Allerton and Dreux (Vol. II) II.

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CHAPTER XXI.

MRS. THERESA DREUX.


IT was not till the day before Mr. Hewly's expected return that young Greyson found out anything of the lodger which his uncle thought worth investigating.

    Directly after breakfast the next morning he made his appearance at Mr. Dreux's lodgings, completely disguised by an enormous pair of whiskers, a light great-coat, and a red comforter.

    "What is this absurd disguise for?" asked Mr. Dreux, when he recognised him.

    "Why, of course I don't want him to know me."

    "Know you,—he has never seen you."

    "Oh, that does not at all matter; we wish to have a little fun.  You should see Frank; I am certain his own mother wouldn't know him.''

    "Where are you now going?—tell me that."

    "Oh, a long way; it's a secret where.  In fact, we don't exactly know where we may have to go.  Now I'm off,—don't you wish me success?"

    "Most certainly.  But I am just as certain what kind of success you will have, as—well, I do not wish to damp you.  Pray let me hear often what you are about; I shall be very uneasy about you till I see you again."

    "Oh, I shall write," cried the pupil, and he ran off in high spirits, while Mr. Dreux applied himself to his letters, which lay unopened before him.  He hoped to find one from Elinor; it was so long since she had written that he had begun to feel uneasy.  Instead of this, there was one in his aunt's hand-writing, which rather startled him, and he broke it open hastily, and read as follows:—


        "MY DEAR ARTHUR,—
    "I am sure you will be glad to hear that Elinor has had rather a better night; and Doctor King thinks her no worse this morning.  So do not be alarmed; for, as I always say, when young people are ill, you know they have youth on their side.  And I have said, over and over again, to Elinor,— 'My dear, why don't you write and tell Arthur how poorly you are?' but she doesn't like to distress you, which seems natural.  And, as I said to her yesterday, 'What a mistake it is, my dear, for he must be far more anxious than if he knew the truth,—which, Dr. King says, should never be concealed from the friends of a patient.'  And so I asked him point blank whether you hadn't better be told, and he replied,—'By all means.  I am surprised it has not been done before.'

    "So I thought I would write, my dear Arthur, to relieve your anxiety, for I do not like to have all the responsibility myself; and as Elinor gets weaker every day, and takes nothing but rusks soaked in wine and water, don't you think it would be much better for you to come over and see her, for all the advice I have for her does not seem to do her any good; and if she has anything on her mind,—I'm sure I don't know why they should think so,—but perhaps she might tell it to you and feel relieved.

    "My dear Arthur, you know how weak and bad my eyes are, and Dr. King says they will never be any better, nor at my age is it to be expected; but as I had said to Elinor, 'My dear, I will certainly write,' I thought I would put myself out of the way to do it.  And you have always been a very fond brother to her, though it is shocking to think how rude you used to make her when she was a child,—I never shall forget it,—and teach her to climb, and fish, and all sorts of things not proper for a girl.  But, as I said, you could have the blue room, you know, and the little boudoir off Elinor's dressing-room for a study, just as you used to do when you were at college.

    "So I hope you will not disappoint Elinor if you can possibly help it, for now she is confined to her bed she is, of course, very dull.

    "She told me before she went to sleep to give her dear love to you; and believe me, my dear Arthur,

"Your affectionate aunt,
                                   "ELINOR THERESA DREUX. ''


    P.S. Dr. King says these slow fevers are often very obstinate.  I told him I had asked you to come.  He is a very disagreeable man, and says that ought to have been done a week ago."


    He read this unaccountable letter to its close, and then, leaning back in his chair, a faint vertigo for a moment almost deprived him of his senses.  He presently recovered himself sufficiently to rise and open the window; then a wretched half-hour passed before he could decide what was best to be done.  That Elinor was ill was only too evident, but the extent of her illness he remained in doubt of.  He knew his aunt too well not to be aware that Elinor might be at the point of death before she would take sufficient alarm to rouse herself to any decided line of action; it was a great deal to have herself written to request him to come to his sister.  To go instantly to Leamington was his decision.  Hewly would return in a few hours.  He therefore wrote a letter, to be sent to his house, explaining his absence and its cause.

    The journey was one of two hundred miles, but a great part of the way was by cross country roads, so that he did not reach his destination till the middle of the next day.  The nervous excitement caused by this ambiguous letter was almost past endurance.  It was quite a relief, on looking up to his aunt's windows, to find them unclosed.  "I assure you I quite expect to see your sister better to-morrow."

    The servant who ushered him in volunteered the information that his sister was better.

    "Bless me, Arthur, how pale you look!" cried his aunt, meeting him at the door of the dining room.  "Bring some wine, Gorden.  Why, of course, my dear Arthur, you cannot go up-stairs yet, while Dr. King's here; so sit down, and don't think of such a thing."

    His aunt's vague communication fretted him almost past endurance, and he threw himself into a seat to wait for the physician, looking so ill that the old lady began to ply him with questions about his own health.

    The physician presently returned; was glad Mr. Dreux was come,—thought his patient no worse,—she had a great deal of low fever,—she was certainly in some danger,—he might presently go up and see her,—she had been got up, and was lying on the sofa.

    "He must not go, Doctor, while he has that pale, eager look,—he would frighten her out of her senses," said Mrs. Elinor Theresa.  "You look as if you had been turned to stone.  Come nearer the fire, Arthur.  Are you cold?  Dear me, how nonsensical I am!—perhaps you haven't dined.  Are you hungry, Arthur?"

    "My dear Sir," said the sympathizing physician,

    "Ah! well, Arthur, I'm glad to see you beginning to look like flesh and blood again.  Didn't I tell you when I wrote not to be uneasy?  My dear Doctor, they were always so very fond of each other.  As for Elinor, she constantly says, 'If I could only see my brother I should be happy.'"

    "Well, Madam," said Dr. King, rather testily, "and she will see him directly, and be all the better for it, I dare say."

    "I wish to go up at once," said Mr. Dreux; "I must see my sister directly."

    "Not till you have taken a glass of wine and a biscuit;—it would excite my patient to see you looking so pale."

    The glass of wine was hastily swallowed, and Mrs. Theresa Dreux showed her nephew up stairs.  As she walked to Elinor's door she talked on subjects strangely at variance with his feelings.

    "Wait here for a moment," she said, "I must just go into the room first and prepare her."

    He sat down in Elinor's dressing-room while his aunt went into the bed-room beyond.

    "You may come in, Arthur," she presently said, and he quietly entered.

    Elinor was reclining on a very low couch, close to the window.  She wore a wrapping white dress.  Her face was pallid, and her features attenuated and tense.  As he entered she half-raised herself into a sitting position, and he knelt down by the couch the better to receive her in his arms.  Elinor laughed with hysterical joy as she put her thin arms round him; but presently his face sunk heavily, and as she held him, she fell back on the pillows, and said, with a terrified glance, "Help me, aunt, Arthur has fainted!"

    Her aunt wrung her hands, and ran about looking for a smelling-bottle; the maid shrieked at the top of the stairs for a glass of water; but, happily for all parties, Dr. King came speedily up.  He had been very doubtful as to the result of the interview, and fully expected to find Elinor in a swoon, instead of which he found her sitting up with a strength he had not given her credit for, supporting her brother's head, while her aunt and maid ran hither and thither, a perfect picture of helplessness and inefficiency.

    He soon relieved Elinor of her burden, and, the proper remedies being applied, the patient opened his eyes.

    "Bless me, ma'am!" exclaimed the maid, crying and sobbing, "I never saw a gentleman faint before!"

    Elinor, sitting up on her sofa, watched their proceedings with the utmost anxiety.  Her brother's face gradually resumed something like its natural hue, while her aunt, holding the smelling-bottles, exclaimed against the world in general for all the dreadful things that happened when nobody expected them; and against Elinor in particular, for being ill and frightening her brother; then against the said brother, for causing her a palpitation of the heart, and disappointing her expectations.  "For I have always said," continued this wise woman, "that if there was a man in the world who possessed perfect self-command, it was my nephew.  I have said to Elinor times out of mind, 'Elinor, my dear, if you were to cut his hand off he would never shed a tear; he wouldn't jump, not if fifty guns were to go off close to him!  Such nerves!  Elinor, my dear, don't you remember that review?'  Why, bless me, Morris, how the water trickles down this poplin dress of mine.  Make haste to get a towel and wipe it."

    The physician, who seemed to be a man of a crusty temper, looked daggers at the good lady; and then, his face suddenly changing, he said something kind and encouraging to Elinor, and gave her brother leave to rise.

    The two females had drenched his hair with water; the physician took the towel from the maid, without apology or remark, and began to dry it for him.

    "Now," he said, in a whisper, "don't imagine that all this has done my poor little patient any harm,—quite the contrary.  I told her the other day, that if the house were to take fire, she would find strength to run out of it.  She wants rousing.  I hope this will prove a little stimulus, poor child!"

    "Are you better now, dearest?" said Elinor tenderly, as he stooped over her to kiss her; "but ah! how thin you are, Arthur—how cold your cheek is; you have been ill too!"

    "No, I am quite well, Elinor; my fainting was nothing but a foolish mistake.  I see you are much better than I thought."

    "I shall be better now you are come, dear; but oh! I am so tired."

    "And no wonder," interposed the crusty doctor.  "Madam, I wish Miss Dreux to be put to bed immediately; she is exhausted, and quite hysterical.  And you, Sir, come away at once.  You are not to see her again till you have had a good meal and an hour's rest.  Travelled all night, and eaten nothing to-day, I'll be bound; and then fainting away!  Parcel of silly old women frightened him to death! Bah! Come away, Sir; I'll have no kissing and hanging over my patients.  Done her a great deal of good, though,—but that's mum."

    This speech was not all uttered aloud, and during its delivery the old gentleman looked with strong disfavour at the mistress and maid, who were still occupied with the purple poplin gown.

    "Madam, are you going to undress that young lady; or must I fetch up the cook to do it?"

    "Now really, Doctor King!"

    "Will you do it, then, ma'am?  Now, Sir, come away.  What did you mean by going off in that style?  A fine, strong young man like you!  Did you do it for experiment—Eh?"

    "I don't know what I meant by it," was the reply.  "If it was an experiment, I hope I shall never repeat it as long as I live.  I found it anything but an agreeable one."

    This conversation took place as they descended the stairs.

    "I'll be bound that old woman mystified you nicely when she asked you to come here.  I had great work to get her to write at all.  Parcel of silly old women!  I've no patience with them."

    "My aunt's letter certainly tortured me a good deal; it was extremely vague."

    "Well, the fact of the matter is, she's very poorly, there's no denying that; but, in my opinion, she has something on her mind, and if you can get her to talk of it, you'll do her a service—but not for the next few days, she's too weak at present.  I dare say you hardly expected to find her alive when you got here."

    "I scarcely knew what to think."

    "Ah, I saw what kind of a demon had been gnawing and worrying at your heart!  You shall hear the downright truth from me every day.  Never mind what that old woman says; she frets me almost out of my life.  I wonder whether that poor child's in bed yet.  Well, Sir, good day.  My advice to you is, that you eat a good dinner, take a couple of glasses of port, and leave the rest to Providence."

    With these remarks the Doctor took his leave.

    Elinor was too weak to see him again that day, but while she slept he came and looked at her.  Her face was painfully thin—strangely altered, but in sleep the anxious expression which had shocked him so much was not apparent.  Her small hand lay on the counterpane; every little bone was visible.  When in health it had often looked whiter; for now through the too transparent skin every purple and lilac and crimson vein was distinctly traceable.  She was wasted to a skeleton.  He thought he should scarcely have known her; yet he took comfort from the maid's assurance, that she was sleeping much more comfortably than usual.

    He saw her several times the next day and the next: she seemed feverish, and could not talk.  His heart sank within him as he watched the gradual failure of her strength, appetite, and interest even in him.  They were never left alone, and she seemed to care for nothing; yet she was dressed daily, and laid on her couch, and seemed none the worse for that slight exertion.

    It was not till the fourth day that they were left alone together.  Elinor had been more than usually lethargic during the morning, but she no sooner saw the door shut on her aunt and maid than she seemed to revive.  She was lying on her couch, and asked him to sit by her and hold her in his arms.  She was so quiet that he fancied she was asleep.  She had nestled close to him, and while he supported her hope grew strong within him; she was at length left to his influence: he thought he could soothe her.  Now was an opportunity; but while he hesitated to begin talking to her, she showed him strongly the cause of her illness and the direction of her thoughts.  She put her hand so gently upon his waistcoat pocket, that if he had not been alive to her motive he would not have observed it.  That was not the right one.  The thin fingers presently found the other, and very softly drew something out, and opened it.  There was a very long silence.  Elinor soothed herself with gazing at Allerton's picture.  She seemed scarcely aware that he could see her.  Tears began to fall upon it, then she sobbed, but still neither of them said a word.

    It was too evident to him now what was the matter.  He felt himself powerless, far more so than he really was.  He drew her still nearer, and entreated her not to weep.  The sound of his voice seemed to recall her to herself, and she asked him first, with a burst of tears, why he had kept his trials so much to himself—why he had concealed them from her, who loved him, or at least spoken so lightly of them? and then, why had he never told her anything about Mr. Allerton—never even mentioned his name.

    It was bitterness to him to be compelled to admit that he had nothing to tell—nothing whatever, but that he had wrung out of Hewly that Allerton spoke of himself as active and doing duty, therefore he must be in health wherever he was.

    To his surprise, Elinor received this scanty intelligence with lively gratitude.  She did not want to see him,—she could do without even knowing whether he still cared for her,—if he was safe and well it was enough.  She could live now, she could even be happy; but to go on week after week not knowing whether some long illness or some lingering death might have kept him away from Westport, was more than she could bear.

    She lay silent for a while with the miniature in her hand,—something of the tranquillity of those endeared features seemed to pass to her own heart, and the manly affection they expressed soothed her as if the original had looked so at herself.

    "I feel much better now—far stronger.  I think it was hope that I wanted," she said, "and some one to love me and comfort me as you do, Arthur."

    "My darling! what hope did you want, Elinor?"

    "Not the hope of seeing him again.  I wanted hope for him—hope that he might be happy—even hope that he might forget me, if that would make him happy."

    Her fit of weeping, far from exhausting her, seemed to have brought relief and tranquillity.  She would not let her brother leave her, but still retaining the little portrait, began tenderly to upbraid him for having concealed the state of his health from her.  She confessed that she had written to Mrs. Dorothy when first he lost his property, and from time to time had heard from her a full account of all that had happened, and that he had endeavoured to conceal.

    "We have each made a mistake, my sweet Elinor," said he; "we should have done better to have trusted each other."

    "Ah, yes!  I have drooped for months for want of knowing the whole truth respecting you and Mr. Allerton, and now you have endured a much greater shock than if I had told you frankly how ill I was."

    Her brother said nothing; he felt that in his earnest desire to spare her he had inflicted a great deal.  But though there was so little that was cheering to be communicated, Elinor was surprisingly the better for the conversation.  She absolutely required sympathy,—her brother could give it, and she revived like a watered flower; it drew her thoughts in some degree from their aching pining after the absent to have something present to love.  The mere sound of her brother's voice was healing to her—it calmed and comforted her; and when he came each night to pray beside her, however restless she might have been, she would drop away to sleep after it like a weary child.

    This quiet sleep, to which she had long been a stranger, did her more good than medicines or restoratives.  Each day she could sit up longer, and though still a mere skeleton, she had already lost the transparent whiteness which characterized her complexion when first her brother saw her.  In the full confidence of being understood, she unburdened her mind of all the tormenting thoughts which had oppressed her nearly to death, and received from him an assurance that he would never conceal any of his trials from her again.

    "And has nothing happened," she went on, recurring to the old theme,—"has nothing happened to give you the slightest clue to Mr. Allerton's feeling?"

    Her brother sighed; he scarcely knew what to do for the best.  It was evident she could not forget; then, perhaps, it was better she should think favourably of his friend.

    "I can scarcely think anything has happened, Elinor," he replied; "and yet, if you would not lay too much stress upon it, I would tell you something which I fancied might be of his doing.  Do not lay too much stress upon it, my dear; it is but a trifle, and I fear lest the relation of it should make you fancy me more to be pitied than I really am.  You know, Elinor, all our circumstances are of God's appointment; 'He setteth up one, and putteth down another.'  Things are changed with me, but that is no matter.  You remember those two little cabinet pictures which used to hang in my dressing-room,— small landscapes?"

    "O yes, perfectly."

    "And you know that all my pictures were put up for sale, Elinor?"

    "All your pictures!  What, the good ones,—even our old family pictures, Arthur?"

    "All, my dear.  Well, these two little ones would not sell for anything like their value, so they were withdrawn, and I sent them to London to a picture dealer.  I heard nothing of them for some time.  They were great favourites with Allerton, but he used to object to the frames; he said they were not deep enough, and I had promised that I would shortly have them altered.  Just before Christmas, word was sent me that they were sold, and I paid the last of my bills with the money.  The night before I came here I found a box at my lodgings, directed to me; on unpacking, I beheld my favourite pictures, in just such frames as Allerton had described.  There was no note,—nothing but the direction for me to examine, the writing of which was not like his; it was disguised.  I tore the card off; the name on the other side was carefully inked over."

    "And why, then, do you think they came from Mr. Allerton?" asked Elinor.  "Let me hear all you know.  What a pleasure it would be to me if I could think so too!  It would be a proof that he still thought of you."

    Her brother was surprised at the eagerness with which she caught at this slight hope, but he went on to tell her all he had reasoned out on the subject.  "If any of my friends at Westport," he said, "had wished to give me some favourite possession out of my old house, they would not have thought of waiting so many months: and would they have chosen the only things which were sent away to be disposed of?  Besides, I do not remember telling to anyone Allerton's fancy for these two pictures, nor the kind of frames he wished them to have."

