Allerton and Dreux (Vol. II) I.

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[VOLUME I.]


CHAPTER XV.

THE FUNERAL BELL.


IT was a beautiful afternoon, about three o'clock, when Marion and her brother went out by the North-road for a ride; Marion's foot was not yet quite strong enough to admit of her walking, but Elizabeth had lent her her horse, and none of the home party had proposed to accompany the brother and sister, as they wished to give them this opportunity for conversation together.

    After riding for about two miles, they turned down a by-road with tall hazel hedges—the leaves of which were already beginning to wear the autumnal tint—and threaded it as it wound along at the foot of the hills, and by the sides of corn-fields and copses.  The yellow sunshine lay softly on the landscape, and there was that thin, dream-like haze hanging over the distant woods, which often gives such an air of quiet to an August afternoon.  They rode on for several miles in this by-road, talking principally of their friends at Swanstead, and relating various little things to each
other, which never would have been told but for an opportunity like this.  At last the road took a sudden turn, almost straight up a very high hill, and when they had reached its summit, they involuntarily stopped their horses, to gaze at the beautiful rich country spread out at their feet—white cottages, with vines trailing over walls and roof, what happy abodes they seemed! but who could tell what passions might fret, or what cares might cark the hearts of those who dwelt in them!—farm-houses in the sunny hollows—groups of hop-pickers, crowding round the prostrate poles, in their white aprons— cattle, knee deep in the rich grass, and by the margin of a little river, which turned and twisted itself in and out and here and there, wasting its time (if time were any object) in a thousand doublings and returnings, sometimes floating softly along, without a ripple on its surface to show at what rate it went, in other places so thickly and completely overgrown with rushes, that it was quite an invisible river—a green riband winding through the corn-fields which, where the reapers had not yet entered them, looked like acres of rusty-coloured gold.  All perfectly still,
steeped in sunshine, as quiet as a picture or a dream.  The sunbeams dropt through the hedge, and chequered the road at their feet in patches that did not waver; the clouds stood still, as if the wind had gone forward and left them behind; even the red poppies, growing so thickly in the fields, stood upright and never nodded their heads.  There was no movement and no sound, but that inner humming which the ear itself supplies when it is empty of all sound—that slight, soft ringing, like the music in a sea-shell—a witness that "the ear is not satisfied with hearing," that it is restless for some of the sweet voices of the earth, and failing them, brings up the echo of sounds that are past.

    But this silence was not for long: they had not been conscious of it many moments, when a musical note floated towards them, softened by the distance, but regular and clear; they lost it when it had been repeated twice, then a slight breeze sprung up and wafted it to them again more fully and distinctly—it was the tolling of a funeral bell.

    Marion and her brother looked across the valley and up the opposite hill.  There was a village church near its summit, with a slender white spire; the rest of the building was nearly hidden by a group of chestnut-trees crowded before it and sloping down the side of the hill; but the porch could be distinctly seen, and a few scattered gravestones in the church-yard.  It was from this spire that the sounds proceeded, passing over the valley to the height where they were, which appeared nearly level with it.  They heard the bell much more distinctly now that they had got accustomed to its tones; and as they went at a slow pace along the ridge of the hill, they saw the rustic funeral procession winding through the valley, the mourners (chiefly women) with heads bowed down, and white hoods, which showed the youth of the deceased, the black pall with its snowy border glancing out from time to time in its slow progress between the trees.  They went on for another half-mile in silence.  Many thoughts had been aroused by this scene.  That state of feeling, which has been well called the "still sad music of humanity," was awakened in their hearts, and the funeral bell kept time to the strain.

    We cannot fathom our own souls; and, especially among the young, there are many who have never considered how much they may be made to suffer.  But sometimes—quite unexpectedly, it may be, even to themselves—their serenity is disturbed, and even in the happiest circumstances.  The sight of human grief,—the flashing conviction of some approaching sorrow,—the sudden, though but momentary perception of a vague trouble hanging over the heads of some beloved objects—an insight, though but for a short time, into the wearing anxiety that haunts the paths of so many,—sometimes even a glance at a stranger's face, will give a pang of sudden fear and shrinking before the pains, the troubles, and the separations, which are even for them most surely and steadily approaching; and the young heart, sheltered as yet under the shadow of protecting love, begins to count over the number of its gourds, and wonder which of them will soonest wither away.

    But it soon passes, this feeling.  Early, happy youth is so incredulous; it believes only in theory that this is a world of woe.  It easily forgets the short glimpse it has taken, and even though it should ponder with dutiful consideration over the complainings of some agèd friend, or stretch its powers of fellow-feeling to enter into the misfortunes of all whom it loves, there is still a kind of luxury in the bestowal of this sympathy.  There is something sweet in tears shed for others,—unselfish tears, and not divided between another's sorrow and one's own.  In a case like this, oh! how much more blessed it is to give than to receive!

    The funeral bell went on, but the funeral procession was out of sight.  THEY had not seen the face of the dead,—they could not hear the bitter sobs of the mother!

    The afternoon sun shone upon the long road stretching up to the church; the spire looked white and beautiful, and the sound of the bell floated through the sunny air, divested of its sadness, or retaining only enough to give sentiment to the scene.

    But what was this?  They had reached a turn in the lane, and come in view of two cottages a little further down, when a labouring man darted through the hedge just before Marion's horse, and cried out some unintelligible warning.  The next instant a saddle-horse dashed past them at full gallop, the stirrups flying in the air.  The man had already seized Marion's horse by the reins, and was trying to quiet it.  The lane was so narrow that it was a marvel how anything going with such speed could have passed between them without unseating either.  Her brother, who had now dismounted, came and took the reins from her unknown friend, who speedily helped her down; and in a cloud of dust, and between two frightened horses, Marion found herself holding the labouring man by the wrist, and begging him to tell her what was the matter.

    The man took the reins, and called to Wilfred: "Get the lady up the bank, Sir."

    There was a high grass bank at the side of the lane.  He had scarcely time to comply with this command, which was given in the most peremptory manner, when back came the runaway horse, wild with terror, and one of their own horses was struggling in the dust.  It was up again in an instant, and tugging at the reins, with a cut and bleeding head.

    There was another man helping, and the first was chiding him, in no very measured terms, for having tried to stop "yon mad brute," by which, it seemed, he had sent it down again upon them.

    Marion, half-fainting with fear, held by her brother.  She had seen something carried into one of the cottages by two men,—something perfectly passive and motionless,—and she knew it must be the unfortunate rider of the runaway horse, whose progress could now be marked by a rapidly advancing cloud of dust.

    "What is the matter?" exclaimed Wilfred,— "and what is all this?"

    "The clergyman, Sir,—him that came from Westport to bury poor old Maxwell's granddaughter."

    "Thrown!" cried Wilfred.  "Where is he, then?—hurt or killed?—or—what have you done with him?  Can't we help him?"

    "Thrown, Sir;—looked back just as he come to that first cottage;—horse shied, frightened, I reckon;—pitched on his head, poor gentleman."

    "Oh! Wilfred," cried Marion, quivering with terror, "do, pray, go and see."

    "Yes, my dear,—I will, indeed, Marion; but I can't leave you in this state."

    "Put the lady on your own horse, Sir," said the labourer.  "I'll engage to lead him; he's quite quiet.  Bless you, Sir, she can't walk!  We'll take her to the other cottage."

    "No," said Marion, ready to faint, "not into that cottage."

    "No, no, we're not a going to Maxwell's cottage," said the man, his rough voice instantly assuming the tone in which he might have spoken to a pretty child; "we're a going to t'other cottage, yonder, with the porch.  Don't be frightened, Miss, there's a dear."

    So saying, he took her up in his arms, set her on Wilfred's horse, and held her on.  It was not fifty yards to the cottage.

    "Did you say it was a gentleman from Westport?" asked Wilfred.

    "Yes, Sir.  Be you from Westport?"

    "Yes; but who was it?  Don't you know his name?"

    The man glanced at Marion.  "You may as well go and see him, Sir, yourself first."

    "Thank you for your consideration," said Marion; "but it's not at all likely to be anyone I know.  Poor man!  Oh!  I hope he is not very much injured."

    The man shook his head, and answered Wilfred's question: "It's Mr. Dreux, Sir.  Our parson being out, he came over to take the funeral.  They've carried him into Maxwell's cottage."

    Marion caught the name, and instantly begged her brother to let her go with him.

    They were now at the cottage door.  The man lifted her down, and set a chair for her.  Her tremor had entirely subsided, but she wept violently with dread and excitement, while the funeral bell still sounded softly over the valley.

    "Marion, you may come in afterwards, if you will let me go in first;—you may even be of use."

    Marion promised to wait.

    "So you do know the poor gentleman?" said the labourer.  "Well, keep up heart then, Miss.  Why, if he's not past everything, he'll be main glad to have somebody about him that's not strange.  So keep up heart, Miss."

    "Oh, yes," faltered Marion, very glad of this rough kindness.  "Indeed, I am trying to be calm."

    All was perfectly still within the cottage.  Marion listened with sharpened senses, but there was no questioning voice of sympathy, and no answer; no sound like complaining, not a groan, not a sigh.

    Presently her brother came out.

    "He is not killed!" whispered Marion, shuddering.  "Oh! don't tell me that he is killed!"

    "No, Marion, but quite insensible.  You may come."

    He led her through the small front kitchen, which was quite empty, and opening the door of a very low, whitewashed chamber on the ground floor, beckoned her in.

    He was lying on a narrow pallet bed, with his eyes shut, and the usual expression of his face not much altered.  There were no signs of external injury beyond a bruise over the left temple, but he was breathing uneasily, and there was a convulsive quivering about his lips.

    Greyson stooped to loosen the white handkerchief about his neck.

    "Have they sent for a surgeon?" said Marion, hurriedly.  "Oh! I hope they have."

    "I know nothing.  Can you watch beside him while I go and see about it?  Be calm, Marion; remember we are responsible for everything that is done."

    "Oh, yes; indeed, I am calm.  Leave me with him."

    As her brother hurried out of the room, she first observed the presence of a miserable old woman, who was sitting on the only chair the place afforded, at the right side of the bed.

    "Oh! my girl, my poor girl!" muttered the palsied creature, when Marion looked at her;— "who's to bury her?  Oh! my poor daughter!—she'll break her heart this day!"

    There was a close, oppressive feeling in the air of the chamber, and there was nothing on the low bedstead but the mattress.  The feather bed, the clothes, and even the pillows were gone, and she felt conscious that this must be the chamber, and this the bed, from which they had just carried the coffin.  She hastened to open the window, and as she stood watching the utterly insensible form, her excited fancy was busy with the funeral.  She wondered what the people would do, now there was no one to bury the dead.  Would they bring the coffin back, and think to lay it there again?  The funeral bell kept tolling on.  Oh! that it would cease!  She thought it disturbed her patient, for he sighed deeply, and his face assumed a touching expression of sorrow and perplexity.

    Marion knelt down by the low bed, and gently drew off his gloves.  Then she stepped out into the little garden at the back of the cottage, and brought some cold water from a pump, with which she bathed his forehead and the palms of his hands.  She thought he could not be perfectly unconscious, for he muttered to himself, and often threw up his arms as if he would have touched his head, but easily allowed himself to be thwarted by her, as she took hold of them and drew them away.

    Scarcely daring to breathe, she knelt and watched his face, which gradually assumed a look less and less like its own.  It was not a look of pain, nor of fear, but rather of indescribable forlornness, which took possession of his features.  There was a disturbed and yet helpless restlessness about the slight movement of his head, and when he whispered, as he often did, they were broken and incoherent words, but always seemed to express trouble and perplexity.

    Her brother came to the door and beckoned the old woman away; Marion was left alone to watch him.  The funeral-bell kept tolling on, so clearly and distinctly in the silence, that it marked by every stroke how fitful and irregular, how hurried and tremulous was the breathing of the injured man.

    The afternoon sun streamed in upon the clear white-washed walls, through vine-leaves and flowering plants, which were trained outside the casement; the soft slight air came in, and moved the hair upon his temples.  As she held his hand, she fancied there was a change again for the better.  He was breathing more freely; she stooped to listen, and he started and uttered her name distinctly, but in a whisper.  He had never opened his eyes; but Marion, forgetting that if he had been really conscious of her presence, or sensible enough to be aware of what he said, he would not have addressed her by her Christian name, was relieved by what she took for a token of returning consciousness, and answered soothingly, "I am here, my dear Mr. Dreux; what can I do for you?"  But he took no notice of her voice; his breathing again became quick and heavy, and his restlessness increased so much that she had great difficulty in holding back his hands from his head.  While inexpressibly touched to find herself the subject of his impressions at such a time, when he seemed incapable of actual thought, she wept bitterly, and watched every movement and every change with a beating heart.

    In the meantime the labouring man before mentioned had been sent by Wilfred upon his own horse, to a village two miles off, where the nearest surgeon lived.  The road lay by the church, where the people were waiting with the dead woman.  He was to tell them of the accident, and go as quickly as possible on his errand.  There was no one left in either cottage but this poor old woman, and Greyson hoped some of the mourners would return, and render some assistance or advice as to what should be done for the patient.

    To the restlessness of feeling himself responsible was now added anxiety at the non-return of his messenger.  It was three-quarters of an hour since he had started, and there was no appearance of him yet, though he kept pacing about the road before the cottages, looking out in all directions.  He came back to the bed-side, agitated and flushed.  Of the two men who had carried in Mr. Dreux, one was of weak mind, and not capable of taking a message; the other had gone off in pursuit of the runaway horse, and had not made his appearance since.

    "Oh, this waiting is dreadful," said Marion; "and every moment we are losing may be of the utmost consequence."

    "Yes, Marion, but what can be done?  Shall I set off to run to Westport?"

    "If I only had some leeches," murmured Marion; "I am sure that must be a proper remedy, and I cannot endure this inaction any longer."

    "Marion, he looks a great deal worse; I saw a great change when I came in.  Oh, what shall we do!"

    "If so be as you want leeches," said the palsy-stricken woman, who had followed Greyson into the chamber,—"if so be as you want leeches, and would take some o' me?"

    "Where are they?  O yes, of course, we'll take them."

    The old woman hobbled to a closet in the wall, and brought out a bottle with a great number in it.  "The Doctor ordered 'em for my poor dear, the night afore she died," she said, holding out the bottle; "but, hows'ever, she was dead afore they comed into the house, so you'll pay me for 'em, dear?"

    "Yes, O yes," cried Marion, hastily laying aside her hat and veil, and preparing to use them.

    The old woman could give no assistance, but care and tenderness made up to Marion for her slender experience.  As soon as they were on, she entreated her brother to return to Westport for a physician.  It was eight miles off, and he would be obliged to go on foot, as her horse was hurt; but then their messenger was not returned, and they could think of nothing else to be done.

    With a hurried glance at the patient, he left the room, closing the door after him.  He had not been gone ten minutes when Mr. Dreux opened his eyes for the first time, and looked Marion full in the face.  It was a look which expressed neither surprise at seeing her there, nor recognition, nor consciousness,—nothing but a vacant stare.  His eyes soon wandered from her; he began to talk hurriedly, and used several incoherent expressions of pain, making repeated attempts to throw up his hands.

    Fully occupied now, Marion knelt at his head, sometimes speaking to him, at others listening sadly to the quick, restless breathing, which was accompanied by a sound like low, suppressed sobbing.  There was something terrible to Marion in the responsibility of her situation; every change, every start, sent the blood to her heart.  But at length she had the inexpressible relief of seeing his eyes gradually close again, and the forlorn expression which had so much alarmed her fade by slow and almost imperceptible degrees.  She could scarcely tell when and how the change had been effected, but the dreaded look was gone, and in its place was a quiet natural expression, only clouded by weariness and pain.

    In a little time longer his breathing became regular and soft, his lips ceased to tremble, and the burning hand, which had been so restless and quick in its movements, now closed languidly upon hers.  The old woman was sensible of the change, and as she hobbled to Marion's side, to give what little assistance she could with her palsied hands, she whispered that she was main glad the leeches had done so well, and did not add anything this time about her desire for payment.

    At this instant the sound of voices was heard in the outer room; the old woman opened the door, and left her alone; she closed it after her, but Marion could distinctly hear the sobbing of some person in great sorrow, while several others were trying to comfort her.

    She knew these must be the returned mourners, but was just then so fully occupied as to have no time for thought on the subject, beyond a wish that they might not come in and interrupt her.  This wish, however, was not gratified, for in a few minutes a decent-looking woman, in a black gown and white hood, came in and closed the door after her.  She had evidently been crying bitterly, and her eyes were red and swollen; but the moment she saw how Marion was occupied, she applied herself to assist her, with great skill and tenderness.  In the deepest silence the next half-hour passed, though not without many cheering hopes on Marion's part.  Her patient seemed now to have sunk into a natural easy sleep.  He was perfectly quiet and calm,—so very calm and still, that but for a slight movement about his parted lips, she might easily have thought he had ceased to breathe.  She watched him intently, almost breathlessly.  The noble features were perfectly colourless, their expression touchingly pensive.  She thought the room was too light, and arose to draw the remains of a tattered curtain across the casement.

    The rest of the mourners had left the front room, and gone over to the opposite cottage, and there was no sound but the cautious footsteps of the woman, as she passed in and out, bringing what Marion required.  She had lighted a fire in the front room, and set on a kettle; she seemed not at all surprised or distressed, and asked no questions, but applied herself at once to the business in hand; and when at length their task was over, and all signs of it cleared away, she set a chair for Marion, and left her to watch for the waking of the patient.  The time had seemed very long to Marion, but on a reference to her watch she found her brother had only been away an hour; it was therefore another hour before he could be expected back; but Mr. Dreux's perfect tranquillity made her feel sure she had been doing right, and she sat down to watch him with recovered composure.  She had taken off her hat and veil, and now that the heat of the afternoon was moderated by a slight breeze, the colour began to return to her pale cheek.

    In a short time the kind cottager returned, and brought her a cup of tea, begging her not to mind being left alone, as she had sent her neighbours to the opposite cottage with her mother and grandmother, lest they should make too much noise.

    Marion detained her to ask, "Was the poor young woman who is dead your sister?"

    "Yes; and mother takes on much worse than ever now"

    "Because there was no one to bury her!  What, then, have they done with the body?"

    "Two neighbours stayed in the porch, ma'am, to watch the coffin.  Mr. Clay (the Vicar of a neighbouring village) will be home at nine o'clock to-night, and she's to be buried then."

    "I feel the more grateful for the help you have given me, as you are in so much trouble yourself."

    "Ah! Miss, we shall get on badly in this world unless we're willing to help one another."

    Marion took the cup, and thanked her.  It might have been the sound of their voices, or the closing of the door, that aroused the sleeper, for when she looked again his eyes were open.  He looked at her with some slight surprise, but presently he closed them again, saying, in a faint voice, "Only a dream."  Sinking to sleep again, Marion watched him with the cup in her hand.  She had greatly hoped that when he next awoke he would be sensible, and it was a great disappointment to find, as she believed, that this was not the case.  She resumed her kneeling position, and held back his bunds.  In a few minutes he awoke again, with a sudden start of pain, and uttered a few uneasy words about not liking to be left alone.  Marion held the cup to his parched lips, and as he drained the welcome draught, she said, in the softest tones of her sweet voice, "He has said, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.'"

    Her attitude as she leaned towards him, and the earnest expression of her eyes, seemed to arrest his attention, but still, not quite satisfied as to the reality of her presence, he lifted up his hand, and as if wishing to try whether she was sensible to touch, took one of her long soft curls in it, and remained gazing at her with a kind of tranquil wonder.

    But Marion had endured too much anxiety, and was too free from any other feeling towards him than desire for his recovery, to be much abashed by this scrutiny, and gently disengaging her hair, she said a few quiet words to him expressive of her hope that he would not attempt to move (for he had tried to raise his head), and going to the door she asked for some more tea, as she thought it had refreshed him.

    Gradually as he looked round the room, after she had returned to her seat, he seemed to understand what had happened, and when she had given him the tea, he was perfectly collected, and appeared easy, or at least free from any acute pain.

    Marion sat perfectly quiet, scarcely venturing to change her position, for she saw that now he was satisfied of her actual presence it excited him,—the pulse in his temples became more rapid, and his veins swelled and throbbed.  She wished him to sleep again, and hoped at first that her silence might enable him to do so, but she soon found that his mind was now painfully awake, and at work; and sensible that nothing would be more likely to soothe him than the idea that his recovery was a subject of great solicitude with her, she ventured to talk to him in a calm, gentle tone, with the acceptable tenderness which women know so well how to bestow on invalids.  Then, finding that her words had their desired effect, she went on to speak gently to him of the sympathy of Christ.  The subdued tones of her voice, and the solicitude expressed in her face, gradually calmed his excitement, and he presently sunk again into a deep but tolerably quiet sleep.

    And now Marion's watch was over.  She heard the sound of carriage wheels at the gate, and the next minute her aunt, with Wilfred and two physicians, entered the little chamber.

    Marion was not aware, till the necessity for exertion was over, how greatly she had been excited.  As soon as she saw her aunt the tears began to flow fast from her eyes, and she became very faint.  They took her to the little open casement, and as soon as she recovered herself she inquired nervously whether what she had done was right.

    "Quite right, my dear Miss Greyson," said the elder of the two physicians, turning from the pallet; and then advancing to Mrs. Paton, he said, as he felt her niece's pulse, "You will be glad to hear that there is no fracture."

    "Aunt," said Marion, "where is Elinor? and have you brought a nurse?"

    "Mrs. Silverstone is coming, my dear; she is to tell Elinor of the accident, and bring her here."

    "Oh, we shall do very well for a nurse," said the physician, "and you are no longer responsible, my dear Miss Greyson, so don't make yourself uneasy; you have done wonders."

    But it was so obvious that she was uneasy, that as her aunt arranged her hair, and assisted her with her hat, she reminded her in a low voice that her staying any longer was quite out of the question.

