Allerton and Dreux (Vol. II) III.

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CHAPTER XXV.

MARION WAITS AT TABLE.


THE time during which Dreux had agreed to travel for the Society before mentioned wanted still a fortnight of its completion, and having seen Allerton and his sister set out on their short wedding tour, he once more plunged into the exciting business of sermons and meetings.  The time passed rapidly, for he was fond of travelling, and had now a pleasant future to look forward to.  He had reached his greatest distance from Westport, and was already turning homeward, when, finding himself within ten miles of his uncle, Colonel Norland, he thought it only his duty to call upon him.  He had previously received a communication from Mr. Raeburn, requesting that he would come round by Swanstead, and hold a local meeting near there.

    It was about one o'clock on a sultry day that he arrived at the Colonel's house, and was shown into a small room to wait for him.  He had sent in his card, and, while expecting his uncle's entrance he stood looking out towards the redoubtable pond which had so completely altered his prospects in life.

    Now Colonel Norland, during the last fourteen years, had met with very little to vary his existence.  He had got heavier, and had taken to riding a quieter horse, that was all.  It was natural, therefore, that he should forget how much the young had changed during the same period.  When he was told that his nephew, Mr. Dreux, had called upon him, he thought of him, despite his knowledge that he was in orders, as still the break-neck, mischievous, high-spirited boy who had ridden to cover on one of his best horses, and ruined him by his reckless riding.  Such being the case, he was rather astonished when he came into the room to be greeted by a young man of decidedly commanding presence and a full head taller than himself.

    "Well, Sir," said the Colonel, after a good stare, "and to what may I be indebted for the honour of this visit?"

    His nephew explained that, being in the neighbourhood, he thought it his duty to call.

    "Oh!" said the old Colonel, and sitting down by the table he commenced an earnest scrutiny of his nephew's person, which that gentleman having some difficulty in sustaining with gravity, turned his face towards the window.

    "No, no, Arthur," cried the old man, "—needn't look that way; that's all forgotten.  I bear no malice—Ahem.  You think your visit particularly well timed, Sir, don't you?"

    This was said with an air of banter which his nephew could not at all understand.

    "It would appear that if I did think so I was mistaken," he replied.  "But to tell the truth, I really know no reason why it should be."

    "Oh, you don't, don't you," replied the Colonel, who with a very red face and very white whiskers sat staring at him as if he did not exactly know whether to quarrel with him or make him welcome.  "You don't know the disgrace that the family has sustained lately, don't you?  Joseph Norland, Sir, your cousin, my heir, he's a—he's a humbug, Sir; he's been plucked, Sir,—plucked in his little go."

    Dreux's look of obvious mortification and annoyance pleased the irascible old man.

    "I wrote to him, Sir," he proceeded, "and I told him he was the greatest fool that ever disgraced the name of Norland.  I told him he was a fool, and so he is.  I told him he should never touch a sixpence that I could keep from him.  The Norland estate he must have, but he shan't lay his finger on an inch of my property that's unentailed; no, that he shan't—no, nor on that estate in the vale of Swanstead, or the house that Raeburn has a lease of.  He shall never touch a brick of it, so help me—.  No, I forgot you were a parson—but he shan't, Sir, for all that."

    There was nothing to be said in reply, so his nephew tried to turn the conversation.

    "Joseph, Sir," cried the Colonel, not deigning to notice the interruption, "Joseph is a born fool.  He scents himself, Sir.  I've told him over and over again that no man but a fool would cover himself with studs and jewels.  It's no use.  He turn off my water-springs and kill my hunters!  No, trust him.  And then to go and get plucked.  Ugh!  If ever he brings his—his odious little pug nose into my presence again"—

    Here his nephew burst into an irresistible fit of laughter.

    "Sir," cried the Colonel, in a momentary passion, "you play your cards remarkably ill; but you always did,—it's in the family.  Your father, Sir, lost his first love by making game of her mother.  You'd better mind what you're about.  Ring the bell, will you?—I want lunch," he shouted, when the footman appeared.  "Sit down, Arthur; you're not going yet.  Sit down, I say."

    His nephew sat down.

    "Well, Sir," proceeded the Colonel, "and so you've lost your property.  But if you came to borrow anything of me"—

    "I did not," replied his nephew, looking at him steadily; "I can live on my curacy.  I did not suppose you would have inquired about my affairs; but you might have been sure I should not have come here unless I could have answered your questions satisfactorily."

    "Then how do you live?" asked the Colonel.

    "I live in lodgings on £140 a-year, and I have a pupil.  I was in difficulties when first the house failed, but I have paid my debts, and owe nothing to any one."

    The old man considered his face attentively.  "Then you want nothing of me," he repeated.  "Well, I confess I thought you did.  You need not look alarmed; I don't want to force my favours upon you, I am sure."

    "Thank you, uncle," replied the nephew, now for the first time giving him his title.

    "Ah, 'thank you, uncle,'" repeated the old gentleman, in a musing tone.  "If it had not been for your own preposterous conduct, Arthur Dreux, you might still have possessed a handsome income, instead of being a poor parson, with nothing to depend upon but—excuse me—your beggarly pay."

    "Sir," said his nephew, "I do not wish to annoy you; but since it was the circumstance of your renouncing me which put it afterwards in my power to take orders, I must say"—

    "Not that you don't regret it.  You won't say that."

    "My being in orders is my greatest happiness.  I wish to devote my life to what I have undertaken.  If I had remained your heir, you would not have suffered me to go into the Church."

    "No, that I wouldn't,—catch me!  You should have been in Parliament before now."

    "Then you cannot expect me to regret what has made me my own master."

    "You dare to repeat that, Sir!  You dare to tell me you are glad of it!  Say it again, Sir!"

    "Say I am glad I went into the Church?" answered Dreux, calmly and with a smile.  "I cannot say otherwise; I am glad."

    "Very well, Arthur; you're like your father.  You're glad you went into the Church, are you?  Oh, very well!  If you're glad, so am I."

    "Sir," said his nephew, taking out his watch, "I believe I must take my leave of you; I am very happy to have seen you in such good health."

    "You are not going yet, young man," was the reply; "sit down, I say.  Since that enormous ass, Joseph, showed himself in his true colours, I have scarcely seen any one; I feel quite lonely."

    "It was undoubtedly a very mortifying thing for you," replied his nephew.  "But, after all, he may make a respectable country gentleman, though it is not in his power to distinguish himself at college."

    "May be, Sir; who told you that?  I should like to know where you got your information.  Joseph is every inch a fool.  I allow him £500 a-year at college; and he dusts his boots with his silk handkerchief, dresses and scents himself, and does no other earthly thing.  He's just like his mother.  If an old fellow like my poor brother chose to go and marry a young girl, what could he expect?  Of course, no girl of sense would have him.  I should rather think not; and the consequence is, Sir, that Joseph is the softest mortal that ever was dandled and kissed by a doting old father and silly young mother.  Why, I always intended, if possible, to bring about a match between him and Raeburn's pretty ward; she is sure to inherit a good slice of his property.  Well, I took Joseph there to dinner a while ago, and if you had seen how he went on you would have wondered how any girl of sense could have endured him."

    At this point in the discourse his nephew began to feel a keen interest, and to be conscious of a peculiar fluttering of the heart.

    "I often joke Miss Greyson about my nephew, and she blushes so deeply that I really thought the thing was nearly done to my hands.

    "'Well, Joseph, my fine fellow,' I said, as we went there, 'hold up your head, there's money bid for you.'  'Au—er,' he says (little fool), 'do you think Miss Greyson really now—really—er—likes me?'

"' There's no accounting for taste,' I said, 'and I can only suppose she does.'

    "Well, in we went, and he began to talk.  I wonder I didn't bite his head off.  Miss Paton, from your part of the country, was staying there.  'Did he read the ''Quarterly?"' I heard one of the ladies saying, before we were called to dinner, 'or perhaps he preferred some of the other leading Reviews.'  Well, he couldn't give a rational answer, though I looked liked thunder at him.

    "'I suppose you mean to go in for honours, Mr. Norland,' says Miss Paton.

    "'Au—er—I don't think I shall,' says Joseph.  'Au—honours are very well when a man has no property.'

    "'Oh, but,' says Miss Paton, 'honours distinguish a man so much for life, especially among ladies.'

    "'Au—I dare say I could get 'em as well as other people,' says Joseph, simpering, 'if I tried; au—perhaps I shall—can't say.'"

    Dreux could not forbear a smile.

    "'For my part,' says Miss Paton, casting up her eyes, 'I never meet a Senior Op. without a thrill of respect; it is something only to sit next him.'

    "'Very true,' says that wicked little puss, Miss Greyson, 'and as for wranglers, they are quite ir-re-sistible!'"

    "I have not found it so," thought Dreux.  With a sigh of relief to think that at least Marion was not likely to be captivated by the fascinations of his cousin, Joseph Norland, he rose from the lunch table.

    "What! you must go, must you, Arthur?  Well then, I'll tell you what I can do,—I can drive you down as far as Raeburn's gates.  So you see there is no chance for Joseph in that quarter."

    Dreux was about to answer, "I am very glad of it," but checked himself just in time, and only said, "Indeed."

    "Well, Sir," resumed the Colonel, when they were seated in the carriage, "I suppose you will be looking out now for a lady with money; that's the only thing for you that I can see.  As the old Quaker said, 'Never thee marry for money, but never thee fall in love where there's none.'"

    "I hope I have rather a higher sense of honour than to patch up my broken fortune with a rich wife," replied Dreux, colouring.  "I should think that the worst kind of dependence.  No, Sir, there is no marrying for me.  I could not afford to maintain a poor wife, and I would not let a rich one maintain me."

    "The worst kind of dependence, hey?—worse than being dependent on a crabstick of an uncle."

    Dreux hesitated.  He did not wish to offend and hurt the old man, though he had cast him off.  "Dependence is a thing never to be submitted to in any shape," he at length said, "if it can be avoided."

    "It can always be avoided, if the young man chooses to work upon the roads."

    "The young man, Sir!  I was only speaking generally."

    "But I was not."

    "Then," said Dreux, with most perfect temper, and calm, "let the young man whom you have in your mind avoid it, by 'working on the roads;' let him take his share of toil on the highways or in the byways of life.  He cannot do better."

    "If it's not an impertinent question, Mr. Dreux, I should be glad to know why you called on me to-day."

    "Simply to see you, Colonel."

    "Which you have not done for fifteen years."

    "Precisely fifteen years."

    "At which time I renounced you, and consequently you can have no claim upon me."

    "None whatever."

    "But I wrote to you at College, Sir, and expressed regret, and—and—congratulated you upon your honours."

    "And I replied in some such sort as this, that I hoped if ever we should chance to meet, it would be as friends."

    "And in that letter, Sir, you never apologized for the trouble you had given to a crusty old bachelor."

    "When I was a boy of fourteen.  No; if I had thought much about it, perhaps it would have been thus: Colonel Norland voluntarily undertook the care of a high-spirited, troublesome boy, a spoilt child, and an orphan.  He intended to bring him up as his son, and leave him a portion of his property.  Finding the responsibility far greater than he had expected, and the experiment not worth trying, he voluntarily gave it up, renounced the boy, surrendered all authority over him, and denied that he had any claim upon him.  It was his own will and pleasure to try the experiment; his young kinsman had no hand in it; and had no right to feel himself aggrieved if, the experiment not answering, it was given up again."

    "Why had you no right to feel aggrieved, Sir?"

    "Do you really wish me to tell you, Colonel?"

    "Yes, I do."

    "Because as soon as I came to years of discretion, I easily perceived that I had not been adopted for my own good or benefit, but for yours.  Of course, if regard for my father, or if love to my mother, had been the cause, I should not have been thrown loose upon the world again, to do almost as I liked with two weak, flattering guardians, a perilous command of money, and a wild, high spirit into the bargain."

    "Humph!  Well, Sir, according to your theory anything's better than dependence.  How would you have liked dependence on your father if he had lived?"

    "That would not have been dependence.  My father, if my recollections say true, was more than commonly attached to me.  If he had lived, and I had loved him as I must have done, to depend on him would have been far better than liberty.  I should have had such a natural and inevitable claim, that I should not have lived in constant fear that one reckless act of folly might some day break the tie between us; neither would he have been afraid of snapping it asunder by any exercise of discipline or authority."

    "Should you have become attached to me, if I had supplied the place of a father?"

    "I should have proved ungrateful if I had not."

    "You have told me in broad terms that I failed to fulfil my part; that I flung you out and acted basely to you when you were young, almost a child.  Now, Sir, since our quarrel, or whatever you like to call it, was made up by my writing to you at College—and you say you did not call upon me to borrow money—I should be glad to know whether you called to insult me by telling me all that."

    "I called simply to see you, Colonel."

    "And you expected we should part friends?"

    "Undoubtedly; for I felt no bitterness against you, Colonel; and I have before said that what you did has turned out to my true advantage."

    "You had the audacity to say it, Arthur Dreux, and I swallowed my indignation.  Well, Joseph's a fool, and I can do nothing with him; and you are as stiff-necked as ever were the Israelites of old, so I can do nothing with you.  There are always hospitals and almshouses.  Good afternoon, Sir, these are Raeburn's gates.  If you call on me to-morrow morning before twelve, you may perhaps find me at home."

    With this enigmatical speech the old Colonel put down his nephew at the gates, and inclined his head slightly as the young clergyman took off his hat and bowed at parting.  Colonel Norland then drove off, and employed himself in mentally concocting the plan for a huge hospital for decayed tradesmen, to be built in the vale of Swanstead, and decorated with the Norland arms; it should be built of stone, he decided, and have two long rows of almshouses stretching away from it by way of wings.  "But he's a fine young fellow," he mused, thinking of his elder nephew; "and as for that little fool Joseph, he cried like a child when I was thought to be dying last autumn.  Well, the more fool he.  Ah! I'll have it built just there.  Rennie shall build it.  No, he shan't, Barry shall.  I all but promised Dreux.  I would adopt his boy.  So I did.  I remember him now, a little curly-headed chap, sitting on his father's bed.  Well, I've done my best, I'm not going to humble down at this time of day.  Pshaw! I adopted him for my own pleasure, did I?  (He was a brave little chap.)  I was rather proud of him, to be sure, when he rode to cover at ten years old, and was in at the death.  And so he's willing to work on the roads, is he?  Anything's better than my yoke.  I dare say he remembers me a regular tyrant.  I say the hospital shall be a handsome one; he has no claim.  Why, he told me so himself.  I'll have it built of freestone.  No, I won't.  Yes, I think I will.  Shall I?  Yes, I will; done."

    In the meantime, while the tall iron gates of the rectory-garden swung behind Dreux, Mr. Raeburn, who had just returned from a Board of Poor-law Guardians, which he attended once a week, was seated at his dinner, for it was now five o'clock, and old Mrs. Raeburn, his mother, having a great objection to what she called a late dinner, on these occasions always dined early with Marion, and left the Rector to take his meal alone, Marion, according to ancient custom, waiting upon him.  The manner of the dinner was this: the old footman, who was so fat that he could scarcely perform the light duties which ordinarily devolved upon him, set the dishes on the table and put a chair for his master, after which he retired to the sideboard, where he stood, lost in fat, stupidity, and self-importance; while Marion proceeded to lift up the covers of the vegetable dishes, help the Rector to gravy, and pour out his home-brewed beer.

    The old footman, who was very deaf, felt in his heart a fatherly kindness for Marion, and took a fat, patronizing kind of pleasure in seeing her hovering about his master, telling him the news of the day, selecting the very best young kidney potatoes, and putting them on his plate, then paring and slicing the cucumber and sprinkling it with pepper and vinegar to his taste.  The dining-room door was wide open to admit the air, the hall-door was also open, and they were opposite to each other.  Mr. Raeburn had a full view of the garden, that is to say, such a view as short-sighted people can get, which must be a very poor one.