    "I know the kind you mean; he had several prints so framed.  They were invented by a man whom he used to patronize."

    "Yes; so that, on the whole, I feel quite inclined to think they came from him."

    Elinor fully believed it, and this shadow of a hope that he still retained a friendly feeling for her brother was enough for her imaginative mind to work upon.  She might see him again, at least she might hear of him; there was no such quarrel between them that it was impossible they could ever be reconciled,—no estrangement which time and change might not remove.

    Elinor felt and acknowledged herself better.  Her brother's visit had been just in time. She was sinking under the double anxiety of ignorance respecting Allerton, and certainty that he himself was concealing his real state from her.

    He stayed with her a week, and though she had several relapses, she was so much improved that her physician said he might now leave her with safety.  After their first conversation, they had many others.  Elinor did not let her brother leave her till he had promised her that, as soon as she was well enough, she should come and visit him in his lodgings; but first she was to go to the seaside, and as her recovery was slow, it would be some time before this could be effected.

    Elinor bore the parting tolerably well, both from him and the picture.  He thought it would be a cruel kindness to leave it with her, and as he did not offer it, she would not ask it.

    She was far more hopeful than he was about herself; and when he had prayed with her, and commended her to God, she smiled, as he bent over her to kiss her, and said cheerfully, "Good by, dearest, I begin to be full of hope that we shall soon see happier days."

    "If we can entirely acquiesce in the will of our heavenly Father, we shall see happier days," he replied; "there is no peace like that which arises from leaving all things in His hands, and saying, 'Undertake for us.'"

    He left her feeling more easy, for he knew she would have every luxury and comfort that money could supply,—every indulgence but that of fellow feeling, and every luxury but that of being understood.

    He lamented this, but he could not remove her from her aunt, for he had no house to offer her; and during the old lady's lifetime she was entirely dependent upon her, though, by the terms of her grandfather's will, she was to inherit a very sufficient fortune at her death.

    He had been away twelve days, and though he had written twice to Hewly, he had received no answer.  He therefore feared that he might be ill, or that he might not have returned at the time expected.  He took leave of Elinor, intending to travel all night, but he thought he must steal up stairs to look at her again.  She was already asleep, and looked calm and happy.  He touched her hand, and she moved slightly.  He felt that he could now leave her with comfort; and not much relishing his aunt's letters, he called her maid aside, and giving her his address, desired her to write immediately, if anything should be amiss.  When a great and new anxiety starts suddenly forward, it annihilates for the time those which had previously existed.  Elinor's illness had banished for the time all his other difficulties; but now, as he journeyed homeward, they gradually returned upon him, and resumed their old sway.

    First, there was his anxiety about Wilfred.  He thought him by far too young, too full of spirits, and too careless to have been sent out on such a mission, and get, in all probability, among thieves and ruffians.  Secondly, he had by some means to procure the remaining £200, which in a few weeks must be paid in for the use of the almshouses.  Thirdly, there was Hewly's conduct, which was a source of endless trouble and annoyance, the more so as for at least another month he believed it was his duty to bear it.  Fourthly, he would fain have been able to return young Greyson the money he had paid him, but there were other things to be done before that; it was the least of his anxieties.

    His eyes, as he drew near the scene of his labours, became clouded, and his breast laden with these various depressing thoughts.  He had written to his landlady to say at what hour he expected to return, but he did not expect any one to meet him; he was therefore surprised to find her waiting for him at the station, as well as her son,—a lad of fifteen,—and behind them Mr. What's-his-name Brown.

    There was in the manner of this last a kind of contempt, as he pushed the others back, seized the carpet-bag, and gave it to the boy.

    "Glad to see you, I'm sure, Sir," said his landlady, curtseying.

    The bag was received with a humble, crest-fallen air, and the Rev. Athanasius scowled at the obsequious landlady, as she rubbed her hands and continued to curtsey.

    "If you'll allow me, Mr. Dreux," he then said, with the slight air of deference with which he generally addressed his brother clergymen, "if it's not an intrusion, I shall be glad to walk home with you."

    They soon reached the house.  Mr. Brown came in, and, with a good deal of hesitation of manner, hoped he would not be offended, but his landlady, when that morning he had called to return a book which he had borrowed, had informed him that she never expected to see Mr. Dreux again, "which," she said, "is a great misfortune to me, Sir, for Mr. Dreux owes me a bill of £3. 15s."

    "I thought, Sir," continued Mr. Brown, in his usual voice, at once discontented and deferential,—"I thought I would come with her to meet you and tell you this.  She said you were supposed not to have any intention of returning.  Now, Sir, you have evidently some enemy, for she never could have taken such a wild fancy into her head of her own accord.  In fact,—I hope you will excuse my mentioning it,—but I found her with some silver forks and spoons, which, she said, you had in common use.  She was going to take them to a silversmith, to ascertain whether they were worth the money."

    Mr. Dreux felt excessively shocked and annoyed.

    "I hope my having returned at the time I appointed will be supposed sufficient to exonerate me from this charge," he remarked, with a slightly bitter smile.  "My credit in Westport must have sunk low indeed if any person here can think I went away to avoid paying my debts."

    Mr. Brown did not make any answer; and having fulfilled what he considered a painful duty, was glad to take his leave.

    Mr. Dreux thanked him, and, as soon as he was out of the house, rang the hell for his landlady, who presently appeared, looking rather frightened.  He desired her to bring her bill, which she did at once, and he paid it out of some money that he had about him.

    He did not think proper to ask any questions, and she left the room with many professions of sorrow, previously laying on the table a note in Hewly's handwriting, which he opened hastily, and read with no little wonder, not to say alarm.  One remark of the good woman's rang unpleasantly in his ears as he went on: "She was sure she hoped he would not be offended, for she should never have believed the report if she hadn't heard it from them that ought to know."

    The note began with several expressions of esteem, which, considering the source from which they came, were equally novel and alarming.  The writer had heard with sorrow and amazement certain hints which he could not believe, and ought not to believe, of a man who had hitherto stood so high in public opinion; and to quiet the popular clamour against him, which, during his absence, it had grieved him (Hewly) to hear, the said Mr. Hewly had thought it best, in Christian kindness, to take vigorous measures; and as he had no doubt of the perfect uprightness and honour of Mr. Dreux, he could not suppose that he was unprepared to meet the claims of the almshouse against him.  He had no doubt, though Mr. D. had left the town suddenly, without explaining anything, that the money on which these agèd people depended for their maintenance was ready, and that Mr. D. would not fail to produce it, and save them from beggary or the workhouse.  Accordingly he (the said Hewly), as a proof of his friendship, had paid the money out of his own pocket (which was a little slip of the pen, for Mr. Ferguson had lent it him to make some alterations with in the vicarage previous to his marriage), to his curate's account, and hoped, that as soon as possible after his return, he would call on him and arrange matters, for it was an inconvenience to a man in his circumstances to lend the money, and it was only to save the character of a brother clergyman that he had done so, &c, &c.

    As a foe, though a covert one, the curate was not afraid of his vicar, but he shrank from him with something like dread as he now saw him in the character of a false friend.

    It wanted a fortnight to the time for producing this money.  Why, then, had Hewly been so hasty in producing it, unless to get him into his power?  And as to popular clamour, what could he mean by that and all the other insinuations contained in this abominable note?

    He hurried on his hat and coat, and went straight to the Vicarage.  He was a good deal excited, otherwise he might have observed, that though Hewly attempted to assume a tone of patronage, he looked pale and nervous.  But he contrived to check much outward expression of these feelings, and perceiving that for once his curate was both angry and agitated, he felt his advantage; and bringing up the subject of his note, he again hinted, with a kind of offensive mildness, that it had been a great inconvenience to him to advance the money.

    "I am sorry for it," replied his curate, with some heat; "it is also a great inconvenience to me."

    "What!" exclaimed Hewly, "you are sorry?— sorry?  Do you mean to say you wish things had been suffered to take their course?"

    "Most certainly I do," was the reply; "I should have been glad to have been allowed to manage my own affairs myself."

    "You will please to understand," replied Mr. Hewly, trying not to be afraid of his curate's rising anger,—"you will please to understand, Sir, that, however unfortunately for me, this is, in fact, partly my own affair.  I advanced the money, because, to have such things said of my curate, Sir, reflects, in some degree, upon me."  ("Now for it," he thought. "Oh, do get into a passion!—you're near it, I can see.  Fire up, and I have you.")

    "Such things'." repeated his curate, in a voice of thunder.  "What things do you mean, Sir?"

    Hewly felt a little nervous tremor; but he paused before he answered, and assumed an air of pious regret; he also put his hand to his head, as if it ached.

    His curate repeated, passionately, "What things?"

    ("Now you'll do," thought Hewly; "I dare say the rest to you now.  But when I've got you into a rage I hope I shan't turn coward.")

    "What things?" he again repeated, lifting his sinister black eyes to his curate's face, and speaking with peculiar mildness, "they are things that do you no credit, Sir.  It is said that you cannot pay your debts."

    "I have heard that.  What else?"

    ("I wish you would take your eyes off my face," thought Hewly.  "And you're recovering your temper, worse luck!") He folded his arms, and tried to meet his curate's steady gaze. ("I'll make you wince before I've done, grand as you look.  You shall not tower over me for nothing, with your birth, and your eloquence, and your beauty.  I like to excite you,—I like to see your eyes flash.  Now he's worked up enough.  Slowly and steadily,—I'll have him.")

    "If you must know, Sir, it has been whispered in this place, that if you had not known where the schoolmaster, Thomas Dickson, was gone, you would probably have taken some pains to ascertain it."

    An eager movement of astonishment and indignation was all the answer he got for more than a minute,—a wretched minute, he thought,—during which his curate never released him from his penetrating gaze.

    "If there is such a report current, Mr. Hewly," he then began.

    "If" repeated the vicar, and began to quail, for he felt that he had not mastered him after all.

    "I said if, Sir—if there is such a report current, I know of but one person who could have originated it."

    "What do you mean by that, Sir," cried Hewly, now permitting himself the relief of a little bluster.  "Do you mean to make me accountable for the reports that are rife respecting you?  Is it my fault, if when a man in debt goes off people say he will never return?  Is it my fault if people say you are in league with this villain and knave, Dickson?"

    "Enough,—I have heard enough," cried his curate, starting up.  "Be silent.  I will not endure another word.  If you could tamely listen to calumnies so insulting as these, and never even contradict them, they lie at your door as much as if you had yourself invented and propagated them."

    "That will do, Sir," replied the vicar, also rising.  "I rejoice that I can now without a breach of Christian forbearance dissolve the bond between us.  Our connexion is at an end.  An unblemished character, Sir, cannot be too highly valued; none can despise it with impunity."

    Stung by this insult, his curate darted a look at him which brought the blood up even into his cheeks; but Hewly, though he felt a tremor through his whole frame, was cool.  Nothing but compassion for the erring, and a mild reproval of his fault, was expressed in those virtuous lineaments.  But it pleased him to see by the flashing eyes and quivering lips of his curate that he had him now sufficiently in his power to excite him to the utmost.  Looking on, it was a balm to his heart to estimate the violence of the struggle by which he kept himself silent.  He saw how indignation battled for the mastery, and that his face was colourless even to the lips, before it could be subdued.

    "And what on earth is he staying for?" thought the vicar; but though a meek man, and, as he often said, desirous to forgive injuries, and not to exhibit pride, he felt extremely small when at length his victim rose, and with something of his own peculiar dignity, gave in his resignation, and, appointing to call on him the next morning, took his leave without deigning to notice his last remarks by a single word.

    What Mr. Dreux thought as he walked home is impossible to describe.  People do not think very collectedly when they have been first excited and then stunned.  But why had Hewly been so hasty about this money, and was it a preconcerted thing this forcing him to leave his curacy?  Was it true that such reports were believed respecting him? and if so, did not Hewly want to make him leave the town before he had had time to live them down and leave it in debt to his enemy, who had his character at his mercy.  The bank at that hour was closed, but he determined at once to pay back the money to Hewly.  He could borrow it, and must pay the interest as best he could; but then he must leave Westport.  There was no curacy vacant in the place, and it seemed plain that his usefulness there was over, and his influence also.

    It was getting dark, and he felt with poignant regret that perhaps the dusk sheltered him from insult—at any rate from the suspicious looks of those whom he might meet.

    That he individually should have been despised he thought might easily have been borne, but it was hard to suffer patiently the certainty that every thing he had ever taught, all he had laboured for, would suffer and go down with him.  This crowning fear sunk his agitated spirits.  Tired as he was he turned away from his lodgings, and sought the square of grass before mentioned as belonging to the almshouses, where in the gathering darkness he walked backwards and forwards, praying for direction in these new and overwhelming perplexities.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXII.

LIGHT BREAKS THROUGH THE CLOUD.


MR. HEWLY sat at ease in his study, and sipped a cup of tea, while his late curate walked wearily up and down the square of grass under the black rocking trees.  It was a wild, windy evening in March; the rain fell in half-frozen drops; the soaked grass did not rise after the foot had pressed it; the limes groaned and creaked like old fretful people; the gusty wind turned his umbrella, and he began to feel faint with fatigue and hunger, but no light seemed to dawn upon his path for all this thinking; and as he turned at last towards his lodgings he felt the necessity for quiet, warmth, and food, though the unsubdued restlessness of excitement craved bodily exercise still as a means of keeping it under.

    He looked up to the window of his little lodgings; there he thought he could have quiet for the evening, to rest and consider what was to be done.  He perceived the bright flickering of a fire within and the movement of a figure.  He entered the house and walked slowly up stairs.  Someone in his room was blowing his fire with a pair of bellows and singing most cheerfully.  He entered, and the singer turned and disclosed the features of young Greyson.

    "Hurrah!" cried that young gentleman, rushing up to him, and flourishing the bellows.  "Here I am at last—a hero returned from his first campaign.  But how dreadfully tired you look," he added, seeing his faint smile and worn appearance.  "I hope Miss Dreux is no worse.  I beg your pardon, I ought to have known better."

    "No, go on talking," replied his host.  "I am indeed glad to see you again.  I had begun to be quite uneasy about you.  My sister is daily improving."  This was in answer to young Greyson's inquiring expression.

    "What is the matter, then?" asked the pupil.

    "Let me forget it for a while.  I cannot talk just now.  I am worn out, body and mind.  Do stay with me this evening.  I do not think I can give you a lesson, but nothing would do me so much good as to hear your adventures."

    Wilfred agreed, and immediately began to excite a great bustle.  He piled the sofa cushions into one corner; insisted that his host should sit down; took away his overcoat; then he drew the curtains; made a cheerful blaze; called out at the top of the stairs for tea and candles; came back again; cleared the table; set the egg-glass, and boiled two eggs.  The kettle and tea-things having by this time made their appearance, together with the little black teapot, he made tea, brought a tiny table to the sofa, and set a round of buttered toast, two eggs, and a cup of tea upon it.

    "There," he exclaimed, delighted to see that his presence and his bustling had already wrought a wonderful improvement, "who cares for Hewly?  I don't.  Let him come in here if he likes, and I'll tell him so to his face."

    "What made you think of Hewly?" asked Mr. Dreux.

    "I am too hungry to tell you just now," was the reply.

    "Because we have come to a final rupture," remarked Mr. Dreux, with the composure of complete weariness.  "I am no longer his curate.  He has aspersed my character, and he refuses to retract.  And, moreover, he has taken upon himself to advance the remaining £200 during my absence, and he demands immediate payment.  I thought things had reached a climax when I came in just now, but your cheerfulness and this bright fire which you have made, and this rest make me feel quite different again.  Well, you seem in very good spirits after your unsuccessful expedition."

    "Unsuccessful!" repeated Wilfred.  "Ah, well, never mind.  I wish you would begin to eat. I must put some more water in the teapot and boil some eggs.  Hewly"—

    "Don't let us talk of him," interrupted Mr. Dreux; "I am afraid of speaking uncharitably.  With regard to the success of your expedition,—of course I know that you would have told me at once if you had met with any."

    "We certainly set off on the most wild-goose chase that ever was heard of," replied young Greyson, cracking his second egg.  "But, never mind; after tea I will tell you everything."  As he spoke he produced from his pocket a small parcel, and, remarking that he always thought eggs were the better for a little cayenne-pepper, unfolded a pepperbox, the very counterpart of Mrs. Brown's mustard pot, and set it down on the little table.

    Mr. Dreux took it up, and gazed at Greyson in considerable bewilderment.  "Do you mean to say you have really and actually recovered the plate?" he asked, turning round the little article with intense interest.

    "Not exactly.  Didn't I go on purpose to recover the plate?  Why, then, should you be so much astonished at my bringing some of it?"

    "I never had the slightest idea that you would bring any of it back; I never entertained so wild an expectation for an instant.  That you might return without getting yourself into any serious scrape was the utmost I hoped for."

    Greyson laughed triumphantly, and declared that after tea he would explain all.  Mr. Dreux sat quietly in his nook on the sofa, noting his face; he began to think he must have some good news to communicate, especially as he would burst into a short involuntary laugh whenever he caught his eye, and became suddenly grave again, declaring that it was no laughing matter.

    At last he gave out that he had finished, rang the bell, snuffed the candles, put on two large pieces of coal, swept up the hearth, and ensconced himself in an arm-chair, with the poker in his hand and his feet on the fender.

    The landlady had cleared away tea, shut the door, and Mr. Dreux had looked at him for some time before he evinced any inclination to begin; his face had become serious, not to say sad, and he seemed lost in thought.  When he did speak, it was not at all to the purpose; he seemed still far from the matter in hand.

    "So Hewly has insulted you," he said.  "Well, the worse for him."

    "My dear Greyson, pray let us drop the subject of Hewly," urged Mr. Dreux.  "You seem anything but aware how completely I am in his power."