    "O yes, I know, aunt," said Marion, glancing at the patient.

    "But, my dear," returned her aunt, "if it would be a satisfaction to you, I will stay and attend to Dr. Grainger's directions, till Mrs. Silverstone comes, and Elinor."

    "Oh, thank you, aunt," said Marion, drawing the gloves on to her trembling hands.  "If you would, I should be so thankful."

    "And now come, Marion," said her brother hastily, "and when you get into the air you will feel better again."

    Marion turned to kiss her aunt, and suffered herself to be led away, her boy-brother being in an agony lest she should appear too much distressed, though he probably might have forgotten her dignity on such an occasion, if the unlucky charade had not been fresh in his mind.

    She had scarcely reached the carriage, when the woman who had rendered her so much assistance came up and pulled her by the sleeve.  Marion looked round.

    "I beg your pardon, Miss," said the woman, who did not much like her errand, "but grandmother will keep worriting about the leeches.  She seems to think you owe her for 'em.  Grandmother's old and childish, Miss," she added, colouring deeply as she observed Marion's perplexed look, "and she would not be satisfied without I told you of it."

    "Oh, I know what she means," said Greyson, drawing out his purse and giving the woman some silver.  "Yes, you're quite right; I am sorry I forgot it."

    "You are still there, my dear," said Mrs. Paton, coming up to the carriage door; "I am glad of that.  Come back for a moment—I want you, Marion."

    Marion followed her aunt into the chamber.  Mr. Dreux was awake; and Dr. Grainger, who was feeling his pulse, waved his hand towards her, and said, encouragingly, "There, my dear Sir, you see you are not so bad as you thought; it was no delirious fancy.  Are you satisfied now?"

    Whatever Dr. Grainger might say, or however light he might make of the patient's condition, his expression of countenance was anything but satisfactory, and when Mr. Dreux lifted his eyes to Marion's face, he looked at him in a manner which betrayed a good deal of uneasiness.

    "Are you content now?" he asked, in the same soothing tone, in which a little very gentle banter was mixed; "or are we to say it was only a dream?"

    Marion saw the same uncertainty in his face which had before prompted him to touch her, and wishing to remove it, she drew nearer, and laid her hand upon his as the Doctor held it.  It was burning hot, and even in the short time she touched it she felt the rapidly-going pulse,—yet the desired effect was produced, for though he said nothing, his face instantly became calm, and, as if he dreaded the least excitement, he turned away and closed his eyes.

    The physician made a sign to her that she might go, so after taking a last hurried look, she left the cottage, threw herself into a corner of the carriage, and gave free course to her tears.

    But not for long.  She soon began to listen to her brother, who kept industriously plying her with consolation, as is the custom with many kind people, who, if they see you in distress, contrive to find so many alleviating and comforting circumstances in the case, that at last they seem to make out, to their own satisfaction (if not to yours), that on the whole it was rather fortunate than otherwise that the distressing circumstance occurred.

    It certainly was a consolation to find she had done right, and it was another that her aunt was going to stay at the cottage a few hours longer, and would bring tidings in the evening as to how the physicians thought their patient.  So Marion dried her eyes, and looked out of the window, trying very hard to be calm and composed.

    The sun was getting very low.  It illuminated the windows of the church on the hill, so that they looked as if they were lighted from within with burning torches.  It streamed through the thick foliage of the trees, and made of the dark clouds on the horizon a fine background for the white spire.  There was the little river winding through the valley—the reapers and the hop-pickers were coming home through the corn—the poppies were waving in the soft evening air,—but there was no funeral bell now to startle a serene heart with its unwelcome forebodings.

    The landscape before her was toned down, its colours had lost much of their brilliance; but the tone of her feelings was also lowered, they had changed very much since she rode between those hazel hedges glowing in the broad sunshine of an August afternoon, and on reflecting, she almost wished that secure feeling of happiness which she had felt during the beginning of her ride might never come again; it would be better, she thought, never to rest at ease and in such tranquil quietness than to be so rudely startled from it.  The sorrow and anxiety would be easier to bear if they were not so utterly unexpected.

    Soon after Marion left the cottage Elinor arrived, with Mrs. Dorothy Silverstone.  She behaved with wonderful self-possession, and when she had seen her brother, and observed the slightness of the external injury, she was evidently greatly relieved; and though Dr. Grainger said nothing in reply to her expressions of thankfulness that the accident was no worse, she was too much absorbed to observe it.

    Soon after the physicians were gone, the invalid awoke suddenly, and said, in a hurried whisper, "Where's Allerton?"  Mrs. Dorothy put him off with some slight answer, and Elinor's emotion seemed to her the natural consequence of hearing him speak for the first time.  It was a trial she had to endure many times during the night, for he never awoke without asking the same question, being generally satisfied when she came up to him and laid her hand on his, or held some cooling drink to his parched lips.  She felt quite sure that they had parted in anger, and a few broken words which he uttered now and then confirmed her in this conviction.  Having her own private sources of sorrow added to her anxiety for him, it was no wonder that she exhausted herself with weeping, and that every repetition of the question cost her a renewal of her tears.

    In the morning Dr. Grainger came and a surgeon with him.  Her brother was awake, and, though feeble, did not seem to be in pain.  Elinor was struck by their gravity, and watched them as if her life hung on their words.  They took seats close to him, and asked one or two questions, which he answered collectedly.  Then the surgeon said, in an abstracted tone, "Let me see, what day is this?"

    "Ah, what day?" repeated Dr. Grainger, as if he could not remember it either.

    Mr. Dreux answered, with a movement of irritation, "It's Thursday."

    "Is it?" said the Doctor, composedly and slowly; "yes, I think it is; and what day of the month, I wonder?"

    "Sunday was the 16th," said the invalid, turning his head restlessly on the pillow, "so this is the 20th."

    Upon this they seemed pleased, and presently went into the outer room to confer together.

    After a short interval Elinor followed them.  "We think the patient somewhat improved," said the senior physician in answer to her appealing look.  "His mind is clearer than could be expected.  He has certainly a great deal of fever."

    "I hope he is not in danger," said Elinor, the idea occurring to her for the first time.

    "I shall come again in the afternoon," said Doctor Grainger, without answering her question.

    "But he is not in danger?" repeated Elinor.  "Oh, don't tell me that he is!"

    "Why, there is a certain degree of danger attending all illness," said the physician, slowly.  Elinor shuddered.  "We shall hope to find him somewhat better to-morrow," he continued, soothingly.

    "And if he is worse?"—

    "Oh, we must not distress ourselves with such a fear.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

    Elinor returned to the room and gazed at her brother with a sinking heart.  He was just sufficiently sensible to be aware that if he talked he should talk nonsense; but a confused recollection of his quarrel with Allerton continually tormented him.  He was divided between his desire to see him and a half-recollection that he ought not to talk of him.  In spite of this he found himself often asking for him, and his kind old friend increased his perplexity by promising that he should see him soon.  Towards afternoon he became less restless, and hope strengthened again in Elinor's heart.  She needed some encouragement, for her mind was exhausted with anxiety as well as her bodily strength.  About four o'clock the physician came again, and said he was much the same.

    Mrs. Dorothy then wished Elinor to go to bed, and though she could scarcely endure to leave her brother, she had not strength to resist long, and had but just laid her head on the pillow, when she fell into a heavy sleep.

    It was hours before she awoke, which she did at last in a fright, and hurried down to her brother's room.  It was the middle of the night, and the place was still as nothing but a sick man's chamber can be.  The nurse and Mrs. Silverstone were sitting up, the former dozing in her chair: the latter nodded encouragingly to Elinor, and pointed to her brother, who was lying in a deep sleep.  Elinor recovered from her nightmare terror and gratefully kissed the old lady, who urged her to retire till morning, reminding her that she would have to sit up the next night, and entreating her not to waste her strength needlessly.  Elinor could not comply.  She sat watching with the other two attendants through the rest of the night, and was still close to her brother, holding his feverish hand, when the physicians arrived.

    "He is rather better to-day," they said, "but he must be kept extremely quiet and nearly in darkness."

    Elinor followed them into the next room, and said, with a face of terror, "But he did not speak collectedly to-day.  Is he delirious?"

    "That confusion is partly the effect of opiates," was the reply; and again she was put off with a hope of the favourable things they thought they should have to tell tomorrow.

    She felt relieved of a part of the weight which had pressed down her soul; but though she believed they really thought him better, it frightened her to hear him talk at random, especially as the one theme of his rambling thoughts was still Allerton, an endless succession of regrets that he was not there, and entreaties that he might be sent for.

    "Which we can't do, my dear," Mrs. Dorothy said with a sigh, "for Dr. Grainger tells me Mr. Allerton's ill—confined to his room, I think he told me.

    Elinor knew that whatever her brother might say, they could not send for Allerton, and anxious as this information made her about him, she was glad that, in the old lady's eyes, there existed a sufficient reason for his absence.

    In the evening they again came to see their patient, and still said he was better,—decidedly better, and were obviously both surprised and pleased to find him so.

    Elinor sat by him that night, and in the morning she felt that he now really was better; his face had resumed its usual expression, and, owing to the shortness of his illness, his features were very little changed.

    She met the physicians with a tranquil face, and read their favourable report in their eyes before they left her brother.

    "He really is better now, I am sure of it," she said, as she joined them in the front room.

    "Yes, really better, and there is now little fear of a relapse."

    They then desired her to take some rest, and went away, she feeling now as unduly elated as if her brother had not another peril to encounter, and might expect to go home in a day or two.

    He was awake when she returned, and leaning over his pillow smoothed it tenderly, and spoke to him with all her own gentle hopefulness.

    "Am I better?" he inquired.

    "Yes, much better, dearest," she replied, "but you will be very quiet, will you not?  You will not move, nor even think?"

    "Very well," he answered, and shut his eyes to ponder on something which had been puzzling him for several hours.

    The influence of the opiates was now completely spent; the nurse and Elinor had retired, leaving him alone with Mrs. Dorothy.  He knew she would not be induced to talk to him, and therefore there was nothing left for him but to speculate over and over again on the same puzzling subject.  His fever was rapidly subsiding; the furniture, which hither had seemed to spin round him, every object invested with a dazzling halo, had now settled down steadily; his thoughts were becoming distinct, and recollections defined; he was perversely disinclined to sleep, and an event or a dream of the night presented itself to him in vivid colouring.  It might have been in the night, for he remembered the a small lamp was burning on the floor, shaded with an open book, that the light might not come near him.  The nurse was in the front room, dozing, no doubt; and his sister, who was alone with him, was sitting on a cushion at the foot of the pallet-bed, a resting her head on a pillow; he could see her face which still bore the traces of tears,—her dishevelled hair had fallen back from it, but sleep had restored the bloom to her cheeks, for he remembered that she certainly was asleep, and that he had tried calculate how many nights she had sat up with him.  After this he had shut his eyes again, and got entangled in the meshes of a half-delirious dream till a slight noise startled him, and he had awoken with his oft-repeated exclamation, "Where's Allerton?"

    His sister still slept.  He had spoken in a confused whisper.  He was conscious of the presence of a man standing near him, and when he could collect his thoughts he saw that it was Allerton; but looking dreadfully pale, and gazing at him with an expression of agony which had caused him to close his eyes and turn away, for he could not bear to be disturbed.

    What happened next he could not recollect.  He thought it must have been some time after this that Allerton had said, "Do you know me, Dreux?" and that he had tried to answer, but had failed.  After this, by degrees, as he thought on the subject, his recollection recovered the confused interval of delirium which had followed.  He remembered putting up his hands, under the impression that the ceiling was falling upon him.  This interval seemed an hour, but it might have occupied but two minutes.  Then he remembered seeing Allerton kneeling by his bed, that he was holding one of his hands, that his head was bowed down, his chest heaved, and he wept with such bitterness of agony as none but natures so loving and so passionate can.  He saw that his sister still slept, and remembered that, as Allerton knelt by him, he poured forth against himself the most bitter reproaches and uttered the most poignant regrets.  He thought that, at every pause, he had tried to answer him, but without success, he supposed; for, when Allerton lifted up his face and looked at him, he had certainly addressed him, but not as a man who was capable of observing him or at all conscious of his presence.  He had known, at the time, that this was a mistake, and that he was quite collected.  He had tried once more to speak to him, and had said, "Don't distress yourself, I am better."

    He remarked that Allerton had looked at him with almost incredulous hope when he said it, and had bent his head to listen, upon which he had repeated the sentence, adding a desire that he would stay a while, and a wonder that he had never been before.

    He had scarcely said this when he remembered their quarrel, and all the circumstances respecting his sister came clearly back to him.  He tried to raise his head, and, as he did so, Allerton put his arm under it, and said, with deep regret, but not as if addressing him,—"Is it all forgotten?—and so soon.  Oh, the dreadful cause!"

    Upon this he found strength to answer, in a low, faint voice, "I remember it now; and how we parted."

    He had not intended to give pain by this remark, but he observed that Allerton shuddered on hearing it and lowered his head again.  He did not feel any answering emotion, and again became very much confused.

    As he now lay awake in the broad daylight, he did not recover these slight circumstances and their sequence without a considerable effort; he was still weak enough to be wearied by it, and sunk to sleep.

    It was afternoon when he awoke.  Elinor was sitting by him; she gave him some jelly, and then, it being a very sultry afternoon, she opened the door, which led into the garden, and he instantly remembered that he had seen the man enter by that door before he knew who he was.

    As he lay awake, looking out into the green shady garden, he began to speculate as to whether this visit of Allerton's was a reality or a dream.  He now recollected various other circumstances, but whether his active imagination had suggested them during this last sleep, whether he had dreamed them during the night, or whether they were waking truths, he could not decide.  He carried down his supposed recollections, step by step, to the point where he had left them in the morning.  He thought, after this, he must have talked confusedly, for the next thing he recollected was Allerton's voice, in its lowest tones, trying to soothe him; he had mastered his emotion, and was looking earnestly at him, as if waiting for an answer to some question.

    "Can you ever forgive me," he repeated, speaking in suppressed tones.  "If you can, oh, let me hear you say it before we part, perhaps for ever."

    He had answered to the purpose, though he did not know what.

    Allerton went on:—"The last time we were together you called me 'brother.'  I did not care for it then, but, oh! how happy it would make me to hear you say it now!"

    He knew he had exerted himself to say the required word, upon which Allerton embraced him and went away, he supposed; for when he next awoke, his sister was close to him, holding him by the hand, and telling him what a delightful sleep he had had.

    He replied, as she thought, at random: "And if he was really here, of course he will come again?"

    His sister kissed him tenderly, and said, "Dearest Arthur, you always awake so much confused." As she handed some lemonade to him, she said, "Where is the ether?"

    Elinor's eyes filled with tears when he answered, "Allerton put it on that chair."

    The ether was standing on the chair.

    Elinor said, "No doubt nurse put it there, dear."  She was going to add,—"I wish you could spare me the constant mention of Mr. Allerton's name," but she saw that he was perplexed, and tried to divert him from the subject by remarks on indifferent matters.  This would not do.  He presently said:—

    "You did not see him, of course, my love; you were asleep."

    "I asleep, Arthur!" said Elinor, with an incredulous smile.  "O no; try to think of something else,—Mr. Allerton will not come; it was only your wish to see him that made you dream of him.  Don't you remember telling me that we must both learn to do without him?"

    "But he did come."

    "Why, it's not yet dawn.  Would he come in the middle of the night, dearest?  Well, but, Arthur, if he came once, he will assuredly come again."

    "Yes, I suppose he will."

    "Then, if he does not come to-day, you will try not to be always thinking about him and expecting him."

    Elinor now hoped she had shaken what she considered a half-delirious fancy, and went on, in a soothing voice: "And you never ask after your other friends, Arthur.  Don't you remember the Greysons, how kind they were to you?  Are there no people in the world that you care for besides Mr. Allerton?"

    "Yes, I suppose so.  Tell me their names."

    "Dear Arthur,—well, I am one of them."

    "Yes; come and lay your head on my pillow.  Don't cry, Elinor,—this confusion in my head makes me say inconsiderate things."

    This short conversation with Elinor did not form a part of his present speculations, but he now began to remember his duty, and inquired whether a Sunday had passed during his illness, who had served his church, and who had undertaken his various other engagements.;

    Mrs. Dorothy Silverstone was always with him in Elinor's absence, but she would not give him much information, and advised him not to talk.  But the crisis was passed, and though he still felt extremely feeble, he was already beginning to suffer from the peculiar restlessness attending convalescence.  In the afternoon Elinor came again, and his kind old friend left him for a few hours.  He then tried what he could do with his sister, and nothing but her perfect ignorance of what had been going on since his illness prevented her from answering any question he chose to ask.  He then wished her to read to him, but she had scarcely found a Bible when Dr. Grainger came in.  Again Elinor saw the expression of surprise, as well as pleasure.

    He beckoned to her to follow him, and said, "We find Mr. Dreux remarkably well this afternoon.  We are inclined to think the injury to the brain must have been much slighter than was at first apprehended; it is not by any means sufficient to account for all this fever."

    He then questioned her as to her brother's previous state of health, and asked whether anything had lately happened which was likely to have shocked and distressed him.  Elinor said nothing, but her face was a sufficient answer.

    "Well, then," said the friendly physician, "if Mr. Dreux has another good night I shall hope to pronounce him out of danger; and, probably, in about a week or ten days he may be able to return home."

    How light her heart was during the rest of the day, or how happy she felt, it would be impossible to describe; the absorbing nature of her trial, and the great personal exertion it had involved, had, for the time, thrown her previous sorrow into the background.  If she had lost her brother, she felt that this additional loss would almost have weighed her down, but now she incessantly repeated to herself,—"If God will only spare him to me, I think I can bear the other loss very well."

    Completely absorbed in watching him and waiting on him, the next few days passed quietly enough with her; she almost forgot to be sorrowful while observing his gradual restoration.  They were too far from Westport to allow of more than a very few inquirers after his health, and the cottages were situated in such a secluded lane that there were never any passers-by.

    The people who had lived in the cottage they now occupied had been easily persuaded to give it up, by a present of money; they had taken away what little furniture they possessed, and some of a better description had been sent on to them from Westport.  The woman who had assisted Marion had been retained in the character of servant; and a square carpet, a sofa, a few chairs, a table, and some few books, had completely altered the aspect of the front kitchen.  The chamber in which her brother lay was equally improved, and through the open door and window he could see the long narrow garden, with its garniture of tall sunflowers, hollyhocks, its bed of thyme, sweet marjoram, and angelica, edged with double daisies, and its two "pleasure borders," filled with heart'sease, pinks, and cabbage-roses.

    How happy was Elinor the first time he was able to leave his room and lie on the sofa!  One of the strongest traits in her character was its hopefulness; she was always the first to see every good symptom, always determined to make the best of every drawback, always ready to echo his ideas ,when he was cheerful, and to soothe and reassure him when he was tormented with restlessness and gloom.

    When Dr. Grainger came that evening he found his patient lying on the sofa, and Elinor sitting at work by the little table; she had that morning indulged herself with a walk, and the room was garnished with a number of field-flowers which she had brought in with her.  Mrs. Dorothy had placed a few in her hair to please her brother, and as she moved about, her manner, though retaining the quietness so pleasant to invalids, was so expressive of happiness that, according to the old saying, she seemed to tread on air.

    "All this morning I have fancied I heard bells, a peal of bells," she said, addressing the Doctor.

    "Notwithstanding the interest that young ladies take in wedding-bells," said the old gentleman, good-humouredly, "I hold it to be impossible that you could have heard the bells of Pelham's Church seven or eight miles off, Miss Elinor, though they are ringing, no doubt, at this moment, for Miss Elizabeth Paton was married this morning."

    "Elizabeth married this morning!" said Elinor, surprised.  "How strange, when I was to have been present, that I actually should never have remembered the day!"

    "You have had so many other things to think of, my sweet Elinor," said her brother, taking up her hand; "but I hope you sent to excuse yourself."

    "Oh, yes, a week ago; but I am sure I did hear bells," persisted Elinor.

    "You are fond of the sound of bells; you were happy this morning, and your imagination supplied it."

    "Well, at any rate it was a good omen, Miss Dreux," said the physician, "and I think you might have really heard them, without either the help of imagination or such acuteness of ear as to distinguish them eight miles off; for I now remember that Mr. Paton has a small estate about three miles from hence, and I think it very likely his tenants might set the bells ringing on such an occasion."

    "I cannot possibly believe in that version of the story," said Elinor, laughing; "it is so very commonplace!"

    "Then we shall be obliged to fall back on the old superstition, Miss Dreux; don't you know that when a lady hears a peal of bells, it is a sure sign that she will be married within the year?"

    He saw in an instant that he had made an unlucky remark, for the tears came into Elinor's eyes in spite of herself; her spirits were still far from settled, and this unfortunate speech was top much for her.

    "And now let me see how we are off for medicine," he said, instantly rising and turning his back to them, while he examined the contents of a small corner cupboard.

    He made his scrutiny last as long as he could; when he turned round again Elinor was gone; but she returned when he had taken his leave, with no other traces of her tears than served to give a still softer expression to her sweet face.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XVI.

THE RING.


THE next few days were spent very quietly by the inhabitants of the cottage; Elinor found plenty to do, and her brother, not being allowed to read or write, amused himself as he lay on his couch with watching the movements of others.

    It was quite impossible in such a house that they could have a regular servant: the woman who waited on them sat during the day in the opposite cottage, and there she did all the cooking; she came over when they beckoned to her, but she was an awkward personage, and Elinor found it less trouble to wait on herself than employ her.  So, among other things, she took to washing the tea things, and after each meal setting them in array upon the chimney-piece.

