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Title: A Novel Without a Name
Author: William Aubrey Burnage
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1500381.txt
Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: A Novel Without a Name
Author: William Aubrey Burnage

*

A NOVEL WITHOUT A NAME

By

William Aubrey Burnage,


Author of "A swim for a wife," "Constance," "Bertha Shelley," &c.,

Published in The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, N.S.W.
in serial form commencing Saturday 4 August, 1877. (This text.) Also in
book form by The Author, 1878. (Newcastle: Herald and Advocate Steam
and Gas Machine Printing Works) Newcastle, NSW.



==========================================

Transcriber's Note:
-------------------

"A Novel without a Name" is really a story in three "parts" that were
published under the same name.

Part 1, has been added as a 'Prologue' (for want of a better name) to
this story, even though it was not published as such. It was published
in The Newcastle Chronicle commencing May, 1876, of which Burnage, at
the time, was the proprietor. Unfortunately, not all has survived,
with the text available starting part way through Chapter 2 and the
last instalment available finishing part way through Chapter 10.
The storyline in this attempt is set, say, about five years before
the next novel of the same name, and introduces the characters and
storyline that continues in the later version.

Part 2, [Book I] was published in The Newcastle Morning Herald and
Miners' Advocate commencing 4 August, 1877, and also published in
book form in 1878 (& held at the Mitchell Library). This is the only
portion of the saga published in book form.

Part 3, [Book II] - commenced publication in the Newcastle Morning
Herald and Miners' Advocate on 2 Feb. 1878. On 30 March, 1878 Burnage
announced that he had to close the tale and gave a precis of the plot
to the end.

William Aubrey Burnage died at Newcastle, New South Wales,
on 2 December, 1881 after a long and painful illness.


==========================================




PROLOGUE.

NOTE: This is an incomplete copy of a story entitled 'A Novel Without
a Name' published in The Newcastle Chronicle, N.S.W. commencing May,
1876. Chapter I and part of Chapter II have not survived. This story
finishes part way through Chapter X, and anything following has not
survived.

This 'Prologue' is set about five years before the events that are
chronicled in Book I, and introduces most of the characters and events
that have a bearing on the story.

==========================================




Chap.--II.

(Continued.)

....mind, as the boys, half in fun but terribly in earnest, made their
preparations for the trial.

'Jump up, Toby; You're wanted in the Court. Come, the Queen versus
Toby Cadman, for Conspiracy and Cowardice, is on for hearing, and
the Court mustn't be kept waiting,' said Ned Tait, the newly elected
provost in a sepulchural voice.

Toby redoubled the speed and volume of his nasal music, and pretended
vigorously to be asleep, past all power of waking.

'If he won't get up, Charley, Mr. President, I mean, let's belt him
where he is,' said one of the jury boys. The ominous suggestion had
the desired effect, and in the twinkling of an eye, Toby rose from the
sheets like a ghost in his cerements. 'I did not do it; I'll swear I
didn't!' he gasped, glancing piteously around the group of juvenile,
but determined faces.

'Didn't do what? If you've been asleep, you haven't heard what we've
got against you!' said the president with a judicial frown.

'Look here, prisoner at the bar,' said the provost, 'If you speak a
word while I'm addressing the jury, we hang you first, and try you
after, so you'll know to expect.'

The miserable Toby stood staring imploringly from one face to another;
but he met with no sympathy anywhere; all eyed him with contempt and
disgust. The trial was conducted with a curious mixture of seriousness
and merriment, and each actor in the mimic court acquitted himself to
his own satisfaction, if not to that of the hapless Toby. After the
evidence had been gone carefully through, and each of the orators--who
by-the-by, comprised pretty nigh the whole of the jury as well as the
advocate and provost--had listened with evident pleasure to his own
eloquence, a verdict of guilty was recorded.

'Now, prisoner at the bar, what have you to say that the extreme
sentence should not be passed upon you?' asked the grinning president,
is a tone so dismally prophetic that Toby began to blubber in abject
terror.

'Just make a clean breast of it, Toady, and perhaps we'll let you off
this time!' said one of the boys.

Drowning men catch at straws, and Toby, thinking to propitiate his
tormentors, told the ludicrous tale of his 'being sweet on little Ruth
Scott,' and how, when he found that she cared more for Harry Fenton
than for him, he had got up the row in hopes that Harry would get
knocked on the head.

'And you run them to fight with pistols, because you knew that Frank
was a good shot; and Harry wasn't, and most likely would be killed!'
exclaimed Ned Tait, in horror. 'Hanging's too good for a wretch like
you!'

'We mustn't hang him anyhow, so my sentence is one hundred lashes upon
the bare skin, to be given in equal share by each of us,' said the
president, with judicial dignity.

Toby made a rush for the door, but was quickly caught, and thrown down
upon one of the beds.

'Gag him, or he'll bellow, and bring the whole house upon us,' cried
one; and, taking the hint, the provost snatched up one of Toby's own
dirty socks, and stuffed it into his mouth. His self-appointed judges
then, under Charley Graham's direction, tied him down with their
braces, and commenced the flagellation to which he had been sentenced.
Charley Graham wore a leather belt instead of braces, and being 'senior
officer of the Court,' as the other boys called him, gave the first
instalment of the hundred, which he laid on with a will. The quivering
culprit winced and groaned, but to no purpose. His floggers were
inexorable, and never ceased till each had performed his share of the
task, and Toby had received his full hundred, with a few over by way of
interest.

'Come, Tom,' said Ned Tait to the boy whose duty it was to put the
finishing stroke upon the miserable Toby, 'Come, Tom, knock off now;
the poor devil's had more than a fair hundred!'

'I hope the dose 'll operate well, Ned. It'll take more than a hundred,
though, to purge the villainy out of him, I'm thinking!' said Tom Ray,
the son of a druggist in the Strand, who was intended for his father's
profession. 'As my old man says:--"There's nothing like bleeding in
these extreme cases."'

'My word, Charley, the cat has scratched him awful! I expect he'll feel
in the morning very much as if he'd sat down for an hour upon a red
hot gridiron!' said Percy Clay, grinning. The jest did not provoke the
laugh that the speaker had anticipated. Now that the tragic farce was
played out, the boys began to pity the moaning rascal at their feet,
and to wish they had not interfered.

'By George, Charley, we'll get into a jolly row to-morrow, when the
old doctor gets wind of our hiding Toby!' said Dick Colridge, suddenly
beginning to think of consequences. Charley Graham acquiesced in Dick's
foreboding of future trouble, and stooping down by the penitent victim
of their boyish sense of justice, whispered impressively, 'Now, Toby,
just you listen--We've perhaps done wrong in hiding you, but it served
you right, you know; but if we say a word about that duel affair you'd
get hung as sure as you're a cow-hearted cub. So you see the best thing
you can do is to take your flogging in good part, and be thankful!'

Toby moaned and said nothing, for the simple reason that to speak with
a sock in his mouth was a feat that, under the circumstances, he was
not equal to. Charley Graham's attention being called to the fact by
one of the boys, he removed the obstruction, and the unfortunate wight,
between sobs and tears, protested that he was perfectly satisfied
of the justice of the proceeding's, and promised with energy to say
nothing of the evening's amusement, if the boys would only save him
from the gallows by saying nothing about the duel.

The boys, one and all, promised eagerly to keep the secret, and then
slunk off to their beds, ashamed of the farce they had just concluded,
and wishing they had left Toby instead to the stings of his own
conscience, if any.

In half an hour their repentant eyes were all closed by the gentle hand
of sleep, and many of them were soon accompanying the young culprit's
doleful moans by a chorus of snoring.

Never before had a night appeared so interminable to Master Toby
Cadman; he could not sleep for the pain, occasioned by the severity of
his punishment. He could get no ease by lying on either side, and to
lie on his back was simply impossible; and all through the long hours
of that never-to-be-forgotten night he tossed about sleepless and
utterly disconsolate. A night at such a time would seem an age; but
even an age does pass away; and at last the cocks began to speculate
upon the rising of the sun, and the thick darkness of night slowly
dissolved before the opening day. By the time that it was light enough
to see, Toby rose from his sleepless bed, and with much difficulty got
into his nether garments. Dressed at length, he proceeded to put on his
boots, for which purpose he sat down upon a chair by his bed side, but
he had barely touched the cold hard seat, when his head came in violent
contact with the low ceiling, and he gave up that idea in despair.
At last, after long and patient practice in standing on one leg, he
contrived to shoe himself; and, giving a glance of vindictive hatred
to Charley Graham as he lay still sleeping, he turned to the door,
muttering as he did so: 'It was you that said to flog me, and I'll be
even with you yet, or my name isn't Toby. Ah! I know what I'll do!'

Slowly and painfully he crawled down stairs and out into the garden,
all white with the snow, that had fallen through the night. Whatever
it was that had struck him as a good revenge, a silly black and white
kitten appearing at the kitchen window altered his plan, and he at
once turned aside to catch it. Pussy, however, had some misgivings
as to Toby's intentions. It was such an unusual thing for him to
notice her unless with the toe of his boot. Cats are said to be good
judges of character. Be that as it may, this particular cat, young and
inexperienced though she was, seemed to doubt the sincerity of Toby's
'Puss, puss, come pussy! I won't hurt you, pussy!' and declined most
unequivocally to trust him. Presently, however, she was captured, and
carried off in triumph. 'Look here, puss, you're Charley Graham's cat,
so it's no use purring to me. I can't thrash him, so I'm going to take
it out of you!'

Toby's indefinite threat appealed to alarm puss, for she began to
struggle frantically; but she was too tightly held to break free, and
after a few minutes fruitless scramble relapsed into the passive torpor
of terror, evidently giving herself up as a lost cat. Right in front
of the gate leading into the play-ground stood a pear tree, whose arms
were now bare. Toby looked at it for a moment, and muttering, 'Yes.
That'll do!' took out of one of his trousers' pockets a collection of
boyish paraphernalia, among which appeared an old top string long out
of use. Without, speaking a word he set about his terribly significant
preparations. The string was carefully measured, and found to be just
long enough, after sufficient allowance was made for fastening to the
branch, and for tying round the kitten's neck, to reach near enough
to the ground to allow a few inches between the feet of the intended
victim and the snow. No sooner were the arrangements completed than the
doomed kitten, who had tremblingly watched the fatal preparations for
her latter end, was shunted off the stage of life, and hung dangling
down most uncomfortably, without rest for the sole of her foot. The
inhuman young rascal watched the dying convulsions of the unhappy cat
with philosophical interest, and speculated, as calmly as his own
unpleasant position would admit, upon the unfathomable mystery of life
and death. For nearly twenty minutes the protracted death-struggle of
the cat afforded him subject for experimental observation, and then the
earthly career of the unfortunate victim of his dastardly revenge was
over, and the miscreant slunk back to his bedroom.

The sun rose gilding the distant hills when Dr. Shelwood's boys
assembled at the breakfast table. As was the usual custom, the lads
stood round the table waiting as patiently for grace to be said, as a
herd of small swine in and around their trough, awaiting their morning
meal. At last the ordeal was over, and the signal to "fall to" given.

'What's the reason of Master Cadman not sitting?' enquired the old
doctor, in a severe voice.

All the 'second class' eyes were in an instant vigorously employed in
examining the patterns of the plates and spoons--at least all but those
belonging to the luckless Toby, and they were staring helplessly out of
the window, which, to his intense annoyance, offered a full view of the
body of the murdered cat.

'What is the reason of Master Cadman not sitting?' the doctor asked
again, in voice so wrathful that every 'second class' eye, save Toby's,
was raised to his, in expectant terror.

'Say it's a boil!' whispered Dick Colridge, his next hand neighbour.

'Please, sir, it's a boil!' faltered Toby in confusion.

'Dear me, Edward, I must give that poor boy a dose of brimstone and
treacle!' said the kind-hearted Mrs. Shelwood, to the hapless Toby's
infinite disgust, who abhorred 'brimstone and treacle' even worse than
a hiding.

'Come here, my lad! Let me see your tongue!' said the motherly lady,
and the unfortunate urchin reluctantly approached, and opened his mouth
for inspection. The unruly member was duly examined, and pronounced to
be out of order; and the unpalatable dose administered. Mrs. Shelwood
was a great believer in 'gentle aperients,' and always kept a supply
by her, in the form of 'brimstone and treacle,' which compound was a
source of perpetual terror to several of the boys who she fancied had
delicate constitutions, among whom was Toby. Some little confusion
was caused by the lady departing from her usual custom and giving
the dose in the room, as the victim's wry faces were almost more
than his unsympathetic, but highly amused and decidedly ungenerous
school-fellows, could witness without laughter. But an unmistakable
'Silence!' from the head of the table, speedily restored order; and
Toby returned to his chair, about as miserable as a combination of
misadventures could make him. But the tale of his troubles was not yet
full. The gardener appeared on the threshold of the door; and rather
than have to face him under existing circumstances, Toby felt that he
could gladly have devoured the whole jar of the distasteful mixture.

'Well, Rodgers?' said the doctor, looking at the leg of mutton he was
carving--being a red-letter day the ordinary breakfast course was
slightly improved upon. 'Well, Rodgers, what now?'

'Can you spare a minute, sir? There's something I want to show you in
the garden,' replied Rodgers who scorned the idea of making a fuss even
in a case of life and death.

'Certainly! Certainly!' said Dr. Shelwood. 'I will be with you in a
moment.' He knew the old gardener too well to believe that a trifling
matter would occasion him to intrude at meal times.

Every pair of eyes was directed enquiringly upon Rodgers, as he stood
in the doorway leaning, hat in hand, against the post, and eyeing the
youngsters at the table with a look that seemed to Toby Cadman like
the gaze of a lynx. Dr. Shelwood wrapped a woollen comforter about his
neck, for the morning was bitterly cold, and followed the gardener to
the scene of the discovery. In about five minutes he returned, looking
very grave and stern.

'What is the matter, Edward?' asked Mrs. Shelwood, eagerly, that lady
having a fair legacy of Eve's inquisitiveness.

'Nothing, my love; we'll talk about it after breakfast.'

The boys, who had eagerly listened for Dr. Shelwood's explanation, were
disappointed at the vagueness of his answer, but very philosophically,
returned to the suspended attack upon the good things before them--all
but the melancholy Toby, and a variety of subjects conspired to spoil
his appetite.

Scarcely a word was spoken during the remainder of the meal, and
directly grace was said the order was given to follow the doctor
into the garden. If wishes could have been of any avail to undo the
past, one among the juvenile throng at the heels of the doctor would
have speedily brought back to life the dismal memorial of his boyish
cruelty, which was found suspended from a branch of the pear tree.
As the boys caught sight of the melancholy object, and realised the
tragic end of their little favorite, a loud wail of sorrow, which soon
changed into a cry of rage and execration, rose loud and shrill upon
the morning air.

'Silence!'

You could have heard a pin drop, so thorough was the discipline the
boys were in.

'The boy who can throw any light upon this sad spectacle, step forward!'

There was no response to the invitation, each boy being engaged in
scanning the features of the others.

'I expect somebody did it!' whispered Toby to the nearest boy, feeling
it necessary to say something, and not knowing what to say.

'I'd like to hang him too, whoever he is?' exclaimed the boy addressed,
and the word made Toby's blood run cold; he had himself, he thought, so
narrowly escaped hanging, that the suggestion was to him too terribly
significant.

Dr. Shelwood waited a minute or two for a reply to his words, and
receiving none, lifted the deceased cat in his arms, and examined the
fatal noose.

'See, Rodgers, this is a top-string, and must have belonged to one of
the bigger boys;' (Toby's knees knocked together). 'Take it off the
cat's neck, and show it round.'

'The owner can have it on application!' said the gardener drily, as he
unfastened the cord. It is needless to say, the owner did not avail
himself of the kind permission.

The tell-tale string was handed round, and--boys are so lynx-eyed and
observant that nothing escapes them--the owner was soon found. Each one
had denied all knowledge of the article, until it was handed to the
boy Toby had just addressed, when he, after a few seconds attentive
examination, exclaimed, 'Yes, I expect somebody did do it, and you're
that somebody, you----'

Whatever the expletive was to have been, the youngster recollected
himself in time to pause before uttering it, and Dr. Shelwood
interrupted him, by inquiring if the culprit had been discovered.

'Please sir, that's Toby's top-string?'

Toby suddenly collected his scattered wits, and proved himself equal to
the occasion, 'My top-string? Let me see it? I lost a top-string more
than a month ago?'

The top-string was handed to Toby in silence, 'I can't say for certain,
sir; but I think its mine! Anyway it's just like the one I lost,' said
the boy, with apparent candor.

'Hem! You don't know who found it, do you?' asked the master,
doubtfully.

'No, sir.'

Dr. Shelwood scratched his head for a moment. He was completely
puzzled. The crime of hanging the cat was too grave to be overlooked if
committed by one of his pupils; yet there appeared to be no possibility
of detecting the offender, for the only clue, the top-string, was of no
apparent service.

'When did any of you see this top-string with Toby Cadman last?'

None had seen it for a long time, as tops were out; and, giving up
the search for a time, Dr. Shelwood ordered the boys back to the
schoolroom. In returning, Charley Graham contrived to walk by Toby's
side, and whispered, as they were entering the door, 'Toby, I know who
hung my kitten, and why he did it; but I forgive him.'

Toby walked away back with his head down, and wishing heartily he
hadn't met the luckless cat. 'It's all her own fault;' he soliloquised.
'If she hadn't been there, I wouldn't have touched her.'




Chap.--III.

The sun rose brightly upon Woodbine Cottage, as aunt Letitia's neat
little suburban residence was called, while the tragedy of the cat and
the top-string was being discovered in Dr. Shelwood's garden; but a
full half hour before that time Masters Frank Seymour and Harry Fenton
were up and out in the dim break of day, with their skates under their
arms en route for the "Serpentine." 'My word, old fellow, we'll
have a jolly hour on the ice, and get back to breakfast as ravenous as
wolves in Lent,' said Frank, opening the gates of Kensington Gardens
and holding it back for Harry. 'The ice 'll be just the thing this
morning.'

'Yes, Frank! Hurry on, old fellow; it don't take long for an hour to
slip away, when you're skating; and it'll be time to go home, long
before we're ready, you know.'

The boys hurried along, and in a very few minutes had reached the
edge of the glassy floor, over which they were soon describing
circles, curves, and pirouettes, as gracefully as any of the group
of pleasure-seekers then and there engaged in the healthy pastime of
skating. Cleverly and elegantly they glided backward and forward upon
the polished surface of the ice, darting hither and thither, round
and round, as easily and fearlessly as if skating had been their
principal business in life, and they had given their whole attention
to it. So beautifully even and exact were their evolutions, that many
accomplished skaters suspended their own amusement and watched the boys
in admiration.

But, presently, their sharpened appetites reminded them very urgently,
that it was time to get home to breakfast.

'Come, Harry, I'll give you twenty yards and race you to the bridge and
back, before we go home!'

'Done!'

The merry-hearted youngsters soon got into position, and after a couple
of false starts, away they shot like arrows, and in their great speed
appeared almost to fly. The bridge was reached, and although Frank was
reckoned the fastest skater in the school, he had not gained a foot,
and his competitor began to feel sure of carrying off the honours for
that once, at least. But Frank was only 'holding on' as he called
it, till Harry should get a little winded. They had almost travelled
half the return distance, when Frank put on a spurt, and shot by
his companion like a bird, shouting tantalizingly as he passed him,
'Good-bye, old fellow; I'll see you to-morrow!'

Beaten, as he thought, beyond all chance of retrievement, Harry gave
up the contest and turned aside to the bank. He leisurely took off his
skates, and threw himself down to wait for Frank to return. A couple of
minutes passing, and Frank not coming up, Harry looked towards the end
of the ice to call upon him to hurry, when to his utter astonishment
and consternation Frank had disappeared as entirely as if he had
dissolved into air.

'Good heavens! What has become of him?' he exclaimed, in horror,
springing to his feet and glancing up and down the ice in anxious
search. A dozen people were skating towards a spot where a group of
persons were collected; and, feeling an undefined presentiment of some
impending calamity, he dashed off towards the spot. Several times
during the short distance he slipped down, but not being hurt picked
himself up and soon reached the spot, to which skaters were hurrying.
'What's the matter? Where is he? Oh, where is Frank?'

'Under the ice!' was the laconic reply of an old gentleman who stood
with his arms folded, looking thoughtfully down into a large fissure in
the brittle and treacherous floor.

'And you can stand there as unconcerned, as if he is not being
drowned?' Harry cried with a bitter contempt; and snatching off his
boots, was about to leap through the broken ice into the freezing,
numbing water.

'One at a time, my little friend,' said the old gentleman, holding him
back, and speaking in a slow, measured voice, that almost drove Harry
mad, with its tone of unconcern.

'Let me go!' the excited boy cried, as he struggled desperately to free
himself from the old gentleman's grasp.

'Wait a moment! See, here comes a man with a strong board to lay across
the thin ice. We can do nothing without it.'

Harry did not wait to hear the words, but shaking himself free, plunged
headlong into the water.

'Umph! What folly! Now there'll be two to bring round!' the old
gentleman said testily, and turning to the man, who was approaching
with the board, he shouted, 'Look alive there! Here's another of the
cubs in the water!'

In a second or two the board was placed across the fissure, so that
by its width covering a large space of the thin ice, greater power of
sustaining anyone, who might attempt the rescue, would be given it.

'Now, Mr. Raby, you just take hold of my legs, and I'll lay down and
fork them both out from under the ice in no time.'

'Look alive then!' said Mr. Raby, whose listlessness evaporated the
moment activity could be of service. The man threw himself down upon
his chest, and groped about under the ice.

The man grasped Harry's jacket as he rose, and dragged him almost out
of the water, when a warning creak in the ice caused him to speedily
let go of his hold and rise to his feet. 'Shove the board this way
a little; the ice is thicker,' he said to old Mr. Raby; but that
gentleman had not waited for the suggestion, but did so instantly the
other had risen; and the moment it was done the man laid himself down
to make another attempt at saving the boys.

'Look sharp there! It's jolly cold in here!' shouted Harry, his teeth
chattering with the chill the freezing water had given him. 'Look
alive, I can't hold him up all day.'

'Hold on for a second, my brave lad! We'll have you out directly!' said
Mr. Raby, encouragingly; and the man again seized Harry's clothes, and
this time succeeded in drawing him out, and with him the limp and, to
all appearance, lifeless body of his friend Frank.

'Never mind me; I'm all right! Run for a doctor!' cried Harry savagely
in reply to Mr. Raby's eager enquiry as to how he felt.

'Don't flurry yourself, my boy; I'll look after your friend. Here, Mr.
What's-your-name, run across into the park to our crib on the bank
yonder, and tell them to prepare for a case. I'll be there with the
body directly.'

'What, the Humane Society's house?'

'Yes! yes!'

The man ran off at the top of his speed, and Mr. Raby pushed Harry
aside, as the excited boy stooped down to snatch up his unfortunate
friend, and took him up himself. 'Come along my boy. I can carry him
better than you. Now don't fret; he's not dead yet; he wasn't in the
water long enough to do much harm!' the stranger said soothingly, as
Harry began to express his grief with great vigour and energy. Mr. Raby
carried the dripping boy as quickly as possible to the house that the
Humane Society had built on the bank of the Serpentine for the purpose
of using in such cases, and after an hour's steady application of the
Society's receipt for the restoration of the apparently drowned, Frank
was so far recovered as to be able to walk to nearest cabstand.

'Well, my lad, you're a brave fellow!' said Mr. Raby to Harry, as the
boys were about to leave the spot. 'I don't mean so much for jumping in
to save your friend--even a dog would have done that--but for the cool
and patient manner you did everything I told you in assisting to bring
him round. Most boys would have only bellowed and wrung their hands,
and been a general nuisance!'

'I dare say I'd have cried too, if that could have done any good!'
replied Harry, scarcely suppressing tears of joy--in fact, more than
half crying then, despite his boast.

'I can never forget Harry's courage in fishing me out, sir; nor your
kindness in doctoring me up afterwards!' said Frank, fervently.

'My eyes, but it was jolly cold!' exclaimed Harry, shivering at the
bare recollection.

'You must get away home, my lad, and change your clothes; or you may
take cold: but before you go, I will tell you both what to do in
similar cases. We never know when our knowledge may not be of some
service to others, and should always be ready to learn all we can for
that purpose,' said Mr. Raby, gravely. 'The first thing to do is to
dry the body. Then you must make it breathe, and induce it's blood
to flow through the veins. The first we call respiration, the
second circulation. Now, recollect, the first one must always be
accomplished first. You must never begin to induce the circulation
of the blood until the patient has shewn unmistakable signs of
respiration. Now, the method that I adopt, which one of you has just
seen, and the other experienced, is to place the body upon its back
upon a bed, that has been raised a few inches at the head. Then the
mouth must be opened and kept so by placing a reel or something between
the teeth; and then to allow a free passage to the lungs for air, the
tongue must be drawn out and fastened so, by being tied by a piece
of ribbon. When this is done I take up a position at the head, and
grasp the arms of the patient a little above the elbows and gently and
steadily raise them above the head for two seconds to cause inspiration
or taking in breath, and then turn them back and press them gently
and firmly against the sides of the chest for another two seconds to
occasion respiration or breathing out. And this must be continued
until there are signs of returning life. Then the circulation must
be attended to, and the best method of doing so, is to rub the limbs
upwards with warm flannels, with a firm grasping pressure and energy;
and have hot bricks applied to the pit of the stomach, the armpits,
and the soles of the feet. A teaspoonful of warm water poured into
the mouth, is an excellent thing to soften the throat, and when the
patient is a little recovered, a small dose of brandy, and a few hours
sleep. By-the-bye, you mustn't forget that the mouth must be kept dry,
by continually wiping it. Now, boys, you may think all this lecture
unnecessary; but, as you have both just seen, our knowing this has
probably saved the life of one of you, and who knows, some day one of
you may, if you don't forget what I now tell you, have an opportunity
of saving life too. But hurry along home, or a cold may do what the
water didn't. So, good-bye.'

The boys thanked their kind, but eccentric friend, and taking his
advice, hurried away back.

'I say, Frank, old fellow, I like your aunt, though she aren't much to
look at!' said Harry, as the lads came in sight of Woodbine Cottage.

'And she's as good as she looks,' exclaimed Frank, with enthusiasm, not
fully catching Harry's words. 'And how do you like little Polly, my
sister?'

'I can't say, Frank. I only saw her for a few minutes; but I shall like
her if she's anything like you!'

'I'm sure you'll like her old fellow. She's the best girl you ever
met!' said the fond brother.

Harry not altogether endorsing the sentiment--the image of somebody
else rising, in girlish beauty, before his mental vision--he assented
silently by a doubtful nod, and changed the subject by proposing a race
home, which was agreed to; and a five minutes sharp spin brought them
to the gate, at which aunt Letitia was looking out for them, little
Polly at her side.

'Oh you bad boys, where have you been to all this time, and breakfast
over this two hours! And Harry drenched too! Dear me, dear me, whatever
have you been doing!' cried the anxious old lady, who had been in a
terrible fidget since nine o'clock, the hour they had promised to
return.

'Only seeking adventure, auntie dear; and see I have brought you home a
real live hero!' said Frank laughing, and pointing at Harry with pride
and gratitude.

Miss Letitia looked enquiringly at Harry, who blushed and stammered.
'It wasn't me; It was an old man in the Gardens that saved him!'

'Saved who? You boys will drive me mad with your enigmas!' cried the
old lady, almost going into hysterics with terror and anxiety.

'Now, just you hold your tongue, old fellow, and let me tell the story
my own way,' said Frank, pushing Harry aside.

'Come inside first. Harry'll catch cold with his wet things!' suggested
Polly, thoughtfully suppressing her natural curiosity until their
visitor was safe from harm. Miss Letitia took the hint and led the way
to the breakfast room, where a good fire was burning.

'Now Frank, take Harry up to your room, and get him a change. You can
tell us the adventure over your breakfast!'

'And I will make you some toast myself, though you know you don't
deserve it, either of you, for putting auntie and me in such a fright!'
put in the little maid, taking up the loaf and beginning to cut off
some slices for that purpose. In a few minutes the boys returned; and
before the coffee was poured out and cool enough to touch, Mary's
donation of toast was ready and on the table.

'Now for the adventure, Frank. Harry does not seem inclined to talk
about it!' said Miss Letitia; and Polly's large blue eyes dilated in
expectant interest. Frank laid down his slice of hot toast, which he
had just pronounced "A1" and began the narration of the morning's
accident, interlarding his recital with unbounded praise of Harry's
"pluck," as he called it. Polly's sympathetic eyes filled with tears as
Frank told of Harry's leaping into the freezing water to his rescue.
'Oh, how brave and good he must be!' she thought glancing with timid
admiration upon the shy and uncomfortable boy, who from that day
appeared to her girlish imagination a hero deed.




Chap.--IV.

On this same day of the double adventure of the cat-murder and the dip
into the Serpentine, the sun rose as brightly upon Fenwick Park, near
Dunmow, in Essex, as upon Woodbine Cottage, and Exeter House, as Dr.
Shelwood's boarding-school was called; and at about the same time that
these 'thrilling incidents' were occurring, a bright little damsel of
thirteen was cantering along in the park on her pony Ruby. Her father
was one of the wealthiest and most influential of the country gentry
of Essex, and owned the magnificent estate called Fenwick Park, a
place which for its natural beauty and position was the envy of the
whole country round. Little Mabel, the only child of Squire Wilton,
was a rich, though not fully matured type of English feminine beauty.
Literally fair as a lily, her cheeks rivalled the damask of the rose,
and her long, silky lashes shaded a pair of blue orbs, that fully
matched the loveliness of her features. Mabel's appearance gave decided
promise of her growing up one of the loveliest of England's fairest
daughters. Her figure was faultless as her face; and from her gentle
eyes--bright windows of the soul--beamed her pure happy spirit in
glances of love and contentment. It was a beautiful picture the grand,
little, bay Arab arching its neck and prancing along over the thin
sleet on the carriage-way, and its fearless little rider in green cloth
habit, so thoroughly enjoying the healthful exercise in the bracing
morning air. A noticeable feature in the pleasing picture was Mab, a
faithful greyhound attendant, who was never far off when her young
mistress was out by herself, and stood in need of her protection. On
over the snow they scampered along in all the wantonness of joyous
innocence, the dog ever at the pony's heels to be at hand when wanted.
Suddenly a warning growl from Mab attracted Mabel's attention, and
glancing round, she saw the dog spring past her and rush on in front,
a vigilant guard. 'Come back Mab, naughty dog! it's only the gipsies!'
the little maid called reprovingly. Mab appeared for once to question
the expediency of instant and passive obedience, and showed her dissent
most unmistakably; but not seeing anything that could fully warrant her
in disobedience, she returned to her mistress' side.