    "Completely in his power," repeated Greyson, in a musing tone, and then sunk into another silence, which Mr. Dreux broke by inquiring whether he meant to tell him anything at all that night.

    On hearing this, young Greyson roused himself, and, turning his ingenuous face towards him, said, "I only paused because I scarcely knew where to begin.  I have a great deal to tell you, but I was thinking, just then, how many changes there are in people's lives, and how sudden they are.  When you came in this evening you were miserable,—I know you were; before the end of it you will be so glad."

    "Go on," said his auditor, "I cannot understand you; but I fully believe what you say."

    "Then, if I am to tell you, you will promise not to interrupt me with questions?—you will hear me to the end?"

    "I will do my best," was the answer, while the listener changed his position and stretched all his faculties to discover what this might mean.

    Wilfred settled himself in the chair, and launched at once into his narrative: "The only real clue I had when I left this was given me by your landlady, who described to me most accurately the trunk in which the lodger carried away his goods; it was covered with calf-skin, she said, with the hair on, and it did not look as if it had been made by a regular trunk-maker, for it was shaped like a coffin.  She also described the lodger's person; that he was a small, spare, dark man, with black eyes; that he had lost the third finger of his right hand, and that he went away from hence by the Birmingham Railway.

    "Frank and I set off accordingly for Birmingham, with a policeman from here.  And we and the police at Birmingham searched in all the places where they bought old silver, to see if we could identify anything.  We inquired at the railway offices whether they had seen anything of such a trunk, but it was of no use,—of course they could remember nothing.  At last we were told that a person of the description we wanted had gone off to London two days before.  "We followed, not that we distinctly hoped to find him, but there was a curious kind of pleasure in the excitement of the chase.  To describe the dens we went into with the police and the characters we met with, would, I suppose, surprise even you.  I should think there are no such places anywhere but in London.  We spent nearly a week of fatigue; sometimes the police thought they had got a clue, and then they lost it again.  At last we got a summons to return to Birmingham, for they thought they had discovered the traces of a gang of thieves, some of whom they suspected were coiners.  They contrived to elude the police, but it was believed they were still in the town, and we were advised by the magistrates to put an advertisement in the papers, stating that some weeks ago a robbery had been committed at Westport, and describing the stolen goods, stating that it was supposed the thief was concealed in Birmingham.  They told us this was sure to be seen by the thieves, and that they would not dare to remain in the town, but would most likely try to get out by night.

    "Well, we had several weary nights, haunting the railway stations, but though two men were taken up and proved to belong to this gang of coiners, neither of them at all resembled the lodger.  After this we went about in all directions, wherever they told us there were people suspected of coining.  We got into gipsy camps; we searched the prisons.  We were both getting heartily weary of the affair.  We knew we had no chance; the police had told us so; for no man in his senses would keep plate about him when it could so easily be melted down, and that, once done, no acuteness could identify it.

    "Well, we decided to come home, and were within an hour of setting off.  We had actually gone to York, where, we were told, a man had been taken up with plate in his possession.  It all came to nothing.  We had left the hotel and reached the railway station, when a waiter came running after us with a letter,—it was from Marion.  I had written to her the day before, and given her my address.  She wrote to enclose a letter which had arrived for me at Swanstead, and to say that my Uncle Raeburn had got another, and desired that I would come to him immediately, for that it would be very little out of my way in going back to Birmingham."

    "Back to Birmingham," said Mr. Dreux, "what was that for?"

    "I could not tell till I had read the enclosed letter; it had been written at Swanstead, and stated that the writer was lodging there; that he had sent it to the parson to be directed to me; that he came from a poor dying wretch in Birmingham, who could tell me what I wanted to know, provided I would promise secrecy; that the writer would go with me to Birmingham, if I would go with such a person, or the parson might go instead.  Of course Frank and I started off at once for Swanstead. It was a most bitter night.  We had to do part of the journey by coach; and the consequence was, we were not there till twelve the next day.

    "Marion met us at the cross-roads in the carriage.  She told me my uncle had waited for me till ten, the last minute, and then, as I did not arrive, had gone on himself to Birmingham.

    "She knew I was in search of stolen property, and told me the informant had urged my uncle to go immediately, or he feared the man would not live till he reached him.

    "Unluckily, that morning he had disappeared from the village, taken fright probably.  So my uncle was left to find out the whereabouts in Birmingham this sick man might be, as well as he could.

    "Frank was so knocked up, and so ill with influenza, that as we were within five miles of his father's house, I advised his going home; we put him into the carriage at once; Marion came with me into the inn, and as the country was so blocked up with snow, I told Frank not to attempt to send back the carriage that night, but to keep it at his father's.

    "After I had had a hasty meal, it was time to start for the railway; but when we came to investigate matters, there was only one post chaise to be had.  Of course I did not like to leave Marion there alone, and I could not send her home without a chaise.  So, after less than five minutes' deliberation, we agreed that she should come on with me to Birmingham."

    "What, on that bitter day, and with no preparation!"

    "Don't look so shocked.  What could I do?  She was excessively uneasy about my uncle, and did not like the idea of his going into such places as the man had described; she was well covered up with furs and velvets, and seemed quite relieved at being with me; but though we had only fourteen miles to go, the snow was so deep that we were three hours on the road.

    "It was lucky indeed that she came, for at the station I discovered that Frank had got our purse with him, such a careless trick of us both!  Marion had money, only one sovereign and a few shillings, with her.  So I was obliged to take her in the second class; very cold the carriage was, and very dark for her; there was an oil lamp, by the bye, but it wouldn't burn; we had just enough money for the tickets.  Marion made light of the cold and everything else.  I know she was delighted at the thought of getting to my uncle, just as if she could do any good, you know! or keep him out of mischief.  She was quite warm and happy; so she said.  It was sixty miles to Birmingham; and of all the cold I ever experienced, I recollect nothing to compare to that night; it soon silenced us; the speed of the engine was very much impeded by the snow, and I began to be afraid we should be very late.  I was so tired with travelling, that I kept falling asleep, in spite of the cold.  We were quite alone, and Marion asked me to sit upon the floor, with my carpet-bag for a hassock, and lay my head on her knee.  I had her muff for a pillow, and was dreaming away at a great rate, when a tremendous jerk woke me; it was quite dark; we seemed tilted over.  I was on my knees, Marion was holding my head between her hands, and wrapping her furs round it, never thinking of herself.  I had not an instant to ask what the matter was, when, with an awful creaking crash, the carriage turned over on its side.  Marion cried out, but kept my head still, and held me tight.  Don't be alarmed, she was not hurt, not in the least.  I perceived instantly that we had stopped.  Marion was perfectly still.  I heard distant cries and groans; the snow gave us a little light, and I contrived to get the upper window open and drag Marion through to the roof, from which we scrambled somehow down to the ground, and found that four carriages, with ours, and a coal platform had broken away from the rest; the train had run off the line, and stopped half the field from us.  There were four houses in the field; some of the inhabitants were already out, they seized us with frantic haste and hurried us indoors.  It snowed so fast that we could not see the state of the train; but in our carriages not one person was much hurt; no bones were broken.

    "Though the thing was so alarming and strange, I could hardly help laughing at the behaviour of these people; they crowded about Marion and the other females, and the women kissed and hugged them; oh, it was so droll!  They were not exactly poor people, for they soon produced eatables and drinkables in abundance; and there was such a frying of bacon, drawing of beer, and toasting of cheese! they seemed to think we must all be famished.

    "A great motherly woman stood over Marion, turning up her sleeves to see if her arms were bruised; she warmed her at the fire, and tried to bend her bonnet into something like shape.  Marion behaved pretty well; she cried a little, of course; the woman wanted to make her eat, but she could not.  She looked blue and almost frozen.  In the meantime some men came in from the train; most providentially, not one life was lost.  A pen of sheep had been overturned, and most of them killed; and a high bank stopped the engine before any further mischief was done.

    "They said there was a farm about half a mile off, where we could get a gig; we were only ten miles from Birmingham.  I wished to stay the night, that Marion might rest and recover from her fright a little; but she thought of my uncle,—she was sure he would expect me by this train, and hear of the accident by telegraph before we could arrive.  I agreed to go on.  I had not a shilling, but I said I should drive the gig back myself the next day.  Not a word was said about payment; the women wrapped Marion in a rough, thick shawl, and we set out.  Women seldom think of themselves in these cases: Marion braved the east wind and the snow extremely well.  It was a good thing they lent her that shawl, else I think she would have been nearly frozen.  It seemed a very long ten miles, however we reached Birmingham at last.  I drove straight to the station, and, as I expected, there stood Mr. Raeburn waiting for me; for he had got news of the accident, and was anxiously hoping I might not be coming till the next train.  I flourished the whip and called out to him;—how relieved he seemed when he saw me! but when he beheld Marion sitting beside me, I shall never forget his face—yours is nothing to it.  How hard you are upon me, I couldn't help it."

    "No, I am quite aware of that, my dear fellow."

    "Then don't look so uneasy, I told you she was none the worse.  Well, he took us to the hotel.  It was midnight.  He shook the snow from us, hugged us both, and cried in the corner while we ate a most excellent supper, for I can tell you we both did that.  After that Marion began to cry.  Here I made a speech to prove that I had done the best I could, and she said it was all her doing, coming in that way, and she hoped he would not be angry.  Well, then we all went to bed.

    "I know I'm spoiling this story in the telling, anybody else would have made a capital thing of it!  Well, the next day my uncle told me the history of his search for the supposed poor dying man, which was in fact the history of his defeat.  He had had a toilsome day, and no likelihood of accomplishing anything.  The only thing he had to guide him was, that this man was said to have been very much injured in a fire, and that he was lying in a lodging-house.  He had been to numbers of lodging-houses, and had seen a great deal of misery.  He had only asked for the sick inmates; at some they had none, at others he went in and saw the sick, but perceived at once that they did not answer the description he wanted.  They saw that he was a clergyman, and took for granted he came to visit them as such; so he did not choose to leave them without reading and praying with them.

    "After breakfast it snowed heavily, but we went out together, leaving Marion, who was only a little tired, lying on the sofa by the fire.

    "We went to all kinds of places without the least success, and came in after twelve o'clock, quite tired.  Marion then told us that an hour ago a woman had called and begged to speak with the clergyman who was staying there, that the waiter had at first refused to come up with her request, but she was so urgent that at last he did, 'and as you were not within,' Marion said to my uncle, 'I went down to speak to her.  She told me she came from a woman whom the parson had visited the day before, that she wanted to see him again to pray with her, and hoped he would come for the love of God.  The woman said the poor creature could not live through the night, and had begged so earnestly to see the parson again, that she had agreed to bring this message.  I told her that when you returned you should hear of it, and that I had no doubt you would come and see her.  She then went away, thanking me most gratefully.'

    "Marion gave us the address, and my uncle set off directly, for he said he could at least visit the sick, though his first object in coming was thwarted.  I thought I should like to go with him.  The lodging-house was not far off,—we easily found it, and there was a person outside evidently waiting for us.  She begged my uncle would go directly to the dying woman, for she quite raved after him.  He would not let me go up stairs with him, and while I sat below, doing nothing, I asked the woman if she had any other sick lodgers.

    "She looked rather queerly at me, but after a cautious pause, during which she seemed to be scrutinizing my appearance, she said, 'Yes, she had, but he was a poor wretched object, not fit for a gentleman like me to see.'  But I got up at once, and said I should like to see him, if she had no objection.

    "So she took me out of doors into a broken-down open shop, and up a ladder, into the most wretched, dirty loft I ever beheld, with a hole in the roof, through which the snow was drifting on to the floor, and there, his face disfigured with patches of linen, lay, covered with rags, and feeble and stretched upon straw, not the man I had come to seek, but the schoolmaster, Thomas Dickson!"

    He paused here, and remained silent several moments.  His auditor was too much surprised to say anything.  He went on, fixing his eyes on the fire, and speaking in a deeply thoughtful tone.

    "I have been too happy in the world.  I have not sufficiently considered the misery there is in it; and when I have thought of crime it has been too distinct from its fearful punishment even in this world.  One side of his face was dreadfully burnt, his limbs were maimed, he seemed wasted to a shadow, and had nothing but a can of water standing by his straw.

    "The woman left me with him, and as he could not turn, it was only when I came close that he recognised me.

    "He did not seem startled or ashamed,—he was past that; he only said, in a hollow voice, 'You have been a long time coming, Sir; I was afraid you would be too late.'

    "I asked him if it was he who had sent for me.  He said it was,—that he wished to make what reparation he could before he died.

    "And then he told me a long story of all his guilt and misery.  I cannot tell you the whole of it to-night, but it seemed to make me older as I listened, and I shall never forget the wretchedness it unfolded to my dying day.

    "What he told me was in substance this: that he did steal that money, intending to carry it off, and go abroad—that he had an accomplice, a man more wicked than himself—that this man was the lodger—that after he had committed the robbery this man harboured him here, in this house, for the night—that he went early in the morning to a lonely place with him, for as he had threatened to betray him, there was nothing for him but to divide the spoil with him.

    "In the grey morning twilight they went down into that open gravel pit on the London road to effect the division, and there the lodger proved the falsehood of that proverb that there is 'honour among thieves,' for he knocked Thomas Dickson down, and while he lay stunned and bleeding, he robbed him of the whole of the money, took his coat and watch from him, and when he recovered his senses, was nowhere to be seen.

    "He was now miserable and destitute—all the fruits of his wickedness had been taken from him—he could not return to his situation.  His character being gone, he told me he did not care what became of him, but went to Birmingham, where he got connected with a gang of coiners, and soon sunk into the deepest destitution and misery.  At last, one day he met his former companion in the streets, and instantly threatened to give him up to the police if he tried to get away from him.

    "The lodger, finding himself powerless, suffered himself to be followed to a stable, where he slept.  He then declared that the notes he had stolen were worse than valueless to him, for their numbers were posted up at all the banks, so that he dare not attempt to change them, but that if Dickson would help him to dispose of a quantity of old silver which he had on his hands, they would make up their quarrel, and do the best they could for each other.

    "Dickson told me that that night they set to work to knock the diamonds and pearls out of the old boxes and quaint old models of monuments.  They collected them in a little leather bag, and then broke up some of the silver and melted it down.  His heart smote him, for he saw whose they were, but he dared not remonstrate.  They worked hard, and in two nights they had melted nearly all the plate, or crushed and defaced it.

    "The next day, he says, the lodger met me and Frank in the street, recognised us, and found means to ascertain our errand.  He came back, and that night they together buried the notes, the jewels, and the remainder of the silver,—for some they had contrived to sell.  They came home in the middle of the night, and laid down in the straw of their stable.  They had struck a light, and he supposes a spark fell and smouldered among the boards, for shortly they were roused by a great light.  They had made the door so secure that they could not undo it in a hurry.  The lodger climbed out at one window, but before Dickson could rush to the other, a heap of straw took fire, and he was bathed in the flames.  To use his own fearful expression, he crawled out of that stable blind and 'half roasted.'

    "He told me that the lodger was unhurt, and that he conveyed him to that wretched house where I found him—that two days after he was taken up for breaking into some outhouse.  The sessions were just at hand, and he was tried and sentenced to seven years' transportation.

    "But when this poor, miserable Dickson found that he never could recover from his injuries, he wished to restore as much as he could of the stolen property, that, as he told me, he might not die with that sin on his conscience.

    "When I looked at the poor dying creature, lying on that wretched bed, the snow drifting in about him, and nothing but some cold water to wet his parched lips, and when I reflected on all he had lost, and what he had got in return, I thought how true it was that 'the wages of sin are hard.'"

    When Wilfred added that he had expressed a hope that his late patron would forgive him, and had said that without that he could not die in peace, Mr. Dreux started up, and declared that he would go himself to Birmingham, rather than Dickson should not be satisfied.

    Wilfred did not wish that evening to damp his spirits by telling him that a few hours after that confession the poor man had died.  "Sit down," he said, "I have not done yet.  He told me, as well as his weakness would permit, the place where they had buried their spoil; it was in a barren field close to the railway; there, he said, we should see two poplar-trees, and we must walk, coming from the town, until the one trunk was hidden behind the other; that fifty paces from the nearest tree we should find the box in which they had buried the silver, and a tin case containing the notes, not one of which they had been able to change, so, as he had drawn only £25 from the bank in gold, there was only that sum deficient.  That very evening Mr. Raeburn and I, with a policeman, went to the spot, and two feet below the surface we found the box, and the tin case within it.  The whole thing seemed so unlikely, so unreal, that I felt as if it must needs be a dream, I had so completely given up all idea that the original £400 would ever be recovered; however, here it is, as good as ever, and I wish you joy."

    It would be impossible to describe the gratitude with which the pile of notes was received.  Here was a most unexpected relief from the pressure of real pecuniary difficulty. Mr. Dreux, a few months before, could scarcely have credited that any amount of worldly possessions would have caused him such heartfelt joy and ease of mind.  Now he looked upon the recovered money with a joy beyond what even his pupil could have hoped.  He counted out £175, and handed over the rest to young Greyson.

    "This two hundred is yours," he said.

    "Mine," repeated young Greyson, "what do you mean?"

    Mr. Dreux replied by thanking him, in the most grateful and affectionate terms, for what he had done, told him how relieved he felt on the very next morning to be able to pay Hewly what he had advanced; and then, reminding him that the plate was ruined, and most of the jewels gone, entreated that he would not pain him by refusing to take the money back again.

    "I never tried to lay you under the slightest obligation," replied his pupil; "then why should you try to do it to ME?"

    "Never laid me under the slightest obligation!" exclaimed Mr. Dreux.  "You astonish me beyond measure!  I am more indebted to you than to any person living.  What can you mean, Greyson?"

    "Oh, I meant pecuniary obligation; if you like to feel obliged to me for finding out where this money was, I do not mind.  On the whole, though, I must say I rather enjoyed most of my adventures."