    It amused her brother to see these operations, and she easily found others which she made it appear must needs be done.  He liked to see her flitting about, for she did everything gracefully, and it was something new to see her come in out of the garden with a basketful of apples, which she pared with her silver knife and sliced into a pie-dish, sitting down to the task with deliberate care, and then sending the dish over to have the crust manufactured in the opposite cottage.  She took care to have something of the kind to do every day; sometimes she shelled peas for dinner, or sliced French beans upon a wooden trencher, or printed little round pats of butter with extraordinary care, and garnished them with sprigs of parsley.

    The next day Mrs. Dorothy Silverstone was to leave them: she had bestowed unbounded care upon her nursling, and shed tears of delight when she saw him able to raise his thin, lengthy figure from the couch, and recreate himself with a walk to the gate of the tiny cottage-garden; on his part, he repaid her affection with a kind of filial preference, which sometimes made Elinor just a little jealous, though this was a feeling that she would not have acknowledged for the world, even to herself.  She sometimes wondered what it was that made her services so peculiarly acceptable; it was not certainly that she was amusing, for she never said a word—she did not even inquire of her patient whether he wished or whether he wanted anything; all that she knew by intuition, in spite of which she never seemed to be watching him.  It might have appeared that her mind was not occupied about him, if she had not come to his side just at the right moment.

    As for him, he submitted to her mandates with a kind of pleased docility; even during his greatest weakness, he revolted as well as he could from the hired nurse; he would, when at all delirious, refuse to let her bathe his temples, sometimes would command her imperiously to leave his chamber; but everything Mrs. Dorothy did was acceptable—he did not want to have Joseph sent for—he did not want even Elinor to take the old lady's vocation out of her hands; she brushed his hair for him, and he was not at all contumacious; she cut up his dinner and gave it to him with a fork; she called him "my dear,"—that was right too; the most delightful unanimity subsisted between them, a taciturn friendship, very peculiar, but very sweet.  He was excessively sorry to part with the old lady, but one of her sisters was ill and had a superior claim to himself.  She promised him, as she might have done some favourite child, that she would certainly come and see him again very soon, and he lifted up his pale, hollow cheek to be kissed at parting, much as he might have done if she had been his mother.

    Upon her departure, he tried very hard to throw off the invalid and resume his more manly occupation, but it would not do, and in consequence of sitting too long writing a letter, he was so much fatigued, that for the next two days he could scarcely lift his head from his couch.

    As long as he had been in danger, young Greyson had ridden over daily to inquire after him; now that he was better, the family contented themselves by sending over a groom.

    By this man he sent a message that he was very much better, and would be most happy to see Mrs. Paton, if she would favour him with a visit.

    There were many reasons why it fretted him to be without tidings from Westport, and without a sight of any of the Paton family.  He wished, if he never saw Marion again, at least to convey his thanks to her, and he knew she was to return very shortly to Swanstead.  He was very restless for want of tidings respecting Allerton's movements, for he had never sent to inquire after him, never been to see him,—unless, indeed, it was true that he had been with him that midnight; it was still scarcely possible to give up that belief, unlikely though the circumstances seemed.

    As might have been expected, Mrs. Paton called after this message, and Marion and Dora with her: the latter did not get out of the carriage, but Mrs. Paton came in with her niece.  They had been sitting at home all the morning to receive calls of congratulation, and Marion was dressed in all her bridal decorations.  Always lovely and interesting as he had thought her since their first meeting, she had never appeared to him with so many attractions as during this farewell visit, while she sat almost entirely mute, and scarcely daring to lift up her eyes.  The soft slight bloom fluctuated in her cheek, and as she moved, the golden locket hanging from her neck was sometimes in shadow and sometimes glittered in the sunshine cast upon it through the cottage casement.  That same sunshine covered her dress with a wavering lattice-work of shadow, mingled with clear imprints of vine-leaves.

    A strong constraint seemed to be hanging over them all.  Mr. Dreux could not speak to Marion; Marion could not speak to any one.  Mrs. Paton was very uncomfortable, from uncertainty as to how they felt towards each other.  At length Marion looked up; her glance met Elinor's; the two girls looked earnestly at each other, and their eyes filled with tears.  Marion's did not seem, in their appealing gaze, to ask for gratitude, but rather to deprecate reproach.

    Mrs. Paton saw that a very little thing would overpower Elinor, and did what she could to bring indifferent subjects before her mind.  She talked of Elizabeth's wedding; remarked on the beautiful weather she had for her wedding-tour; she had heard from her son-in-law that Elizabeth was enchanted with the lakes; she was delighted to find that they (Mr. and Miss Dreux) hoped to be able to return to Westport the next week; finally, she hoped Mr. Dreux would spare his sister to spend a short time with her before she left that part of the country.  She should be very dull now that dear Elizabeth had left her, especially as her dear Marion was to leave her to-morrow.

    This remark brought matters to a crisis.  Elinor was sure that Marion had refused her brother's hand.  Their eyes met again; and between gratitude for the tenderness which had watched over him, and pain at this refusal, Elinor burst into a passion of tears, and sobbed violently.

    Mr. Dreux half raised himself on the sofa, took his sister's hand, and looked entreatingly at her.

    "Now is my time," thought Mrs. Paton, "and if these young people have anything to say to each other, they shall have an opportunity to say it."

    "Elinor, my dear girl," she said, soothingly, "don't distress your brother; pray try to command your feelings."

    Of course, Elinor could not command herself.  Marion, trembling, rose and came up to her.  She took her other hand, bent over her as she sat, and kissed her forehead.

    "Marion, I am not ungrateful," said Elinor, whispering; and withdrawing her hand from her brother, she held Marion closely.

    Low as the answer was, it reached his ears.  "You mistake if you think there is anything to be grateful for."

    These words were commonplace, yet they confirmed Elinor's conviction, and renewed her pain.  She released Marion, turned from her, and wept more hysterically than ever.

    "This will never do," said the politic Mrs. Paton, and taking Elinor's hand, she said, kindly, "Come, my love, I think we should do well to take a turn in the garden till you are calmer; indeed, your brother should not be disturbed."

    Elinor gladly yielded, and there was nothing for it but for Marion to remain.  She saw Mr. Dreux about to rise and bring her a chair,—about to make the attempt rather, for this little scene had very much agitated him.  She made a gesture to prevent it, and sat down near the couch, her heart beating so painfully that she could scarcely distinguish the first few sentences he addressed to her.  He continued to repeat, in an altered voice, which faltered a little, his sense of her goodness, which, he said, could never be repaid, and which in all probability had saved his life.

    Marion ventured to lift up her face, and encountered his eyes, but the change she saw there took from her what little courage his voice had left her; they were hollow, and had lost much of their brightness.  His forehead was still slightly discoloured; there was a very small scar under the hair; she knew precisely its situation; apparently it was healed.  His face, owing to a somewhat dark complexion, was not very pale, but it was thin and wasted.  As she glanced at his altered lineaments, they were suddenly illuminated by that rare smile; its sweetness and beauty made the change in them the more conspicuous, but in passing away it left the traces of suffering, both mental and bodily, more distinct and plain.

    Marion tried to find some reply to his acknowledgments.  Her confusion was obvious; and as she sat before him, modestly silent, he showed the interpretation he put upon her behaviour by saying,—

    "Do not fear, Miss Greyson, that I can so forget myself as to try to make the obligation under which you have laid me a plea on which to urge my former suit.  I do not say that if this had never happened I might have refrained from further appeals, even though ultimate success was scarcely to be thought of, or hoped for.  But though I can -scarcely suppose it possible that I could ever have ceased to love you, how much less now that—"

    Marion looked up when he said this, and he paused, but perhaps it was more from agitation and the effects of his illness than anything else, for he proceeded, quite unconsciously, to drive his blunder home.

    "But I have no right to disturb you by any allusions which point to you as being the cause of pain, however innocently.  I wished only to remind you that I have now, from another cause, a full right—one which you will recognise—to think of you.  This emboldens me to ask if you will permit me to retain something of yours which is now in my possession; it would be an inexpressible pleasure to me to have it.  I believe I have seen you wear it."

    He took from his waistcoat-pocket a ring with hair in it, and explained that a few days after his accident it was found in the saucer of a china cup, which had been set aside in a cupboard.

    Marion instantly remembered having taken it off; it was in her way; but how it had happened to be set aside thus, and forgotten by her, she could not tell.

    "If you could possibly permit me to retain it, Miss Greyson?"

    Marion looked at him, quite surprised, and did not know what to say in reply.  She could not help thinking this was rather a curious way of relinquishing all further claim,—all further attempts to found one.

    It was a ring that she was always in the habit of wearing; it had been worn by her mother, and contained some of that beloved parent's hair, and some of her own hair when she was a child.

    "If you would permit me to retain it," Mr. Dreux proceeded, "I would found no false hopes on the gift; I would look on it only as a memorial of that day."

    Marion had put on the ring, but he still kept urging her to return it, exhibiting in his manner a good deal of that nervous sensibility so common in recovery from severe illness.

    "If you would only let me have it, Miss Greyson," he said at last, "I would look on the gift in any light you might choose to indicate."

    The voices of Mrs. Paton and Elinor were heard approaching.  Marion drew off the ring, and giving it back, said, "I ask you, then, to consider it simply as a proof that I do not like to refuse you anything for which you wish so earnestly."

    If he had had his wits about him, he could surely have made something of this.  As it was, he took the ring gratefully, raised her hand to his lips, and easily allowed her to withdraw it, while he tried, without much success, to control his excited feelings, which, in his present state of weakness, were often on the point of mastering him.

    Mrs. Paton entered with Elinor, only to take leave, she said, and bring Marion away, which she did at once, without observing the look of unutterable regret with which his eyes followed Marion as she left the room.

    Elinor and Marion took an affectionate leave of each other; and Dora, who was quite tired of sitting in the carriage, telegraphed several questions to her mother during the ride home, but could not make much of the answering signs.

    And now the cottage began to get very dull.  The letters came to it irregularly; sometimes the newspapers were forgotten.  Vague rumours reached it, however,—wafted by chance callers,—that Pelham's church and parishioners were getting into a state of anarchy and confusion; that the churchwardens' meeting had been a stormy one; a window which was out of repair was being mended after a barbarous fashion; some peculiar ornaments thereto pertaining were under the hands of a modern glazier: now this window was dear to the heart's core of the Curate of Pelham's church; it was of far more ancient date than the edifice itself, and had been removed to it at considerable cost; it was one of those rare and curious specimens of early art called a "Jesse window."  These various circumstances made it quite impossible to stay much longer.  Accordingly Dr.  Grainger, with a very bad grace, gave his patient leave to go home, on condition that he would be extremely quiet for some time to come,—not think of preaching, go to no meetings, and amuse himself as much as he liked in superintending the repairs of his Jesse window.  His patient kept to the letter of their agreement, but contrived, notwithstanding, to get himself so tired by the evening of each day that he could not creep up stairs to his library sofa without the help of his servant's arm.  Many were Dr.  Grainger's warnings and threatenings, but they were of small avail; and day by day, as his natural strength and sound constitution triumphed, the old gentleman gave them up.  He saw that it was no more use trying to persuade him to be quiet, and let things take their course, than it would have been to try to make Hercules (supposing that worthy had been living) lie on a sofa all day, and read fashionable novels!

    Elinor's aunt now began to get very urgent with him to let her return.  It was only by repeated representations of how ill he had been that he had induced her to spare his sister so long; now he was resolved, if possible, to retain her for a short time longer.  Her spirits were often oppressed; she began to suffer from anxiety at Allerton's protracted absence,—not that she seemed to expect any renewal of intercourse, but he had gone on a journey, and as no one seemed to know anything of his whereabouts, she had a vague fear lest some evil should have befallen him.

    The same feeling haunted her brother's mind.  One of his first visits was to Mr. Hewly, but here he could get no further information than that Allerton, having been unwell, had made up his mind to take a tour in Wales.

    Mr. Hewly could not tell how a letter ought to be addressed to him; could not say whether he were yet in Wales; had, in fact, thought of calling on Mr. Dreux for information, not doubting that he knew everything about his movements.

    He was so evidently surprised at this proof that he knew nothing about him as to put Dreux on his guard, and make him give up all hope of a communication in that quarter.

    He took leave, and called on Allerton's banker, but there he heard nothing encouraging.  Allerton, he said, had taken a sum of money with him, quite sufficient to last a long time, and had not written to be supplied with any more, nor said anything as to the length of his intended absence.

    These questions had to be asked with caution, lest they should injure Allerton, or in any way compromise him.  The information they elicited only added to his anxiety.  He thought it very strange that he should have no correspondent at Westport.

    At last, one day when he came in, Elinor told him that Mr. Hewly had called for a few minutes, and had said he had received a letter from his Rector respecting some arrangements in the church; that he was still in Wales, and well in health, or, at least, had said nothing to the contrary.

    Though very tired, he forthwith went to Mr. Hewly, but could obtain no further information.  That gentleman was now confirmed in his former suspicion, that they were no longer friends;—the very circumstance that Allerton had still not written fully proved it.

    Hewly was glad at heart.  He saw that the influence he had so greatly disliked was withdrawn.  He received his visitor coolly, spoke of his call with condescending suavity, was sorry he could not give Mr. Dreux the address, believed he must have inadvertently destroyed the envelop, so that the post-mark could not be produced.

    In reply to the question, whether he expected to hear again, he replied, that though no doubt Mr. Allerton was very much engaged, he could find time to write to his friends if he chose; consequently, he had no doubt he should hear again, the more so as Allerton had requested him to pay all bills and demands upon him, that he might not have the trouble of attending to them where he was.

    This was enough.  Mr. Dreux saw that the address was purposely concealed from him, and believed it was at Allerton's own request.  He arose to take leave, keenly conscious of the secret pleasure the Curate felt in letting him see that he knew the strong bond which had bound them together was broken.

    When he came in, Elinor questioned him, and he admitted that he had failed in obtaining the address.

    She was evidently distressed, and he began to fear that her feeling of preference for his late friend was not of so transient a nature as during his illness he had flattered himself that it might be.

    "At any rate, my dear Elinor, we now know that Allerton is safe and well.  I really had began to have my fears.  Now they are relieved, and the rest we must leave."

    He was very tired with his day's work, and lay down on the sofa to rest.  Elinor came and sat by him.  Whenever she saw him fatigued, or looking ill, she forgot her own anxieties for a while.

    She began to tell him about his habit of overexerting himself, and entreated him to be as quiet as he could when she had returned to her aunt.

    "I am not exerting myself too much," he replied; "and I believe, if my mind were at ease, I should soon be as strong as ever.  I want Allerton's society more than I can describe.  It pains me very much—inexpressibly, sometimes—that he should think of me, meanly too.  And I am uneasy about you, Elinor.  I feel that my want of observation and my imprudence has cost you, for the present at least, your peace of mind, and it has removed Allerton from my influence, which I fondly hoped was for his good."

    Elinor replied, like a woman, that though her intercourse with Mr. Allerton had certainly been the cause of her present unhappiness, she would not wish to be restored to peace of mind by forgetfulness of him.  "I know I shall never see him again," she added, "but at least I can pray for him; and, Arthur, since I cannot cease to think of him, I hope, when you write, you will always tell me all you hear of him.  I knew, when I gave him up, that I was doing right, but I did not know, dearest, how strong the hope, indeed the belief, was in my heart that it would lead to a change.  I had, almost unknown to myself, a kind of superstitious expectation which swayed me and buoyed me up,—an idea that I should surely never be the worse for that sacrifice."

    "Nor do you think so now.  You do not regret?"

    "No: but what I thought simple submission and faith in God was really superstition; at least some such feeling was mingled with the others.  The feeling clung to me that he was certainly to be restored to me, better than he was before."

    "Because you had made that sacrifice?"

    "I don't quite know,—I incline to think so."

    "My dear, we all have a great many of these unacknowledged superstitions, and, as long as it can, the heart will cling to the idea;—no, I mean the sensation—impression,—(instinct I would call it, if it were not false,)—that obedience to the will of God is to be rewarded by the prospering of our wishes in this world.  I hope, whatever painful thoughts you may have, you do not really regret what you have done.  The command is so plain: 'Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.'  You believe God has called you out of darkness into light.  You have heard Allerton say many times that such a call does not exist.  And however highly you may think of his many estimable and most amiable qualities, you cannot suppose that he has experienced the change he contemns."

    "No," said Elinor, "and I must not regret it; I cannot, and—I do not."

    "You have obeyed the dictates of conscience, and we must leave the rest with God."

    Elinor was silent for a while.  Then she said, "Mr. Allerton never said but one thing to me which inspired me,—or has done since, with the slightest doubt."

    "What was it, my dear?"

    "You remember that text: 'We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren?'  We were walking in the garden one day with Mr. Allerton; I think you had alluded to the necessity of a change of heart, and I remember you spoke of the Holy Spirit's influence.  After some time you left us, and went up into the library to fetch a book that he had asked for.  As you ran up the veranda-steps, Mr. Allerton looked after you, and slowly repeated that text to me.  He smiled when he had finished, and asked me whether his affection was not a proof that he was one of the brethren? We had then been acquainted a very short time, but it disturbed me to hear him talk so lightly.  I said, 'I know you have a great affection for my brother.'  He laughed, and said something about the two people he loved most on earth being both of 'your sort,' as he generally called it.  And there was something in his manner which pressed the conviction upon me, that he meant me to believe myself one of those two.  But I put that aside, and answered, 'I think we should inquire, when we love "the brethren," whether we do so because we believe them to be such, or in spite of our belief that they are such.'  'Ah,' he said, 'you all talk alike.  That very thing Dreux said to me himself when I was talking on that subject once.  But there is nothing of the kind in the holy Scriptures to which he is everlastingly referring: it there simply specifies, "Because we love the brethren.'"

    "My dear, he did come once, at midnight; don't you remember my telling you of it?"

    "Yes, Arthur; but I am sure that was only a delirious fancy of yours.  He never did come, or I should have surely heard something of it."

    "I feel convinced he did come, Elinor; but in proportion as I return to health my recollections of the interview become more vague.  You feel convinced he did not?  Well, I can oppose no reason to that—nothing but my own contrary conviction."

    Elinor sighed, and wished he might be right.  Her brother had never told her anything of his interview with Allerton on the morning of his accident.  She was afraid, almost certain, that they had quarrelled, and nothing but the fear of having this confirmed prevented her from asking the question.

    It was not without deep regret and many tears that Elinor prevailed on herself to part with her brother, for she saw he was still far from strong, and since this last illness, was much more sensitive than before, and not so well able to cope with difficulty and annoyance.  She even urged him to write to her aunt, and beg her to let the winter be passed with him; but as this relative had brought her up, and always made much of her, he did not like to do that, though he was far more unwilling to part with her than he had ever been before.

    Elinor accepted this as a sufficient reason for letting her go.  There was a vague report floating about Westport which might have supplied her with another reason.  Her ears were, however, the last that it was likely to reach, and she stayed the time out in peace, leaving him at last surrounded with comforts and with assiduous servants.

    She saw he was depressed.  She knew of one cause, and there was, or might be, another which had never been mentioned between them, but such a thing as pecuniary anxiety never occurred to her as likely to reach him,—he had an ample income, and had been born and bred in elegance and competence.

    On the morning of her departure they were walking in the garden.  He was absent and depressed.  She was going to leave him, and with her departure another evil seemed to draw nearer and take a more distinct outline.

    She was begging him to have a certain passionflower differently trained.  If the branches were supported, she said, they would cover the trelliswork of the veranda, and climb over the roof.

    "By next summer, when I come, it would be a complete canopy, Arthur."

    Her brother sighed, but at her request he spoke to the gardener about it.  She occupied herself for a while with twining the most luxurious branches over the woodwork.

    "Now we shall see," she continued, "that by next spring it will look beautifully."

    "Shall we see?" he answered, in a tone of regret, but observing that it pained her, he went on more cheerfully: "well, at any rate the plant is worth training, and I have no doubt, as you say, Elinor, it will be beautiful next summer."

    "Yes, my dear Arthur; and then you can go up and down under a complete canopy."

    She remembered afterwards the expression of his face when she said this, but he made no reply, and went on twisting the passion-flower through the railings; and at last he permitted her to leave his house, gave her the last kiss, and shut her into her aunt's carriage, with her maid, without allowing her to suppose he had any further causes for depression than those she knew of.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XVII.

ABOUT A HEDGE AND A HAYSTACK.


SINCE Elizabeth's wedding, Marion and Dora had been more together than during all the previous weeks which had been spent by the latter in her uncle's house.

    When Marion returned from the cottage, the effects of anxiety began to show themselves, and for two or three days she was very unwell—obliged to keep her room.  She was with difficulty able to appear at the church as bridesmaid, and after that she required rest and quiet.

    "And where," she asked, "was Frank Maidley?"

    "Oh," Dora said, "he had been sent for in a great hurry on the very afternoon of Mr. Dreux's accident to come and see his aunt—she was dying."  "Had he been heard from since?" Marion asked.  Dora trifled with her watch-chain, but made no answer.  She had seemed happy, that is, cheerful, enough the past few days, but she was restless; it was a pleasure to find someone on whom she could lavish kindness and attention.  Marion naturally came under her superintendence, and both nurse and patient were all the better for the companionship.

    Dora wanted a confidante, at least, someone to whom she could tell all that had passed about Mr. Hewly, and how she had quarrelled with Helen, and what she supposed were the intentions of her former lover with regard to that young lady.  That there was anything further to tell no one could have guessed from the conversations of the two girls.  Dora was very anxious to set the matter in such a light to Marion that she might be quite sure she never had loved Mr. Hewly, only "felt flattered by his politeness," as she phrased it.  Even that seemed remarkable; and there was an evident reason for this confidence,—it was that she might excuse herself from all inconstancy, and that Marion might excuse her to others, should she at any future day (which day, perhaps, she thought near at hand) engage herself to another.  The name of this said "other" was never mentioned or hinted at; the one was too delicate, the other too discreet, for that.

