords to get over, so many gangs of highwaymen (as one would naturally expect should be the case), and so many dangerous bogs, that she stands in great need of protection, as, indeed, I told her to-day, when I met her walking to church by herself.  I said to her:—'Helen, it grieves me to see you going through this perilous country alone, but I hope some one conducts you home, at least as far as the turning, where,' I said, 'he would naturally leave you; otherwise he would be seen from your father's windows, and that would seem like a designed reproach to your father for not providing you with a proper escort, and thus throwing you on the mercy of a benevolent stranger.'"

    "What did Helen say to that?" asked Dora, surprised at Wilfred's speech and all that it insinuated.

    "Why, really," replied her cousin, with unabated good humour, "her reply was so little to the purpose that I have almost forgotten it.  I think I have a recollection of her using the word 'impertinent,' and also the word 'boy,' but I cannot tax my memory beyond those two disconnected expressions.  I often go down the London-road now, Dora, I am so fond of that road.  You would he quite surprised if you could but know how fond I am of it, and of that little lane at the back of the Fergusons' garden."

    Dora smiled, in spite of herself.

    "The other day," pursued Greyson, "I happened to meet Mr. Hewly walking there, with his eyes fixed on the ground, absorbed, no doubt, in pious contemplation.  I know a little of him, for he and I both collect insects, and sometimes exchange a rare specimen or two.  'How do you do, Mr. Hewly?' I said, with a pleasing suavity of manner; 'I hope you are quite well this fine evening?'  'Quite well, thank you.  I hope your family are well?'  'Thank you,' I replied, with intense friendliness of manner; 'I am happy to say, with the exception of my cousin Rosina, who has still a slight cough, they are all remarkably well, particularly my eldest cousin,—I don't know when I have seen her looking so well.'"

    "You did not say that, Wilfred?" said Dora.

    "Yes, I did.  And if you had seen his face!—it was quite a treat to me to look at it.  But it seems he did not wish me to have that pleasure, for he kept it turned away towards the Fergusons' garden hedge.  'Oh!' I said, 'if you are looking for Miss Ferguson, she is just gone down the garden,—I saw her myself; she came out with her garden bonnet on.'  'Looking for Miss Ferguson!' he exclaimed, in extreme amazement.  'Yes,' I said, standing on tip-toe to look over the hedge, and pretending to misunderstand him; 'she is sitting in her usual place in the arbour,—good evening!'  There is a little gap in the hedge near there, Dora, and I should not wonder if they talk through it sometimes, like Pyramus and Thisbe, you know."

    Dora was silent for a few minutes, then she looked into her cousin's good-humoured countenance, and said, "I am glad you mentioned that I was quite well, not that he particularly cares to hear it, I dare say."  She accompanied this remark with a slight toss of her graceful head.

    "To say the truth, I don't think he does.  He looked at me as if he would like to have set me under a tumbler, like one of his moths or butterflies, and exploded a lucifer-match under it.  Well, we don't care what he thinks, that's certain."

    "I'm sure I don't care what he thinks," said Dora.

    "No," said Wilfred, "and I must go now to practise with Frank Maidley; he wants me to bring my flute with me.  I saw him just now; he desires his most particular regards."

    "Did he?" said Dora; "I wonder what he means by spending all his mornings at our house; it really gets quite troublesome."

    "Yes, it does; and when he's at home he's always playing on the flute.  He told me (not that that has anything to do with it,—O dear, no!) but he told me you were fond of a flute-accompaniment to your duets."

    "Silly boy," said Dora, "how tiresome he is!"

    "Oh, very; 'boy' he's not, though; he'll be twenty-four next September.  And as to that flute, if it does not lose him his honours it's a pity; for he deserves it should, squandering all his vacation in this way.  But if he does, it won't matter to either of us, I should hope,—of course it won't."

    Dora, however, looked as if it would most particularly matter.  "I never liked a flute-accompaniment," she said, carelessly; "in fact, I think a man never appears to advantage playing on such a little instrument."

    "Humph!" said young Greyson.  He was stooping down, looking out for some music to take for the practising.  "Then I think I had better tell him so."

    "You can do as you please about that," said Dora.

    The next day Dora and Helen met, and had a grand quarrel; not about Mr. Hewly,—his name was never even mentioned,—but when two people are bent upon breaking friendship, it is easy to find something about which to disagree.

    After this Dora became quite herself, and entered into the family amusements with right good-will.  Her father treated her with marked tenderness, and one day presented her with an elegant bracelet, "in token (as he phrased it) of his approval of her conduct for some time past."

    While these things were going on, the intercourse between Elinor and Marion became daily more intimate; but Mr. Dreux could not help seeing that his sister was neither well nor happy.  She also seemed restless, and he thought a change might do her good.

    On imparting this idea to her, and telling her that he thought he could spare a few days to take her out for a short tour, he was surprised at the earnestness with which she caught at it, and smoothed down all difficulties in the way of the project.  It was accordingly soon arranged, and the next time he met Mr. Allerton he told him of it.

    "I hope you will not be away long," was the reply.

    "O no, but I wish Elinor to see something of this beautiful country, and I think a change will do her good; I think of returning in time for my Thursday evening lecture."

    Mr. Allerton went home, wondering whether his friend had observed his partiality for Elinor.  He could not be sure, for he had never given him the slightest opportunity of being alone with her, and had seemed very silent and absent lately.  However, he thought,—"On that head I have at least nothing to fear; Dreux would, of course, rather give her to me—a man whom he knows so well—than bestow her on a stranger; and as for his absence of manner lately, perhaps it was only put on to set me more at ease in my wooing, under pretence that he did not see it."

    The time of their absence seemed unaccountably long to him, and he had a daily argument with himself as to whether he could with propriety intrude upon them on their return, before the evening service.  At last he decided that he could not, but being determined not to forego the pleasure of seeing Elinor that night, he resolved to go to the church, and be shown into her brother's seat, "where (he thought) I shall certainly find her, and be near her during the service."

    He carried his intention into effect, and found he had not miscalculated.  Elinor was there, and, sitting by her, he soon lost himself in a delightful reverie.  But the commencement of the sermon recalled him to himself.  He had heard a great deal of his friend's eloquence, but had hitherto adhered to his resolution of not entering his church.  The same voice which influenced him so much in private now appealed to him more powerfully, and so completely carried him away that he troubled himself very little as to whether the words it uttered were truth or error.

    Of all pleasures that exist in the world there is none equal in power over an enthusiastic mind to the pleasure of listening to beautiful ideas, uttered by a fine human voice, in the impassioned words that befit them.

    On this occasion he was completely enthralled, but not convinced; and though he now began to feel, or fancy, a greater distance than ever between them, as far as talent was concerned, he was too warm-hearted to be humbled by it, and too generous to envy.