    "Well, I see it is of no use talking to you; your notions of what constitutes obligation are, above all things in the world, extraordinary."

    Greyson laughed, and said, "I was perfectly aware that you would try to cheat me into taking that money, so I propose that we lay the whole matter before an umpire, to be approved by both parties, and that we promise to abide by his decision."

    Mr. Dreux agreed, and Greyson then began to question him about Hewly's conduct, especially as regarded his hints to the almshouse pensioners.  If his host had not been unusually pleased, and tired withal, he might have observed a peculiar bearing in these questions, which revealed something more than common curiosity.  As it was, he stretched his long limbs on the sofa, told everything his pupil chose to ask, and, too much occupied with his returning good fortune to see anything strange in the request, acceded at once, when Greyson asked if he might go with him the next day when he paid over the £200 to Hewly.

    "Certainly you shall, always provided that you will promise not to be rude to Hewly."

    "Rude!" repeated Wilfred, as if quite shocked, "I should not think of being so mean."

    "You were not rude, then, the other night, when he called here,—Eh?"

    "Oh, well, I was rather, but I never meant to be again.  What an ass he was to be rude to you to-day!"

    "I suppose the diamond ring is gone?"

    "That is the best part of the story.  They had pawned it for a mere trifle,—not a sovereign; only imagine their ignorance.  We may yet recover it; but when we went to the pawn-shop, of course it was not to be found."

    "Have you got the silver?"

    "No, it was all nothing but a mass of ore, excepting that pepper-box and a little model, not so big as a snuff-box, of your dear ancestor, Sir Gualtier de Dreux,—his tomb I mean,—and when Marion saw it, she said she should like to have it."

    "What did your sister want with it?"

    "Oh, I don't know; do you?"

    "How can you be so absurd?  Of course not."

    "I now remember Marion gave me some elaborate reasons why she wished to have it; the original is in Swanstead church.  I think she wanted it, she said, because the real old fellow was opposite our pew.  I remember she was afraid to sit opposite him when we were children, he looked so stern and so grim.  She also said it was an interesting little work of art, and several other reasons she gave; I forget them.  However, I gave the thing to her. It's very odd how family likeness descends; he is something like you, I declare."

    "Nonsense; am I, then, so stern and grim that a child would be afraid of me?"

    "I can't tell how you would look in chain armour.  I asked Marion if she did not see the likeness."

    "I wish, I do wish you would not talk in this strain," thought his auditor.  "I am sure if you knew, you would be the last person to do it."

    "So you have nothing left but the pepper-box, Greyson?"

    "Yes, I've got old Gualtier, after all.  Marion altered her mind, and wouldn't have him.  He's the image of you,—she may say what she likes to the contrary.  Here he is."

    "Your pockets are capacious.  How bright he looks!" remarked his descendant.

    "Yes; we cleaned him up with plate-powder."

    "We?"

    "Yes, Marion and I; we had nothing to do in the evening.  I think it's a beautiful thing,—a great pity little M. wouldn't have it.  I always thought that hound, crouching with its head on his breast, and looking so earnestly in his master's face, had something peculiarly touching about it.  How well I remember our asking Mr. Raeburn, when we were very little children, to lift us up to stroke that dog, and feel how cold the knight's forehead was!"

    "Well, Greyson, shall we have supper?"

    The pupil willingly consented.  The tutor, at his request, ordered oysters and bread and butter for that repast, that, as he said, they might finish the evening in a convivial style befitting the occasion.

    "Now, about this umpire?" asked Mr. Dreux.  "I have been thinking, Greyson, that, if I may draw up the statement, you shall choose to whom it shall be submitted."

    "Agreed.  And I name Mr. Raeburn.  Let us call ourselves Smith and Jones,—I am Smith."

    "Very well.  Then the statement begins:—'I, Jones, sold goods to Smith, for which I received £200."

    "No; it begins before that.  It begins:—'The sum of £400 was stolen from Jones; in consequence of which he sold goods to Smith for which he received £200."

    "Well, be it so, if you please.  I will draw it up to-night, and to-morrow, at ten, let us go to Hewly and pay down the money.  I shall be very happy, my dear fellow, to have it off my mind."

    "I do not care how soon we go," returned Wilfred.  "So Hewly refuses to apologize, does he?  Ah! well, we shall see."

    Mr. Dreux smiled, and said, "You are very much mistaken if you think the mere proof of his being wrong as to my ability to return the money, will make him do so."

    "I think no such thing," replied the pupil.  "Good night; I will be here by ten."

    Punctual to the moment young Greyson arrived the next morning, and found Mr. Dreux wonderfully improved by ease of mind and rest.  He had got a letter from Elinor's maid, reporting good progress; and showed Wilfred the statement he had drawn up for the umpire, which the latter thought very fair.

    They arrived at Mr. Hewly's house, and were shown into his study.  He did not keep them waiting many minutes, and gave Wilfred a peculiarly sinister look when he saw him, for he thought he was come to try to accommodate matters.

    He was obviously surprised when Mr. Dreux handed over the notes, and the more so as he observed that the numbers were the same as those of the stolen ones.

    "My friend, Greyson, wishes to give you a short account of how he became possessed of these notes," Mr. Dreux said, turning to Wilfred, who now looked excited and ill at ease.

    "As you please," returned Mr. Hewly, with his most unpleasant expression.  "Then perhaps he will make haste and begin, for my time is precious."

    "However precious it may be," replied Wilfred, "it will be as well to spare enough to hear what I have to say.  You have heard nothing so important, Mr. Hewly, for a long time."

    Dreux and Hewly both looked at him with unfeigned surprise; the latter, with a supercilious smile, requested him to proceed.

    "I am ready," said Wilfred.  Yet he paused and hesitated, with an embarrassment which was not usual with him, and which fixed the attention of both gentlemen, who involuntarily glanced at each other.

    "I believe, Mr. Hewly," he at length said,—"I believe your parents are not in the rank of life which you—you occupy yourself"—

    "My parents," interrupted Hewly, "what do you bring up that for, Sir?  My father was as worthy a man as yours could have been, Sir."

    "I have no doubt of it, Sir," proceeded Wilfred, in a tone of apology; "and, in most families, some members rise and others sink."

    "Well, Sir, to the point," said Hewly, testily; "I have heard enough of my parentage."

    Wilfred then began to give an account of how he had discovered the poor, miserable schoolmaster, and repeated his statements as to how he, in his turn, had been robbed by another man, who afterwards, to complete his crimes, stole a quantity of valuable plate from the house where he lodged.

    "Indeed!" replied Mr. Hewly, indifferently, not to say insolently.

    "That man, Sir, lodged in the same house with Mr. Dreux," remarked Wilfred.  "It was then that he stole the plate."

    Mr. Dreux, at this point of Greyson's narrative, observed that Hewly turned very pale.

    "He afterwards met with Thomas Dickson, the man whom he had robbed of his ill-gotten gain, and the two together melted down a great part of this plate, but the notes they dared not change.  This man, of whom I spoke, became connected with a gang of coiners, and was suspected, while with them, of having committed murder; but they pursued their own wretched system of morals, and did not give him up to justice.  In a few weeks he was taken by the police in the act of forcing open a door; he was brought to trial, convicted, and I saw him in jail.  He sails for Australia this very day."

    Mr. Hewly's face had become deadly pale, and the cold perspiration stood upon his forehead.  The sinister expression was then in greater force than ever, but with it enough of terror to excite the pity of both his companions; and Greyson went on more gravely than before.

    "I saw the man in jail; he was hardened and profane.  He is a small, dark man, and he has lost the third finger of his right hand."

    "Merciful heaven!" said Hewly, faintly, and shrinking back in his chair.

    "Do you wish to hear his name?" proceeded Greyson.  "The schoolmaster told me his real name; it was known in this part of the country to him only.  He died in whispering it to me; and he told me that the wretched convict came of respectable and honest parents, but that he had always shown himself a reprobate.  Hitherto I have divulged the name to no one.  I returned to this place intending to keep it a secret for ever, but I have altered my mind, and must tell it now in the presence of Mr. Dreux.  This wretched man, who had been lingering about Westport, tormenting you for money to bribe him away,—this double thief, whom suspected murder has not brought to the gallows, because his house-breaking was discovered first,—this coiner, and now convict, whose crime has enabled you to—to—yes, I must and will say it—to oppress a better man than yourself, cannot now be named even without reflecting some of his disgrace upon yourself, for he is your brother —Michael Hewly."

    With a cry, between terror and pain, Mr. Hewly covered his face with his hands.  He had always shown a nervous sensibility about his low origin, and a great dislike to having it known; and now the disgrace of his brother, no less than some struggling remains of natural affection, battled for the mastery, and made him truly a spectacle for pity.

    Mr. Dreux's consternation at this denouement was too great to admit of his saying anything.

    Greyson paused till Hewly removed his white, trembling hands from his face, and looked forlornly at him. Then he proceeded: "I hope you believe, Mr. Hewly, that I did not give you this pain with any mean wish to revenge Mr. Dreux upon you, or merely to let him see that all these difficulties have been brought upon him by a member of your family, but I acknowledge that I have an end in view."

    "Greyson," interrupted Mr. Dreux, "I had rather—I wish you not to bring me into this affair."

    Greyson looked at him, but went on addressing Hewly:—

    "You will please to observe that this man was tried under a feigned name, and there is every reason to think no living persons know his real one but myself and Mr. Dreux.  I do not know what use he may choose to make of his knowledge,—knowledge which I was determined he, should possess, not that he was likely to revenge himself, but that he might have full opportunity to do so if he chose,—as for me, my silence is only to be bought in exchange for something which I have already fixed in my own mind."

    What Hewly might have done, or to what depths of submission he might have condescended in the confusion of his thoughts, it is impossible to say, if he had not been arrested by the voice of his late curate, who said, deliberately: "Mr. Hewly, I give you my unconditional promise that, God helping me, I will never divulge what I have just heard to any living person."

    He received a look in reply which expressed both shame and gratitude.  Then the unhappy man turned anxiously to Wilfred; he was a mere boy to them, but they both looked at him with something like entreaty, for Hewly felt as if everything worth living for was at stake, and Dreux felt keenly that but for his sake this punishment would never have been inflicted; he could not but think there was something of unsparing hardness in the way in which the thing had been done, and yet he knew that he ought not to interfere, for nothing could be so galling to Hewly as that Wilfred should promise silence at his request, which was what he believed matters were tending to.

    Greyson preserved a dogged silence for some minutes, in spite of the restless agitation of Hewly.  At length he said,—"Mr. Hewly" (and he threw an accent almost of respect into his voice)—"Mr. Hewly, in looking back upon our past intercourse, I find that throughout I have not treated you as I could wish.  I regret it the more, because I can now make no difference on this account in the conditions on which I will promise silence—utter, complete silence.  I shall only insist upon one thing,—one which seems to me an absolute duty; and I most solemnly promise silence on that condition, and on that only."

    "Name your condition, then, at once," said Hewly; "there is nothing I will not do—no, nothing."

    "My condition is, that you shall make a written apology to Mr. Dreux for the expressions you have used concerning him, which apology shall be dictated by me, and shown to the people in the almshouses."

    The start of horror and indignation with which this proposal was received did not seem in the least to disconcert Wilfred.

    "Greyson," exclaimed Mr. Dreux, much agitated, "I do not desire it.  I beg as a favour to myself that you will dispense with it.  If Hewly will apologize to me in private I shall be quite content."

    "If the people have not believed Mr. Hewly's insinuations respecting you," remarked Wilfred, "his admitting them to be false will not lower their opinion of him; but if they have believed them, then it is necessary that you should be righted."

    "But leave the thing to me, Greyson.  Will you leave it in my hands?  Consider,—a written apology,—what man could"—

    Hewly hoped.  But he saw the pupil turn to the master, and give him a look of such calm, steady denial, that the latter was fain to bite his lips and look out of the window to hide his surprise and annoyance.  He then looked at Hewly, and said, "Well, Sir, you have heard me."

    "And I should be glad to know what I have done to make an apology necessary," replied Hewly, with his most unpleasant expression.

    "I do not refer to what you have actually asserted," replied Greyson; "but I went to the almshouses this morning, and I found a very bad opinion prevailed there concerning Mr. Dreux,—one quite derogatory to him as a clergyman and a gentleman.  I was referred to you to know whether he did not deserve it.  A slight hint, a gesture even, an insidious doubt, or an ill-timed application of some common-place proverb, may be at the root of all the preposterous tales now current respecting him, but I know the mischief is done, and that you have been the doer."

    "I will write an apology," said Hewly, looking daggers at his late curate, who rose and walked to the window.  "I must, I suppose, as I am entirely at your mercy.  But the injustice of the thing must be glaringly apparent even to you, when the very man who is to receive it admits that it is not required."

    "No other man would," replied Greyson.  "The apology must be written, or I take my leave."

    "You are in a needless hurry," said Hewly, hastily; "I have said once that I would write an apology."

    "You remember that it is to be at my dictation," said Greyson.

    Mr. Hewly actually writhed in his chair.  But what was the alternative?  He took up a pen, and, with strong sensations of shame and disgust, wrote down as follows:—


"I, Brigson Hewly, Vicar of this parish, hereby declare that I believe the Rev. Arthur Cecil Dreux to be in all respects an upright and honourable man; I also declare that I never had any reason to think otherwise; and I hereby apologize to the said Rev. A. C. Dreux for having given cause to others to suppose that I did.

(Signed) "Brigson Hewly."


    "There," said Hewly, now giving way to his temper, and tossing the paper over to Greyson, "I have paid dearer for your paltry promise than it was worth.  Now I shall be glad to have it."

    "Certainly," replied Greyson.  "I do hereby solemnly"

    "You will please to swear," said Hewly, drawing a Testament towards him.

    Greyson complied.

    "And now, gentlemen," said Hewly, rising, and quivering with passion, "there is the door;—the sooner you go the better.  Go, and make the most of your mean-spirited revenge."

    The sneer with which he accompanied these words was quite electrifying.

    Greyson folded up the piece of paper, and left the house with Mr. Dreux.  He did not wish for a tête-à-tête conversation with him, and was thinking how best to break the silence, and take his leave, when Dreux stopped him just as they reached the garden-door of his late house, and holding out his hand, by way of thanks, said,—

    "But after all, Greyson, if you had failed to get that apology"—.

    "I would still have held my tongue.  Was that what you were going to ask?  Of course I would."

    "And what are you going to do with the paper?"

    "It is mine."

    "Yes, I know that.  But be merciful, Greyson."

    "Because I see that you really wish it, I will.  I will take the trouble of carrying it round myself to the almshouse people, and they shall see it, but I will not make even so much as one copy for distribution.  Surely that is kindness to him, and less than that would not be justice to you.  Why do you smile?—I know what you are thinking."

    "Indeed, you do not."

    "Yes, you were thinking how odd it was that a youth like me should have such important matters to arrange."

    "You are telling me your own thoughts, not mine, for you are a friend and counsellor to me.  I have nearly lost sight of the fact that you are a mere boy and my pupil.  By the bye, how did Mrs. Brown get my mustard-pot?"

    "Bought it of a pedlar, to whom the thief must have sold it that same day."


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXIII.

THE VESTRY AND THE CLIFF.


AND now the gossips of Westport were destined to have their hearts cheered with a little news.  Various versions of the apology got about the town; then it was rumoured that Mr. Dreux was going to leave, and had given up his curacy, though not his lectureship; also it was a known fact that Mr. Hewly was gone out for a month; finally, it was observed that old Ferguson looked very glum, and that his daughter seemed very much out of spirits.

    Mr. Dreux soon began to feel the good effects of the apology.  All his friends called on him, and all expressed their sorrow at his leaving a place "where he was so much respected."  He was very well pleased to hear them say so, but was too busy to go out much into society.  However, he found time to write to Greyson, to beg him to come and dine with him at his lodgings; and as the note contained a pen and ink illustration, representing a young gentleman playing on a flute, he understood thereby that he was to bring that instrument with him, which he accordingly did, and found his host in excellent spirits, and looking quite well.

    "In the first place, how is Miss Dreux?" asked Greyson.

    "I have a letter to say she is steadily improving, and is to go to the Isle of Wight in a week."

    "And I have got a letter from the umpire, which I will read after dinner."

    Nothing could be said till the servant had cleared away the dinner equipage and withdrawn.  Greyson then produced Mr. Raeburn's letter, and read it aloud:—


        "DEAR WILFRED,—

    "I have received your letter, containing the complicated statement of the transactions between Smith and Jones.  I fully understand that you do not wish to consider what the law would decide on this matter (as on that head there can be no doubt), but you merely wish for the opinion of a third party as to what is equitable, so that neither may feel himself laid under an obligation, or that he has taken an unfair advantage of the other.

    "I shall state the case, in order that my opinion may be plainer.

    "It appears, that in consequence of the loss of the original £400, Jones sold Smith £200 worth of silver plate, and this silver, after the money was paid over for it and the receipt given, was stolen.

    "But it appears that Smith, setting out in search of his silver, finds the original £400, which he returns to Jones, who then considers that Smith has a right to be indemnified for the loss of his silver, and wishes to share the £400 with him.  Smith, on the other hand, declines.

    "Now it is certain, that in returning the £400, Smith only did his duty; but Jones, in requiring him to accept £200, desires to do him a favour, because he is of opinion that it was hard upon him that he should have enjoyed the property he had purchased for so short a time; for if it had not been stolen for a couple of years after Smith bought it, Jones would never have thought of repaying him.

    "My opinion is this,—that the £200 should not be accepted by Smith, he having no right to it; but that, as he spent a large sum of money in searching for his silver, which search led to the discovery of the £400, he shall receive from Jones the whole of his travelling expenses, and, if his time was of value, Jones may indemnify him for that loss also.

    "This, my dear boy, is the best conclusion I can come to.  You will observe, that Smith has no right to his travelling expenses, but he, having done Jones a benefit, may fairly accept one in return.