    "Somebody at the door, Porson," shouted Mr. Raeburn to his lethargic attendant.  The old man moved slowly off, while Mr. Raeburn went on with his dinner, Marion just then laying her hand on his shoulder, and asking if he had been to see a poor market-gardener who was ill.  "Don't you remember him, uncle?  I wonder at that; he is the very man of whom I bought that black polyanthus in the spring; and don't you remember my telling you that it was pin-eyed?"

    The somebody at the door had plenty of time to observe her as the servant came slowly towards him.  He gave in his card, and was about to be shown into the drawing-room, when Mr. Raeburn, who had mistaken him for a neighbouring clergyman, called out, "Porson, show Mr. Cottle in here."

    The supposed Mr. Cottle, on entering, proved to be no other than Mr. Dreux; and Marion, taken quite by surprise, coloured deeply as she advanced and offered her hand, the other being occupied with a sauceboat of melted butter.

    Mr. Raeburn ordered another chair to be placed, and pressed his guest to dine.  The old servant speedily set another plate and knife and fork; he then retired to the sideboard, evidently having no notion of waiting at table; on that particular day he couldn't think of it.

    Neither could Mr. Raeburn think of shouting for everything that was wanted, and knocking his fork handle on the table to rouse Porson; he therefore said, composedly, "My dear Marion, oblige me by extending your attentions to our guest."

    Marion did as she was requested, excessively to the discomfort of Dreux.  "This is a fancy of my niece's," proceeded Mr. Raeburn, putting the wing of a fowl on to the plate which Marion held.  "She has done it occasionally from a child.  I assure you she is an accomplished waitress; but though there is little precedent for it in this country, I believe in the North, especially in Sweden and Norway, the custom of ladies waiting at table still prevails."

    The guest would have been indifferent as to where it had prevailed, if it had not prevailed there; and Mr. Raeburn beginning to converse, and Marion handing him all sorts of things, he got so confused, that he scarcely knew what he said.

    Marion, on the contrary, after her first blush, which had tinged even the very back of her neck, recovered herself completely; for she had perceived, by the sudden, earnest look he directed towards her at his entrance, that she still retained her empire over him.

    The footman looked on with a pompous kind of encouragement; the host was very pressing, and the waitress very attentive, but the guest scarcely touched a mouthful; he was truly glad when the dinner was over, and during the rest of the evening he could not but perceive that Marion treated him with marked politeness and attention, a solicitude to please far different to the insouciance with which she had passed over his first advances.  She played and sang for him, she showed him her most beautiful plants, and took infinite pains to explain why one particular geranium was better than another.

    But all she said failed to raise the spirits of their guest; on the contrary, it made him feel his present position and his "beggarly pay" the more; his visit also showed him, what he had not previously known, that Mr. Raeburn was rich, and Marion, even in the days of his prosperity, would have been a decidedly good match for him, if, as the old Colonel had said, she was to inherit a "good slice of old Raeburn's property."

    The fancy dawned upon him (for he treated it only as an idle fancy) that, if he now could offer such a home as he had formerly possessed, and if he could have time given him to make an impression, he might possibly get a different answer; but he put it aside, for the thing was altogether out of the question, and the less he thought on it the better for his own peace.

    Mr. Raeburn had insisted on his staying the night, for the next morning they were to go together to a place about five miles off, to hold a meeting.

    The next day, at breakfast, he felt very much agitated; poverty had never seemed half so bitter to him as now,—this was one of its real evils; and, as he now and then glanced at Marion, he fancied that she, too, looked ill at ease.

    How he got over the time till ten o'clock he scarcely knew, though he afterwards remembered that hour as one of the most uncomfortable of his life.  His features were pale from agitation; and, in his pre-occupied state of mind, it was with the greatest difficulty that he dragged on a conversation with Mr. Raeburn.  Marion did not help, for she scarcely opened her lips, and seemed quite relieved when the phaeton drove to the door.

    "Well, good by, my dear, for the present," said Mr. Raeburn.  "I shall see our friend into the railway-office before I return, and I shall hope to be at home by dinner-time."

    Marion then held out her cold hand to Dreux, but neither looked up nor said a word.

    They had not been gone ten minutes when Colonel Norland called, and Marion was obliged to go into the drawing-room to see him.

    "So I understand my nephew's gone, my dear," cried the old gentleman; "actually gone without even coming to see me again, though I fully expected him."

    "Did he say that he should call again, Colonel?" asked Marion, gently.

    "No, my dear; he said he thought he shouldn't have time, but I supposed he knew better than not to find time.  My nephew, Miss Greyson, is a fool."

    "Which nephew did you mean, Colonel?" asked Marion, in her most gentle tone.

    "Why—why, I meant Arthur, my dear."

    "Oh," said Marion, irresistibly impelled to take his part, "I should not have thought the appellation was appropriate to Mr. Dreux."

    She spoke so calmly, but she blushed so deeply, that the old gentleman looked at her with surprise; then he drew a long breath and nodded, as if congratulating himself on having solved a problem which had long puzzled him, after which he burst into a chuckling laugh, and exclaimed,—"Excuse me, my dear; I forgot that wranglers were irresistible."

    Marion instantly remembered when she had said this, and who she had been thinking of at the time.

    "Joseph will never be a wrangler," said the old gentleman, pitying her confusion.

    "I am sorry I should have intimated as much to him," said Marion, gladly catching at this straw as a diversion; "he has a very kind heart."

    "I'm glad to hear you say so, my dear; it shows your penetration.  Joseph, Miss Greyson, is a born fool.  Don't tell me,—I say he is; and he'll never be any honour to the family—never.  I never," continued the old gentleman, striking his stick violently on the ground,—"I never knew a pug-nosed fellow get either military or academical honours.  Don't tell me,—they can't do it; it's not in 'em.  Joseph, like all regularly pug-nosed fellows, is a little fool."

    Having uttered these remarkable sentiments, the old gentleman kissed his hand to Marion and took leave.  She was extremely glad to see him drive away, though her cheeks glowed again when she remembered how she had blushed.  She returned to the long drawing-room, and wandered about in a state of unusual agitation and excitement; her face was suffused with a soft carnation and her hands trembled.  She argued with herself, and vainly tried to think that the departure of that morning was nothing to her, but it would not do; her usually serene spirits could not so far suffer her to deceive herself.  She had continued her effort to be tranquil perhaps for half an hour, when the housemaid entered.

    "If you please, ma'am, the gentleman who slept here last night—"

    "Mr. Dreux?" exclaimed Marion, starting, as if the maid had frightened her.

    "Yes, ma'am.  I went just now into his dressing-room, and found this ring upon the wash-hand stand."

    Marion received the ring in the palm of her hand; it was her own,—the one she had permitted him to take from her after his accident.

    "And on the table, ma'am," proceeded the maid, "the gentleman had left this bunch of keys."

    "Oh, how unfortunate!" said Marion.  "Give them to me, Sarah; they must be sent after Mr. Dreux, he will perhaps want them."

    "Yes, ma'am.  Perhaps the carrier could take them.  If you remember, one holidays Master Wilfred left his keys behind him, and master sent them after him by the carrier."

    "Let the carrier be stopped at the gate, then, Sarah," said Marion, "and he shall take them."

    The maid left the room, and Marion ran up-stairs into her own apartment with the ring and the keys, bolted the door, and burst into tears.  She was frightened, and ashamed to find how bitter a thing it was to her, that her ring should have been forgotten and left behind; for a moment she thought it must have been done on purpose, to show that no value was felt for it, and yet she could not but remember that her late lover's eyes had sometimes, during his visit, rested on her face with a tenderness which could scarcely be due to gratitude alone.

    "But he does not—he cannot love me now," she argued, "or surely he might have said so.  He must have seen, by my friendly manner, that at least I like him."

    Marion put the ring on her finger, and, the more she thought, the more she instinctively felt that he no longer loved her.  And how should she return it to him?—should she not rather, since he no longer needed a remembrance of her, keep it as a remembrance of him?  She thought she would.  It was a very sultry morning, and she threw her casement windows open to admit the air.  The carrier was to pass in half an hour; she heard the iron gates creak, and looked out, but how much was her agitation increased when, instead of the carrier, she saw the phaeton, with the two gentlemen in it.

    They drove quickly in, and Marion never doubted that the loss had been discovered, and they were come back in consequence.  She remembered that they had intended to pay a call on their way, but that, by giving up this call, they would still be in time for the Meeting.

    And now should she go down and see him again?  She looked at her face, and could not flatter herself that the traces of tears had entirely disappeared.  But the servants would come to her for the missing articles, she was sure, or her uncle might send for them; so she hastily threw a light scarf over her shoulders and put on her bonnet, the gauze veil of which she dropped over her face.  Courage, she knew, would not come for waiting for, so she opened her door, and came down stairs with a beating heart.

    She heard a considerable noise below, moving of chairs, pulling open of drawers, and slamming of doors.

    "Where's Miss Greyson?" she heard the Rector say, in a hurried voice, "perhaps she knows."

    Marion entered the study.

    "My dear, my dear," cried Mr. Raeburn, in a great flurry, "what's become of the Local Report and the Subscription List?"

    Marion saw at a glance that Mr. Dreux was perfectly unconscious of his loss; it was the Rector on whose account they had returned.

    As soon as she entered he bowed gravely, and, perhaps, not wishing to appear a spectator of the confusion which his worthy host had excited in his study, walked leisurely out of the room, across the hall, and into the morning-room, the door of which stood open.

    Marion set to work to search in all likely drawers and folios for the missing papers, casting now and then a furtive glance towards their guest, who, leaning with his hands upon the back of a chair, stood, with a very serious expression of countenance, looking out of the window.

    At last, Mr. Raeburn having turned out every closet he possessed below stairs, ran up-stairs into his dressing-room as a forlorn hope, followed by the two housemaids and Mrs. Mathews.

    "And now," thought Marion, "if I mean to give these keys myself it must be done at once."

    She crossed the hall with uncertain steps, but her light footfall did not reach Dreux's ears.  He still gazed earnestly out of the window, and she actually felt afraid of intruding upon him.

    She might have stood there longer if a servant's step on the stairs had not compelled her to advance, unless she wished to be seen.

    She had advanced far into the room before he turned.  When he did, it was with a sudden start to find her so near to him.  His face looked extremely grave—almost stern, she thought; and though she was at home she felt ashamed lest he might think she had needlessly sought his presence.  The consciousness of her own strength of feeling for him made her so exquisitely uncomfortable that her face and forehead became suffused with blushes, and she held out the bunch of keys to him, and said, in a slightly unsteady voice, "I believe, Mr. Dreux, these keys are yours; the housemaid tells me she found them in your dressing-room."

    The guest bowed, and took them, thanking her, but without any tendency towards a smile.  She fancied his manner expressed surprise, and was afraid he might have observed her confusion, whereas the truth was, he had merely stooped to catch a glimpse of her face, which was half hidden by the white veil.

    He evidently had not the slightest idea that he had left anything else behind him, and Marion, who wore the ring upon her gloved hand, could not summon courage to allude to it.  He was twirling a little piece of geranium in his hand, and looked troubled and restless; Marion thought he was afraid of being late.  He observed that she was standing, and brought her a chair, then he partially drew down the blind to shield her from the sun.  His excitement would not allow him to be still.

    "Oh, how he longs to be away," thought Marion, and she wished Mr. Raeburn would come, for she felt an almost childish dislike to the idea of his leaving her and the place where she lived, with unpleasing recollections.

    At last Mr. Raeburn came clattering down stairs.  Marion's heart sank, for she should have to go through the parting a second time.

    "Well, Mr. Dreux, I've found 'em at last.  I'm sorry indeed to have kept you waiting."

    There was no mistaking the short, quick sigh of relief with which their guest arose, took up his hat, and bowed to Marion.  In another moment he was gone.  She sat listening to the sound of his voice.

    "It was a pity we could not find time to see the Colonel this morning," she heard Mr. Raeburn say as they got into the phaeton.

    "Yes, indeed," he answered, in a tone of some regret, "for it may be years before I visit this place again."

    "Years!" thought Marion; "is that possible?" and she sat listening to the retiring wheels as long as they were audible, almost frightened to feel how flat and tame everything seemed now that one person was withdrawn.  "But I must get something to do," she exclaimed, starting up.  "Oh, I must drive these thoughts away; I must do my German exercises, and put my uncle's papers in order again."

    She went into the study and commenced her task, but it was too easy—she could do it mechanically, and her thoughts followed the phaeton.  Now they would have reached the turnpike road— now they were going through the wood.  What a strange, intense desire she felt to see him again, to know how he looked just then, and whether he was thinking of her!

    As her fancy pictured, he was then going through the wood; the lights and shadows were dancing on his forehead, for the day was sultry, and he had taken off his hat.

    Mr. Raeburn after his bustle was very silent.  Dreux's face was thoughtful.  He was revolving in his mind all the circumstances of his two visits: the Colonel's composed way of falling into discourse without any preamble or explanation—his vehement disgust at Joseph's silliness—his rudeness to himself.  Then he thought of Marion—her friendly gentle smile, her confiding manner.  "She has forgotten," he thought, "or she would have me forget, that I ever stood before her in the character of a lover, but she looks at me with an interest which she cannot conceal, perhaps because she watched me during those dangerous hours.  She is evidently anxious I should not do or say anything to betray a continuance of the old love.  Well, it is something to have left her and not to have committed myself.  She would not like all intercourse to cease between us, and she looked as conscious and uncomfortable when she brought me those keys as if she had known how near I inevitably was to another declaration.  But there is a greater bar to that than her prohibition: all my circumstances forbid so mean an attempt as that to obtain her hand; for my uncle not only repeated all he has ever said about renouncing me, but he never even mentioned that living of Wickley which he promised my father I should have if this good Rector of Swanstead survived him.  If I could have known the pain this visit would have given me, I would not have come here—no earthly inducement should have tempted me."

    And now, to conclude these soliloquies, let us give that of Colonel Norland, who, having returned from Swanstead, was pacing his library in a very great passion, and tearing a certain letter to pieces with vehement industry.  The letter before it was destroyed would have read as follows:—


"DEAR NEPHEW ARTHUR,—This is to inform you that I never exactly promised your father I would adopt you, though I let him understand as much, so after all, it is certain you have no claim upon me; but as I have been considering that when you came to live with me you were but a boy (and, on the whole, I don't know but that I like a boy to show some spirit), I have decided to forgive you this once; and that precious fool, Joe, having written to me this morning declining to have anything more to do with the University, and taken himself off to Baden Baden without my leave or advice—I have decided over again that, as I can't help it, he shall inherit the Norland estates, and I shall leave you that estate in the vale of Swanstead, and the house that Raeburn has a lease of, which was to have been your mother's fortune if my father had not died without a will; but I never will admit to my dying day that either you or Elinor has any claim upon me, for the old gentleman might have known that his will was no use at all so long as he kept it by him unsigned.  I shall give Elinor's husband the living of Wickley when it falls due, which I hope will not be for a long while, for White plays the best game of chess of any man within ten miles, and has the decency to come and play with me whenever I'm laid up with the gout.

    "I am writing this overnight, for I had decided upon it before I left you at Raeburn's gate.  No, I hadn't, for I altered my mind afterwards, being in a passion with you and your independence.  However, as you are a high-spirited young fellow, I suppose you thought a contrary conduct would look like toadyism.  But though I have decided upon this, I don't mean to see you tomorrow morning when you call, but I have told Mansfield to give you this, which, you perceive, encloses a cheque for five hundred pounds, and I expect you forthwith to wind up your affairs at Westport, and come and live with me; and I expect you to buy yourself a capital riding horse, and in the name of patience let mine alone, lest it should breed another quarrel between us; and if that's not doing my duty by you I should like to know what would be.  Mind, you've no claim!

                 "Believe me, young man, yours truly,


"P. Grice Norland."