A couple of gipsy women emerged at the moment from a holly copse; and
one of them called upon Mabel to stop. 'For the love of God, my little
angel, come here! Thou hast a tender heart, and can pity the sorrows of
a daughter of Ishmael.'

The unsuspecting child turned her pony's head towards the tramps,
regardless of Mab's warning growl, and was soon by the side of the
dusky medicants.

'We have tasted no bite this day, fair flower of the whiteskin! Hast
thou any money about thee? A small coin thou could not miss; and it
would buy bread for the hungry!' whined an ill-favored old hag in the
peculiar fawning, obsequious tone of the professional beggar.

'Ah, little one, bitter is the cold; and cruelly the pangs of hunger
gnaw when we can get no food! Give the poor gipsies of thy abundance,
and they will pray to the Father above that thou mayst never know the
misery of want!' joined in the other brown-skinned supplicant.

'Poor gipsies!' said Mabel, her tender heart melted by the beggars'
pitiful tale, 'I have no money with me. I never carry my purse when I
am out of a morning. If you like to go up to the house, I will go back
and tell the house-keeper to give you some food and money!'

After a brief consultation apart, spoken in an undertone, the gipsy,
who had first addressed Mabel, turned to her and said, 'We thank thee,
little one, for thy kindness; but we cannot go to thy house, for our
children are starving in the fields a full mile from here, and we must
return to them now! Hast thou nothing about thee--no trinket nor trifle
that we could sell to buy bread, and that thou, out of thy abundance,
would not miss?'

'No, I have nothing that would be any good. Come along up to the house.
It is not far, and we can make haste. You will get enough there to take
home to your poor little children!'

'Time is precious to the gipsies; for their little one's may stray into
the snow and get lost. Give to us, then, some trinket that we may sell,
and buy food for our children, and bless thee!'

'But see, I haven't anything that would be of any use!' replied Mabel,
in a tone of regretful commiseration. 'It wouldn't take long to go up
to the house!'

All this time the little maid's faithful and jealous attendant,
Mab, kept her distrustful eyes upon the gipsy women, watching their
movements with evident suspicion, and showing by her vigilant espionage
very little credence in or sympathy for their doleful tale of
destitution.

'Thou hast a watch, my pretty lamb, that would buy bread for many days.
Give thy watch to the gipsies, and Heaven will bless thee!' said the
ugliest of the medicants.

'No, no! I couldn't part with my watch!' exclaimed Mabel, half crying
at having nothing to relieve the distress of the miserable tramps, 'I
couldn't part with that! It was a birthday present, mamma sent me from
Paris last week! Mamma is very ill you know and away in Paris for a
change of air; and I heard Dr. Leslie tell papa she might perhaps never
get well again. No, no! I couldn't part with that!'

'And wouldst thou leave the gipsy and her child to die of hunger and
cold in the bleak field, when the gift of a bangle like that would
relieve their pressing need? Give us the watch, and the God of Ishmael
shall comfort the Christian lamb, and restore to her her mother!'
whined the other.

'Nay, but thou must give us the watch; for shall we starve, when we can
take it from thee?' hissed the first, throwing off her mask of humble
supplication on finding the fair child resolute in refusing to part
with her sick mother's gift. 'Come, give it to us peacefully, or we may
hurt thee in taking it!'

Mabel's colour vanished in an instant, and left her cheek, as pale
as the drifted snow around. The woman's altered manner alarmed her
greatly. 'No! I will not give you mamma's present!' she replied
determinedly, though her lips trembled, and her heart fluttered in very
terror.

'But thou wilt not be so mad as to refuse to give it when we say
plainly, that we must and will have it! Come give it up quietly; it be
better for thee!' said the more reckless of the two dusky hags, at the
same moment snatching hold of Ruby's bridle-rein.

'I won't give up mamma's present! No, not if you kill me!' cried the
terrified child, trying to break free from the gipsy's clutches;
but old Sarai's grasp was too strong for her; the gipsy's bony hand
held her fixed, while her confederate emboldened by the loneliness
of the spot, stepped up and attempted to snatch the watch from the
child's neck, but----'Oh God of Ishmael, protect me!' she shrieked the
next moment, as Mab's sharp teeth fastened upon her throat; and her
companion in terror at the unexpected diversion dropped the pony's rein
and fled.

'Let her alone Mab, naughty dog! let her go!' Mabel called; but the
dog only growled the louder, and tightened her hold upon the screaming
gipsy's throat. In vain her young mistress coaxed and threatened, Mab
knew best, and would not be persuaded to liberate the culprit.

'Oh dear, what shall I do! You will kill her, Mab! You will kill her!'
cried Mabel, wholly unable to relieve the struggling and panting
wretch; and catching sight of her father riding towards her, she turned
the pony's head and urged it forward at a gallop to meet him, and beg
him to return and save the gypsy. Mab, however, did not altogether
relish holding the untidy and ragged gypsy in her own fastidious mouth;
and the moment she thought her mistress was at a safe distance she
released the prisoner, and scampered off after Ruby, and caught up to
the fleet pony just as Mabel reached her father's side.

'What is the matter, Birdie!' Mr. Wilton asked anxiously, as his little
daughter, pale and agitated drew up at his side.

'Oh, come quick, papa!' she exclaimed, her eyes sparkling brightly in
her intense excitement, 'That naughty Mab is killing a poor gipsy down
by the holly copse.'

'Bow, wow, wow!' contradicted Mab, indignantly, highly offended at the
misstatement.

'Mab killing a gipsy? Nonsense, Birdie! Here she is.'

'Well, I declare!' cried Mabel, scarcely able to believe her eyes. 'She
had poor old Sarai down, and was holding her by the throat a minute
ago!'

'Serve her right then, I'll be bound! Mab wouldn't touch her for
nothing. What had she been doing?'

'She wanted my watch to sell to buy bread, and I wouldn't give it to
her; that's all,' replied Mabel, making light of the matter, now that
the danger was past. Her father was a magistrate; and she was afraid he
would have the gipsies put into prison, if she told him all.

'Mab doesn't like the race, they're not cleanly-looking enough for
her,' replied Mr. Wilton not guessing the secret of the attempted
robbery, which the benevolent little maid kept to herself to screen
the hags, who so little deserved such consideration, unless indeed
their tale of privation was true, in which case who shall be judged for
actions performed at the stern bidding of the sternest of taskmasters,
dire necessity!

'Your little adventure seems to have upset you, Birdie! We had better
ride back at once; and I will send Williams to see about these gipsy
rascals, who have so offended Mab. If they are in distress he shall
relieve them.'

'Thank you, papa! They mast be starving, or they would never be so
determined to get something!' said Mabel, eagerly.

'Determined!'

'I mean anxious, papa!' returned the tender-hearted, little lady,
correcting herself. She did not want them punished, rough as they had
been.

Ten minutes smart canter brought them to the stables, where Ruby and
Magenta were left; and Mabel and her father turned to the house.

'A letter from France, sir!' said the governess, as they took their
seats at the breakfast table.

'From mamma! Oh, be quick and open it!' cried Mabel, with
ill-suppressed eagerness.

'Young ladies should never show curiosity, Miss Mabel; it is very
vulgar!' observed the governess, as Mr. Wilton broke the seal of the
foreign letter.

'Say, rather, very natural, Miss Archer!' said Mr. Wilton, smiling at
Mabel's scared look.

'Ah, but, Miss Archer, it's hard not to be anxious, when it's mamma's!'
pleaded the little girl, in extenuation of her "vulgar haste," as
the prim and polished governess called every exhibition of childish
feeling. 'I am in such a hurry to hear if she is better, and when she
is coming home!'

'Dear mamma is much better, Birdie; and leaves, or rather did leave,
Paris the day after this was posted. We must go up to London to-day to
meet her at Dover, where she is to stay a few days with Lady Maud.'

'Oh, that will be glorious!' cried the delighted Mabel, utterly
oblivious in her joyous excitement of the horror of the decorous Miss
Archer, who looked upon all outward expression of emotion as decidedly
unladylike. 'And perhaps we may see Harry Fenton, papa. His sister
Fanny told me yesterday he is to spend his Christmas holidays with a
school friend named Frank Seymour!'

'I don't know, Birdie, I hardly think Squire Fenton would let him stay
from home during vacation. However, I don't know, so I can't say. We
must go by the 3.20 train, so let's get breakfast over, as I have some
business to attend to in Dunmow, before we go. Here's mamma's letter if
you would like to look at it!'

'If papa?'

'Well, Birdie, of course I don't doubt but you would, so here it is;
but don't let your coffee get too cold, while you are dreaming over
it,' said Mr. Wilton, handing Mabel her mother's letter, and taking up
the Times to set her the example of hurrying over the meal.

The breakfast was over at last, although Mabel did read her mamma's
letter over at least twenty times, and her father, the whole of
the Parliamentary debate on the income tax; and after the meal was
concluded they separated, Mr. Wilton to give some orders to the
bailiff, and Mabel to ride over to Elmgrove Hall to tell her friend
Fanny Fenton of her projected journey to London. Being holiday time,
there were no 'bothering lessons,' and so directly the little lady was
dressed and ready, Ruby was brought round to the steps, close followed
by Mab.

'I shan't want you with me, Rugby!' she said impatiently to the groom,
who held the rein of a second horse, while holding Ruby ready for her
to mount.

'I am sorry, Miss; but the master told me to go too. He said he was
afraid of your riding so far alone,' replied the man surlily.

'O well, if papa says so, you must; but Brown Bess can't keep pace with
Ruby; and I shall race all the way, mind!' she exclaimed, as the groom
lifted her lightly into the saddle. The wilful headstrong girl kept
her word and soon left the groom upon the broken-down Brown Bess far
in the rear. An hour's hard ride brought her to Elmgrove Hall, where
her little friend Fanny met her at the lodge, being herself just on the
point of taking a drive with her mother and an older sister.

'You may get out of the carriage and return to the house with Mabel, if
you like, Fanny!' said Mrs. Fenton, after the greeting was over, and
Mabel had divulged the important news. 'As Mabel is going to London, I
expert you will have a good deal to talk about before you bid her good
bye.'

'I shall not have much time to spare; for we start directly after
lunch,' said Mabel.

'Well, come on, May, and let's make the most of the time we shall
have?' cried Fanny, springing down from the carriage; and twining her
fingers in Ruby's silky mane, she walked on towards the Hall with her
friend, leaving those in the carriage to pursue their own way.

'Now Fanny, there's one thing I want to tell you before I go up to
London--and that's why I came over--you and I, and Harry, will always
be friends, whatever your father or mine may say or think of each
other,' said Mabel earnestly, after Ruby had been accommodated with a
stall, and the girls repaired to the library, where a huge winter's
fire of logs was burning.

'Of course we will, May; what a queer thing to say, to be sure!'
replied Fanny from the opposite side of the fire, opening her soft grey
eyes in surprise at the bare suggestion of a doubt upon the lasting
nature of their friendship.

'I'll tell you why I said so, Fanny. I have found out, no matter how,
that your father and mine are not very friendly; and if they should
take it into their heads that we ought to be unfriendly too, why, I
shouldn't care a bit; but would love you and--and like Harry all the
same!'

'But what makes you think our fathers are not friendly?' asked Fanny,
anxiously. She recollected, now that her attention had been drawn to
it, several uncomplimentary things that had been said recently about
the father of her little friend Mabel; and which made her feel now the
more eager to have her suspicions confirmed or disproved.

'I'm not quite sure, you know; but I think it's about the elections.
Your papa voted for Major Cloughton, and not for Sir Edwin Freer.'

'But that oughtn't to make any difference!'

'It oughtn't to, perhaps; but I don't know much about those things. We
girls are not old enough to. But I heard the butler tell the groom that
there was some quarrel or other; and he didn't know where it would end!'

'And if they are going to fall out, perhaps they won't let us see each
other. Oh, that would be dreadful!' said Fanny, mournfully, and almost
crying outright at the bare idea of such a calamity.

'I don't know, Fanny. Papa, didn't tell me not to come over; but I
thought he didn't looked pleased. It may only be fancy, but he told the
groom to come with me; and he knows I always like to come here alone!'

'Well, my dear, you and I will always be friends in spite of all the
fathers in the universe!'

'And Harry too!' said Mabel, ingenuously.

'O, no fear of him! I really think so times he likes you better than
all his own sisters put together!' returned Fanny in an aggrieved tone.

'Don't you forget to write and tell him, if papa does prohibit my
riding over, when we come back from London!'

The conversation was interrupted by the abrupt entrance of Beatrice, a
younger sister of Fanny's.

'Come on Fan! Come on May! Clara and I are going to skate on the
brook. Ted says it's quite firm again this morning!' she exclaimed,
boisterously, as she burst into the room. Mabel laughed, and thought
herself, 'Whatever would Miss Archer say, if she heard such a tomboy?
She would think Beatrice was "decidedly unladylike!"'

'Very well, Beatrice, May and I will follow you directly.'

The light-hearted skater bounded away to get her sister's skates, and a
pair for Mabel; and the while the two girls repeated their mutual vows
to be friends for life.

The skating was so exhilarating, and thought-absorbing, that the
children did not notice the passing of time; and but for the appearance
of the groom, whose orders were imperative, Mabel would have certainly
lost the train. He had her pony and riding-habit taken down to the
brook, and getting her mounted there, and hurrying things generally, he
contrived to get her home, just as her father was beginning to lose all
patience.

'Tch! Tch! Mabel; there is no trusting you anywhere!' he exclaimed
ill-humouredly, lifting her down, and placing her in the waiting
carriage. 'When we come back I must put a stop to your visiting
Elmgrove Hall. I don't like the people.'

But for her late conversation with her little friend Fanny Fenton,
Mabel would have been quite overpowered by her father's words; for
friendships are as deep and lasting among children as among their
seniors, though in the rough busy, everyday world, people little think
so. A few tears fell which she brushed hastily away and a faint smile
overspread her anxious features. 'I am sorry I was so long gone, papa;
but time flies so quick, you know,' she said passionately.

Observing her distress, and attributing it to his harshness, her father
stooped over her and kissed her gently, saying soothingly:

'Never mind, Birdie! I dare say we shall catch the train! and, if not,
we shall only have to wait twenty minutes for the next; so dry your
eyes, and let the sun shine again!'

The train was caught, despite Mabel's neglect; and they reached London
in due course.

'Birdie,' said Mr. Wilton, as the train shot into Euston Square, 'I
have to go across to see my old friend Sir Jonas Cadman, on urgent
business, so I will leave you at uncle Grey's in Kensington, first.
I shall be back in the morning in time for the Dover train; and then
we'll go for mamma.'

His little daughter raising no objection, Mr. Wilton took a cab, and
soon deposited his treasure with Uncle Grey; and then hurried away to
Cadman Villa to see his friend Sir Jonas.

'Aunt Amelia is out taking tea with Miss Letitia Vaughan, Mabel,' said
Uncle Grey leading his little niece into the house. 'If you are not too
tired with your journey Janet may go round with you.'

Mabel was delighted with the proposal; and cousin Janet having finished
her music exercise was equally so; and in a few minutes the girls were
hurrying down Kensington road to Woodbine cottage.

'Polly Seymour told me in her last letter that you are learning
Italian, Janet. Isn't it awfully hard?' enquired Mabel, suddenly
breaking from a description of a children's ball at Elmgrove, in which
she had been pronounced the belle. 'I never saw such a girl as you,
Janet--always studying! nothing but studying!'

'O, I love study, Mabel! But then I've another reason now. We are not
rich now. Papa has lost nearly all his money!' replied Janet, sadly,
the recollection of home troubles forcing itself upon her in spite of
her determination to be cheerful.

'Uncle lost all his money?' Mabel exclaimed in astonishment, her eyes
opening wide in unfeigned surprise. 'However did he do that?'

'I don't know, Mabel, I think it was investing a lot of money in some
company Sir Jonas Cadman was a director in. At least, Mamma said
something about that being the cause.'

'O dear! I'm so sorry!'

'Of course I'll have to prepare to earn my own living now, and to help
papa!' said Janet in a tone of quiet resolve. 'Young as I am Monsieur
Lafelle, my music teacher, says I am competent to take junior pupils
now; and I think I can paint well enough to take portraits, and earn
some money that way.'

'It must be a terrible thing to lose all your money!'

'Yes, Mabel, but not half so bad when you feel you can earn some for
yourself.'

'You are a good, brave girl, Janet,' said Mabel in admiration. 'I wish
I was only half as industrious and useful as you!'

'I don't know; I think you are a great deal better than me in some
things; and as for being industrious, I often feel, when my music
exercises are very difficult, and I get tired, that I would like to
shut up the piano, and go out for a run! It's hard sometimes to be
industrious, I can tell you.'

'Here we are at Woodbine Cottage. What a dear old lady Miss Letitia
is!' cried Mabel, with enthusiasm, as they turned a corner and came in
sight of their friend's house. 'And see, there's Polly in the garden.
Won't she be surprised!'

Polly was surprised; she could scarcely believe her own eyes. 'Come
in Janet, come in Mabel, Auntie will be so glad,' she said joyfully,
leading the way in.

Miss Letitia and her visitor were sitting at the table, enjoying an
early cup of tea, and a social gossip.

'What, Mabel, dear!' exclaimed Mrs. Grey, looking up, as the girls
entered. 'This is a surprise! Why didn't you write and say you were
coming; and then you wouldn't have found me out.'

'I am going with papa to Dover to-morrow, aunt, to meet mamma. She is
coming home again now.'

'Dear me, who would have expected to see you, Mabel! You have just
dropped in among us like a--like a sky-rocket,' said Miss Letitia, at a
loss for a suitable similie.

'You must both come and stay a few days with us, dear, before you go
back; for it is perhaps, the last time we shall be able to entertain
you properly,' said Mrs. Grey with a sigh.

'I know, aunt, Janet told me just now. O dear, I'm so sorry.'

'It's no use fretting, is it Mabel!' said Miss Letitia, who had herself
been fretting all the week about her friend's misfortune. 'Every cloud
has a silver lining.'

Janet judiciously turned the conversation by asking where the boys
where, a question that Mabel had been on the point of asking from the
moment of entering.

'I think they've gone to see the Tower,' said Polly.

'Yes, Janet; Frank intends showing his visitor all the lions of the
city during his stay. They're good boys, only they think a good deal
more of their own pleasure than ours;' said Miss Letitia, who was
rather hurt at Frank's not asking her to accompany them. 'But boys are
all alike!'

'Frank says he don't want to be tied to any old lady's apron strings,
even if she is the best aunt in the world,' whispered Polly, smiling.

'A regular Irish whisper,' laughed Frank from the door; and he and
Henry entered, hot and flushed from their long walk.

After the mutual greetings were over, and the lads had taken their
places at the table, 'to gather up the fragments,' as Harry said,
Miss Letitia suddenly recollected the morning adventure, and called
upon Frank to relate it; and that young gentleman fully willing to
hear himself speak, began a high-coloured account of his dip in the
Serpentine.

Mabel listened with breathless interest; and when Frank concluded his
animated narrative by a generous eulogy of Harry's devoted courage,
her tears fell as thickly as those of the sympathetic Polly, and she
exclaimed, 'Harry was always brave, always as long as I have known him;
and I have known him ever since we were little children learning to
read!'

Harry blushed uncomfortably at being praised so publicly; but the
pleasure he felt in hearing Mabel speak well of him was ample
compensation for all; and a thrill of delight sped through his veins,
as he gazed fondly upon her flushed and animated features. He did'nt
care a fig for Ruth Scott, the nursemaid: not he! but here was somebody
he cared a good many figs for.

The little people spent the evening as pleasantly as evenings are never
spent but in the early flush of youth, in this eager spring of life;
but the pleasantest evenings pass the swiftest; and soon forfeits,
draughts and dominoes were put aside, and Aunt Grey declared that it
was ten o'clock. The boys begged permission to see their visitors home,
and that memorable walk by moonlight was one never to be forgotten by
two, at least, of the children. From that walk, Frank Seymour dated
his love for Mabel, and his jealousy for his preserver; and from that
selfsame walk, little Polly dated her fondness for the brave and
generous Harry. When they separated at Mrs. Grey's door, Frank, boy
though he was, had registered a vow to win Mabel; and a sentiment of
bitter jealousy, the consciousness of which pained and humiliated him,
but which he could never shake off, filled his breast. That walk formed
an era in Frank's life. From that moment he became noted for being the
most doggedly persevering of all the pupils at Exeter House. He would,
for her sake, shake off his sloth, throw aside his dreamy indolence,
and battle sternly with the hard world, wrestle with it for fame and
wealth. He would become a barrister; who knew, perhaps, some day, Lord
Chancellor of England.

No such stirring thoughts as these filled his gentle sister's breast.
In her quiet and reserved nature, to love was all she dreamt of.
Nothing beyond the pleasure of feeling that she loved him entered
Polly's pure, unselfish heart. As for little Mabel, Harry had been her
playmate and companion from infancy almost, and she could not remember
when he had not been more to her her than all else in the world, save
her mother.




Chap.--V.

Next morning Mabel's' eyes were open a full hour before daybreak; and
directly it was light enough to see to dress, she rose, and in her
anxiety to reach her mother's side, opened the window to judge of the
weather. A cold mistling rain was falling, and the wind in cutting
gusts blew into her face as she threw up the sash. 'O dear, it's
raining!' she exclaimed sorrowfully, closing the window again. 'But we
must go; Mamma will be sure to be waiting!'

She hurriedly dressed, and went down stairs, where she found Janet
busy superintending the preparations for an early breakfast; and in a
few minutes Mr. Wilton rattled up to the door in a cab. There was not
much time for talking, as Mr. Wilton was afraid of missing the train;
and Mabel had barely time to swallow a cup of coffee, when her father
hurried her into the cab.

'Mamma and I will come and see you, Janet, when we come back!' Mabel
called to her cousin, as the cabman pulled down the shutters to keep
out the rain and sleet, and sprang to his driving seat.

Presently they were comfortably seated in the train and speeding on
towards Dover. The journey was not a long one, but to the anxious child
the swift train seemed to go very, very slow.

'Oh, I wish I was at Lady Maud's! I do so long to see mamma again!' she
exclaimed every few minutes.

Her father soothed her impatience, as well as he could; and bye-and-bye
Dover was reached. Mr. Wilton took a fly and a few minutes drive
brought them to Lady Maud's mansion, situated on a beautiful elevation,
that commanded a fine view of the open sea.

'How wild the sea looks!' exclaimed Lady Maud, as Mr. Wilton lifted
Mabel from the fly. 'We got a letter last night from Mrs. Wilton,
that the Albatross, my brother's yacht, you know, put back again
into Calais yesterday morning, through the bad weather; but that they
expected to start during the night.'

'What, is Mrs. Wilton not here? I had a letter to say she would be here
on Wednesday,' exclaimed Mr. Wilton, anxiously.

'She intended to come over in the regular steam-packet, but my
sister-in-law persuaded her to wait for her and come in their yacht.'

'What, isn't mamma here?' Mabel asked, in a tone of deep disappointment.

'No, dear! But she will be sure to be here to-day, if the weather gets
calmer,' replied Lady Maud, kindly.

'I had such terrible dreams about mamma last night!' said Mabel, almost
in a whisper, and shuddering at the recollection. 'I thought mamma and
I went down in a diving bell, and they couldn't pump any air down;
and mamma was smothered; and I was nearly smothered too! Oh, it was a
horrible dream! I could hardly breathe when I woke up.'

'It was only the nightmare, Mabel,' replied Lady Maud. 'You must not
think of it now.'

'I will go down to the pier, and ascertain whether the morning's packet
is in, and if so, I can learn whether Lord John put to sea last night.
Now, don't look so gloomy, Birdie! It is too cold and wet for you to
come!' and Mr. Wilton kissed his little girl, and turned towards the
town.

'Oh, don't be long, papa!'

'Not longer than I can help, Mabel. I shall return directly I have seen
the captain of the steam packet.'

'Stay for breakfast first, Mr. Wilton; you could make any enquiries
afterwards, could you not?' said Lady Maud.

'No, no! I am very anxious to learn if the yacht started,' he replied,
and waving his hand, walked on briskly; and Lady Maud led Mabel into
the house.

'It was foolish of Emilie to lose the chance of coming over in the
packet!' soliloquised Mr. Wilton, as he hurried down to the pier.
'These yachts may be safe enough, but I have a great dread of them.
Ever since I was wrecked in the Fire Fly when a boy, they have been
a terror to me!'

A number of people were collected on the pier, when Mr. Wilton reached
it, all intently watching for the steam packet then more than an hour
overdue. A brawny old salt turned to Mr. Wilton as he reached the end
of the pier, 'Havn't seen such a sea in the straits since I ran away to
join the old Maria, when I was a lad.'

'It is very rough indeed!'

'Never seen anything like it?'

'The packet is not in yet?'

'Aren't likely to come in, I'm thinking, sir! I don't believe anything
could live in that sea!' returned the sailor, gloomily. He had a boy,
an apprentice aboard the packet; and he was almost overpowered by dread
anticipation; but his emotions lay deep in his honest heart, and could
not be seen through his rough exterior.

'I don't expect the packet has started!' said Mr. Wilton, wrapping
his cloak closer around him, and speculating upon the probability of
the yacht also having staid in safety. 'There is no appearance of any
vessel in the offing!'

'That's no proof, I'm sorry to say, Sir!' replied the sailor, brushing
a tear from his eyes. 'You can't see three miles off through the rain!'

'I expect this weather has lasted all night; and so no one would be
likely to put out!' Mr. Wilton observed, after scanning the horizon
anxiously for a few minutes in silence.

'That's where the devil of it is, sir!' returned the sailor roughly,
'It's not been blowing like this more than a couple of hours; it just
came down like a monsoon in the Indian Ocean. No, sir! You may depend
on it, that every vessel that was coming out, did come out, for the
glass didn't begin to run down till three o'clock this morning.'

A minute gun here interrupted their conversation, and the sailor ran
off towards the life-boat shed.

'Good job, Wilton, there's nobody belonging to us aboard the packet,
this morning,' said an officer hurrying by.

Mr. Wilton shuddered. Was his wife not even in greater danger aboard a
holiday yacht?

'Can you see anything?' he asked, of a gentleman, who was looking
through a telescope.

'Yes! There's the morning's boat about three miles off through the
mist. The weather is so thick, you can barely see a couple of miles
with the naked eye,' replied the gentleman without removing the glass.

'Is she likely to weather it?' Mr. Wilton asked again.

'I didn't hear you for the gun!' the other answered, looking round.

'Is she likely to weather it?'

'I think so! It is not her firing.'

'My God, there is not another vessel out, is there!' Mr. Wilton
exclaimed in terror, and unceremoniously snatching the glass away.

'Yes. There's a small boat in under the coast. I can't see what she is,
the haze is too thick.'

Mr. Wilton's hand trembled with anxiety, as he raised the telescope
in the direction pointed out. 'Look, there she is, quite plain now,'
he said, handing the glass back. 'For heaven's sake, tell me, is it a
schooner or a yacht?'

The stranger took the glass, and carefully examined the little vessel
for a few minutes. 'You are expecting friends on some little sailing
vessel?' he asked cautiously.

'Yes! Yes! Is that a yacht!'

'You expect your friends aboard a yacht?' returned the stranger slowly.

'Yes! Aboard the Albatross! Do you know her?'

'No! But that little vessel close in there is a small Dutch schooner,
or I never saw one!' he replied, closing the telescope; and muttered to
himself as he turned away. 'It may not be the same yacht his friends
are on, so it's no use to alarm him needlessly. He will know soon
enough if they are; for that yacht'll never live out this hurricane.

Partly reassured, Mr. Wilton slowly turned towards a point of the
shore to which he saw a crowd hurrying in the teeth of the blinding
hurricane; and in about a quarter of an hour reached a low, chalky
beach opposite to the distressed vessel, from which, as regularly and
solemnly as the tolling of a funeral bell, boomed the dismal minute gun
at sea; and nearer and nearer with each successive signal, the furious
gale drifted her to destruction.

The scene was a truly grand one. There may be no beauty in the terrible
struggle of wind and wave in the fierce hurricane, but the grandeur,
and sublimits of the scene is beyond description. The sea, so bright
and blue under the sunshine, was now black and terrible in its great
unrest; and the waves swelled and towered till they seemed ambitious of
joining issue with the grim clouds above them; and the shrill voice of
the storm, shrieked and yelled across the deck of the yacht, and among
the chalk cliffs along the coast.

'How far is she off now?' asked a bystander, of one of the crew of the
life boat.

'Two miles!' returned the sailor, springing into the boat after his
mates, and pushing off.

Every eyes followed the buoyant but frail boat, as, impelled by strong
arms and brave hearts, it shot on through the yeasty billows to the
rescue of those aboard the distressed little vessel.

'That yacht'll never float till they reach her!' said a looker on.

'Yacht! Is it a yacht?' Mr. Wilton exclaimed in terror.

'She's a yacht right enough. But what her name is, we can't see from
here.'

The yacht, as if instinct with life, and feeling that the only escape
for her terrified passengers lay through the life bout, drifted on
swiftly to meet it.

'She's settling down!' exclaimed one excitedly.

'There's something wrong with her helm,' cried another, 'see, she's
swinging round right broadside on.'

Every eye was strained to aching in watching the dangerous position of
the yacht, now barely three-quarters of a mile away.

'She's gone!'

'No! It's only the rollers! She's up again!'