    After service, he accompanied Elinor to the vestry, where he found Dreux in some perplexity.  The Clerk had just given him a message from a sick person, requesting that he would come and see him as soon as possible.

    "Will you go to-night? " asked Allerton.

    "O yes, I shall go directly; but I must just see my sister home first."  He paused a moment, and then said, "Unless I might trespass on you to do that for me."

    "Oh, I shall be most happy," was the ready reply, Allerton feeling only anxious not to express his pleasure too strongly.

    The next morning, as they sat at breakfast, Elinor said to her brother, "Mr. Allerton told me last night that the Paton family had met with an adventure which might have led to serious consequences."

    Her brother looked up, and coloured; she thought she knew the nature of his feelings in that quarter, and looked another way as she went on: "They were riding through Feynly woods the other day, in that little open carriage of theirs, when the ponies took fright, backed, and upset them all upon a bank; they were none of them much hurt."

    "Who was in the carriage?" asked her brother.

    "Dora, Marion, and Walter inside, and young Greyson on the box.  Walter's face was very much bruised, and Marion sprained her foot; but it could not have been anything of consequence, for Mr. Allerton says he saw her sitting in the pony carriage yesterday, looking as well as usual."

    Marion, in fact, had not been much hurt, though sufficiently to confine her to the sofa for a few days.  The family physician had said she must give herself a week of perfect rest, and then he thought she would be as well as ever.

    The house was now unusually quiet, for nearly half the members of the family fancied they were wanted to assist in preparations for the wedding which was to take place in a few days.  On the morning after Elinor's return no one was left at home but Marion and Rosina.  Walter and young Greyson were gone to a gardener, to order plants and flowers to grace the conservatory.  Mrs. Paton and her two elder daughters were at Elizabeth's house; and Marion, looking quite as blooming as usual, sat in the drawing-room, with her foot on a hassock, sealing up Mr. and Mrs. Fred Bishop's wedding-cards.  She had a candle before her, and a formidable array of white sealing-wax, and envelopes with silver edges.  Rosina helped her for an hour, and then went to take her French lesson.  Marion had enough before her to occupy the whole morning, and she was sealing away with great diligence when the old footman brought her a card.

    "Mr. Dreux's compliments, ma'am, and calls to inquire how you are to-day?"

    "My compliments, and my foot is nearly well," said Marion.

    Presently the man returned, and said, "If agreeable to you Mr. Dreux will come in, ma'am."

    Marion replied, "Certainly, I shall be very happy to see Mr. Dreux."

    Accordingly he was ushered in, and an observant person might have read something in the earnest look of anxiety he gave her, as she half rose to give him her hand, and in his smile of instant relief when he had seen with his own eyes that she looked as well as usual.  Marion had generally a very quick perception of what others thought and felt, but in the present instance she was wondering what Elizabeth would think of his seeing her occupation, and whether she would mind this early exhibition of her wedding-cards, for Elizabeth had so many fancies as the wedding-day approached that it was quite a difficult matter to please her.

    She decided, while asking a few questions about the journey and about Elinor, that as time pressed she must not be too fastidious; accordingly, after the first few minutes, she gently resumed her occupation.

    As Mr. Dreux did not help her much, she was incessantly obliged to think of something fresh to say, and the conversation flagged several times, and was highly uninteresting.

    Marion began to fall back upon her favourite regret that she had no conversational powers.  At last, notwithstanding all her attempts, matters came to a dead pause.  He did not answer her last remark at all, and, while quietly sealing the notes, she looked up at him, and became conscious that something must be coming.

    Mr. Dreux had taken up a piece of the white sealing-wax and snapped it in two.  Marion could not think why his face was touched with such a peculiar expression of agitation and embarrassment.  At length, with an exceedingly deep sigh, as if he had just contrived to screw his courage to the sticking point, he turned suddenly towards her, looked in her face, and in an instant the whole truth flashed upon her mind.

    Mr. Dreux, who generally looked as if nothing short of an earthquake would frighten him, and as if he would not mind getting up at a moment's notice to make a speech before the Queen, Lords, and Commons, the assembled Bishops, and the Peeresses in their robes, was evidently, for the time being, a different person.  He was so very much afraid of saying anything that would not be well taken, that he absolutely could not open his lips at all.

    Nevertheless, when he saw by Marion's manner that she understood the state of the case, he recovered himself, and having previously snapped the sealing-wax into twenty little pieces, and his usually calm features being coloured with an emotion which was evidently a very hopeful one, he began several sentences relative to his admiration of her character, &c., &c., and having got himself into a dreadful mess, broke them short, and in two minutes had made her an offer in due form.

    Marion's astonishment was so sincere, so unfeigned, and the blush which suffused her face to the temples was so sudden, that when she drew back her hand he started from the sofa, and said, in a tone of the deepest mortification, "Is it possible that I take you by surprise, Miss .Greyson?"

    "So much so," Marion replied in her usual gentle tone, but with obvious agitation, "that I assure you, Mr. Dreux, it is difficult for me to believe what I hear."

    If she could have seen the change which came over his face when she said this,—his instantaneous perception of the mistake he had made, and the sudden lowering of his hopes,—she would have pitied him; but she did not raise her eyes, till after a painful silence he said, "I hope that at least what I have said is not displeasing to you, Miss Greyson," and while she hesitated to find an answer, he entreated her to give him some slight encouragement, and even pressed her for an answer to his proposals.

    Marion replied, "After the confession I have made that your offer took me perfectly by surprise, I need scarcely remind you, Mr. Dreux, that there can be but one answer.  However much I may feel the honour you have done me—"

    Mr. Dreux, as if afraid to hear her finish the sentence, said hurriedly, "I have made a great mistake.  I believed you to be perfectly aware of my feelings and of my hopes."

    "His hopes," thought Marion.  "Did he really think I both knew it and gave him encouragement?"

    "I beg you will excuse my folly," he proceeded, venturing to resume his place on the sofa, "it was the strength of my regard which misled me."

    His confusion and bitter disappointment struck Marion with the certainty that he had scarcely contemplated the possibility of a refusal; even now he seemed scarcely able to believe it; but as she really felt nothing for him but esteem and admiration for his talents, it was comparatively easy for her to express herself, and she said, "I cannot feel otherwise than grateful for the preference you have shown me, Mr. Dreux, but as I have before assured you that it is a preference of which I never had the slightest idea—I have really never thought of you otherwise than as a friend, I hope this assurance of my unconsciousness will acquit me in your mind of any trifling with your feelings.  Still more, I hope you will soon see that no woman can be worthy of you who can give only esteem in return for regard like yours."

    In reply to all this he only repeated, "I have made a great mistake; I hope you will forgive me."