    The rage of the old Colonel knew no bounds when he found that his nephew not only had omitted to call upon him, but had left Swanstead before he could get a sight of him.  He not only tore the needless letter to pieces, and anathematized pride as being worse than folly and more detestable than pug-nosedness; but he dismissed the lawyer who was come to make his will with unmerited insolence, and sent for three architects, upon whom he laid his commands to bring him within a month the handsomest plans for hospitals that they could possibly devise.

    In the meantime, a fit of the gout gave him time to cool and think matters over, while the unconscious object of his rage finished his travels and went back to be Allerton's curate; while Joseph spent a great deal of his money at Baden, and while Elinor and her husband got settled in their new house, which was Dreux's old one; while Athanasius and his mother prepared for their travels to Smyrna, or some port in the Levant, and while Marion did quantities of German exercises, all to keep Mr. Dreux out of her head.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXVI.

MR. AND MRS. FRANCIS ALLERTON.


DREUX returned, and found Allerton and his sister settled in his old house.  They were sauntering in the veranda when he entered, and Elinor's busy fingers were twining the branches of the passionflower, which had been trained the previous autumn according to her wishes.

    "How natural it seems to be walking here, Arthur, with you," she said, after the first greetings.

    Allerton laughed.  "So natural that I feel myself quite an interloper!  I sometimes walk about the library, saying, 'This cannot be my house,—I must be come here to dinner.  Elinor cannot be my wife,—she's Dreux's sister.  I shall see her come in presently, and she will hold out her hand to shake hands with me.'  I go down stairs, and forget to sit at the head of the table.  The gardener asks for orders: I am about to say, 'Go to your master,' when I see Miss Dreux knocking down a peach with her parasol, and the old fellow says, 'Missis told me you would say how it was to be, Sir.'  How I hate to hear them call her Missis!"

    "Mrs. Francis Allerton," said Dreux,—"not a bad name.  And how goes on the parish, Allerton?"

    "I don't know what to make of affairs,—I have wanted you deplorably.  We shall soon be all at loggerheads, though I have taken incredible pains to conciliate."

    "Indeed!  What is the feud about?"

    "That is the mystery.  But I find myself so much disliked, that really I am afraid you will share in my unpopularity, merely for having brought me back again."

    "You bear the matter with tolerable philosophy."

    "Dreux, I am only just emerging from my honeymoon, but I try to be concerned about it;—duly concerned, because I ought.  But as for mere popularity!—Mrs. Francis Allerton, being only six weeks old, naturally requires a great deal of supervision,—of discipline, you know,—that she may learn to submit to my will at her present early age; and so my time is too much occupied to think very much about their feuds."

    "Oh, the feuds will all come right, dear," said Mrs. Francis.  "And now let us come in; and I wish you would draw down the blinds, for the sun makes these rooms very hot."

    Allerton complied with unconscious alacrity, and neither he nor his bride observed the meaning smile with which Dreux watched their movements; how Elinor, without the slightest art, indicated her wishes in a pretty, petted way, and how Allerton waited on her, almost without being aware of it.

    "I hope Elinor is a good, obedient little wife," he said, laughing.

    "Oh yes, we have no disputes; she is a compliant little creature;—are you not, Elinor?"

    "Yes, dear.  I wish I had a footstool."  Allerton brought her one.

    "I say, Allerton," said Dreux, "you are gradually bringing Elinor round to usefulness and obedience, &c., but I hope you won't be quite a domestic tyrant."

    "What is the use of laughing, Dreux?—you don't understand."

    "Yes, I do; I understand perfectly."

    "A woman is useful, is she not, to her husband, if she performs the part he wants her for, and obedient, if she"—

    "If she orders him to bring her a footstool."

    "You are quite right.  My will is, that my wife should be a dear little pretty thing for me to wait on and pet.  I am a great, strong, rough fellow; I want a plaything.  I want no housekeeper, no strong-minded woman.  I don't want my servants to be scolded, and myself made much of.  I want no care and protection,—I want to exercise them."

    "Oh, then, you and Elinor are exactly suited to each other."

    "And you have just discovered that fact?"

    "I discovered some time ago that you were Elinor's humble servant; but as, when I am married, I should like my wife to make much of me, I did not see the peculiar beauty of this arrangement."

    "Oh, he would like his wife to pet him and make much of him.  Oh, Arthur, how droll of you to say it, too!"

    "And to mean it, my dear, for I'm sure he does mean it.  Come, Dreux, what sort of petting would you prefer?"

    "If I am to be made game of the moment I come here by both of you, I shall go to my lodgings."

    "You shall do no such thing.  But, Dreux, how would you have her make much of you?"

    "Oh, nonsense.  I only meant I should like her to take an interest in me."

    "Interest!  Do I take no interest in Francis?"

    "Of course you do, my dear.  Now don't set upon me, both of you in this inhuman manner."

    "But I want to know how your wife is to make much of you?"

    "I should like her to behave in her natural manner; but I should like it to be her nature to—Oh, you know what I mean."

    "No, we don't.  Now, Francis, let him alone.  Well, Arthur?"

    "Well, if ever I have a wife I have no doubt I shall be very fond of her."

    "To be sure you will; and, as far as that goes, you'll so blindly believe in her, you'll think her such perfection, that you will be under her dominion whether you know it or not.  But that's not the point."

    "Well, if I must speak, I think my meaning was that I should like her to be fond enough of me to take an interest even in little things, and to question me about them, so that I should get over my reserve with her, and not mind talking about myself."

    "Which you can't do now excepting to me, Dreux.  Why, even Elinor does not know half so much about you as I do.  You mean that you would like your wife thoroughly to understand you, to be intimate with your mind, and also to be indulgent, and to be pleased with what you had done, not merely because it was right, but because you had done it.  You would like a caressing person, easy, and fit to be confided in,—that's what you would like, you know."

    Dreux smiled.

    "Now that's not what I require.  The moment I saw Elinor I thought she would make me happy—or, rather, she would not break that pretty sort of insouciance to run about her house and torment herself about me or anything else, but leave the action of both our lives to me, and let me make her happy."

    "Yes; but, Francis, you are always to repeat Arthur's confidences to me when we are alone, for I like to know all about him; and, do you know, I never could get him to tell me anything."

    "How are the Patons, Elinor?"

    "Ah, he turns the conversation—he doesn't like to be talked about before his face.  The Patons?  Oh, they are well; but your friend, Wil Greyson, is gone to Swanstead—he was sent for yesterday."

    "Indeed!  What for?"

    "You have heard of that poor lady, Mr. Raeburn's wife?"

    "Yes, certainly."

    "She is dead.  She died very suddenly a few days ago, and he was sent for to go to the funeral."

    "I saw Mr. Raeburn ten days since, and my uncle."

    "Indeed!  Why, did you go of your own accord and call upon him? and was he friendly, Arthur? and did you see Joseph, the heir?"

    "How many questions you ask, my dear!  Yes, I called of my own accord.  The old Colonel is not the least like my recollection of him—not nearly so formidable.  He was tolerably friendly—not very.  Joseph has been plucked."

    "Yes, we knew of that.  Francis, do you want me to go?"

    "No, my dear; I always want you to stay."

    "But I thought you wanted perhaps to talk to Arthur about your feuds and sermons and things; besides, I think I must go, for it is time to dress for dinner."

    Allerton opened the door for her and let her depart, whereupon the brothers-in-law fell into discourse at once about their "sermons and things," and Dreux was quite astonished at the degree of ill feeling which had been manifested against Allerton.

    "It appears then that you have no chance of being useful here," he said, when the narration had been brought to a close, "because these foolish disputes, jealousies, and heartburnings are more respecting you than with you; and, as they are quite unreasonable, I do not see how you are to combat them, or even how you can take notice of them; and yet I would not take any steps towards leaving the town at present"

    "No, but we have neither of us any particular tie to this place, Dreux."

    "Certainly not."  And being alone now with his brother-in-law, Dreux told him without difficulty his own position with relation to his uncle, taking particular care that he should not imagine he was ever likely to inherit anything from him.

    Having done this, and relieved his mind of all he had wished to say, he dined with Allerton and his sister—attended a stormy vestry meeting—came back to tea, and went to his lodgings very late, where, to his surprise, he found a letter bearing the Norland arms awaiting him.  He turned it over and examined it minutely before opening it, as people often will do when they expect to find something of importance inside; then he broke the seal and sat down by the table to read.  Now the old Colonel during his fit of the gout had forgiven Dreux, and was even reduced to such a state of ennui and dependence that he had detected himself wishing for the plucked and pug-nosed Joseph, who, to do him justice, was decidedly fond of his crusty uncle.  But then to ask either of them to come to him when the architects were busy on his hospital plans appeared, he thought, a meanness.  How could he condescend to be amused by young men whom he intended to disinherit?  On the other hand how could he bear to dismiss the said architects, whose high praise of his liberality was always ringing in his ears, without making himself an object of ridicule as a doting old fellow, who did not know his own mind?  He decided to take a middle course.  He put off the architects, as he said, till the spring, and wrote a letter on the sly to Joseph, peremptorily desiring him to come home and be forgiven.  He then took Dreux into consideration, and resolved to leave him what he knew was justly his due, but not to make him any promises.  He accordingly wrote a letter in the imperative mood, commanding, entreating, exhorting, and permitting him to come and spend a month at Norland Court, abusing him for not having called again, and launching into a digression respecting the conduct of the late Mr. Dreux when he was in Parliament—at which time the brothers-in-law had quarrelled—and concluding with the assurance that no living nephew had any claim upon him, and that his nephew had better come or he would rue it.  Having thus descended to threats, he signed himself, "Yours, young man, according to your behaviour, P. Grice Norland."  But after that followed a postscript in which the poor old Colonel, probably having slept over the former part of his letter, could not bear to leave any stone unturned which he could turn without committing himself.  "His nephew should do pretty much as he liked—might have the servants in to prayers—he himself had no objection to hear the lessons for the day, for as he should leave him nothing he was willing to make his visit comfortable, and he supposed, as he was one of Raeburn's sort, he would want to make his house into a church—so let him stay away if he dared!"

    Dreux read the letter, and decided to decline his uncle's invitation, for, indeed, he had scarcely entered upon his duties as Allerton's curate, and to leave him now that he was embroiled with his parishioners, and now that he really wanted advice and assistance in carrying out the various new plans he had begun was not to be thought of for a moment.  He put it in his pocket, and the next morning, when he went to Allerton's house, he showed it to Elinor, thinking it would amuse her.

    "You will go, of course, Arthur?" she remarked when she had read it.

    "Go, my dear; no, most certainly I will not go."

    "Not go, Arthur!  You astonish me—you amaze me beyond measure."

    "Why, even supposing I wished to go, my dear, how could I do it consistently with my first duties?"

    "Your first duties, Arthur! surely this is one of them."

    Dreux smiled, and seemed inclined to put the question by, but she would not hear of it.  "I am sure you would agree with me, dearest," she continued, addressing her husband; "read this, and say whether Arthur ought not to go."

    "Yes, read it, Allerton, by all means, but mind you give it against her; however, whether you do or not, I shall not accept you as umpire.  I shall not go."

    Allerton did read the letter, and his opinion so decidedly coincided with that of his wife, he seemed to think it of so much importance that Dreux should go immediately, that, though the latter was fretted and secretly annoyed almost beyond measure, he at last suffered himself to be argued, entreated, and coaxed into it; yet so obvious was his chagrin, that when he had written a letter of acceptance and suffered it to be despatched, his brother and sister almost wished they had let him alone.

    During the day, while he was fully occupied, he contrived to forget his mortification; but when the trio again dined together, and the subject was discussed, he could not altogether conceal it.

    Allerton, true to his impulsive nature, began to blame himself openly for the part he had taken.  Elinor was silent, but she doubted whether she had acted wisely.

    "I wish I had sense enough to let other people's affairs alone," said Allerton moodily.  "I know nothing about this old uncle, and I have persuaded Dreux to go to him at a time when he particularly wished to stay with us, and we particularly wanted to have him."

    "It is only for a month, dear," said Elinor, "and then we shall have him back again."

    "The fact was, I urged it the more because I thought he was deterred by the idea of leaving me with too much on my hands."

    "Never mind, Allerton," returned his brother-in-law, sighing uneasily, and thinking, that as the thing must be done, he would try to do it graciously; "I dare say you are right, and that it is a duty to go.  At any rate, I know that neither you nor Elinor would have urged it, unless you had believed it was for my profit or happiness, and I shall try not to be uneasy about the parish—mere clerical help you can easily get."

    "And for the rest we must correspond.  I have been so wishing for your cool temper and your clear head, thinking everything would come right when I had them to back me; and now the idea of my having flung them from me against your will!"—

    "Do not let us discuss the matter any further.  I must start to-morrow; let me enjoy myself here with you while I can."

    "But after all," said Elinor, "why so very averse to go?"

    "You and Allerton are all I have in the world.  Do you think it gives me no pleasure to see you happy? and is it not natural that I should like to be with you after such long separation?"

    Elinor fixed her penetrating eyes upon him, and came and sat by him on the sofa; she felt vexed, and uncertain whether what she had done was for his happiness; and now she began to administer some of that sweet innocent flattery of the affections, which has commonly such a soothing effect upon its object.  Allerton seconded her; and as it grew dusk, her sweet voice and the tranquillizing effect of evening dissipated Dreux's painful feelings, and he began to look upon the proposed visit more favourably; he could scarcely tell why.

    His strong desire to be loved almost amounted to a passion.  Elinor consciously, and Allerton unconsciously, flattered this passion to the utmost that night: the one made him see, and the other let him see, of how very much consequence he was to them.

    Nevertheless, when he had taken leave of them, his mind shrunk from the idea of the comparative inaction he should have to endure at Norland Court, and especially inaction in the neighbourhood of Marion, from whom he felt that he could not too carefully absent himself, unless he was prepared to lose his peace of mind altogether.

    Allerton was with him early the next morning, and he and Elinor carried on the tactics of the previous evening to such perfection that he soon got into good spirits again.  He must promise not to ride strange horses; they should be miserable if he did not take care of himself.  He was by no means to trouble himself about the duty, or the schools, or anything else.  Allerton was rather glad, on second thoughts, that he was not to be mixed up and involved in the petty broils going on in the parish, but they hoped he would not stay if he found it dull; he was to write often, and they would tell him everything of the slightest interest,—they should miss him more than they could tell.  In short, they showed such solicitude that the idea flashed upon his mind that Elinor must have guessed the real reason of his dislike to the visit, and have told it to her husband, which was the fact.

    He parted from them at last, and on his journey had plenty of time for reflection as to how he should spend the month before him; plenty of clerical employment he knew he could easily get, but he resolved to keep at a respectful distance from Swanstead, and to decline visiting, lest he should meet Marion.  He knew Allerton and his sister thought he was sure to regain his lost place in the old Colonel's affections; if so, his worldly prospects would be greatly altered; but he himself knew the old man better than they did, and as they disagreed upon religion, politics, and nearly every other subject that can be mentioned, his highest hope was that the month might pass over without any serious outbreaks between them, and that, if possible, he might be able to draw the old Colonel's mind to the consideration of religious duties.

    The second visit, to his surprise, began with an unfeignedly warm welcome.  The Colonel was ill, and dispirited.  He evidently thought he should have to conciliate, and as his nephew was inclined to be compliant, the first two days passed over extremely well.

    Their first storm arose from the old gentleman's presenting the young one with a horse, which he caused to be led up to the window, that they might inspect it together.  The nephew admired, would be most happy to use it while he stayed, but remarked, with careless good humour, that a horse was far too expensive a luxury for him to indulge in.  Upon which the Colonel demanded, with great heat, whether his nephew thought him such an old niggard as to offer him a horse without providing him with means to keep it.  Dreux involuntarily elevated his eyebrows, for the protestations that he never would leave him a shilling seemed rather at variance with this offer.

    "It does my eyes good to see a man ride well," proceeded the Colonel; "if I taught him myself it does not diminish the pleasure."