The men in the life-boat strained every nerve in the struggle to reach
the yacht. Not a word was spoken; but each brave man of the crew pulled
as though it were to save his own that they were bent; and upon the
shore Mr. Wilton, with a heavy heart, and a deep presentiment of evil,
watched their progress with tear-filled eyes.

The officer, who had spoken to Mr. Wilton on the pier, came up.

'Ah, Major Graham! This is a fearful gale!'

'It is indeed! That's Lord Talbot's yacht, the Albatross, Wilton. I
hope he's not aboard; for no power of man can keep her off the shore,
unless the wind fell dead calm in a twinkling.'

'The Albatross? Good heavens not, Graham! My wife is aboard of her!'
Mr. Wilton exclaimed in horror. 'Oh, why ever did she not come in the
steam packet!'

Major Graham bit his lips. 'Perhaps I am mistaken. Yachts are so much
alike; and one can't see very clearly through the rain!'

'My Emilie, my darling, you are lost! you are lost; and I can do
nothing to save you!' Mr. Wilton groaned wildly.

'See, Wilton, see: the life-boat is nearing her rapidly. It will take
Mrs. Wilton off if she's aboard, long before the yacht reaches the
shore!'

'God grant it may!' the grief-stricken husband said despondingly.

'Another ten minutes and they meet,' said an old man who was intently
watching the yacht through a glass. 'The crew are preparing to throw a
rope to the life-boat as they pass.'

'Lend me your glass for a moment, please,' said Major Graham.

'Can't see it!' returned the man gruffly.

'Well, will you sell it then!' Major Graham, said angrily.

'Don't mind, if I can make a shilling on it!' was the laconic reply.

'What do you want for it?'

'Well, I gave a pound; you can have it for twenty-five bob!' the fellow
answered, removing his eye from the glass and turning to Major Graham;
and the latter cut short further discussion by counting out the silver
and buying the telescope.

'Now, good morning Mr. What-the-devil's-your-name! and may the day not
be far off when you may want a glass as urgently as my friend here, and
not have the cash to buy it with!' said the major with bitter scorn.

The man turned a quick glance on Mr. Wilton, 'Why, what's he want it
for?'

'Got a wife aboard!' replied Major Graham curtly; as he turned the
glass upon the drifting yacht.

The man glanced from one to the other, and then, catching the terrible
meaning of the curse slank away, muttering with a shudder, 'He needn't
have spoken to a fellow like that!'

'Let me see her;' Mr. Wilton asked after waiting for a few moments for
his friend to speak.

'Look, the life-boat has all but reached them. You take the glass; I can
see without it.'

Mr. Wilton's hand trembled so, that it was some seconds before he
could bring the telescope to bear upon the yacht. 'They are flinging a
rope to the life-boat,' he exclaimed anxiously, 'and--and--good heavens
they're missed!'

Major Graham caught the glass as it fell from his friend's grasp.
'Don't despair, Wilton. She may not have gone aboard the yacht.
Something may have prevented her at the last moment. Ah! They're
throwing another rope.'

'Tell me! tell me, have they caught the life line? Can they save her?'
Mr. Wilton cried in increasing agony.

'Thank heaven, yes! and the crew are pulling them up close under the
stern.'

A few minutes anxious watching, and Major Graham reported, 'Three
ladies have been safely lowered into the boat.'

'Thank God; she may be one of them! The men are now leaving the
yacht;--four, five, six. God heavens, the sixth man's rope has broken,
and he is lost!'

'Three ladies!' Wilton repeated to himself, feeling no interest in the
loss of a man more or less. 'Three ladies; That would be Lady Augusta,
Miss Desmond, and Emilie. Thank God they are saved.'

'Eight men rescued, Wilton, and two lost; and they with the ladies
make eleven saved. They have cast the rope adrift, and are now pulling
straight for this beach; but the yacht'll get here first I expect; for
she's drifting broadside on.'

'I'll lay yer two to one the life-boat's in first!' said a man in
drenched shooting jacket--a very unseasonable costume.

Swiftly the life-boat sped towards the crowd of spectators that lined
the shore and pier, impelled as much by the terrible gale as the
well-handled oars; and a shout of triumph rose above the voice of the
tempest, as she proudly rose upon the mountain waves as they passed
her. 'Ten minutes more and she will be safe,' cried Major Graham; and
Mr. Wilton stood by with white face and hands clasped in the agony of
suspense, waiting the issue of the terrible race between the frail boat
and--Death.

A huge wave, almost literally mountain high, rose from the black
bosom of the sea, a full quarter of a mile beyond the life-boat, and
increasing in volume as it swept along, pursued the boat with the
relentless speed of the destroying angel. As it rolled swiftly on the
shouts of triumph died away, and the crowd waited in breathless anxiety
to see whether the boat could live out the contest. Nearer and nearer
it came till it appeared a high wall of green waters right behind the
fleeing boat. Another moment, and the cry arose upon the wind like a
wail of despair, 'It has swampt her! It has swampt her!' and the wave
rolled on fathoms above the buried life boat.

No sound escaped the white lips of Mr. Wilton. He paced up and down
upon the chalky sand, his eyes averted from the dreadful scene. For
nearly two minutes, the waves rushed on towards the shore, the boat
still beneath its dark waters, and then the hushed voice of the crowd
on the shore rose again, as the buoyant and unconquerable boat burst
dripping and wet from its watery grave:--'She's afloat again! They are
saved!'

'Hurrah! Wilton, the brave little life boat is up again like a duck.
There's no fear, but she'll weather it now,' cried Graham, slapping his
friend heavily on the back. 'Come, look man, there she is as large as
life, and as proud as a swan. Look, and thank your stars.'

Mr. Wilton glanced to where he had seen the boat disappear, afraid to
believe the joyful news. 'Oh, thank God rather,' he cried fervently as
its welcome truth flashed upon him.

The immense wave rolled on and from beneath it as it swept over,
rose the boat; and to the surprise and delight of the crowd upon the
shore, the crew were seen to throw their weight into their oars and
pull landward with as strong and regular a stroke as they gave before
submersion.

'It is the hand of God that has rescued her!' exclaimed Mr. Wilton,
reverently, 'Nothing but a miracle could have saved her from death!'

'I have never seen anything like that before; and I've been a skipper
these twenty years,' said an old sea lion close by.

'I have: but not on these coasts!' returned a brother salt, 'I was run
over by a tidal wave in the mouth of the Amazon, about ten years ago,
and carried five miles up the river, before the wave rolled off.'

'But there is'nt no tidal wave these seas!'

'No; but these big rollers, though they are not common, are seen
sometimes. They are not often noticed, because it is not often there's
a boat in the way to be run down!' returned the other.

Breathlessly, Mr. Wilton waited the approach of the life-boat, a
hopeful smile upon his face. Nearer and nearer it came, its distance,
lessening every instant as the force of wind and wave, freely seconded
the strength of the rowers. Past the outer edge of a projecting point
she swept, and in a few seconds rode in on the top of a high roller,
and was thrown high and dry on the shore. As she grounded and the wave
returned to the sea, a cheer arose, and a dozen pairs of strong arms
snatched the dripping boat, and hauled it by main force high above
reach of the returning wave. Mr. Wilton in his eagerness to reach his,
roughly thrust aside a couple of sailors, who were holding the boat.

'Come, steady, mate! Don't be so forward,' said one surily; but
catching sight of Mr. Wilton's face as two ladies only rose in the
boat, he dug his companion in the ribs with his elbow, and whispered,
'Ned, this poor chap's lost somebody by the looks of him.'

'Bear up, Wilton! It is ill news we bring you!' said one of the
gentlemen, springing from the boat, and turning to assist the ladies
out, 'It will be hard for you to think so, but everything happens for
the best.'

Without replying, Mr. Wilton staggered back, and for a few moments
appeared likely to faint. Indeed, but that one of the sailors supported
him, he must have fallen to the ground.

Recovering himself by a desperate effort, he asked in a broken voice,
'Where is she! Oh tell me! Did she come with you! Or--or I am afraid to
hope it, did she stay behind?'

'The rope that she was tied in with slipped the knot when the wave
went over us, and washed the unfortunate lady overboard sir,' said the
coxswain of the life-boat.

'My God! Can it be so!' the agonised husband exclaimed piteously,
burying his face in his hands.

With a rare delicacy the ladies forebode to worry him with their
unavailing sympathy; and his friend Major Graham took his arm, and led
him away. 'Don't forget you have a treasure left you yet, Wilton. Where
is little Mabel.'

The mention of his daughter's name roused the mourner. 'My darling is
at Lady Maud's waiting for her mother. How can I return and tell her
she is dead?' he exclaimed in anguish.

'Come! The sooner the blow falls the sooner will its bitterness pass
away!' replied Major Graham, and taking Mr. Wilton's arm led him back
to Kent House, slowly followed by the survivors from the yacht.

They were still within hearing when the shouts arose, 'She's on the
rocks!' and turning their eyes seaward for a moment the Albatross
was beheld drifting helplessly upon the broken shore.




Chap.--VI.

'Letter for Henry!' cried Polly Seymour, running in from the garden,
the morning after the storm.

'Call the boys to breakfast, Polly. They are out in the back garden,'
said the old lady, not hearing her little niece's words; but observing
the missive in Polly's hand, she took it, saying, 'Immediate; I hope
there is nothing the matter at home; Call him Polly!'

In a second or two the boys were at the table; and Harry's urgent
missive opened.


'Elmgrove.

'Dear Harry, come home at once; papa fell from the Duke, when riding
into Dunmow yesterday afternoon. He is not much hurt; so don't alarm
yourself, Harry; but he wants you home to chat with, as he feels lonely
in doors all day. Excuse haste,

Your darling sister, Fanny.

P.S. Did you hear the dreadful news? Mabel's mamma was drowned at Dover
yesterday. Isn't it awful?'

F. F.


'What's that?' cried Miss Letitia, snatching the letter, sans
ceremony, from Harry's grasp. 'Drowned yesterday! That isn't
possible! for Mabel said her mother came over from Paris on Wednesday,
you remember.'

They all recollected their little visitor saying so; and Harry gave it
unhesitatingly as his opinion that his sister had got hold of the wrong
end of some story.

'Did you look at the Dispatch this morning, aunt?' asked Frank,
rising from the table, and looking about for the paper.

'No, Frank; nor yesterday's either. I was too busy! Here's to-day's
unopened.'

Frank took the paper, and, tearing it open, searched anxiously through
the shipping news while his aunt and sister and Harry watched and
waited in eager silence.

'Total loss of the Albatross yacht, one lady drowned,' he read aloud.

'Is that the only shipwreck, Frank?' asked his sister, eagerly.

'Yes, Polly, I'm happy to say!' he replied slowly, running his eyes
down the column again, lest he should have missed any.

'Oh then it's a mistake! Mrs. Wilton came over on Wednesday in the
regular packet.'

'It's too true Polly, that confounded report!' returned Frank slowly.
'Here, aunt, read this.'

Miss Letitia took the paper, and after carefully dusting and adjusting
her spectacles, read the melancholy notice in silence. 'Yes, Frank, it
is too true! And there can be no mistake, for it distinctly says that
the lady drowned was the wife of Herbert Wilton, Esq., of Fenwick Park.'

'Poor Mabel,' sobbed Polly, the warm tears falling thick upon her neat,
little, white apron.

After a few minutes spent in listening to Miss Letitia reading the
particulars of the sad occurrence, and in discussing its probability,
Frank asked by what train his friend intended to start.

'The next, if I can catch it!' replied Harry, with decision.

It did not take Harry long to finish his breakfast and get ready, and
he was waiting upon the platform, carpet-bag in hand, a full half-hour
before the time for the train to start. Frank was with him; and the
melancholy death of Mrs. Wilton was the sad theme that occupied their
thoughts, as they paced up and down the platform waiting for the train;
but conversation was a failure. Frank was beginning to hate Harry, as
only a jealous and morose disposition can hate, and felt more inclined
to throw his friend under wheels of the passing trains than patiently
to hear her name upon his lips. And Harry was too much concerned
about Mabel's loss, and his own father's accident to do more than keep
up a fitful and dragging conversation.

'It's no use, old fellow,' he said, rousing himself from a fit of
"absence" to answer a question as to how long he had known Mabel
Wilton! 'I'm in no humour for talking. My father's mishap may be more
serious than Fanny likes to own; and Mabel too, she must be in a great
way about her mother's death; so I---- But you ask me how long have
I known little Mabel? The first I can clearly recollect of her, was
on her sixth birthday. Her father and mother were in London, and she
was staying on a visit with us the while. My mother had a childrens'
party in honor of Mabel's birthday, and I can remember, young as I was,
thinking her the prettiest girl at the party. It was queer, wasn't it,
for a youngster of eleven or twelve, to think about good looks, but
I did, and have never seen anyone since, I think half her equal. No,
Frank, you are my best friend, so I'll tell you a secret that nobody
else knows. I would rather marry Mabel, if she hadn't a penny, than the
best and loveliest girl in the whole earth, even if she was as rich as
all the Jews in the world put together; and, I tell you more, Frank, I
will marry her too, if we both live.'

'If!' Frank muttered to himself gloomily, and then turning to his
ingenuous friend, said with a sneer, 'Marrying is a bargain it takes
two to make. What, if she 'declined with thanks,' as the newspapers
say?'

Harry cast an enquiring glance at this friend. 'Declined with thanks?
Mabel says she would wait her whole life for me. No, no! There's no
fear of her, she is as true as the sun. Although, we're only children,
we promised to wait for each other, and be faithful always.'

'Like the babes in the woods!'

The tone of evident ill-humour that this was spoken in, startled and
pained Harry, and he looked at his friend in surprise.

'Why, Frank, you're, as pale as chalk; I'm half afraid you haven't
quite got over the chill you had in the park yesterday! You really look
quite ill.'

The mention of his narrow escape from drowning in the Serpentine the
morning before, filled Frank's sensitive breast with shame and remorse.
'There's nothing the matter with me, Harry; only I'm a brute! Forgive
my rude words. Here comes your train! Good-bye, old fellow; I hope
you'll be back again at school after the vacation; it would be dull
without you. Good-bye!'

Harry had, boy-like, forgotten his ticket, and he had to dash off to
get it as the long train glided up, and had barely time to take his
seat when the whistle answered the bell, and the train rolled off.

'Remember me to all at home! Good-bye!' Frank said, as he shook hands
through the window; and in another minute the guard van shot past
him; and he turned away to walk home. 'I'm an unnatural wretch,' he
soliloquised bitterly. 'He saved my life only yesterday morning; and
here I am almost wishing the train'll run off the line, and he be
picked up dead among the general smash. I'm afraid I was right last
night when I said I would recollect nothing but that I had sworn to
win her. Oh, how delightful it would be to know that she loved me! Ah,
well, she might some day, who knows? I'll go back now, and dig up some
more of those dry, old Greek roots. A barrister must learn Greek; and I
will be a barrister yet!'

Frank had walked on dreaming and resolving for nearly half-way to
Woodbine Cottage when he suddenly encountered Toby Cadman carrying a
game-cock under his arm.

'Why, Toby, where the dickens are you off to with that cock?' he asked
in surprise. 'I declare you look as scared as if you had been caught in
the act!'

'What act?' enquired Toby, uneasily.

'Cock-fighting! You didn't think I meant robbing a hen roost!' said
Frank laughing at Toby's evident alarm. 'Oh, by-the-by, Toby, how did
you sleep the night before last?'

'Sound as a top,' replied Toby sturdily.

'As a whipped top?' asked Frank significantly.

Toby assumed an expression of innocent stupidity, and said he didn't
know. He'd gone off to sleep directly, and never woke until the other
boys called him in the morning.

'Well, good-by, Toby; I'm off back again. Harry's----'

Before the sentence was finished Toby was down an area; and a sleepy
policeman passed by. As soon as he turned the corner, Toby re-appeared.

'Didn't see this beast of a cock jump out of my arms. He's just as
quick as lightning.'

'Were you afraid of that bluecoat, Toby? I haven't a very good opinion
of you after that duel affair; but I don't like to think any boy
belonging to the old school would have to jump down an area out of the
way of a policeman.'

Toby's defence, if any, was cut short by the sudden rising from the
area of an apparition in the form of a lank and lean old woman.

'You bold, good-for-nothing vagabond of a street arab, what do you want
jumping down a poor lone widow's area to steal her coals, what cost me
two shillings a hundred, yesterday was a week ago. It's not the first
time I've had to go to bed supperless through you and the other little
blackguards stealing my few bits of coal, which is a positive shame to
you if you had so much as a ha'poth of feeling.'

'My game-cock got away, and I had to catch it again, hadn't I?' replied
Toby in an aggrieved tone. The excuse, instead of mollifying her, let
loose her tongue; and a crowd speedily collecting, the boys were glad
to hail a passing cab, and drive away amidst the groans and derisions
of a crowd of larrikins, who hooted and hissed the 'young swells, who'd
robbed a poor old woman of her coals.'

'I get out here; good-bye!' said Toby, soon after they had got out of
sight and sound of the boisterous defenders of the old woman's coals.
'Pull the check-string; I can't free my hand.'

'What are you doing with that cock, Toby?' asked Frank, pulling the
string as he spoke.

'Nursing him!'

'You are taking him to fight in a cock-pit. Look here, Toby, if I see
you at it, I'll tell the old doctor; so you'd better not let me catch
you. I think I've seen that cock before too!'

'No, I'll swear you haven't! I bought him just now from a tramp.'

'Perhaps! But it looks very much like Dr. Shelwood's.'

'I'm taking it home to give to my father; he is a regular
poultry-fancier!' replied Toby, not appearing to notice the insinuation.

'Well, good-bye Toby; and don't forget the court-martial!' said Frank,
stepping out; and a Kensington omnibus passing he hailed the driver,
and mounted to the box beside him.

'My word they'll pay for it, if ever they hide me again!' growled
Toby, as he turned into a lane, which led to a low public-house at
some distance from the street. There were several rough-looking men
congregated about the door, eagerly discussing the respective merits of
a couple of game-cocks confined in a cage.

'Look, Bob, I'll lay you a tanner Tom Smith's young red 'un 'll lick
Martin Giles' old blue 'un,' said a dirty-looking old rascal, pipe in
mouth.

'You're a fool if you do, Jack. Martin's old warrior's a sticker.'

'Holloa, here's young Master Cadman. That's a rare 'un he's got this
time.' Bob Flinders exclaimed with admiration, as Toby marched up to
them exhibiting his prize in triumph.

'Don't see a pugilistic masculine fowl like that every day,' he said,
holding the bird at arm's-length, and turning it round for general
inspection. 'That's what I may call a magnificent specimen of the
combatant chanticleer species.'

'Come, shut up young'un. We don't want none of your school lingo here,'
growled old Bob Styles.

'Let him be a bit, Bob. He's only been and swallered a dic. It's a
wonder it didn't choke him.'

'Come now, what'll you give me for this one? I want half-a-crown for
him,' said the boy, turning his attention to business.

'Where did you shake him, young'un?' asked one of the men.

'What's that to do with you?' replied Toby, sulkily. 'Here he is for
half-a-crown. Who'll buy him?'

'He's mine!' said a wiry little bird-fancier with a nose like a
parrot's. 'Here's the rhino. Cash down, small profits and quick
returns. That's my motto!'

'I'll give you a crown. He's worth that,' said another, putting his
hand deep into his trousers pocket for the coin. 'Here, it is all in
one piece.'

Toby took the coveted cash, handed over the fowl, and departed, well
pleased with his morning's work; and the purchaser carried his bargain
to the back to test its pluck by a bout with a pugnacious little
bantam, who would be sure to 'draw it out,' if it would 'shape' at all.
The rest of the men followed to see the sport; and Toby hurried to a
shop in the front street to buy a pair of steel spurs, for a young
game-cock of his own he was 'bringing out.'




Chap.--VII.

'Is Mr. Grey at 'ome, mum?'

The speaker was a gentlemanly dressed individual; but wearing with
his silk hat and frock coat, an indescribable air, that proclaimed
him rather more of the snob species, Mr. Grey himself alighted from
a cab at the moment, and reached the steps before he recognised the
individual, who was enquiring for him.

'Did'nt expect to see me, I should say from the way you are staring at
me.'

'I! No I did not Rugby! Lawrence show Mr. Rugby into the library!'

The porter led Mr. Rugby into the library; and Mr. Grey hastened to his
room to avoid his wife. He met his daughter at the top of the stairs.
'Why, papa you look quite ill!' she exclaimed anxiously. 'You are as
pale as death!'

'Nonsense Janet! I have been walking fast, that's all!' and to cut
short further conversation, he entered his room and closed the door.

'Papa does look very ill. I hope nothing serious is the matter with
him,' said Janet to herself, as she descended the stairs to the back
parlour to practice.

Mr. Grey started as he caught sight of his face in the mirror. 'This
will not do. I must take something to hide my agitation,' and taking
a flask of brandy from his breast pocket, he drank a draught of that
soul-destroying liquid.

'Ah, now I feel like myself again! I must go down and meet that vulture
first or last; so I may as well go at once. Little thought I three
months ago, that I should ever have to swallow brandy to give me
courage to meet a fellow man!'

'I'm afraid I'm an unwelcome visitor!' Mr. Rugby said smiling, as he
looked up from stirring the fire. But I can't help it, you know.'

'Take a seat!'

After complying with the request, Mr. Rugby opened his pocket-book and
drew out several papers. 'You see, sir, that Sir Jonas Cadman is hard
pressed, and is compelled to get his money in; and he cannot wait any
longer. These bills for £3,000 are overdue, and he wants them settled.'

'He has ruined me by that cursed company he's director of. Every penny
I had has been swallowed up through his damned roguery.'

'Say misfortune--damned misfortune, if you like--but not roguery,'
expostulated Mr. Rugby, mildly.

'And now he wants to insult and degrade me by an action to recover
monies that he knows I could have paid but for his swindling my fortune
into his company.'

'You can't pay it!'

'You know I can't!'

'Then we must get a writ of ca re and arrest you. I know some one
who is open to take an affidavit you intend selling off and going to
America.'

Mr. Grey turned a shade paler at Mr. Rugby's threat, and he exclaimed,
'A writ of ca re? Surely Sir Jonas would not take away my liberty,
as well as my fortune! He has irretrievibly ruined me; will that not
satisfy him?'

'It's no use talking such sentimental rubbish as that, Mr. Grey! This
is a simple matter of business. You owe Sir Jonas Cadman a large
sum of money; you can't pay it, and you are scarcely fool enough to
think 'e'll be put off without some satisfaction. Can you get anyone
to become surety for you? All Sir James wants is 'is money. Some
arrangement might be made for time, if you could get someone to endorse
your bills.'

'Someone to endorse my bills!' Mr. Grey repeated, dreamily. 'Perhaps I
could.'

'Yes! That would save all unpleasantness. There's your brother-in-law,
Squire Wilton. 'Is name's as good as money.'

'Perhaps I might be able to meet the bills in a year!' replied Mr.
Grey, reflecting for a moment.

'And, if you couldn't, what odds!' pursued the dun, laughing a low,
grating chuckle, 'Squire Wilton's well able to lose it. I'm told 'e's
the richest man in Essex. No, that's the way out of the fix. I'll give
you till to-morrow to get the bills endorced; so get the thing settled
at once.'

'What time to-morrow may I expect you?'

'O, about three o'clock.'

'Then, as the matter is arranged so far, I will wish you good morning!'
said Mr. Grey, rising.

'You're sure you can get the bills endorced?'

'You give me till to-morrow; and at three o'clock you shall learn the
amount of my success. Give my compliments to Sir Jonas, and tell him
that, as I cannot expect any other treatment from one of his class, I
forgive him. Every brute must follow the dictates of its instinct.'

'I don't understand you, Mr. Gray. I was never much good at riddling;
so I give it up: but, talking of business, mind, the bills, or I must
arrest you to-morrow.'

'I'll forgive you too, if you can arrest me to-morrow!' returned the
ruined man, with a bitter smile, 'but, till then, adieu!' and turning
abruptly, he hurried from the room.

'Rather an unceremonious retreat!' Mr. Rugby muttered to himself, as he
buttoned up his coat; 'but it don't matter much, so long as he gets the
bills. I can afford to submit to a slight, if I can nab the collector's
percentage.'

In the hall Mr. Rugby encountered Mrs. Grey, who was just going out
shopping. 'I've been to see your husband upon money matters, mum;
and if 'e don't come to terms, you will lose 'im, as we're going to
imprison 'im till 'e does pay; and, if 'e don't dub up till the day of
judgment, why 'e'll 'ave the longer to consider about it!' the fellow
said, with a brutal delight in inflicting pain.

Mrs. Grey turned her white, scared face to him. 'What! Imprison my
husband for debt? Oh, you cannot, you cannot mean that!'

'Can't we, though! Well, mum, my presentiment is that we can; and that
you will see if you live another twenty-four hours!'

Mrs. Grey turned from the heartless scoundrel, and hurried up-stairs to
her husband's private room.

Mr. Rugby had been bowing himself out while speaking, and as he
finished the cruel threat, reached the edge of the top door step,
but with his back to it. His words, and the agonized expression of
Mrs. Grey's features, so exasperated the porter, who, aware of his
master's changed fortunes, understood the agent's meaning, that he
sprang forward, and striking the fellow in the mouth, sent him reeling
down the steps, across the pavement and into the muddy gutter. Rugby
staggered to his feet amidst the jeers of a crowd of small boys, leaped
into a passing cab, and after swearing vengeance against all laughing
arabs in general, and Mr. Grey and his family in particular, ordered
the cabman to drive him to his lodgings.

'Damn him! I'm duced sorry I didn't break his neck!' soliloquised the
porter, while closing the door. 'I say, Susan,' he continued to a
maidservant, who, at the moment entered the hall. 'The missis has just
rushed up-stairs in an awful state of mind. I think you had better
follow her; or she may fall down in a faint!'

'I expect we'll all get notice in a day or two, James; for the
house-keeper says the master hasn't a sixpence left to bless himself.
Ah, well, I am sorry; that I am. We mightn't get another place half
so----'

'Don't stop chattering here, girl! Run up to the missis! She's ill, I
tell you!'

At this moment a piercing shriek, and a heavy thud upon the floor
above, cut short further discussion, and both domestics rushed up-stairs.

'The noise was in the back parlour, James.'

'No it wasn't, it was in the master's own room. I heard the fall quite
plain!'

'No it wasn't, it was in the back par----- Oh, gracious, what is this
on my foot! Look, there a is dark stream running out under master's
door!' cried Susan, in dismay.

'Blood!' exclaimed the porter with horror, and dashing open the
door, he sprang into the room, closely followed by the shuddering
maidservant, when a fearful scene met their view. Upon the floor
lay the body of their master in a pool of blood, and across it the
insensible form of his wife.

The maidservant turned to flee from the horrible sight; but the porter
stepped between her and the door. 'Don't let a sound out of you,
screaming can't do any good. This is no fit place for Miss Janet; and
if you scream she might hear you, when she stops playing to turn over
the leaves. Just slip across the street to Dr. Fulton's, while I go
down and fetch the house-keeper.'

The girl, trembling with horror, did as she was bidden, and in a few
minutes the doctor, who, fortunately happened to be in, reached the
scene of the tragedy, and was soon surrounded by the clumsy, but
willing servants, all eager to render assistance.

Mrs. Grey was carried to another room, where under the skilful care of
the house-keeper she was soon brought back to the dreadful reality of
her husband's position. 'Let me go to him!' she pleaded, as soon as she
had sufficiently recovered from her swoon to be able to rise from the
couch, 'I must, I will go!'

The door was slowly opened, and Dr. Fulton entered. 'You have restored
her, I see!' he whispered to the house-keeper, on observing that Mrs.
Grey was sitting up; and turning to the lady he continued. 'He is not
dead, madam; so take hope.'

'Not dead? Thank God! But let me go to him!'

'If you do, I will not answer for consequences. There is so little life
left, that the slightest agitation will kill him. Wait quietly till
to-morrow; he may be stronger then.'

'Is it dangerous for him to see me?' Mrs. Grey asked mournfully.

'It would be death for him to see and recognise anybody. Take this
composing draught, and try to get to sleep. You may have to nurse him
for a month or two, and so you must brace yourself up for the occasion.'

Mrs. Grey swallowed the draught; and the doctor left her, and returned
to the other patient.

'Who is that playing the piano?' he enquired of the porter, who was
watching by his master's bedside.

'Miss Janet, sir.'

'And she doesn't know?'

'No, sir; I thought it best not to call her!'

'Good! Give this stimulant to Mr. Grey every twenty minutes; and send
for me if he seems to get lower. I will go down and break the dreadful
news to Miss Janet, myself.'

'Will this bottle be enough, sir, to last all night?'

'No; but I shall be over again at six o'clock, if I'm not called
before. Watch the clock, and do not fail to give him two tablespoons of
this three times every hour.'

'No, sir!'

The doctor left the patient in charge of his faithful attendant, and
descended to the room from which proceeded the flow of opera music,
which Janet was practising. The young lady not noticing his rap he
gently pushed the door open, and entered the room.

'I hope I don't intrude! as Paul Pry would say!' he said smiling, and
holding out his hand.

Janet looked up in surprise. 'How do you do, Doctor Fulton? You really
gave me quite a start. I did not see you come in!'

'No, your music quite drowned my rap at the door, so I took French
leave, and entered without invitation.'

Dr. Fulton tried to look unconcerned; but the attempt was a failure,
and his voice trembled a little as he asked a few common-place
questions about Janet's music.

'I hope nothing is the matter, Dr. Fulton. You seem so strange, and
keep looking at me so sorrowfully. It is true that we are poor now;
but I am sure God will not desert us, and I can earn nearly enough at
teaching music to keep us all, if papa will only give up this big house
and the servants, and take a little cottage.'

'You are a brave girl, Miss Janet--a very brave girl; but are you sure
you can get any pupils.'

'Oh yes! My music master says I am quite competent to take junior
pupils; and he can recommend me, you know,' Janet replied, with proud
self-reliance.

'But you are so young to have to begin the struggle of life.'

'I will be fifteen in a month!'