    He folded his arms, and appeared to be gazing out of the window.  Here the interview ought to have ended, but Marion, being a prisoner to the sofa, felt very much embarrassed.  Any occupation was better than sitting with her hands before her.  So she ventured very quietly to go on with her sealing-wax, and now and then cast a stealthy glance at her companion.

    The restless flashing of his eyes and the slight compression of his lips were all the tokens he gave of the pain he was enduring.  His fine features expressed not only disappointment, but something like shame.  Perhaps he inwardly inveighed against the folly which had so often whispered, loud enough for him to hear, that he was quite irresistible; perhaps he wished he had never heard any of that soft flattery which, though he generally rejected and always despised it, had yet by the frequency of its appeals to his vanity, made him almost take for granted that he must possess some slight title to the perfections it ascribed to him.

    Whatever he thought he said nothing, till Marion, who could not rise, happened to drop some slight article, the fall of which attracted his attention.

    Some faint hopes might perhaps have been growing up during the silence, for when he arose and she held out her hand to him, his eyes certainly expressed an appeal, but the answering look only told of the most gentle womanly regret.  She said, "Good morning, Mr. Dreux," and he took his leave, for he saw it was of no use.

    Now it so happened—and unfortunate things will happen sometimes—it so happened that Mrs. Paton, Dora, and Elizabeth no sooner entered the door on their return home, than they asked the old servant whether any one had called.

    "Only Mr. Dreux, ma'am," replied the man, who had his own thoughts on the subject, "and he did not stay very long.  I should say," he continued, carrying his eye slowly along the cornice of the hall, as if to assist his memory, "I should say Mr. Dreux did not stay over three quarters of an hour, ma'am."

    Now three quarters of an hour is a long time for a morning call, and that the old servant knew quite as well as they did; nevertheless, when the young ladies entered the drawing-room neither of them said a word to Marion on the subject nor alluded to anything connected with it, though they watched her as she went on sealing the notes with great diligence and a brighter bloom than usual in her face.

    Their mother thought this call rather a pointed thing, and that if Mr. Dreux did not mean something by it he had no right to sit three quarters of an hour with her niece, but that this had been the end of his wooing instead of the beginning she had no more idea than she had of what he was suffering at that moment.

    In the evening, Elizabeth, having dismissed the last milliners, and given the last sitting to the artist who was taking her miniature, seen the garden of her new house finished to the last bit of trellis-work, and heard Fred Bishop call himself the happiest of men, was in such a high state of hilarity that she wanted some active amusement, in short, some mischief "for her idle hands to do."  So she proposed that they should act charades, a favourite amusement of theirs, and one in which she particularly excelled, though it must be owned that she often called in the aid of mimicry, and often indulged in something personal in her charades.

    Frank Maidley was present, and was always an invaluable helper.  They were to perform the charade in the little music-room, there being a curtain and all things conformable, and the audience was to sit in state in the main drawing-room.

    The audience, as is usual on these occasions, was extremely impatient.  At length the curtain was drawn back, and Elizabeth was seen, with a large cap on, a pair of spectacles, a black stuff apron, and at her side a huge bunch of keys.  Maidley, as butler, stood at the sideboard.

    Elizabeth.  "So he's not come down yet!—sleep, sleep, sleep, for ever.  What a lazy fellow he is!  Never mind, sleep costs nothing.  Where's my straw bonnet, Pinch?  I'll go into the garden."

    Pinch.  "Please, ma'am, the 'osses is hungry, and this morning, as I was layfng cloth for breakfast, Neptune, he looked in, and saw your bonnet lying on the chair, and he ate it up, ma'am.  If they aint to have no hoats, poor dears, they must have something."

    E.  "You must be more careful in future, Pinch.  That bonnet cost 6s. 6d. when it was new, and there was a great deal of wear in it still.  I've only had it—let me see! how long has my poor dear sister been dead?  Why, seventeen years.  How time flies!  Well, she left it me in her will, and her turned black silk gown with a train to it.  Ah! she was a saving woman,—an excellent woman, Pinch."

    Enter Wilfred.] "Good morning, mother;—a beautiful sunshiny morning."

    E.  "Sunshiny, indeed!  Ah! boy, boy, you never consider how the sun fades the curtains and blisters the paint on the house-door."

    Greyson sits down to the table.] "What! a partridge again, mother!  I declare, we never have anything but game, mother!  I've not tasted anything else at breakfast, dinner, or tea, since I came into the country;—game and little birds, thrushes and sparrows."

    E.  "To be sure, my dear.  Why, you don't consider that birds cost nothing,—at least, nothing but the bullets they shoot them with."

    Pinch.  "Lawk! ma'am, we don't shoot birds with bullets!  Why, dear me, it's nothing but shot."

    E.  "Remember your place, Pinch, and don't be disrespectful.  Well, I mean shot, of course;—it's all the same thing.  I hope, Pinch, you're careful not to waste the shot: the number of shots I sometimes find in one wing is really quite distressing.  The age is grown very extravagant!  Instead of pouring in the shot in that reckless manner, you should count how many birds there are in a covey, and put in one for each of them."

    Pinch.  "I always does, ma'am; and then I shuts my eyes and lets the gun off.  But sometimes all the shot gets into one of them, and I'm sure I can't help that;—I lets the gun off very straight."

    Wilfred.  "And that's the reason you get so few birds, eh?"

    Pinch.  "I reckon myself a reasonable good shot, Sir.  I shot five partridges this very week, not counting three as I took in the nest, and that dear one that I found under the hedge; and then I got two goslings, and ever so many blackbirds, besides a polecat."

    E.  [Looking very hard into Wilfred's plate, which is, in fact, a china basket, full of visiting cards.] "My dear boy, I see several shots on the edge of your plate;—one, two, three.  Why, dear me, there are six of them.  Here, Pinch, take these and clean them,—they'll do again."

    Pinch.  "Yes, ma'am." [Brings a hat by way of waiter, into which Wilfred drops several cotton balls.]

    E.  "My dear boy, how very large your appetite is!  I'm sure you'll have an illness if you live so high.  Let me feel your pulse.  Ah! very feverish indeed!"

    Wilfred goes on eating.] "What's this, mother?" [Draws a straw work-basket towards him.]

    E.  "Why—why that's a meat-pie, my dear.  Don't you think it would be as well not to cut it to-day?"

    Wilfred.  "Why, the crust's so hard I can't cut it.  Oh, that's right,—it's all come off in a piece.  Pretty pie-crust, truly!  What's this, mother?" [Draws out a short ivory knitting-needle.]

    E.  "That's—that's—why, dear me, how foolish cook is!  I told her particularly not to put their tails in."

    W.  "Tails, mother?  Rabbits' tails are not so long as this!"

    E.  "How can you be so undutiful, my dear?  I hope you don't suspect me of anything, I'm sure!  The pie is very good,—I saw it made myself."