    There was something so like affection in the way this was said, that Dreux coloured, and tried to make amends by declaring that it would be quite a pleasure to him to ride a good horse while he stayed.

    "Keep him, then, Arthur," cried the Colonel, "and I'll pay all expenses connected with him."

    A momentary vision of a groom leading this splendid horse up and down before his little lodgings in Westport flashed across Dreux's mind.  He thanked the Colonel again, and declined the present.  He evidently meant what he said, and during the outbreak of passionate abuse that followed, which began with invectives against pride, and took in independence, religion in general, parsons, the late Mrs. Dreux, her husband, and Joseph Norland, "that born fool," he stood before him with the most perfect command of temper.  At last, when the old man had finished, he began his defence.  He described his lodgings, his manner of life, his many occupations, his determination to follow his own persuasions of what was right, and put it to the Colonel whether for him a riding-horse was not both useless and ridiculous?

    "I suppose you mean to insinuate, Sir," cried the Colonel, "that to keep a fine horse is inconsistent with your beggarly pay,—something like a pearl necklace round a beggar's neck!  Well, Sir, what do you think I asked you here for, and what did you come for,—Eh?"

    "What did you ask me here for?" retorted his nephew, with a smile in his dark eyes.  "Why, Sir, you expressly gave me to understand that it was for the pleasure of my society."

    "Your society!  Bah,—talk of Joseph!  The long and the short of it is, I suppose, that you're determined to have your own way, and you are afraid my yoke would come with my money?"

    He paused for a moment.  His nephew could not contradict him, nor repress a laugh.

    "Well, go along with you," he continued; "take a good hard gallop, and come back in a more tractable temper."

    "First, I shall read you the leaders," said Dreux, taking up the unopened "Times."

    "Ah, well, Arthur, well, I don't mind if you do.  My eyes get worse and worse."

    The leaders were read, but the Colonel scarcely heard a sentence, so intent was he on watching the features of his nephew.  "He thinks he's got the mastery of me, and is satisfied.  Ah, well, we shall see."

    "And now, Colonel, suppose we have a game of chess?"

    This was touching the old man on his weak point.  He had been a celebrated chess-player in his youth, and still retained a passionate fondness for the game.  In less than seven minutes he had beaten his nephew in the most merciless style, though he was a very tolerable hand.

    "Come, Arthur, try again."  He moved the pieces with his left hand, the right being lame with gout.  They did try again, and with the same result.  The third time there seemed a trifling chance for the weaker party, who played with all his might.  But he was soon discomfited, driven back to his hold, cooped up, blocked into an unprofitable corner, and his pieces picked off the board with his adversary's pawns.  "That's how I used to beat your father," observed the conqueror.  "He called it smothering him; he always hated a block game."

    Dreux murmured something about an oversight.

    "Could easily have smashed you before that, Arthur, but thought I would let you have a squeak for your life."

    He was now in high good humour, and ordered his nephew to set out for a ride, and bring his horse up to the window, "for he loved to see his own flesh and blood well mounted."

    Nearly the same scenes were repeated every day, but the old Colonel, though he tried hard to conceal it, got extremely fond of his nephew; the less yielding points in his character attracted him far more than the pains he took to amuse him during his helpless confinement to his chair; and angry as he intended to be when the subject of religion was introduced, he secretly listened with interest.

    At nine o'clock every evening he was wheeled away to his bedroom, and his nephew had the rest of his time to himself.  He spent it in a way which would have made every friend he had in the world hold up hands and eyes in amazement.  He could scarcely believe it himself, but the impulse became such a tyrant that he could no more resist it than he could fly.  The first evening, upon finding himself alone, he opened the window to let in the delightful air.  The day had been very hot, and now the moon was beginning to shine; by degrees she seemed to separate the twilight into two parts,—clear the lights, and deepen the shadows.

    He stepped out on to the gravel to listen to the bells of Swanstead striking nine.  He turned in that direction.  At the bottom of a hollow, which bounded the garden, he could just catch a glimpse of the church and the rectory.  Before he knew what he was about he had leapt the stream and was in the field.  Then he was done for!  He began to walk quickly and steadily towards Swanstead.  It was only a mile and a half, he argued, and a moonlight walk was a very good thing.  But why in that direction?  He reproached himself for his folly, that the tyrant wish had got hold of him.  He leapt the ditches, climbed the gates, hurried across the meadows, all in a straight line for Swanstead.  As fast as one set of feelings drew him back, the other goaded him on.  At last he stopped in the churchyard, with his hand on the slight gate which led into the garden.  Before his good genius could make him stop, his evil genius had forced him to open this gate, and strike into a little path thick with unpruned laurels.  It wound about, till suddenly it brought him nearly in front of the windows of the ordinary sitting-room.  The linen blinds were drawn down, but the windows were open.  A shadow flitted across,—not a very graceful one,—but his heart beat at the sight of it.  There were strange sounds, like knocking and rubbing, with moving of chairs and tables.

    "Lucky enough, Master and Miss is out," exclaimed a coarse voice.  "Reach me the bee's-wax, Sally.  We shall get this room very forrard tonight.  When does Miss mean to have the study done?"

    Well, it was a pity he should have walked so far.  In a few minutes the blind was drawn up by the footman, and he saw the housemaid on her knees, scrubbing the oak floor.  The house was evidently undergoing the annual cleaning, and Master and Miss were gone out to dinner.

    He was deeply disgusted with himself, and turning hastily, made the best of his way home again, scolding himself vehemently, and upbraiding himself in the most cruel and taunting manner for his romantic folly.  But did he take warning by that night's experience?  No; he made good resolutions all  day, but no sooner was the Colonel gone to bed than he opened the window, and darted off again in the same direction.

    He got into the laurel thicket, but did not advance nearly so close to the window, for he was far from wishing to be an eavesdropper; he only wished (he supposed) to see Marion, or her shadow.  He again walked backward, for he heard the tones of the piano, and Marion's sweet voice floated towards him, singing, "Waft her, angels!"  It sent a thrill to his heart that astonished him: he found himself a romantic lover!  (And what business had he to suppose that he should escape the common lot?)  When she ceased he walked along the lane towards home, and came in tired and thoroughly dispirited.

    Notwithstanding which, he went the next night, and the next, and the next: sometimes he saw nothing, sometimes a shadow crossed the window.  Once he thought he heard her laugh; once, the blind being partially drawn up, he saw her bring a cup of tea to Mr. Raeburn, shake up a sofa cushion, and put it at the back of his chair, then stoop to kiss his forehead, of which mark of affection he (insensible man) took no notice whatever.

    By degrees he became very familiar with the garden, and all its little shady walks and alleys were accustomed to the tread of his restless foot: he liked to see the house in different aspects.  And now what he had dreaded was fully come upon his peace of mind was gone, and, what was worse, he had no power, and scarcely any wish, to escape the charm that bound him.  But he still took care not to come into contact with Marion, lest his voice or the perturbation of his manner should betray him.

    This had gone on for ten days, when, one evening before the moon rose, he found himself in his usual place.  It was very dark under the trees, and as there were no lights in the morning room, he wandered down a certain shady walk under the high garden wall, feeling quite safe, for he believed the family must be out.

    The trees and shrubs were very thick on each side of him.  He put the branches aside and went heedlessly on, when to his consternation he heard voices behind him.  He walked forward: there was no outlet, and he found himself cooped into a corner.  He could not turn without meeting the speakers, and he could not go forward.  Here was a horrid predicament!  Perhaps he should be obliged to hear their conversation.  They came on, and emerged for a moment into the moonlight.  There were two persons,—one of them was Marion.  She was dressed in white, and had thrown her lace scarf over her golden ringlets.  He thought he had never seen her look so lovely, as with one hand she gathered its folds under her chin, and put aside the lilac twigs with the other.

    He pressed himself a little backwards into the laurel thicket, and bit his lips with vexation.  They stepped into an arbour quite close to him, and Marion sat so that he could see every change in her usually serene countenance.

    Her companion was a very tall young man.  He had often seen him before.  He looked up to the wall, and forward into the thicket—there was no chance of escape.  He was an intruder and an eavesdropper!  Wounded pride nearly suffocated him, and his heart beat so painfully that he lost the first few sentences of the speakers, though he never took his eyes off Marion's face.

    "You will, then, Marion," said the pleasant voice of the young giant, who was no other than Frank Maidley.

    "Yes," answered Marion; she did not look very cordial, though.

    "I am glad you like them.  I got them at Cambridge.  They are rare, they tell me."

    "Oh," said Marion.  She was holding up the corner of her scarf, apparently examining the pattern.

    Her companion seemed aware that he did not stand very high in her good graces, and fidgeted a good deal.

    "So you are going to spend the autumn here," she said, suddenly looking up; "I thought"—

    "Thought what, Marion?"

    "Oh, nothing; only I thought you generally went down to Westport, to see"—

    "I have no tie there now," said Frank, observing her hesitation.  "You are perhaps going there, Marion?"

    Marion shook her head.

    "You often hear from thence," he proceeded, in rather a beseeching tone, and when she made no answer, he said earnestly, "I should like if I could, to know how Dora is."

    Marion immediately turned her face towards him full of sudden interest, but said, in rather an indignant tone, "What, Mr. Maidley?"

    "You are very unjust," replied Frank, in the voice of one who feels himself injured.  "Surely, if I give her up I do enough; it is rather too much to expect me to forget her."

    Marion replied, with deliberation, "I consider you the most extraordinary person I ever met with, Mr. Maidley."

    Frank muttered something to the effect that it was very hard to be so misunderstood, and to be looked upon so coldly.

    Marion gathered her scarf round her, and half arose.  He stopped her, and begged urgently that she would remain, and tell him what it was that she thought so extraordinary.

    "I think the explanation quite superfluous," said Marion, resuming her seat; "you are, I should suppose, quite aware of what I mean."

    "I don't think I have done anything extraordinary," said Frank, very much crestfallen,—"I have only done what I thought right and generous."

    "Right and generous!" exclaimed Marion, her eyes dilating, and her cheeks flushing; "do you call it right and generous, then, always to be sitting next and looking at one particular lady, to read with her, sing with her, walk with her,—to love her, and let her see that you do, to try to win her affections, and, for anything you can tell, to succeed, and then to go away, as if for a few days, and never return any more?"

    "Oh! Marion, don't stand denouncing me," pleaded Frank; "don't look at me like an offended duchess.  I should have expected to find you pleased with my conduct in that respect; I thought it must be something else that had offended you.  Oh, Marion, remember what old friends we are."

    Marion was at first inexorable.  However, she suffered herself to be persuaded to stay, and let him lead her back to her seat.

    Dreux's hopes, which had been high, sunk again below zero.  It was plain he should have to hear a great deal more.

    "What could I do?" said Frank.  "Only consider, and tell me candidly, Marion."

    "Do!" repeated Marion, with a little movement of impatience.

    "I am sure you never can have heard the particulars, or you would not blame me."

    "I have never heard any particulars from Dora," said Marion, with decision. (Oh! woman, how anxious she is to keep up the dignity of her sex!)  "She has never once mentioned the subject in my hearing.  I was not even aware that there had been 'any particulars' beyond those I mentioned."

    "Namely, that I loved her, and then went away without attempting to make her mine?"

    "Exactly so," said Marion.  "Was there anything else besides?"

    She asked the question in the gentlest tone of inquiry.  It brought a flush of pleasure to Frank's face.  He fidgeted a while, and then answered,—

    "Perhaps that she liked me?  Yes, I think she did; I have no doubt of it.  But, Marion, I am a beggar!"

    "Indeed!  More so than when you tried to please Dora?"

    "Most assuredly.  Have you never heard,—don't you know that my old aunt had always given out, and promised, that she would leave her property to me?"

    "Well?" said Marion, gently.

    "Well, I was summoned to her death-bed, I attended her funeral, and, when her will was opened, she had not left me one shilling."

    "Well," said Marion again; "and so, with the loss of that ten thousand pounds, you ceased to love Dora?"

    "How you talk, Marion!  How could you say such an unkind thing in such a gentle voice?  No, I loved her far more than ever, because before, like a careless puppy as I was, I felt quite secure of my conquest; afterwards, I knew I should be a scamp if I could make use of it to drag Dora down into comparative poverty."

    "Your own exertions, then, count for nothing in the calculation?"

    "Nothing certain, at present,—nothing absolutely certain."

    "And Dora's fortune would be comparative poverty?"

    "There's the bitterness of it: I thought Mr. Paton would think it so mean to ask him for his daughter in my altered circumstances."

    "I do not think he would have encouraged your addresses if they had begun under those altered circumstances."

    "If it had been one of the other daughters," said Frank, not heeding her, "I would have ventured, for I really have a good prospect of getting on."

    "And if it had been Dora whose fortune had been lost, should you have expected her to give you up, lest she should be a burden to you?"

    "How can you ask such absurd questions?" said Frank, laughing.  "I beg your pardon, Marion, but you seem determined to misunderstand."

    "So you preferred to sacrifice your happiness, and perhaps Dora's, to letting her bestow a benefit.  Well, I would not have believed it unless you had told me yourself.  I did not think any one was so proud as that."

    "Proud!" repeated Frank.

    "Yes," said Marion, as gently as if she had been uttering the most pleasant words, and yet with the decision of one who feels not the slightest doubt.  "Oh! Frank, how could you be so proud, so falsely generous, and so romantic, when all Westport knew how attached you were to Dora!  When my uncle encouraged your suit, and you knew very well what Dora felt!  How could you let your pride get so far the mastery over your better feelings!  You really behave like a character in a novel."

    Her companion seemed astonished, but he was a little ashamed too, and fidgeted on his seat with an air the most crest-fallen and forlorn.

    "And this, too, was not the pride of independence," proceeded Marion, "which makes people labour and deny themselves."

    "I have denied myself."

    "Yes, denied yourself a great blessing, to save yourself an annoyance which ought not to be worth mentioning,—the annoyance of knowing that idle people would say what a fortunate young man you were, what a good thing it was that you had won the lady before your prospects altered, and that her father had so openly approved, that in honour he could scarcely draw back.  But the consequences of what you have done are of small importance to yourself,—it is not you who will chiefly suffer.  I did not think you considered money of such very great importance."

    "I do not, but others do."

    "You treat those 'others' with extreme deference, considering that none of the parties concerned are of their number.  Does their opinion give them any power to make Dora forget those days which you took so much pains to have her remember?"

    "Well," said Frank, with a mighty sigh, "it is too late, now at least.  If Dora thinks as you do, she would never, never forgive me.  Besides, though she always seemed pleased at my presence, she might never have accepted my hand."

    "Perhaps not then.  But oh! Frank, how wilfully you misunderstand!  When a man is rich, and it is an easy matter for him to obtain a wife, and he shows no great solicitude about it, then, out of mere carelessness, he may be refused.  But if he should afterwards become poor, and most other faces should change to him, in how much higher a position he stands towards a woman who esteems him, and whom he has loved.  To marry him before, the world might have said, was to do herself an honour, and if he appears to think so too, it is an easy thing to put that honour aside."

    Marion paused; the earnestness with which she had spoken seemed to surprise her auditor, for he bent his face to look into hers, quite unconscious that there was another auditor on whom her words had made a still deeper impression.

    "You think I did wrong, then?" he said, after a thoughtful silence.

    "Very wrong, and very unwisely.  It is so easy to be generous in the common meaning of the word.  To be generous enough to give is easy; but to be generous enough to permit another to give, when the gift is one that all the world knows the value of,—to be generous enough to feel and acknowledge that the giver is fully repaid by receiving that affection which the world cannot so readily count over and tell the value of,—to know that we ourselves would have given, under like circumstances, and to feel no more painful sense of obligation than we should have wished them to feel,—is a harder and a rarer thing."

    "Marion," interrupted Maidley, "how kind you are; you put my own thoughts into words, but I have always tried to repress them, because this seemed such a selfish, romantic view.  Oh, Marion, if you would but write to Dora "—

    "I write to her?"