'And you are really ready and willing to make all the sacrifice
necessary to success as a music teacher--to submit to all the toil and
disappointments inseparable from such a position?'

'For my dear parents' sakes I am!' and the resolute girl's eyes
sparkled with hope and determination as she spoke.

Dr. Fulton took a turn or two in the room, and then stopping before
Janet he laid his hand upon her shoulder and said kindly, 'Well, my
dear, your patience and courage are to be tested earlier than you
expected. I have some very bad news to tell you.'

The color fled from Janet's face in an instant, and, rising, from the
music stool, she exclaimed, 'Oh, what has happened! Is anyone ill?'

'Your papa is alive, and if he is kept very quiet may recover. He met
with an accident just now; but with care will probably soon get well
again.'

'Is the accident very serious, sir?' Janet asked, after a moment's
pause.

'That's a brave girl! I was afraid you would begin to wring your
hands and cry, instead of calmly looking the trouble in the face. The
accident is very serious, I am sorry to say; but I shall trust to
you to conceal your grief; and nurse him carefully, as his chance of
recovery depends entirely upon the care taken of him.'

'Chance of recovery! Is he so bad as that?'

Janet's face was as pale as the neat linen collar around her white
throat, and her lips trembled as she spoke; but her habitual
self-possession did not forsake her, and she bravely held her feelings
in check.

'Yes, my child, he is very bad; and your mamma is so overpowered by the
misfortune, that I cannot afford to allow you any time for lamenting.
I want you to act, not cry. Recollect, I leave your father entirely in
your hands.'

'Making a fuss cannot do any good certainly, but it will be hard to see
papa in pain, and not to cry about it. Where----'

'Before I forget it,' said the doctor, interrupting her, 'I have left
some medicine to be given to your papa every twenty minutes. You will
see that he gets it.'

'Most certainly, sir! And mamma?'

'O, there's nothing particular the matter with her. She fainted when
she learnt of the accident, but----'

'Fainted?' Janet asked in great alarm.

'Yes. But she has recovered, and will be all right again after an hour
or two's sleep,' replied the doctor hopefully.

'But it isn't more than ten minutes' since I met papa on the stairs.
What can have happened in that short time,' asked Janet, closing the
piano, and turning to leave the room.

Dr. Fulton put his back to the door, 'You had better learn all before
you go up-stairs.'

Janet dropped into a seat, and fixed her large dark eyes upon him in
increasing alarm.

'Of course you know your papa's altered circumstances. Well, it seems
to me that his misfortunes have so preyed upon his mind that he has
attempted to--that he has in fact tried to commit suicide.'

Janet sprang to her feet in horror and dismay. 'Oh, papa! My poor, poor
papal!' she cried wildly.

'Don't forget that outward expression of grief can do him no good; and
recollect that I shall trust to you to nurse him, and that his chance
of recovery will rest entirely upon the care with which he is nursed!'

'And he may never get well again!' she cried, in a voice tremulous with
grief and fear.

'That is in God's hands, not ours! We will do our best, and leave the
issue with Him. It is not impossible that your papa may live. Are
you ready to appear in the sick room without a trace of feeling in
your face or manner? You must appear as unconcerned, as if you were
attending upon a stranger. I would send a hired nurse; but I think
you and I can manage; and should all come right in the end, it may
be possible to hush the matter up. No one but the servants know yet,
and they might keep the secret, if you begged them to. You know it is
against the law for anyone to attempt to destroy himself.'

'I will speak to them at once? May I go to papa now?' she asked eagerly.

'Go and get a glass of wine and a biscuit first. The room shall be
ready for you in ten minutes. I will be back at six o'clock to dress
the wound.'

'The wound?' cried Janet, with a shudder.

'Yes. Your papa stabbed himself. I will see to that myself. What you
have to do is to see to his getting the medicine every twenty minutes.
Now go and get the wine. I will see you up-stairs directly,' said the
doctor, turning to leave the room.

In a few minutes Janet followed him, and took a seat by the bedside of
her father, who was unconscious from loss of blood.

'His life in a great measure is in your hands,' said the doctor, when
leaving, 'for nursing will do more than physic. Be a brave girl, and
don't forget' [here he took up the bottle of stimulant] 'once every
twenty minutes.'




Chap.--VIII.

'How quick holidays fly!' exclaimed Harry Fenton, springing out of bed
on the morning that he was to return to school; 'I wish lesson times
would be as nimble.'

Here a rap at the door disturbed his reflections.

'Time to get up Master Harry, or you'll miss the first train!'

'All right, Nicholas, I'm up; and I'll reverse it in a few minutes by
coming down for a change!' cried Harry, with a clumsy attempt at a pun.

Although it was much earlier than the family usually rose, and barely
daylight, Harry found his parents and sisters all up, when he entered
the breakfast room.

'I wish it was always holiday time!' said little Beatrice with a sigh.
'Harry has to go away almost as soon as he comes home.'

'But that would never do, Beatrice, unless you wanted him to grow up
like a ploughman,' said her father, smiling.

'I don't care how he grows up, so long as he stops here!' said the
little girl, beginning to sob.

'Come, my pet, I must not let you have breakfast out of the nursery
again, if you are so silly,' said Mr. Fenton. 'Harry will soon come
back again; so leave off crying, and you shall have a ride by-and-bye,
when it gets warmer.'

The promised ride soon dried her eyes, and the little girl entered with
animation into the discussion among her sisters, as to when the next
vacation would be.

'You must work hard, my boy, for the next year, and then I shall get
you a private tutor to prepare you for college,' Mr. Fenton said,
turning to Harry.

'I can't say I'm the best in the school, father, but there's not many
work harder than I do,' returned Harry proudly. 'I may neglect my
studies a little sometimes, but I always make it up afterwards.'

'You must have a wonderfully quick memory to be able to make up for
lost time so easily, Harry; but take my advice and do not trust to it,
my boy. It was the slow and even-going tortoise, not the swift but
irregular fox, who won the race. You have progressed very fairly since
last Christmas, but I think you could have done better if you had been
less intermittent in your application. Dr. Shelwood writes that you
have very good powers, but that your energy and application are not
sustained.

'Well, father, I'll promise to turn over a new leaf, and do my level
best always,' replied Harry, who felt there was a good deal of truth in
the latter part of his master's report. 'I will only play cricket twice
a week for the future, and then I'll have more time for construing my
exercises more carefully.'

'Be sure to keep any resolution you make, Harry, however hard you may
find it.'

'The groom is ready, sir!' said one of the servants, entering the room.

'Ah, there is no time to spare, Harry, or you will miss the train; get
on with your breakfast. Are your things all ready?'

'I got his portmanteau ready, papa,' said Fanny, 'I was afraid he would
leave everything till the last moment; boys are so careless!'

'You are a dear, good, thoughtful girl, Fan!' said Harry; 'If I am a
bit careless sometimes, you are careful enough for both of us.'

Breakfast was soon over, and a general and hurried leave-taking
followed, during which Fanny gave Harry a letter for her friend, Polly
Seymour. A parting kiss from all, and soon the boy's back was turned to
home, and his face towards school.

'The master was sorry he couldn't ride to the station with you, sir,
but he hasn't got over that sprained ankle of his yet,' said the groom,
after they had ridden in silence for a mile or two.

'No, he can't ride well yet, Henfry; it was a nasty fall,' said Harry,
looking up from his horse's mane. 'By-the-bye, when does the next train
start?'

'The next train? Half-past ten, I think, or twenty minutes to eleven.'

'Half-past ten? Very well, Henfry, I shall wait for that. Will you ride
on to the station, and take care of my luggage till I come. I have
somewhere else to go to first.'

'But the master intended you to go by the early train, sir; he will be
angry if you don't go now,' expostulated the groom, in alarm at the
symptom of disobedience in Harry's proposition.

'Now look here, Henfry! and listen to reason. I'm not expected at
Dr. Shelwood's till this evening, and I want to go and see a friend
before I start. My father will not know if you hold your tongue, so why
shouldn't I go I'd like to know!' argued Harry. 'Anyway, I'm going.
I'll meet you at the station at ten minutes past ten,' and without
waiting to hear further opposition, he turned his horse's head in the
direction of Fenwick Park, and set off at a gallop.

'Well, he's a mad-brained youngster if ever there was one,' said the
groom admiringly; 'But I was a youngster myself once; so I can't blame
him. I shall get into a pretty row I expect for being late, but I can't
help it. A good twister has saved me before, so I'll try one again if
necessary. I can let one of the horses get away, and swear it took
four hours to catch it again; that'll do I think,' and preparing for
consequences, the groom rode on to the station.

The blinds were down at Fenwick Park, when Harry reached it; and
everything bore the visible sign of the grief that had fallen upon the
household.

'You are only just in time to bid them good-bye, Master Harry?' said
the porter in reply to the boy's inquiries for Mr. Wilton and Mabel.

'Good-bye? I don't understand you!' exclaimed Harry, in surprise and
alarm.

'They are going on a visit to Cornwall, and start directly,' replied
the man; 'Mrs. Wilton's death has cut the squire up terribly.'

Mabel, dressed for travelling, here entered the hall. 'O, I'm so glad
you are come to say good-bye, Harry!' she exclaimed eagerly. 'Papa has
bought an estate away in Cornwall, and we start for it in an hour.'

'Then I have to bid you a long farewell, I am afraid, Mabel! I am going
back to school, and came over to say good-bye. I shall feel very lonely
now that you are going so far away.'

'You must come and see us in your next holidays, Harry. Are you in a
hurry for half an hour?'

Harry forgot the groom at the station, and said that he was in no hurry.

'Then come into the garden. O, Harry, isn't it terrible!'

Harry knew that it was her mother's death that Mabel spoke of as
terrible, and he tried in his blunt, boyish way, to console her. He
led her into the garden, and they sat upon a bench under the arms of a
bare elm, and in the warm sunshine. The shrubs and bushes were covered
with snow, and a broad carpet of the same spotless covering hid the
garden-beds, leaving only the swept paths clear.

'O, Harry, I feel sometimes as if my heart must break, it is so
terrible. How dreadful to be washed overboard and feel the great,
cold waves roll over you, till you smother and drown!' and Mabel
hid her face in her hands, and sobbed in all the bitterness of her
recent grief. 'I try to think of other things, Harry, but I can't. The
dreadful scene is always in my mind, I wish you were going with us for
company; I shall be so lonely now poor mamma is dead!'

'I cannot go, dear Mabel; I wish I could. I too shall feel terribly
cheerless and lonely, now that you are leaving the old place; but we
must always look forward, as Dr. Shelwood says; and we will find our
deepest sorrows smaller than they at first appear.' Harry said, with a
vain attempt on his own part to profit by the philosophical view he was
trying to persuade her to take of things.

'I had a letter from cousin Janet this morning, and she is in great
trouble too. She says uncle Grey met with a severe accident, and is in
a very dangerous state,' said Mabel after a pause, during which Harry
had been racking his brain for something to say, that could cheer her
up a little.

'Yes,' he replied, sadly, 'troubles never come singly. How does your
papa bear his loss?'

'He seems so changed, Harry. You would hardly know him. His hair has
got quite grey already.'

'Perhaps the change to Cornwall may do him good. You must write to me
as soon as you get there, Mabel; for I shall be awfully anxious.'

'And you must write regularly to me too; not every month or two, as you
used to, but every week. Now mind you don't forget.'

Harry promised to be very regular in his correspondence, but stipulated
that Mabel should set him the example by being the same herself.

'You know, Harry, I've no one but you and papa to think of now; and
papa is always so busy, he has very little time for speaking to me
except of an evening. It does seem hard, Harry, that I have to lose
everybody I love. I wish there was a good school near our new home,
that you could go to. I wouldn't be so lonely then!'

'I wish I could go with you,' replied Harry sorrowfully; 'We could both
of us be so happy then. I could see you after lessons every day then;
and we could ride out together, as we used in the good old times.'

'Ah, well, never mind Harry; you won't always be at school, you know,'
said Mabel hopefully. 'School days will soon pass away, and then we
will not be parted again so long!'

Harry forgot all about the train and the waiting groom, and would have
sat in the garden talking with his little friend till long after the
groom's patience had been worn out, had not Mr. Wilton appeared upon
the scene. He looked surprised at finding Harry with Mabel.

'What, my boy, come to say good-bye!' he asked kindly.

'Yes, sir. I am off to school again, and came over to bid Mabel
good-bye; but I did not know until now, that she is leaving Essex too.'

'Yes, we are going to Oakville in Cornwall. But the train will not wait
for us, if it will for you, Harry; so we must be off. Come, shake hands
with your friend, Mabel, and make haste. It may be so long before you
again meet that you may forget each other before then.'

'Forget Mabel, sir? No fear of that. I shall never forget her, as long
as I live!' said Harry, with energy.

'And I am sure I will never forget Harry, papa, wherever I go, or
however long it may be before I see him again.' Mabel added with
girlish candour.

'Hem! Well, good-bye Harry, and don't forget your lessons in thinking
of this silly girl; for it is not likely you will see her again for
many a year. Good-bye!' and shaking hands with him, Mr. Wilton left
Harry no alternative but to take his leave of Mabel and ride back to
the station.

'I wish they were going on the same line that I am; and her father
shouldn't shake me off so easily. Ah, well, I must ride hard; or I
shall lose the train,' and giving rein to his horse, the boy did his
best to make up for lost time. He narrowly escaped riding over a poor
old woman who was tramping along a lane that he took for a short cut
across country; and in jumping over a gate which was locked, his horse
just touched the top, and fell; but beyond a few scratches both horse
and rider scrambled to their feet unhurt. Harry reached the station as
the train shot in, and, the groom having got the ticket, he was able to
slip into a carriage just as the doors were being locked.

'I shall get into a pretty row with the master when I get back, sir,'
said the groom, handing Harry a little carpet bag through the window.
'I shall have to tell a heap of lies to get out of it.'

'Tell the truth, Dick, and throw the blame on me. Say, I would go;
and my father will know it would take more than a groom to stop me,'
replied Harry, and Henfry not knowing whether the answer was meant as a
compliment or not, and being rather of opinion that it was not, turned
on his heel, and walked sulkily away.

Exeter House was reached in due time, and Harry feeling very
low-spirited, went up to the 'second class' bed-room directly after
dinner, and threw himself upon his bed, to think about Mabel, and her
father's strange hint that he would not be likely to see her again.

'Where is Master Fenton?' Dr. Shelwood asked at tea time. 'I have not
seen him since three o'clock.'

'He was asleep about an hour ago sir, when I was up in our bedroom,'
replied Dick Colridge, taking his eyes for a moment from a large fruit
pie in the centre of the table.

'Asleep! O, well let him alone, Edward. I expect the lad is tired after
his journey. I will send him up a cup of tea and some toast, when he
wakes,' said Mrs. Shelwood with a kindness that few boarding-school
matrons are guilty of.

'I say, Bob, I'll go to sleep to-morrow afternoon; see if I don't;
and then I'll get the toast in bed!' whispered Dick to his next-hand
neighbour.




Chap.--IX.

Night! and alone in the chamber of sickness, patiently watching by her
father's side sat Janet Grey. Ten long days and longer nights had come
and gone since that terrible morning, and her father was still alive.
The feeble flame of hope was beginning to brighten, but even increasing
hope could not make her cheerful to-night; and she shuddered every now
and then in spite of the great cause she had for rejoicing the doctor's
words in the morning, which she kept repeating to herself as if for a
charm to drive away the fanciful pictures that would present themselves
to her mind. 'He is getting on famously; and will be able to leave his
bed in a week or two.' But it was no use. The most ugly and fantastic
creatures would gape and grin at her from the walls, the bed-curtains,
the glowing embers, and when she shut her eyes to escape from their
hideous presence, they would crawl in through the lids and mock and mow
at her with impish merriment.

The mice too appeared to have entered into the exigency, and made
the scene still more dismal by persistently gnawing away at the
wainscotting. Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw, with an industry worthy of a better
cause, they gave a voice to the hideous creations of the girl's excited
imagination, who seemed to chatter and scream like a troop of apes.

'It is no use!' she exclaimed. 'I cannot bear this any longer! I must
get some one to stop up with me, or I shall go mad!' and seeing that
her father was asleep, she left the room to call up one of the maids.
She had not been away more than a few seconds, when her father woke.
He looked round, and finding himself alone exclaimed huskily, 'I must
do it now, or I may not have another chance! I will not live to be
arrested, and a double dose of this medicine will put me out of their
reach!' and taking the bottle from a table close to the head of the
bed, he put it to his mouth. The sick man had, however, misjudged his
own strength. The weight of the bottle, which was nearly full, was too
much for him, and it fell to the floor and was smashed. 'I must wait
my time. I may have another opportunity, if I am watchful,' he said,
patiently. 'And if not, I will not bungle the next time I stab myself.
I cannot live to meet the dishonour of an arrest for debt.'

The patient lay down again, and turned his face to the wall. 'Ah! it
is a little thing to have no alternative left, but death or dishonor!
And, my wife and child! I must leave them to the mercy of a cold and
churlish world, with no other inheritance than the loathed name of a
suicide.'

'Tread softly, Susan, we must not wake papa. Rest is of more value than
physic!' said a low, sweet voice without the door, which was gently
pushed open, and Janet returned to her seat by the bedside. 'Bring that
chair here, Susan. Softly, or you'll make a noise!'

The chair was brought, but Susan was no sooner seated than a ring at
the street door called her down. Janet waited nervously for the maid's
return; and in a few minutes she came back, followed by the doctor.

'I am rather an early visitor this morning, you will think, Miss Janet;
but I have to leave town by the first train, and so have called over to
see that all was right before starting. How has our patient slept?'

'Papa has not woke since ten o'clock, sir; he has slept as peaceably as
a child all night,' replied the young girl softly.

'He is getting on grandly. I shall be away for a week; but there is
nothing to apprehend during my absence.'

'For a whole week!'

'Yes, Miss Janet, but I shall not desert you altogether the while. I
have arranged with Dr. Webster to look after your father during my
absence. But what is the matter with you, my child; you look quite
feverish; let me feel your pulse.'

Janet mechanically placed her hand in Dr. Fulton's. 'I feel well, sir,
only I have seen such horrible sights, and heard such dismal noises all
night. I had to call Susan up to keep me company, I felt so strange,'
she said, shuddering.

'Hem!' said the doctor, thoughtfully, 'You are nervous, I see! The
confinement in the sickroom is too much for you. I will send you some
physic too; and you must contrive to get out a little. Your mamma is
too weak to be allowed to attend here yet; but now that our patient is
getting well so quickly, you may leave him more to the servants, while
you take outdoor exercise.'

'We do mind the master a bit, sir, when Miss Janet lays down!' said the
housemaid.

'That is right, my girl; but you must relieve your young mistress a
little more now, or we shall be having her laid up too. Just slip down,
and see if you can get her a cup of tea.'

The girl left the room, and Dr. Fulton turned to the door, and locked
it after her. 'I have some more bad news for you, my child!' he said,
sadly, as soon as the maid was out of hearing; and drawing a chair
to Janet's side, he sat down. 'You are a brave girl, and always look
trouble calmly in the face, instead of sinking under it, as many older
people do; and I am sure you will leave grief till the time for action
has passed.'

'More bad news?' cried Janet in a voice of alarm.

'Speak lower, or you will wake the sleeper!'

Mr. Grey's face was in the shade; or the doctor, who was at the moment
looking at him, would have seen his eyes open for a moment.

'Tell me quickly, sir; and I will listen quietly!' said Janet, with
outward calmness. 'Do not keep me in suspense!'

Dr. Fulton rose and stepped to the bedside for a moment; then returning
to his seat he said gently, 'You are aware of the cause that drove your
father to attempt suicide. Well, his principal creditor, Sir Jonas
Cadman, is waiting to arrest him, directly he is sufficiently recovered
to be conveyed to the Marshalsea.'

Janet did not speak; but sat, gazing with tear-filled eyes upon the
recumbent form of her father.

'I heard this quite accidently in the waiting room at Euston-square
station, yesterday. I have been thinking that we might perhaps, be able
to get him away into the country somewhere, before they think him well
enough to arrest. I am going from town for a few days. Think the matter
over; and when I return we will see what is to be done.'

'I only know of uncle Wilton, who could hide papa,' returned Janet
after a few minutes consideration. 'But, they would be sure to search
for him there.'

'I must be off again; for I have another call to make before I go to
the station. I shall not have time to see your mamma, it is so late.
Keep her quiet, and see that she gets her medicine regularly. Dr.
Webster, will see her in the morning. It is half-past five, so I must
hurry. Good-bye! We will see what is to be done, when I return!'

Janet's 'Good-bye, Dr. Fulton! and thank you very much for all your
kindness!' was spoken in so mournful a tone, that the doctor paused,
hand on door, and looked back. 'Come, come, my dear, I shall fancy that
I have been mistaken in my estimate of your firmness, if you break down
now. Remember, Miss Janet, young as you are, you are your parents' main
stay now! Be a brave girl; and hold up a little longer. All will come
right in the end!'

By a great effort Janet repressed the tears that would steal into her
eyes; and studying her voice, she replied, 'I am all right again now
thank you! The sad news you told me has upset me a little; but I will
not give way again.'

'That's a brave girl! I will send you a bottle of physic over, which
you must take. Good-bye.'

Susan brought up a cup of tea a few minutes after the doctor had left;
'If you please Miss, I can mind the master now, while you go and get a
little sleep.'

'I could not sleep, if I did lay down Susan; so there is no use in
trying. Go and see how mamma is. If she is awake, she might like a cup
of tea too.'

Susan went away on her mission; and Janet, a prey to the direst
forebodings, removed her chair to the fireside, and sat gazing into the
glowing depths of the embers, and trying hard to think of some way out
of the troubles that seemed to grow thicker and thicker every day.

The sick man eagerly watched her thoughtful face; and an expression
of bitter agony lay dark upon his own features. 'My sweet child, I
cannot live to be a source of trouble to you, and your mother! With my
fortune I have lost my power of protecting and providing for you; and
I will not live to bring disgrace as well as poverty upon you. Death
is my only escape; and in dying, I have one consolation left--you have
friends who will shelter and protect you, when the hateful shadow of my
presence is removed. But, my God, it is hard to leave my darlings, even
when I know it is for their good!' and the cold beads of perspiration
stood thick and clammy upon his forehead in the agony of that moment.

'Yes I will go and see, him!' Janet suddenly exclaimed, forgetting for
the instant the necessity for perfect quiet. 'He cannot be so cruel as
to refuse to listen to me. I will go directly after breakfast. But I
had better get a little sleep first, so I will go and see Susan to sit
here for an hour or two,' and rising from her chair, she went in search
of her maid. Long and patiently Mr. Grey strove to read the riddle of
the few disjointed words she had spoken, and at last fell asleep in the
midst of his unsuccessful cogitations and it was late in the morning,
when he again woke. Susan was sitting by the fire spelling through a
new novel that had been given her as a birthday gift the day before;
but the moment her master moved in bed she was by his side.

'Where is Janet?' he asked in a low, weak voice.

'I don't know exactly, sir. She took a bus about an hour ago and went
out.'

'What bottle is that on the mantelpiece?'

'It is not your physic, sir, I don't know what it is. I think it was
there before you were ill.'

'Let me see it!'

Susan handed the bottle across to him.

'Yes, that will do!' he muttered and then, speaking aloud he continued,
'Susan, go down and see what letters have come for me while I have been
lying here.'

'Shall I ask the missis sir?'

'Yes. Hurry along!'

Directly the girl was out of the room, Mr. Grey took the cork out of
the bottle. A grim and ghastly smile lit up his thin features as he
read the warning 'Poison' upon the label; and he said with a forced
calmness, 'I bought this for another purpose; but it will perform its
work with greater surety than that bungling knife. No warrant of arrest
can touch me after a draught of this!' and putting the bottle to his
lips he swallowed enough of the deadly fluid to kill a dozen men. He
then carefully replaced the cork and stood the bottle upon the table,
saying gloomily, 'They will fare much better without me. I could only
be a drag to them now.'




Chap.--X.

Sir Jonas Cadman sat alone over a late breakfast. His hopeful son,
Toby, had returned to school, and the breakfast-room was as silent
as before the holidays; for Sir Jonas, since the death of his wife,
allowed no one else in the room during the breakfast hour. The old man
had become a victim to the habit of thinking aloud; and his meditations
at breakfast time being generally upon the business programme of the
day, he had often very grave reasons for wishing to be alone.

Sir Jonas was more than usually jubilant this morning, and his gloomy,
bald head and round, beardless face shone more than usually unctuous
as he sat over the small grate of sea-coal, alternately rubbing his
shrivelled hands together and toasting them at the fire. 'The United
Investment and Life Assurance Company, Unlimited Liability, was a
capital idea--a capital idea--A clear profit of eighteen thousand
pounds. When I get it fully wound up I must float another. Ha, ha, ha!
Not take up one of the shares? No, no! Unlimited Liability! Ha, ha, ha!
Ha, ha, ha! Doesn't do to float an Unlimited Liability Company and hold
your own scrip! No, no! Doesn't do! Doesn't do!'

A footman appearing at the door, the old man's merriment instantly
subsided: and he turned to the domestic, 'Well, what now?'

'A young lady wishes to see you, Sir Jonas!'

'A young lady?'

'Yes, Sir Jonas!'

'Who is she, dolt? Didn't you enquire her name?'

'I asked her who she was; but she would not say. She said she must see
you, Sir Jonas!'

'Must see me!' Sir Jonas repeated to himself, thinking aloud--'Must see
me! Some mad girl come to invest a legacy, I shouldn't wonder,' Then,
noticing the footman watching him attentively, he roared, 'Show her up,
you numskull. What are you standing there gaping at?'

'She'll soon see the last of her legacy, if she invests it with you,
old Grab All!' the footman muttered, as he turned away to show the lady
in.

'It was a lucky day when I gave over the chandler trade, and turned my
attention to statistics,' the old man said gleefully, still rubbing
and toasting his hands. 'Nothing coins money so fast as Investment
Societies or Unlimited Liability Life Assurances--Ah! here she is!'

The footman threw the door open; and a young lady entered, in a warm
walking dress. Sir Jonas rose courteously and offered his visitor a
seat, saying in his blandest manner as he did so, 'Called to see me
on business, and thought the walk into the city too far, I presume,
Miss. There is no other office in London that offers such peculiar
inducements to investors, or to persons anxious to provide for a rainy
day by insuring their lives.'

The young lady, a mere child in her petite figure and delicate
features, threw back her veil, and clasping her hands exclaimed in a
low voice. 'Oh, Sir Jonas Cadman, do not make my dear father a prisoner
when he gets well. The disgrace would kill him!'

'Don't make your father a prisoner? I don't understand you! Who is your
father?' the old man asked in surprise.

'Papa's name is Mr. Grey. He owes you a lot of money, and your agent
said you intended to arrest him and put him in the Marshalsea. Oh, do
not be so cruel! Papa may be able to pay you some day.'

'Mr. Grey! Yes, he does owe me a lot of money--£3000, or thereabout.
When will he be able to pay me, if I give him time, do you think? Mr.
Rugby said he promised to get some friend to become surety for him.'

There did not seem much prospect of mercy in the cold, hard face before
her, or the dry, harsh voice; and the poor girl fairly broke down for a
moment.

'Come, come, don't cry! If there's one thing I hate more than another
in this world, it is seeing a woman cry. About the endorsed bills. Can
you father get anyone, whose name is worth anything, to back them?'

'No sir. I am sure papa will never entangle any one else in his own
ruin. But he might be able to pay it all in time, if you do not arrest
him.'

'Might!' repeated the usurer, with a cold sneer, that went through the
pleading girl's heart like a note of despair.

'Oh, do not imprison papa. It would kill him! I will work my fingers
off to save him!' Janet exclaimed excitedly. 'I will do anything to
save papa from that disgrace.'

Sir Jonas Cadman hobbled up and down the room two or three turns,
then went to the window, looked out, and returned to his seat. It was
evident from his excited manner that some new idea had struck him.

'What is your name?' he asked abruptly.

'Janet Grey, sir.'

'O, I recollect. You are the daughter of Mr. Grey, who owes me £3,000!'
Sir Jonas said laying a menacing stress on the amount.

'Yes, sir!' replied Janet, glancing timidly into the old man's face to
read the first sign of relenting that might appear in that staid index
to his thoughts. But the strange expression she met there made her turn
her eyes to the floor.

'Now listen, Janet--that's your name I think you said--£3,000 is a lot
of money to lose, more in fact than I can afford to; but I might agree
to give your father that on certain conditions.'

'O thank you! thank you!' the delighted girl exclaimed joyfully.

'And the conditions are,' Sir Jonas happening to catch Janet's earnest
gaze turned uneasily away, 'the conditions are: first, that your father
shall come and live here; and, secondly, that you will marry me, my
pretty one!'

Janet rose from her seat in sorrow.

'Now, think before you speak, little one, £3000 is more than I can
afford to lose; but I feel lonely here sometimes now that my boy Toby
is at school. Marry me, and I will give your papa a clear receipt.'

'How dare you speak to me like this, Sir Jonas!' the startled girl
exclaimed angrily, her eyes flashing in scorn and surprise. 'I will
tell papa of your rudeness directly I get home!'

Sir Jonas laughed heartily for a few minutes at the young girl's anger;
then suddenly chaffing himself he said, 'By Jove, you do look handsome
when you fire up like that! But about telling your father, he will have
plenty of time to listen to you in the debtor's prison.'

Janet's proud head drooped in an instant. The old man's tone denied her
the hope that any pleading could soften him, and her heart sank within
her.

'I dare say, pretty one, that you are a little surprised at my offer,
especially as, not having ever seen you before, I have not had the
chance of falling in love with you; but the truth is that I made up my
mind a month or more ago to marry again; and as you have a pretty face,
a bright eye, and a sweet voice, I don't mind taking you. And then
again it would be a charity to as it would keep your father out of the
Marshalsea. Come now, say the word. Will you marry me?'

Janet stood gazing into the fire in the deepest distress. To say "Yes"
she could not, and to refuse would be to sign her father's warrant to
prison.