    After several conversations Marion asked Dora if she would return with her to Swanstead.  Mr. Raeburn had desired she would invite one of her cousins to stay with her.  She had wished to have Rosina, and had planned in her own mind that she would go on with her lessons if any difficulty was made in allowing her to come; but Dora having mentioned how very much she wished to be away from "Westport for a time, she did not hesitate to give up this cherished wish, and pressed Dora to come and stay the winter at Swanstead, in which she was so warmly seconded by Mr. Raeburn that Dora gladly consented,—partly, no doubt, for the pleasure of her cousin's society; partly that she might get away from the scene of that little episode in her life which she so much disliked to think of; and partly,—who knows?—that she might be in the neighbourhood where Frank Maidley would spend the Christmas vacation, which would be, she could not but know, with his parents.

    Mrs. Paton gladly spared Dora, and the day after the visit to the cottage, when many affectionate things had been said on both sides, Mr. Raeburn set off to take the two girls back to Swanstead.

    They arrived on the afternoon of the next day, several hours having been occupied in seeing a cathedral which lay in their route.

    Mr. Raeburn was delighted to see Marion's joy on returning home; she had been so pensive for several days past that he had feared this visit to her cousins would make the old rectory look lonely and dull.

    Marion, however, was almost childish in her delight; she ran over the house and garden with the interest of a person who had been away for years.  "Everything looks just the same," she said, with a happy smile; "I was afraid it would be altered."

    "What, the house, my dear, and the garden?  Did you expect to find them altered?"

    "Not exactly; but I scarcely thought they would seem to welcome me home so pleasantly, just as if I had never been away.  It has always seemed as if the little gap I used to occupy must have been filled before I returned,—no one is missed long.  Dear uncle, I have had so many untrusting thoughts even of you.  I have thought, 'Now that I am away he must discover how little I ever do to make him happy,—how little consequence I am in his world.'  In fact, you know, uncle, I can really do nothing for you beyond loving you."

    "Perhaps, my dear, you have not quite understood that it is something as needful to the happiness of the human mind to be able to bestow kindness, protection, and affection, as to receive it.  Granting that you can do nothing for me to make me happy,—which, I confess, is a view of the case in which I do not quite agree,—you are still always at hand to—"

    "To be made happy by you, uncle.  Ah, I never thought of that!"

    "Then, my dear, you must keep it in mind for the future.  It is much more likely, humanly speaking, that you should forget me than that I should forget you; affection descends.  Sons often forget their mothers; mothers never forget their sons.  You are to me instead of a daughter; you receive from me the attention and tenderness of a father.  If you were withdrawn, my affections would be restless for want of something on which to fix themselves."

    "But if I were withdrawn, uncle, do you really think I should forget you?"

    "No, my dear; not soon, not quite, and not consciously; but I think some other person would soon step in to bestow a much higher degree of tenderness, and in receiving it again, would make the image of your doting old father dim and indistinct."

    "Never, uncle!"

    "Very well, my pretty; then you never mean to marry, and leave me?"

    "Leave you?—No.  Marry, perhaps; most people do."

    "And what will you do with your husband?"

    "Oh, I shall make him come and live with us."

    "Make him!—a wifely speech, indeed.  And pray what is he to do in this quiet place?"

    "Can't he be your curate?"

    "Curate!  Why we get on fast.  He's not an abstraction, then; he's a real man, this husband, and in orders!  Well—"

    "Dear uncle!"

    Mr. Raeburn laughed, first gently, and then as if he felt an exquisite appreciation of the joke,—the best of men now and then take a delight in teazing girls.  Marion made protestations,—he only laughed the more; she begged, she entreated; her eyes filled with tears.  At last he left off; she had the art to remind him that she had not yet been to see Mrs. Raeburn, and that always made the lonely Rector quiet and sad.

    Mrs. Raeburn the elder was gone to spend a year with her married daughter in the Highlands, so Marion and Dora had the house to themselves, and very cheerful they made it with their practising and laughter, more especially as Mr. Raeburn thought, by their manner of running up and down stairs, to which he had a particular pleasure in listening, as well as to the little scraps of tunes sung the while.  They were careless creatures, as the happy often are; and, as they generally left part of the things they went up for behind them, in the shape of skeins of silk, netting-needles, bits of lace, or cotton reels, he had this pleasure a great many times during the morning.  He often, now, wrote and read with his study-door partially open, for he was extremely fond of everything cheerful, youthful, and lifelike.

    Dora and Marion were excessively anxious for all sorts of news from Westport, and had charged Wilfred to write them a true and detailed account of all that transpired.  Their first packet of letters enclosed a note which Mrs. Paton had received from her daughter, saying how much she enjoyed her tour, and demonstrating the fact, that the young matron was trying very hard to assume a wife-like dignity and a certain staidness of style, as well as moderation in the use of epithets.

    The letter was a good one, but stiff; it did not even remind them of Elizabeth, who had been celebrated in her little world for her exaggerated language.  Everything with her was either dreadful, exquisite, horrible, enchanting, or inconceivable.

    The next letter was from Wilfred, and contained so much family news that we shall give it entire:—

    "My beloved Marion, and my dear Dora,—

    "As I know you always show your letters to each other I shall write one long one to you both, instead of two short ones in separate envelopes.

    "Mr. Dreux is much better; I saw him yesterday.  Mr. What's-his-name Brown and his ma' were calling.  Mr. Dreux was very polite to the old lady, and thanked her for coming to see him.  Mrs. Brown described to Miss Dreux her feelings when she heard of the accident, and declared that Athanasius 'cried like a child.'  For my part, Miss Dreux and Mr. Greyson, the first words I said were,—'Why, if that excellent gentleman is to lie on the brinks of Jordan's flood, what's to become of the poor? and who will attend to their perishing offsprings?"'  I looked at Mr. Dreux,—he didn't laugh at all; his sister did.  He asked me if we had heard of your safe arrival, and desired to be remembered to you both.  Miss Dreux sent her love, and she is going to write soon.  After this Mr. D. walked round the garden, leaning on my arm; he seems to consider himself quite well, only a little weak.  He has a tight ring on his little finger, which reminded me a little of a ring Marion used to wear; it certainly was something like it, perhaps rather more valuable; but the value of a thing is in the owner's opinion of it, more than its price in a shop, and comparisons are odious."

    Dora, who was reading aloud, stopped here, and said, "What does he mean?  He always puts all sorts of odd things into his letters."  She read the passage over again, and, as Marion said nothing to explain it, went on:—

    "I go down the London-road now almost every day, and generally pay my respects to my Aunt Ferguson.  You know it is such a pleasing trait in the character of a young man to be attentive to his elders.  Besides, by the time I get to the house I am almost always hungry, and, as I naturally wish to show Helen that I don't bear her any malice for calling me an 'impertinent boy,' I go smiling into her father's house, and there eat some bread and cheese.

    "You know those meadows at the back of the house?  The pond there is capital for moths.  I often go prowling about there.  My aunt compliments me very much on my industry.  The other day she said she knew there were very often beautiful dragon flies there.  'Then why don't you go sometimes and look at them, aunt?' I said.  'Oh, my dear, I'm afraid of treading on some slimy grub or craunching some snail that might be hiding there.' 'Exactly so,' I said, 'and then there would be an end of all his schemes for ever, and all the tender flutterings of his insect thorax (which means breast).  How afflicting to think of his widowed mate drooping her head ever after in the shadow of the arbour, and he never coming back to whisper to her behind the haystack.'

    "'What stuff that boy does talk!' said Mr. Ferguson, and Helen coloured to the eyes; for you must know, my dear Marion and Dora, that the evening before that I was in the meadows with my butterfly-net, lying in wait behind an oak for a certain humming-bird sphynx which had jilted me the day before (such a beauty she is, I've got her).  All on a sudden I thought I heard someone near me in the meadow give a cough; so I went softly towards the place,—for you know I could not tell but that it might be a fellow-creature in distress.  There are two haystacks close to the hedge, and when I had looked well about them twice and seen nothing, I was disgusted with myself for my suspicions, and said aloud (for unluckily I have contracted a horrid habit of talking to myself ), 'Now, W. G., I hope you see your mistake.  It was the pony who coughed; there's nothing clerical in this neighbourhood, my dear boy, so you'd better walk off, and learn to be less suspicious in future.'  I had scarcely said this, when I heard a loud, violent sneeze, so near me that it made me jump and drop my butterfly-net.  The thing sneezed again twice, evidently against its will.  I walked quickly up to the hedge, and there, jammed in between the hedge and the stack, stood Mr. Hewly, with his arms, as it were, pinned to his sides, and his face gazing at me with its usual solemn, earnest expression.  The thorns must have pricked him very much, and no doubt that helped to make him look melancholy.  'Good gracious, Mr. Hewly,' I said, 'how happy I am to have found you!  How did you get into that unpleasant position?  Can I help you out?' 'Thank you,' he said, his face subsiding into a miserable smile, 'I—I don't particularly mind it; it's—it's not at all unpleasant, Mr. Greyson.'  (Of course he had worked himself in there to hide from me.)  'Shall I call somebody to help?' I said; shall I see if I can find Mr. Ferguson?'  'O no, thank you, Mr. Greyson.  O dear no,' he said, forcing himself out, and scratching his face and hands very much.  The instant he was out I climbed up a small elm, growing on the hedge, and there in the arbour sat Helen, looking unutterable things.  I did not say a word to her, but merely remarked to Mr. Hewly that it was fine weather for the late crops, and went home."

    Dora and Marion paused, and laughed heartily when they came to this place.

    "How I could ever have suffered that man to walk beside me and talk his nonsense I really cannot think," said Dora.  "Wilfred certainly spares no pains to make him ridiculous in my eyes, and I think, even if I had loved him, what he has told me to-day would have worked a cure."

    "Do you really think Helen will accept him?" linked Marion.

    "Oh, I am sure of it; and as she is of age her father cannot prevent their marrying."

    "But he can forbid it and say he disapproves."

    "Ah, Helen will not much mind that, and Mr. Ferguson has always indulged her to such a degree that he will be obliged to give in; he is proud, though, and he will feel most the idea that Hewly is the son of a butcher."

    Dora went on reading:—"The next day my uncle told me that Mr. Ferguson had been with him—in a great passion he seemed—and told him it had been hinted to him by an acquaintance that Mr. Hewly—a man he did not know even by sight—was trying to make an impression on his daughter.  My uncle says he told him several things that he happened to know about Hewly (of course keeping one particular thing to himself).  He told me Mr. Ferguson was coming again in the evening, and that he wished to see me, for he knew I was acquainted with Hewly.

    "So in the evening I saw him.  I was cautious what I said, for fear he should wonder what interest I could have in watching him.  He then asked why I had not told him before.  I replied that as he allowed Helen to go to St. Bernard's, and knew that she constantly consulted the clergyman there on religious subjects, I had no right to suppose that he disapproved of him, though I had certainly thought he could not be aware of what was going forward.

    "'Disapprove,' he retorted; 'why, I know nothing about the man,—never saw him in my life; besides, I may think a man very proper to instruct my daughter in her religious duties, and yet most improper to be my son-in-law.'

    "Well, he put himself into a pretty pet, and went away, declaring he would soon put a stop to the stupid affair. If he does, or if he can, I shall be very much surprised."

    After this followed various matters connected with the writer's amusements and studies, and then the letter concluded with a promise to write again soon, and give a particular account of how matters were progressing.

    It was remarkable that from that day Dora gave up her last lingering preference for the peculiar religious opinions that Hewly had taught her.  Yet her cousin had never mentioned the subject of religion; he had merely set the man before her in a mean and ridiculous light, and he went down and all his dogmas with him.

    And now autumn advanced, Dora was by no means idle, but entered heart and soul into all the plans for the good of the poor which had been set on foot at Swanstead, while the visiting in the neighbourhood and the letters from home served to enliven the country rectory and make the time pass pleasantly away.

    She and Marion wrote frequently to Westport, and chided their correspondents for not entering more into details in their descriptions of what was going on at home.  Accordingly after this came a letter from Wilfred, full of circumstantial matters which entertained them very much:—

    "My dearest Marion and Dora,—What you mean by saying we don't enter into details I can't think.  Rosina and I wrote a long letter together about a week ago, in which we told you how we went to dine with Elizabeth and Fred after their return.  How we had a melted ice pudding on the occasion and some very cinnamonny blancmanges.  And didn't we mention that Elizabeth was quite grave, and tried to seem old and formal, but couldn't?  Of course we did.  And after that we told you how my uncle had got a whitlow on his thumb.  And then Rosina told Marion how one of her Sunday school-girls had come to church in curl-papers, a cap full of bows of blue ribbon, and an old green veil.  I looked over her and saw her write it.  The girl's name was Clementina Clump.  Don't you call all that details?  What would you desire?  But to proceed.  The Fergusons gave a grand dinner party the other day, and Mr. Hewly was there.  I will tell you how that was.  Mr. Ferguson came into the study while Frank and I were busy with our crucibles.  He told us Hewly had got an introduction to him, and had been so excessively, so blandly polite during his call, that he had not been able to treat him otherwise than courteously, which he regretted.  Frank then said, 'I wish, Sir, you'd invite him to dinner.' (Frank knows all about the affair, he's always at the Fergusons'.)  'I am sure the more Miss F. sees him in ordinary life, the less she will like him.  So invite him, and me to meet him.'  Only think of the old fellow's consulting two young men like us!  Well, he said he would, and the day before yesterday we went.  The party was in honour of the bride and bridegroom.  Elizabeth wore her wedding dress of white satin.  I never saw her look so well.  She was evidently trying not to be in her usual high spirits, but to seem indifferent and tranquil.  At first it did very well.  She was a very elegant, distinguished kind of bride, but in the middle of dinner she forgot herself, and laughed heartily, for Frank and I drew Mr. Hewly out in a way that does one good to think of.  You know he is always a very grave man, and as he was desirous that day to be agreeable, he was then intensely so.

    "The solemnity with which he asked Helen to take wine was glorious; the earnest empressement he imparted to his great black eyes, when he inquired whether she preferred the liver or the gizzard-wing, was something delicious to behold; the sombre gravity with which he besought her to take some woodcock almost petrified her,—there was something tragic in the tone with which he assured her that 'it was excellent, and very young.'

    "His helping her to cheese was perfect.  He did it as if it was a matter of life and death.  Some ladies, he observed, in his slow, solemn voice, preferred the blue mould; but for his part, he agreed with Mr. Bishop (here a low bow) that the brown was better.

    "All this he did himself; afterwards we helped him a little.  We hoisted him on to one of his hobbies, and he rode it gloriously.

    "He began to talk about himself, and extolled the practice of self-denial, in which all present could join without joking; but he went on to remark, that he always made a point of denying himself some elegant little luxury, excepting upon the festivals of the Church.

    "'Upon those days, the better to bear them in remembrance,' he said, 'I always drink lump sugar in my tea.'

    "'On other days, I suppose, you take moist?' said Frank Maidley, with an expression of deferential interest.

    "'I used to do,' he replied, flattered to be so noticed, 'but lately I have thought it better to make a still more marked difference by abstaining altogether.'

    "'How interesting!' said Frank, with a deep sigh.

    "From one thing to another we drew him.  He felt himself a lion, a person of interest, and 'roared' for our entertainment 'like any sucking dove.'  But unfortunately, just as he was opening out, Elizabeth helping us, and Helen looking completely annoyed and ashamed, my uncle asked some question about the draining of those stupid marshes that all the gentlemen think so much of, and before we could get him round again, the ladies left the room.

    "The rest of the evening Helen was excessively cool to us, but as there were several strangers present, she was partly occupied with them.

    "However, I've no time for any more of this.  Do you know, it is said in the town that Mr. Dreux has lost his property.  I saw him yesterday,—he certainly looked out of spirits.  He saw I observed it, and told me, by way of a reason, that his sister was gone, and Mr. Allerton out.  It was in the evening that I called, about some gas that Frank and I want to concoct.  He had promised to lend us an apparatus.  He asked me to stay and drink tea with him;—he has always been extremely friendly to me since his accident.  I think there must be some truth in these reports, for he told me he was going to London in a day or two on business, and probably should not be home for a fortnight.  He asked me to re-direct his letters for him to an address in London.

    "After tea he got me to play to him on the piano, while he lay on the sofa.  He asked by turns for almost all Marion's favourite songs, and I played them for him with variations.

    "I suppose we did tell you that he is come home.

    "Well, they all send their love.

    "And with mine to my Uncle Raeburn,

 "Believe me ever,
 "Your affectionate brother and cousin,
                               "WILFRED GREYSON."


    Here followed a postscript to the said "Uncle Raeburn."  So the letter was carried to him, with permission to read it all, for he had been sufficiently enlightened on certain points not to see any mystery in it.

    "Poor Mr. Dreux!" said Marion;—"I hope it is not true that he has lost his property, or is about to lose it; he does so much good with it in the town."

    Dora said nothing.  She was occupied in wondering whether Helen would overlook the absurdities of her admirer, and whether Mr. Ferguson would suffer the affair to proceed.  After that she sat down and wrote to Wilfred, desiring still further details, and then she and Marion prepared to receive some visitors.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XVIII.

THE PUPIL.


TWO days after Elinor's departure her brother went to London, and then the reports before mentioned began to take shape and distinctness.

    It was said that his absence was in consequence of the failure of a certain banking-house in town; that all his property was in the hands of one of the partners, not precisely what would be called capital in the business, but so involved with this gentleman's concerns, owing to his own carelessness, or some informality, or, perhaps, the ignorance and temerity which make some men always certain of their own success, that his downfall would be Mr. Dreux's ruin.

    Some people would not believe that a man of sense and undoubted talent would have left his property so insecure, or the whole of it in the hands of one house;—it was absurd, an unusual proceeding.  At last they went to his lawyer, and being met with a shrug of the shoulders, the rumour went forward triumphantly.  Then all his acquaintance said, "Why hadn't he bought an estate?" excepting those who said, "Why hadn't he invested it in the funds?  It was excessively foolish!—wonderfully imprudent!"

    Most people said he would now certainly give up his curacy, for it was not to be expected that he should continue to live in the town in such different style to what he had always been accustomed.  On the contrary, others sagely argued that it would be grossly imprudent to leave a place where he was so popular, and where he had so good a chance of succeeding his present poor childish old Rector.

    At the end of a fortnight Mr. Dreux came home.  He looked harassed, but not otherwise altered.  He found his library-table covered with tradesmen's bills, though it still wanted two months to Christmas.  By way of paying them, as well as meeting all other demands upon him, he advertised his house and furniture to be sold, and set to work to consider his position.

    He had lost everything.  His curacy brought him in a hundred a-year, and a lectureship in the afternoon, not connected with it, though in the same church, about forty more.  This lectureship was his for life, if he chose to hold it.

    This was his whole maintenance, and seemed a miserable pittance to a man who had been accustomed to spend from eight hundred to a thousand a-year, and knew absolutely nothing of economy.

    His house was of a good size, and very handsomely furnished; for when he came to the town he had given orders to an upholsterer to furnish it properly.  The bills came to a good deal more than he had expected, but he supposed they were all right; and with the same good faith he had listened to his housekeeper, gardener, and groom, suffering them to carry out their notions of what was proper, and supposing, that, as the matters under discussion were such as belonged to their respective departments, they ought to know more about them than he did.

    He was a man of so careless a nature as regarded money, that it was not so much what he spent upon himself that made the items mount up in the account (for his personal habits were simple and inexpensive enough), but what he gave away, and threw away, on unworthy objects and useless, thoughtless charity.  He supplied his Sunday and infant schools with three times as many books, slates, maps, and pictures as were needful, not considering the undoubted fact, that great abundance almost inevitably leads to waste.  As he paid for them all himself, mistresses and scholars never spared.  When they were out of any article there was no meddling, scrutinizing committee to interfere,—they had only to send to him for more.  They accounted him a real gentleman,—he bowed to each mistress as if she had been a lady.  If, when he was present, the school-room fire wanted mending, he did not allow the females to lift the heavy coal pans, but mended the fires himself; consequently, of course, they would not knowingly and willingly have wronged him—of course they repaid this respect and consideration with interest a thousand fold.  He could not have been more implicitly obeyed if he had been an autocrat.  Nevertheless, they used twice as many articles connected with their craft as any other school-mistresses, and though they would have risked their lives to serve him, they remorselessly wasted his pens, ink, copybooks, slates, coals, and "kindling."

    He was a charming master to his servants, for he was no trouble to please in his own house, and he looked over the household accounts in such a careless fashion, that he might just as well have let it alone.  He never asked any awkward questions, seemed oblivious of cold joints, was very unobservant of the disappearance of old clothes, and would often leave about a good deal of loose money.

    He now resolved to give up his house, sell his furniture, his horse, and all his effects, excepting his books, and go into lodgings.  Several other curates in the town lived very comfortably on as small a sum as he should now possess, he argued, and why could not he?

    But he quite forgot that these several other curates had been brought up in the country on small means, had been allowed at college only just enough to carry them through respectably, and were thoroughly used to economy.  Besides, he never calculated on the difficulty of retrenching in his charities.  It was comparatively easy to deny himself,—he would walk instead of riding, he would leave off buying the expensive books, the reviews, and periodicals with which he had been accustomed to load his tables; he would take no more tours, he would not keep servants.  This he thought and found easy, but it was extremely hard, most bitter to his feelings, to be obliged, in common honesty to his tradesmen, to give up his subscriptions to many of those charities in the town of which he had hitherto been one of the chief supporters—it grated upon his feelings to be obliged to refuse money to some among the poor to whom he had been most generous—it pained him to the quick to hear the ill-suppressed murmurs of those to whom he had hitherto made a weekly allowance, and whose behaviour now seemed almost a reproach to him for having led them to expect it, as if the years of comparative comfort they had derived from it had better never have been enjoyed than that they should be so suddenly deprived of it.

    He took small apartments in the town, near the church, and moved to them the books that he had in constant use, his wardrobe, his family plate, and one family picture.  Then he went back to his old house to make arrangements about his papers, and to go over the different rooms with the broker, who was making out a catalogue of everything preparatory to a sale.