    "Yes, O do, Marion, and smooth the way for me a little; for I don't know how it is,—when I was at Westport I felt so very much at my ease.  I thought, you know, that there was no doubt of my being accepted.  I thought we should be married in the ordinary way.  I was very fond of Dora, but"—

    "Well?" said Marion, smiling.

    "I think I must have been rather a conceited young fellow.  I think losing one's money makes one romantic; and, certainly, to see that 'the grapes are sour,' makes one somehow think them more sweet."

    Marion laughed gently.

    "That or something else must have altered me very much.  Dora now seems to stand so far above me, and so far off, I declare I haven't courage to address her again, and explain all this to her as I have done to you."

    Marion hesitated and made objections; she did not know whether her uncle, after such long delay, would accept him for a son-in-law.  She could not be sure that Dora would forgive the past.

    Frank got agitated and more urgent; he seemed quite to believe that his happiness was in Marion's hands, and, in his old boyish fashion, he began to beg and entreat.  Marion at length appeared to soften; indeed, her hesitation had been merely pretence.

    "If I thought you deserved it, Frank," she said, playfully, "I would ask Dora to come again and stay with me; for, since Mrs. Raeburn's death, my uncle likes to have visitors in the house, it helps to make it more cheerful."

    But, as if the mention of Mr. Raeburn's name had brought the speaker into his mind, the voice of the Rector was heard at no great distance, in its loudest tone, calling Marion to come in.

    Marion started: "I am coming, dear uncle; I am coming directly.  It is not in the least chilly.  I have enjoyed the moonlight."

    "It's perfectly hot, Sir," said Frank; "a most sultry night."

    "Humph!" said the Rector, rather ungraciously.  "It clouds over fast,—I expect we shall have a storm."

    Something of his old jealousy respecting Frank seemed to have come over him, for, as he tucked Marion's arm under his, he muttered something about thoughtlessness in keeping her out so long, which their guest thought rather unreasonable, for young ladies cannot very well be kept out in a garden against their will.

    Their voices grew distant, and at length the prisoner in the thicket ventured to force his way out.  It was very dark, and he groped his way slowly towards the little garden-gate.  He had never so much in his life suffered from the sensation of shame, as during this conversation; its perfectly confidential nature, its subject, Marion's closeness to him, which enabled him to see every feature and every change of expression, the unqualified way in which she had attacked some of his own weak points and condemned some of his own foibles, made him feel that, if they had chosen their subject, knowing him to be an unbidden listener, they could not have wounded and punished him more effectually.

    But perhaps he might have made a different meaning, or, at least, a nearer application, out of some of Marion's sentences, if it had not been for one little circumstance which distracted his attention and filled him with anxiety and chagrin.  As Marion talked, she continually put out her hand and twined the honeysuckle tendrils in and out of the broad trellis work; her fingers were often within a foot of his face; on one of them was a ring,—his own lost ring, he was certain; the moonlight shone on it so distinctly that he could not be mistaken.  He had left it behind him at Swanstead and forgotten it.  The loss never struck him till after he had been back again and was making a speech in the evening at a place about thirty miles off.  The sudden observation of its absence spoilt a very eloquent sentence.  He never doubted that it was among his luggage, and spent a fruitless hour in searching for it.  He then tried to remember where he had seen it last, and traced it on, from day to day, till he got to Swanstead, where he remembered, perfectly, having it on, for he had put on a new glove, and the ring finger being too tight he had made a small slit in it with his penknife; so, of all places in the world, he must have left it at Swanstead, and only hoped it never might come into Marion's possession.

    Now he walked home slowly in the dark, thoroughly oppressed; his lips parted and quivering with the rapid beating of his heart, and his nerves so completely awakened, that all Marion's words rung in his ears with distinct and painful vibrations.

    After a restless night he rose early, seeking in violent exercise and action for the means of quieting his excitement.

    The next few days passed.  He was cured of his evening walks, and used to pace the long library instead.  He had promised to stay the month; only three weeks were completed, and he counted the days as a slave might count the time which should give him liberty.

    The sensitive shrinking of his mind from the remembrance of his eavesdropping had a greater effect upon his spirits than even his concealed attachment; he could not think of it without a shudder; but it had been done, and he thought it would injure his self-respect for ever.

    A few days after this adventure the old Colonel announced that that "born fool, Joseph," had written to say that he was coming home.  He felt a curiosity to see him, but rather disliked the idea of the constant contests he supposed he should have to witness.  On returning in the afternoon from some clerical duty in the next parish, he found his cousin had already returned.

    The old uncle, in his invalid chair, gruffly introduced them to each other, and never was there a greater contrast in this world than they presented.  Joseph was a small, fair young man, with rosy cheeks and hair of a sandy tinge; his face might have been called pretty, but for his little pug-nose; and he had an incessant simper, two deep dimples, and the most delicate hands and feet imaginable.

    On this occasion he was arrayed in lilac boots, with little glossy toes, wore a superb set of turquoise studs, a thick gold chain, and an outrageous silk neck-tie, the ends of which, deeply fringed, extended far beyond his face like two little cherub's wings.  He was scented like a whole bed of heliotropes.  In contrast to his fair little features and gay colours, the height, olive complexion, and clerical black and white of his cousin looked something towering and majestic.  He seemed instinctively conscious of his own inferiority in point of intellect and manliness, and with simple docility "knocked under," for it was only with ladies that he exhibited his self-conceit.

    The old Colonel, so vehement against him in his absence, was perfectly tolerant of his presence.  He did him the justice to know that he could not help being a soft little fellow.

    They had not finished dinner when, to Dreux's horror, the Colonel said, "Raeburn has been calling here this morning.  He said he never heard till yesterday that you were here.  He asked if you would dine with him to-morrow?  I said I could not tell what your engagements might be, and he left a note for you.  Here, Arthur."

    Dreux read the twisted missive.  It contained, beside a polite invitation, the request that, if not inconvenient, he would take a funeral for him at three o'clock, as he had another engagement.

    He spent half an hour in thinking whether he could not get off.  The very idea of that garden brought a sensitive flush to his face.  But no; there was not a single loophole for him, so he wrote an answer consenting to take the funeral, but declining the dinner invitation.

    The next day was rather a gay one at Swanstead.  One of the daughters of a rich miller was to be led to the altar of Hymen by a wealthy young farmer.  Mr. Raeburn had been asked by the bride's mother to allow Miss Greyson to officiate as bridesmaid; so Marion, in an azure silk dress and white crape bonnet, like those worn by the miller's daughters, went to grace the festive occasion.

    The company was in gorgeous apparel—the viands were plentiful and of the very best.  Mr. Raeburn stayed to hand the bride into her post-chaise.  Her bridal tour was to be to London.  He and Marion then walked home across two or three fields, and entered the church-yard just as Dreux was retiring after the funeral, followed by his cousin, Joseph Norland.

    They all sauntered together up to the house door, when the two gentlemen showed signs of intending to take leave; but this by no means suited the ideas of the hospitable Rector.  They must absolutely stay to dinner; his niece had a splendid bed of dahlias, and it was the pride of her heart to show them.

    Mr. Dreux was sure he saw Marion give the Rector a family signal, but the old gentleman did not see it.  To stay at all was greatly against his wishes, but to stay against her inclination was wormwood.  But Mr. Raeburn was so urgent that he was compelled to give in, and he and Joseph followed Marion into the morning-room, she looking fairer than ever, he thought, in her bridal decorations.  She had a bouquet of white flowers in her hand, and as she sat by the table in the window she began to untie them and put them into water.

    At last she looked up and said, when there was a pause in little Joseph's small talk, "You remember, dear uncle, that you have promised to go to Wickley school feast this afternoon?"

    The Rector looked unutterable things.

    "Your two guests will be quite an acquisition," she hastily added.  "Mr. White will be very grateful to you for bringing them, and if they will excuse a cold dinner out in a hayfield, we can take them in the barouche."

    "Oh, yes, my dear, to be sure we can," said the Rector, gladly catching at her proposal; for having made it a great point that they should stay, he was aghast at the idea of having no dinner for them.

    Little Joseph had a great many pretty things to say, and Marion could not forbear a smile, though feeling extremely uncomfortable.  Dreux sat in almost perfect silence, heartily wishing himself away, and involuntarily occupied with the laurel thicket which he could see from the window.  At last the old-fashioned carriage drove up to the door, and they all set off for Wickley.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXVII.

ALLERTON PROPOUNDS VARIOUS THEORIES.


THERE was a large party at Wickley, gentle and simple—the latter congregated at one end of a great hay-field, eating cake and drinking beer and tea; the former seated and lounging upon hay under a hedge at the other end, eating something like a dejeuner à la fourchette, only it was taking place at six o'clock in the afternoon.  Little Joseph was seated by Marion, complimenting and simpering to his heart's content.  At her other hand sat the Rector.  These three were at the edge of the heap of hay with their feet upon the grass; behind them, altogether perched upon it, was a large detachment of Maidleys, ranging from six years old to four and twenty, with the paternal and maternal Maidley at their head, and behold, at the feet of a young lady, who seemed to be under the special guardianship of Mrs. Maidley, was extended the gallant Frank with his spectacles on.  Dreux looked attentively at the said young lady and recognised Miss Paton, to whom he instinctively lifted his hat, and felt excessively foolish—quite as foolish as she did—when she returned his bow.

    He was hesitating where to place himself, when a familiar voice from among the mass of Maidleys called out to him, and a hand flourishing a bun was waved in the air.

    "Is that you, Greyson?" he exclaimed.

    "Yes; do come up here, Mr. Dreux.  I'm so glad to see you.  I only came yesterday as an escort to my cousin, or I should have called at Norland Court to see you."

    As there was no escape, he went and sat down close to Dora, and nearly behind Marion, who turned continually to talk to her cousin and to Frank Maidley.

    There were many other groups of visitors, but their own was rather isolated.

    "What a pleasant nook this is!" observed Marion.  "I like these larch-trees very much, and their delicate shadows."

    "They are very well," replied Frank, "but I prefer a thicker shade.  I like laurels better.  Those laurels in Mr. Raeburn's garden are far more beautiful."

    Marion laughed.

    "And this hay," she proceeded playfully, "what a pleasant seat it makes!"

    "Not half such a capital seat as an arbour," exclaimed Frank; and then remembering what an ungallant speech he was making, he turned and continued to Dora, "but that depends on who one shares it with."

    "Of course," returned Marion, again half turning and addressing him with gentle archness: "though you so greatly prefer the arbour in itself, yet sharing the hay with—with me, let us say, makes it superior."

    Frank laughed, and observing that these remarks seemed to excite a puzzled look among his companions, he abruptly turned to Dreux, and asked if he did not agree with him?

    Marion, half resting on her elbow, could not resist a glance at Dreux's face, and was quite surprised at his conscious start and confusion.

    His eyes met Marion's, and he felt more than ever like a culprit.  He did not attempt any sort of answer, but turned his head slowly towards Frank and inquired what he had said.

    "I wanted your opinion as to which made the pleasantest seat, an arbour or a haycock?"

    Marion did not hear his answer, for their hostess just then touching her elbow, she stooped to hear the whispered question, "Who is that handsome statue?  Does he sit there merely to show his fine dark eyelashes?"

    "That is Mr. Dreux, Colonel Norland's nephew," said Marion, vexed to feel that she was blushing.  But the handsome statue just then made a diversion for her, by suddenly starting up, and going quickly to meet a gentleman who was advancing along the field toward them, apparently half afraid of intruding.

    "Allerton, my dear fellow!" he exclaimed, with genuine joy, "what fortunate winds have blown you here?"

    "No wind," was the reply, "but your uncle's letter."

    "My uncle's letter?"

    "Yes, did you not know he had written? and, Dreux, what's all this about?"

    "It's a Sunday-school feast, but I dare say you may make one of the party."

    "I will then, as long as you stay, if you will introduce me."

    "But what of the letter?"

    "Oh, nothing of the least consequence.  The old fellow began to storm at me the moment he saw me."

    The school children were already marshalling in front of the visitors when they came up, and before Allerton could be introduced they had to listen to a long prosy speech of Mr. White's, partly addressed to the children and partly to the parents, who were listening in the background.  Then began a general shout, and a rush towards two female servants, who were drawing near, bearing a clothes-basket, full of rewards.

    The ladies sat quietly on their hay; some of the gentlemen began to assist in distributing the prizes; neither Allerton nor Dreux were of their number.  Dreux relapsed again into silence.  Allerton, finding himself sitting next Marion, whom he called "the fair Inexorable," was quite determined to make use of his time, and not let the evening pass without finding out whether there was anything going on between them.

    "Dreux," he said, suddenly turning, "how have you liked your visit?"

    Dreux was twisting some grasses.  He threw them away, and looking calmly at him, answered, "I have liked it as well as a warm welcome and fine weather could make me."  He then got up, and walked slowly away towards the school children.

    The merciless Allerton then turned towards Marion.  "Miss Greyson, you knew something of my brother-in-law before his accident?"

    "Oh yes," said Marion.

    "Do you think him changed by it?  Do you think he bears any appearance of want of health or strength?"

    Marion was obliged to answer; in so doing, she lifted up her face, tinged with a soft carnation.  "I have not observed any alteration."

    "I am glad of that, but I cannot say I think him looking the better for this change of air."

    He fixed his eyes on Marion so inquiringly, that she again felt compelled to answer, "I cannot say; I have not seen Mr. Dreux before, since his arrival at Norland Court."

    "Miss Greyson," cried one of the little Maidleys, running up, "will you make me a daisy necklace?"

    "Tiresome little thing," thought Allerton.

    "Sweet little thing," thought Marion, and she began to thread the daisies with the greatest alacrity.

    "It's to be a very long one," said the child.

    "My wife requested, if I had the pleasure of seeing you, Miss Greyson, that I would give her love to you."

    Marion looked up, and murmured her thanks, but could not feel at ease, nor divest her mind of the idea that Allerton had been trying to find out the state of her feelings, and had succeeded.

    So much was she disturbed with this thought that she did not observe the dispersion of the children, and was only aroused by the return of Mrs. White, with Frank Maidley, Joseph Norland, and Mr. Dreux, with Greyson and Dora.

    "Marion, my dear," said Mrs. White, "we are come to torment you; we want to know all about this wedding at Swanstead."

    Marion looked up from her daisy necklace, and began to describe it.

    "Oh, no; we know all about wedding-breakfasts and wedding-favours; we want to know whether these ridiculous reports about the bridegroom are true?"

    "Indeed!  I cannot tell unless I hear the reports."
 
    "You must have heard them.  Why, it is reported that he made the bride nine offers before she would accept him."

    "I believe that is true," replied Marion, "and may be repeated, as she told it me herself."

    "And a very sensible fellow, too," said Allerton; "let him go down on his knee every day for a month, if he gets his wife at the end of it."

    "Sensible fellow!" repeated Frank, with scorn.  "I really wonder at you, Mr. Allerton,—a married man as you are,—to put such thoughts into the heads of the ladies."

    "Nonsense!" persisted Allerton; "had not a man better make nine offers to one woman, than one to nine different ones?  Dreux, what do you think?"

    "I quite agree with you.  It seems he knew his own mind, and thinking the lady did Not know hers"—

    "Exactly so; and what woman does know her own mind?  Well, I have got one, at least, on my side.  Miss Paton, I am sure you agree with me also?"

    Dora laughed, and shook her head.

    "You do not?  I would not have believed it.  Gentlemen, and all whom it may concern, Miss Paton had rather marry a man who has attacked nine other ladies, and been refused, than"—

    "Indeed, Mr. Allerton, I never hinted at such a thing; but which way of making offers do you seriously advise?  Perhaps you have tried both."

    "I declare, upon my honour, I never made but one," exclaimed Allerton, joining in the laugh against himself.