    W.  "Suspect what, mother?" [Turns it about with an air of disgust.] "I hope it's not made of anything nasty.  What's this pie made of, Pinch?  If you don't tell me I'll toss it out of the window."

    Pinch.  "Rats, Sir, and very good wholesome food too.  I hope, Sir, you'll never come to the workhouse for despising of them.  Cook and me would no more think of objecting to eat 'em, if there wasn't cold meat and ceteras which requires speedy eating, than we should think of "

E.  " Pinch, don't forget your place.  Why, my dear,—the fact is, my dear, and I don't mind, as you now are getting old, letting you know a few things that are done in all families,—all, my dear, though they may pretend to the contrary.  Don't look at me in that undutiful manner.  The fact is, my dear, that on Saturday Jowler killed six or seven fine tender young rats, and I really thought it would not be right to waste them.  They are very good indeed smothered in onion, and stuffed with sage and fennel.  The clergyman called here yesterday, and I had one served up to him fricasseed, and he declared it was excellent."

    Wilfred.  [Fishing out a knitting-shuttle.] "And what's this, mother, I should like to know?"

    E.  "Oh! what a sad thing it is to have an undutiful, spendthrift, extravagant son!" [Puts her handkerchief to her eyes and sobs.]  "Why, my dear, can't you tell by the shape of it that that's a fish?  One of the gold fish died yesterday, and I had it put into the pie;—it's quite fresh."

    "Oh, my work!" cried Dora—the owner of the basket, as Wilfred, drawing it towards him, stirred up a tangled mass of threads and worsted with his penknife, the weapon wherewith he was eating his breakfast.

    "Oh! Dora,'' said Elizabeth, "now that really is too bad.  We can't go on if the audience is to interrupt us in that way."

    "Well, only let me come and get my workbasket.  There, really, the shocking confusion your hopeful son has made in it!"

    "Come for it, then; and we had better drawback the curtain, and call this the end of the first scene.  Come, Frederick, you said you would help us with the next.  And, my dear son, you may go, and let a mother, in parting, beg you to practise economy."

    "Oh, I know what the word is;—don't you, Dora?" cried Walter.  "So we don't want to see any more of that scene.  It's either save or shot, I'm certain."

    Frederick Bishop went into the little room, and Wilfred came out and sat down among the audience.  And now was heard a vast deal of tittering, and whispering, and running out of the little room.  The audience, at first, were so occupied with chattering together that they did not observe it.  At last, however, they got impatient, and began to exclaim, that if the show did not begin directly they should amuse themselves in some other way.

    Upon this the curtain was slowly drawn aside, and Elizabeth was seen seated among a number of flower-pots, hastily brought in for the purpose.  She was completely dressed in Marion's habiliments,—shawl, bonnet, gown, even parasol,—and held a few flowers, to make it more impossible to mistake who she was intended to represent.  She held a book in her hand, and began to read as from its pages: "They Drew him in such fair colours, that it quite Drew my admiration—his robes as white as a Dru-id's, and his smile as sweet (oh, far sweeter, I think!) than that of a Merry An-drew."

    Marion, on hearing this breathed quick, and began to tremble for what might be coming.  Walter whispered to her that the word was drew.  She looked anxiously at Wilfred, but he seemed to see nothing strange in the scene, so with a flushed cheek and trembling heart she bent her eyes again upon the actors.  She could not expostulate, for that would have betrayed her.

    (Enter Fred Bishop in a white apron.) "Please, ma'am, a gentleman has called to see you."

    E.  "Oh! show him down the garden to this arbour."

    (Exit Fred, with half-a-dozen silver spoons and a great piece of wash-leather in his hand, to show that he personates a footman.)

    E.  "Dear me, I feel quite nervous.  What shall I do till he comes? Let me see.  I'll be reading." (Snatches up a book, which happens to be 'The Rambler,'—opens at random, and begins to read aloud.)  "Others may be persecuted, but I am haunted.  I have good reason to believe that eleven painters are now dogging me, for they know that he who can get my face first will make his fortune.  I often change my wig, and wear my hat over my eyes, by which I hope somewhat to confound them.  I have, indeed, taken some measures for the preservation of my papers, having put them into an iron chest, and fixed a padlock upon my closet.  I change my lodgings five times a-week, and always remove at the dead of night.  Thus I live, in consequence of having given too great proofs of a predominant genius, in the solitude of a hermit, with the anxiety of a miser, and the caution" ―――

    (Enter Maidley, with his hat on, a pair of bands made of silver paper, and a white neckerchief: rushes up to Elizabeth, and without more ado goes down on his knees): "Do I behold the fair image which ever lives in my heart?"

    E.  "Oh, really, my dear Sir, I feel quite confused—so very awkward that you should happen to overhear my little efforts to—to improve my mind with the writings of our classic Johnson.  Pray, rise."

    "No, ma'am, I will not rise till you promise to accept this little offering, which I am proud to—if I may say it—to lay at your feet" (takes off his hat with gravity, and looking steadily at her, draws out of it a red pocket-handkerchief, in which are tied up quantities of damsons; he unties it, and pours the contents into Elizabeth's lap, saying, with his hand on his heart),—


"I give thee all, I can no more,
    Though poor the offering be;
 My heart and PLUMS are all the store
    That I can give to thee."


    Elizabeth receiving the plums graciously, and beginning to eat them—"Oh, but I am afraid this plum is not quite ripe yet.  Pray, let me beg of you to rise."

    But as if her entreaty had taken effect on others besides young Maidley, almost every one in the outer drawing-room rose also.  Wilfred had dexterously turned down the lamp, and all was darkness and confusion.  Fred Bishop tumbled over a settee in groping his way to the bell to call for other lights; and it would seem as if the charade was forgotten, so completely was the subject dropped.

    When the lamps were again lighted, Elizabeth saw by her mother's face that she was seriously hurt and annoyed.  Dora also looked flushed, and, as usual, took upon herself to propose some fresh way of spending the evening, and to see that matters were put in train for it.  The two gentlemen had sense enough to see that they had by no means made themselves acceptable by their little scene; and Elizabeth, seeing that Marion had slipped out of the room, took the opportunity to follow her.

    Elizabeth ran up into Marion's little parlour, and there found her sitting by the window, looking out into the moonlight.  She ran up to her, half afraid, half laughing.

    "Really, Marion, I assure you I had not the very slightest idea you would be annoyed,—and if you are, I am very sorry."

    Marion made no answer.

    "I assure you, my dear, if I could have known it would have put you so completely to the blush――but how did you get up stairs by yourself?"

    "Wilfred helped me," said Marion.