    "And these books, Sir," asked the man, "what is to be done with them?"

    "Oh, I cannot think of parting with my books!"  He might have added, "They are all I have to look forward to for interest and relaxation."

    "Very good, Sir; then where are they to go?"

    "To my rooms, of course."

    "Sir, you don't consider the size of that little parlour; it's not a third as large as this library, and, besides, you have a book-case in one of the bed-rooms."

    "I cannot possibly get on without my books," said Dreux, quite dismayed.

    As he did not seem to know what to do, the man said, "Perhaps, Sir, you would not object to hiring a good large room? they would all go into one room, I think, if they were properly arranged."

    "No, I cannot do that."

    "Well, then, suppose we were to step on and measure the lodgings, Sir.  Perhaps one or two of these book-cases might stand in it."

    The measurement was effected: not one of the book-cases would stand in either the bed-room or sitting-room,—if it was set against the chimneypiece it blocked up the bed-room door, if against the opposite wall, it blocked up the window.

    "Well, leave this room for the present," said the owner; "I will see what can be done when the sale is over."

    The sale of household furniture, &c, was effected a few days after; it did not realize nearly so much as he had expected—absolutely not enough to pay all his bills.

    He was standing in the empty library of his old house, all the furniture of which was gone, the very book-cases sold, and the books left in heaps on the floor.

    He was thinking with dismay at the sum brought in by the sale, when the man who had valued the furniture, said, in a careless way, "Colonel Masterman came to see the house the day before the sale, and spent a long while looking over the books.  He said they were a capital collection, and seemed quite disappointed when I told him they were not for sale.  I told him, Sir, you wouldn't part with your books on any account.  He said he had understood the contrary, and would have taken them at a valuation.  He's building a library, you know, Sir."

    Dreux had sent some fifty or sixty volumes to his new abode.  They filled two small shelves in his parlour.  He now selected about half a dozen more, which had been great favourites, sat down and wrote to Colonel Masterman that he had altered his mind, and wished to part with his library.

    The next few days he was very busy, and did not feel the want of them much.  The transfer was easily effected,—and having now no servant to send on his errands, he walked himself to pay the remaining bills, and brought home exactly twelve pounds as the residue of his property.  He was very tired, and threw himself on the couch in his little parlour, surprised and vexed to find that day by day he felt the loss of his property more and more.

    And then came to light by degrees various things connected with his past charities, which made them no longer pleasant things to reflect on.

    He had no intimates, and he unburdened his mind to none of his fellow-labourers in the town, though very friendly with them.  Yet he did hint to one or two that he suffered from the importunities of the poor; it gave him great pain to deny them, and he did not hide it.  Thereupon, by way of consolation, followed a long list of instances, which seemed to multiply at will, of how he had been cheated and imposed upon by the recipients of his bounty—how the beggars, trusting to his well-known careless generosity, had been heard to boast that they could go twice a week for a month to "Saint Plum's," and each time with a different story—that he always gave them something or other, and being in a great hurry, seldom either listened, or looked at them.  "Oh, he's the real gentleman; he wants no certificates."  "He was a deep one when he liked, but had an absent way with him; and if a woman had but the sense to bring a squalling baby with her, he was took quite aback, and seemed as if he 'd give anything to be rid of her."

    These good-natured friends had never told him before how shamefully his bounty had been abused; now they sagely observed to each other, "It was best he should know it, as it might keep him from regretting what he could no longer accomplish."

    Then again, strange to say, Mr. Dreux became of far less consequence in the town than heretofore.

    A short time after his loss of property a relation of his died in India, and was reported to have left him ten thousand pounds.  There was no truth in the report, but it caused the poor to besiege his door again, or rather his landlady's door.  "Here was a pretty parson for you!—here were fine doings, denying the poor their crust!  Mr. Dreux was saving his money.  His rich Huncle that had died in the Hinjies had left him as much money as filled two mackerel boats, in which it was landed, as they were told, at the post-office,—and they should hope the post-office people knew what they were talking about, and had the best of news.  What a shame it was that he couldn't spare a sixpence for them that had none!  He needn't hold up his head so high.  He always walked like a millingtary officer.  They wondered he wasn't ashamed of hisself."

    Moreover, as Madame de Stael said of herself, that the men could not perceive that wit in her at forty-five which they ascribed to her at two-and-twenty, so Mr. Dreux might have said, "The people cannot perceive that eloquence in me now I am poor that they ascribed to me when I was richer."

    In his small, lonely lodgings,—Allerton and his sister away, his health not so good as usual, his mind harassed by many anxieties which he had never been accustomed to, and his books gone,—he spent the next few weeks, till autumn deepened into winter, and till, one by one, he had lost many of those distinctions which he had hitherto supposed belonged to him personally, but which he now found partly to have resulted from his property, partly from his hospitality,—the style in which he lived, and the money he gave away.

    It was one consolation that Elinor was away, that she knew nothing beyond what he chose himself to tell her.  She still lived in comfort and elegance, and he resolved that he would never give her one needless pain respecting him.

    She knew broadly that he had lost his property, but all the harassing details were spared her.  He only told her that he now had £140 a-year, and that he lived in lodgings.  He wrote to her once a-week, and her letters in reply were now his chief solace.  He presented everything to her as cheerfully as he could.  He had found it needful to give up almost all society, and her sisterly sympathy was very pleasant; it was all the sympathy offered, and all he would have endured to receive.

    Of Allerton he could hear nothing, and had many an anxious hour respecting him.  He could not make a new friend.  There were few persons whom he could feel to be thoroughly congenial, and though there were great and essential differences between him and the Rector of St. Bernard's, there had been such cordial regard that it fretted him more than any of his other troubles to miss his cheerful steady step, his voice,—for he had an inveterate habit of singing about the house; chant, song, or psalm came alike to him,—even his short outbreaks of passion were a loss, and so was his influence.  He was the only man who would think of such a thing as invading him in his lair (as he called the library), shutting his book, and dragging him out for a country walk; the only man who came uninvited to breakfast, dinner, or supper, as the fit took him; made himself at home, railed at his host for his unsociable habits, and made him both sociable and communicative.  However, that was over.  Allerton's continued silence seemed a proof that he still harboured resentment; and as long as that was the case, he would wish for no renewal of intercourse, not even if he could know how acceptable it would be.

    As might have been expected, though he believed himself to be very economical, he soon found that he was living beyond his income.  Mrs. Dorothy Silverstone was the only person he talked to familiarly, and he notified this fact to her quite coolly one evening, when she had come in to drink tea with him.

    "And I 'm sure I don't at all wonder at it," said the quiet old lady, without the slightest appearance of discomposure.

    "Why don't you wonder at it, Mrs. D.?  You ought to have gone into hysterics."

    "Lie down on the sofa, Mr. Dreux; you know you're recommended to rest after the day."

    "I will; why don't you wonder?"

    Mrs. Dorothy had got some description of outer coat in her hand; she was turning out the pockets most unceremoniously.  "Is this the coat you wear every day, Mr. Dreux?  Bless us! one, two, three,—here's no less than six pairs of gloves in it; black, lilac, grey, odd ones too,—some old, and some as good as new!"

    "Yes, they accumulate.  I suppose Joseph used to turn them out formerly.  What are you going to do?  You've been stitching all the afternoon, with your pearl buttons and your strings; I like to see you here.  You're not going to mend those old gloves?  I won't allow it, Mrs. D."

    "You won't, Sir? Well, I am going to mend them, sort them, smooth them, and then they'll do perfectly well to wear again.  Why," proceeded the old lady, in her soft internal voice, "you spend a fortune in gloves, Mr. Dreux; no wonder you live beyond your income; and what will you do, Sir, to make up the sum you want?"

    "I shall take an evening pupil."

    "Ah!  Will you have another cup of tea, Sir?"

    "Yes, Mrs. D., and then come and sit where I can see you."

    "What for, Sir?"

    "Because yours is the pleasantest face in Westport, and I like to look at it."

    "Well, I'm sure!  Now, if I were you, I shouldn't take a pupil.  I should just make it up instead with my uncle, that great gentleman,—I forget his name."

    "Impossible, Mrs. Dorothy; I could not if I wished, which I do not.  Do you know what we quarrelled about?"

    "No, Sir."

    "Well, I'll tell you.  What sort of a boy do you think I was?  I was the most mischievous young scape-grace that ever breathed.  I had a brother once, two years my junior.  I took delight in leading him and abetting him in all manner of mischief.  It is a mystery to me how he came to die in his bed, which he did, of measles, when he was seven years old; but not till I had carried him pick-a-back over all the dangerous streams (half torrents) within ten miles of my father's house in Wales, and also helped him to set fire to a stack with a burning-glass, and got him run away with by a wild, half-unbroken horse.  I was fond of him, used to fight his battles with the housekeeper when our parents were out; but I am certain that I endangered his life at least once a-week.  Well, he died, and both my parents died.  I went to live with my uncle.  At first he liked my daring habits, but my love of mischief grew, and I often got into dreadful scrapes.  At last, one day I thought I should like to see how many trout there were in a large deep pond he had.  I laid a plan to turn the water off to within a foot of the bottom, and thought what bliss it would be to wade about among the fish.  There were two gratings, one at each end of the long pond.  I first, with infinite pains, dammed up the higher one, through which a little stream ran; then I went to the lower, which allowed a regulated quantity of water to flow off into a drain.  This would not do for me; I quietly set to work to dig a hole in the bank.  I dug and dug till, all on a sudden, out rushed the water in headlong haste; the bank gave way, and mud, water, and I with my spade, were tumbled down into the field of standing corn.  I rushed back to my dam, but I had made it a very secure one, and before I could loosen one sod, the pond was drained of every bucket of water, the corn-field flooded, and the corn full of dead fish.  As many as filled a cart lay at the foot of the hole; they were carted away in the afternoon, and I after them.  The pond covered nearly an acre.  Well, Mrs. Dorothy, what do you think now of reconciliation?"

    "How old were you then, Sir?"

    "Nearly fifteen."

    "Well, Sir, I shouldn't like to have had the managing of you."

    "No, but I'm easily managed now,—don't you think so?"

    "Pretty well, Sir, when you can't stir hand or foot!  What makes you in such good spirits, Sir?"

    "Your being here.  I never see anything cheerful within doors now.  You ought to have pity on me, and take me in hand."

    "So I will, Mr. Dreux."

    "For better and worse?"

    "Now, Mr. Dreux, how you talk!  It does me good to hear you laugh though," and the old lady stopped her needle and looked fondly at her nursling.  He was rather a large one for such a frail little nurse; yet, as he stretched his six-foot limbs on the couch, he looked at her with a kind of smile which seemed in some sort to express dependence on her, for at least the present hour's tranquillity and good spirits.

    A pupil was soon found in the person of young Greyson.  He was to go to Cambridge in a few months, and in the meantime Dreux undertook to "coach" him for two or three hours in the evening.  It took away all his time for relaxation; but his pupil was so determined to give as little trouble as possible, and so droll and good-humoured, that he soon began rather to enjoy the lessons than otherwise.  Besides, young Greyson's character just suited him; he was so utterly free from any description of embarrassment, or reserve, and had such a quaint kind of humour about him.  Moreover, he still retained a good deal of boyish simplicity, and was remarkably shrewd, having all his sister's insight into character, and perception of the wishes and feelings of others.

    While he worked he was a man, when he amused himself he was still a boy; he at once made himself completely at home in Mr. Dreux's small lodgings, and used often to stay and amuse him, when the lessons were over, with odd sketches of character, and accounts of the adventures of the day.

    Hewly often figured in these descriptions; the whole account of that gentleman's second courtship being detailed, and various other particulars respecting him; Helen's determination to abide by her choice; and Mr. Ferguson's weak submission to her will.  One morning in November he came in to excuse himself from attending in the evening as he wanted to dine at Mr. Ferguson's.  Mr. Dreux made some difficulty about it, and reminded him of several other occasions lately, when he had absented himself.  The pupil, however, was very urgent,—he gave his consent, and, after a very busy day, was extremely glad of the evening for letter-writing.  To his surprise, about eleven o'clock Greyson came in, looking anything but lively,—told him he had met Mr. Hewly at dinner, and he had mentioned something "which I hope," he continued, "is not true; but if it is, I am afraid it will be a great annoyance to you, and even a great inconvenience."

    He then told his dismayed auditor that he had heard Hewly relating to his aunt how he had been that afternoon to the house occupied by the master of the schools, before mentioned as having been lately erected, and to his surprise had found that the evening before he had given the children a whole holiday; that the neighbours had said they supposed it was by Mr. Dreux's orders; that the schoolmaster was out—he went out that same night; and had said he should be home on Saturday morning.

    "I never gave him leave to do anything of the kind," interrupted Dreux.  "I have not seen him since Wednesday."

    "I was afraid so," proceeded Greyson; "but it seems certain that he did go away on Thursday evening.  I had better tell you what Hewly went on to say, though I fear it will greatly annoy you.  As he means to call on you to-morrow morning early, it is best you should be ready for him.  He went on, 'I always thought that man was a hypocrite, I never liked his high professions; but Allerton and Dreux thought they had got quite a treasure,—for you must know that though Allerton has no sort of power in the direction of these schools (all that belongs to Mr. Dreux), he was complimented by the parishioners with the office of Honorary Secretary.  I am happy to say Allerton had nothing to do with the choice of this man.  However, they both used to trust him to do all manner of odd jobs for them.  Mr. Dreux chose him, and he must take the consequences if he has run off, as I half suspect he has.'

    "'Why, if he has taken himself off,' my aunt said, 'surely he is not such a treasure that his loss cannot be supplied; there must be many masters equally well qualified, who would be glad of so good a situation.'

    "If you could have seen Hewly's face then, I think you would have seen the most villainously sinister expression you ever set eyes on.  It nearly put me in a passion.  He went on, in his blandest voice, in which I could easily detect his secret satisfaction,—

    "'I was the more sorry when I recollected that Mr. Dreux has always employed the man to collect the pew-rents of his south gallery and the rent of those two or three fields which belong to the almshouses, so that I am very much afraid the fellow has a large sum of money in his possession, not less than three or four hundred pounds.  The almshouses are half in our parish and half in his.  Of course he will have to refund.  I am very sorry, but if people will do such imprudent things as to authorize a man like that to collect money for them, they must take the consequence; the poor must not suffer.'"

    "Four or five hundred pounds!" said his auditor, quite aghast.

    "Yes; but is it possible that all this can be true?"

    "I am afraid it may be."

    "But it is not near quarter-day, Mr. Dreux."

    "So much the worse; the rents are only paid half-yearly, so are the rents for the almshouse fields, and some few tenements,—and that in November, because then the new nominations take place."

    "And is the weekly allowance of five shillings to each person paid out of this sum?"

    "Yes."

    "Well, the man may come home to-morrow morning, or, in the next place, he may not have got any money in his possession."

    "Oh yes, he has; I gave him the usual note last Saturday, authorizing him to collect it."

    "And then pay it into the bank?"

    "Yes; and it is Hewly's business every Monday morning to draw out a sufficient sum to pay the pensioners."

    "But at any rate, whatever has happened, half the amount ought to be paid by Mr. Allerton, for half the pensioners are in his parish and of his parish."

    "No, Hewly was right, the choice of the master was entirely mine; it is all my doing; but we have trusted him several times before and found him scrupulously honest.  How could I imagine such a catastrophe as this?"

    "But what will you do?  You will not surely take for granted that the man is a rogue and pay down the money?"

    "I must try to think of some means of borrowing the sum.  I really feel bewildered at present."  (He leaned back in his chair, looking weary and harassed, and laid his hand upon his forehead.)

    "Dear Mr. Dreux, nothing is more easy than to borrow the money; any one would lend it you."

    "Any one, my dear fellow!  But how am I to pay it again?  How am I to pay even the interest?"  Greyson had tact enough to see that his reserve did not extend to pecuniary matters; these were externals, and he might venture to push him on the point for further information.

    "What is the weekly outlay in payments to the pensioners?"

    "Twenty pounds.  There are eighty of them."

  
 "Then you have to produce that sum next Monday?"

    "Just so; and, thanks to these lessons, I can pay the first week, and that only."

    Greyson sat for some time, lost in thought.  He was struck by the weary composure of his host's manner, who looked harassed and utterly perplexed.  It annoyed him exceedingly to have been the bearer of such evil tidings.  The great church clock striking twelve roused them both.  Greyson started up and buttoned his coat; Dreux pushed his papers from before him and sighed heavily; he remembered that Greyson had taken a long cold walk, and as he thanked him for his visit he moved mechanically towards the bell to order refreshments.  "Don't ring," interrupted Greyson.  "I can let myself out, and I think the people of the house are in bed."

    The host remembered that he was in lodgings, and desisted.

    "What will you do?" said Greyson, looking at him with real anxiety.  "Indeed, it is not idle curiosity that makes me ask."

    "I know not at present what to do," was the answer.  "I have no reasonable expectation of being able to pay that sum if I could borrow it."

    "But the interest?  It would not be more than twenty pounds a-year.  Yet you say you must pay the sum yourself—you must take the responsibility on your own shoulders, the whole of it?"

    "Yes, the whole of it if I have any regard for my future usefulness and respectability.  It would be exquisitely painful to me to lay myself under an obligation to any one; and if I loaded myself with a debt of four hundred pounds I should be harassed.  I could struggle with anything else—but the idea of living in debt and dying in debt would be subduing,—it would embitter my days."

    "But you have some family plate and two or three pictures?"

    "They are not nearly worth four hundred pounds."

    "Will you promise me one thing?" returned Greyson.  "I ask it as a great favour.  I should not have told you all this, nor asked how you thought of meeting the demand, if some idea had not come into my head which I think, if properly worked out, bids fair to lift off the load; but I cannot possibly explain it at present.  If you could trust me without an explanation I should be so very glad."

    "What do you want me to do?"

    "I have no hint at present as to where this fellow is gone; that was not my idea, though by judicious management we may yet find out and recover the money, IF he has taken it.  But will you let me beg of you to give Hewly the money for next Monday, and then will you promise me to take no further step till Monday evening, when I shall come in again?"

    It instantly occurred to Dreux that Hewly must have dropped some hint as to Allerton's whereabouts.  He could not endure the idea of his being applied to even to pay half the amount, and he said so.

    "I never thought of such a thing, it never entered my mind," was the reply; "but if you could promise not to take any steps till I come again!"—

    "You are very mysterious, and your interest is very pleasant.  I certainly, under any circumstances, should have taken several days for reflection before I stirred in such a matter as this, therefore I will give the promise, provided you promise not to commit either yourself or me."

    "Oh, yes; never fear that.  Thank you."

    "You make me smile.  Come, shake hands; don't burden yourself with my troubles.  Go home,—you are young yet for schemes to raise money."

    "But you have promised?"

    "O yes."

    "Ah, I see you are quite convinced that I can do no good!"

    "I fear you cannot, without either disclosures, which at present would be imprudent, or committing me, which I KNOW you will not do."

    "You consider me quite a boy,—you don't know what I've been trusted to do before now.  All sorts of things have been confided to me, partly because I found them out!  Why, my cousins tell me all manner of things.  As for Fred Bishop, he made his offer through me—fact, I assure you."

    "And your sister—are you in her confidence?"

    "She's very fond of me, of course, and I know as much about her private affairs as I can find out —no more."

    "Indeed!"

    "Don't you think I'm very like her?  The image of her, I think—face, manners, and all."

    This question was asked so suddenly that it seemed to take his auditor quite aback.  He had some difficulty in meeting young Greyson's eyes.  He cleared his voice, and said, calmly, "No, I confess I don't see much likeness; in fact, I never observed any."

    "Well, Marion rather piques herself on the idea that she is like me!"

    "Will you go home, or am I to sit up all night to listen to your nonsense?"

    "Oh, I'm going now; good night, Mr. Dreux."

    "Yes," thought that gentleman, as he listened to young Greyson's foot on the stairs, "and I wish you had gone two minutes before.  If I had continued to think you were ignorant of my inmost thoughts I should have been more at my ease with you.  Well, you are amiable, and a most decided oddity, but no more like your sister than I am.  I wonder how much you do know,—not the truth, certainly, with all your shrewdness, or you would not have talked as you did just now."


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XIX.

THE ALMSHOUSE PENSIONERS.


ON the following morning, Mr. Raeburn, as he sat at breakfast with Dora and Marion, was very much astonished to see the latter dart suddenly out of the room and run into the garden, without her bonnet, to meet a gentleman, whom she straightway kissed, and brought in triumph to the house.

    "It's Wilfred!" cried Dora, lifting up her glass.

    "I'm glad to hear it, my dear," was the answer; "otherwise I might have thought Marion's conduct a little strange."

    He accordingly went out to meet his adopted child at the foot of the steps, gave her brother a hearty welcome, and herself a hearty chiding for going out in the frost with no bonnet on.

    They brought him into the room, and looked on while he ate such a breakfast as none but growing young men can eat,—at least, so it seemed to the girls, who wondered what could have brought him so suddenly, and knew it was no use asking him till his hunger was satisfied.  They saw a mischievous little smile about his lips.  He wanted to teaze them.  They affected great indifference—asked coolly "how were all at home?"

    "Oh, they were very well."

    "Had he brought them any messages or letters?"

    "No, for they did not know he was coming; no one but his uncle had the least idea of it."

    In reply to further questions, he said he had been travelling all night by railroad, and had walked from the cross roads.  He had come on business—business of his own.  His uncle gave him leave, and had sent his kind regards to Mr. Raeburn, and his love to Dora and Marion.  His uncle did not know why he had come.

    The curiosity of the two girls was now raised to the highest pitch.  He further said he should stay over Sunday, and then go away in the middle of the night.

    Mr. Raeburn being here appealed to, declared he did not know why the boy was come; he supposed he soon should do.

    "Oh, of course, we shall all know soon," said Marion.