"Your sister sends her love to you.

               "Your affectionate uncle," &c.


    "There," said Greyson, when he had finished it, "I think, on the whole, that it is a very fair decision."

    "I have promised to abide by it, and I will," was the reply; "but it gives me greatly the advantage."

    "Here is the packet of notes," said Greyson, producing a parcel from his pocket, "and you are to pay my travelling expenses.  Do you see that my uncle has put notes of admiration after the remark about Smith's time, and its possible value?  Of course he knows quite well who Smith and Jones are."

    And now that this affair was settled, the other arrangements were easily made.  The late Curate of Pelham's Church, alias St. Plum's, found himself out of debt and free from his engagement with Hewly, while the possession of the rest of the recovered sum made it needless for him to accept any curacy without deliberation.

    "Have you heard that Mr. Hewly is in treaty with a clergyman in Kent to exchange livings with him?" asked Greyson.  "I believe he thinks St. Plum's will hardly do for him after that apology."

    Mr. Dreux could not but acquiesce in the propriety of the step, and Greyson went on,—

    "I really am sorry for Hewly; for my aunt Ferguson says Helen was so astonished, so horrified, when she heard of it, that it seems impossible she can ever get over it and like him again; and yet, you know, Mr. Dreux, I took all imaginable pains not to put a word in which was not absolutely necessary to make it an apology at all.  I did not say 'humble apology,' or anything of the kind, for, in fact, I was afraid he might turn restive, and I should not get it at all; and if he had refused, and trusted to my generosity, I could not but have held my tongue."

    The rest of the evening was spent in giving and receiving the lesson, and for several days after this Mr. Dreux was unceasingly occupied in going about taking leave of his old parishioners.  He had made up his mind to spend two or three months in travelling for one of the great Evangelical Societies.  The tour marked out for him would occupy three months, and as public speaking was no trouble to him, he believed he should find this engagement a positive relaxation, and find a relief from his regret at leaving his people, in the change and bustle of travelling.

    Accordingly he preached his farewell sermon, took leave of his old pensioners, and set off one chilly morning at the end of March.  It was six o'clock in the grey of the morning, and as he had kept the time of his departure a secret, there was no one at the railway office to see him off but young Greyson, from whom he was very sorry to part for more reasons than one.

    The same day that he thus quietly withdrew from the scene of his labours and usefulness Mr. Hewly returned, but he did not appear in public; he had effected the exchange of his living, and he now advertised his furniture, paid his bills, and left the town to return no more.

    In the meantime his late curate recovered all his wonted health, strength, and energy in the variety afforded by travelling and the pleasurable excitement of public speaking.

    So passed the whole of April.  It was an early spring, and the country grew more beautiful day by day.  He travelled west and south, through South Wales, Dorsetshire, and Devonshire, till, on the 1st of May, he reached a small town in the wildest part of Cornwall, standing close to the sea cliffs.  The trees were in full leaf and the day was almost sultry.  He walked through the gaunt old-fashioned street to the vicar's house, and to his disappointment heard that the vicar was ill, but that the officiating clergyman could no doubt assist him, though he could not be spoken with at present, for the bells were already ringing for the Wednesday evening service.  "But if Mr. Dreux would go down to the church," the vicar's wife said, "he would no doubt see him after the service, and hear what arrangements he had made for the meeting."

    It was a glorious evening, hot as midsummer, but the east was already beginning to turn ruddy.  There was a high steep hill rising directly behind the church.  It looked wild and bushy, and it flung back the sound of the bells with such a strong echo as seemed to fill to overflowing the narrow valley in which the town stood.

    The streets were very quiet, and the old-fashioned casements were full of flowering plants.  He easily followed the sound of the bells, and found the church,—a fine old building, with a tapering spire, and windows glowing with the sunset red, but the ringing of bells was over, and the service had already begun.

    As the sound of the reader's voice fell upon his ears, he stood for an instant doubting the evidence of his senses.  He went up the side aisle and was shown into a pew, then turned to make conviction still more certain.  The reader stood with his face full towards him—it was Allerton!

    Yes, assuredly it was Allerton.  As he read, the familiar tones of his voice struck with mingled pain and pleasure upon the senses of his sometime friend.  The heart is very quick at divining the hidden history of those whom it loves.  As he listened he perceived some unwonted cadences.  There was a change, and who could tell what sorrow and pain had caused it, or whether it might not be referable to the disappointment he had suffered when they parted?

    As he went on listening, the change became more perceptible.  There was an earnestness of gravity and feeling not usual before.  It was extremely touching to him to fancy, as he could not help doing, that this man who had taken such pains to hide from him had yet found no new friends to heal the pain of his rejected affection.  He little thought who was listening, and he took no pains to conceal the altered expression of his face.  He went through the prayers with grave simplicity, and ascended the pulpit.  He was now still more distinctly seen, for the church had been lighted; but his late friend was sheltered in the deep shadow of a pillar, and was in no danger of being recognised.

    He gave out his text,—"For old things have passed away, all things are become new."

    A singular text for him to have chosen, his auditor thought; but as he went on and opened out his subject, a strange bewildering feeling came over and nearly overwhelmed him.  It seemed as if this scene and all other things, nay, even existence itself, might be a dream and a mistake,—for with far more power and more emotion than he had been wont to exhibit before, he brought forward his opinions and unfolded the scheme of salvation according to the principles which he had once despised.

    The sermon went on; the first impression had been correct; there was nothing which left room for a moment's doubt.  Allerton was preaching to a small audience and from notes; he hesitated now and then, perhaps less from want of words than from the newness of the matters which he was bringing forward,—new to him,—but said without compromise, and evidently from heartfelt experience.

    The hidden listener sat still in the shadow, and thanked God; but an irrepressible pang of regret shot through his heart as he wondered what could be the feeling which made him still hold himself aloof when, as it seemed, they should be far more to each other than ever they had been before, and when he ought no longer to resent what his sometime friend had done.

    This excitement was almost too much to be borne, but still the thrilling voice went on, and now he wondered how they were to meet, and what must be done.  It was evident that Allerton had been there some time, and that he was not setting forth anything different to his ordinary teaching.  With what motive, then, or with what feelings did he still conceal himself from his best friend?  But this question could not be answered, and the sermon was over before he had come to any determination as to how he should present himself.

    He went out of the church with the rest of the congregation, and passed down the dusky street.  It was strangely painful to him that Allerton should have made no effort to regain his friendship.  He had got nearly as far as the inn where he intended to sleep when the desire to see and speak with him came back so strongly, that he turned at once and retraced his steps to the church, hoping to find it not yet closed, and to gain some information as to his residence.

    He ran up the stone steps.  The pew-opener, a woman, had just put out the lights, and the church looked dark and large as he glanced down the ranges of pillars.

    "Did you wish to see the monuments, Sir?" said the woman.

    He explained his object, and she told him Mr. Allerton would soon return, for he was only gone to see a sick woman, and had ordered the light to be left burning for him in the vestry.  She further volunteered the information that he often made a study of the vestry, for that their vicar (who was ill, poor gentleman, and had been all the winter) kept his books there.  She took him into the vestry, talking all the time.

    "Mr. Allerton was gone out at that door," she said, "and would not be long."  In fact, the vestry door leading out into the wild rising ground before mentioned stood wide open.  There was a square of carpet on the vestry floor, an old-fashioned sofa, and some high-backed chairs, together with a closet door standing ajar, where might be seen clerical vestments hanging against the wall.

    "If you wish to see Mr. Allerton, Sir," said the woman, "perhaps you won't mind waiting here?  He is sure to return."

    "Not at all.  I need not detain you.  I will wait alone."

    "Yes, Sir.  Only, you see, I must lock you in, Sir."

    "Indeed!"

    "Yes, Sir; for Mr. Allerton has a key to let himself in by.

    "Well, if you are quite sure Mr. Allerton will return "—

    "Oh, no fear, Sir.  Mr. Allerton can't get home without going through the church;" and so saying, the pew-opener set him a chair, made him a curtsey, and withdrew along the dark aisle, locking the doors behind her.

    He waited so long that he really began to fear there must be some mistake, and that Allerton would not return at all that night.  With this fancy strong upon him, and not relishing the ridiculous position he should be in if left there all night, he went hastily down the aisle to try the strength of the great lock.  Of course he could no more stir it than he could fly; but he had scarcely tried when he heard the vestry door hastily opened and rapid steps crossing the floor.  There was all the length of the church between them, and before he had taken many paces toward him Allerton had flung open the closet door, taken out a decanter of wine, and left the place as quickly as he came in, leaving the door open behind him.  He seemed in urgent haste, and never turned round, or he must have seen the figure entering the moment after he left the vestry.  Dreux hesitated a moment, disappointed at being so thwarted, and then looked out at the open door to see which way he had gone.

    Apparently he must have turned down by the aide of the church, for no trace of him was discernible.  By his haste, and by his going away with wine, his late friend believed he must be about to administer the sacrament to some person in extremity, and, resolving to wait for him, walked up and down before the door for nearly an hour.

    A low wooden paling, with a gate in it, divided the church-yard from the rugged hill.  The moon was shining, and when the clock had struck eleven he began to get so impatient of Allerton's protracted absence that he resolved to climb the hill and try to find his way out into the town.  At first he got on very well, but presently he came to a gravelly ascent, partially covered with trees, and so steep that he could not climb it without the help of his hands among the bushes.  Though the moon had gone in, and it had become perfectly dark, he was still thinking of forcing his way up the ascent, when he heard a door at some distance behind him creak heavily, and immediately made the best of his way towards the sound.

    To his mortification, the vestry-door was closed.  He shook the lock with right good-will, but could not stir it; but as the lamp was burning, he fancied the wind must have blown it to, and if so, Allerton might yet return.

    Still, it was wearisome and dispiriting to walk there alone.  He wandered about, but could find no outlet, and at length tried the rugged, thorn-dotted hill again.  He dashed about blindly for some time among the trees, but could not reach the boundary line, nor see any path, the little light scarcely serving to mark the different hues of grass and gravel.  His progress was slow; sometimes he came to a rock, and had to go round it before he could ascend again.  At last he came to a smooth open space, where the grass grew short.  The ascent was as steep as ever, but he set off at a quick pace, for he did not at all like his position; he might be trespassing for anything he knew.  On a sudden he heard steps behind him, as of a man rushing up after him.  He quickened his pace, and the man called out to him to stop, and the next instant had seized him by the arm.  The ascent was so steep that he had greatly the advantage of his assailant, who was so out of breath with running that he could not speak, but closed with him, and was evidently trying to throw him down.  It was but the work of an instant to throw him off violently: the impetus sent him running down many degrees faster than he came up.  Before an instant had passed he heard another man rushing up towards him.  He did not relish the idea of there being two against him, and ran up the precipitous hill, trying to distance this new pursuer, and determining, if possible, not to close with him till they came to open ground.  Violent as his exertions were, they availed him nothing, for the man running after him redoubled his own, and ran as if his life depended upon it.  The moon was gone in; he did not know the ground; the man was close behind him, crashing down dead boughs, and displacing the heavy loose stones in his reckless race.  He was close at his heels, and would have him instantly.  He seemed trying to speak, and was panting violently, when Dreux, trying to repeat his last experiment, turned upon him, and seizing him suddenly, wrestled with him with all his strength.

    He was a powerful man, but his assailant was a match for him, though both were so completely out of breath with running that to speak was impossible.  Dreux struck the man several times, and struggled desperately.  The man tried to pinion his arms; he strove to speak and to stop him, and when he found he could not,—for Dreux continued to drag himself further up,—he next attempted to throw him down, and, not succeeding, flung himself on his knees, and by his weight brought his assailant down also.  He recovered breath as they fell, to cry out, frantically, "Stop, stop; Oh, my God! the cliff, the cliff!"  He held tightly by Dreux, whose foot slipped, and the two, still struggling, rolled over the edge of a descent of about four feet, and so steep that, when the latter recovered from a short giddiness which had seized him, he was astonished to find himself unhurt.  The man, as they fell over together, had uttered a cry of indescribable horror.  The word "precipice" suggested itself to his bewildered brain; he heard an injunction to be quiet, and, as he became more collected, he found himself supported, in a half-upright position, on a very narrow ledge of rock.  He rested on one elbow, but his feet were hanging over, and he could feel no footing.  He found that the man, who seemed to be in a kneeling position somewhat above him, was grasping him round the chest, and that if this support was withdrawn, he must inevitably fall over.

    It was intensely dark, but he was conscious of a rushing, booming sound far beneath him.  The next instant the man said, in a hurried, faint whisper,—"I am no enemy; don't move; don't stir a muscle, if you value my life or your own."  Low as the voice was, it was too familiar to be mistaken.  He heard it with a start, which placed his life in additional peril.  The man was Allerton.

    His first impulse was to make himself known; the next instant he remembered the imprudence of such a step.

    "Now, listen to me," Allerton proceeded, more calmly, for he had taken breath; "do you see that cleft of sky between the clouds?"

    He answered, in a whisper, "Yes."

    "In less than ten minutes," proceeded Allerton, "the moon will reach it, and we shall have an interval of light.  Don't attempt to move till then; I can easily hold you while you are still; till light comes we must rest."  He paused a moment, and then went on, "You are a stranger here, or you would not have climbed this hill in the dark.  I tried to stop you,—could not speak for want of breath; keep still, I charge you.  If I know where we are, I only want light to get you up safely."

    "But this cliff, this precipice,—the sea"—

    "Yes, the sea rolls at its base.  If you struggle to help yourself you are lost,—we are both lost; but if you can be still, perfectly passive, I trust in God that I can lift you by main strength on to my ridge, without overbalancing."

    "And if you should fail?"

    "If I should fail.  Don't think of that now; don't look over,—don't for your life look over; there are still a few minutes left for prayer,—call upon God."

    The moon drew near the edge of the cloud, and they had a full view of their fearful position.  Beneath them was the sea, with the face of the precipice shelving almost sheer down to it.  Allerton felt a shiver run through the frame of the supposed stranger, and charged him once more to be quiet.  He was becoming faint and sick, but had strength of nerve to obey.  The ledge on which he was lying was too narrow to admit of his turning; he was held on by the strength of Allerton's arms, who himself was kneeling on a broader space, two feet higher up.

    Both their hats had fallen off in the struggle, and the troubled water was tossing them about below.

    "Now," cried Allerton, "dare, if possible, to be passive.  I hold you; try if you can find any footing at all; take time."

    "No," was the reply, "I can find none."

    "Can you draw one foot up on to the ledge?"

    "Impossible."

    "The instant I begin to raise you draw a long breath.  Now!"

    The moon was fully out.  Allerton slightly changed his position, unclasped his hand, seized his companion by the wrist, and with a mighty effort raised him about a foot.  Happily Dreux disobeyed his injunctions, and dared to help himself.  He was no sooner half erect than he found footing, which lightened Allerton's task, and gave him time to breathe; this was a timely rest, and he gathered coolness and the confidence which was beginning to waver, then with one more effort he dragged him on to the upper ledge, where they rested in comparative safety.

    It was easy to climb the small descent down which they had rolled.  They had scarcely accomplished it when the moon went behind the cloud again, and they were left in total darkness.

    "Now, we must wait a while," said Allerton, and he threw himself into the long grass, almost overpowered with his exertions.

    The man whom he had saved came up and wrung his hand, but did not speak.  Allerton supposed him to be some artist or tourist, for many such visited that romantic neighbourhood.  The momentary glimpse he had had of his appearance had assured him that he occupied the station of a gentleman, and feeling a strong interest in him, he resolved to ask him home to his house for the night.  The church clock struck again, and just then the moon emerged from the cloud, and Allerton sprang up and exclaimed, "Come here, and let us look at the danger we have passed."  He took him by the arm and brought him to the brink of the cliff, holding him while he suffered him to look over.  Still the stranger said nothing, but looked down—down into the seething water, shuddered, and pressed his hand.  Allerton, who was moved himself, spoke to him of the goodness of God in having preserved their lives; and reminded him of the fact, that in imminent danger there is no possible rest for the human mind but in calling upon God.  Even in that doubtful light, Dreux wondered that he did not recognise him; but being touched by his goodness, and by the danger they had passed through, he remained silent, and shrunk from making himself known.  Allerton then went on to speak of the happiness of those whose hearts are in a state of preparation for death, and added a few words on the way of salvation and acceptance with God.  Allerton thought he listened attentively, but the moon just then coming out more fully, he was obliged to turn his thoughts in another direction.  "Now, then," he exclaimed, with his natural quickness, "I am going to take you down by a still steeper way than you came up, but there are flights of steps.  You must follow me, and that quickly, for I don't know the place very well, and want to get down while there is light."

    They ran down quickly, and, this way being much shorter, they were soon by the vestry-door; it was opened by a man to whom Allerton stopped to speak, while Dreux looked on.  "This is the gentleman," he heard him say; "he is quite safe."  The man muttered something about people not liking to be flung down by those they meant to serve.  Allerton laughed; the man spoke in the country dialect, and Dreux did not then remember that more than one man had tried to stop him.

    "Come to me to-morrow," continued Allerton, dismissing the man.  "And, as for you, young gentleman, take my advice, and never climb a strange cliff in the dark again; and never forget this night.  Look there."  He pointed to a deep ravine, not far from the pathway.

    "I see it," replied Dreux, now speaking for the first time aloud; "and I never shall forget.  I am deeply grateful to God, and to you.  Look here."  He drew back a pace or two as he spoke and threw back his disordered hair from his forehead, then he turned so that the full broad moonlight shone upon his features.

    Allerton, who was standing on the threshold, had heard his voice at first with a start of incredulous amazement, but the truth no sooner flashed upon him than he uttered an exclamation of horror and almost of affright.