    "Ah! well, I see you are displeased.  As for Wilfred, I am certain it was he who caused that sudden ending to our little scene.  It would have been a good one if you could just have waited.  Come, I will take off your bonnet.  Why, Marion, I only wanted to call your attention to a little fact."

    "What little fact?" asked Marion.

    "Why, that Mr. Dreux looks at you when he is here a great deal oftener than at any of us."

    "I wonder whether they have found anything out," thought Marion, and she arose hastily and stood by the window.

    "My dear Marion," said Dora, coming in, "I am sure Elizabeth is really sorry."

    "How ridiculous you are, Dora," said the thoughtless Elizabeth.  "Yes, I really am sorry, of course; but what a fuss about a trifle!"

    Marion still stood in the window, and made no answer.  The two sisters looked at each other; then Elizabeth came up to her cousin, and drew her arm round her neck.  "I really am very sorry, dearest Marion," she said, kissing her.

    "But before Frank Maidley, Elizabeth," urged Marion, for Elizabeth still laughed in spite of her protestations, "how could you do it?"

    "Frank Maidley, Marion!  Why, I declare he was the first person who put it into my head.  He came in the other day, and said, with the greatest coolness, 'So Mr. Dreux has been here.  Well, how's Mrs. Arthur Cecil?'"

    "It was excessively impertinent of him, then," said Dora, gravely.  "I could scarcely have believed he would have done such an ungentlemanly thing."

    "There," thought Elizabeth, "now I have got myself into another disagreeable predicament."

    "I do hope you will never couple my name with Mr. Dreux's again," said Marion.

    "No, I really will not.  But why not? there's nothing in it! "

    "Oh, because I don't like it," said Marion; "and besides, it is extremely wrong.  What right have you to take it for granted that he has any such intentions with respect to me, or to make him appear so ridiculous?"

    "Intentions! Marion.  Why, how seriously you take the matter up! I never thought anything of the kind.  I only think he is perhaps a little smitten, and comes here rather oftener than he used to do.  But why do you stand?  Don't you know you ought not?  How is your foot tonight?"

    "Oh, it feels nearly well this evening," answered Marion, relieved by the last remark, which showed her perfect ignorance of what had happened.

    "Well, you won't bear any malice, Marion?"

    Marion laughed, and kissed her cousin, but she could not quite recover her composure, so she did not come down again that night.

    Nothing more was said to Elizabeth, for as she was to leave them so very soon, no one of the family liked to shadow her after-recollections of those evenings with anything unpleasing.  But though Elizabeth was not to be teazed, her mother could not possibly do without some one to whom to repeat over and over again how deeply she was hurt by this extreme impropriety, this very great want of delicacy, &c., &c.   So poor Dora, who had been summoned to her mother's dressing-room, could only regret the past, and hear her mother predict that now she was certain nothing ever would come of what might, if undisturbed, have ended in a union, but now it was not likely Marion could get over this annoyance sufficiently to like Mr. Dreux.  Dora said what she could to palliate her sister's want of discretion, and to soothe her mother, but she was seriously annoyed herself, and the more so, because Frank Maidley had been the aider and abettor in this unlucky charade.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XIV.

DISUNION.


MR. DREUX, after his interview with Marion, walked home, like a man in a dream.  Whatever pain, disappointment, or vexation he might have felt, he had retained till the last moment, a kind of secret incredulity, a lurking hope, that she would not permit him to leave her without one word that he could construe in his own favour.  This hope did not utterly forsake him till she held out her hand at parting, with that look of gentle regret for the mental suffering of which she had been the innocent cause, but without anything in her whole expression which seemed to wish for a renewal of his attentions.

    He always kept a strong constraint upon his feelings.  His face, as he walked along the streets, bore little evidence of what was going on within, beyond a more settled gravity than usual; but as soon as he reached his own house, he went hastily up stairs to shut himself up in his library, and as he entered the room his face, already changed from its enforced calmness, looked anxious and restless.

    But silence and solitude, the relief he so much needed, were not awaiting him.  There was someone in the room; Allerton was walking up and down in it; and as he came forward to shake hands with him, with his usual hearty cordiality, he said,—"You see, Dreux, I have invaded your premises, for the fact is, I want to have some private conversation with you.  I thought you would never come in.  But what's the matter?—you look ill."

    He felt disappointed, but only answered, "I have rather a sharp headache," and threw himself upon a sofa near the window, pressing his hand upon his forehead.

    "Ah, that's the consequence of working so hard; I knew you would exert yourself more than ever after that short holiday.  And why have you placed yourself in this glare of light?—a strange remedy for a headache!"  So saying, he drew down the green blind, and going up to the couch, said,—"Come, let me see what sort of a pulse you have got."

    "Oh, there is really nothing the matter with me, Allerton, beyond this headache; I only want a little rest."

    The look which was directed to him, in reply, said so plainly, "I am certain there is something the matter," that he added, in explanation, "I mean that I am not ill, but something has happened which has disturbed me very much."

    Allerton did not wish to be inquisitive, and a pause ensued, during which he walked up and down the room, as he always did when excited, either pleasurably or otherwise.

    His host watched him a while, thinking that he had no recollection, during all their intercourse, of ever having wished him away before.  Now his desire to be alone made him so restless that he could not keep two minutes together in the same position.  At length he said, "I believe you said you had something to tell me, or that you wanted some private conversation."  Allerton did not cease to walk, and it was difficult to divine the meaning of his half-pleased, half-embarrassed manner; but, as if he wished to make it more difficult still, he presently broke silence by relating a variety of particulars respecting his parentage, his past life, his prospects,—giving an exact account of his income from various sources, with a short digression to explain his expectations; and all this he did like a man performing some duty which must naturally have been expected of him.  At first, Mr. Dreux was so preoccupied, and so wide of the mark, that he thought he was going to ask him to lend him some money, and he was just on the point of declaring his willingness to do so, without all this preamble, but checked himself; and Allerton went into various details, each one more perplexing than the last,—his bewildered auditor getting more and more confused, and feeling an uneasy consciousness that he ought to know what was coming, he ended his communications by saying, "And you agree with me, of course."

    Dreux, without much consciousness of what he was talking about, answered mechanically, "Of course."

    Thereupon followed a short silence.  "Well, I wish he would help me through," thought Allerton, glancing towards his friend, whose restless agitation became more apparent; he looked thoroughly dispirited, and what is popularly called "cut up."

    "I wonder what can have happened to disturb him so much; I have chosen a peculiarly unlucky day."  He waited a while, but no answer was forthcoming,—indeed, his friend was quite unconscious that one was expected of him; but at length, looking up, and meeting rather an earnest glance, he forced a smile, and trying to appear interested, asked if he had any more to say.