'Perhaps you think you are too young, pretty one. I'm not so old, but I
can wait a couple of years. Promise to marry me when you are seventeen,
and I will forgive your father the debt.'

For a moment the young girl felt inclined to promise. Her seventeenth
birthday seemed so far away in the dim future, that no immediate danger
appeared to menace her by promising, yet she hesitated.

'No answer! Perhaps you are considering the proposal. Well, I don't
want to hurry you. I will give you a week to decide. If you agree to
marry me I will give your father a clear receipt; and if you refuse he
shall rot in the debtors' prison or pay me in full.'

Janet shuddered at the terrible alternative, but recollecting Dr.
Fulton's promise to help her conceal her father away in the country,
she recognised the necessity for gaining time; and turning to the old
man she said in a low whisper, which he took for coy reserve, but which
was really occasioned by the great effort it cost her to prevaricate,
'Thank you, sir, for the kind offer, I will tell you in a week whether
I can accept it.'

'That's a good girl. Will you take a glass of wine before going out in
the cold again?'

'No, thank you! I want to get back home at once,' she replied uneasily.

On her way home a strange and unaccountable weight seemed to lay upon
her heart; and she felt so low-spirited that she could scarcely repress
her tears. The nearer she came to her unhappy home the greater the
weight, and the more irresistible the inclination to give way to a
burst of weeping.

On the stairs she met the doctor, who had consented to take Dr.
Fulton's place during his absence. Without waiting for an introduction
Dr. Webster accosted her with 'You are Miss Grey, I believe. Do you
know where the medicine is that Dr. Fulton left for your father?'

'On the side table near the bed, sir,' Janet replied anxiously. His
abrupt manner filled her with undefined terror.

'Come this way and show me, Miss. There is some strange mistake
somewhere.' Janet followed him into the room in silence.



End of 'Prologue'.

========================================




BOOK I.




CHAPTER I.

FENWICK PARK was to be opened again. The news spread through Dunmow and
its neighbourhood like wildfire; and everybody was on the tiptoe of
expectation, for rumour had hinted that Squire Wilton's only child and
heiress Mabel had fulfilled the promise of her girlhood and developed
into a woman of rare and exquisite beauty. Five years before, on the
death of his wife, who was drowned at Dover, when crossing the straits
of Calais, Squire Wilton closed the old house where his forefathers for
centuries, each in his turn, had lived before him--and retired to an
estate he had purchased in Cornwall; but now that time and change had
somewhat dulled the edge of his grief, he had determined to return to
his ancestral home. He was a large-hearted, benevolent man, hospitable,
a Tory to the core, and every inch an English gentleman; and now that
he was returning to their midst, his old friends were ready to give
him a hearty welcome; while the young people of the neighborhood, who
could recollect but little of the old gentleman, and still less of his
daughter, having been themselves but children when she was last among
them, were waiting with the impatience of curiosity to see the heiress,
and judge for themselves whether she could reach the standard of beauty
each one's imagination had raised for her,--the young men with vague
notions of possible flirtations in store; some, more mercenary than the
rest, even going so far as to hazard conjectures of her probable dowry,
and their own individual chances of securing it,--the young girls,
some animated merely by the ordinary share of inquisitiveness each had
inherited from grandmother Eve; others already more than half-jealous
of that peerless beauty, which, it was whispered among them, was to
bring all hearts to her feet.

England is renowned among the nations as the one boasting the most
picturesque and beautiful country-seats in Europe--places where nature
appears to have conspired with art to produce homes surrounded by all
that can delight the eye, or contribute to the enjoyment of life,
parks with the softest and greenest verdure, and studded with the most
venerable and stately trees, miniature forests abounding in spots
of sequestered and romantic beauty, snatches of river scenery, of
upland cornfields, and meadows dotted with sheep and cattle--nowhere
upon the face of the whole earth can places be found, where comfort
and appearance, beauty and utility are so inseparably united, as in
the country seats of England's "upper ten thousands." And in this
beautiful England may be found some to equal, but none to surpass the
ancestral home of the Wilton's, of Fenwick Park. The grounds, which
were very extensive, comprising as they did over fives square miles
of rich agricultural land, were situated in a wooded and picturesque
valley, and extended from the summit of its western watershed, across
the intervening low land, and half way up the opposite slope. The
House, as it was usually called, was built upon the high ground on
the western side of the estate, and commanded a splendid view of the
valley for miles both up and down, and of the meanderings of the river,
which lay in it like a silver thread, here and there hidden by the
bright green foliage, or the abrupt bends in its course. The House
itself was a huge pile which, with the exception of a wing added in the
reign of the Virgin Queen, was erected when Richard III of "infamous
fame" occupied the island throne; and, excepting occasional, necessary
repairs, was but little altered by the passage of time. The park from
which the mansion took its name, occupied the whole space between the
House and the opposite boundary, and lay on both sides of the river,
which flowed through the middle of it in a narrow, high-banked and
circuitous course. The river was spanned near the centre of the park by
a light iron bridge for foot passage; while the carriage drive round
the park crossed it by two shallow fords, one near the northern and
the other near the southern boundary wall. A miniature lake, a couple
of hundred yards back from the river on its western bank, formed an
additional charm to the beautiful grounds, and was a pleasing element
in the thorough English landscape. This tiny sheet of water was in
the undisturbed possession of a thriving colony of swans and ducks.
The road from the nearest railway station, distant about three miles,
skirted the eastern boundary of the estate; but a path through the
park, the use of which was permitted to horsemen and foot-passengers,
shortened the distance by about half a mile, and was frequently
availed of by persons going to and from Dunmow, and as Fenwick Park
was celebrated far and near for its fine trees and picturesque river
scenery, it was a favorite resort of pedestrian artists, who never
failed to visit it, sketchbook in hand,--whenever fortune yielded their
steps to the vicinity.

On the afternoon of the day previous to the expected return of the
proprietor of Fenwick Park, a handsome youth about twenty years of age
entered the park, on the Dunmow side, for the purpose of riding through
towards Elmgrove Hall, further up the valley. He was mounted upon a
foam-flecked grey, that had evidently been ridden hard. More than half
a mile was saved by taking the path; but judging from the look of
interest with which he surveyed the scene, and the leisurely pace at
which he rode, saving time nor distance was not his principal motive
for taking advantage of the shortest. "And she is coming back again to
the old place," he soliloquised as he reined in his impatient steed on
catching a glimpse of the House through the trees. "Five years since
she left it, and since I last saw her! She loved me then: I wonder
what her sentiments towards me are now! Strange that all my letters
were returned unopened! I expect that was the old gentleman's doing!
Five years! Why, we were only children then; and here have I been fool
enough to think that because I have worshipped her image ever since,
that she was sure to recipro----"

"The tin plaques o' Egypt on yer and all the nist o' yer artist breed!
Bad luck to yer, are yer after thinkin', that thim Australy swans was
sint all thim miles to be scared to death by a goshawk o' a painter!"

The youth looked round, and discovered himself to be in the immediate
vicinity of a young game-keeper, who had a pair of black swans in a
hamper on a wheel barrow upon the shafts of which he was then and
there resting. "Hallo, Halloran, old boy; how are you?" he exclaimed,
recognising that functionary. "What have you got there? Black swans,
eh?"

"Bedad, yer honor, an' its meself that didn't know yer!" said the
game-keeper apologetically, recognising in the horseman the son of a
neighboring squire, "Yer've growed mighty stout intirely, since I wos
after seein' yer last; an' that's a big morsel o' twelve months ago."

"And you took me for a painter, did you?"

"Be the powers thin I did, yer honor! And it's a mighty nuisance
thim artist chaps is intirely, a prowlin' round wid their canvas and
brushes! Bedad, they say it's only the picture o' the place they're
after; but it's my confounded opinion the plate's the game they're at,
if all was knowed! Faix, an if its only the picture they're after, why
don't they go to old Tom Seaton's toyshop in Dunmow? There's plenty
o' illigant pictures to be got there jist for the buyin'. Buyin' is
it, faith? Why, savin' yer honor's presence there is'nt no more lazy,
pilferin' set o' vagabonds out o' the county jail!"

"And you took me for a painter; or, to use your definition, a lazy
pilfering vagabond," said the young man, laughing. "Upon my honor, I
feel highly flattered?"

"An' sure sir and wasn't yer jist a surveyin' the old place as if yer'd
like to eat it--jist like them artist chaps do! Of course, I thought
honest people wouldn't look at a place like that unless, bedad, they
were after calculatin' what the locks were like, and were the silver
was kept?"

The young man bit his nether lip in vexation at his absorbed interest
having attracted the rustic's attention, and to change the subject he
made some trivial enquiry concerning the birds in the game-keeper's
charge; in reply to which that individual informed him that they were a
pair of black swans from "a place called Australy in Botany Bay, over
beyant the sea somewhere."

"An' the reason thims black bates me hollar intirely unless, bedad, the
bate of the sun blackes them like it does their furrin natives? Its a
mighty queer country to live in that Botany Bay, where the people walk
about on their heads an' the animals run about on their hind legs. Be
the 'mass, they tell me thim same wild basts carries their young ones
slung in pouches tied to their bellies; and the jackasses fly about in
the trees!"

"Ah, Ha? That's a queer country, Halloran, and no mistake. Have you
ever been there! That's the place would suit you well. Plenty of
adventures."

"Be the blessed virgin, whin me father came back from Botany Bay last
Friday was two years, and told us children o' the wonderful things
he'd seen. I jist niver believed a word o' it. 'How the devil,' said
I, 'could fishes have fur like a rabbit an' feet like a duck? or the
cherry-trees have the seeds outside o' the fruit? or the weather be
hotter nor summer at Christmas? But be me father's bagpipes, I'll
believe anything now, after seein' with me own two blessed eyes a
couple o' swans blacked as black as a pair o' ravens!"

"Strange is'nt it!" observed the young man absently as his thoughts
wandered from his talkative companion to the grand old and venerable
place before him, and his eyes fell upon a certain window from which
many a time in the dear old days of childhood a well remembered face
had watched him as he cantered up the old avenue on his sturdy little
shetland.

"Its mighty fine to be a gentleman like you sir; to be able to go
about as you like! Bedad who knows, you may be after going out to thim
outlandish parts beyant, where the birds laugh like Christians, an' the
grass grows on the trees an' the----"

"I," returned the youth, rousing himself from a pleasant reverie. "I
love England too much ever to wish to leave it. I will give my share
of adventure to any one who cares to go for it. No, England for me,
Halloran. There's no place in the world to my mind like our brave
little England. I shall live and die in it, I expect, unless she should
go to war and send my regiment on active service. Then, I suppose I
should have to go, like, or not like?"

"Be the powers thin, yer honor, it's more thin any on us can say what's
b'fore him, as the praste said to me father, when he got transported
for sivin years for burning the house o' a varmint o' a land agent,"
agreed Halloran.

"And so the squire returns to-morrow," observed the youth, not deigning
to controvert the game-keeper's philosophy. "I expect you are all glad
the Park is to be inhabited again. It will seem like old times."

"Faix, an' it's meself that's mighty glad, yer honor; for it's an angel
entirely the young lady's growed, they say. Thim black bastes o' swans,
I'm after fetching down to the lake beyant is a pair o' Miss Mabels;
an' its mighty perticular she is about 'em too, feedin' 'em out o' her
own pretty hands."

"They are a beautiful pair of birds, Halloran; and will make quite an
ornament to the lake."

"Bedad, thin, an' that same will depend upon if the white ones takes to
'em kindly!" returned the game-keeper. "It's uncommon likely they'll
object to the company o' these black beggars. But be the piper that
played before Saint Patrick, I must wheel 'em down, an' git back to the
House in no time; or there'll be the divil to pay. Good-bye, sir; an' I
hope you'll forgive me for takin' you for an artist."

"Don't mention it my dear fellow," replied the horseman, laughing. "If
you miss any of the plate in the morning, you will know where to look
for it. Good-bye!"

Halloran took up his barrow, and wheeled the "black furriners" to
the lake, where he left them to make what terms they might with the
original inhabitants; and the youth rode slowly on, now musing upon
the bright days of his childhood, when he and the expected heiress
were constant companions, and anon anticipating by the ready aid of
imagination the pleasure of meeting her again.

About eight miles up the valley from Fenwick Park stood Elmgrove Hall,
another of the grand, old, English manorial homes, and the residence
of Squire Fenton, one of the richest and most popular men in the
county. A thorough sportsman, jovial, and free, he was looked upon
as a leader by the gentlemanly fraction of the 'sporting world' of
Essex. Being of whig principles, and having a name of comparatively
recent date, his grandfather, a London merchant, having amassed the
wealth that purchased the Hall and gave the family the rank of landed
gentry,--Squire Fenton had never been on very cordial terms with his
more aristocratic neighbour at Fenwick Park, though during the life
of Mrs. Wilton, the female position of the families were on visiting
terms; but shortly before that lady's death the gentlemen openly
quarreled over an election; and all intimacy was broken off. Now that
his old neighbor was returning after a long absence, Squire Fenton
was anxious to become reconciled; but he felt doubtful how Mr. Wilton
would receive his overtures of friendship. At Elmgrove Hall, as well
as at Fenwick Park, preparations were being made for the return of the
absent. Harry Fenton, the idol of his mother and sisters, and the pride
of his father, was expected home on a short leave of absence. He was
a cornet in a cavalry regiment stationed in the south of England and
had been away from home for nearly a year; and sharp watch was kept by
anxious and expectant mother and sisters, who were restlessly impatient
of delay an hour before the slow-paced clock intimated that the
appointed time had arrived for his return; but the clock struck twice
after before the sharp-sighted Beatrice, who stood sentinel by the
window, reported him coming in sight, where the road crossed the brow
of the hill opposite, and riding as leisurely as if he were counting
his horse's steps, or composing a love song.

"Anybody would think Harry didn't want to see us he comes so slow!"
grumbled the loving little Beatrice in an injured tone, jealous and
hurt at her brother's apparent want of a love as demonstrative and warm
as her own. "If I was a boy, and had been away from my sisters all this
time, I would gallop every bit of the way, as fast as my horse could
go!"

"Patience, my girl!" said Mrs. Fenton, soothingly. "Perhaps Harry is
tired; or his horse may have gone lame. It is always best to learn the
cause of delay, before you blame people. Harry will be here in ten
minutes now; surely you can wait patiently that long!"

"Look, mamma! There's Fanny and Clara running down to the edge to meet
him! May I go too?" cried the excited little damsel, pointing to two
young girls racing down the avenue. "Harry will be sure to give me a
ride."

"Very well, my darling, run along!" and in an instant the little girl
dashed out, hat in hand, and raced away after her sisters; while the
fond mother, her eyes filled with tears of maternal love and pride,
leaned against the frame of the open window, watching the approach of
her only son.

As soon as the young horseman was near enough to recognize the girls
running towards him, he touched his grey with the spur, and was quickly
in the midst of them; and springing from the saddle, he kissed them
each heartily in approved and brotherly fashion. "O, Harry," cried
Beatrice, between smiles and tears, "I am so glad you are home again.
Give me a ride!"

The little girl was speedily lifted to the saddle; and the sedate old
horse docilely followed while Harry, with a sister on each arm, led
the way to the Hall! Harry Fenton was a remarkably fine-looking young
man, handsome, well developed (thanks to an early and judicious use
of gymnastic exercises), and standing a shade over five feet eleven
inches. His black hair and full, brown eyes formed a pleasing contrast,
as he walked between his sisters to the light, flaxen curls and blue
eyes of Clara, and the rich brown hair, and clear grey eyes of Fanny.
After a few minutes spent in asking and answering questions about
father and mother and neighbours; and in detailing the current news of
the day, Fanny exclaimed, "And to think that Mabel should be coming
back just when you got leave of absence! She has grown very beautiful,
Amelia Walmsley says. She saw her at Penzance two months ago."

"Grown beautiful," replied Harry. "She has been beautiful ever since I
have known her! I only wish I had a sister half so lovely."

"You are just like all the brothers," retorted Clara, pouting. "Always
think other girls better than your own sisters."

"Ah, but then she was always prettier than we!" said Fanny, smiling at
her sister's jealous words. "There are plenty of beautiful girls, who
will have to give Mabel the palm; aren't there Harry?"

"Yes, sis! But it's Mabel's disposition more than her face, that
holds me captive. I set more value upon beauty of character than more
personal loveliness."

"Rubbish, Harry! You are getting sentimental," disputed Clara,
ill-humouredly. "You would soon forget her beauty of character, as you
call it, if Mabel lost her pretty face. Suppose she caught the small
pox, and it left her a fright, would you love her still for her beauty
of character?"

"Suppose we talk a little sense by way of a change!" put in Fanny.
"Papa will not be home till to-morrow evening, Harry. He went up to
London this morning to see a new hunter. What made you so late? We
expected you home two hours ago."

"I rode through Fenwick Park, and stayed looking at the old place,"
replied Harry. "There are great preparations going on for the reception
of the old gentleman. If he and father were on better terms, I would
take you over to see Mabel during my leave of absence."

"I wish they were for your sake Harry," said Fanny. "But Mabel is sure
to come and see us. She used to do what she liked; and I dare say she
has her own way as much now as ever she did."

"I don't know so much about that!" Harry replied gloomily, recollecting
certain letters of his to Mabel returned unopened.

"I expect our fathers' disagreement won't prevent your visiting the
Park, Harry, when Mabel is back!" hazarded Clara.

"That will depend upon Mabel herself!" returned Harry, laughing. "If
she likes to see me, all the fathers in the world shall not keep me
away; but if she gives me only a half a reason to think that I am
unwelcome, I shall be too proud to play the part of the lovelorn waif."

Here the brother and sisters' confidential chat was terminated by
their reaching the Hall; and after embracing his mother, Harry lifted
Beatrice down, gave the horse in charge of a groom and led his mother
into the house. Half an hour later the family was taking tea in Mrs.
Fenton's private parlour or boudoir, Harry having voted that, as they
had no visitors, and his father was away, the usual six o'clock dinner
should be superceded by an early tea.

As soon as Harry had somewhat blunted the edge of his appetite he
startled Fanny by declaring that he could see that she was brimming
over with impatience to learn how his comrade Lieutenant Beaumont was.
"He gave me some love message, or other; but I quite forget what."

"O, Harry, do talk sense!" that young lady exclaimed, turning away to
hide her heightened color, "I don't care anything for Arthur Beaumont."

"Well, that's fortunate, Fanny," returned Harry, determined upon taking
his sister, "For really I think he doesn't care very much for you,
whatever he may pretend to the contrary. I believe he's engaged."

"What has that to do with me? It is not my business!" retorted Fanny
all her color going again at the unwelcome hint.

"I saw a valentine he sent to a lady friend of his two or three months
ago. It was a real beauty, sis; and he wrote some special verses for it
too. I can remember one, I think,---


"Beautiful! ay, beautiful
Is the girl I would portray!
Cold as marble, and as dull
As an anchorite are they,
Who her matchless eyes can see--
Eyes of love--inspiring gray--
And still feel their bosoms free!"


"Why, that was on Fanny's valentine, Harry!" cried Beatrice, who had
been an unnoticed observer of all that was said. "I heard her reading
it to Clara."

Fanny sprang from her seat in confusion and hurried from the room; but
Harry was too quick for her; and catching her up in his strong arms, he
carried her back to her seat in triumph.

"It was such a pretty picture, Harry, all gilded all over with----"

"Silence Chatter box! Little girls should be seen, and not heard,"
said Mrs. Fenton, reprovingly, to the impulsive Beatrice; and, turning
to her son she continued, "You ought to know better, Harry, than to
tease your sister like this! Don't do it again, or I shall be angry
with you!" The incorrigible Harry only laughed; and in reply kissed the
blushing victim of his fun; and soon he began again, this time with
the more excitable and impatient Clara. And so the evening wore away,
till the ever-ready monitor time insisted upon their separating for the
night; and soon all were asleep, Fanny dreaming that Arthur Beaumont
was to be married, and that she was only to be one of the bridesmaids;
and Harry, that his leave was up without his having an opportunity
of even exchanging a word with the "queen of this rosebud garden of
girls," as he would probably have called Mabel had he lived a few years
later and read Tennyson.




CHAPTER II.

IT was a holiday at Fenwick Park; for it was the day Squire Wilton
and his daughter were expected home. The servants, together with the
tenant farmers and their laborers, had put off work till the morrow.
So great was the muster for many "outsiders," as the steward called
them, had also collected--some from curiosity, others from gratitude
for some long-remembered act of kindness received from the Squire--that
the resources of the larder were taxed to the utmost. The steward had
provided sundry hogsheads of brown October ale, and bread and cheese
by the hundred weight for the farm labourers and "casuals," and in a
large tent upon the lawn he had spread refreshments for the farmers
and more distinguished visitors. Flags and streamers were flying in
all directions; and the avenue from the lodge to the house was as
thronged with the crowd in its holiday dress, as the road to Putney
or Epson on a great race day. Everybody of note in the little local
world was there. The old, blind fiddler from the neighboring village
was present in the hope of gaining possession of a few odd coppers,
and was playing a lively air to the intense delight of an attentive
and appreciative audience of clods and ragamuffins, whose thorough
enjoyment was well expressed upon their pleased and grimy faces. Near
him stood Myra, a pretty dark-eyed gipsy maiden, ready to read the
future for any one prepared to cross her dainty palm with silver.
An organ grinder, two men with dancing dogs, an Italian lad with
ready-made saints, and even the Punch and Judy show from Dunmow was
there. The village school-master had his little flock marshalled near
the lodge, and tuned up ready to sing "God save the King," and to give
three honest cheers for the squire and Miss Wilton. The steward had
received a letter the previous day stating that his master expected to
reach the Park on the morrow at noon; and half-an-hour before that time
the school-master, self-appointed master of ceremonies, had the motley
crowd ranged in two tolerably even lines fringing the carriage drive
from the lodge towards the House; and his own more immediate charge
stationed at the gate, with the first note of their only tune ready
to burst forth on receiving the eagerly expected signal--the flourish
of their intimate acquaintance, the cane. Precisely at two minutes to
twelve the rumble of carriage wheels was heard upon the gravel; and one
hapless youngster--an urchin of nine--mistaking it for the singers' cue
stretched out his neck like a cockrel preparing for his first crow,
and gave with,--"God save our gracious K-o-o-o-o!" the unintelligible
variation of the last word of the line being occasioned by a sudden and
unexpected collision of his head with the falling cane.

"I will K-o-o-o o you, you troublesome, young imp!" exclaimed the
infuriated pedagogue. "Silence, this moment, or I will beat you into a
jelly!"

The youngster contrived to stop crying aloud; but the grimaces he was
compelled to make in struggling to smother his sobs so tickled the
fancies of a couple of his little comrades, that the cane had to be
called into requisition again to quell their ungenerous merriment.
Order was, however, speedily restored; and in a few minutes the
carriage appeared in sight. Directly it entered the lodge gate, the
looked-for signal was given; and the little people, with, perhaps, more
energy than musical taste, dashed into the beautiful and loyal air of
the National Anthem. The coachman was ordered to drive slowly up the
avenue, that the squire and his daughter might the more easily return
the courtesies of the demonstrative and hatless crowd.

"Why, see, papa, there's old Mr. Tomkins, the village school-master,
here yet! I can remember his venerable, good-natured face quite well,"
said the young lady as they passed the lodge gate. "How silly of him to
have the children here to sing to us as we pass! I dare say, though,
the dear little things are glad of any excuse for a holiday. I should
like to give them a treat in the park, as soon as we get settled again."

"Very well, my dear! Do just as you like; only don't bother me about
it," replied the squire. "Look, there's old blind Dick with his violin,
standing under that leaning oak; see, next to the gipsy damsel in the
red hood. Do you recollect him?"

"O, yes, I see him, poor fellow. No, I don't remember him; but I can
see several faces I fancy I do know. Isn't that Rugby, the groom? Look,
a few yards nearer the House."

"Yes, Mabel; and see, you surely remember that poor old woman with the
crutch, she was one of your mamma's pensioners."

"Old Jane Wood; isn't it? I----"

Mr. Tompkin's pupils having galloped through the first verse of their
stock tune, here drowned Mabel's words with their eager and vociferous
cheers, which were heartily joined in by the whole of the miscellaneous
assemblage; and further conversation was for the moment suspended. As
soon as they could hear themselves speak again, Mr. Wilton observed
impatiently, "I expected the servants and tenants would probably
welcome us, Mabel; but I had no idea that this fuss would be made. It
is positively absurd."

"Never mind, papa!" laughed Mabel. "In a few minutes the ordeal will be
passed; and our brief popularity at an end."

They drove slowly on to the House, bowing at every step in response to
the cheers, which in many cases were expressions of heart-felt welcome.
When the carriage reached the hall steps, and they alighted, the squire
briefly thanked the noisy crowd for their cordial and kindly greeting,
and then led Mabel into the House, where a few minutes were spent in
shaking hands with the more privileged of the visitors. Half an hour
later the whole throng had departed, some, to return to their homes;
but the principal part to make holiday in the park.

"At home again at last!" cried Mabel with girlish delight, as soon as
the house was cleared. "This is my home, papa! Long as we lived at
Oakville, I never forgot the dear old Park, and never thought any other
place really home. I wonder whether Harry Fenton will call and see us,
papa! He is back, too, on leave of absence."

Mr. Wilton's brow darkened at the mention of young Mr. Fenton's name;
and he answered curtly, "Indeed, Mabel! Pray, how do you know?"

"I saw him at the Chelmsford station, papa; and Lucy Vaughan told me he
was away from his regiment on leave of absence."

"Did you speak to him?" Mr. Wilton enquired.

"No, papa, I had not an opportunity. The train was just moving off when
I caught sight of him," replied Mabel ingenuously. "He has grown so
tall and handsome, papa; but I knew him again in a moment."

Mr. Wilton took a turn or two in the hall, without replying, his brows
deeply knitted.

"Papa, when do you intend to call at Elmgrove Hall? I think I shall go
and see Fanny Fenton to-morrow," said Mabel after a few seconds silence.

Mr. Wilton roused himself from his brief reverie, and, turning to his
daughter said sternly, "Now that we are at home again, Mabel, I may as
well tell you it is my wish that you keep aloof from the people at the
Hall. I do not like the family; and I will not allow you to visit them.
And I may tell you also I am not at all pleased that you still think of
Harry. Friendship as children was all very well; but you are too old
for such silly fancies now!"

Mabel stood for a few moments in speechless surprise gazing with
enquiring eyes upon her father's clouded face. "Why papa," she at
length exclaimed, "What has Harry done that I should not be permitted
to see him? Or Fanny? We were always friends before you took me to
Oakville."

"You had better go up to your room at once and change your traveling
dress. The house-keeper will show you up," observed Mr. Wilton
evasively. "Your maid will not arrive till to-morrow. If you feel
fatigued, you had better have a cup of tea taken up, instead of coming
down to dinner," and, without waiting for Mabel's reply, he passed on
to the library, muttering to himself as he went, "I must nip this folly
in the bud; for no upstart shall marry into the family of the Wiltons,
of Fenwick Park. It is strange that their boy and girl attachment
should have survived so long. Those gushing letters of his, which I
sealed up again and returned, were full enough of sentimental nonsense
to form the stock in trade of a maudlin poetaster. But I will put a
stop to it now. I will not allow them to meet."

Mabel stood a few seconds silent and thoughtful, tears dimming the
azure depths of her beautiful eyes. "And are all my hopes to be dashed
to the ground like this!" she presently exclaimed. "I have been
longing, O, so ardently, to come back to the dear old Park, that I
might see him again; and is this to be the end of my dreams? I love
him; and I know, I am certain, that he loves me, although he has not
written to me for so long; and I will be true to him! I do not
remember when he was not more than all the world to me; and I will
never forget him!"

"Will you go up to your room, Miss Wilton, to change your things?"
interrupted the house-keeper, entering the room.

"Yes Mrs. Chamberlain, at once, if you please," replied Mabel, striving
to assume a composure she was far from feeling.

"I thought that you would like the green suite that opens to the south.
It has a magnificent view; and the rooms are the most comfortable in
the house," said the house-keeper. "They are not quite ready, for I only
reached the Park the day before yesterday; and I haven't had much time
to put things straight yet; but I think they will do till I can arrange
them properly."

"We will see to-morrow, Mrs. Chamberlain," replied Mabel, scarcely able
to refrain from bursting into tears of disappointment and vexation. "I
am too tired to trouble about them now. I think I will lie down and
rest for a little while."

The house-keeper led the way to Mabel's apartments; and after assisting
her young mistress to change her traveling dress for an afternoon
toilet, she hurried away for a cup of tea.

"What a great difference a few minutes sometimes makes in our
feelings," thought poor Mabel, as she threw herself upon a couch in her
boudoir to wait for the house-keeper's return. "I was so happy half an
hour ago, when we were approaching the Park through the noisy crowd.
All seemed so bright in the blissful anticipation of seeing him again,
perhaps in a few short hours; and now I feel so very, very miserable;
and my heart is as cold and heavy as lead!"

Mabel wisely thought it would be better to try to compose and calm her
wearying thoughts that would crowd into her aching head. But it was to
no purpose; and after five minutes fruitless effort she rose again,
and began pacing the room--a habit she had acquired as a child. "And
I am not to see him or Fanny again simply because papa does not like
the family," she thought angrily, not able to understand her father's
aristocratic class-prejudice. "I do not care; I will see him again! If
papa had any real fault to find with Harry himself, I should quietly
listen to it; and if papa could prove any just reason why I should give
Harry up, I would do so, even if it broke my heart. It would be my
duty. But to expect me to tear from my heart a love I cannot remember
the commencement of, and only because he quarreled with Harry's father
some years ago; it is too much. I will not submit to it. I will not
give Harry up for such an unreasonable cause!"

The entrance of the house-keeper with the tea disturbed Mabel's bitter
reflections. "Why, Miss Wilton, I thought you were going to lie down
and rest after your journey," the good lady said with kindly concern.
"You would feel much better after an hour or two's sleep."

"My head aches too much, Mrs. Chamberlain, for me to sleep," replied
Mabel sadly, "I think I will take a walk in the park instead. The fresh
air may do it good."