    "Oh, I do wish they would talk about something else," thought Marion, as she sat threading her daisies, of which her little friend kept bringing her more, and throwing them into her lap.

    "Let Allerton talk of anything in the world but offers," thought Dreux; but they were all grouped together on the hay, and to rise and leave them would have excited observation.

    It was very far from Allerton's intention to let the conversation drop; he meant to carry it on, lead it to a topic which he thought wanted illustrating, and, if possible, throw a little light on the said topic.  "For my part," said little Joseph, "I shall certainly never, au—make an offer—unless I'm quite sure, you know, of being accepted beforehand, au— I think that's much the best way to prevent disappointment."

    "You do?" said Allerton, in a tone of solemn admonition.  "I wouldn't advise you to build too much on appearances beforehand; besides, if you let the lady see beforehand—of course, I don't allude to any lady in particular (Joseph was looking very hard at Marion)—but if you let any lady see that you are sure beforehand, very likely she may say No, on purpose to show you that you are mistaken."

    Little Joseph seemed awed by Allerton's way of saying this, and looked as if he meant to take warning by it.

    "And Mr. Norland," asked Dora, "how did you mean to find out beforehand?—how did you propose to know before you asked?"

    Joseph pulled up his collar and played with his cane, but a reply was not forthcoming.

    "And which side do you take, Miss Greyson," asked Allerton, turning his clear merry eyes upon her.

    "I think the bridegroom paid a very high compliment," said Marion, hesitating.

    "You take my side, then?"

    "I think not; for a lady who could so capriciously refuse so many times"—

    "Was not worth having?  Oh, Miss Greyson, you were not, surely, going to finish your sentence so unworthily?  It is always said to be the privilege of your sex to change their minds."

    "Then, if I must take one side, it shall certainly be that of the bridegroom; for, at least, his constancy is to be admired!"

    "Ah, constancy is indeed a delightful quality in a lover, worth all other good qualities put together.  Don't you think so, Miss Greyson?"

    "If I take your side, I suppose I must think as you do."

    "Nobly answered!  Miss Greyson is quite my champion.  I say constancy is quite irresistible."

    At the mention of this well-remembered word Marion felt the blushes in her cheeks mount nearly to her temples; but fortunately she could still seem occupied with her daisies, and, stooping over them, allowed her long hair to droop forward and help to conceal her face.

    "Don't you think it is, Miss Paton?" inquired Allerton.

    "O, of course," answered Dora, playfully.

    "And you, Miss Greyson?"

    "Nearly," replied Marion.

    "Not quite?  Oh, do believe it quite irresistible.  Mrs. White, Maidley, Dreux,—do plead with my champion, she is going back; she won't agree with me after all.  Really it is very hard."

    "How can I tell whether it is irresistible?" said Marion, rallying, and looking up.  "I never put it to the proof.  I do not speak from experience, only from hearsay."

    "Oh, indeed; she only speaks from hearsay."

    "I am sure," said little Joseph, "nobody would ever think—er—of—au—being inconstant to Miss Greyson."

    "Why not?" asked Allerton, turning suddenly upon him.

    "O—why, because Miss Greyson, you know, is —au—you know she is—au—so very charming."

    "Indeed!" said Allerton, with humorous gravity; "being a married man, I, of course, know nothing about that,—at least, only by hearsay."

    "Will you let my cousin alone, Mr. Allerton?" Said Dora.  "I really think you treat your champion very ill."

    "Very ill?—how can you say so, Miss Paton?  But I quite agree with Mr. Norland, that no one will ever be inconstant to Miss Greyson."

    "How do you know anything about that?" asked Wilfred, rather testily.

    "My opinion is founded upon a theory which I have, and on my own experience.  I believe there is no such thing as inconstancy."

    "A very convenient theory, and quite new."

    "Newly invented, I assure you.  I argue thus: If any man leaves off what he called loving while it lasted, that's a proof that he never did truly love; for I put it in my creed, that 'love is love for evermore.'"

    "You say so seriously, Mr. Allerton!" exclaimed Mrs. White.  "Well, you are the most romantic person I ever met with."

    "Romantic!  Not at all.  I said, if a man truly loved."

    "Oh, but that comes to nothing; for, if we ask you what truly means, you will say it means as long as he lives."

    "I will have nothing more to do with the question; you all make game of my principles, and refuse to hear my explanations."

    "If you had said, 'what a man has truly loved he cannot easily forget'"—

    "But I did not.  I said, what a man has truly loved,—be it man, woman, or child,—he cannot possibly forget.  Of course I can only speak from my own experience; I care nothing about hearsay in these matters."

    "Oh, we do not deny that it is true in your own individual case."

    "Will any of you admit that it is not true in his or her individual case?"

    "Of course not; but that proves nothing."

    "Dreux, you really might back me when you see me so beset.  Consider, you are the first person that I heard propound this theory, and I at once became a convert."

    "My dear Allerton, if you are in the right, you want no backing."

    "But am I in the right?"

    "Of course you are."

    "Gentlemen and ladies, behold my champion.  I will have nothing more to do with Miss Greyson; she won't go far enough for me.  I'm proud of you, Dreux."

    "Oh, Mr. Allerton!—what, be inconstant to Miss Greyson, in the face of your theory?"

    "The very best of men, Miss Paton, have their inconsistencies."

    "I don't know about forgetting," said little Joseph, looking very sage; "when Lion, my dog, died, I was very sorry at first—very sorry,—he had such a beautiful mane; but when I got Quiz instead, I forgot him—au—at least, in a measure."

    This would have been a capital opening for Allerton if he had wanted one, but he was satisfied with the point to which he had brought the conversation, and did not care to pursue it farther; and at that moment Mrs. White, observing that several forlorn-looking acquaintances of hers were hovering about near the hay, not liking to sit down for fear of intruding, and not quite well-bred enough to feel at ease, advanced towards them and began to talk.  Dora and Marion presently seconded her; the latter was delighted at the breaking up of the conference, and found the greatest relief in amusing a countrified young lady,—a farmer's daughter, and her brother, a very awkward, bashful lad.

    Dreux, scarcely knowing whether he was pleased or teazed at the way Allerton had drawn him out, wandered away with Dora, Greyson, and Maidley into the long vicarage garden, Frank Maidley of course occupying the attention of Dora; it was getting rather dusk, and he contrived after a while to withdraw her from the others, and induce her to walk apart with him.

    Dreux and Greyson, both lost in thought, sauntered side by side along the walks in silent companionship.  At length Greyson fell back, and betook himself to the house, which by this time was lighted up.

    Dreux had been leaning some time against an arbour, revolving various matters in his mind, when, looking up, he saw Allerton advancing towards him.

    "My dear fellow," said Allerton, "Mrs. White sent me to call you to supper.  (I abominate country suppers.)  Don't you know, Dreux, that you can be distinctly seen from the house?  What are you doing, mooning among these gooseberry-bushes?"

    "Doing? oh, nothing particular."

    "What are you thinking of, then?  Do you expect to stand gazing at a cucumber-frame and some old broken hand-glasses without exciting observation?  That sarcastic little Mrs. White has been proposing to have you whitewashed, and stuck up by the fountain as a statue of Apollo."

    "She is very obliging.  So you offered to come and tell me?"

    "The very first time that I have known you give me a testy answer.  No, I whispered mysteriously that you were wrangler in 18—.  'Ah, that accounts for his absence,' she answered gravely; 'he is lost in mathematics at this moment, no doubt!'  Come in, Dreux, there are whole piles of tarts and cheesecakes, and quantities of orange wine and gooseberry fool."

    "I have no objection to come.  How is Elinor?"

    "This is the first time you have mentioned her; Oh, Dreux, Dreux, I am afraid you are very far gone; Elinor sent her love, and I brought mine with me, and my eyes also."

    "Indeed!"

    "Yes, I have discovered that you are desperately in love;—poor fellow!"

    "I wish you would not banter me so."

    "You wish no such thing; you are extremely glad I found it out, for you would have wanted to tell me, you know; and you would have undergone agonies of blushing (if your complexion had been capable of it), before you could have managed it.  Dreux, will you take your back from that arbour?"

    "There, it is done."

    "Be a little more brisk, then, and don't sigh.  You will understand that it is a most disinterested thing on my part to bring you in, for I was very pleasantly engaged in conversation with Miss Greyson.  I always had a weakness in favour of those very lady-like beings; and now I am married, of course I may talk to whomsoever I will."

    "What have you been talking about?"

    "Why, my dear fellow, how can that possibly concern you?"

    "It does concern me very much; I am afraid you don't know, Allerton, that Miss Greyson some time ago"—

    "I know it all, Dreux; but that was a long time ago, and I have made her confess, as you heard, that constancy is NEARLY irresistible."

    "So it may be in the abstract."

    "Abstract!  You are overrun, and almost choked, with the weed of 'a most pernicious modesty.'  Oh that I should live to hear abstractions applied to a love affair!  Look at the matter hopefully (and don't tread upon Mrs. White's lavender); never was there such a fortunate man as you are, if you choose to think so.  That old gentleman, Mr. Raeburn, carefully shuts one eye on your proceedings, and won't see anything with the other, a certain proof that he approves."

    "He knows nothing about it."

    "Then your uncle sent for you here on purpose that you might prosecute it, for anything you know to the contrary."

    "He knows nothing about it either."

    "And these two things being fully proved, my dear fellow, I congratulate you heartily.  If I were you, I should think myself the happiest of men."

    "Really, Allerton!"

    "Really, Allerton!  Why, Dreux, if I were you, if no one had objected, and if I loved a lady, and she loved me"—

    "And she loved me."

    "If you speak so loud, they will assuredly hear you inside—we are close to the window.  Come in this moment.  I won't be pulled away; come in, I say, they can see us distinctly: eat a good supper, and every time you see my eye upon you, take wine with somebody; and mind you hand Miss Greyson into her carriage, and talk nonsense to her all the way home.  Do you hear, Dreux?"

    "Yes."

    "You look quite dazed.  Have you two humps on your back, and a double squint in each eye, besides a perfectly empty pate, that you cannot possibly believe any one can fancy you?  Come in this instant.  Here's Mrs. White coming out to hear you talk unintelligible mathematics!"


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXVIII.

MARION AND DREUX.


IT was midnight, and Allerton, left quite alone, was pacing the library at Norland Court.  He was deep in cogitation, and that of the most earnest kind.  He had again interfered in Dreux's affairs,—had perceived the state of his feelings,—from a few blushes, had jumped at the conclusion that Marion was not indifferent to him,—and had suffered his desire to forward Dreux's cause so completely to get the better of his often-expressed determination never to meddle again, that he had urged him on to offer his hand once more, had put all sorts of hopes into his mind, which might turn out to be mere chimeras, and had made light of the Colonel's interference, which might, after all, prevent any good ensuing, even if all other things went smoothly.

    He had ridden to Swanstead on Dreux's horse, which had been lent him by the Colonel.  A groom accompanied him to show the way, but, by a dexterous artifice, he got little Joseph to mount Dreux's horse on their return, rode the other himself, leaving the man to cross the fields on foot, and apologized to Dreux for leaving him behind at the Rectory door, to make his way home when he chose.  He heard Mr. Raeburn ask him to come in; he saw the Rectory door shut upon him; and it was not till left alone at Norland that he began to reflect what might be the consequences of what he had done.

    Before midnight Joseph retired, and Allerton having said that he chose to sit up and let Dreux in, the household retired to bed, and the house was presently quite still.

    He wondered what could make Dreux so late.  It was scarcely ten when they parted at Swanstead; he could not surely have stayed there long.

    Allerton pushed down the window-sash, and listened.  Swanstead Church struck half-past twelve.  It was a very sultry night, not a breath was stirring, but the broad moonlight made the birds restless.  He withdrew his head from the window, and paced backward and forward in the lamplight within.  His imagination was excited; he pictured to himself Dreux coming home sick at heart from the sudden throwing down of the high hopes that he himself had given him.

    Another quarter struck.  The servants, before they retired, had brought in a light repast and set it on the table.  Allerton, restless and uneasy, busied himself in trimming the lamp, setting a chair, and looking out for the expected occupant.

    He thought he heard a slight noise,—a footstep in one of the distant walks.  Again,—and presently Dreux emerged into the moonlight, and Allerton strained his attention to discover whether anything decisive had happened, either for good or evil.

    He was sauntering so slowly, that while still at a distance, there was ample time for watching him.  Now he stopped, as if deep in thought; then he half turned again towards Swanstead; then he came up to a clump of white rose-trees, and gave them an idle push with his foot, apparently to see how many of their thick white petals would fall.  He drew nearer: there was no mistaking the musing smile, nor the look of complete abstraction.  Certainly nothing had happened to dash his hopes; but whether he had any good reason for them, or whether he was merely pleasing himself with the dreams that Allerton had steeped him in, was another matter.

    He set his foot upon the threshold, and Allerton opened the window: neither spoke.  Dreux had not half recovered from his musing fit: seeing the chair, he went forward, took off his hat, and sat down mechanically.  Allerton put some grapes on his plate and some biscuits, gave him a fruit-knife and a glass of wine.  His abstraction was so complete that he never observed Allerton's watchful scrutiny, but ate and drank till his plate was empty.

    Allerton shut the window.  Swanstead Church struck one.  He did not choose to ask any questions, nor even to remind Dreux how late it was.  He thought he would let him dream out his reverie of happiness, whether it was reasonable or unreasonable.

    At length he roused himself, and went and stretched himself full-length on a couch, his favourite attitude for a colloquy.  Allerton, as usual, paced the room.  Dreux at length said to him,—

    "Why don't you question me?  If you think I can tell you anything without that, you are mistaken."

    "Well, my first question shall be, Have you anything to tell,—anything decisive?"

    "Yes; but, Allerton, something has just occurred to me that your strange revelations put till now out of my head,—Can a man marry with twenty pounds or so in his pocket, and a hundred a-year in prospect?"

    "My dear fellow, I am afraid we ought both to have thought of that before."

    "You seem quite out of spirits?"

    "I am vexed with myself for having led you on so far."

    "Never repent of a good action, Allerton.  I shall not let pride stand in my way.  Poor as I am, I shall certainly go and ask Mr. Raeburn for his ward."

    "And if he should refuse you?"

    "Why, then I shall still be ten times better off than before."

    "How so, Dreux?  Have you secured the lady's consent?"

    "Yes; and therefore I shall always have hope, that if there is any change in my prospects, I may yet claim her hand."

    "And Colonel Norland?"

    "No chance of anything from him,—he tells me so daily.  Oh, that reminds me;—why did he send for you?"

    "He only knows.  I would not have come if I had not wanted to get you back with me, for Elinor thought you wrote as if you were in low spirits."

    "I am heartily glad you came;—you are my good genius."

    "Dreux, you continually forget.  You say things which cut me to the heart.  Your good genius!"

    "Are you never to be thanked for any kindness, because I must for ever be brooding over that one unkindness?"

    "Well, as I said before, I don't know what the Colonel wanted with me unless to inform me that I need not suppose my wife would inherit anything from him.  I told him I did not expect it.  'Not when you married her?' he inquired.  I thought it was no good mincing the matter, so I told him roundly, that when I married her I was not aware of his existence!

    "He did not disbelieve me, but was evidently so astonished that I asked whether he thought it likely that lovers in general talked about their old uncles.  He said he had no doubt it was, when they expected anything from them.  'Then,' I said, 'you may take the silence of Dreux and Elinor as a sign that they do not, or did not expect anything from you.'  He seemed quite amazed at my cool assurance, and declared that I was worse than you.  'Why, as to that, Colonel,' I said, 'no amount of cringing would make you leave any part of your property to Dreux and Elinor if you did not wish to do so, or consider it a duty; and if you do, my plain-speaking will not prevent it, so you need not suppose that I think I am doing myself any harm,—on the contrary, nothing would make you suspect me so much as my setting to work to flatter you, so I hope that point's settled.'