    "Ahem!  We shall see about that.—Uncle, I've done.—You may make your minds quite easy on one point, my dears, which is, that you'll never find out what brought me here, not if you try till Christmas.—I've quite done, uncle."

    "I 'm glad to hear it, my boy.  I should be sorry if any harm came to you from an over-hearty breakfast in my house."

    "May I come with you into your study, there's a green baize door to it?"

    "What do you mean by that?" said Dora.

    "Nothing insulting; only the housemaids might be listening outside."

    Marion and Dora sent several messages to the study, informing young Greyson that it was a very fine morning for a walk; also that there was skating on the pond in Swanstead Liberty; notwithstanding which, it was twelve o'clock before he came out, which he did at last looking very joyful, and declaring he should like a walk of all things.

    All lawful means having been tried without success to make him divulge his secret, the trio set out, leaving Mr. Raeburn writing his sermon.  There was a sparkling hoar frost, and the trees were spangled with a light fringe of snow.  They set out in high spirits, and there was no lack of conversation by the way: such a torrent of questions respecting Elizabeth and Fred, Maidley, Mr. Dreux, What's-his-name Brown, and his mother, Mr. Hewly, and Helen, being poured forth by the fair ladies, as fully entitled them to the reputation of being what is commonly called "true daughters of Eve."

    "Mr. Brown was going out to be a missionary, and his mother with him."

    "Extraordinary!  Good little man! what a disgrace that we ever laughed at him.  Where's he going?"

    "To Smyrna, or somewhere in the Levant."

    "Oh, then we don't think so much of it."

    "And what do you mean by saying that we are not good correspondents?" said Greyson.  "I write every week, and tell you all sorts of things.  I thought I entered into enough details to please anybody.  Didn't I tell you last week that I had taught Mr. Dreux to bake potatoes on the hob, wherewith to regale himself when his landlady's gone to bed? and that she had got a little closet on the stairs, where she keeps his coals, butter, eggs, meat, and all his eatables, and a little old black teapot for his tea?"

    "Well, let that old feud rest now; you have harped on those details since we mentioned them.  How's Mr. Dreux,—is he quite well?"

    "O yes, I think so, ma cousine; but he has been very much harassed lately, and his old Vicar is very poorly, so that now he has to go and see him every day.  The old gentleman is perfectly childish.  I think he is ninety; but he is very cheerful and happy.  I went one day last week with Mr. Dreux to see him.  He takes the oddest fancies into his head.  He thought I was a foreigner of distinction,—an Ambassador from the Turkish Porte.  He said I did him great honour, and then asked me how the Jews' Society flourished.  Then he asked Mr. Dreux how old he was; then he told me he was his son, and asked if I did not think he was a very fine young man.  Notwithstanding that he knows he is his curate, he also thinks he is Lord Arundel, and generally calls him so.  After that he told us what he had had for dinner, and stopped himself to ask again,—'Well, my Lord Arundel, and how old are you?'  'I'm eight-and-twenty, Sir.'  'Eight-and-twenty!  You always say the same thing over and over again; no variety at all.  I'm sick of hearing you say you're eight-and-twenty.'  Then he dozed a little, woke up, and said, in quite a sensible tone, 'Well, brother, shall we read a portion of Scripture together?'  Then he drew a great Bible to him and read a short psalm quite well and reverently.  And inquired whether I was a Mahometan, and whether I should mind joining them in prayer: 'The Church of England, Sir,' he said, 'has been accused of ignoring the existence of other bodies; on the contrary, she not only prays for all who profess and call themselves Christians, but also,—you will forgive me, Sir,— for all Jews, Turks, Sir, Infidels, and heretics.  Brother, you had better pray, my memory rather fails me.'  So Mr. Dreux prayed for a short time, very simply.  The poor old man professed himself greatly edified, and began to tell me how happy he was, and how kind everybody was to him.  'My dear son, particularly,' he said, 'is always kind, and he comes and administers the sacrament to me every month.  So, you see, I have nothing to do but to wait till my change comes.'  Then he forgot himself, and said, 'Well, my Lord Arundel, and how old are you?'  This time Mr. Dreux varied the answer: 'I shall be nine-and-twenty, Sir, in a few months.'"

    "Poor old gentleman," said Dora; "he was an excellent man before he became childish."

    "Oh very, and he is quite happy now.  When we went away he pulled out his watch and made me a present of it.  I accepted it, and made a speech in return.  He said he hoped our friendly relations with the Porte would never be disturbed.  I echoed the sentiment, and said, I thought Britain the finest country in the world.  Then he gave Mr. Dreux his snuff-box, and we took leave.  And on the stairs we met the housekeeper, to whom we gave the two articles back.  He gives his snuff-box to Mr. Dreux every time he sees him."

    "I wonder," said Marion, "what made him give Mr. Dreux that particular name."

    "Nobody can tell.  He calls his housekeeper the churchwarden.  The other night, just as my lesson was finished, a message came for Mr. Dreux to go to the old gentleman, as he had something particular to tell him.  I offered to stay and let him in, for there is no such thing as a latch-key.  When he had been gone an hour, I went to his little closet, took out four potatoes, which I cooked in the ashes; then, when they were nearly ready, I frizzled some slices of bacon on a fork, laid cloth with some green-handled knives and forks and the cruets, and when he came in, at eleven, all powdered with snow, there was a bright fire and a sumptuous supper, not to mention some hot wine and water with which we caroused.  He declares my society does him a great deal of good.  He generally sits up till one o'clock, writing, and will certainly follow the hint of the baked potatoes instead of going supperless to bed."

    "But why did the old gentleman send for him?"

    "Oh, I don't know,—some nonsense or other."

    "What does he teach you?" asked Marion.

    "Principally mathematics.  I like him extremely now I know him.  He always was 'somebody' you know, and he is now just the same; but, in spite of his dignity, I am on uncommonly good terms with him.  I ask him all sorts of questions, and he seems rather to like it.  I suspect he tells no one else what he tells me.  But really, you know, I have such a winning way with me,—haven't I, Dora?"

    "You conceited boy!"

    "I am.  Well, he told me, the other day, that at first his landlady used to come up every day and teaze him about what he would have for dinner,—he never could think of anything; so at last he told her that whatever dinner she had sent him up the day before he would have till further orders; this was some mutton-chops and a batter-pudding.  Well, he had this for three weeks, and then he got so tired of it that he told her she might change the mutton for a veal-cutlet.  'Veal, Sir?' she said, quite aghast; 'why, Sir, veal's a penny a pound more than mutton.  The price of veal, this time of year, is awful, Sir,—quite awful, in particular of cutlets.'  'You may send up what you like,' he said.  So she sent him eggs and bacon, and that he has had for a fortnight."

    "Poor Mr. Dreux!" said Dora, "the idea of his dining off eggs and bacon and eating baked potatoes for his supper."

    "Well, he does," said Greyson; "and what's more, I don't believe he cares much about it.  In fact, he is so busy he has no time to care for anything.  He often comes in to give me my lesson so completely fagged, that when he has set me something to do he falls fast asleep; and when I have done it I am obliged to wake him to tell me if it is right."

    "And how are the Fergusons?" asked Marion, anxious to change the subject, for the last few sentences had fallen on her ear very painfully.

    "Oh, tolerable.  Hewly has ingratiated himself so well, that he is now allowed to visit at the house as an acknowledged admirer of Helen's, but her father will not allow of an engagement; so they choose to call themselves bound in honour to each other, but not engaged."

    "Ridiculous!  What is the difference?"

    "None at all, my fair cousin; but you needn't be so warm about it.  Helen is of such a very,—very fickle disposition, that her father thinks she will very likely change her mind if she is not opposed."

    "Yes, she certainly is the most fickle person I ever knew," said Dora, and then suddenly checked herself, for she remembered that she was not exactly the person to say it.

    "One can hardly hold too fickle a hand to a bad cause," was the reply.  "However, Hewly is constantly there, and now I trouble myself very little about the business.  I have taken care that Helen should know what kind of a man he is, and, if she chooses to marry him after that, I have nothing more to do with it.  Helen gets more fond of her forms every day.  My aunt says she has got a little ivory crucifix in her dressing-room, which was a present from Hewly; and she has a picture of a saint kneeling a little way up in the air.  The legend is, that her prayers have such power they actually draw her a little way up from the earth before she has done."

    "Poor Helen!"

    "Her velvet prayer-book is adorned with a great gold cross.  Mr. Dreux said to me, the other day, 'It is surprising to find how fond the age is of symbols.  We put the sign of the cross everywhere now that it is no longer either a burthen or a reproach to bear it.'  I repeated that to Helen; she was very angry, and said she would not be without the protection of that cross on any account (What could she mean? Does she trust to it as a charm?)  And she went on,—'Father Macauley says we ought to sign ourselves with the cross, at least during our worship, else there is nothing to distinguish us from the world.'"

    "Father Macauley, who is he?"

    "The new Roman Catholic Priest; don't you know the chapel?  There are a great many poor Irish at Westport.  Mr. Hewly knows the Priest, he is a very different man to the vulgar, fat old Father Dennis.  Hewly introduced him to Helen, and she says he is a polished gentleman and very devout.  I said nothing when she told me, but I thought, 'if Hewly is so impolitic as to divide his influence with another—one so very, very much his superior, an upright man, who has no nonsense about him, as is said to be the case with this Roman Catholic gentleman—he is leaving himself very little chance of ever being master of Helen's fortune.'"

    "Very little," repeated Dora; "Helen can scarcely have been long in the habit of familiar intercourse with Mr. Hewly, without perceiving his real insignificance; besides he is not open, nor honest; not that I charge that upon his principles, I should be sorry to be so uncharitable."

    "If his principles are not bad, his conduct is; have you not often heard him advocate his doctrine of reserve,—'We must not preach all that the Church holds,' he says, 'lest we offend and startle; we must unfold truth by degrees.'"

    "Well, if the principle is allowed at all," said Dora, "it may be allowed in other things besides religion.  He has advocated to me before now keeping back that part of the truth which might be for one's disadvantage—to his, as he thought, and mine.  I'm much obliged to him!  Mine, indeed!  I blush to think that I listened!"

    "Does Helen often see this Father Macauley?" asked Marion.

    "I suspect she does rather often; he is very much with Hewly: they don't look well together.  Hewly is at such great disadvantage, he is rather a shabby little man; the other has quite a military air compared with him; he is certainly no sneak, and evidently takes the upper hand; it is said that he told Hewly it was something for a priest of the true Church to acknowledge or hold any intercourse with one of a rebellious community like his!"

    "Well!  So he is better-looking than Hewly; so much the worse for that gentleman's prospects."

    "Is he young?" asked Marion.

    "About forty."

    "Helen will turn round again," said Dora, very much annoyed.  "How's Frank Maidley?"

    "How you slip from one subject to another!  Oh, he's very well, he's at Cambridge; he is going to spend the winter vacation at Westport; but all that I have no doubt you know better than I do, Dora."

    "Indeed I know nothing about him."

    Her cousin paused, and she was sorry she had inadvertently betrayed a fact which evidently surprised him.

    "So you hear often?" she said, carelessly, unable to control her wish to know something about him.

    "Oh yes, frequently; he writes such odd, droll letters sometimes; he declares he's far gone in misanthropy, and totally sick of the world.  The other day he declared he was blighted! but one never knows whether he's in joke or earnest; do you, Dora?  Perhaps some fair lady has done something to him.  I don't allude to any lady in particular, of course."

    "Perhaps some fair lady has," said Dora, calmly; "and perhaps not."

    "Humph!" said Wilfred.  "It is so droll to read his letters; he does rail so against fortune (you know that old aunt of his left him not a penny; but I think he needn't make such a fuss about it); then he reverts to his favourite theme, and declares he's breaking his heart, that his good spirits are only put on,—only on the surface, and so on; and then he launches out about his chemicals."

    "Marion," said Dora, gently, "let us cross the fields and look at the skaters."

    The brother and sister looked at each other with some rue, and more surprise; they dropped the conversation, and went to look on at the sides of the pond.  Marion then began to rally her brother upon his secret, by way of diverting Dora, but it was quite without success; and though they both returned to the attack several times that evening, they were obliged to confess at bed-time that they had not obtained the slightest clue.

    After a quiet Sunday, he took his leave of Swanstead, setting off to walk to the cross-road about ten o'clock at night, in order that he might reach Westport by the middle of Monday.

    During his absence things had gone on much as had been expected; the schoolmaster did not return, and at nine o'clock there was a crowd of children in the street before the locked doors, clamorous for entrance; there soon collected a crowd of parents, idlers, and above all, almshouse pensioners, among whom the direful news spread like wildfire.

    Mr. Hewly came down about a quarter-past nine with a face of dismay, sighing over the folly of those whom he did not name, in trusting a man whom he declared bore the stamp of his hypocrisy on his forehead.

    The crowd agreed.  Mr. Hewly looked "cut up;" he was a good gentleman, and pitied them; he would never have been guilty of such an imprudence.

    Mr. Hewly sighed, accepted the compliment, but hoped that even the imprudent were honourable and honest.  "Oh yes, there could not possibly be a doubt of it."

    The crowd seemed to think there was a doubt; they must not fear, of course the money would be refunded; they would not be robbed of their rights.  The crowd perceived the difference between his word and his manner, and augured no good.

    Worthy, kind man, he promised that he would go and call on Mr. Dreux (who had authorized the schoolmaster to collect this money), and see whether he was prepared to refund it; "and if not, my poor friends," he went on, "we know to whom we must look in all times of danger and adversity."

    After this pious address the old women wept, and the lookers-on said it was a shame.

    Mentally they saw Mr. Dreux in the dust, under good Mr. Hewly's feet, who proceeded forthwith to give them some more excellent advice, and then set off on his pious mission.

    Almost the whole of the crowd followed him to Mr. Dreux's lodgings, making a great commotion in the street.  He was not at home, he had been called up in the night to witness the quiet death of his old Vicar, who had died in peace, after a few hours' illness.

    He had presented his snuff-box for the last time, his Curate was now coming home with it in his hand.  He paused, surprised when he saw the not very orderly crowd before his lodging; they were gazing up earnestly at his window—some of them in a low voice were expressing an opinion that he had run off too.  He was seen advancing, they instinctively became quiet—that fear was dissipated.  He looked sad and weary; they hoped he was penitent for having thrown so many poor creatures out of bread!  Dear good Mr. Hewly (as kind a man as ever drew breath) was upstairs, talking to his landlady; they hoped when he came in he would be told what they thought of the matter.

    He came on, and by his face showed no consciousness that they were gathered together on his account.  They let him pass through them, and as he reached the door, they greeted him with a volley of groans,—good ones, and deep,—for they had soldiers, sailors, and numbers of low Irish among them by this time, who had joined for the sake of the fun.

    At the same moment, the children began to cheer, not that they meant anything by it beyond the pleasure of making a noise.  He had his back to them, and they were valiant; but he turned suddenly round on the door-steps, and took off his hat, as if he meant to speak to them.

    They fell back in a great hurry.  Fifty little boys cried out, "It wasn't me, Sir;—Oh, Sir, I didn't do it."  The old women sobbed, but curtseyed; the old men subdued their cry of shame into a gruff cough, and tried to look respectful; and the soldiers and sailors, tickled-by this sudden change, wrought simply by a commanding gesture and a piercing eye, roared with laughter, and cheered him vociferously.

    He saw that this was not the moment to make himself heard, and, after a moment's hesitation, entered the house, and shut the door behind him.

    There was a dead silence without for about five minutes; the crowd became dense, and all eyes were fixed on the window.  It was furnished with a little balcony.

    At length the window-blind was drawn up, and the sash flung up by Mr. Dreux, who stepped out into the balcony, and looked at them with grave self-possession.  Mr. Hewly stood a little drawn back, looking, both morally and physically, very small.

    With a gesture of his hand he demanded silence, for his appearance had been the signal for a storm of cheers.  They stopped as soon as they could.  Then he took out his watch, and informed them that it wanted but a-quarter to ten; that if the almshouse pensioners did not immediately repair to the Town-hall their money would not be paid till the following week, for they well knew that the Mayor granted the use of the room for one hour only.  He lamented that the schoolmaster had decamped, and informed them that he himself was the only person who would be a loser.  Then he ordered all the children to go back instantly to the school, where, he said, he would meet them, and make the best arrangement he could.  Having said this, with an aspect of authority which completely calmed them, he turned round, entered his room, and shut the window, leaving the people rushing different ways;—the almshouse pensioners to the Town-hall, the children to the school, where a man was speedily procured to perform the part of master, he having already officiated in that capacity during an illness of the missing master.

    As for Hewly, he went and drew the money, feeling like a sneak, as he was.  He was greeted with most unceremonious requests to "look sharp," together with several compliments of a very equivocal nature;—they were whispered near him, and made his cheeks tingle.  They had nothing whatever to do with the matter in hand, but were not the less galling on that account.  They seemed to take note of his hands, and pronounced them coarse; of his height,—he was a "shabby little chap," they said, "a whipper-snapper,"—"a poor-spirited sneak;" Mr. Dreux would make two of him.  "There were shoulders for you! and didn't he walk upright, for all the world like a Lord High Admiral!"

    Poor Mr. Hewly!  Was not this unfair?  Could he help it, if nature and education had combined to make him stoop and turn in his toes?

    But he had his revenge.  The Mayor came, and a respectful silence followed, during which Hewly was heard to whisper mysteriously, "All well at present, my good Sir; but wait till this day week!  However, perhaps he may be able to pay the debt; or if not, perhaps the public may do something; or, perhaps, I may be able to think of some plan."

    This speech sunk the spirits of the audacious crowd, they scarcely knew why; and the popular opinion again began to waver, the more so because the Mayor, who was a very grave man, shook his head sagely, and looked as if he did not know what to make of the matter.

    In the meantime young Greyson got back to Westport, and, at the usual hour, went to Mr. Dreux's lodgings to take his lesson.

    The pupil was excessively restless and uneasy, the tutor no less so.  The room was full of old silver plate, all the six chairs covered with it, and the sofa, as well as with several other sorts of antique finery, silver models of tombs, with cross-legged knights upon them, costly snuff-boxes, &c.

    The lesson being over, Greyson ventured to ask whether the plate had been valued, and what it was worth.

    "One hundred and fifty pounds is its value," was the reply, "and no more."

    "One hundred and fifty pounds," repeated Greyson, in a low voice; "and have you really nothing besides, Mr. Dreux?"

    "Yes, I have a diamond ring, which I had overlooked.  I am glad to find that it is worth, that is, it will sell for fifty pounds."

    The pupil breathed more freely, and looked about him at this display of old-fashioned splendour.  He supposed Mr. Dreux had forgotten his hints, or, at any rate, expected no result from them.

    After a pause, he stammered out a hope that he was not intruding, and seeing Mr. Dreux's eyes fixed on him with surprise, he went on: "I came here to-night on purpose to tell you of something which is on my mind; but it makes me so excessively uncomfortable to have to say it, that I hope you will make allowance for my mode of doing so."

    The heightened colour, and the deep sigh of embarrassment and excitement with which he said this, made his auditor look intently at him, and lay down his book on the table.

    "I heard you say the other night, that you could not bear the idea of being in debt."

    The auditor winced as he said it.  But he went on, hastily—

    "These things, it appears, are worth more than one-half the sum you want?"

    "Yes, if any one would buy them.  But who wants plate stamped with another man's arms? and who cares for the monuments of another man's ancestors?"

    "If it has been valued at that sum, no doubt it is fully worth it.  But that was not what I wanted to say.  I wanted to tell you that my guardian pays all my bills, and allows me to spend what I think reasonable.  So that, without having any money in hand, or any fixed allowance, I have all that I require."

    Mr. Dreux now knew that something must be coming, but he did not look half so uncomfortable as his pupil, who had far more the air of a person about to ask a favour than one desirous to confer one.

    "Well," he said, in a low voice, "what else have you to tell me?"

    "Only this: that if you could borrow the sum, or half of it, from a person who does not want it, and, consequently, without laying yourself under the slightest obligation"――

    "There is no such person," was the quick reply.  "Do not propose to me anything so exquisitely painful as that I should take advantage of the generosity of a very young man;—I could not endure it, indeed.  I am very much indebted to you, and touched by your kindness, but I could not do it.  Besides, Greyson, you are a minor."

    Greyson paused to allow his excitement to subside, and then went on more boldly on another tack.

    "Well, but you told me that these things were worth something more than £200.  Now, if you would sell them to any one else for that sum, why not to me?"

    "That is a different thing.  But what could you do with them?—they are not worth that sum to you."

    "Very true; neither is £200 worth much to me; because whatever I want is paid for by my guardians.  If you would sell me these things for £200, which sum I have now in my possession, I should have no object in converting them again into money until I came of age, and by that time it is possible you might be able to buy them of me yourself."

    Mr. Dreux made no answer; he sat lost in thought.  Here was a way by which he might clear off one half of his debt; and painful as it was to do what seemed to his sensitive mind the taking advantage of the generosity of a mere boy, he did not think his conscience would acquit him if he declined.

    His pupil left him some time to his cogitations, and then proceeded: "This plan, if you will accede to it, will place one-half of the sum required at your disposal; before the rest is wanted we may trace this man, and recover something; or Mr. Allerton will return, and of course he will insist on paying the other half."

    "I selected this Master."

    "But I believe I have heard you say that it was his idea to permit him to collect the field rents; the fields are in his parish too.  This has nothing really to do with the school.  Besides, if the cases had been reversed, and you had been absent, would not Mr. Allerton have felt himself bound in honour to pay the whole?"

    "I dare say he would."

    "And would you, on your return, have suffered it?"

    "No, certainly not; I believe you are right."  And thereupon followed another long pause, which was broken at length by the tutor remarking that he supposed Mr. Paton was acquainted with Wilfred's wish.

    "No human being knows anything of it but myself," was the reply.

    "Then, my dear fellow, how came you to be possessed of such a large sum of money?"