"But, Miss, the park is full of people this morning. All the farm
laborers and idlers for miles round are making a holiday there in honor
of your return."

"Yes, but they are on the level ground by the oak avenue near the
lodge, and I can go over to the bridge without fear of meeting anyone.
I can't rest with a headache like mine. I must be moving about. It is
so long too, since I was here last, that I am anxious to see everything
again."

"Do you recollect much of the place then, Miss?"

"Yes, Mrs. Chamberlain, everything seems familiar to me. I will go down
to the lake, and see how my Australian Swans are."

"Would you like me or one of the maids to go with you for company?" the
house-keeper inquired.

"No, thank you! I do not feel in the humor for company just now, my
head aches so. Get me a hat and shawl, I will just take an hour's run,"
returned Mabel.

While the hat and shawl were being procured, Mabel drank her tea and
then, hurriedly arraying herself in them, she started for her walk in
the park. The house-keeper and a fellow servant--one who had been left
in charge under the steward, during the squire's long absence--watched
her from an upper window, as she slowly walked on towards the lake,
"She's the bonniest lassie I've seen for this many a day," observed
Jepson in admiration. "She was always a pretty child, I remember, and
promised from her cradle to grow up beautiful, but she has fairly
beaten my expectations."

"She is the very picture of her mother," replied the house-keeper, "and
Emilie Hastings (I knew her before she was married to the squire) was
the loveliest girl in Essex."

"What beautiful blue eyes she has! But, la! the words haven't been
invented, that can describe such loveliness!" exclaimed Jepson with
enthusiasm, as she and Mrs. Chamberlain turned from the window to
attend to their various duties.

Mr. Wilton felt vexed at the turn his conversation with Mabel had
taken; and he was grieved that their first day at home should be
clouded by a disagreement. He loved his daughter very dearly in
his quiet, undemonstrative way; and he felt angry with himself for
not having chosen a more fitting time for telling her his decision
with reference to her attachment to Harry Fenton; and to drive away
unpleasant thoughts, he ordered the steward to take the tenants account
book to the library to go into the matter with him of a re-adjustment
of rents of the farms, whose leases were about to expire.

Mabel walked slowly on through the Park towards the lake, pondering
sadly upon her father's, to her, unaccountable, aversion to her friends
at Elmgrove Hall. But for this great trouble, which had so recently
fallen upon her, she would have hurried gaily along, keenly observant
of each well-remembered feature of the bright scene--the old trees
she had so often played under as a child; the shattered remains of
the beech she so well remembered seeing blasted by lightning during a
thunderstorm, that she was once caught in; the light, iron bridge she
could recollect seeing built--many, many things around her, invited her
to look upon them as old friends; but her heart was too full of trouble
to spare thought for anything else. "What a long time has passed since
he bade me good-bye when I was going away to Oakville! Five whole years
ago now; and it seems as though it was only yesterday!" she murmured,
as she walked slowly on. "Five years! we were only children then;
and yet we loved each other as fondly as ever grown people do. But,
perhaps he may, call," and the sunshine crept into her face again at
the thought. "He cannot know that papa dislikes him--unless, unless,"
and the shadow returned as the unwelcome idea flashed through the mind,
"unless papa has written to tell him not to come!" Overpowered by the
distressing anticipation of her father's opposition to her meeting
Harry, she sat down upon a rustic seat under an elm, and surrendered
herself to a most unhappy train of thought; but in a few minutes she
was disturbed by the clatter of horse's hoofs; and glancing round
she beheld the object of her meditations riding along the path from
Dunmow at full trot. For a moment she felt she must fall, the surprise
was so sudden; but rousing herself by a great effort, she with the
inconsistency of her sex hurried on towards the lake for the purpose of
avoiding him. After a few minutes rapid walking she looked back; and
saw that he had not observed her; but had turned off the path, and was
walking his horse towards the lodge gate. Although Mabel had turned
her back to Harry directly she noticed him, and hurried away to avoid
meeting him, yet, with a feminine perverseness, she felt half-angry and
jealous that he had not seen her, and galloped to her side. "I wonder
whether he is going up to the House!" she speculated, eagerly watching
him as he rode slowly on, "But no; he is riding directly for the lodge
gate. I will go back to the House at once; for he might, perhaps, ride
back this way; and I wouldn't have him meet me here for the world!"

Acting at once upon this determination, Mabel turned back to retrace
her steps homeward; but, fearful that he might look round and recognise
her, she turned in among the trees by the river, and then took a long
way round to screen herself from observation by a gentle rise in the
middle of the park. In a quarter of an hour she was back again; and
feeling that she must do something to try to divert her thoughts from
their distressing channel, she determined to go to the library to look
for a volume of Waller, one of her favorite poets. At the threshold she
abruptly paused, her hand upon the door.

"Well, Mr. Fenton, the simple fact is that I have other views for Miss
Wilton!"

The words shot through her heart like a bolt of ice. "Other views." The
words sounded ominous of much future misery.

"Other views! And he is here! O, Harry, Harry, I never knew how I loved
you till now!" she murmured passionately, as she stood rooted to the
spot.

"Other views, sir! Why Mabel and I have loved each other ever since we
were mere children!" exclaimed Harry in a troubled voice. "Five years
ago when you took her away to Oakville she promised to be true to me;
and I know she will!"

"Bah! A mere boy and girl attachment, that has probably died out long
ago as far as she is concerned," said Mr. Wilton in a contemptuous
tone, "I wonder you possess so little knowledge of human nature as to
expect a mere child to recollect you so long!"

"But, surely sir----"

"You must pardon me, Mr. Fenton," interrupted the old gentleman with
chilling politeness, "for expressing my great surprise at your calling
upon me, and I barely an hour at home yet. Surely you must perceive
your visit to be most ill-timed!"

"I did not think of that Mr. Wilton. Perhaps my visit is rather
inopportune, but the fact is that my leave of absence is so short----"

"That you wanted to make the most of it. Yes, yes! I see! Well, Mr.
Fenton, I am sorry to be obliged to inflict pain, especially upon
so estimable a young man as yourself; but I have a parent's duty to
perform. I have other view for Miss Wilton; and I cannot permit you
to pay her any attention. You must allow that it is better for us to
clearly understand each other; and I think that this, your first visit
here, had better be your last."

Harry Fenton made no answer for some seconds, the unexpected reception
having completely disconcerted him. As he was about to stammer
something Mr. Wilton interrupted him: "As you thoroughly understand me,
I will leave it to your honor not to attempt to see Miss Wilton again.
As my decision is irrevocable, you had better for her sake see her no
more."

"For her sake!" repeated Harry softly. "For her sake. Yes," he
continued raising his eyes and looking Mr. Wilton full in the face,
"You would leave it to my honor, for her sake, to make us both wretched
for life!"

"Both? You surely do not flatter yourself, my dear young sir, that even
your existence is a matter of any consequence to Miss Wilton!" sneered
the old gentleman.

"True, sir, that Mabel was only thirteen when last I saw her, and that
is five years ago," replied Harry earnestly. "But she promised me then
to be true to me for life; and she will too! I understand her better
than you appear to do, sir, although you are her father!"

Mr. Wilton laughed scornfully, and deigned no reply.

"You leave it to my honor sir; and I will be open with you!" continued
Harry with more candour than discretion. "I will never relinquish my
hope of winning your daughter! I would rather forfeit my life, than
lose that hope! If she tells me herself, uninfluenced by you, that she
cares nothing for me, neither she nor you shall see me again; but till
she, of her own free will, tells me she has changed, I will remain true
to her in the teeth of opposition."

"You will be wiser to endeavour to conquer this boyish romance; for
you shall never have her with my consent. She shall never make a
mésalliance while I live."

Harry's brow flushed at the cross insult; but, passing it unanswered,
he said firmly, "It is too late, now, sir to think of conquering my
'boyish romance,' as you term my affection for Mabel. I have loved her
too long and too well, for it to be possible for me to cease doing
so now at your bidding. But good-bye sir! As you object to my coming
here I shall not do so again; I will trust to meeting her occasionally
elsewhere."

"Well, of all the self-sufficient, presumptuous youngsters I ever met
Mr. Fenton, you are the most obtrusive," exclaimed the squire angrily,
at Harry's evident determination to be checked by no obstacle. Without
replying, Harry turned to leave the old gentleman's presence but on
drawing back the door, which had been ajar, he encountered Mabel upon
the threshold. Snatching her hands in his, to her father's perceptible
chagrin, he exclaimed in an agitated voice, "Tell me, Mabel, tell me
truly? Do you love me still? I have loved you dearer than my life all
these years since I saw you last! I can never change. Tell me, my
darling, do you love me still?"

Overpowered by the excitement of the moment Mabel faltered, "I do love
you, Harry? And I will always love you better than life, till I die?"




CHAPTER III.

The afternoon sun was smiling its warmest and brightest upon the
many-hued stocks and carnations that adorned the little front garden
of Woodbine cottage, and Polly Seymour, the sunshine of Aunt Letitia's
home, was sitting at work in the back parlor. Her sweet gentle face
bent over her sewing. Her nimble fingers appeared ambitious of keeping
pace with the rapid flight of her thoughts, so fast the bright needle
flew in and out of the cambric she was hemming. A happy expression
was settled upon her radiant features; and the brightest of smiles
played upon her pretty little mouth. It was evident that the subject of
her thoughts was a most pleasant one from the glad light that beamed
from her eyes. A beautiful girl, indeed, was this fair damsel--so
industrious both with head and hands. Of a different style certainly
from the beauty of Mabel Wilton, but of a softer and more loveable
type. None could look upon the dazzling loveliness of Mabel without
admiration. Few could see the pure and ethereal beauty of Polly without
being attracted by its sweet and gentle influence. Upon a table before
her lay a letter she had just written to her brother, and beside it
an envelope addressed to Mr. Frank Seymour, c/o. H. Talford, Esq.,
Barrister, Inner Temple.

"How grand and handsome Harry looked as he rode past me on his
beautiful grey horse! He didn't recognise me though. Little did he
think that one who loves him so dearly, was so near." So ran the
current of her busy thoughts. "I do wish he and Frank were friends
again, as they used to be in the dear old days, when he saved Frank's
life in the Serpentine! I dare say he might then come to visit Frank
here sometimes. O, that would be delightful. What can be the cause of
their quarrel, I wonder. I have never been able to guess; and yet it is
hard so see those bad friends whom I love as dearly as I do Harry and
Frank!"

A "Rat, tat," in a very self-assertive and business-like tone roused
her from her reverie; and she hurried to the front door to receive the
dainty little pink letter the postman was so impatient to part with,
that he might hurry on his round.

"A letter from Fanny Fenton," she exclaimed eagerly, to the infinite
amusement of the postman, who said to himself, as he hurried on to his
next destination, "'Taint every day that young lady is blessed with the
luxury of a letter, I fancy! She seems as pleased with it as my little
Nellie was with her new doll."

"It's nearly time she did write too," continued Polly, closing the
door, and returning to her seat. "My last letter to her must be nearly
six months old; and she never answered it till now."

After a few seconds examination of the post marks, and a brief reverie
upon the last time she met Fanny, when on a visit to a school-day
friend at Chelmsford the year before, she broke the seal. A pleased
smile lighted up her fair young face, as she read the current
gossip--an account of Harry Fenton's return home on leave, and of the
coming back of Squire Wilton and Mabel; a description of the grand
party Mrs. Fenton was to give next week in honor of Harry's being
amongst them again; and Fanny's earnest wish that Polly could be one
of the guests; and a glowing narration of the glorious moonlight ride
she had had with Clara and Harry to the ruins of an old castle some
ten miles from Elmgrove--but on reaching the top of the fourth page an
expression of acute pain suddenly drove her smile away; and the letter
dropped from her fingers, and fluttered down to the carpet. Tears fell
thick upon the tiny missive, as Polly stooped, and picked it up. "Oh
Harry, Harry," she wailed in her agony, "I have loved you so dearly all
these years only to find at last that you loved Mabel all the while."

Girl-like, Fanny had betrayed the foolish confidence of her impulsive
open-hearted brother, who had been so indiscreet as to tell her of his
unpleasant interview with Mabel's father, and its unexpected, but, to
him, delightful termination. "It was really like a scene in a drama,"
rattled on Fanny's thoughtless pen: "Just fancy old Mr. Wilton's
consternation when Mabel--she's such a dear girl--stepped forward like
a tragedy queen, and declared that she would love Harry for ever and
a day. I felt as if I could have hugged her, when Harry told me about
it. I expect the proud old gentleman will have to make a virtue of
necessity now, and give his consent; and after that, I suppose, comes
the wedding. Mabel is sure to ask you to be one of the bridesmaids. In
fact if she does'nt, I will not be one myself. Don't you think Harry is
to be congratulated upon his good fortune in winning her? There isn't
a girl in the world I would so soon have for a sister-in-law? But the
strangest part of it is that they should'nt see each other for five
years; and yet remain in love all that time. I would not have believed
it possible out of a French novel."

A deep sigh shook Polly's fragile form; and she laid the unhappy letter
down upon the table near the one she had just written to her brother.
She knew only too well, as it now proved, how possible it was for true,
deep, and passionate love to live on for so many years. Long and sadly
the heart-stricken girl sat brooding over the bitterness of her misery.
"You can never love me now, Harry? You can never love me now," was the
burden of her troubled thoughts. She felt that could she but have won
his love, she could have died content, "But that may never be now. That
may never be now. Oh that I was dead, that I might forget my misery and
be at rest?"

"Well, my dear, have you finished your letter to Frank yet? I am going
into Knightsbridge; and I can post it for you," said an old lady,
bustling into the room in a walking dress.

Polly brushed away her tears, and glanced nervously up. "Yes, aunt, I
have written it," she replied in a broken voice. "I will put it in the
envelope at once," and snatching up one of the two letters upon the
table, she slipped it into the envelope addressed to her brother, and
wafered it.

"Why, what is the matter, child? Your eyes are quite red. What have
you been crying about?" exclaimed the old lady in motherly solicitude,
seeing at a glance that something was wrong.

"Nothing, aunt, thank you! I have a bad headache," replied Polly,
coloring, and shrinking timidly from the bare idea of revealing the
cause of her tears to anyone.

"Stuff and nonsense child! Girls don't cry about a headache. There
must be something else the matter with you," returned the old lady,
irritably, not at all pleased at Polly's evident disinclination to
unbosom her troubles to her. "But if it is a headache, you had better
go and lie down; I will make you some hoarhound tea when I get back."
Saying which, Miss Letitia Vaughan hurried away to do some shopping,
and post Polly's letter. This genial kindly old lady exhibited
none of the disagreeable peculiarities generally supposed to be
characteristic of an advanced stage of feminine "single blessedness."
She was a simple, loving, trusting, warm-hearted woman, brimful of the
often-heard-of, but seldom met with, 'milk of human kindness;' and she
had proved herself a worthy foster mother to the orphan girl and her
brother.

Polly resumed her seat, and her sad thoughts, directly her aunt left
the house, and sat nursing her so recent grief for a weary hour, till
the maid entered the room to set the tea things.

"Please, Miss Polly, here's a letter of yours blowed off the table!"

Polly colored, and held out her hands eagerly for Fanny's epistle. No
eyes but hers must see that fatal letter. It must be safely locked
up among her treasures--it, that had destroyed her most precious of
treasures, peace and contentment.

"I don't think Mr. Frank will be able to read it now, Miss Polly;
for it got into your white kitten's saucer of milk, and the dust is
sticking to it where it got under my feet," said Nancy, industriously
trying to shake the dust off again.

"Frank's letter?" cried Polly, turning pale, as the possibility of a
mistake flashed through her mind. "His was post----" she did not finish
the sentence: but gazed with blank confusion at her own writing upon
the letter. It was the one she had an hour or two before written to her
brother. "And I have posted Fanny's letter to him," she exclaimed in
great distress, "Oh, what shall I do? I would not have him see it for
the world."

"What's the matter Miss Polly? Is there anything I can do for you?"
asked the sympathetic maid-servant.

"I have put the wrong letter into the envelope for Frank by mistake,
Nancy," cried Polly hysterically, bursting into tears.

Nancy strove in her rough but kindly way to comfort her. "But it's no
matter, Miss Polly? He's your brother; and he will be certain sure
to keep it for you. It is'nt like as if you'd been and sent it to
strangers," she urged earnestly. "The best thing to do now is to put
this letter into another envelope, and send it too. You can easy write
on it about the mistake."

Nancy's advice appeared so sensible that Polly instantly adopted it,
and snatching up her pen she wrote across a page of the letter in a
shakey hand. "Dear brother, I sent you the wrong letter by mistake!
Send me Fanny Felton's back at once? Your loving Polly."

Nancy volunteered to run to the nearest post-office with it; but Polly
preferred going herself. "My head aches very much, Nancy; and I think
the walk may do it good," she replied.

In two minutes she was bonnetted and out, and walking towards the
post-office at a great rate, her thoughts in a perfect tumult. She was
very much excited and flushed; and a gentleman passing by stopped to
look at her.

"One would think, Miss Seymour that you were walking for a wager," he
said laughing. "Your exercise is giving you quite a color."

Polly raised her eyes and encountered the gentleman's amused gaze. "Mr.
Talford, I didn't see you," she exclaimed in some confusion. "How is my
brother?"

"I wish you would give him a sharp, little, sisterly lecture about
working too hard. He is killing himself with work. Not only is he
devouring all my law books, and writing out all my opinions for the
attorneys--work enough for an ordinary individual--but he is a constant
contributor to half the magazines. If he will only take care of
himself. I for one should not be surprised to see him climb up to the
Woolsack in time. He is----"

"The Woolsack, sir?" interrupted Polly.

"O, that's the very pinnacle of fame for us lawyers--the seat of the
Lord Chancellor of England. He has talent and unflinching energy
enough for anything; but human nature has its limits to its powers of
endurance."

"It is of little use for me to speak to him, sir. I often beg of him to
give himself a few days holiday; but he only laughs and says he cannot
afford the time," replied Polly.

"Your brother says that he is determined to work his way to the summit
of the profession; and I suppose he will, for determination and powers
such as his can push on in defiance even of fate herself," said Mr.
Talford warmly. "Are you going to post that letter?" he continued. "If
so, I may save you the walk; for I shall be passing the office."

"It is for Frank, sir."

"O, then, in that case I can give it him myself and save the postage. I
shall call at my chambers in the morning."

"Thank you, sir," replied Polly, handing Mr. Talford the letter, which
he put away carefully in his pocket-book.

"Do please give it him directly you see him in the morning. I am
anxious for him to get it as soon as possible."

"Very well, Miss Seymour, I will not lose a minute in placing it in his
hands, when I meet him in the morning. Good-bye! Remember me kindly to
your aunt," and Mr. Talford lifted his hat gallantly, and passed on;
while Polly slowly retraced her steps homeward thinking sadly, poor
girl, of what might have been, had Mabel not have won and held Harry's
heart.

The kind-hearted barrister had been introduced some months before
to Mr. Frank Seymour by the editor of a magazine the young man was
contributing to; and learning his ambition to enter the bar, and the
financial difficulties that beset him, he had generously offered to
take him as pupil sans premium; and as Mr. Talford had a very
superior, legal library, and was considered a rising man, Frank
gratefully accepted the offer.

At ten o'clock on the morning following the day Polly received Fanny
Fenton's letter, Mr. Frank Seymour entered Mr. Talford's chambers, with
a large roll of proof-sheets in his hands. He had a few days before
written an exhaustive and able article upon Electoral Reform for a
leading Review, and had been highly complimented upon it by the editor;
and he now entered the chambers with a proud firm step, and a bright
eye. It was indeed seldom that a young man at his age wrote with such
clear and comprehensive thought; as he had exhibited in this article;
and he felt pleased and flattered at the praise he had received. On
sorting the morning's letters he found one addressed to himself in his
sister's hand; but, being too full of his article to think of anything
else just then, he put it into his breast-pocket, and set about the
revision of his proofs. Half an hour later Mr. Talford entered the
room. "Good morning Mr. Seymour!" he said as Frank glanced smiling,
up from his work. "I met Hepward just now! Allow me to congratulate
you upon the success of your article!" And taking his seat at the
writing table, he continued, "Upon my word it is a pity you are not in
parliament? Hepward declares you are a born politician."

Frank laughed. "I may be there yet, sir; but one thing at a time, to do
it well. I must become a successful barrister first."

"One thing at a time! Why, how can you reconcile literature and study
with that theory?"

"Well, sir, the fact is, this exception to my rule is forced upon me
by necessity. I must earn a little money some way; and writing for it
is the most congenial to my tastes. I dare say my aunt would supply me
with funds to keep on with, but I do not like the idea of dependence."

"A noble thought, my dear boy! A noble thought! But, to business--Here
is a rough draft of my opinion in Douglas v. Underwood. Make out a
fair copy of it ready for Gray's clerk, who will call round for it
about three o'clock. I have penciled in the margin reference pages of
the authorities hearing upon the matter, so that you may store that
capacious mind of yours with the law of the case. I must hurry off now
to the Common Pleas. You will have plenty of time to finish your proofs
first."

Frank thanked his kind friend and teacher for his valuable marginal
references; and Mr. Talbot took up his brief, and turned to depart. "O,
by-the-way, here is a letter for you Miss Seymour entrusted me with. I
met her yesterday at Kensington."

Mr. Talford hurried out; and Frank dropped the letter into his pocket,
saying, as he took up his pen again, "Polly appears to have a writing
fit on just now? Well, this will do to keep the other company until I
have time to read them."

In a couple of hours the work was finished; and he hurried over to the
office with it, and then returned and set to work upon Mr. Talford's
opinion re Douglas v. Underwood. The fair copy made, he took down
the authorities referred to in the margin of the rough draft; and
turning up the pages penciled down, he began the study of the points of
law involved in the suit; and he did not close the volumes until he had
thoroughly mastered and digested the intricacies of the case. The great
mental exertion it cost him caused him to forget Polly's letters, and
he took a walk in the Temple Gardens before returning to his lodgings.

After tea Frank took out his papers, and sketched out the first rough
copy of a short essay in verse upon Liberty--a work which occupied him
till long after the midnight hour had struck. When he had concluded the
work, and was about to retire, he suddenly recollected his sister's
letters. "I wonder what is the weighty intelligence that could require
two letters to convey it?" he said drawing them from his pocket.
"Probably she forgot the all-important postscript in the first, and so
sent it on in the second. Well, we will read the postscript first."

He read the affectionate little letter hurriedly through. It was as
young ladies epistles usually are, composed of interesting little
nothings most prettily said. By some means he missed the uncertain
scrawl, Polly had written on discovering her blunder: and taking up the
second letter he tore it open remarking, "Well since the postscript is
so full of interest, I must not expect much in the principal letter, I
suppose?"

On glancing at the letter as he drew it from the envelope, his eyes
fell upon the words, "Mabel is sure to ask you to be one of the
bridesmaids." He breathlessly unfolded the letter, and hurried through
the gossip at the commencement and then read Fanny Fenton's vivid and
lively account of her brother's interview with Mr. Wilton, and Mabel's
bold admission of her love for his hated rival. With white face, and
blue lips, and cold beads of perspiration upon his clammy brow, he
slowly read the letter fatal through a second time. "It is; it must be
impossible!" he frantically exclaimed in his new-born agony. "What but
the hope, the mad hope of yet winning her, has kept me year by year
working, working, working, striving to prepare for wrestling with the
world for what it has denied my birth--wealth and honor! No, no! I
could not survive the conviction that I had lost her! I must! I will
win her!" and the excited youth rose, and raced the confined limits of
his room like a caged tiger. Suddenly stopping, and glancing at the
open letter he had dashed upon the table, he read it through again; and
then, raising his hand, he muttered some hurried words as of prayer or
imprecation. Was it supplication to the Father of Mercy for strength
to bear his cruel disappointment; or was it the registry of a vow for
revenge!




CHAPTER IV.

SQUIRE WILTON and Mabel sat at the breakfast table, a week after the
exciting scene in the library. Little was said during the meal; for
both were busy with their thoughts, and in no mood for conversation.
On the occasion of Mabel's frank and impetuous avowal of her love for
Harry Fenton, Mr. Wilton had sternly ordered Harry to leave the house,
and sent Mabel to her room; but since then the subject had not been
mentioned, though Mabel lived in hourly dread of a severe reprimand
for her ingenious candour. Several times since, Mr. Wilton had worked
himself up to the point of a stormy scene; but, each time he essayed
to speak, the earnest reproachful eyes of her dead mother appeared
to gaze sadly at him from under Mabel's silken lashes; and he turned
away, murmuring, "No, no, not now! She is too much the image of my
lost darling for me to speak harshly to her! I fear, too, she loves
that young upstart too much for anything short of compulsion to have
any effect upon her; and heaven forbid, my Emelie, my dear, lost wife,
that I should ever bring tears of unhappiness into the eyes of one,
who inherits all your beauty and worth!" and so the subject has been
allowed to drop.

The squire sat at the table reading the last issue of the Gazette a
dark frown upon his wrinkled and venerable face. He had expected to be
appointed sheriff of the county; but he had just read in the government
organ he held in his hand, that the appointment had a week before been
conferred upon a wealthy retired manufacturer, who lived in Dunmow. "A
pretty pass things are coming to now!" he muttered. "What with Tory
inertness and Whig activity, a complete revolution is being worked! I
should not be surprised to see monarchy itself go next."

Mabel sat silent, too, her thoughts also busy, but upon neither Whigs
nor Tories, King nor constitution. Ever and anon she timidly raised her
beautiful eyes to her father's gloomy face, under the impression that
she and Harry formed the subject of his thoughts. "I wish papa would
speak, and have done with it," she thought. "Anything would be better
than living in hourly expectation of a scene! If papa insists upon my
not seeing Harry again, I suppose I'll have to obey him. But he need
not think that I will ever marry any one else; for I would die first!"

A servant here entered the room with the morning's letters.

"Here, Mabel, is one for you," said Mr. Wilton, in anything but a
gracious manner and handing the letter to his daughter, was soon buried
in the contents his own.

Mabel gazed with some curiosity at the address for a second or two,
not recognising the hand; but, gaining no clue to the writer from it,
she tore the letter open and glanced at the signature. "Fanny Fenton!"
she exclaimed, in no small surprise, her heart almost standing still
with excitement. "It's years and years since she wrote to me! O, I'm so
glad!"

Settling herself down to peruse her letter, but in such a position as
to hide her flushed face from her father's gaze, she slowly read it
through. The gushing little missive was a quaint girl-like maze of
congratulations upon Mabel having won the love of the best brother in
the whole world, eulogiums upon the superlatively good qualities of
that paragon of a brother, and protestations of unquenchable sisterly
love and devotion. But the most important item was an account of a
party her mamma was to give on the following Wednesday, and an ardently
expressed wish that Mabel could go to it. But in this the letter must
speak for itself. Fanny rattled on, "The invitations have been out for
a week; but Harry would'nt let me invite you. He said it would not be
honorable, as we know your papa would refuse to allow you to come. I
expect Harry would'nt raise that objection, if he thought there was
any probability of our seeing you here! But I would dearly like you to
come; for I haven't seen you since we were little things, hardly in our
teens; and I am dying with curiosity to see how you look! I am candid,
am I not! I do not invite you mind (Harry has forbidden me to!) but if
you can contrive to coax your papa to consent, you will be more welcome
than all the rest of the guests put together. If you succeed, send me
word at once. I will not tell Harry; O, won't we give him a surprise?"

The temptation to give Harry this suggested surprise took so great
a hold upon Mabel, that she determined at once, with her usual
impulsiveness, that, if coaxing could obtain for her the coveted
permission to go, she would most certainly attend the party; but a
glance at her father's sombre countenance caused her to regard her
prospect of success as a most slender one.

"Papa, I have an invitation for an evening party on next Wednesday. May
I accept it?" she asked in a low voice.

"Yes, yes? So that you don't bother me about it!" replied Mr. Wilton
irritably, without looking up. "Where is it?"

Mabel did not reply on the instant; and, without waiting for her
response, her father rose from the table, put his correspondence into
his pocket, and walked away to the library to answer some letters,
leaving her jubilant over the easily obtained consent.

"Papa said 'yes;' so that's settled!" she thought gleefully, not for
the moment recognizing the fact, that an assent given under such
circumstances could not fairly be taken as permission. "I must go at
once, and look at my dresses, and choose one, and then set Marjory to
get it ready," she said, springing up, and hurrying away to her room.
Before deciding the important matter of the dress, she wrote a note in
reply to Fanny's letter, accepting the invitation implied, and begging
her to say nothing about it, that they might give Harry the surprise
Fanny had suggested. The billet was despatched by a liveried servant
with orders to place it into Miss Fenton's own hands.

The time, to Mabel, seemed to move greviously slow; and Wednesday
appeared very long in coming. It did come at last, however, and was
ushered in by a shower. At breakfast time the rain came down in a
perfect deluge; and Mabel's spirits sank to Zero. "It always rains when
I set my heart upon going anywhere!" she thought peevishly.

"I really believe it would have been fine if I had not so wanted to
go!" She possessed as small a share of the golden virtue, patience, as
the impetuous Clara Fenton. Her father had not mentioned the party,
since she had obtained his questionable consent to go, and she had
not reminded him of it, lest, as she tried hard to persuade herself,
he should change his mind. In reality she knew the consent would not
have been given at all, had her father but waited to learn what party
it was; and she had not the moral courage to risk a refusal by placing
him in fair possession of the facts. "Papa said 'yes!' What more can I
want?" she argued with conscience; and conscience, who always gives in,
when it perceives a foregone conclusion, quietly yielded the point, and
let her have her own way.

"Dear me, Mabel, you are as troublesome and fidgetty as a spoilt child
this morning!" exclaimed her father, as she left the table for the
sixth time during breakfast, to go to the window, and watch for the
first appearance of a break in the clouds. "You have nowhere particular
to go to-day, I suppose. Do sit down and get on with your breakfast.
Your coffee is getting cold."

Mabel made an energetic feint of taking breakfast; and her father,
burried in the parliamentary report of the Times soon forgot her
impatience.