    "Any more?" repeated Allerton.  "Why, I do believe you have not heard the half of what I have said, Dreux.  Well; I know you are not fond of finances, but of course I thought it was my duty to give you a notion of my prospects, though you have always treated me with a generous confidence, which has been highly gratifying to my feelings; and I really do feel most grateful to you for your conduct throughout the whole affair."  (Mr. Dreux upon this lifted up his eyes from the floor, and gazed at him with the most unfeigned astonishment.)

    "And," proceeded Allerton, "for always permitting me such free access to your house, and for not appearing to notice how things were going on; for really, though I can fight my way tolerably well through the world, I feel quite—I am such a diffident man as regards ladies, that I believe I should have fretted myself nearly into a fever before I found courage to speak, if you had not so kindly given me the opportunity by asking me to walk home last night with your sister."

    "With my sister!" repeated his auditor, speaking more to himself than his friend.  "Is there no mistake about this?"

    If Allerton had not been so preoccupied with his own pleasant thoughts, he must have remarked the sudden change of countenance which followed this remark, and the intense attention which now awaited every word he uttered.

    Mr. Allerton explained that he had offered his hand to Elinor, and had elicited from her the avowal that she was not engaged.

    Not a word was spoken in reply, but he perceived that his friend's powers were stretched to the utmost, either to subdue some new emotion, or to discover what he was expected to say.

    "Did Elinor accept your proposal?" he presently asked, with tolerable self-command.

    "Not exactly; one feels rather foolish when it comes to such a thing as saying that a lady testifies the reverse of indifference.  I do believe your sister is not indifferent to me, but she would not give me any answer herself; indeed, when I urged her to do so, she wept, and seemed very much moved, and I began to get into a dreadful fright.  However, at last she told me she would leave the answer entirely to you, and desired me to tell you that she was resolved to abide by your decision; so you may easily imagine, after that, that I felt easy, for she could not fail to know what your decision would be."

    In the full confidence of his trusting nature, he stopped short, and coming up, held out his hand, saying, with a smile, "I felt for you all the affection of a brother long before I thought I should ever be one to you in reality."

    Instead of taking the offered hand, Dreux made a movement which seemed to entreat his forbearance, and shrinking back, covered his face with his hands.  This unexpected movement was an evident shock to Allerton, and for a moment his face darkened.  But he resolutely fell back on his idea that it was illness; he was determined to distrust him no more; and when he saw how wildly the pulses were throbbing in his temples, he was confirmed in his first belief, in spite of some words which might have shaken it, "Entirely to me!—what right could she have—how could she do so, Allerton?  Give me a few minutes to collect my thoughts."

    His face had become so colourless that again wonder and distrust arose in Allerton's mind; but he rallied instantly, and said, "I know you are ill, Dreux; you cannot conceal it from me.  I am certain something more than ordinary is the matter; you have hardly been able to attend to what I said; I have been very inconsiderate; I forgot."  Thereupon he hastily threw up the blind, and opened the glass-door.

    "There," he said, "come and sit here in the air, it will refresh you,—that's right.  What an inconsiderate fellow I am, I have made your head worse.  But, though I am very impatient, I will not ask you to think of all this at present.  I shall wait for what you have to say till to-morrow morning."

    His manner, always affectionate and friendly, and the expression of his face, which was full of solicitude, affected his friend almost beyond control or endurance; but he had two great causes for depression, and, as first one, and then the other, rose up before him with bewildering rapidity, he was not mastered by either, though he would doubtless have been had either existed alone.

    Suddenly Allerton exclaimed,—"My groom tells me you were thrown yesterday in riding from the railway,—is that true?"

    "Yes.  I was not hurt."

    "Not at all?  Well, but how did it happen?  I thought you had such an uncommonly good seat on horseback."

    "I was quite off my guard.  We were passing some hay-wagons, and I turned in the saddle to look after them.  He had me off in an instant.  I mounted again; but, having once thrown me, I suppose he thought he always could, for he made several attempts in that short distance.  I must part with him."

    "Yes, sell him, Dreux, and at once.  I only wonder you have kept him so long; but you are such a reckless rider.  I wish I could see you more careful.  Have you not a funeral to take to-morrow?"

    "Yes; I promised to do the occasional duty at Wigton while Loyde was out."

    "Then I'll send my horse round for you.  Don't think of mounting your own, particularly as that will be the same road on which he threw you yesterday.  Well, at ten to-morrow shall I come?  Shall you be ready for me then?"

    "Yes; at ten."

    "Well, good by, then, and take care of yourself."

    Allerton, whose head was running on proposals, thought he looked like a man who had just been rejected, but most fortunately he did not say so, and took leave of him, repeating his assurance that he should come again the next day at ten.

    He ran down the steps into the garden, and had reached the centre, when he turned and looked back.  The windows were already shut and the library-curtains pulled down.  "Poor fellow!" he said to himself, "I wonder what can have happened."  And he crossed the lawn, thinking, but in the generosity of his heart reproaching himself for the thought,—"If I had been in his place, I think, whatever private sources of care might be distracting me, I could have found some pleasure in the idea of giving my sister to my most intimate friend."

    But while these thoughts and many more were passing through his mind he had no more idea of the struggle which was going on between principle and feeling in the heart of the man he had left,—no more conception of the bitter reproach, the protracted conflict with himself, the long review in which HE and all his generous friendship came before him each time in better and in brighter colours, and his perfect consciousness of what would and must be the termination of that next day's interview,—than he had that what he had told his friend of his attachment to his sister was as new and unexpected as the sudden termination of his hopes with reference to his own.

He remained alone all the afternoon, and then Elinor came into the room, saying she wished to speak to him.  She had been shedding tears, and her cheeks were pale, but, with a woman's quickness, she soon discovered that it was not for her sake alone that he was so oppressed; she was certain there must be something more.  He related somewhat of their interview, and then, drawing her towards him with almost impetuous earnestness, entreated her to release him from the obligation she had put upon him.

    "You must, Arthur," she replied, "I cannot give him a refusal."

    "You cannot, and yet you believe it should be done.  Is he to be refused because you honour what Christ said: 'How shall two walk together except they be agreed?' and because you know that, from opposing principles, no true harmony could result and no happiness?  Or is it that you do not feel any very great interest in him?  Think of this, Elinor; consider how short a time you have known Allerton.  If he had not spoken out last night, should you not, on returning to your aunt, soon have forgotten any preference you might have felt?  And if this is so, Elinor,—if you do not love him, cannot you tell him yourself that you do not feel a sufficient regard for him to accept his hand?"

    Elinor made no answer.

    He went on: "But why, in any case, leave it to me?  Oh, Elinor, it is cruel!  Do you not know that scarcely anything in the world could give me so much pain as to have to refuse you to my dearest friend, and to tell him that my principles demand it of me?"