    "The old fellow laughed excessively at this, with a sort of chuckling pleasure.  'And now,' I said, 'I should like to know, Colonel, what you sent for me for?'

    "'What does that matter to you, Sir?  Perhaps I sent for you to keep company with Arthur, for that fool Joseph nearly mopes him to death; he is much thinner than when he came.  Would you like a living in this neighbourhood?'

    "'Would I?' I exclaimed, quite surprised; 'that depends on circumstances.'

    "'Because,' he continued, 'White has had a better living offered him in Yorkshire, and has written to me to say so.  It's to be kept secret for a few days.'"

    "You surprise me, Allerton; I wonder he did not mention it to me."

    "So I said to him.  'I've got a living,' I said, 'and though I wish to leave it as soon as I can, because my parishioners dislike me, you are not the man that should offer me another in preference to your own nephew.'"

    "Take it, Allerton; Elinor is as near to him as I am.  It is a large parish,—plenty of opportunity for usefulness."

    "I shall see, first, if he will not offer it to you, upon proper persuasion.  Why, Dreux, it would enable you to marry at once."

    "He will never alter his mind.  He has had time enough to consider whether I should have it, and has decided against it.  Take it, then, and I will be your curate."

    "That you may be near Miss Greyson.  Well, we will discuss that tomorrow."

    "What else did he say?"

    "That you were gone to Swanstead, and that, if I liked to take your horse, I could follow you.  When I got to Swanstead, I found you had gone on to Wickley, the very place he had spoken of.  Do you think Elinor would like the change?"

    "Very much indeed."

    "Well, you know the rest, and positively I will not say another word till tomorrow."

    "I would not have you build too much on this living; very likely he will alter his mind."

    "I thought it was more like banter than anything else when he offered it me."

    So saying, they separated for the night, and a very sultry night it was, so much so that the Colonel could not sleep, but, being very much better of his gout, lay at tolerable ease, thinking what he should decide to do for each of his nephews and his niece's husband, and quite convinced that he held the fate, fortune, and happiness of all in his own power.

    The morning came.  Joseph woke, and began to think about Marion in her blue silk dress and white bonnet.  He felt himself always much more attracted by womankind when it appeared in holiday garb.  Allerton woke, wished he had let Dreux's affairs alone, and wished he had brought Elinor with him.  Dreux awoke, and remembered that Mr. Raeburn had invited him to come over and breakfast at Swanstead.  "Invited" is not the proper word.  He had said no more than "I shall be happy to see you here to breakfast, Sir," but the tone and his gravity seemed to add, "and I desire that you will not fail to come."  He thought the old gentleman seemed out of spirits, and perhaps a little testy, but his manner was as fond as usual when he turned to Marion, drew her arm under his, and led her away into the house.

    To Swanstead, therefore, Dreux walked.  It was already very hot, though the clock had not struck eight; and as he went through a shady lane leading to Mr. Raeburn's house, he took off his hat and gloves, and lingered, for he was afraid of being too early.  Hope and joy had altered him so much already that he had never looked better.  So Mr. Raeburn thought when at a sudden turn he met him.  But few fathers and guardians were ever induced to favour a suitor for his good looks, and few men care for the impression their appearance may produce on one another.  If Dreux had been told to guess what the taciturn old Rector was thinking of, his own eyes and complexion would have been the last things he would have hit upon as likely to occupy his attention.  Yet so it was; the old man was tracing a likeness, real or imaginary, between him and the lost Euphemia, and wondering, if his son had lived, whether he would have been anything like this.  They walked together to the house.  Marion met them on the steps.  Nothing could well be more quiet than the breakfast; the viands and the weather supplied all the little conversation.  Dreux felt very anxious; there was a calm depression about the Rector, from which he augured no good.  Having finished his breakfast, he rang for family prayers, and when they were over, withdrew to his study and shut the door.

    "And now," thought Dreux, "has he really observed anything, and if so, does he mean to summon me to an interview, or must I go to seek him?"

    He stood irresolute.  Marion had watched her opportunity, and had glided out of the room; the fat old footman continued to clear away the breakfast things.  Dreux watched him, for want of something better to do.  When he had smoothed the cloth, he brought Marion's work-basket and set it thereupon, as coolly as if it had been a common piece of wicker-work; and that done, he brought her pretty little desk, her key-basket, and her white bouquet, still blooming, in water, and deposited them beside it, like common, vulgar things!

    Marion did not return.  She had told him the night before that he must speak to her uncle, so after waiting some time for a summons, he at length crossed the hall, and knocked at the study door.

    Mr. Raeburn opened it himself; he seemed neither surprised nor expectant; he had a newspaper in his hand, he gave another to Dreux, and they both sat down.

    Mr. Raeburn hated regular discussion and scenes of all sorts; he knew perfectly well what his guest had come about, but it was not his business to help him with it, so he continued looking down the advertisements in the paper, with the slightest possible smile lurking about his mouth.  He was rather pleased than otherwise to observe the desperate state of fidget into which Dreux had worked himself; it was, at least, a proof that his consent was considered necessary.

    "Well, Sir?" he said, looking up pleasantly from his paper.

    Dreux had folded his arms for the encounter; he evidently expected something formidable, some surprise at his communication, perhaps a hint at presumption.  Positively he had nerved himself for war, and his face was grave, almost to sternness, he said,—

    "I believe, Mr. Raeburn, you are aware that I have lost my property?"

    Mr. Raeburn was quite aware of the fact, but his look of surprise was genuine; this was evidently not exactly how he had expected the conversation to begin.

    "But perhaps you are not aware that I have nothing to expect from my uncle, Colonel Norland.  I have, however, always taken pains to make it known that I am not likely to inherit any part of his property; my uncle has also proclaimed it constantly."

    "He has, Sir,—something about a fish-pond, wasn't it?  I've heard that story till I'm sick of it."

    The young man heaved a mighty sigh; the old one looked out of the window.  There was Marion, sauntering slowly down the garden; she was dressed in a transparent muslin gown, and had thrown a white shawl about her.

    "That young lady, Mr. Dreux, is my adopted child,—my daughter; her dutiful affection constitutes about all the happiness of my life.  I think it would break my heart to have to part from her."


Ed.—book-binding error. Page 399 not bound.


    been understood,—impossible that this could be all; it was as good as a consent to his proceedings.  With his hand still extended for the parasol, he looked intently at the arbiter of his fate.

    "Did you wish to shake hands first?" said the Rector, with an easy smile.  "Well, I have no objection."

    "Bless the boy, what a gripe" (every man under thirty was a boy in the Rector's opinion.)  "Ah! dashing across the lawn, clearing the flower-beds; good thing Marion did not see him spring over those new fuchsias of hers.  Ah! (gives her the parasol)—well, he's a fine young fellow.  I'll make 'em live with me; I want a curate.  What, you want her to go into the meadows, do you?—and sit upon that hay under the hedge, I'll be bound.  Ah! your hand on the gate-latch.  What next—a book?  I think it's a book.  You are not going to read to her,—don't tell me!  You can talk without a book, or you would never have talked that ring on to your finger.  Will she go in?—makes a little difficulty about it—Yes.  Then I look upon the matter as settled."

    Marion was seated on a kind of flat hay dais.  Dreux, in a convenient position for looking at her, proposed to read, and occupied a long time in finding a poem to his mind; he did at last, and read a few verses, then broke off.

    "Marion—may I call you Marion?"

    "I shall certainly not give you leave, Mr. Dreux."

    "I think I must venture.  Marion, don't you think this is a very uninteresting poem?"

    Marion laughed softly.  "Perhaps, if it had been better read, Mr. Dreux"—

    "But I cannot read and look at you at the same time."

    "Were you obliged to look at me?"

    "Yes; I wanted to see what kind of work this was that you were doing."

    "This?  It is called crochet."

    "Oh, I see; it goes over and over, first a twirl and then a twitch, till, by degrees, it comes into a piece of lace,—how very uninteresting this book is."

    "I did not propose to you to read, Mr. Dreux."

    "No; but I have heard you say, that you have no conversational powers, and, as I have none either"—

    "You have none either?"

    "None at all.  Do answer me one question, my sweet Marion."

    "I must hear what it is before I promise; besides, I want to go on with my work.  I cannot talk at all unless I have something to do."

    "Cannot you crochet with one hand?—why did you laugh?"

    "You are so absurd, Mr. Dreux; and you looked at me so very, very earnestly,"

    "Because I am so afraid you will get tired of me,—I am certain of it.  You only pity me; you begin to think it must give great pain to love as I have done for so long; so, in the gentleness of your nature, you—Marion, let me hold your hand a little longer.  You do not know how many thousand times, between sleeping and waking, I have fancied I felt it again touching my hair and moving it back from my forehead.  Will you answer my question?"

    "Perhaps."

    "On that day when you were sealing those notes (I hated the smell of sealing-wax ever after), was it the stupid way in which I made my offer which induced you to reject it?  I know, of course, that I had made no impression; but, if I had managed matters better, would you have wished me to continue to visit you?"

    Marion was silent.

    "I dare say you thought me an excessively proud, conceited, confident fellow?"

    "You exaggerate so very much what I thought, that I can deny it.  I did not think so; but whatever I thought must no doubt have been a mistake, since I have changed my mind."

    "I know many people think so, for no better reason than that I have a grave face and walk upright."

    He spoke with such bitter regret, that Marion saw it was still a sore subject, and answered with sweet gentleness, "We need not mind what they think, as we are not of their opinion."

    "But you thought me proud, proud even to you; and there was nothing I would not have given to have been freed from that torturing sensation of reserve and shyness, which binds me round like an iron chain, stiffens all my movements, both of mind and body, and makes my very voice cold enough to chill any one."

    Marion looked at him quite surprised.  He was thinking only how to explain himself.  She was studying the character of her future husband, and unconsciously learning how to establish her empire over him.

    "But if you had been very eloquent just then, Mr. Dreux"—

    "You would not have consented; but if that unconquerable reserve would have left me for a moment, that I might have explained my feelings, I might have made a pleasanter impression; but the idea that you thought I considered myself sure of success, and despised me"—

    "I never despised you, Mr. Dreux; how much you mistake!"

    "I despised myself, as I then appeared.  I constantly do; but I had an unreasonable fancy that you could understand me, in spite of the heavy cloak of involuntary concealment and reserve in which I was shrouded.  You looked at me once or twice so differently to the looks of other people.  I get plenty of respect, a great deal more than I like, and people talk gravely and sensibly with me because I am grave; but no warmth for years came near me, my distant manner flung off all familiarity."

    "I did not think you cold when once I had seen you smile.  I thought that you had the power to feel deep affection.  I thought I saw something else, which I now am sure of."

    "May I know what it was?"

    "That you were very sensitive; but I kept my discovery to myself.  Scarcely any one would have believed that you possessed what you were at so much pains to conceal."

    "I cannot help taking those pains; it is a part of my nature to hide all those qualities which I yet feel hurt, when I find that people give me credit for being destitute of.  I know my manner is icy; and yet all my life I have been tormented with a more than ordinary desire to be loved.  I have coveted affection with constant pertinacity, and yet I am absolutely without the power to attract it.  My sister has always been fond of me, but even to her I have the greatest difficulty in speaking confidentially.  There is but one man living who has cared for me well enough to break down my reserve and become my friend.  How grateful I am to him I cannot describe, nor what degree of affection I feel for him.  With him I enjoyed the luxury of free communication, literally for the first time."

    "Is not this a confidential communication, Mr. Dreux?"

    "Yes; and on reflection I find it is all about myself."

    "I wish you would continue it.  Do you know I perceive that you are very different from what I thought; not so much from what you have said, as because you have looked so different while you said it.  You are not so independent as I thought."

    "Independent!"

    "Yes.  I thought after you were gone last night (I did not repent, but still I thought it), that you would often be lofty and unapproachable; that I should sometimes be in your way with my sympathies, and my petting, and my observation of all your moods and changes; for I cannot help watching everything that I consider my own."

    "Did you really think so of me?  How very strange!" .

    "You will please to understand, that unless I had been sagacious, I should have thought so still.  I thought even with people whom you most loved, you would prove unbending, not looking for, or needing, or liking any affectionate nonsense, any caressing, or petting.  In fact, I had quite made up my mind that I must alter my natural manner a good deal; but I little thought that this very day I should tell you so."

    "But tell me the rest; tell me what you do think."

    "Oh, you will be very covetous of my attention, very exacting—a very tiresome man indeed!"

    "No, indeed, I shall be a pattern—the most attentive, the most devoted."

    "If you talk and protest like a man in a book, I shall know you are only inventing it, particularly if you laugh.  You ought to be grave, and vow in good earnest."

    "Who would have thought of my being reproved for not being grave enough?  But I thought you were going to draw my character.  You have told me what I am not.  I want to know what I am."

    "Oh, I have discovered that you are the reverse of everything that I have described.  You are just as dependent as other people.  And, as you have laid open your inmost feelings to me, partly of your own accord, and partly because I have found them out, your reserve cannot be quite unconquerable, Mr. Dreux."

    "Not with you.  Marion, it is almost impossible for me to believe that you really take an interest in me.  I have been so signally unsuccessful hitherto in getting any one to care for me, that the idea of your caring, you—it really is past belief—taking the trouble, too, to find out my character and understand me"—

    "And pity you, as you said before; yes, and rally you.  Does Mr. Allerton ever do that?"

    "Very often."

    "I am very much afraid of him; he seemed yesterday to be reading my inmost thoughts."

    "I shall tell him not to alarm you in future with his penetration."

    "You can tell him, too, that he was entirely mistaken in some of his conjectures, some of his thoughts which he did not mention, but which I know he did think."

    "What were they?"

    "Ah, that is another question; but I should not be at all surprised if he communicated some of them to you.  What did he say to you, Mr. Dreux, when Mrs. White made him fetch you in to supper?"

    "Marion, do you really care for me?"

    "Instead of answering my question, you ask me another.  I think you had better go on with the reading."

    "But I want to know whether you care for me."

    "Haven't I taken the trouble to understand you? and haven't I let you interrupt my work a great many times?  Look what a little piece I have done; but, Mr. Dreux, what a very little time you were with my uncle!"

    "Yes, he cut me short just as I was beginning what I had to say."

    "Indeed!  But I said"—

    "That his consent was quite indispensable."

    "Then, Mr. Dreux, you must leave me, and go to him and explain more particularly."

    "Don't be displeased; it is a very unaccountable thing; but he did virtually give his consent.  He pointed you out to me in the garden, and sent me to you himself; and he shook hands with me.  He hinted that it would be a great pain to him to have to part with you."

    Marion's eyes filled with tears.

    "My hopes had been too sudden and overwhelming to be very defined, but I intimated that I should never dream of such a thing as trying to persuade you to leave him, and involuntarily I sprung at once to my hoped-for conclusion.  My own Marion, you thought me proud when I really was diffident and humble, now you think me less so when I have proved myself the most presumptuous fellow possible!  How I could have the face to do it I cannot think: and he actually never asked me one single question."

    "Then you will never ask me to leave this place?"

    "O no, never.  I mean to ask him to-night if he will have me for a curate.  At least if you think that my having the opportunity to see you so often would not weary you of me."

    "You seem still to suppose that I do not know my own mind."

    "No, indeed; but at least it was a sudden change in my favour.  It may have been founded on some momentary thing that I said or did, which, when you know me better, you may find is not habitual with me.  It might even have been, perhaps, that yesterday the wind blew the hair back from that little mark on my forehead, and when you remembered the kindness and thought you had bestowed upon me when I lay between life and death, you could not bear to see my mental suffering on your account."

    "You are a most incredulous man, and certainly not conceited, therefore I will tell you that this change of mine was not a sudden change."

    "If you would tell me what cause it had for beginning, and when it began."

    "It began some time ago."

    "The last time I came here?"

    "No."

    "When you first gave me this ring?"

    "No."

    "You will not refuse to tell me?"