Half an hour after breakfast to Mabel's infinite relief, the sun
burst forth, and for about eight or ten minutes faithfully promised
to do duty for the day; but the clouds soon overcast it again; and
Mabel's face darkened in unison. Presently the sun shone out again,
and then again was eclipsed by the clouds; and so on all through that
tantalizing day. The weather was showery; and Mabel's spirits rose and
fell with the changes--one moment elated at the brightening prospect of
a clear-up, and the next cast down by the louring aspect of the heavy
rain-clouds. At last eight o'clock struck, the hour she had ordered
the coachman to draw up at the hall steps with the close carriage. Mr.
Wilton was in the library, his usual resort now, and busy reading.
Mabel paused a moment in the hall yearning to go and bid her father
good-bye, but the dread of his refusing to allow her to go withheld
her. The temptation to take advantage of his unintentional consent was
too powerful to be resisted without a greater effort of self-sacrifice
than she was just then equal to. She passed on and in a few minutes the
carriage was rattling away down the oak avenue.

Elmgrove Hall was in the midst of the excitement and bustle incidental
to a festive gathering. It was not a regular ball. Mrs. Fenton had a
partiality for small evening parties, as less stiff and pretentious;
and, although once a year--on the anniversary of her wedding day--she
cheerfully submitted to the fatigue and trouble accompanying so
ceremonious a gathering, her parties were usually of a more sociable
and enjoyable character. The old clock in the hall pointed to a quarter
to nine; yet, early as it was all the guests were assembled--at least
so Harry had just reported to his mother.

Fanny Fenton,--a deep flush upon her cheeks, and a more than usual
brightness in her eyes,--was moving about in a state of great
excitement. She was sorely disappointed at the absence of one, whom
she had been hoping against hope would be present; and her animation
was mainly attributable to an artificial attempt at gaiety. The
expectation, too, of meeting Mabel again in a few minutes and after so
long an absence, contributed also, to her restlessness.

"What is the matter sister mine?" whispered Harry as he passed. "You
look as consequential as if you had been married to-day, and we were
now engaged in celebrating that important event. Come! What is it?"

"Nothing!" replied Fanny smiling. "You will see presently."

"O, its nothing, is it; and I'm to see it presently!" laughed Harry.
"I'm really ambitious of----"

"See there's Nellie Brison, Harry! She must have only just come. Look,
talking to Clara on the couch by the fireplace!" interrupted Fanny;
and Harry hurried across the room to Nellie's side. That young lady,
who had been stealthily watching Harry ever since she entered the room
five minutes before, rose as he approached her--a glad smile in her
large grey eyes. She had long entertained a more than sisterly regard
for the heir of Elmgrove Hall, and had often, in her fairy-castle
building moments imagined herself its future mistress. Harry claimed
the first dance, which was very readily granted, and led her away to
the ball-room.

"Mabel is to be here exactly at nine; so I must keep free to receive
her," mused Fanny. "It will be a grand surprise to Harry!"

"May I have the pleasure of the first dance with you, Miss Fenton?"

Fanny caught hold of a table for support, and glanced hurriedly round.
"O, Mr. Beaumont, how you startled me! I had no idea you were coming!"

"No idea I was coming, Fanny!" said Mr. Beaumont in a pained tone.
"And here have I been flattering myself that you would be counting the
minutes till I arrived!"

"Did Harry invite you then, Arthur?" Fanny asked, in a low and
tremulous voice.

"Most certainly! Surely you do not suppose I would have intruded
without an invitation!" he replied--his pride touched by the question.

"It was cruel of Harry then to play with me like this!" Fanny exclaimed
passionately. "He said he knew it was no use to ask you as you could
not tear yourself away from Evelyn Southey; and all the while he had
written!"

Lieutenant Beaumont's gloomy visage brightened in a moment. "Ha! I
see how it is now, Fanny!" he exclaimed, joyfully. "That incorrigible
brother of yours has been planning a pleasant surprise for you. Let
us take a walk on the lawn. The weather has cleared up, and the moon
is shining brightly. O, by-the-way, I forgot, it will be too wet
under foot for you; but we can take that couch yonder--it is screened
from observation by that large vase of flowers--and talk over Harry's
nonsense, and the misunderstanding it was so nearly causing between us."

He tenderly drew her arm through his own and led her to the seat.

"It is really wrong of Harry to act like this, Arthur!" said Fanny, not
able to turn her thoughts from their momentary disagreement. "Many a
misunderstanding, that has never been explained away, has been caused
by less. But, Arthur, you will never doubt me again?"

"Nay, dearest, the doubting began on your side. But let this passing
cloud be a warning to both of us never to allow a third party, not even
a brother, to cast a shadow of suspicion upon the truth of either,"
replied Arthur Beaumont fervently.

"Harry has been teasing me about Evelyn Southey ever since he returned
home this time," said Fanny timidly.

"Well, darling," replied Arthur, tenderly, "although it is possible
that, had I never met you, I might have fallen in love with Evelyn,
for she is a dear, good girl, as well as a powerful one, yet there now
exists two beautiful reasons why you have no occasion to be jealous of
her--I love you too deeply for any earthly being to draw me away from
you; and Evelyn is engaged to our colonel, and in about seven weeks
will be Lady Cecil Wilmot."

"I would rather Sir Cecil Wilmot married her than you, Arthur!"
admitted Fanny, in a scarcely audible voice.

"I am proud, indeed, to hear you say so!" he replied, drawing her close
to him. "There is only one girl in the world can teach me to love, and
you are she!"

"You haven't seen Miss Wilton, of Fenwick Park, yet Arthur. Wait till
you meet her before you say that."

"Were she as lovely as Venus, as pure as Diana, and as good in every
particular as a select assortment of goodness, she could never wean me
from you, Fanny," he said laughing.

"O, what is the time, Arthur?" Fanny enquired abruptly, suddenly
recollecting Mabel's expected arrival.

"Upon the stroke of nine, I think," he answered, pulling out his watch.
"Yes; two minutes to the hour."

"Can I trust you with a secret, Arthur?"

"Try me!" he replied laconically.

"I have been plotting to serve Harry the same trick that he has just
served me. You know he loves Mabel Wilton--but you are not to mention
it, mind!--as fondly as you say you love me."

"Say!"

Fanny smiled with pleasure, but did not answer the doubt. "Well she is
to come at nine o'clock; and Harry doesn't know! I plotted to give him
a surprise."

"And he was before--hand with you; eh!"

Fanny laughed. "I must leave you now," she said, rising. "I want to
meet her at the steps, and take her up to my own room first, to avoid
her being announced," and without waiting to hear Mr. Beaumont's reply,
she tripped off.

The clock in the ball-room pointed to twenty minutes past time; and
Harry Fenton was standing in the recess of a bay window chatting with
Nellie Brison. He was the envy of more than one gentlemen present;
for Nellie shared with his sister Fanny the honor of being the most
beautiful in the room. "If I didn't know my peerless Mabel," thought
Harry, glancing admiringly upon the proud beauty before him, "I expect
this little witch would have carried my heart by storm! She's lovely
enough to turn the heads of half the fellows in Essex!"

"Do you understand the language of flowers, Mr. Fenton?" asked Nellie,
glanced coquettishly at her bouquet. "It is a pretty way of conversing,
isn't it?"

Before Harry could reply he was interrupted by:--"Allow me to introduce
Miss Wilton, of Fenwick Park, to you Nellie. You, Harry, have met this
young lady before I think," and looking round he beheld his sister
and Mabel at his side. For a moment he was completely confused by the
suddenness of their appearance.

"You look surprised, Harry! You evidently did not expect me!" said
Mabel, blushing.

Harry recovered his self-possession in a twinkling. "I need not say
how pleased I am to see you, Mabel," he replied, taking her hands in
his. "You know that better than I could tell you. But I will admit I
am almost as much surprised as delighted. Why didn't you let me know
you were coming, and I would have ridden over to the Park to meet
you.--This is some of your doing, my lady!" he continued, turning to
his sister.

"Doesn't your conscience whisper that it serves you right, sir!"
replied Fanny laughing.

Harry smiled. "We have been planning to give the other a pleasant
surprise, Fanny; and I think we have both succeeded!" he returned,
glancing gratefully down upon his sister's happy face.

At this moment a militia officer, a hopeless victim of Nellie's
fascinations, approached the group, and led his enchantress away; much
against her will, to take part in the next dance.

"Before I leave you to yourselves, Mabel, I must introduce you to a
friend of Harry's; for I expect he will have too much to talk about, to
spare a thought for anyone else," said Fanny.

Mr. Arthur Beaumont, who had been hovering nigh in accordance with
a preconcerted plot, in which he and Miss Fenton were the principal
conspirators, here caught Fanny's eye, and advanced.

"Lieutenant Beaumont, of His Majesty's tenth Hussars, and a most
particular friend of my sister's; Miss Wilton, of Fenwick Park!"
interrupted Harry with mock gravity, and a merry twinkle in his dark
eyes, mischievously taking the introduction out of Fanny's hands, and
mantling her fair face with a crimson glow by his officious allusion to
herself.

A few minutes playful badinage, and Mr. Beaumont led Fanny away; and
Mabel and Harry were alone together for the first time since childhood.
After a brief, embarrassed silence, Harry asked, "How did you contrive
to coax your papa to let you come darling? I could scarcely believe the
evidence of my senses, when I turned round, and found you at my side."

The question disturbed Mabel's slumbering conscience; and she said
evasively "Don't you think, Harry, we had better take a walk in the
garden! We shall have half the guests round me directly, expecting an
introduction."

Harry acquiesced in the propriety of escaping that infliction, if
possible; but, recollecting that the ground outside was damp, proposed
taking a seat in the conservatory. "I expect we shall be a nine-day's
wonder, papa and I, Harry, before we settle down again into the rank of
ordinary individuals," observed Mabel, as Harry led her out. They found
the conservatory deserted; and they sat there a full half hour talking
of many things--of the bright happy days of childhood when they were
constant companions, of the death of Mabel's mother, of Janet Grey and
Polly Seymour, and other of their child-day friends--neither breathing
a syllable of what was nearest the heart of each, their unquenchable
love for each other.

"Do you think me much changed, Harry?" asked Mabel after a brief sweet
pause in their conversation, in which they set her hands in his, and
thinking of the great joy of their re-union.

"I really can't say, sweetest! You are to me Mabel, the dream of my
life: nothing more nor less!" he replied with fond tenderness; and a
glow of pleasure suffused her radiant features at the tone--the key
note of feeling--in which he spoke.

"I saw you on the platform at Chelmsford; Harry; and I knew you again
in a moment," she said after another brief pause.

"Did you? I looked into every carriage, I thought, too, but did not see
you. You could scarcely imagine how disappointed I was; but I met Lucy
Vaughan a few minutes after the train moved off, and told me that she
had seen you."

"Papa has never said anything to me about my boldness that afternoon,
Harry; but I have been dreading a scolding ever since. I must have been
very excited at the time; or I could never have made the admission, I
am really ashamed of myself. Whatever can you think of me?"

Harry gave the most convincing proof of his good opinion--a kiss, from
which Mabel shrank timidly. "We have loved each other so long, Mab,
that it is different in our case; but, if we had been comparatively
strangers, your frank avowal would certainly have looked very
unmaidenly. But I can recollect our plighting our troth long ago, when
even I was barely a dozen years old."

"How is it you never wrote to me, Harry--not even one letter?" Mabel
asked presently.

"Never wrote!" he exclaimed in surprise.

"No; not even one little note all those long years!"

Harry considered a moment or two before replying. "I wrote a long
letter to you the day after reaching school--I recollect it quite
well--but if it never reached you, it must have gone astray. Of course,
boy-like, receiving no answer to a letter, which I now know you never
received, I sullenly concluded that you had forgotten me," he replied,
feeling it impossible to let her into the secret of the returned
letters.

"Oh, Harry, and you doubted me!" she exclaimed, tears starting into her
beautiful eyes. "Misunderstandings like this undo more hearts than the
world knows of!"

"How did you mange to get your papa's consent to come here, Mab?" he
asked, feeling it necessary to change the subject, lest she should
discover the extent of her father's opposition to his writing to her.
"I thought that after what passed the other afternoon, this would have
been the last place he would have permitted you to visit."

Mabel blushed painfully in self-conscious shame at the recollection of
her discreditable sharp-practice in obtaining the consent. "I told papa
I had an invitation to a party, and asked him if I might accept it; and
he said yes, without waiting to learn whose party it was," she candidly
admitted. "I was wrong to take that as a sufficient permission; but,
O, Harry, the temptation to do so was too strong! I felt certain papa
would refuse, if he knew where I was going."

Harry hardly knew how to reply. He naturally felt flattered and
gratified that such a temptation should be so strong; yet he could not
but feel that she had acted as no dutiful daughter should have done.
She spared him the necessity of making any remark upon her conduct by
exclaiming, "It must be nearly ten o'clock, Harry. I will leave at ten;
for I must get back by eleven. As my permission is so questionable, I
must return before papa retires to bed."

Harry found by his watch that it was a few minutes past ten; and he
proposed riding back with her. "No, no, Harry, not this time!" she
replied anxiously. "I live in hope of seeing you and papa reconciled
yet; but it would be wiser for you not to meet him to-night, and I in
the very act of being wilfully disobedient; for coming without papa's
knowing where I am, even though he did say yes, is wilful disobedience
isn't it?"

Harry was bound to admit that it was, and that for the present he had
better relinquish the idea of meeting Mr. Wilton.

"I shall not return to the ball-room, Harry; so you must bid your mamma
and Fanny good-bye for me; and explain why I have to return home so
early. Don't tell them about my artful scheming though, Harry!" she
continued in a tone as low as if she was herself ashamed to hear it, "I
wouldn't have them know it for the world!"

Harry readily promised to obey to the letter all commands she might lay
upon him, and to be especially discreet in the matter of the invitation.

"I shall step into the carriage just as I am, Harry. I left my wraps in
it; and I can do very well without attendance."

In five minutes Mabel was comfortably ensconced in her fur wrappers; and
Harry, holding the carriage door in his hand, bidding her good-bye.

"And when may I hope to see you again, sweet Mabel? You forbid me to
approach the house; but you surely will not be so cruel as to refuse to
see me again until we tempt you over by another party. Recollect, my
leave of absence will be up in a week!"

"Don't, Harry! don't! I have acted very wrong indeed; and you must
not jest upon it!" Mabel exclaimed hurriedly. "I know your leave must
soon expire now. I feed my black swan in the lake in the park every
afternoon at three o'clock. Adieu."

The coachman slacked his reins; and the horses sprang away at a brisk
trot; and Harry returned to the ball-room, a triumphant smile upon his
handsome features.

On reaching the Park, Mabel found that her father had not yet retired;
and she met him face to face when crossing the hall from the carriage.

"Ha! What! Dressed!" he said in astonishment.

Mabel determined to confess her fault at once. "I have been to a party
at Elmgrove Hall," she faltered.

Mr. Wilton started, as if stung to the quick. "What? And after my
forbidding you to hold any intercourse with that family," he exclaimed.

Mabel burst into tears; and amidst bitter sobs she told the tale of her
temptation, and its victory; and she humbly and passionately pleaded
for forgiveness. Her father stood silent for some seconds, regarding
her with an hard and incredulous stare, as though unable to comprehend
her meaning; and then he said in a low but deliberate voice, in which
her sensitive ear detected a vibration of acute pain. "And you have
been guilty of this paltry deception--of conduct unworthy of a Wilton,
and a gentlewoman? Shame, upon you! Shame upon you!" and thrusting her
aside, he passed on towards his room, leaving her standing in the hall,
bathed in a flood of repentant tears.

As there she stood in her glitter of lace and jewels, the warm tears
chasing each other down her beauteous face, and her little, delicate
hands clasped in agony upon her heaving breast she would have made a
sublime study for a painter-subject, "A BROKEN AND CONTRITE HEART."




CHAPTER V.

MR. TALFORD sat in his chambers before his escritoir, an open brief
in his hand. He looked impatient and anxious and kept ever and anon
glancing up at the little French clock upon the mantle-piece. It was
the morning after his giving Frank Seymour Polly's letter; and his
gifted pupil had not yet arrived at the chambers, although it was
considerably past his ordinary time for coming. "Whatever can make Mr.
Seymour so late," the barrister exclaimed rising from his chair as the
clock struck eleven. "He is generally punctuality itself: something
very unusual must have occurred to detain him a whole hour." Seizing
a pen, he hurriedly scrawled down some directions upon a sheet of
foolscap; and enclosing it in an envelope and addressing it, he placed
the letter under the inkstand upon his pupil's desk in such a position
that it could not fail to catch his eye on his taking his accustomed
seat. "Burnfield comes on next; and that burglary case will be over
by lunch time; so I can wait no longer," and, snatching up his hat he
hurried out and hailed a passing cab, and drove off to the Old Bailey,
where he had a prisoner to defend from a serious criminal charge.

Mr. Talford was barely out of sight, when his pupil, pale and haggard,
staggered through the door; and sank into his chair without removing
his hat. He wore a wild and startled look and his heavy eyes appeared
as if they had not been closed in sleep for many hours, as, indeed,
they had not. He moved the inkstand back from where Mr. Talford had
placed it, as if preparing to write; and, taking up the letter that had
been placed under it, he mechanically tore it open, and ran his eyes
through the hurried lines without gathering one idea of the contents.
Then, unconsciously dropping it, he rose, and began pacing the room in
quick uncertain steps. After a few minutes he resumed his seat; acting
all through like a man walking in sleep. He then sat motionless for a
full hour, staring vacantly through the window upon the dreary waste of
brickwork beyond--his whole mind focussed upon agonizing thought--then
he slowly rose, a look of fierce resolve and unutterable hate, in his
now brightening eyes; and, muttering between his set teeth, "He shall
not live to marry her! No, by heaven, he shall not!" he turned to leave
the room.

"Ha! Good morning, Mr. Seymour. Will you give this to governor," said
an attorney's clerk, meeting him at the door. Frank gazed upon the
youth without seeing him, and passed out. In going down the steps he
stumbled and nearly fell.

"By George, this young swell, that everybody talks about, been and got
on the spree!" exclaimed the attorney's clerk, narrowly watching Frank
stagger down the pavement. "It's no good to run after him and give him
these papers; he's not in a fit state to be trusted with 'em," and,
pulling the door too after him he hurried back to Mr Grundy's office
with the report that "Mr. Talford was out, and Mr. Seymour as tight as
a bluebottle."

At four o'clock the barrister re-entered his chambers. In crossing the
room to his seat he trod upon the letter of instructions he had left
for his pupil, and which Frank had dropped. Glancing at his pupil's
desk he found, to his great vexation that the instructions had not been
carried out. "Humph! This is excessively annoying! I shall have to stay
now and do it myself. And," he continued, stretching himself wearily,
"I am very tired!"

Shaking off, as well as he could, the sensation of extreme fatigue,
he applied himself to the task; and, in a few minutes his quill was
dashing away with a harsh and monotonous scratch.

He had not been engaged writing more than about ten minutes when he was
disturbed by a rap at the door, which he answered with an impatient
"Come in;" and in shuffled Grundy's clerk.

"Well Mr. Telfe!" the barrister exclaimed in anything but a gracious
tone.

"Mr Grundy's compliments, sir! And will you be pleased to accept this
brief, sir, in Grattan v. Hornby? You're to be for the defendant,
sir," stammered the clerk, feeling surprisingly small in the presence
of the great barrister.

Mr. Talford was in so ill-humored a mood, that he tossed the papers
upon a side-table with a laconic, "Very well, Mr. Telfe; we will see
about it!"

"I called this morning before dinner, sir; but your young gentleman was
on the a-the-a on the spree, sir; so I did'nt like to leave the papers,
sir," explained the clerk.

"On the spree!" exclaimed Mr. Talford, rising, and confronting the
youth. "On the spree? Do I understand you to----"

"Mean drunk! sir!" said the clerk filling up the unfinished sentence.
"Yes, sir. He was blind drunk. He could'nt walk straight; and as near
as a toucher he fell down the steps."

"It is false! It is impossible!" ejaculated the barrister in
ill-concealed anger.

"Well, sir, I offered him that brief; and he looked at me as if he was
looking into the middle of next week; and then he went away without
saying a word," returned the clerk backing to the door.

"Mr. Seymour may have been ill; indeed, he works so hard that I am
surprised he did not suffer for it earlier. You were mistaken Mr.
Telfe, grossly mistaken, depend upon it. Did you mention this to
anyone?"

"No sir!" answered the clerk promptly.

"It is well for you, Mr. Telfe, that you have not; for the gross
calumny would have got you into trouble. Here is a trifle to spend on
your next holiday," the barrister continued, dropping a sovereign into
Mr. Telfe's ready hand. "Be careful that you never mention your silly
suspicion to anyone."

"Don't fear me, sir. I'll be as dumb as a perrywinkle!" saying which
Mr. Telfe sidled from the room. "I'm duced sorry I told old Grundy
now!" he thought, as he hurried along back. "There be the dickens to
pay, if Talford hears of it again! But young Seymour was as drunk as a
fiddler; say what they like about it! Anyway, Talford isn't a bad sort
to give me a sov; and mother wants a new shawl, her's is getting rather
shabby now, so I'll pop in on my way back and give her all of it but a
half crown, that'll be enough to take me to the theatre." Acting upon
which idea thought the good natured clerk walked bristly on that he
might make time to call on his mother with the welcome coin.

Mr. Talford sat in deep thought a few minutes after Mr. Telfe left
the chambers. "It is strange that he did not leave a note to say that
he was ill when he was here this morning," he said returning to his
seat. "Drunk, what an absurd idea! The poor boy has worked until he
has fairly broken down under it, I expect. I will call at his lodgings
in the morning. In the meanwhile I must finish this," and the generous
barrister continued the writing he had left for his unhappy pupil. It
was late, very late yet a light was burning in Polly Seymour's chamber;
and the young girl sat in an easy chair, deep buried in thought. A
great change had the last two days' of heartache made in her fair young
face. She had let her secret grief,


"Like a worm in the bud, prey on her damask cheek."


till its rosy color was gone, and she now looked pale and unhappy. Her
room was on the ground floor, and had a glass door opening into the
back garden. Suddenly she was disturbed from her painful, reverie by a
low tap on the panes of the glass door. At another time she would have
been terrified at such an occurrence at so late an hour; but now she
was too much absorbed in the sense of her sorrow to pay much heed to
surrounding circumstances; and she rose mechanically, and opened the
door. "What, Frank!" she exclaimed, thoroughly roused by the entrance
of her brother, "What Frank! You home and at this late hour!"

Frank Seymour did not speak; but closing the door, he drew a chair up
to the table, and motioned her to resume her seat.

"What has happened that you come home so late, Frank?" Polly asked
anxiously. "And you look quite ill too!"

Frank made a feeble attempt to smile. "I am well enough, sis; do not
trouble your little head about me. But in case a change of air would do
me good I am going into the country for a few days."

"I am glad you are, Frank; for you do need a change, and I am sure it
will do you good. Mr. Talford said the other day that you work too
hard."

"Did he? Well, I am going to rest for a few days now Polly."

"You really do look very ill, Frank!" she said earnestly.

He gazed fixedly at her for a moment without replying and he was on
the point of making some remark about her own altered appearance when
his thought turned off at a tangent, and, leaning his head upon his
hand he sat for a few minutes motionless. Polly regarding him with an
enquiring, solicitous gaze.

"O, Frank, I sent you a letter by mistake yesterday?" she suddenly
exclaimed, the color rushing into her face at the mention of it. "Did
you bring it back for me?"

"A letter by mistake," he repeated in a dreamy absent tone.

"Yes, Frank, one from Fanny Fenton."

"About,--about?--No, I--I--I think I lost it?" he answered in some
confusion.

"Lost it! No! I put it into the fire I think. But I cannot stop to talk
now," he said, anxious to escape conversation, that he might be alone
with his own gloomy thoughts. "I want you to write to Mr. Talford in
the morning and tell him I have gone into the country for a change of
air. I would write myself but I shall be away in the morning before
anyone is about."

"But where shall I say you are going to?"

"I don't know yet, my darling sister most probable down in Derby
somewhere," he said, rising and tenderly kissing her. "But what keeps
you up so late?" he asked, suddenly recollecting the time, but without
waiting for reply he continued, "don't forget to write to Mr. Talford
in the morning. Good night. I shall be away before you are up in the
morning," and, lighting a spare candle that stood upon the table, he
went on to his own room.

The old clock in the next room here struck "One!" with expressive
solemnity and Polly prepared for bed, and was soon dodging in a
troubled sleep.

Frank entered his bedroom, but with no thought of sleep he opened his
desk, and took out a small sum of money he had saved; and then he knelt
before a large trunk, which was filled with boyish treasures and other
miscellaneous lumber. After a few minutes careful search among a number
of well-thumbed schoolbooks, at the bottom of it he found a handsome
pistol, which had lain undisturbed in that trunk for years.

A grim smile flitted over his pale features, as he toyed with the
deadly little weapon. "It was a duel then; it will be no duel now. Yet
I wish that it could be, and that his bullet could find its way to my
heart; but it would be madness to challenge him; for not only would he
refuse to fight; but he would learn the cause of my years of hate; and
that secret shall die with me. No one shall know of my love now. But
for him I would some day have told her; but it is too late now? Too
late?"

He put his pistol into his breast-pocket, and threw himself upon the
bed to pass away the hours before dawn; but there was no sleep for him;
and his too wakeful ear noted each striking of the clock, as he lay
tossing about in a maze of painful thought.

Polly Seymour woke late on the following morning; and when she entered
the breakfast-room she found her aunt awaiting her.

"Well, my dear, you have overslept yourself?" was the kindly, old
lady's greeting, as her niece took her seat at the breakfast table.
"You do not look well again this morning; your eyes are quite heavy
looking. Didn't you sleep well last night?"

"Pretty well aunt, thank you!" replied Polly, trying hard to smile and
look cheerful. But the brave attempt was a hopeless failure.

"I do not know what to think of you lately, my dear. You are getting
quite thin and pale; and to see a smile in your eyes now is as great
and as rarity as an angels visit. I think I had better see Dr. Fulton
about you; for I am beginning to feel very anxious."

Polly rose from her seat, and throwing her arms round her aunt's neck
she burst into a flood of hysterical tears. "Don't trouble about me,
aunt! I have a cold or something, that's all! There is nothing the
matter with me that medicine can cure!"

She spoke truly, poor girl--more truly, perhaps, than she thought. Hers
was a sickness of the heart that physic could not reach. Time is the
only cure for such an ailment as her's and in some natures even time
itself is powerless to heal.




CHAPTER VI.

MABEL'S anxiety to attend to the comfort of her black swans must have
been greater than usual; for she was administering to their wants a
full half-hour before her accustomed time. The strangers had succeeded
in establishing a footing in the lake, and were "in friendly relations"
with the natives; yet several skirmishes took place between them during
the meal, as indeed was generally the case, but Mabel paid little heed
to their ungenerous squabbles, being preoccupied and anxious.

Directly she had finished feeding her birds, she began pacing slowly up
and down upon the bank of the tiny sheet of water, a strange mingling
in her heart of feelings, happy and sad. "He loves me! I know that he
loves me now!" being the thought that one moment would light up her
features with a gratified and joyous smile; and, "Papa! O, how I have
hurt and offended him by my wicked scheming! I can never be happy again
till he forgives me!" the one that the next would drive that smile
away, and leave a sad, wistful expression in its place. She had paced
the bank for nearly twenty minutes, her little head a perfect maze of
troubled thought, and her heart a very chaos of opposite emotions; and
she was growing very impatient, although it still wanted some minutes
of three o'clock. "Perhaps he misunderstood me; or he might think
that----"

"A penny for your thoughts!"

She turned hastily round, and exclaimed joyfully, "O, Harry, I thought
you were never coming. But I am so glad! Which way did you come? I have
been watching for you to come through the lodge gate."

"I have just ridden over from Dunmow," he replied, taking her little
hands in his, and gazing tenderly down into her drooping eyes; "and I
left my horse hitched to a tree yonder, and stole up behind you, to
give you a surprise."

They strolled on to the river; and the fair girl in her happy
excitement for the moment forgot her father's displeasure, and was
all life and vivacity. She gave Harry a history of her black swans;
told him a score of her plans for the future; questioned him upon his;
blushed and hurriedly changed the subject at his impassioned answer;
made endless enquires about Fanny, and her friend Lieutenant Beaumont;
and how he had, himself, spent the years since his school-days--in a
word, the young lady did talking enough for both, in her sweet and
musical voice. Harry, enraptured beyond all expression, listening the
while in reverent attention, drinking in her witching beauty with
greedy eyes, and feeling proud and happy in the conviction that in the
heart of the lovely and gentle girl at his side he was enshrined, her
earthly all-in-all. They walked along the river, chatting as they went,
till the lengthening shadows and the increasing chilliness of the air
warned them that happy moments are the briefest, and that they must
part.

"May I not walk with you to the lawn, Mab?" he asked, as Mabel held out
her hand to bid him good-bye, they having returned on her way homeward
as far as the lake.

"No, Harry! No! Not to-day! Oh, you don't know how I have offended
papa by going to the Hall yesterday evening! When I told him of my
deception, instead of scolding me a little and forgiving me, as I
expected, he was so overcome by shame that I could be capable of such
meanness, that he could hardly speak. His reproaches stung more than I
can tell you; for I knew I deserved them. Papa did not speak to me at
breakfast; and I have not seen him since."

Mabel was so affected by the recollection of her disgrace that tears
started to her violet eyes; and the ungenerous youth thought as he
gazed with admiration into their dewy light, that grief became her
wondrous well. He did not tell her so, however, but expressed a
hope that Mr. Wilton would soon relent, and grant the fair penitent
absolution.

"You do not know what it is to be so wicked," she said artlessly, "I am
really ashamed of myself; but it is ten times worse to know that papa
is ashamed of me! I do not believe he would do a dishonourable action
to save his life. But, good-bye, Harry! O, look who is that?"

"Where, darling where? I see no one!" he replied, glancing in the
direction he was looking.

"I saw a man pass down the bank; there by the bridge just this moment.
He was watching us, and he walked on directly I noticed him."