    "Ought I to refuse, or ought I to accept? " said Elinor.

    "If you do not love him—"

    "But if I do,—if you can advise me to accept, oh! pray do; there is nothing about him I do not love, excepting that smile that hovers about his face at the mention of many most sacred things.  He used only to smile so when you were speaking, but lately he has treated even his own professed belief in the same way.  He even said to me, that, at least, you had found him sincere in his creed; and now, without teaching him to believe yours, you had shaken his faith in all."

    "Elinor, you frighten me,—Allerton a sceptic!"

    "Ah, I knew he never said such things to you; and yet, Arthur,"—she looked in her brother's face and saw what he thought,—"but if, when he offered me his hand, I struggled with myself and gave no word of reply; if I mastered myself sufficiently to refer him to you, and to promise, in his hearing, that I would abide by your decision, surely you will not ask me again to encounter such a scene.  I have not courage to tell him in so many words that I prefer him to any one else, but that to accept his offer would be inconsistent with my profession.  Even now I waver between duty and regret.  I almost regret the power I have given you over me.  If you give it me back again—"

    "No, my dear Elinor, I do not give it back.  If it might have been otherwise I should have been thankful; but if this must be so, I will give up my friend rather than subject you to this trial."

    "You give him up?" said Elinor, surprised.

    "He knows that it is to rest only with me.  Do you think he will feel anything but anger and resentment against me, when I might have made him happy and have refused to do so?  If he despises my principles now, he will detest them then, for having compelled me to withhold you from him, when natural affection and every feeling of friendship and gratitude would call for their being set aside.  No, Elinor, if one of us gives him up the other must also, and, as the decision is left to me, I decide to do it.  And yet, Elinor, if you could spare me this,—must I lose all the influence for good that I hoped I had acquired?  Must I make this cause detestable to him which I have laboured so hard to recommend?  You cannot see him; I do not ask it.  But if you could write?"

    But no, Elinor was inexorable; she would not see him, and she could not write.

    "I am sorry if I have said too much about it," he said, when he found she was not to be persuaded.  "I reproach myself for my carelessness in so constantly letting him have access.  I might have known,—I ought to have foreseen what was sure to happen.  But why did you give me no hint of it, Elinor?  If you had, though ever so darkly, I could in great measure have prevented all this."

    "I did not feel sure about it," faltered Elinor.  "He never said anything decisive.  Sometimes I thought I would mention it to you, or even that I would hint to him that I should prefer a different manner.  But if I had done so how deeply abashed I should have felt if he had said, as he might have done, that he was sorry I was annoyed at what he had only intended as proper attention to the sister of a friend in whose house he so constantly was, or if he had rallied me with that half playful, half respectful manner which he always assumes towards ladies."

    As she stood, her colour coming and going, and her whole manner evincing the deepest regret, yet not giving way to any of those transports of sorrow, nor using any of those vehement expressions so often resorted to to express disappointed feeling, her brother remembered what she had told him of her never having been accustomed to the language of adulation, and he reproached himself for his unwillingness to endure his part of the privation, when she was so quietly resigned to hers.

    "Elinor," he said gently, "you are not looking forward to any change on Allerton's part?  You cannot.  And you must not deceive yourself.  We shall certainly part in anger to-morrow.  No care on my part, no desire to conciliate can possibly prevent it, and after that we shall see him no more.  Strange as it may seem, Elinor, I am certain that he expects what is coming; I saw it in his face; but I saw at the same time that he would not suffer the thought to start into prominence; he was determined not to acknowledge to himself that it existed; and when we parted, and I looked earnestly at him, his expression seemed to say, 'I am resolved to trust you, and resolute that you shall not read the shadow of a doubt in my eyes of your affection, or of your being willing to follow it up as I now give you opportunity.'  You know Allerton's character, my dear, and you must not hope, Elinor, that we shall be reconciled again.  He might hate me for a while and then come round again, but by this I shall make him despise me.  He has hinted to me before now, that in his belief our most sacred feelings were instincts given us whereby to correct and govern our principles.  It is clear to me that in this case he will think principles ought to give way."

    "Why do you say all this to me, Arthur?"

    "Partly, dearest, because you have got that little portrait of Allerton in your possession.  You asked me for it nearly a fortnight ago to fix a chain to it for me."

    "Well, I will give it back," said Elinor, with a sigh.  "I shall bring it to you to-morrow."

    "Yes, and we will not talk of this any more, my dear Elinor; it only distresses.  Without doubt you have made it a subject of prayer, and you will feel resigned and even happy.  We must leave these things in the hands of our Heavenly Father.  The commandment is plain, to marry only in the Lord.  Let us obey in faith and trust Him with the consequences."

    "And I am not to see Mr. Allerton any more?  You will not ask me to take leave of him?"

    "Certainly not.  You shall not be distressed.  I will do all I can to save you needless pain."

    The next morning, punctual to the minute, Allerton came up the garden steps and rapped at the library window.  He looked earnestly at his friend as he opened it.  He was greeted by a sudden, and what seemed to be an involuntary smile, for it instantly disappeared, and left his face pale and overshadowed with gloom.

    "Well," said Mr. Allerton, resolutely keeping to his last thought, "and how is your head?"

    "It still aches; but, my dear Allerton, surely you are going to sit down!"

    "Sit down! of course I am," and he threw himself upon a chair, and leaned his arms upon the table with an earnest, steady expression.

    Elinor had brought down the little picture and laid it on the table.  His eye lighted upon it; he pushed it a little further off, and said hastily, "Well, Dreux, I am come to hear your sister's decision—yours rather.  She confirmed what I told you, did she not—that she left the decision to you?"

    "Yes, she told me that it rested only with me."

    Allerton looked at him, and his face darkened and his brow lowered, but he went on in a steady voice.

    "And she admitted that I was not entirely indifferent to her?"  He paused for a moment, and then added, more firmly still, "Dreux, the headache does not make a man's lips tremble."

    For the time they seemed to have changed natures.  The passionate man was so firm and self-possessed, and had assumed so much higher ground than the other, who shrunk from his steady eyes, and seemed to have difficulty in answering,—

    "Will you let me speak on another subject, Allerton, before we enter upon this?  I have something to explain to you, or rather to remind you of, which I should have thought would not have come upon you quite unexpectedly."

    Though he had believed in the bottom of his heart, since the past day, that this would come, he had so strenuously kept the unwelcome conviction down, that this confirmation of his worst fears struck him with a feeling like astonishment, which was increased by Dreux's manner, which even seemed to appeal to his compassion, and to dread the utterance of his next sentence still more than he did to hear it.

    "What," he said, "is it possible you are going to put me off as you did yesterday?"