    "Certainly not; but unless you had been exactly the kind of man that you are, I would have taken pains to conceal it, lest it should make you what you just now called yourself."

    "What was that, Marion?"

    "Presumptuous."

    "Is it something, then, that I shall be so very much delighted to hear?"

    "I suppose so, since you wish so much to be loved."

    "Tell it me, then; I will not be presumptuous— not more presumptuous than I am at present."

    "And you will not tell Mr. Allerton?"

    "No, certainly not.  How much he would be amused at your fear of him!  Tell me, Marion; I should like to have a secret confided to me—something known only to you and to myself."

    "When you came and offered me your hand I certainly felt flattered, though when I looked up I saw a man who had not taken much pains to please me, whom I had been taught to think somewhat, however little, spoiled by the—I must call it—absurd flattery which had been heaped upon him in his clerical character.  I saw, as I thought, a man to whom my refusal could be of but little moment, who wanted nothing, not even affection, to lean upon, and lean towards, and who could stand best alone.

    "But the next day I saw him helpless and nearly insensible on a couch, left quite without any supporter or comforter: the lines of the face were so changed, the voice was so different, I began to think that I might have been something even to him—that no one was so able to be alone, and to stand alone, as he had seemed to be.  When I lifted up his hand and moved it away from his forehead, it pained me to think that I gave him involuntary uneasiness, and that I might never hear him speak again.  But he did speak,—he uttered my name.  Then, as I bent over him, half unconscious as he was, I began to feel affection for him.  Never since has he appeared to me the same man whom I knew so imperfectly before.

    "I watched and watched.  His face was never the same three minutes at a time.  I saw all the helplessness, forlornness, dependence—for an instant I saw all the tenderness that a human face is capable of expressing.  Are you satisfied now, Mr. Dreux?"

    This was asked in the sweetest of modest feminine tones, and seemed to say that the speaker was quite above trifling for a moment with the feelings of any man, least of all with the one before her.  The reply was given with heartfelt earnestness, and a smile most suddenly sweet—"Quite, far more than satisfied; and all this, but for Allerton's upbraidings of my faint heart, I never should have known."

    "Most assuredly not.  But, Mr. Dreux, let me go on with my work; it must be nearly lunch time, and I have done only half an inch of pattern."

    "Is this the table of directions in this little open book?  Ah! I see.  For collar, for child's jacket, for lace, crown-pattern; do., rose-pattern.  What strange jargon it is; I cannot make sense of it."

    "But I can make lace of it; and if you wish to read I should prefer the other book."

    "I don't wish to do anything but sit here. This is the most delightful day I have ever been out in— the most delightful sky I ever sat under. I am certain I never saw such a hawthorn hedge before, and I never saw such a smile before,—it must have been meant for me."

    And so, in spite of reserve and the want of conversational powers, they continued to talk for more than an hour, during which time they said nearly as much as would have filled a volume.



    "To marry a daughter is not always to lose her; sometimes it is to gain a son."

    Dreux had spent a long day at Swanstead, and was walking home in the moonlight, when these words, which he had said in a moment of excitement, returned to his recollection, and considerably tempered his happiness.

    A man, of whom he knew but little, had, in consequence of these few words,—said with no knowledge of how important they would prove,—implied in the morning, and promised at night, that he would give him his adopted child—no light gift in the eyes of either giver or receiver.  Worldly advantages, as it so chanced, were to come with her; and for all this the vague and unsubstantial equivalent that he had held out was that he would be a son to him.

    He began to be alarmed.  How could he be a son to this old gentleman!  He thought him agreeable, and his peculiarities were just such as to make him feel particularly at ease in his company.  He was just the man he could have fixed on for his Rector or his father-in-law; but something different had been meant and understood by that speech of the morning.  He saw that it had won him his wife, and made him an object of inexpressible interest to her singular guardian; and he began to feel that if he had been bidden, like Naaman the Syrian, to do "some great thing," it would not have oppressed him half so much as the thought of failing in this sonship, for it was a peculiar relation, and he scarcely thought he could take it upon him with much credit or success.  At midnight he reached the library window, and, as before, it was opened by Allerton.

    "Well," said this fast friend, "all goes on well, I see.  Joseph is gone to bed in a fit of the sulks.  Miss Greyson has much to answer for,—that blue gown of hers has half distracted him!"

    "What have you been doing with yourself all day?" said Dreux, with a smile.

    "Doing?  Why, I have been back by express to Westport, and it is not an hour since I returned."

    "To Westport!  What for?"

    Allerton laughed, and, pointing upward to the ceiling, said, "Listen."

    A very light footstep was passing softly about in the room overhead.  "Why, you don't mean to say you have fetched Elinor," exclaimed Dreux, incredulously.

    "Even so.  She is tired, so she went up stairs, and left her love to you.  I thought I should like her to see Wickley, for your uncle renewed his offer this morning, and I closed with it, on condition that she liked the place."

    "I am glad you brought her.  Is there any Westport news?"

    "Yes; Mrs. Fred Bishop has a son and heir.  Her father is nearly out of his wits with joy,—sons are so scarce in his family.  And your old flame, Mrs. Dorothy Silverstone, is going to be married."

    "Nonsense!"

    "There's what I get for telling you unwelcome news!  I tell you it is not nonsense; I heard it from two or three people.  Why, Dreux, do you want two strings to your bow?  It is much more for the happiness of your intended that she should be without a rival."

    "Mrs. Dorothy Silverstone!  Pooh!—it is a mistake."

    "It is either she or some other old woman; ask Elinor.  But no, I am certain I am right.  And now open your eyes wide.  Who do you think is to be the happy bridegroom?"

    "Why, if one thing would be more ridiculous than another, it would be her marrying Athanasius."

    "Your prescience must have aided you in linking their names; he is the very man."

    "Allerton, I am sure you're making game of me."

    "No such thing.  I tell you she is going to marry Athanasius, and go out with him as a missionary.  Don't look at me in that way.  Can I help it if people will make fools of themselves?"

    "Why, she is old enough to be his mother."

    "To be sure she is.  I wonder whether she or his true mother will be called old Mrs. Brown.  Come in, Dreux; let us eat some grapes, and talk it over."

    "Has my uncle seen Elinor?"

    "Yes, he sat up till she arrived, and gave her a warm welcome.  Afterwards he rather seemed to take it ill that she was not so handsome as he had expected.  I understand he was in a towering rage this morning."

    "Indeed; but he is nearly every day."

    "So I suppose.  You were the subject of his passion, for during the morning Mr. Raeburn called on him, and told him you had proposed for his ward, and he had authorized you to prosecute your suit.  Joseph told me all this, and very cross he is about it, poor little fellow!  I understand the Colonel told Mr. Raeburn he wondered he should want to secure a penniless man for his ward.  Raeburn answered that he cared for position, family, and character much, and for fortune not at all, as he would take care about that,—it should come on the lady's side.  And he distinctly declared that he was mainly induced by the fact that you were disinherited to favour your suit, because a man with an estate would take his wife away to live upon it, but you, having none, would be willing to live with him.  'And do you mean to say,' cried the old fellow, in such a passion that he stuttered and almost screamed,—'do you presume to say that I am obliged to disinherit my nephew just because you desire it?  Am I to lay myself under an obligation to you, and let You enrich my family?'  'I understand,' Mr. Raeburn replied; 'your changing your mind in that matter, Colonel, is of course within your power; it will not at all affect my interests, as I have a distinct understanding that Mr. Dreux is to live with me; therefore, as he will be so near, you can easily settle any business matters with him; I have nothing to do with them.'  Cool, wasn't it?"

    "Very; and no doubt the whole object of the call was to let my uncle know that, heir or no heir, he need not expect to have any claim upon me, since he had clearly disavowed it.  Well, it is something new and strange to have people contending about one in this way,—rather flattering, too."

    "Yes, and the old gentleman spoke very handsomely of you to the Colonel.  What a strange man he seems to be!  His wife has been dead a very short time, and they say he has been in better spirits since than for years."

    "I do not think that singular, as she had been deranged from her youth.  Miss Greyson tells me he would not allow her to put on mourning for the poor lady.  Miss Greyson, Allerton, has a great idea of your penetration."

    "I have given her cause."

    "What cause?"

    "If she likes to tell you, I have no objection; but I could not think of betraying a lady's confidence."

    "Why not?—you continually betray mine!  Whenever I tell you any secret, I shortly afterwards find Elinor in possession of it.  Come, will you tell me what cause you have given Miss Greyson?"

    "Will you have another bunch of grapes, Dreux?  I'll tell you nothing more.  Things are come to a pretty pass if I am to be cross-questioned by you!  Mrs. Dorothy Silverstone is attached to Athanasius Brown;—I told you that, didn't I?  Quite enough news for one night.  If you want to know who Miss Greyson is attached to, ask her yourself."

    Whether he did ask her has not transpired, but Mr. Brown soon settled the other point, by marrying a Miss Dorothy Silverstone certainly,—not the old lady, but her niece.  And this he did to the great contentment of his mother, who, not knowing much about the Levant, had privately dreaded lest her son should marry "one of the Blacks who inhabit those parts."


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXIX.

THE IVYED CASEMENT.


"WELCOME the coming, speed the parting guest," is the saying of old Homer.  The same thing may be said of a book,—the glimpses it affords of human life and feeling are often welcome; but its actors must not be suffered to linger too long when they are ready to depart.  Take, however, one or two more glances at them, reader, if you will, ere they retire to the place from whence they came.

    Marion has returned from her bridal tour.  She has been anxious as to how her husband will fulfil the duties evidently expected of him; now she is quite at her ease, and as she sits by the window in the morning-room, smiles to think, that though she keeps her old place in her guardian's heart, someone else has unconsciously stepped into a higher one.  "How well they get on together," she thinks.  "How fond my uncle is of Arthur, and yet what contrary beings they are!  There must be some curious affinities between them which make it impossible for them ever to be in one another's way."

    Marion knew that when she was in a mood to sing, the Rector would partially open his door, that he might listen as he sat reading and writing.  If she and Elinor were laughing and talking together, he would furtively stop his walk about the hall to catch the sound of their voices, and participate privately in their amusement.  She soon found that her husband's step, his voice, and the life and spirit he had brought into the house, gave even more pleasure.  When he ran up stairs, or walked about the house, he did it like a man who by no means feared the sound of his own footsteps, and when he rang his bell, he pulled it with a will.  He had another habit, which won him golden opinions,—he loved to read aloud.  Every interesting book that he could get hold of he read aloud to his wife, principally in the evening.

    The old gentleman had long been dependent on Marion for his evening's amusement, as his eyesight was very indifferent.  It sometimes strained her voice to read to him for long together.  What a treasure was a man whose voice at its natural pitch was perfectly audible, and who was obliged to any one who would listen to him!  He, in fact, often declared, that he could not thoroughly enjoy any book unless he read it aloud; therefore, whenever he was seen, about eight of the clock, to stretch himself on a sofa, and seize some newly received volume, while Marion made the tea, old Mr. Raeburn used eagerly to draw his easy chair close to him, and prepare for a treat with all the self-complacency meanwhile of a man who was conferring a charity.

    Then, again, he had very few notions about music, and though excessively proud of his wife's singing, never presumed to interfere with Mr. Raeburn's prerogative of instructing, approving, blaming, &c.  Complete and indiscriminate admiration was all he ever ventured upon, and this, though a proof of ignorance, was thought to exhibit his devoted affection for his wife, which he certainly showed in many other less equivocal ways.

    And moreover he loved, as hath before been said, to be questioned,—it saved all the trouble of concocting and relating his own story.

    How few young men like to be questioned, especially by an old one!  Some young men are wont to declare that it nearly drives them wild to have to answer such daily questionings as, "Well, and who did you meet?" "Where did you go?" "Did you see Mr. So-and-so?" "Ah! indeed, and what did he say?" "And how was Widow Green ?"  "Did you come home by the fields, Arthur?" "You did, eh?" "Well, and how do Tom Hurder's turnips look?"

    To all and every such question Dreux answered pleasantly.  He seldom volunteered any information, but any species of news about himself, the parish, or the neighbourhood, any opinion he wanted to get from him, the Rector might always have for the asking.

    With his wife, her guardian and his friend, he had no intentional reservation; but true to his character, even where he most deeply loved, he could only draw near when invited; he could not expand, and, as it were, unfold himself, without encouragement.

    Take another glance.

    Marion, as before, is seated near the window, with an infant on her lap; Dreux is standing beside her, with a little note-book in his hand.

    "And don't forget to go to Mrs. Mills," she says, "and tell her I wish a hat for baby just like the one Elinor got for her child."

    Dreux writes, and inquires whether Mrs. Mills will know how large it is to be.  "You had better have given this commission to Allerton, my love."

    "Ah! Dreux, Dreux," answers the said Allerton, "I am afraid the instincts of humanity are beginning to fail.  Whenever I see a man afraid of a baby I think the world must be coming to an end.  Do you think Adam did not know how, instinctively, to handle an infant and carry it about without making it scream?"

    "No matter whether he did or not; there were no nursemaids in his time; so let us hope he did.  I don't know that I should have any particular objection to carrying that little fellow upstairs if Marion would trust me with him."

    "You know better than to think she would.  Didn't I put our baby into your arms the other day, and didn't you testify unmanly fear, and quake, and declare you should drop it if it would wriggle so?  Do you think Adam knew no better than that, when Eve gave him the baby to hold while she pacified the other children?"

    "If Adam had any sense he let Eve keep the baby, and pacified the other children himself."

    "Ah, you are never tired of petting that little Euphemia of yours.  She will be spoilt;—mark my words."

    "And as for you, I wonder, since you have a genius that way, that Elinor does not leave the infant to you altogether.  I shall expect to see you take it up into the pulpit some day."

    "He is not so wise as he thinks," said Elinor, calmly; "I am very glad we are not Adam and Eve."

    "Here comes the phaeton.  Lift up the boy, dearest, and I'll kiss him.  Goodbye till to-morrow.  Allerton, take care of my wife and Children."

    Mr. Raeburn drives up in the phaeton.

    "It is just about time to be off," he observes; "but I suppose there are some last words to detain us, as usual."

    He has no wish to prevent these last words, for Dreux and Marion always amuse and interest him by their more than common attachment for each other, yet he pretends to be in a hurry, and makes as if he could not possibly wait.

    There are a good many last words, for Marion has sent away her baby, and bethought herself of some more commissions.

    "Mind you remember those French marigold seeds, my love, and—oh, I knew there was something else—an Indian rubber ball for Effie."

    "Ahem !" says the Rector, "if we're late I suppose it is of no great consequence."

    "There are five minutes good, uncle.  Dearest, I just wanted to say"—

    "Then say it to-morrow, my pretty—Pshaw! one would think he was to be away for a month, instead of a night.  Arthur, do you mean to come at all?"

    "This minute—directly.  Goodbye, my love!" and so saying he jumped into the phaeton, which had not proceeded ten yards before there was another delay.

    Two little fat hands were tapping at the glass of an upper window: the phaeton was stopped, and the two gentlemen looked up to the ivyed casement of the nursery.

    A nurse opened it, and a little face peeped out—a little dark-eyed Euphemia.  She laughed and nodded to them, and then she kissed her hands, and pushing back her waving hair from her forehead, cried out, "Baby's asleep, so he can't come to look at you.  Goodbye, dear papa; goodbye, dear grandpapa."

    The young father kissed his hand, and turned away with a smile.  The old man, who was called by a name that was not his, laughed with heartfelt satisfaction.  The adopted daughter and the adopted son were as much to him as his own could ever have been; they were making him rich in his old age,—setting children on his knees who would grow up to love and honour him.

    Happy for him that he had not shut up his solitary heart to brood over the bereavements of his prime,—for now this son and this daughter were his, and their children were his, and those who slept beneath the cedar-trees were still his, for they were neither lamented with repinings, nor unloved, nor forgotten.



THE END


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