    "Allerton!  Allerton!" exclaimed Dreux, advancing upon him as he receded into the vestry, "Is it really come to this?—have you thought so hardly of me?—do you hate me so entirely, that, though you have perilled your life to save mine,—though you have prayed for me, when you thought me a stranger, you no sooner know me than you fling my gratitude back, and shrink from the very touch of my hand when I hold it to you?"

    Allerton's face was white and rigid, but he drew still further back, and muttered, "You take a mistaken view of the case.  You are wrong altogether."

    "I do not.  I have seen you shrink from me; and you wish to force me from your presence without the common expression of my civility, though you know that I owe you my life—though you know that I struck you, and that I never can forgive myself for that act unless I can part with you in amity.  You need not turn away,—I see the marks of my hand on your forehead.  If I had been a murderer you could not have treated me more"—

    "Dreux, Dreux, you don't know what you are talking about.  You are killing me."

    "I do know, and I will say it;—if I had struck those blows with intent to murder you, and knowing that it was you, you could not have treated me more cruelly."

    "You can scarcely stand,—you are excited and oppressed."

    "I am sick with the recollection of that yawning gulf, and my feelings have been outraged, but I will not sit down, and I will not go.  You shall believe that I am grateful; and you shall shake hands with me."

    "I will," said Allerton, coming up to him, with a sigh.  "Sit down, or you will faint.  Let me open the window; there,—now drink this wine.  You are excited, and don't understand—how should you?  If you did, you would not grudge me these two or three bruises."

    Dreux drank the wine, and made an effort to rise.

    "No, no; be quiet for a moment," said Allerton, speaking almost with the tenderness of a woman.  "Turn your face to the air.  You came upon me so suddenly that I had no time for consideration,—I could not overcome my—my consternation. Oh, how many thousand times your face, with that selfsame look, has advanced upon me in my dreams. Oh, my accusing conscience!"

    "I have nothing to accuse you of—nothing," said Dreux, faintly.

    "Not that you know of.  What, you must shake hands?  Well.—I don't hate you, Dreux; I love you."

    "If you do"—

    "If I do I have taken a strange way of showing it.  I was beside myself, and your random accusation struck me to the heart."

    "I beg your pardon,—I am sorry; but I do not know to what you allude."

    "Dreux, you rise,—what do you want to do?"

    "It is past midnight; I wish to go back."

    "Where?"

    "To the inn.  I will see you to-morrow."

    "You will not go there, Dreux.  My house is near at hand; you will come with me."

    "We cannot understand each other,—we are much better apart."

    "How wearily you speak.  For your own sake we can never be friends again; but that, or something else, troubles you more—far more than I could have supposed possible."

    "I know we cannot be friends, for I heard you preach to-night, and if your change of principles is not to bring us together, nothing can; but I should have liked to know the reason."

    "Prospects have changed with you, Dreux; and you have, I know, come through many anxieties.  Have you felt them much?"

    "Very much.  I had no friend to stand by me."

    "Well," said Allerton, bitterly, "it is some comfort to know that you would have been none the better for my standing by you.  But it grows late, and you will come with me."

    Dreux made no further objection; he was thoroughly dispirited.  As they went through the dark silent street, Allerton suddenly said, "Did you come straight from Westport?  Did you come here on purpose to find me?"

    "No; I came to speak to-morrow at your local Meeting.  I did not know you were here till I saw you in the desk."

    "I have been out for two days, and had not heard who was the deputation."

    "If you had known, perhaps you would have kept out of my way "—

    "This is my house, Dreux," interrupted Allerton.  It stood close to the church; Allerton was admitted by an old housekeeper, a slight repast was set on the table, and a room was soon prepared for the guest.  Allerton seemed ill at his ease, restless, and agitated; it was quite a relief to both when the room was declared to be ready; and whatever doubts, speculations, fears, or perplexities, might trouble the mind of either, no explanation was asked or offered, and each was heartily thankful to find himself alone.

    They met the next morning to a late breakfast, and it was apparent that the night's rest, or rather the night's solitude (for neither had slept), had made an alteration on each.

    Allerton's face was overclouded with gloom, and his manner painfully restless and changeable; he seemed struggling against varied feelings.  Now he tried to look calm and cold,—now a sudden gleam of his old affectionate hilarity would shine for an instant in his eyes, and be checked almost as soon as it appeared.

    Dreux, on the contrary, was now self-possessed, and far more cordial than before; his old manner had returned, but he asked not a single question and betrayed no curiosity.  His expression and every action seemed to say,—"I will have you back as a friend, if it be possible; and if you will give no explanation, I will do without one."

    The Meeting, which was to be at four in the afternoon, supplied them with conversation during breakfast.  Afterwards Allerton sat, looking pale and restless, till, suddenly, Dreux opened the glass door of his study and proposed a walk in the garden; he came out mechanically.  The garden was close upon the sea-shore, which, at that point, was nearly flat; they stood, looking about them,—then sauntered back.  Allerton became conscious that Dreux was systematically breaking down the barrier of distance which he had erected between them; he talked of their familiar acquaintance; then he took hold of his arm; then he began to talk of his own affairs.  Allerton struggled hard against this, but it would not do, his guest approached nearer and nearer; he was now perfectly at his ease, and nothing could make him otherwise.  Insensibly Allerton was beguiled into conversation; he forgot himself, and asked a few questions.  Dreux answered so frankly, and with such perfect good faith, that he found himself the repository of his most private affairs.  He had got a terrible heartache; it did it no good to hear Dreux talk as he had been used to do to him, and to him only,—telling him candidly all his feelings and fancies, as reserved people will to those whom they wholly trust.  Allerton felt that he had never so talked since they parted, and that now he was doing battle manfully for the continuance of the privilege. He would not give it up, and he was now working so hard at the barrier that it must have inevitably given way, if a servant had not come up to them and reminded Allerton of some piece of clerical duty.

    "I will be back shortly," he said, in a distraught, restless manner.

    He returned in half an hour.  Behold, the beloved unbidden guest had fallen asleep on his study sofa! he had been awake the whole night,—that Allerton knew, for he had listened for hours to footsteps pacing overhead.  He softly drew near, and contemplated him with a peculiar and most painful sensation.

    Tall, somewhat slender, and youthful-looking, he possessed in his waking hours a gravity and weight which added several years to his appearance.  Now this gravity had given way to an easy expression of confiding tranquillity.  A listless smile parted his lips, and reminded the looker-on of his sister.  He was asleep, down to his very finger-ends.

    It was a chilly morning, and Allerton passed into the hall and brought a shepherd's plaid to lay over him.  As he folded it across him he opened his eyes, and, without any expression of surprise at finding himself so tended, turned and fell asleep again, with Allerton still bending over him.

    No need for apology,—he was entirely at home.  He had been tired, now he was resting, and nothing could make him think that this was not the best place possible to take it in.  He floated out into the land of dreams.  Most of them were pleasant ones; perhaps the more so because, being a very light sleeper, he was conscious, after a long time, of a warm hand upon his forehead, moving back his hair.

    Light sleepers can reason, after a fashion, even in their dreams: he followed out a long train of misty, entangled reasonings in his.  He thought it odd that Allerton should so recoil from him when awake, and now should keep his hand upon his forehead, and touch the little mark of the wound with such a brotherly kiss.

    He was conscious of a home feeling, and a sense of security, even in sleep; but when he at length awoke, and looked at Allerton, he found him moody and miserable as ever.

    He had built up the barrier between them again, and, with his arms upon his study-table, sat regarding him with a pained, uneasy air.

    Dreux set to work to throw his barrier down.  "Allerton, I'm very hungry,—I want some lunch."

    Allerton smiled at this appeal, and rang the bell, but he kept such stern guard over himself that he preserved as distant a manner as ever.

    The lunch speedily appeared.  Allerton assisted his guest, but he sat with his untouched plate before him, gazing out of the window.  He was beginning to distrust his powers; he should never be able to break down this wall of rock; he had been mistaken,—there had come no change over Allerton, which made his own conduct appear right and inevitable; he did not want him, and was restless and anxious for him to be gone.

    While he slept his face had looked so youthful and easy that Allerton had felt as if a few months of bitter remorse had made him many years the senior; when he awoke, his features had been lighted up with the old cordial smile.  But now a cloud of gloom, pain, and wounded feeling had gathered over his brow.  He did not touch the offered meal, and sat silent a long time.  He had lost confidence; his old reserve had again crept over him.  He had been repulsed, and could not recover.

    His host endured this with difficulty.  "I thought," he said, "you told me you were hungry?"

    No answer.  His late friend poured out a glass of water and drank it hastily; then he rose slowly, left the room, and, with equal deliberation, walked up stairs.  At the top he paused to consider which way he should turn.

    Allerton hastily crossed the hall, ran up, and asked what he wanted.

    "I want to find my room, and get my carpetbag."

    Allerton would not hear of it;—was urgent, impetuous.  He made him come down again, shut the door of his study, and turning the key, exclaimed, in a low, hurried voice, "Dreux! are you determined,—are you quite bent upon our still being friends?"

    "No, I do not wish to force myself upon you; I wish to go."

    "You shall not go till you have eaten something."

    "I cannot eat;—you will not give me what I want."

    "Sit down."

    "No, I will not sit down again;—I must go."

    "What have I done within the last few minutes to give you this sudden resolution?"

    "Nothing new,—nothing more.  But you have not yet forgiven me, and I cannot, and I will not, remain where I am not wanted."

    "Forgiven you!—forgiven You!"

    "Yes, forgiven me.  I thought it probable at first that you would have forgiven me, but I find"

    "Will you look at me?"

    "Well!"

    "What do you see?"

    "I see a man who was once my friend,—for whom I cared far more than he ever thought,—who has no true reason now for resentment against me,—and who has no power even now to alienate my regard, for I choose to retain it."

    "Dreux!"

    "It is useless your trying to make me believe that all your old affection for me is past and over.  Why you try, is a mystery that I cannot solve.  Why you torment yourself and me by feigning this utter want of interest I cannot fathom.  You have some kindness left for me still.  What does it matter else to you that I carry a mark on my forehead?  Why must you needs investigate it?—it's nothing to you.  Allerton!  Allerton! what have I done now?"

    He asked the question almost vehemently, for Allerton had started as if he had been struck a blow.  He made a gesture of entreaty, and staggered with difficulty to his chair; the veins of his temples were swelled almost to bursting, and he pointed to the window, as if he wanted air.

    It was thrown open hastily, and a glass of water held to his lips.

    "Dreux," he said, as his late friend, again overstepping the barrier, laid a hand upon his shoulder, and looked anxiously in his face, "you are very kind;—do you know who you are speaking to?"

    "To a man who saved my life last night."

    "There are no other words in the world that it would have done me so much good to hear, and that it would have been so like yourself to say, even if you had known the truth.  Well, but do you see no change in me?"

    "Yes, I see that you have suffered; I hear it in the sound of your voice.  I also see"

    "What, Dreux?  Well, I have suffered;—the curse of Cain I sometimes feel upon me."

    "There is no sin that the blood of Christ cannot wash away."

    "No sin.  I have repeated those words many thousand times.  It washes away, but it does not save us from the consequences of sin in this world.  We may hope to live at peace in heaven with those against whom we have sinned too deeply to deserve any intercourse on earth.  What!  I have startled you at last!  I feel your hand tremble."

    "Not with distrust,—only with suspense.  It is your manner, far more than your words"

    "Well, take your hand from my shoulder, for I should not wish to feel it suddenly withdrawn when I tell you the truth.  There,—now look me in the face.  I am a murderer, Dreux, in will, and almost in deed."

    "A murderer in will!"

    "Yes, I tell you; and, having begun, I will tell you the rest.  I have kept away from you as a duty, but you have found me out at last.  And now I must tell you what I would fain have had known only to me and my Maker; least of all I would have had you know it.  I would not blacken myself where I would fain have stood well.  But you must know, for you want to make a friend of me again."

    "I desire no confidence, Allerton.  I would be your friend without it if you would let me."

    "You would; but I am not quite base enough to permit that.  I will tell you all, and you shall do as you please."

    "You are excited now; I will not hear anything till you are calm; and even then, I had rather the matter was left, as you have said, between you and your Maker."

    "Dreux, your presence while you are ignorant of it, and your friendly confidence, are daggers in my heart.  To have you with me, and to hear you say such things as you have said twice during these few hours, would be far more than my fortitude could sustain.  I told you that I was a murderer.  Don't look so much aghast; it was you that I injured,—you.  Do you hear me?  You will not wake from this and find it a dream.  Go and sit down, a long way from me.  I have begun now, and I will go on to the end.  Why do you put your hand to your head?—does it ache?"

    Dreux took away his hand, and looked earnestly at Allerton.  His remarks had several times appeared irrelevant; now he was excited and agitated.

    "My dear Allerton," Dreux began, "you cannot be surprised if I feel a little bewildered; and if I show it."

    "Was that all?  I thought you put your hand to your forehead as if you were in pain."

    "O these strange suspicions!" thought Dreux; "what do they portend?—I have a slight headache," he explained, with a sigh of irrepressible anxiety, "and I have got a habit of putting up my hand since my accident.  Of course one cannot expect such a thing to pass over, leaving no bad effects whatever."

    Allerton rose and went to the window, as if he felt half suffocated.  "You were in the church last night," he presently said; "why did you not come to me in the vestry?"

    Dreux explained to him how he had returned to the church, and how he had failed to overtake him, as he left it hastily with the wine.

    "I understand it all now," replied Allerton.  "Among the trees you passed a cottage."

    "I did not remark one."

    "You did, however.  After service the man who lives there came and asked me to pray with his wife, who is in a decline.  I went, and stayed with her a long while; but just as I was about to leave her, she became so faint, that I ran back to the vestry to get some wine; the woman revived after she had taken it; and as I sat by her she said she saw some one going quickly up among the trees.  I could scarcely believe her; for no one can get in there at night after the church-gates are locked, unless by climbing them.  I declared she was mistaken; but she persisted, and said it was a gentleman; then I was alarmed, for I knew it must be a stranger.  We left her with her daughter, and I and the husband ran out after the stranger to warn him of his danger.  You seemed to be bent on rushing up straight to your destruction.  I suppose you took us for thieves or murderers,—no unlikely supposition: an unfortunate man was murdered there last year for the sake of his watch, and his body thrown over the cliffs.  I got so out of breath with my desperate race, that I could not shout to you.  My heart was in my throat, for I perceived that my very eagerness in running on made you rush more blindly up, heedless of the booming of the water, which otherwise you might have heard.  When I had seized you, I was not prepared for the strength with which you grappled with me, resolutely dragging me still further and further to the edge."

    "If the moon had only come out then!"

    "If the moon had come out then, you would not have struck me; was that what you would say?  But then I should not have saved your life; for the light would have warned you of your danger.  But you are too generous to wish you had not lifted your hand against me; at least if you could know all that I have suffered since we parted you would be glad.  Dreux, you are amazed, you look at me with wonder.  Well, I will tell you why; but just now I must rest.  It comes upon me with such a sudden, irresistible happiness, the thought that I should have saved your life—yours—I must think on it a while.  No, say nothing, sit where you are, let me think my thoughts out, the bitter will come presently."

    He turned from the window, and, as was usual with him when excited, began slowly to pace the room.

    "Dreux, you are very patient with me, you always were; well—I will not try you any longer— the bitter returns in greater force than ever—I will sit down and lay it all before you."

    He sat silent a few minutes, till Dreux made a movement of irrepressible agitation; the suspense was getting too much for him.

    "When I left you that morning," Allerton began at length, speaking with suppressed emotion, "I felt more like a fiend than a human being.  In the blindness of my passion I repeated that I hated and despised you—yes, and your sister also; yet in the depth of my heart, I knew you had acted consistently, and I hated your principles even more than yourself."

    He looked intently out of the window, and continued in a lower tone: "I went home.  I madly vowed that I would never speak to you again; I acknowledged to myself that I had known how it would be from the beginning; and so I had; but I had so resolutely smothered the knowledge, that it came upon me like a thunder-clap.  Dreux, I entered my house—my hand was on the latch of the study-door, when my groom met me and inquired what time my horse was wanted for you.  It enraged me just then to hear him mention your name.  I told him to hold his tongue, and went in.  I don't know what induced the man to follow me, for he must have seen that I was in a passion.  Perhaps it was that my condemnation might be the more complete.  He asked me the question again, and said, 'Shall I go round and inquire, sir?'  It only inflamed me to hear him say it and persist in it, as if he supposed I had not heard him.  I told him the horse was not wanted; he said, rather sulkily, that if you rode your own horse, he knew you would be thrown.  I cursed you in my heart, if not with my lips.  I muttered, as I flung the door to, that nothing would please me better."

    "Don't say any more, Allerton," cried his auditor, in a tone of the deepest agitation; "what is this to me? why bring it up again?  I cannot bear to hear it; pray spare me; remember last night.  If you are not satisfied with what you did for me then"—

    "If I am not satisfied," repeated Allerton in the same suppressed tone.  "Oh yes, and I am deeply thankful; it shows the goodness of God, in not only forgiving that murderous sin, but sparing me to be serviceable to the man whom I had injured.  I told you that I believed I hated you.  I fortified myself in this feeling. Dreux, strange to say, my man came again, and knocked at my door.  I felt a momentary qualm of conscience.  I thought it so odd; but I flung open the door and demanded how he dared interrupt me.  He muttered some apology, and seemed aghast to see me in such a rage; and yet he muttered again, was I sure Mr. Dreux did not want the horse?  I don't know what I said.  I was beside myself; but I denied that it was wanted, and told him to come again at his peril!  Oh, Dreux, it sickens me to reflect on that day; my rage grew as I thought on what you had done.  I drank a good deal of wine after dinner, for my passion had exhausted me; after that I believe I fell asleep on my study sofa.  Dreux, you must hear me to the end."

    "No more," urged his auditor; "God has spared me, why need I know all this?"