    He was excessively angry, and yet he felt something like pity for the pain and agitation betrayed by his companion till he had heard his answer, and then every gentler feeling was gone.  It was a pity these words were said; they added fuel to the fire; but the speaker for once was so distraught, that he scarcely knew what he was talking about.

    "I only ask a few minutes for explanation, Allerton.  I hope you will bear with me.  If my principles—"

    "Your principles!" repeated Allerton, burning with anger, and scarcely believing what he heard.  "Is it possible that you want to speak to me about your principles now?  Don't you know what I mean?  Don't you know what I came here to ask, and that with all your vaunted principles you will never make woman a more loving husband than I would make her?  Don't you know that the decision rests with you, and that, considering the intimate friendship which has subsisted between us so long, and all the professions which have arisen from it, you would be one of the meanest rascals living if you refused?  Don't you know all this, Dreux? and that if I were the most patient of men I could scarcely endure this delay.  What do you mean, then, by thrusting in your detestable principles?  I have to hear enough of them at all times, without being tormented with them now."

    "Hear me.  Only let me speak, Allerton," pleaded his auditor.

    "Hear you!" repeated Allerton, in a towering passion.  "I'll hear nothing but this:—will you give me your sister, or will you not?  Answer me, —yes or no."

    "I must and will speak to you.  Allerton, hear me, I entreat of you, I beg of you, if you have any remembrance of our friendship, which has been as strong a bond as brotherhood—"

    "Brotherhood!" repeated Allerton, starting up from his seat, and speaking with such intense scorn that it sent the blood up to his friend's face.  "T'cha! don't talk to me of brotherhood.  Let that rest with your detestable principles.  You need not debase yourself by any further explanations.  I shall know what to think in future of them and you." And he went on with such a torrent of reproach and invective as showed the height of his excitement, being, however, not so transported with passion that he could not see the torture he was inflicting, for at every fresh accusation this man, who was generally so calm and self-possessed, shrunk back as if he had been struck, while his very features were altered by the violence of his efforts to restrain himself.  He lifted up his face as soon as there was any hope of being heard, and made another attempt to speak.

    "I entreat you, Allerton, in justice, not to go away without suffering me to speak, not in self defence or with any hope that friendly feeling toward me should ever revive in your mind again.—I know that all that is over and gone,—I only wish to express my sorrow at what is inevitable, and beg you, when you are calmer, to admit that you at least believe I have preserved my consistency at the expense of what has long been one of the best blessings of my life."

    "That's enough," interrupted Allerton, who, if he had in some degree mastered his rage, was far more bitter and determined than ever; "I only ask you to answer that one question—will you give me your sister, or will you not?  Say no, if you will, I shall not tell the world of it; you will only have made yourself despicable in the eyes of one man—you will have fallen lowest where you did sit highest of all—I emancipate myself from your yoke for ever; I have often thought this day would come—I thought I might some day provoke you past your bearing, and go out at this door to return no more; but I never thought I should go despising you so deeply, as to conquer a regard which I thought stronger than death.  As for our past friendship"—he took up the little miniature case, flung it upon the ground, and struck it with his heel—"as for our past friendship, I fling it aside without regret; there is no such man as he whom I called my friend, he is NOT, and he never has been."  He pushed away the crushed fragments from under his feet, and laid his hand upon the glass door, when Mr. Dreux sprung towards him, and held him so firmly by the wrists, that he could not disengage himself.

    "Not yet, Allerton, and not so—don't leave my house for ever thus!"

    "Will you give me your sister?—not one other word will I hear, not one."

    "Allerton, stay one moment—are we really to part in this way?"

    "Leave go," cried Allerton, irritated at the strength with which he held him.  "The sooner I go the better; and if ever you think of me again, make up your mind that I remember our past friendship, and how you performed your part of it.  I shall think of you and your principles, and everything connected with you, with utter detestation and contempt.  If the whole world had leagued together to warn me of you, I would not have listened—if a voice from heaven had denounced you, I would have heard it with distrust! You have awakened me rudely from my dream, and now I know you as you are and as you have been!!"

    Exerting all his strength, he wrung asunder the detaining hands; and without his hat, without the slightest look or gesture of farewell, turned his back upon the house, went deliberately across the garden, and disappeared.  His late friend looked after him till he was gone, and then shut the window and let down the blind; he picked up the uninjured miniature from the remains of its broken case and held it in his hand, while he slowly collected all the articles about his room which belonged to Allerton, or that he had given him.  There was the seal, cut with his crest, with which he sealed his letters when he wrote them there;—there were several books in which he had written notes, and others inscribed with his name; he had left his gloves upon the table.  Having brought all these things together, he opened a drawer and buried in it the memorials of their dead friendship—there were no memorials of his other loss to hide.  And now the ideal wife seemed to come and stand beside him, looking at him with her sweet eyes: she was lost, and with her all his future changed as he looked into it—he made his appeal again, and again met that look of womanly regret; but dear as she was to him, the second loss was the one that belonged most to actual life—the one which would empty his home of the face he had been accustomed to greet with so much pleasure, and the loss of which would overcloud his sister's brow, and so cast a gloom on the life of every day.

    He held the small picture pressed between the palms of his hands, and now all the circumstances of their friendship rose up before him.  He felt not the slightest resentment against Allerton, but was tortured with regrets over his own blindness, and became constantly more aware how great a loss he would be to him, for he could not make friends: he had plenty of popularity, plenty of applause, many acquaintances and well-wishers; but his reserve had not suffered him to make a single intimate friend.  He had always shrunk with a sensitive dislike from the outward display of his feelings; he always had great difficulty in expressing them, however strong they might be, and now he was sensible that, for anything he had said to the contrary, Allerton might easily think he cared but little for him.

    In the hurry of his excitement, he thought first of the ideal wife, then of the lost friend—and all the time struggled to master his emotions.  It is strange how, when the feelings are more than usually strong, and the habit of self-control has become habitual, a man will battle with himself from mere habit, even when he is far too miserable to care whether his emotions master him or not.  He walked about the library, still holding the picture in his hands, and struggling with a suffocating sensation in his throat; at last he looked at it, and happily for himself, was subdued by its tranquil smile, laid it down, and covering his face with his hands, threw himself upon his couch, and gave way to a passion of tears.

    He thought, and thought a long time, and at length, between exhaustion and excitement, he fell into a troubled dream; but it seemed to himself that he could scarcely have closed his eyes before he was aroused by a brisk knocking at the door: his servant had come to remind him that it wanted but a quarter to three, it was quite time to set off for the funeral, and his horse was at the door.

    What wonder if, in his hurry and excitement, he forgot the injunction never to mount him again, and set off far less able to control him than usual?


――――♦――――


VOLUME II.

 


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