    "When I left you last I told my uncle Paton that I wanted to go to Swanstead for a day or two.  He treated it as a whim, and did not ask me why; no doubt he thought I wanted a peep at my sister, and let me go.

    "When I got there, I told Mr. Raeburn I wanted the sum of £400.  I reminded him that I had always been very moderate; I had not even spent so much as my guardians would have been quite willing I should.  Then I asked him whether he would lend me that sum, though I could not possibly tell him what I wanted it for.

    "He said he was not empowered to lend it me out of my own property without the consent of the other guardian, my uncle Paton.  I told him that would not do, for no one but himself must know that I had borrowed it.  I am sure he believed that I wanted it to lend Frank Maidley, for his chemical experiments.  He thought a little, and then said he would not lend me £400, because he knew I could not pay him the interest, but he would give me £200 for a present, if that would do.  I declared I had rather pay it when I came of age; but he only laughed, and said, if I was too proud to have it as a present from him, I should not have it at all.  So I took it, and he promised not to tell any living soul that he had given it me."

    "And why did you make that stipulation?" asked his auditor, touched by this evidence of his generosity.  "Did you think it would lessen the obligation?"

    "I don't exactly know; I suppose I thought you would rather it was a secret between us; I wish that also.  But obligation there never was.  It was given me by a person who did not want it.  It is now possessed by a person who has no use for it,— who has, however, a good use to which he is not allowed to put it, for I suppose, Mr. Dreux, you will force me to take a full equivalent for it.  I did hope you would borrow it of me, and then sell your plate to make up the rest of the sum."

    "You have lifted a great load from my shoulders.  You have both thought and acted for me to far more purpose than I have done for myself."

    "You see," said Greyson, "there is no doubt my uncle Raeburn thinks we are going to squander the money in our chemical experiments.  He never expects to see any result, and will not ask where it is all gone.  He only hopes we shall get ourselves into no mischief, for, as I was leaving him, he called after me to mind I did not blow myself up.  So if you would borrow it of me, or, or"――

    "Shake hands, and let things rest as they were.  If you will take this rubbish of me, I will take the £200 for it; and remember I am under an obligation to you (and I do not mind it), for you have told me you do not mean to part with the plate, consequently your taking it is only a ruse to prevent my paying interest."

    "Such a thought never entered my head."

    "No one else would buy it, Greyson, excepting to melt down as old silver.  It's not entering your head proves that you are not experienced in such dealings.  You are anxious to help me out of a difficulty in the way most pleasant to my feelings.  Well, you have done so.  I can breathe again, and I have three months before me, during which I hope I shall be able to make up the other sum, supposing we cannot recover it from this rogue."

    Greyson saw that various feelings were working in the breast of his host.  He had no motive for further continuing the conversation.  It was plain that all this old finery, and these evidences of family pride, were to be left on his hands.  He got up to mend the fire; he then went to the little closet on the stairs, and took out some potatoes to roast in the ashes, and some eggs; then he collected all the plate on the table, and began to examine it, commenting on its beauty, and now and then hazarding a conjecture as to the use of some of the more antique pieces.

    "I think the best thing I can do with it will be to give it to Marion for a wedding present," he said.  It was a bold stroke; but his curiosity was excited, and he thought this would be a likely way of satisfying it.  If there was anything between Mr. Dreux and his sister, what present could be more appropriate?

    He heard a start, but did not look up.  "Your sister is going to be married, then," asked a voice, not exactly like Mr. Dreux's.  "Marion?'' he asked, looking at a face not exactly like his either.

    "What! Marion going to be married?  Not that I know of; but I presume that some time in her life she will enter into the holy estate of matrimony, and all these gewgaws would look most elegant on her table, and perhaps delude the world besides into the idea that we are of an ancient family."

    "Oh!" was the succinct reply.  "How very, very cold it is to-night!"

    "Yes, it seems quite to make you shiver.  But, Mr. Dreux, supper's nearly ready."

    "You odd fellow!  The idea of your preparing it yourself,—laying the cloth too!"

    "That's the best part of the fun.  Now I'll go and get the pepper."

    He got up suddenly, and the same instant a noise of retreating footsteps startled them both.  They had been sitting with the door not quite shut, for the chimney smoked.  Wilfred darted out, and distinctly saw the skirts of a man's coat, as he whisked into a small bed-room close to their sitting-room, and shut to the door.

    "It must be the other lodger," said Mr. Dreux, very much annoyed, "and he has been listening at our door."

    Wilfred said nothing.  To his exquisite delight, he perceived that the man had shut a piece of his coat-lap into the door, and could not draw it through; he must consequently be standing close to it within, and could not fail to hear every word they said.

    The young gentleman had a skewer in his hand with which he was about to toast some bacon; he stuck it suddenly and securely through the bit of coat, pinning it to the door, so that no pulling could free it, and then proceeded in a high, raised voice, not the least like his own, to harangue Mr. Dreux on the impropriety of listening at doors.

    "Listeners," he observed, "never heard any good of themselves."

    The lodger here made an ineffectual effort to draw in his coat.

    "Oh, my dear friend," said Wilfred, addressing Mr. Dreux, and speaking through his nose, "what a shocking vice is eavesdropping!  How mean and small in the minds of upright humanity!  How it lowers a man in the eyes of his fellow-mortals!  Yes, my hidden individual the Rev. Arthur Cecil Dreux, descended from a long line of Crusaders, godson of a Bishop, grandson of a Lord, Curate of Pelham's Church, and Wrangler, I forget in what year,—also the amiable youth, W. Greyson, of this town, have had their feelings harrowed up and disgusted by your conduct, my hidden individual.  Never forget that, henceforth, in their eyes you are little beyond all appreciable littleness.  Ahem, you needn't try to draw your coat through, for I've got hold of it."  This was said in his natural voice, through the key-hole, while the lodger made another desperate, but unsuccessful attempt, and was heard breathing hard inside; Mr. Dreux all the time standing by, laughing so that he could not check Greyson.

    "Call the police," said that young gentleman, gravely.  "Hi! let's break open the door!"

    Upon this the hidden lodger uttered a cry, apparently of fear, and rent away his coat from the skewer, double-locking the door with frantic haste, while Mr. Dreux, with his hand on Wilfred's mouth, dragged him back into his room and shut the door.

    "Will you be quiet?" he exclaimed, as soon as he could speak for laughing.  "We shall have the whole house about us; and I am sure you have punished the poor man enough, he really seemed quite frightened."

    "He's a coward, as well as an eavesdropper, then.  What harm could we have done him?"

    "It is very lucky for us that he is a coward, else he would have come out and confronted us.  What could I have said then?—we have no proof that he listened."

    Wilfred was sorry he could do no more, and applied himself to his cookery, in a short time serving up an excellent supper of potatoes and bacon, with poached eggs.  He was in such high spirits that his host had the greatest difficulty in keeping him within reasonable bounds; perhaps he would have failed in the attempt if he had not declared that he would not take the money of him unless he was quiet.

    "Well, have we decided everything?" he asked, when supper was over.

    "Yes; we decide that this plate is yours, and the money mine."

    Wilfred was rather dejected; he made another attempt to make his host borrow the money.  He declared the things were so old-fashioned that he was afraid they would make him feel old before his time; and then began to put them back into the chest from which they had been taken, commenting on them all the time in a manner the most absurd,—he was sure he did not know where he was to keep them.

    At last he said he would have them, provided Mr. Dreux would promise that he should be the first person applied to to advance the rest of the money.  He declared, with boyish vehemence, that he could not bear the idea of Hewly's perceiving that there was any difficulty in procuring it, or that it put Mr. Dreux to the slightest inconvenience to lay it down.

    His host, in very good spirits, assured him that he had removed a great weight from his mind, and proceeded to lock up the chest containing the plate and jewels, giving him the key, and telling him to write his name on the chest, which he did, and then, careless as he was, left the key on a little table and forgot it.  He promised to send for the chest in a few days, and sat down to pay over the notes which Mr. Raeburn had given him.

    "Now then," said his host, "let me give you a written acknowledgment that this plate, &c. is yours."

    "What! do you think I wish to cheat?  No; I assure you I really mean to take it quite honourably.  I shall soon send for it.  In fact, I will sell it if you wish.  I don't want to lay you under the slightest obligation."

    Mr. Dreux smiled at this novel notion of cheating, and explained that, in case he should die before Wilfred came of age, he wished him to possess a written agreement, by which it would appear that he had sold these articles and received for them their full value.  Having made such a statement, he gave it to young Greyson and told him to put it in his pocket-book.

    "And will you, as a favour to me, keep this affair and everything connected with it a profound secret?" asked the pupil, as he held out his hand, when about to take leave.

    "Why?" asked Dreux, with a smile,—"because you think it will be pleasant to my feelings not to have it known?"

    "Oh, I really have a reason,—two reasons."

    "Well, I do promise."

    He helped his pupil with his overcoat, and took up the candle to light him down the dark stairs; he went to the door with him (for the household were already in bed), and then returned, feeling lighter of heart than he had done for a long time.  He shut the outer door and bolted himself into his bedroom, which opened into the sitting room.  He slept very soundly, and woke later than usual, for he had lately been too much harassed to sleep long.  It struck him as very odd, when he was ready to leave his room, that his door was locked on the outside, and it could not be opened till he rang for his landlady.  She seemed surprised, and declared that the door could not have been locked without hands.  However, being very busy, he gave himself no further concern about it, contenting himself by remarking that the lock must have sprung.

    His first care was to pay over the £200 to the account of the almshouses; his next to inform Hewly of what he had done.  It would be some time before the rest of the money was wanted; he thought he could take two more evening pupils, and make other arrangements, which would enable him to meet the emergency.

    He had now leisure to think of his own prospects as regarded the probability of his remaining in the parish.  He had written to the Patron, a descendant of old Pelham's, informing him of the death of the Vicar, and telling him that, his own salary being paid up to Christmas, he should continue to perform the duty as usual till that time.  The Patron, Colonel Masterman, the same gentleman who had bought his library, wrote back to thank him for his communication, and remarked, that, as he hoped to be in the town in a few days, he would do himself the pleasure of calling.

    In the meantime various considerations made him think it highly probable that the living would be offered to him.  He had always been friendly with Colonel Masterman, and it had long been said in the town that the parishioners would petition the Patron to present it to him, at the death of the old Vicar.  It was worth about £250 a year; and, in his former circumstances, he would have preferred to remain a curate, rather than burden himself with such a tie; but now he considered that he could not do much with his income as a curate, and he might effect great good, even with so small an addition to it.  He thought, then, if it was offered, he would accept it, for it would in no wise increase his responsibility, and he could not be more tied down than he already was.

    In the evening Wilfred came, and they set to work in downright earnest; for the last two lessons had been very spiritless affairs, and they wished to make up for lost time.

    "And how is our interesting eavesdropper?" asked the pupil, as he rose to take leave.

    "Oh, I have not seen anything of him.  You must have put him quite out of countenance, for he hides his diminished head,' and keeps as quiet as if he really thought we had power to take him up for listening."

    The next day young Greyson asked the same question, just before the landlady made her appearance with the kettle.

    Mr. Dreux repeated the question to the good woman in rather different terms, and was informed that he had left early in the morning of the previous day, taking all his luggage with him.

    "He only took my room for a week," she proceeded, swelling with anger, "and I don't believe he's no better than he should be.  If he didn't steal them bath-bricks out o' my shop, I should like to know who did."

    "Bath-bricks!  What! things not worth a penny?  Nonsense!"

    "Begging your pardon, Mr. Grayson,—tenpence apiece, if you please."

    "Not likely a man would steal anything so bulky and of so little value," said Mr. Dreux.

    "Well, Sir, they're gone;—ten on 'em, all of a row.  You remember 'em, Sir,—used to stand in the corner, by the passage?"

    Mr. Dreux couldn't say he did; and the landlady left the room, having previously swept up the hearth.

    "That's my doing!" exclaimed young Greyson, with a smile of delight.  "He knew he could never look me in the face again, so he's taken himself off.  Oh, Mr. Dreux, did I leave my key here? because, if not, I've lost it."

    "I've not seen it.  What do you want it for?"

    "Just to take a look at my old crusaders."

    "You will do no such thing;—we are going to work to-night.  When you have finished we will look for the key.  But you are a careless fellow;—how came you to leave it behind you?"

    "Oh, I forgot it."

    "Yes, just like you; and I wish you would send for the chest, Greyson."

    "I've told a man to come for it this very night.  I'm going to polish all the silver myself, with a chemical preparation that I've made.  I shall work at it like any footman."

    After the lesson, a search was instituted for the missing key.  The furniture was moved, the shelves searched, but without success.  They were still looking for it, when the porter came for the chest, and duly conveyed it to Mr. Paton's house, where, being directed to young Greyson, it was taken up to his bed-room, not without a good deal of grumbling about its great weight.

    When the owner of the chest came in, it was very natural that he should wish to inspect his property.  Accordingly, he bolted himself into his room, and proceeded to pick the lock of his box, intending to amuse himself with a sight of his old teapots and mustard-pots, &c., not to mention his diamond-ring, which latter he intended to have altered, and present it to his aunt, Mrs. Paton; and she well deserved it of him, for in every respect she had treated him like a son.

    He picked the lock without much difficulty, and, on lifting up the lid, found a thick layer of silver paper lying at the top of the chest, which he was sure he had not laid there; a good deal of fine white dust came up as he moved it.  His heart beat quick;—he began to suspect that all was not right.  He hastily tore away the paper, and found beneath it ten bath-bricks, a hearth-brush, some large pieces of coal, several heavy books belonging to Mr. Dreux, and two folio volumes of Foxe's "Acts and Monuments!"

    He was so aghast at this unexpected sight that he knelt for some time before the chest without uttering a sound.  Here was a pretty state of things!  And yet he believed he must keep the secret, for if it came to Mr. Dreux's ears, he would feel that he had received the £200 as a gift, and that would never do.

    He then remembered the lodger.  It was clear that he must the the thief.  He had seen the silver lying about the room, and very likely had heard them descant on its value.  His having left early the next morning seemed to establish the fact.  He had never seen him, and if he had been willing to try to trace him, he could not do it without making the affair public.

    He felt very much perplexed, and knew that in the course of time he should be compelled to tell the facts to Mr. Dreux; but he resolved to put off the evil day, hoping that before long he might be in such circumstances that it would not matter to him.

    All the next day he kept changing his mind as to what was best to be done, but in the evening he found Mr. Dreux in such good spirits that he could not bear to damp them.

    He had to endure a good deal of banter from him on the subject of the lodger, and the terror his harangue had inspired.  The landlady had declared that he went away in such a hurry that he had left 6s. 8d. on his chimney-piece,—an unprecedented thing!—and also a very tolerable coat hanging up behind the door!

    It suddenly occurred to Wilfred that he should like to go into this room, and see whether the man had left anything else behind him,—anything by which he might be traced, or any letters or papers by which his name might be ascertained.

    The landlady just then appearing with a note which required a short answer, he asked her several questions while Mr. Dreux wrote; and she, being gratified at the interest he took in her affairs, was very communicative.

    "He only went out at night," she said, "and he was as stealthy in his habits as a cat."

    "I should like to see his room," said Greyson, carelessly.

    "Well, Sir, I'm sure you are very welcome."

    "But not now, my dear fellow," said Mr. Dreux, surprised at the oddness of the idea, "we have no time to spare at present."

    Greyson gave in, and got through his lesson extremely well, considering how much his mind was occupied with other matters.  As soon as it was finished, he declared his wish to go and examine the eavesdropper's room, and Mr. Dreux took up a candle and went with him.

    He was amused by the curiosity expressed by his pupil, and stood looking on while he opened the closet and peered about in all directions.

    "Come, Greyson, have you done?" he said at last.  "I declare, you are as curious as the lodger."

    The party accused made no answer.  He was feeling in the pockets of the coat: most of them were empty, but at last he brought out a handful of Sunday-school tickets, and laid them on the bed, then drew out a common clasp-knife, and lastly, an envelop.

    "This is in your handwriting!" he exclaimed, as he gave it to Mr. Dreux, "and it is addressed to the schoolmaster."

    Mr. Dreux took it, and turned it round.  There could be no doubt about it,—the words were as plain as possible: "Mr. Thomas Dickson, Schoolmaster, St. Clement's-lane."

    "This, most assuredly, is my writing," he said.

    "And here's an old crumpled note," proceeded Greyson,—"I found it between the pocket and the lining; it is signed with Mr. Allerton's name:—


    "'MR. DICKSON,—You will be good enough to see that the boys learn the enclosed questions and answers.  They must be ready with them by Wednesday.


"'Yours truly,

                              "'Francis G. Allerton.'"


    "What are we to think of this?  The lodger must have been Dickson himself."

    "Impossible!  I saw the man several times, and I could not have been deceived.  He was a much smaller, darker man, than Dickson.  Besides, of all houses, Dickson would not have taken a room in the one in which I live."

    The search having now become of the deepest interest to both parties, they set to work to examine every pocket again, and were rewarded for their diligence by finding a note signed A. C. D., and written not many days before the disappearance of the schoolmaster.

    "That sets the matter at rest, then," said Wilfred; "the man was Dickson.  No wonder he was frightened when I talked of calling the police."

    "I don't agree with you; these notes are in a place where no one looking at the coat could fail to find them.  I do not believe it was Dickson,—I am convinced to the contrary.  I cannot understand the thing."

    "If it was not Dickson, it is very clear he wished us to think so."

    "No!  Why, how could he possibly suppose that we should search his coat?  What interest could he suppose it would have for us?  Besides, we know nothing against the man, and what object could he have for trying to pass himself off for a supposed thief?"

    "None, unless he has committed some crime, and wishes to fix it on another man," said young Greyson, feeling his way.

    "We know of no crime, unless you call listening a crime.  Come now to my room, and wash your hands after your researches."

    "Your landlady says he stole her bath-bricks," remarked Greyson, trying to speak carelessly.  "He must have required a good large box to put them in, nearly as large a one as your plate-box— my plate-box, I mean.—Why! here are two torn letters, both addressed Mr. T. Dickson, and thrust into the fire-grate.  What does this all mean?"

    "I cannot tell.  If they have been put here  ―― Ed. - book-binding error at this point. Pages 142 & 143 have not been bound.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XX.

MRS. BROWN'S MUSTARD-POT.


YOUNG Greyson's hopes for Mr. Dreux were destined to meet with a disappointment.

    The next day happening to dine at Mr. Ferguson's house, he met Colonel Masterman, and heard his host talk of Mr. Dreux in a very slighting way, as a young man who held rather wild notions.  He thought he observed a peculiar smile in Helen's eyes when this was said.

    Mr. Hewly was present, and he observed that it was Mr. Ferguson's intention to make him appear as well as possible in the eyes of the Patron.  In fact, it was but natural, when one man believed he must accept another as his son-in-law, that he should try to raise him (if he could) beforehand.

    Colonel Masterman's second son was present, and Mr. Ferguson appeared to take a great interest in him.  He talked to him about India, where he had spent the best years of his youth, and where, he intimated, he had quite enough interest in certain quarters to get an appointment in the house with which he had been connected for any young man for whom he chose to exert himself.

    Greyson was very shrewd; he saw there was an understanding between the parties, and that now the Curate of "St. Plum's" had little chance of the living.

    He kept his ideas to himself, and in a few weeks they were confirmed: the living was presented to the Rev. Brigson Hewly, who read himself in on New Year's-day; and as the parishioners did not choose to offend him individually, they burnt the Patron in effigy, partly because they disliked his choice, but principally because he had taken no notice of their petition.

    In the meantime, it was not natural that the new vicar should feel cordially towards the man whom they had wished to have.  Nothing, indeed, would have pleased him better than at once to have told the late vicar's curate that he could dispense with his services, but he was a long-headed man, and did not choose to take such an unpopular step till he had got some hold in the parish.  He resolved to ask Dreux to stay, hoping that he could make him so very uncomfortable that he would soon throw up the curacy of his own accord.

    He called at his lodgings, and offered him the curacy.  He was a little mortified at the unhesitating pleasure with which it was accepted; in fact, the present curate, and virtually late vicar, felt that there was scarcely any annoyance he would not submit to rather than give up all influence over the people, and leave them altogether in the hands of Mr. Hewly.

    And now began the real tug of war.  Hewly was determined that he never would dismiss his curate, and equally determined to make him so uncomfortable that he would soon go of his own accord.  Unfortunately for him, if he did induce his curate to leave him, he could not prevent his preaching in the afternoon, for the lecturer was constituted such for life.  So there was not much use in getting rid of him.  But it was gall and wormwood to him to see the power that this circumstance gave.  He felt that the church was only half his own; and in the morning he preached to empty benches,—for his adherents dared not follow him from his late church, as he had so constantly spoken against the wickedness of leaving one's parish church; and as for his new parishioners, some from good motives and some from bad ones, chose to absent themselves, so that from his lofty pulpit he could see the handsome woodwork of the benches very plainly,—there were few shawls and fewer coats to hide it from his view.

    On the other hand, in the afternoon there was always such a crowd as could scarcely be accommodated; the people stood so thickly in the aisle, that they crumpled and crushed his clerical garments as he passed down it to read prayers, for it was an established custom that the vicar or his curate should read prayers for the afternoon lecturer.  The lecturer's first act of conciliation was to do away with this custom by reading for himself; but it soured the vicar's feelings only to have done it for him twice.

    Mr. Hewly felt that he could not stir; his curate's conduct irritated and perplexed him to the last degree: from the slight knowledge he had previously had of him, he had supposed him to be possessed of far too high a spirit to endure the most trifling impertinence; and his dignified carriage, together with a certain calmness in his voice, kept him at an unaccountable distance in spite of himself.