    "Why need you?  Because I cannot bear the sight of that smile of yours, while you are in ignorance.  I would rather see you look shocked and horrified, as you do now, than see you determined to confide in me, and hear you lament that you lifted your hand against me."

    "I will never lament it again, if you will only spare me now."

    "Spare you a little, just the little remains of your ideal, and not tear it down and soil it in the dust, and despoil it of every vestige of its beauty.  Dreux, I know you thought well of me."

    "I did, and do."

    "Well, Dreux, it was dusk when I awoke, and started upright at a peculiar noise of sobbing.  I saw my servants crying in the doorway and wringing their hands, my old man-servant crying as much as any of them.

    "They came in, but seemed afraid to speak; for they knew my affection for you, but not our quarrel.  I asked what was the matter; they told me the most horrible story that ever my ears had listened to: that you had been thrown and dragged a great distance by your horse; that you were still alive, but there was no hope; and your horse—that was the most horrible thing of all at the moment—your horse had run back like a mad creature, and rushed, covered with foam and dust, into the open door of my stables."

    "Why need that have shocked you?" urged Dreux, scarcely knowing what he said.  "Had he not been put up there times out of number?"

    "I tell you he rushed into my stables covered with blood and foam; he had injured himself, and died in the night.  I had thought that I hated you; the passing away of that delusion brought with it misery beyond what I had supposed it possible our nature could endure.  My people had expected to see me overpowered; I was more, I was frantic.  I tore my hair, I called upon God to revenge you upon me.  They talked of what a pleasure it must be to me now to think what good friends we had always been; every word they said was a dagger in my heart; they could do nothing with me, and at last they sent for a physician; and I remember very little more of that miserable night, or of the next day."

    "And now I have heard it, Allerton; and you must say no more till you have heard me."

    "What would you say, Dreux?"

    "That I entreat you—that I expect you to forget this as completely as I will do.  No, not to forget it, then; but to think no more of it as a thing that need keep us asunder—never to think of it at all without remembering last night also."

    Allerton remained silent; he seemed in a great measure relieved of the load which had oppressed him, but did not take the offered hand without a gesture of pain.  He put it aside again, and motioned to Dreux to go back to his seat, going on with his narrative, as if he desired at once to say all that was on his mind.

    "Dreux, those were wretched days.  I got up from my bed and walked about, and I saw that every human being I met pitied me; it was written on their faces; I saw it, and almost wished they could have known the truth.  You were in great danger; pains were taken to conceal the fact from me; but I possessed myself not only of the facts of the case, but of all the fears of the attendants.

    "All your friends and all my own came to me to comfort me.  They were amazed and alarmed at my state of mind.  They all said the same thing.  They all pitied me.  Their reproaches would have been easy to bear in comparison.  But I was dumb.  I sat in my study, and neither could answer them, nor exert myself to send them away.  But everything that could torture me they said, for there was no kind of praise that ever was bestowed on human sympathy and friendship that they did not lavish upon mine.  This went on for three or four days; then I became restless, and wandered about almost ceaselessly night and day.

    "I went and called on the Patons, for there I thought I should hear some particulars.  I was a good deal altered by remorse, but a sort of dead calm had come over me, which I thought nothing could move.  I began to talk; the ladies tried to answer me, but one by one they left the room.  The mother, who alone remained, could scarcely speak for tears.  This put the climax to my sufferings.  I would have told her everything but for the utter weariness that had come upon me.  I went away, but I was determined to see you, and I did.  Dreux, you are worse than any of them.  Don't you remember what you suffered?  Don't you know the peril which threatened not only life but reason? and you are speechless with pity!  I have seen you often this morning put your hand to your head.  Such a blow could scarcely pass, you told me, and leave no bad effects, and yet you look as if there was nothing you would not do to lighten its effects on me.  Well, I saw you by night.  You were half delirious.  I saw your sister sleeping at the foot of your miserable bed, and I repented.  I had been stunned before; now my awakened feelings of tenderness added keenness to remorse.  I dragged on another week, and then it was given out that your danger was over.  I could not believe it; but the next day the report was confirmed.  Then a new feeling came over me—I knew that I never could look you in the face again.  I left the town, resolved not to return.  I wanted exertion—my mind preyed upon my health.  I thought change would do me good.  I travelled.  I walked.  I toiled among the mountains.  Every day I walked till I was worn out with fatigue, but my sleep was not sweet.

    "When I had been absent a month, I went to the Bishop.  My altered appearance showed my state of health, and he soon saw that something more than I spoke of was the matter with me.  I easily got a six months' leave of absence.  I went into Wales.  I exerted my bodily strength to the utmost, but the same terrible fears haunted me.  If you had died who would have been your murderer?  As it was, you might never be restored to health, and then what would become of me?

    "I had no friend, no person to speak to.  I felt as if the lot of Cain had come upon me—to wander —the murderer of my brother, with one more curse in addition to his, one more ingredient in my bitter cup than ever poisoned his,—that I loved my brother, I constantly thought with remorse of what I had done—that in the distance and apart, brooding over my everlasting heart-ache, he seemed to me far better and more to be desired as a friend and companion than ever he had done before.  The heart has no bounds for its capacity for suffering, nor for loving.  One pain brings another.  All my forgotten sins rose up before me with this crowning one at their head.

    "In the silence of my life I thought of you both incessantly.  If the eye is not satisfied with seeing, how much less is the heart satisfied with loving!  I still worshipped my idols of clay, but in the blindness of my misery I reproached my Maker, 'Thou hast taken away my Gods, and what have I more?'

    "I got a letter one day from Hewly.  He said you were much better.  You had read prayers and were to preach the next Sunday.  I was extremely thankful, but it did not seem to make my crime the less.  At first my resolution never to see you again, never to seek any further intercourse with you, or bring you any more within the influence of a temper so violent, had seemed so great a sacrifice that I thought it half atoned; now that foolish fancy was gone, and the weight of my sins had become almost intolerable.  I thought there was nothing I would not do to be released from it—nothing.

    "I had done many things, and it grew heavier and harder to bear.  On the Sunday when I knew you were to preach, I went out and wandered up the barren mountain which faced the farm-house where I lodged.  I came to a cleft in the rock, where a quantity of broom hung out and made a shelter.

    "I sat down and took out a Bible, but I did not read.  I thought of you and of your sister, and your voice seemed to come back to me, saying such things as you often had done in our arguments and discussions.  My mind was empty of comfort—I could not think very connectedly.  I unclasped the Bible, and a letter of yours fell out.  You had written it while you were away with Elinor; within it were the notes of a sermon on this text,—'There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.'"

    Allerton paused when he came to this place, but Dreux made no effort to speak; he sat with his eyes intently fixed upon him.  He presently went on:—

    "I was pleased at the sight of your writing.  I read over the letter, and it beguiled me for a few minutes from the weariness of my own thoughts.  When I had finished it I picked up the notes of your sermon and began to read them.  It was for the first time, Dreux.  They began with some remarks upon the unsatisfying nature of all earthly affection—they asserted that love was originally the best gift of God to man,—that all his happiness flowed from it,—that now, from this greatest blessing sprung our keenest misfortunes and sorrows.  It went on to describe the wretchedness of a man who, having fixed his affections on the earthly, has not the heavenly to turn to when they are taken away.

    "I thought it strange you should have chosen to send me such a subject,—I, who was then so well content with the earthly, so wrapt round with the love and the brotherhood that I had chosen.

    "But I read on.  There is a Friend.  It described the sympathy of Christ with all human suffering; among others, with that restless worm, remorse.  It described the bitterness of heart under which I was then suffering, and offered the tenderness of that Friend as a precious substitute for the loss of all others.

    "Dreux, you must not interrupt me now.  I know what you mean.  I see plainly that you will still be my friend.  Since it is so I will not gainsay you.  It was only for your own sake that I wanted to have it otherwise.  Well, I had often said to myself that there was nothing I would not do to relieve myself from the intolerable restlessness that oppressed me; but I had never thought of the religion which you had taken care I should (theoretically) be well acquainted with.  I went on reading, and the notes unfolded the scheme of salvation, as you had so often done before.  It was familiar, and yet I could scarcely believe that it was truly the same.  If these things really were so, how happy, I thought, for me.

    "I rested my forehead upon my hands, and through the hours of that long, sunny morning I began to think that though I had despised these things when I was well with my own heart, yet now that I had become vile and hateful in my own eyes, and now that all peace and happiness were over and I was utterly alone, perhaps they might prove a solace to me,—the more so, I thought, because they were yours.

    "The longer I sat there the more these thoughts pressed upon me.  I was wretched.  Here seemed an offer of peace.  If, without any merit or fitness of my own, I could be forgiven, I thought it would be a blessed thing, and every sound that reached me in that lonely place seemed to be burdened with the words, 'There is a Friend.'  In my own esteem I was far less worthy to apply to this Friend than I had been in the days of my prosperity.  I was no murderer then.

    "I thought of this a while longer.  'But no,' I said, 'there is no other way.  I will try this.  I will set my foot on board this ark of refuge.  If I remain thus I must perish, and if I go forward I can but die.'

    "My soul assented to the certainty of that truth of which you had so often reminded me, that no amendment of life could atone for committed sin, and make a man the more fit to ask forgiveness.  I thought the only hope was to throw myself on the pity of God for the past and the future, through that Friend whom I now perceived to be more desirable, more excellent than the sons of men.

    "I do not remember that I uttered any distinct petition beyond those verses of Scripture which presented themselves to me.

    "I read the rest of your notes; they set forth the goodness of that heavenly Friend.  I perceived (and not without something like surprise, Dreux) that my sins had been against Him, and in the silence of the place, I prayed for mercy and forgiveness.  To my bitter remorse for past sins was added a new, overpowering sorrow,—a scarcely understood affection for that heavenly Friend began to dawn in my heart.  I remembered that passage of Scripture, and assented to it in the depths of my soul, 'They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn.'"

    After a short silence, he went on again,—

    "Why need this distress you?  I am telling you of the most blessed period of my life.  I went down to the farm-house, where I lodged.  My sorrow was mingled with astonishment that I should never have seen these things before. I remembered continually more and more of the conversations we had had together.  Your words seemed now to have a new application. I wondered how it was, not knowing that the natural man cannot discern the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned.

    "I felt that night very unwell, though not so restless as usual.  The next day one of the children of the house was taken extremely ill with fever, and in the evening the mother sickened.  I would have left the house, but the illness I had felt the day before increased upon me.  I did not know what was the matter, but as far as I was capable of it in my then condition, I enjoyed a kind of peace.  In the middle of the night, both I and the mistress of the house were raving with delirium; it proved to be smallpox.  The country Doctor was sent for; the cases were dangerous.  I was neglected, and left much to myself,—nearer interests pressed upon the poor people.  I was often delirious, but my distracted fancy was always constant to one theme.  I had no hope but in Christ.  I had put off the burden upon Him, and had said, 'Undertake for me.'  The woman of the house died, and a child; the other child and I slowly recovered.  I could scarcely speak a word of Welsh, and they knew no English.  The accommodation was most wretched, but God's mercy spared me to live and praise Him, and even to preach His Gospel to others.  During the tedious weeks of my recovery I thought much and earnestly.  The Holy Scriptures were my constant solace.  The offer of free salvation became a certain, most undoubted fact to me.  I closed with it, and received peace.

    "The surgeon who had attended me wished me to go south; therefore I came into Cornwall, and finding the vicar of this place willing to be friendly with me, I helped him a little during the winter, and now he is ill, I take all the duty for him."

    Having brought his narrative to this point, he got up and walked about the room, almost surprised to see how powerfully it had moved his friend.  It was so familiar to himself that he had uttered it with calmness, and the former events especially had been so long present to his mind that to put them into words was a relief instead of a pain to him.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXIV.

THE MINIATURE.


THE meeting was over, and in the dusk of evening they walked home together towards Allerton's house.

    Allerton, who seemed inexpressibly relieved now that he had unburdened his mind, talked with something of his old cheerfulness; but there was one subject on which he did not touch, though several good opportunities had been given him.  Dreux felt that it was not for him to be the first to mention his sister; and as his next greatest wish with regard to Allerton was to have him back at Westport, he introduced that subject, and began earnestly to urge his return.

    Allerton, who seemed to take pleasure in being entreated, allowed him to go on for a long while.  At length he appeared convinced, and said, certainly it did seem a duty to come and preach against those errors which he had formerly approved.

    "And I want a curacy," said Dreux, laughing.

    "What! you do?  But you told me that you would not go back to Westport,"—for Dreux had related much of the quarrel between Hewly and himself in the morning.  "Dreux, you could not be my curate,—you, so much my superior in standing, in experience, in everything.  I could not consent to that."

    "You had rather see me some other man's curate?  You seriously think I should be better off as curate in some place where I am unknown, and under some other man?"

    Allerton reflected a while, and decided to close with the offer.  He could then see that he did not overwork himself; it would give him an opportunity to live down the calumnies which had been raised against him; and as he himself felt all the awkwardness of changing his side in a place where he was so well known, he perceived the advantage of a friend like Dreux to back him.  It pained him to think of standing in such a position towards him: but he reflected on his altered prospects.  With whom, he thought, would he feel them so little as with himself?  Who, from feelings of either affection or duty, would naturally and inevitably care for him so unceasingly?  His health might now be very different to what it had been; who would be so quick to observe it—who would have so much hold over him?  "For," Allerton thought, "for my sake he will try to keep well; he will have the pleasure of companionship which he values,—for this, which I must feel, and bitterly, to the end of my days, seems not at all to have struck him as I should have thought; he has as much confidence in me as ever.  Well, I will accept his offer, and all the advantages it brings with it."

    "Dreux, if nothing better presents itself for you, I shall be heartily glad to accede to your proposal."

    "You were so long considering that I was about to withdraw it."

    "I had much rather be your curate.  You shall do just as you please, Dreux."

    "Shall I?  But mind you don't let me domineer over you, Allerton.  Your curates have an easy life of it.  I often thought at Westport, that to be your curate, and let you do the work, was as gentlemanly an opening for the ambition of a lazy young M.A. as could be desired."

    "Well, it gives me pleasure to hear you laugh, even at my own expense.  I hope your sister is well?"

    Both parties had been thinking of her for some time; nevertheless, Dreux started on hearing her name.

    "She has been ill," he replied, with rather a constrained manner, for he did not know how Allerton now might feel towards her.

    "Not very ill?"

    "Yes, in great danger; but she is much better."

    "If I had known that, I believe I must have written."

    "I still cannot understand why you did not write to me months ago."

    "Not even now, Dreux, when we have got upon this subject?"

    "I would have written, if I had been you."

    "If I had written, what could I have told you?"

    "Part of what you told me this morning; no one could so much rejoice to hear it.  Did you give me credit for no anxiety about you?"

    "And if I had written so much, what would you have expected my next step to be?"

    "Perhaps to return."

    "Dreux, you answer with as much hesitation as if you thought it possible for a man who had heartily loved a woman to forget her in six months.  If I could have done that, I could and would have written to you; even as it was, I thought of doing so continually.  I had constant arguments with myself; but the new religion was precious, for it had raised me out of the very mire of despair.  How, then, could I make it a stepping-stone whereby to obtain what I could not hope to have without it?  Dreux, if I could so far have departed from uprightness of mind as to do that, I should have begun next to question the very reality of the change which had passed upon me.  Even if you had received my tale with the most unquestioning faith, it would have availed me nothing.  I must have endured the lifelong doubts and dreads of an at least supposed self-deceiver."

    "My dear Allerton," Dreux answered, "you acted duly detailed; and if, after that, you think I have any chance—I mean you to tell her of the horse—of our quarrel"—

    "And how you saved my life.  Well, if you desire it, I will.  You shall find a letter waiting for you at Portsmouth."

    Early on Monday morning he reached Southampton, and, after arranging to speak at a Meeting there on Wednesday, crossed over to the Isle of Wight and went on to Shanklin.  Elinor was quite blooming, and in easy spirits.  It was some time since they had met, and there was much to be said; but there was an early dinner ordered, for their aunt retained the old-fashioned notion that no one could "come off a journey" without being quite famished.  As much as possible, therefore, of this dinner had to be consumed, and a great many questions of Miss Theresa's answered, before they could think of going out; but at length they effected a move, and, leaving the old lady to doze in her chair, walked forth to explore the Chine.

    There, as they sat under the trees, talking about his travels, he quietly introduced Allerton's name, described their meeting, and his own sensations on hearing him preach.

    Elinor listened with intense interest.

    "I thought it singular," he added, "that Allerton should have made no effort to renew our friendship."

    "If I had been you," said Elinor, "I should have felt very much hurt."  And not all her joy at seeing her brother could make her feel at ease.

    He then went on to describe, as well as his agitation would permit, the after-events of the evening: how Allerton had saved his life, at the peril of his own.  He next repeated their morning's conversation; and, as he had been desired, gave Allerton's self-accusations, as well as the facts of the quarrel; but told by him, and touched with his feelings towards the actor, they certainly were softened.

    Elinor was tolerably self-possessed; she said nothing, and kept hoping there would be some slight reference to herself, but her brother neither mentioned Allerton's intended visit, nor his acknowledgment of continued attachment.  While she sat reflecting, he told her how he had persuaded Allerton to return to Westport, and that he intended to be his curate.

    Thereupon followed a long silence.

    "How does Mr. Allerton look?" said Elinor, breaking it at length.

    "Perfectly well, but not precisely the same.  When I saw him in the pulpit, I perceived that he had become calmer.  You know he has naturally high spirits and a cheerful disposition,—doubtless he has still; but, when he was not agitated by the things he had to tell, he looked exactly like that little portrait which, no doubt, you remember."

    He took the little picture from his pocket and into the dining-room, shut the door, and asked him to give her the picture, which he did at once, without smiling or appearing to see anything odd in her request.  He then went up stairs to talk to his aunt, leaving her to her own reflections.

    She stood some time below, scarcely thinking of anything connectedly, but pleased to look at the little picture.  At length, having secured it in a safe place, she walked slowly upstairs and opened the door of the drawing-room; her entrance, she observed, put a stop to a conversation which had been going on between her brother and her aunt, but, as the latter was extremely fond of cooking up little insignificant mysteries and having private conferences, she thought nothing of it.

    "And what sort of a looking man is he, Arthur?" she heard her aunt say.  "Is he handsome?"

    "Handsome—well, no; I don't think he is—not exactly."

    "But can't you give me the least notion?—he's not a pokey-looking, little knock-kneed fellow, I hope? and I hope he's not a—what I call sanctified black hair, parted down the middle, and turn-up-eyed man, Arthur?"

    "No; he's a fine, well-grown man, with an erect figure."

    "Dear me, have you no better talent for description than that, Arthur?  Has he a good voice?—has he insinuating manners?"

    "Insinuating manners, aunt!" exclaimed Elinor, laughing, "what an idea!  Have you hired him, Arthur?"

    "Hired him!" repeated the said Arthur, turning round with a look of genuine bewilderment.

    "You are talking of the new footman, are you not?"

    "Do you think my aunt would take so much interest in a footman?"

    Elinor nodded and smiled, for she had heard little for the last week but conjectures as to what this redoubtable footman would be like, he having been recommended by her brother, and not yet inspected by his proposed mistress.

    As Elinor stood winding a skein of silk upon the backs of two chairs, Dreux came up to her, lifted her face, and kissed her with a smile.

    "My dear, I'm afraid you are a little blunder-headed thing," he said.  "At any rate you have a curious habit of jumping at conclusions, like the rest of your sex."

    "Then he is a good-looking man, Arthur?" continued Mrs. Theresa.  "I hope you wouldn't deceive me in that respect?"

    "Aunt, you'll be charmed with him."

    "And that's really all you have to say about him?"

    "Unless it would interest you to know that he weighs about a stone more than I do?"

    "Ah, you men are all alike.  You delight to teaze."

    "Dear aunt," said Elinor, still thinking of the footman, "if he is honest and does his work well, what does it matter how he looks in livery?  I hope he will clean the plate better than Simpson does."

    The entrance of the said Simpson with the tea-things made a diversion in the conversation.  They had a very silent meal, the aunt for once being deep in thought,—so deep, that she actually never observed that Elinor, in a fit of abstraction, had let the urn overflow the teapot.

    It was still quite early, and Dreux took his sister out again for a walk on the beach.  She wished to prolong it, but he was in a fidget, and kept consulting his watch that they might not be out later than half-past eight.  However, they went on the water for half an hour, and it was beginning to get both chilly and dusk when they reached the house.  As they entered the door, he said, suddenly, "Oh, Elinor, I expect a friend this evening.  I suppose he can get a bed somewhere in the village?"

    "Undoubtedly!" she answered.  "Who is it?"

    "Who is it?" he replied, with a lurking smile in his eyes.  "Oh, it's a clerical friend of mine."  Having given this information, he began to hum a tune, and Elinor did not say another word.

    They found Mrs. Theresa in a very impatient state.  "She really had supposed Arthur had more sense than to stay out so late.  In fact, the many frights he had given her about his sister when he was a boy were enough to make any watchful aunt afraid to trust him.  Such pranks, indeed!  Since the day when she had come home without her shoe"—

    "But I 'm not a boy now, aunt, and you need not fear, I think."

    "Ah, it's very well to talk; but it gave me quite a turn, quite a palpitation when you were so late in. Shall I ever forget the day, Elinor, when he singed your hair with the curling-irons?  'What a wonderful smell of hair there is, ma'am,' Morris said to me. (Morris is a careful creature.)  Up we both go to the very top of the house; she enters the nursery door first and gives a great scream.

"'Oh, ma'am, Master Arthur!'

    "And there he was in all his glory, as grave as a judge, and, the pretty lamb! all the curls singed off her dear head.  Bless her heart! how angry I was!

    "'I'll tell you what, Molyneux,' I said to his father, 'if that boy doesn't disgrace the name of Dreux before he's done—' but he only laughed, poor man.  That was in 18—.  I really forget the date, but I remember it was only a few months before his death.  'Ah,' I said to him when his papa died, 'no wonder poor papa's gone to heaven, such a naughty boy as you are.  It's all your fault.'  And I shall never forget how he cried, and screamed, and tried to get into the room."

    Having brought these lively recollections to a close, the old lady got up, and remarking that it was past the half-hour, proceeded:—

    "I think I shall ask for your arm now, Arthur, and go up stairs, that I may be out of the way."

    "Oh, then, my aunt knows that someone is coming," thought Elinor, getting really agitated.  "Is it possible that it can be Mr. Allerton?"

    When her brother came in, he stood looking out of the window, and she sat upon a couch, unable to enter into conversation.

    "What time do you expect your friend?" she said at length, in what was meant to be a careless tone.

    "Just at nine o'clock," he replied, and Elinor's heart began to beat quick, for it wanted but ten minutes to the time.

    "Here he is, Elinor," said her brother, turning from the window, and at the same instant there was a loud knock at the street-door.

    "Oh, don't let him come in yet," cried Elinor, and scarcely knowing what she said, she hastily rose and ran across the room to her brother, threw her arms round him, as if to prevent his leaving the room, and burst into tears, her face quite pale from the rapid beating of her heart.

    Elinor heard the door open,—her brother held her to him with one arm, and held out his other hand to some one who was advancing into the room.  The new comer said not a word.  Elinor did not attempt to raise her face, and wept more than ever.

    "Do try to be more calm, my dearest," said her brother, as the guest stood a little withdrawn.

    Elinor made an attempt to recover herself, but did not raise her face, and remained still clinging to him, as if she had been threatened with every danger that ever was heard of.

    "I have something to say to you, Elinor.  I have a favour to ask of you.  You will not refuse me?  Lift up your face, and listen."

    Elinor raised her face.

    "I have a favour to ask of you," he continued, "shall I tell you what it is?"

    She managed to answer "Yes," and he went on.

    "I have a friend, who is extremely dear to me,—I could scarcely tell you how dear, unless I could explain every reason why he should be.  It would make me very happy to give him some token of my affection.  I possess only one thing which seems to me of sufficient value to mark the strength of my regard.  If I thought you would permit me to give this one thing to him"—

    Elinor, surprised, lifted her face again, and, dusk as it was, she saw enough to know who the person standing by her must be.

    Her brother drew away the hand by which she still held him, and said, "Let me tell you what it is that I wish to give him.  Look, it is this."

    Elinor looked earnestly in his face.  The surprise made her calm.

    "Does silence give consent?" he asked, after waiting for an answer.

    Elinor now did not choose to speak, but released her hold of her brother, permitting him to put her hand into that of the stranger, who, thereupon, found his voice, and as she seemed inclined to listen to him, her brother left them to finish the interview by themselves.

    He walked on the beach till eleven.  When he returned he was not sorry to find that Elinor had retired.  Allerton met him on the lawn before the house.  He was about to return to the inn for the night.  Dreux was glad to find him in a silent mood, and they parted with a mutual smile of intelligence.

    The next morning he rose very early, for he intended to walk to Ryde, and pass over to Gosport, where he had to speak that morning.  It was about five o'clock in the afternoon when he returned to Shanklin by the stage, and found his sister and Allerton waiting for him at the rural inn.

    Elinor and her aunt were seated in a little pony-chaise.  The latter was very anxious to proceed with her airing, and Elinor had no sooner seen her brother and shaken him by the hand, than she was obliged to leave him with Allerton and accompany her aunt.  Allerton's face showed that all was going on to his satisfaction.  He turned round so often to watch the pony-carriage, that their progress towards the house was slow.  At length, when it was quite out of sight, Dreux .said to him, "Well, I suppose everything goes on favourably, Allerton."

    "Reasonably so, my dear fellow.  But, Dreux, you look uncommonly well to-day!"

    "I have nothing on my mind now.  I have not felt so well for months.  But how you turn from the subject, Allerton!"

    "Have you had the head-ache since we parted?"

    "Not once.  I have thought with regret of what I said concerning my health.  I now believe it was nothing but anxiety about you and Elinor which prevented my feeling as well as I ever did in my life."

    Allerton looked gratefully at him.

    "And after this bulletin I suppose I may inquire whether anything is decided!"

    "Yes, we have decided that you shall perform the ceremony."

    "The ceremony!" cried the brother-in-law elect; "well, that is getting on very fast indeed."

    To which Allerton replied with this remarkable piece of advice: "Whenever you have a favour to ask of a lady, my dear fellow, take my advice,—don't be humble.  I began with that feeling, and I found it a bad one.

    "She remarked, that six months was the shortest engagement she could think of.  I was dejected, but I gave in.  Then she thought the arrangements could not be made in less than a year.  At last, when this had gone on some time, I suddenly thought rebellion might have a good effect.  'And pray, Mr. Allerton,' she said, 'how long a time do you propose?'  'Since you ask me, Miss Dreux,' I answered, 'I think six weeks would be a reasonable time.'  She was astonished at my presumption, but I persisted.  Then I proposed a compromise;—we were to meet each other half-way, and say three months.  In fact, instead of giving way, I declared I would not wait any longer, and she instantly succumbed.  After which she remarked that she particularly liked your old house at Westport, so I am going to try if I can get it, and shall have it furnished as fast as I can."

    "You succumb, in that respect, to her wishes, then."

    "Of course.  She wishes the library-curtains to be green, Dreux, as they used to be,—green damask.  The dining-room is to have a Turkey carpet."

    "I am afraid your first rebellion will be your last.  Really, you bid fair to be a very reasonable—that is, a very compliant husband."

    "In all little things, of course, I shall give way."

    "Of course, such little things as houses, furniture, servants, society, et cetera."

    Allerton laughed.  "I have fought for my own way once," he observed, "and got it.  I have made Elinor agree, that whenever the house is ready, she will be ready to occupy it.  She thinks that will be three months; I know it will not be quite two.  Having begun with firmness, I now feel that I may venture on indulgence."

    "You begin with firmness!  If ever you show firmness enough to insist upon Elinor's doing any one thing that she doesn't like, may I be there to see!"

    It was not long before Mrs. Theresa returned to the house with her niece, and Dreux spent the rest of the evening in admiring Allerton's admirable tactics with the old lady.

    He had already managed to win her over to his side, and to the astonishment of Elinor, and the amusement of Dreux, he contrived to get her assent and consent to everything he proposed.  He was not at all what is popularly called a man to "let the grass grow under his feet;" and when he turned from the aunt to indulge in a little talk with the niece, Mrs. Theresa expressed, by many nods and knowing looks to her nephew, how much she was pleased with his friend.

    "And a thorough gentleman he looks," she whispered, "though he tells me his great-grandfather was a cheesemonger!"

    "Did you ask him the question, aunt?"

    "No; but I was just letting him know something about our family, you know, Arthur, my dear;—about the Holy Wars, and "William the Conqueror, and all that."

    "Oh, indeed."

    "Yes; no use letting him think we 're a plebeian race.  And so he laughed, and told me that of his own accord."

    "Indeed."

    "Yes, and his grandfather was knighted.  He was an Alderman of London, very rich.  I forget what his father was."

    "A clergyman, aunt."

    "Humph! he seems very fond of Elinor.  I wish he would come away from the piano,—I want to ask him a few more questions; and really, Arthur, you are quite stupid to-night.  And so you are going to remain at Westport, after all?"

    "Yes, I am going there with Allerton the day after to-morrow."

    Accordingly, the day after to-morrow, about six of the clock p.m., to the unbounded astonishment of Westport, Dreux and Allerton were seen sauntering up and down the square of grass before the almshouses, "just for all the world" (as the first old woman who spied them felicitously expressed it) "as if nothing had happened."

    There they were, in the body, and presently the heads of some two or three hundred old men and women were to be seen behind their bright casements, peering at them.  They were both great favourites;—Allerton, because, they said, he had such a free way with him; Dreux, because, since he was gone, as they thought, for ever, they had discovered his good qualities, real and imaginary.

    They walked nearly an hour in the evening sunshine, and no one interrupted them; then, exactly as the church clock struck seven, they turned into the back lane which ran behind the garden of Allerton's house, and went away together.

    The news soon flew all over the town, and everybody called on Allerton, partly, perhaps, hoping to hear what had detained him so long.  But how common is disappointment in this world!  Allerton and Dreux were always found together; consequently, neither could be asked any question about the other, and the callers departed as wise as they came, saving that they saw no symptoms of their having quarrelled, and shrewdly suspected that they had been wrong in their former conjectures on that head; they also were conscious of a certain change in Allerton's manner,—he was less impetuous, more calm and guarded.  Sunday, they thought, would separate this David and Jonathan, and then, perhaps, something might be made out of them to satisfy curiosity.

    Sunday, however, came, and brought fresh surprise.  Allerton read prayers in his own church, and Dreux preached for him.  Astonishing! he sat as still as a stone, as immovable as one of the pillars, in his desk, while Dreux was making every arch and aisle echo with his eloquence overhead.

    And yet it was obvious to the more acute that Allerton's calmness was constrained, and that he was ill at ease.  There was a certain restless excitement in the flash of his eyes if he chanced to raise them for an instant, and a certain steadiness of expression, which made him look like a man who had nerved himself up to the performance of some difficult duty, and who could not breathe freely till it was over.

    So the gossips thought, and they were right.  Who does not know the shame of avowing an utter change of principles, of contradicting former assertions, and avowing former mistakes,—a shame felt quite as strongly by those who turn round from pure motives as those who change from interested ones.  In politics, it requires courage in the man who changes sides to get up and avow it before his late constituents; how much more in religion, where any change is so much more important, it requires courage to avow former error, and disenchant those listeners who were well enough satisfied with the teaching of the past?

    As the people had expected, in the evening Dreux read prayers.  The church was densely crowded by puzzled foes and alarmed friends.  Allerton did not keep them long in suspense.  At Dreux's request, he had chosen a text which, in the excited, attentive state of all present, could not fail to tell them the truth concerning this matter the moment he uttered it.  His evident sensation of agitation at first interfered with the clearness of his utterance, but in a few minutes he recovered his self-possession, and preached a sermon which fully confirmed the worst fears of his late friends.

    There was nothing remarkable in it, excepting the state of feeling with which it was uttered and listened to.  He never alluded to himself, or to his change of views.  He was not at all an eloquent man, and heard from the lips of another, and on an ordinary occasion, his sermon might have passed without exciting any interest or observation, and have faded away from the memory of its hearers with the thousand other appeals which are lost and forgotten.  But heard on such an occasion, when the nerves of both speaker and listeners were strained, it could not fail to possess an interest far greater than either eloquence or power could have given it: it was the painful parting from old friends, the anxious holding out of the hand to new ones.  But Allerton was destined to find, as some others have done, that though his own party were forward at once to cast him off, the opposite one was shy of receiving him.

    Dreux also was destined to prove that no man, however popular he has been, or however necessary he has seemed in a place, can leave it even for a short time, and returning, take up his old position.  His friends had been excited about him when he left them, and in their expressions of regret and esteem on that occasion, they had exhausted all they felt for him.  He now returned to find that they were already accustomed to do without him, and that his place, however inadequately, was filled.

    Allerton's natural cheerfulness returned when once he had honestly given utterance to his new feelings.  And Dreux was too well pleased with him, with Elinor's prospects, and the hope of remaining at Westport,—which, for many reasons, he wished to do for the present,—to think much about what degree of popularity he was likely to possess.  Besides, he had not finished half his work for the Society before mentioned, and, before he had seen another Sunday at Westport, he was obliged to leave Allerton and proceed to Yorkshire.

    During the next six weeks he twice made a flying visit to the Isle of Wight, to see how his brother-in-law elect proceeded with his wooing.  Mrs. Dorothy Silverstone had been invited to spend a few weeks with Mrs. Theresa, and while Allerton wooed the young lady, the two old ones wooed him.  Never was man made so much of.  His voice, his hair, his walk, his house, his pedigree, were subjects of never-ceasing discussion and interest; they almost rivalled Elinor's wedding dresses, some of which, by the bye, they made him choose; and he was discovered one morning by Dreux, with a milliner's book full of patterns of silk in his hand, and a very puzzled expression on his face, while he tried to decide between the merits of brocade, glacé, shot and striped silk, and betrayed, by his deliberate choice, the most horrid taste, selecting the largest patterns and the most gaudy colours he could find.

    It has lately been discovered by the learnèd that weddings are pretty nearly all alike.  The ceremony does not admit of much variety; it must either be read or chanted; and though (entirely for the sake of variety) we have heard of one or two marriages lately which have been conducted by three or four clergymen, we do not think even one of these would be worth describing.

    If weddings are alike, so must descriptions of them partake of a certain sameness. When you have heard whether the bride behaved well, and whether any good speeches were made at the breakfast, you have heard all that is worth hearing.

    On the occasion of Elinor's wedding she behaved extremely ill, that is to say, she wept in the church and at the breakfast, though she had no one to take leave of but her aunt, who certainly betrayed no answering emotion.  As for Allerton, it is a well-known fact, that on the occasion of his marriage, a retiring, silent, and even a gloomy man will pluck up courage, and often make a speech that will astonish everybody.  But nobody ever heard either a hilarious man, a rattle, or an affectionate, merry-hearted fellow, open his lips on that day without breaking down, stammering, contradicting himself, or betraying great alarm.  Allerton did all this, and yet he sat down with the applause of the company!

    But the company, notwithstanding, were glad when that tedious morning was over, and the bride and bridegroom fairly off; for in spite of Elinor's involuntary weeping, and Allerton's nervousness, they were not in any fear for their happiness, for they perceived that the latter had no sooner handed his bride into the carriage than he became himself again, and as for the former, when once the dreaded publicity was over, her face recovered its smiling expression.


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