    He now found his curate was not the kind of man he had imagined; instead of firing up at any little act of neglect, or any assumption on his part of the tone of command, he seemed not to notice the one, and to think the other quite inadvertent, and treated his vicar with such polished courtesy, as made that gentleman feel it almost impossible not to assume his very best behaviour in return.  But it annoyed him to feel that he could not act the gentleman half so well with his most elaborate exertions, as his curate did without effort and by nature.  As to anything so ungentlemanly on Hewly's part as an intentional affront, such an idea never seemed to occur to him; and after a short struggle, a few poor, spiritless attempts to be rude to him, the vicar gave in, and treated him with proper consideration, afraid lest he might show him by his manner that he felt his want of courtesy, but supposed he knew no better!

    Mr. Hewly at this time would have given something to have been born a gentleman; his manner and address were by no means bad, but the consciousness of a certain difference between his own manner and that of his curate, filled him with envy and dislike.  Without the slightest assumption on the part of the curate, he received a great deal of genuine respect and deference: the clerk's bow and the pew-opener's curtsey were quite different things, as bestowed on the vicar or on his curate.  They were all alike: the poor spoke to him in quite a different tone; to the less familiar one they reserved for Dreux; and the worst of it was, they evidently did not do it on purpose; instinctively and without effort, they entertained for the one a deferential feeling, that no kindness, no pastoral superintendence could teach them to extend to the other!

    It was very provoking, the more so as he was obliged to keep it to himself.  But he thought, though he felt obliged to be polite to his curate, he could still annoy him with a little patronage; he accordingly hid his discomfiture, and asked him to come and dine with him; but he detected himself repeatedly during dinner, hoping that he was doing the honours of his table in a stylish and gentlemanlike manner, and in wondering whether everything was set on the table properly.  He had ordered an absurdly abundant and handsome dinner for two people; he now blamed himself for it, as it seemed to make his guest of too much consequence.

    He tried to think of some of the pieces of good advice that he had intended to bestow on his curate; and some of the little patronizing speeches he meant to have made; but it would not do, he could not "screw his courage to the sticking point," and he actually found himself following his guest's lead, who being specially desirous to get over the evening without any unpleasant argument, was introducing, one by one, topics of conversation on which he thought they could agree and talk amicably, humouring him in his own house, where he wished to play the patron! and changing his subjects with great tact, as he deemed it necessary.

    Mr. Hewly was acute enough to see this, but he could not help himself; and all the time the unconscious curate, who saw in the whole affair nothing but a piece of ordinary civility, irritated him by his unaffected ease.  In fact, he considered this dinner rather a dull thing, but one which he must go through with, and that with a good grace.  He was accordingly giving himself up, with amiable patience, to the task of purveying conversation and keeping things smooth.

    Oh the annoyance of being with one's superiors! thought Mr. Hewly, as the conviction became more strong in his mind than ever, that this man, his own curate, was so far above him, that he actually could not feel at ease with him, even in his own house, unless he treated him with proper respect.

    And yet Mr. Dreux preserved towards him, however slightly, yet constantly, a certain recognition of his superiority in point of relative position; he perceived this, though he could not define it; and the more he knew him, the more he saw that he had mistaken reserve for pride, and energy for a high spirit.

    When a man, remarkable for uprightness and honesty of purpose, gets into contact with one of sinister disposition, not at all straightforward, and conscious of defective motives, he is sure to make him feel extremely uncomfortable; he feels acutely that he is not honest, and fancies the other feels it too.

    Hewly was very glad when this unpleasant evening was over, and he mentally resolved never again to encounter a dinner tête-à-tête with his curate; he had not accomplished his purpose; he had not shown himself the patron, the great man, and he had not even felt at his ease.  He began to be quite afraid of him,—he thought he should never be able to shake him off; he felt that he should lower himself by the exhibition of any petty act of meanness, and though he was intensely jealous of his curate, he could not bear that he should despise him.

    So matters went on for several weeks.  The curate read prayers, and the vicar preached in the morning, dilating on such matters as he thought of importance.  In the afternoon the curate preached exactly as he had been accustomed, and set forth precisely the same dogmas as before, though he never advanced them in a controversial way.  "In fact," said poor Hewly to one of his friends, "he speaks with no more hesitation as to his being in the right, than he might do if no man had ever differed from him: he never even alludes to my opinions, any more than if he ignored both their existence and mine altogether."

    But though in public the curate lost no ground, he felt that everything his vicar touched he marred; they had both made a mistake, and though they were both accommodating, it was evident that they could not work together.  However, by really mutual forbearance, they got on till the middle of February.  Dreux did not care how much of the work he did; in fact, he had been accustomed to do it all; on the other hand, the Vicar had a delicate chest, and was very glad on cold snowy days to sit at home by the fire.  Dreux was extremely accommodating about all points that he thought unimportant; but then he was tenacious of all others, and this must inevitably have led to a quarrel, if the vicar had not been so hoarse that he could scarcely speak, and the curate so busy, owing to an unusually sickly season, that excepting for a few minutes at a time, they scarcely saw each other.

    For the present, as long as the dreary east wind blew and the frost froze his finger ends, poor Mr. Hewly had neither strength nor desire to disturb his curate, lest he should suddenly take leave of the parish and leave it on his hands, and then he would be in a terrible predicament.  He got quite pleasant in his manners, and, having been long accustomed to weak health, was quite astonished to see his curate coming in day after day as well as ever, though he could see him from the vicarage windows standing over an open grave with the snow piled up on each side, and himself with a thick powdering of it on his head before he had concluded the service.  Yet he was none the worse.  He could stand anything in the way of work and weather.  He seemed to bring an atmosphere of health into the house with him.  His hands were always warm, his step always elastic; he knew no inconvenience from the east wind, and though he was very busy, he seemed rather to like coming in daily to see his vicar and tell the small unimportant pieces of parish news so interesting to clergymen, and to them only.

    By the middle of February the weather suddenly changed and became remarkably warm and mild.  This filled the churches with a continuous volley of coughs; the town was visited with influenza, but the mild weather released Mr. Hewly and put a stop to the friendliness which had arisen between him and his curate.  He could now put his head out of doors, and they again began to pull different ways, and that with considerable vigour.

    Among the many who were laid up with influenza was Mr. What's-his-name Brown.  He sent one morning to know whether Mr. Dreux would take his week-day evening lecture for him; the latter complied, and wrote to Wilfred not to come for his lesson till nine.

    Now Mrs. Brown bethought herself that she should like to give Mr. Dreux a supper after the lecture, and to that end she caused some sausages to be fried and laid on mashed potatoes, and prepared a dish with her own fair hands, called apple turnovers.

    "And very glad he will be of it, my dear, no doubt; for I dare say it's not often that he has a good supper now, for they say he's as poor as a church rat."

    The Rev. Athanasius looked up with feeble wonder.

    "And what do you think, Athanasius, my dear, of our sending him that fowl as hangs up in the larder and a basket of our keeping apples?  Don't you think that would be a pretty way of paying him?"

    "Don't think of such a thing, mother," said the fretful little man.  "Oh dear, I hope you won't hint at it before him by way of payment.  What an affront!"

    "Well, I'm sure, what a fluster you're in, Athanasius!  You needn't colour up so.  Isn't pride one of the deadly sins?  A Christian man ought to be meek, and not above excepting a benefit."

    "If he wouldn't mind it I should.  Many and many's the time he's stopped at the vestry on his way from morning service and taken me back with him to dinner to save me the lonely, wet walk.  He made me welcome to his books; and you know, mother, after I had that illness he came and drove me out every day."

    "And yet you won't let me give him so much as an apple?"

    "Not if I can help it."

    Mr. Dreux presently came in, and perceiving the preparations made for him, did not like to disappoint Mrs. Brown.  He accordingly sat down to supper, though it was very little past eight o'clock, and the good woman began to ply him with eatables and drinkables, being determined that for once he should have a good meal, for she laboured under the idea that in his lodgings he probably had but short commons.

    Having done the greatest justice that he possibly could to the supper, he stayed a while to talk to Athanasius.  The poor man looked most dismal, with his face swelled and his eyes dull and heavy, but Mrs. Brown observed that he soon cheered up as their guest continued to chat with him; she also observed that he watched the maid with considerable attention while she cleared the table, and put away two or three articles of plate in a corner cupboard.

    As soon as he could he took his leave, came home, and gave young Greyson his lesson.  When it was over he inquired of his pupil whether he had sold his plate?

    Young Greyson, with some confusion, replied in the negative.

    "Then," said Mr. Dreux, "something that happened to-night is the more unaccountable.  I could have declared—I think I could have taken my oath, that among the plate I made over to you was a mustard-pot which I have used for years.  It is made in the shape of a barrel, and has my arms and my motto upon it."'

    "Most assuredly there was such a mustard-pot," said his pupil, aroused to interest.

    "Your remark only shows how much two disinterested witnesses may be mistaken, for this very night I used my own identical old mustard-pot at Mrs. Brown's, with my motto and cipher upon it."

    "Are you quite certain—are you sure of the fact?"

    "Quite certain.  There could be no manner of doubt on the subject.  So, my dear fellow, we are both wrong, and that mustard-pot must have been sold with my modern plate.  If you look when you go home you will not find it."

    "I am quite convinced it was in the chest," said Wilfred, abstractedly.

    "And I am quite certain that it was on Mrs. Brown's table to-night.  The moment I took up the old familiar thing, the motto stared me in the face,—'I Dreux to me honour.'  You need not look incredulous.  It is so."

    "I'll go and ask the old lady where she got it, and whether she has any more.  I not only can, but will, take my oath that that mustard-pot was here on the night when I wrote my name on the box."

    "And do you mean to say you have missed it since?" asked his host, surprised at the vehemence of his manner.

    Wilfred admitted that he had, and that his suspicions fell on the lodger,—adding that that was why he had been so anxious to find out where he was gone, and to examine his room.

    "Then," said Dreux, "we must have left that mustard-pot about the room without observing it; for of course if he had opened the box he would not have taken that and nothing more."

    Young Greyson made no answer.

    "I hope you did not miss anything else, Greyson?" asked Mr. Dreux.

    "Oh, I found the box quite full," returned his pupil, feeling his ears tingle and his cheeks burn.  "But I shall go to-morrow to Mrs. Brown, and ask her where she bought that mustard-pot.  With this clue we may possibly trace him and find out where Dickson is.  What am I to prepare, Mr. Dreux, for to-morrow night?"

    But Mr. Dreux's suspicions being once aroused, he was not to be put off with any half-confidences, and he questioned Wilfred so closely, that at last he was compelled to confess how, when he opened the box, he found nothing within but some heavy books, ten bath-bricks, and a hearth-brush.

    Mr. Dreux did not receive the communication with half so much equanimity as his pupil could have wished.

    "I am extremely sorry," said Wilfred, "quite as sorry as you can possibly be; but now that we have got a clue I shall take all possible pains to follow it up."

    Mr. Dreux sat silent.

    "I have already made many inquiries in an underhand way," proceeded Greyson, "and tomorrow I shall set to work in good earnest and try to recover my property."

    "Your property!" repeated Mr. Dreux, remarking the slight emphasis with which he uttered these words.

    "Yes, to be sure," said Greyson, taking out the piece of paper, and reading from it the list of articles, "my property, which I bought, and which has been stolen from me."

    "Your property, which you paid for and never possessed.  I blame myself exceedingly that I promised to keep the thing secret.  What a position I shall be in if this man cannot be found!  Give me that paper, Greyson."

    "I shall do no such thing," replied Greyson, thrusting it into his coat-pocket, and hastily buttoning it up.

    "But I desire you to let me have it back."

    "Why, I am sorry to refuse; but how, without it (if I should get back this property), am I to prove that it really is mine, that the former owner really and actually sold it, parted with all interest in it, and received a fair price in return?"

    In spite of his distress, Mr. Dreux could not restrain a faint smile when Greyson said this, and the boy went on, as composedly as possible,—

    "When people are so excessively anxious to have everything made plain and distinct, and when they distrust other people's straightforward, honest intentions in trade and barter, and are afraid they shall have their goods thrust back upon them by means of some beggarly quibble or other, they sometimes find that, in self-defence, the purchaser becomes as deep as themselves; if they cannot trust their fellow-creatures without documents, the documents must be produced against them.  That property is mine.  If any one says it is not, let us go to law at once, and I will prove it in open court.  Here is the list of the articles, with the signatures of buyer and seller.  I should hope I 'm not going to be cheated out of my property because I'm "under age."

    Mr. Dreux laughed, but so painfully that it forced tears into his eyes.

    "Give it me," he said, "if you have any regard for my peace."

    "I haven't the least"—

    "No, don't joke; let us call this a loan, and let me pay interest."

    "I can't think of it.  Really I wonder, Mr. Dreux, that you should try to take advantage of my youth in this way.  You don't consider the fun I shall have in ferretting out this lodger.  Would you, now, have given it up at my age?—tamely made over your rights to another, instead of setting out in search of your property yourself?"

    "Will you behave like a man?"

    "There's only one man present; if I imitate his conduct, I shall act in a most unreasonable manner.  I think, rather than that, I will still practise the innocent simplicity so becoming my age."

    "Well, if there is nothing to be done with you, go on with your problems."

    Greyson did as he was desired; but just as he had settled again to his work, there was a loud ring at the bell, and the landlady showed up Mr. Hewly.  The fortnight of warm weather had completely set him up again.  With health had come spirit, and he came in with his nerves or his temper evidently strung up for something more than common.

    He had been to dine at the Fergusons'.  This young Greyson knew, and he thought, from his highly irritable state, that something must have greatly annoyed him.  He thought it would be no pleasure to him to see his tormentor that night, but he did not go; he merely took up his compasses and began an ornamental design upon a piece of paper, while the vicar proceeded to unfold his mission.

    This was soon done.  He was evidently highly excited.  He produced a paper containing a list of engagements, the duty for the week, funerals, &c, informed his curate that he was going out for a week, and requested, or rather laid his commands upon him to perform it.

    Mr. Dreux bore his insolence of manner with perfect calmness.

    "There, Sir," said Hewly, tossing another paper towards him, "and you will be so good as see this attended to."

    Wilfred looked up, amazed.  Mr. Dreux took it up and said, "This, I perceive, is a form of prayer to be used by the mistress on dismissing the school."  Having looked it over, he laid it down, leaned back in his chair, and began to mend a pen.

    Hewly's irritation increased.  "Yes, Sir, you are right," he retorted, "it is a form of prayer; and I suppose, though I have been called a formalist, I should scarcely be justified in flinging aside forms altogether."

    The Curate made no answer, and only showed his astonishment by a slight, involuntary elevation of the eyebrows.

    But Wilfred was by no means inclined to let his insolence pass so quietly.  He did not like him, but he despised him too much to be seriously angry with him.  "Give him the opportunity," he thought, "and he'll soon make himself ridiculous."  He accordingly said, with a smile of apparent good humour,—

    "I believe, Mr. Hewly, it was one of our own old Divines who said, that while we 'cultivate the form, we must not neglect the spirit.'  He was a nice old gentleman, but he afterwards fell into the hands of the Roman Catholics, who sweetly and piously burnt him alive."

    "Greyson," exclaimed Mr. Dreux, astonished at his absurd remark, "do you ever think of the old saying, 'Let us be silent, for so are the gods?'"

    "Sir," said Mr. Hewly, starting up, and speaking to Greyson, "I don't know what you mean.  All I can collect is, that you mean to affront me, Sir.  (Mr. Hewly was always very lavish of the title of honour when he was in a passion.)  If you have no respect for me as your spiritual superior, I should have expected you might have shown some respect for yourself, Sir."

    On hearing this, Greyson lifted up his compasses, and, having examined the point, began to design a figure, with an easy smile.

    "Sir," exclaimed Hewly, addressing his curate, and stuttering with passion, "your—your—your— pupil's worthy of his master."

    "I am sorry he has purposely annoyed you," was the reply, "and if I understand him aright, I believe he will apologize."

    "I have much pleasure in apologizing," said Wilfred, looking up with the same smile, "since Mr. Dreux wishes it; and I am sorry I have annoyed him by annoying you."

    "Greyson," said Mr. Dreux, in a low voice, as he again went on with his figure, while Hewly stormed at them both with surprising violence, "I cannot consider that this is acting either like a gentleman or a Christian."

    "Sir," cried Hewly, "I'm much obliged to you, but I don't want you to take up my quarrels."

    "I beg your pardon, Mr. Hewly.  I am sorry I have annoyed you," said Wilfred, and then muttered to himself, "particularly when I have such a different example before me."

    "Ever since I first saw you, Sir," proceeded Mr. Hewly, now too angry to care what he said, "you have opposed and thwarted me by all means in your power, even the most unjustifiable."

    "Some people think the end justifies the means," replied Greyson, forgetting himself again, and astonished that Hewly should have alluded to his wooing.  "I had a very good end in view."

    Here Mr. Dreux, not knowing what would be said next, started up, and taking a candle, said, "Mr. Hewly, as my pupil has apologized, you will excuse my lighting him down stairs; it is long past his time.  He ought to be at home, and the sooner the better."

    "You have spoken the truth for once, Sir," replied Mr. Hewly.  "Your influence tells quite enough upon him without his having more of it than usual."

    "Spoken the truth for once!" exclaimed Mr. Dreux, for the first time thrown off his guard.  "What do you mean by that?"

    "It's your turn to apologize now," said Wilfred, passionately, "and the sooner you do it the better.  Will you, or will you not?"

    "I shall do nothing at the bidding of a boy like you," replied Hewly; "and I hope to make you repent of this before long.  No, Sir; I will not apologize."

    "Very well," said his curate, looking steadily at him, "I shall not urge it upon you; there is no use in arguing with a man in a passion; but you will excuse my remaining in your presence any longer."  So saying, he took young Greyson by the arm, opened his bedroom door, and shut himself and his pupil in.

    Hewly being thus left alone, stood for a few seconds irresolute on the rug, then he snatched up his hat and made the best of his way down stairs, slamming the street-door after him so as sufficiently to apprise them of his exit.

    "There," said Wilfred, as they emerged again from their retreat, "what a fool I was not to hold my tongue."

    Mr. Dreux's features were still flushed with the indignant feeling of surprise that his vicar's conduct had occasioned, but he sat down quietly by the table and said nothing.

    "It was very evident," continued Greyson, "that he came here on purpose to annoy you; but I am sorry I gave him the opportunity.  Hewly in a passion!—I wouldn't have believed it unless I had seen it.  It's my belief he had taken too much wine."

    "Well, think no more of it," was the reply.  "You have now to think of recovering this stolen silver and the ring.  You must leave this contention to me.  In my opinion, the first thing you have to do is to obtain what information you can from Mrs. Brown as to the person from whom she bought the mustard-pot.  The next thing is to tell your uncle all about this affair.  I deeply regret that I permitted you to make the purchase unknown to him."

    "I would not have made it on any other terms."

    "Now, good night.  Let me know to-morrow evening what success you have had."

    The pupil then took his leave.  The host sat up, lost in thought; he had now an additional weight on his mind; he believed he must leave his curacy at once.  He could not stay without some apology from Hewly, and yet he was greatly attached to the people among whom he had laboured so long, and it was very hard to leave them to such a successor.

    At ten o'clock the next morning he received the following note from Hewly,—its formality, no less than its contents, perfectly astonished him:—


"The Rev. Brigson Hewly presents his compliments to the Rev. A. C. Dreux, and sends him the books connected with the almshouse accounts.

"Mr. Hewly is sensible that the unchristian conduct of another party induced him last night to betray too much heat in repressing it.  He therefore thinks it most consistent with Christian meekness to apologize, and to assure Mr. Dreux that the events of last night shall never be alluded to by him in future.

"Tuesday morning"


    Mr. Dreux's first impulse was to toss this impertinent apology into the fire.  On second thoughts he resolved to put it away, but not to answer it.  He saw that Hewly was determined he should not throw up the curacy, and have it in his power to say that it was in consequence of his refusal to apologize for having insulted him; at the same time he wished to word his apology so that it should rather widen the breach between them.

    Notwithstanding, it was an apology; so he decided not to take any steps at present about leaving the curacy; and he anticipated one quiet week, at least, in the absence of his vicar.

    In the middle of the day he called on Wilfred, and was shown into his little study.  Both his injunctions had been obeyed; but the affair had only been laid before Mr. Paton upon his giving a promise of secrecy.

    "I've found out why Hewly was in such a passion," said Greyson.  "My aunt told me that, during the evening, it came out that Helen had been to confession,—at least it seemed so.  My aunt did not give a very distinct account of it, nor could she tell how Helen, being still a professed Protestant, could confess to a Catholic priest; but it seems she must have done something tantamount to it, for they talked about her having received absolution from Hewly's friend, the Irish Roman Catholic priest."

    "And this is the result of Hewly's teaching.  I am not very much surprised"—

    "But Hewly was; he had no idea she would go so far beyond him.  He was horrified, as well he might be; for if she professes herself a Roman Catholic, she cannot do such an inconsistent thing as to marry him.  And if he becomes one himself, he shuts himself out from marriage altogether."

    "Poor man,—I pity him.  I think I can excuse his rudeness of last night."

    "I do not pity him, for I believe he is only looking out for a rich wife.  Helen now talks a great deal more about 'Father Macauley' than about him.  While Hewly was ill, he very much lost his influence over her weak, fickle mind.  She is so wild and headstrong, that, if she thinks she ought to become a Roman Catholic, she will profess herself one, however soon she may see fit to turn round again.  Still, I think she has a strong liking for Hewly."

    "Then, if he is engaged to her, he may very likely declare that he considers it his duty to fulfil the engagement."

    "Ah, but they are not engaged," said Greyson.  "Helen's father would not allow that; though it is an understood thing that, if neither should change, they may be married in a year from last November, which makes Hewly's chance small."  He then proceeded to tell Mr. Dreux that, in case he could find any clue as to where the lodger was concealed, his uncle had promised to let him set out himself in search of him.  Frank Maidley was to go with him.  He painted the delight of such an expedition in glowing terms, and declared that the adventures he hoped to meet with would more than indemnify him for his loss.  "In fact," he concluded, "if we are to find it at all, I hope it will not be for a good long while."


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