The man whoever he might be, was now out of sight; and Harry suggested
that he was probably some artist sketching; and then dismissing the
subject, he proposed that she should meet him by the lake again at the
same time on the morrow.

"No, no, Harry, I should like to; but it would not be right, when I
know papa would object to it," she answered ingenuously. "I am very
unhappy at having offended papa; and I must be careful not to do so
again!"

"Here now my leave is so nearly up," he expostulated earnestly. "Surely
you will not refuse to see me just this once! It may be twelve long
months or more before we meet again."

The temptation was too strong for her again, and she yielded. "Very
well, Harry, I will see you to-morrow; but you must not ask me to
again; for I am ashamed of these clandestine meetings," she returned;
and, without waiting for him to speak, she tripped away homeward.
Harry followed her with his eyes till she passed through a wicket
into the shrubbery, and then walked across to his horse. Mounting,
he rode slowly towards home, pondering upon Squire Wilton's aversion
to himself and family, and the possibility of overcoming it. A short
distance past the lodge gate he saw a young man on foot, "He's one of
the game-keeper's lazy, pilfering vagabonds, I expect. He is pale enough
for a genius," he thought catching a glimpse of the young man's pallid
features from under his full-brimmed hat.

The moment he had passed, the stranger whom he had taken for a painter,
drew a pistol from his breast pocket and levelled it with deadly
precision at the horseman's head; but, muttering, "No, no, I cannot,
twice to-day I would have shot him down; but I have not the nerve to do
it. I cannot forget his saving my life years ago, though better for us
both now, had he left me to my fate! But to see her with him--oh, it
drives me frantic!" He replaced the weapon in his pocket, and turning
down a lane that left the road hard by, he soon disappeared, while
Harry rode leisurely on, unconscious of the great danger he had so
narrowly escaped.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Yes, Hal. Except for the extravagant value he sets upon his lineage,
I respect Squire Wilton very much; and I would willingly be on better
terms with him. Still, I am sorry that you have set your heart in that
quarter; for I know what difficulties you may expect."

"Aren't you coming, Harry? We are all ready and waiting!" cried Clara
from the half-open door, at which she stood, whip in hand, habited for
her ride.

"We will talk this matter over another time, my boy," said Mr. Fenton.
"The girls are ready; so you had better be off."

The ride was a most pleasant one. The moon was near the full; and the
air was chilly, and bracing which made it the more enjoyable. Fanny
and Clara led the way through the park; chatting as they rode in true
girlish style about a multitude of important matters--fashions, balls,
weddings (Harry's taking its place among half a dozen others), past and
to come--Fanny made no allusion to her own prospects, though, picnics,
skating parties, etc. etc, ad. lib. Nellie and Harry followed; and
now that his suspicions were aroused, Harry noticed by many pardonable
little feminine hints, that he had already won the lady's heart, which
he plainly saw was his for the asking. He was very much grieved at the
discovery; and heartily wished he had made it earlier, that he might
have been more guarded in his attentions. "Ah, well," he thought,
"There's one consolation--she's not the sort of girl to break her heart
over a disappointment! I daresay before I get leave again she will be
Mrs. Bradlaw. As least I hope so."

At the Park gate Clara proposed that they should ride on as far as the
brow of the hill opposite along the Dunmow road; and she and Fanny
waited till Harry and his companion rode up. Clara's proposal was so
warmly seconded by Nellie, that Harry gave way; and they passed out
on to the high road. They found the ride so delightful, that they did
not wheel about to return until they had ridden several miles; and
it was nearly twelve o'clock before they reached the Hall again, and
dismounted.

Profiting by their experience of the day before, the swans collected by
the bank of their lake a half hour earlier than usual; but Mabel was
ready for them, and Harry with her. Someone else was close by also,
concealed in a clump of alders. The feeding of the birds was found to
be exceptionally interesting; and Harry vastly amused Mabel by relating
the game-keeper's humorous description of "Australy in Botany Bay,"
where her swans came from. When they had finished feeding the birds,
they rambled on to the river, wrapt in all the happy realization of
the rosy bright hued present--unconscious and heedless of the gloomy
future that loomed before them like a dark, mysterious, undiscovered
land. Reaching the trunk of a tree, that had been blown down by a
recent storm, Mabel seated herself upon it. "I think that is the finest
prospect from the park, Harry!" she observed, pointing to a long reach
of the river that stretched away to the left, and lay the bright floor
of a wood-fringed vista opening to a view of the country miles away.
"This is one of my favourite nooks; and it has been the scene of many a
sketch by those bug-bears of Halloran's--the painters."

"Yes," replied Harry, throwing himself down upon the sward at her feet.
"They appreciate Nature more than the pictures in that toy shop at
Dunmow, all one for your game-keeper's prejudice. See, there's one now
coming this way."

"That's the gentleman I saw in the park yesterday afternoon, Harry.
Don't you remember that hat? It almost hides his face. See, he has gone
behind that oak. One would almost fancy he was afraid of being seen."

Some other subject here diverted their attention; and the stranger was
soon forgotten.

"But, Mabel," said Harry, abruptly changing the topic of conversation
from a discussion of the relative merits of English and French poets to
a subject of closer and dearer interest to them both. "If your papa's
aversion to me should continue--and it may, you know, as long as he
lives--what are we to do? Will you marry me as soon as you are legally
of age? I do not like the idea of waiting ten or twenty years for you:
and I hope your papa may live even longer than that."

Mabel looked bewitching enough there as she sat, her beauteous face
suffused with blushes, to excuse any lover for being in a hurry to
secure her as his own all and entirely. "Time enough for us to talk
about marrying by-and-by, Harry!" she replied demurely. "Let us be
satisfied with the present happiness of knowing that we love each
other! I will not promise to marry you, till papa gives his consent:
but, will promise that papa's opposition shall never drive me to marry
anybody else. If papa went so far as to choose a husband for me, and to
give me the alternative of marrying him, or being disowned and turned
out of doors, I--I--I would never marry anyone else but you!"

A few minutes silence followed this spirited avowal, each gazing upon
the ripples on the river, and musing. Presently Harry looked up. "I
have been puzzling how I could ingratiate myself with your papa, Mab.
If robbers would only oblige me by attacking him, that I might appear
on the scene just in the nick of time, to save his life; or if you
should fall into the river, and I draw you out, I------"

"Shall I tumble in here, Harry, off this bank? That would give you
an excellent opportunity of distinguishing yourself, and playing
the hero!" she interrupted archly. "Papa could hardly resist such a
disinterested act of bravery."

"Now, you are laughing at me!" he replied, laughing also. "I am really
serious. If I could only rescue you from a fire, or do some other
desperate act, that would lay your papa under an eternal obligation to
me, his consent would follow as a matter of course."

"We must! O, look, there is papa riding home down the avenue now. He
has returned from his ride earlier than I expected. And see! Who is
that gentleman riding through the park on a grey horse just like yours?
I saw him at your party on Wednesday evening."

"Captain Bradlaw, of the Essex Militia. Must you hurry away so soon?"

"Yes, Harry! Papa may enquire for me; and I do not wish to vex him
again," and giving Harry more messages for Fanny than he could fairly
be expected to remember, Mabel rose to depart.

"May I hope to----"

"See me here to-morrow?" she interrupted hurriedly. "No, Harry! I
only came to-day on condition that you did not ask me again, if you
remember. Not again till we can meet honorably with papa's approval.
Good-bye!" and, recollecting how little power she possessed to resist
the temptation of meeting him, she hurried away; and after watching her
retreating figure for a few minutes, Harry returned to his horse, which
was waiting for him with the passive indifference of an old campaigner.
"Come, Nabob, we've to trot away to Redgate's and back before dinner;
so you will have to bestir yourself!" and, vaulting lightly into the
saddle, he was soon out of sight among the trees; and in a few minutes
the clatter of his horse's hoofs upon the gravel died away in the
distance. He overtook Captain Bradlaw before that gentleman reached the
boundary of the park; and finding that he had no definite destination,
but was merely riding to exercise his horse, a colt only recently
broken in, Harry persuaded him to ride with him as far as Redgate's, a
farm about half way to Dunmow; and, putting their horses into a hand
gallop, they rattled on at the rate of sixteen miles an hour.

As Harry disappeared among the trees, a gentleman emerged from the
concealment of the clump of alders close by to where the lovers had
been conversing; and, staggering to the tree Mabel had risen from,
he fell rather than sat upon it. "No thought of me in her heart!" he
murmured. "If she cannot marry him, she will marry none! Oh, God, what
have I done that this prize should be denied to me? or he, that the
treasure should be his? He cannot idolize her as I do--I, who would
shield her from all harm, from every ill, ay, even with my life! To be
loved by her, as he is, I would forfeit, I would barter my soul! As
he is? As he is? He, cut from my path, and a year or two passed by,
she might then bestow upon me the inestimable treasure of her love! It
must be! It shall! Oh, foul temptation, I yield! I yield! I will win
her though to do so I must wade through his blood! I will wait for him
on the road as he returns. He shall see her no more!" Slowly rising,
he walked back toward the village at which he lodged, and which lay
in the direction of Elmgrove. He had not proceeded more than half a
mile, when he halted, and sat down upon a bank by a hedge close to a
tall, densely-loafed shrub. A grim smile for a moment played upon his
white face like a ghastly lantern-glare upon a tombstone. "This is a
deserted, lonely spot. I will rest me here till--till----" A nervous
twitching of his mouth, and a perceptible shudder of his frame checked
his words; and, throwing himself at full length upon the bank, he
waited, in an agony of contending emotions, the return of his intended
victim.

On their way back from Redgate's farm Harry and Captain Bradlaw
overtook two other gentlemen, mutual friends of theirs', and who
had been guests at Elmgrove Hall on the previous Wednesday evening.
After the customary salutations had been exchanged, they rode merrily
on laughing and chatting, giving and taking pointed and merciless
banter with infinite good humor. Presently Bentree, a young surgeon
from Chelmsford, turned the conversation upon a lady they were all
acquainted with, and with whom Captain Bradlaw was known to be
desperately in love. "I'll admit Nellie Brison is a gem, Bradlaw,--a
diamond of the first water--but it's no use for you to think of getting
her; for you have no chance against Fenton. He has the inside running,
as they say on the turf. No, Nellie is a girl of discrimination, and
values the little finger of one genuine cavalry officer, more than
whole corpse of militia men; so you had better give up that idea with
the best grace you can."

Captain Bradlaw made no retort to the provoking raillery; for he knew
by experience that he had no chance against Bentree's quizzing, and
would be sure to be worsted in a trial of wit.

"You're on the wrong trail here, Bentree!" exclaimed Harry, laughing.
"Either of you may have her and welcome for me, if you can win her."

"Yes, if we can win her," returned Bentree, shrugging his shoulders.
"You are generous, Harry, knowing that you can hold your own in that
quarter against all comers!"

"I believe Fenton is jealous of Bradlaw, Bentree!" asserted the fourth
horseman.

"I, jealous! Not a bit of it, Chalmers. Bradlaw may win her, and marry
her too, for anything I care!" declared Harry. "But," he continued,
absently--his thoughts wandering away to another lady, "Heaven help the
man I should be jealous of! If I loved a girl, and any man came between
us, I would shoot him down like a dog!"

"Then the gods forbid that the fair Nellie should find a soft place in
my heart!" said Bentree in mock earnestness.

Harry laughed; and Captain Bradlaw, who did not like the drift of
the conversation, tried to change its current by offering odds on
the favorite for the forthcoming local races. He succeeded; and they
entered into a serious discussion upon races, fox-hunts, and other
kindred subjects, which lasted till they reached the spot, where the
path crossing Fenwick Park left the high road.

"I expect you fellows keep to the road," said Harry reining in his
horse. "Bradlaw and I take the cut through the park. It is the shortest
way for us."

"It will not do for us to allow the rivals to ride through the park
together alone!" declared Bentree, turning to Chalmers. "Or we shall
hear of a duel in the morning, and perhaps have to go and sit upon
one of the bodies, and dispense coroner's quest law!" and, turning to
Bradlaw, he continued, impressively, "You had better come with us. You
heard what Fenton said just now about the man who should step between
him and his ladylove! Recollect, you militia men have no chance at
swords or pistols with a regular cavalry officer. They say, too, these
hussahs are devils when their blood is up. You had better come with us!"

"Come on, Bradlaw; and don't stop listening to Bentree's foolery!"
cried Harry impatiently. It was seldom anything was able to ruffle the
even surface of his temper; but his recent conversation with his father
about Nellie, and his own subsequent discovery, had made him more
sensitive than usual; and, saying hurriedly, "Good night, gentlemen!
Good night!" he spurred on; and the captain followed.

"By Jove, you touched Fenton that time, Bentree!" exclaimed Chalmers,
laughing. "I never saw him so put out before."

"Upon my word, yes, Chalmers, I begin to think he's gone at the core
too! I was only jesting just to tease that soft-pated militia man;
but I feel convinced now that Fenton is another victim of Dan Cupid's
archery, and that that arrogant little cherub has fired his darts
through the loopholes of Miss Nellie's eyes! But come along."

Harry and his companion rode through the Park at a brisk trot. Nearing
the lodge gate, they reined in, and passed on at a walking pace; and
Harry reopened the conversation, by commencing a discussion upon horses.

"I say Fenton!" exclaimed Bradlaw, unceremoniously interrupted Harry,
as he was expatiating upon the good points of a roan colt he intended
handling during his next leave. "Give me your confidence, and I will
give you mine. It is a fact I love Nellie Brison. Do you? I am afraid
I shall have but a poor chance against you, if you do; for there is no
denying you are the better looking man of the two?"

"Am I?" laughed Harry; highly amused at the other's simplicity. "Well
if ladies judge of looks, as they usually do of character, then it
is you should have the better change. But you ask me whether I love
Nellie. Yes! as dearly as I do a dozen or so other young ladies--but no
dearer; so you may make your mind easy on that score."

Captain Bradlaw seized Harry's hand in a transport of delight not
unmixed with gratitude; and he shook it so violently that he startled
his horse, which sprang suddenly back and nearly dragged them both to
the ground. They rode on for the next few minutes in silence. As they
passed through the lodge gate Harry exclaimed. "Will you go home to
dinner with me, Bradlaw? There is a short cut down this lane to the
right; and we can reach the Hall in twenty minutes this way. I must
hurry: for my father is never pleased if a chair is empty!"

Captain Bradlaw excused himself, the fact being that he had been
invited to dine elsewhere, and where he expected to meet the adorable
Nellie; and Harry, saying, "Well, good-bye!" turned his horse down
the lane, and gave him his head; and old Nabob made the best of his
way back to his stables; while the lovelorn militiaman rode leisurely
on, speculating joyfully upon his improved prospect of winning his
inamorata.

The dusk was gathering fast but the young man, who had stationed
himself upon the bank by the roadside, to waylay Harry Fenton, still
held his ground, waiting his victim's appearance with untiring
patience. For two long hours he had kept unflagging watch, repeating to
himself, as though it were a charm to raise his purpose to the level
of action, "She may love me, when he is gone! She may love me, when he
is gone!" His dreary monody was at length interrupted, by the sound of
approaching hoofs. He was on his feet in a moment; and, stepping behind
the bush, from the side of which he had just risen, he drew his pistol.
He could hear the wild throbbing of his heart; and his hand trembled
painfully. "I hesitated three times when his life was in my power;
I will not hesitate again! She may love me, when he is gone!--that
thought, that hope, should nerve my arm, and still this sickening
flutter of my heart! She may love me, when he is gone!--and to win the
love would I cut my way through a score of lives!"

The horseman, mounted a spirited grey, appeared through the thickening
gloom, riding slowly towards the ambush his head bent forward as if in
deep reverie.

"He is absorbed in thought, dreaming of her--it's a dream he shall
never wake from! She may love me, when he is gone!--and he dies!" The
youth levelled the weapon in the direction of the advancing horseman,
ready to press the trigger on his coming within pistol-shot, his hand
shaking, and his heart beating more violently every moment; and his
trembling knees knocking helplessly together in his intense excitement.
"It cannot be a painful death! Shot through the heart, it must be
instantaneous! and--and--she may love me, when he is gone!"

The horseman approached within pistol range; and the weapon, which, as
though too heavy for the youth's arm, had fallen to too low an aim, was
raised to a level with the horseman's heart. Another moment, and--"No!
I cannot! I cannot! He once saved my life; I cannot take his now! No,
no! though she loves him, I cannot! But this weapon can at least free
me from my anguish! We cannot both live, and love her--one of us must
die! My hope, my life is wrecked! I have nothing to live for now--it
shall be I!" He drew back the pistol. A loud report; the horseman fell
heavily to the ground; and his frightened steed galloped madly away
along the road--the fatal trigger had been caught by a twig.

"My God, what have I done? What have I done?" he frantically cried,
springing from his hiding place and rushing across to the fallen man,
"Oh, heaven grant that I have not killed him!" He stopped to examine
the body, in doing which he dropped his weapon. "Yes! horror! Oh,
horror! He is dead! He is dead!--shot through the brain! Ha! What? A
beard? Then, thank heaven, it is not he! He has escaped my insensate
rage. But this poor wretched man, whom I have killed--I have killed? I?
Yes? I a murderer! an assassin! Oh, God, I shall go mad!"

For a few seconds he stood gazing down upon the blood-stained face of
the dead, as if paralized by the appalling catastrophe; then, springing
away, he fled wildly on, he knew not whither, leaving his unhappy
victim stiffening in the falling dew and the cold rays of the stars,
just glimmering into view.




CHAPTER VII.

ABOUT five o'clock on the afternoon of the second day after Mrs.
Fenton's evening party, Fanny was returning along from a visit to a
sick girl, the daughter of one of her father's tenants, whose farm
adjoined the Park of Elmgrove Hall. She was on foot and walking slowly
along the lane that led from the farmhouse to the lodge gate, wrapped
in a sweet girlish dream of the rosy future (Oh how bright and fair
it looked in the glowing light of Hope!) that she was to spend with
Arthur, and the commencement of which she had only the evening before
consented to date. Harry had gone on business to see a Mr. Redgate, a
farmer who lived beyond Fenwick Park, and, as she well knew, though she
had not mentioned the fact, to meet somebody else by the way, and she
smiled in proud joy as she thought how happy indeed she and her brother
were in winning the hearts of those so worthy of their love. As she
entered the lodge gate Lieutenant Beaumont rode up and, dismounting,
accosted her with, "Your thoughts must be pleasant ones, to judge from
the happy expressions of your face, Fanny!"

The young lady who had paid no attention to the sound of approaching
hoofs, so deeply had she been buried in thought, looked up at the
well-known voice and said artlessly, "Oh, Arthur! I was thinking of
you!"

"May thoughts of me ever cause you to look as happy!" he exclaimed
fervently. He held a nosegay of flowers in his hand, one he had
selected and arranged especially for her. She blushed and smiled in
pleasure at his words and observing the flowers said, "What a lovely
bouquet! are they for me?"

He handed them to her saying "Accept them, with my hope that your life
may never be less bright nor beautiful than they!"

"Oh, thank you, Arthur, both for these beautiful flowers and your kind
wish. And this note tied to the stems?"

"Is a pen-portrait of yourself. I hope you will think it a good one."

Her curiosity aroused, she eagerly undid the ribbon that tied it to the
stems, and read:--


TO FANNY--A FLORAL PORTRAIT.

This bright and many-hued bouquet
Doth all thy matchless charms portray--
The lily and the rose bespeak
Thy snowy brow and damask cheek;
Thy speaking eyes of Heaven's own hue
Are these twin violets of blue;
This scented musk all silly saith,
'My perfume is sweet Fanny's breath;'
While in this red carnation shine
Thy ruby lips--so sweetly mine;
But flowers can paint no more, in sooth,
Each dimpled smile, each pearly tooth,
And each luxuriant silken tress
Defy my flowerets to express
Half the fascinating grace
Of thy fairy form and face!
But, sweetest, 'mong my flowers I find
Some emblematic of thy mind--
The amaranth and myrtle prove
Thy inextinguishable love;
In this anemone I see
Thy innocence and purity;
This snowdrop, with its drooping bell,
Thy modesty and worth doth tell;
Th' cowslip, mignonette, monk's, hood,
And wild daisy--each have said:
"All the virtues of the good

Dwell in Fanny's heart and head."


"Oh, what pretty lines!" Fanny exclaimed, both pleased and flattered by
the elegant trifle, "But there is one mistake you have made. My eyes
are not 'Of Heaven's own hue;' they are only a common-place grey."

Arthur Beaumont laughed and replied,

"Well, you must set that down as a poetic license. I could not think of
any flower that could picture grey eyes. But I am forgetting. I had a
letter this afternoon from our colonel, which compels me to start back
to the regiment at once."

"What, so soon Arthur?" exclaimed Fanny, in consternation. "I thought
you did not go till Harry went."

"The captain of my troup is ill; so they cannot spare me longer.
Indeed, it was only as a great favour that I got leave at all just
now; for we have a number of recruits to drill. My mother is very
much disappointed too, that I cannot stay for a few days longer; but
obedience is the first duty of a soldier, you know; and my orders to
return at once are imperative."

"Couldn't you stay till to-morrow night, Arthur?" asked Fanny, after
a moment's pause. "You would be there almost as soon. Harry intends
inviting you to ride with us to-morrow afternoon to Sir James Welden's."

"No Fanny; my orders are not to lose a moment. I shall be begging a
whole month's leave of absence soon, you know, so it is the best policy
to obey to the letter this time."

Fanny blushed at Arthur's allusion to the anticipated necessity of
a lengthened leave of absence. "Oh, but May will be a long time in
coming, and we might not see you again till then."

"Can't help it, Fanny; I must go, and at once! Think how much worse
our separation would be if I were going abroad on active service. A few
months will soon pass, and then we shall have no more partings. You
must bid your mamma and papa good-bye for me. I shall see Harry next
week I expect."

"But cannot you come up to the Hall, and bid them good-bye yourself,
Arthur? It will not take you long."

"No, Fanny. I ought to be galloping south now. Farewell, my darling,
till we meet again," and drawing her to his side, and forgetting in the
emotion of leave-taking that they were on the open road, he imprinted
an impassioned kiss upon her rosy lips.

"That's right!--knaves and, fools! knaves and fools, all the world
over! Heigho! 'Men were deceivers ever,' and women too weak-minded to
learn by experience, by bitter, bitter, dear-bought experience!"

Lieutenant Beaumont and Fanny turned hurriedly round, and found a most
odd-looking, old lady at their side. She was tall and lean, grey-haired
and stooping, a wild gleam in her piercing black eyes, and features
pinched and wrinkled. Her dress was made in the latest fashion, and
of the most expensive material, but was torn and untidy; and her
huge bonnet with its maze of green and yellow ribbons was broken and
dilapidated. She appeared, indeed, a most realistic impersonation of
one of the weird sisters in Macbeth.

"Oh, Arthur, who is she?" Fanny whispered, clinging to his arm in
terror. "She looks as if she was crazy."

"Don't be frightened, my darling!" he answered reassuringly, in the
same low tone. "It is only poor Mad Esther; and she is perfectly
harmless."

"I saw you kiss her, I did! and, remember, I shall be there at the
last day to bear witness against you! Oh, knaves and fools! knaves and
fools! The world is full of then. You love this man, young lady? Truth
is like physic, bitter to the taste, but it will do you good--He is a
heartless, perfidious, scheming villain, a cruel, malignant, pitiless
scoundrel,--there's only one out of a thousand of them that is not!
Don't marry him, or you will repent it with tears of blood and agony--I
ought to know, for I did in sackcloth and ashes!"

"Did you never hear of poor Mad Esther before, Fanny?" Mr. Beaumont
whispered. "She makes it her mission to go about the country warning
girls against getting married. She lives at Chelmsford. I wonder what
brings her here."

"Look at me, young sir! Look at me! Come, hold up your head, and let
me see into your eyes--that's a feature that can never deceive. Ha! I
thought so. Knave is written there as plain as in cold eyes of Iago!
Let me look at yours too, young lady! Grey! Grey! Yes, fools always
have grey eyes, or brown, or hazel, or blue, or black, or black and
blue--but that's after, when the knaves throw off their mask, and
strike you with their great, hard hands. Ah, I know how heavy a knave's
hand is. See this scar on my cheek (I had a pretty face once, as pretty
as yours perhaps). Do you see this bruise on my temples? He did it!
Heaven curse him. He did it! You love this man? Shun him as you would a
mean, cowardly, unscrupulous reptile, who would crawl into your heart
only to sting you; to poison your fair, young life. But it is wasting
time to talk to you: women are all fools, all fools!"

The unhappy monomaniac paused, as if expecting Fanny to answer; but the
young girl was too much astonished and frightened to speak.

"Come, let me see your hand! I will tell your fortune," the poor
creature said authoritatively, after waiting some seconds for Fanny's
reply. "Your fate is written on your palm like an open book; but it is
only eyes inspired like mine, that can read it."

"Humor her, my darling. She will hurry off in a few minutes, if her
whims are not crossed!" whispered Lieutenant Beaumont; and Fanny
timidly held out her hand, which Mad Esther examined with much gravity.
"Yes, yes! I could see it! I could see it! You are beloved by two--one
a brave, noble, generous man, who would spend and be spent in making
you happy, the other a hard-hearted, selfish, despicable craven, who
will use you for his own pleasure, and then throw you aside as a
useless incumbrance--who will break your tender heart with his base
neglect, and your head with his heavy, heavy hand! Shall I tell you
what you will do, fool that you are? You will laugh at, scorn, insult,
spit upon the man, who would die to save you from a finger-ache; you
will make a dreary waste of his life who would suffer martyrdom to make
yours a bed of roses. And you will fawn upon the brute who will wear
out your youth and beauty by his cold-blooded cruelty; you will lick
the hand of the wretch who will lash you like a dog! Ah, I know, I
know! Did I not do so myself? witness these scars and bruises!"

As if quite overpowered by the excitement she had worked herself into,
the miserable being turned away without another word, and hurried down
the road at a rapid walk, leaving her auditors watching her retreating
figure in thoughtful silence.

"Oh Arthur, I'm so glad she has gone!" Fanny exclaimed, after two or
three minutes silence. "She quite frightened and oppressed me by her
wild, odd look, and, the doleful things she said."

"Poor Mad Esther! Her's is a sad story, Fanny--and enough to dementate
anyone who had gone through its harrowing experience?" said Mr.
Beaumont with feeling. "I have heard my father say that she was a most
beautiful woman when young; but she made an unfortunate marriage; and
her brutal husband's ill-treatment soon made a wreck both of body and
mind."

"I always thought that mad people could not talk rationally--I mean
could not speak a long sentence without forgetting what they were
saying before they were half through it!" observed Fanny, shuddering at
the recollection of Mad Esther's words. "But she did not seem mad at
all, except in the strange view she takes of men and women."

"There are different degrees of madness I expect, darling," replied
Mr. Beaumont. "Some people are mad upon every subject, and others
only upon one; but I do not know much about these matters. She is mad
enough, anyway, in her extravagant estimate of both your sex and mine.
But you and I might have been as mad, Fanny, had we had her horrible
experience."

"Tell me her history, Arthur. I feel quite a mournful interest in the
unhappy creature."

Lieutenant Beaumont appeared to have quite forgotten his imperative
orders, and readily consented; and drawing her arm within his own, they
walked slowly on to the Hall, she listening with grave attention while
he related the

STORY OF MAD ESTHER.


Mad Esther, or Esther Hazelden, was the only child of a clergyman
in the west of England. She was a very beautiful girl; and had many
admirers; but she was a most heartless and cruel flirt, and made wreck
of many a true-hearted man's life, by leading him on to love her by her
inexpressible and all-powerful fascinations, and then, when he hinted
at an engagement, coolly telling him she had been only in fun all the
while.

Ah, poor Esther Hazelden has much to answer for, but she has been
making a bitter expiation for it these thirty years. The one among
her many victims who was most hopelessly entangled by her charms, was
a gentleman named John Farleigh, a young architect, who gave great
promise of rising high in his profession. He met her at a ball, and,
unhappily for himself, furnished another instance of love at first
sight. She drew him on, and by a thousand little wiles led him to
believe that she loved him. All this went on for nearly a year. She
frowned upon everyone else, reserving all her smiles for him. They rode
out together, went to balls and parties together, were seen together
everywhere, in fact, appeared inseparable. He would hurry joyfully
through his work, inspired by the memory of her beauty, that he might
spend the evening in the witchery of her presence. My father says,
he believes that at first she began to tamper with him for her own
amusement, but that after a time she grew to love him. However that may
be, when he asked her to become his wife, she consented; and they were
formally engaged, and their wedding day named. But about a month before
the day came round, they met a gentleman, a stranger, at a ball; and
Esther was introduced to him. She was unable to conquer her propensity
for trifling with other people's feelings; and she soon entangled
herself in a flirtation with her new acquaintance Robert Harpoul, a
surgeon, as he professed to be. He was in reality a horse-dealer from
London.

Farleigh remonstrated with her in vain. She wasn't his wife yet,
she said, and would do as she liked while she was free; and she
significantly hinted that he must not make too sure of her, as there
was still plenty of time to change her mind. One evening a few days
before the wedding was to take place, she told him she had reconsidered
the matter, and had decided that, as there was no particular hurry, it
would be as well to indefinitely postpone the ceremony. Of course, he
refused to do so, unless she could give some more satisfactory reason
for it than a mere whim; and, high words ensuing, she declared that she
would never marry him, and that she would rather have a horse-jockey
for a husband than be his wife.

She had her ill-advised wish, as she afterwards found to her sorrow.
Her engagement to Mr. Farleigh she thus broke off; and within the week
she was Mrs. Harpoul. Indeed, to make the insult the grosser, she was
married in the same church and on the same day that she was to have
married Mr. Farleigh; and (you will hardly believe it, Fanny!) she had
the coarse brutality to send her former lover an invitation to see the
wedding!"


"Oh, how cruel! How very, very wicked of her! Poor Mr. Farleigh! I
expect he never forgave her!" exclaimed Fanny excitedly. "I should
think it was very fortunate he did lose her, if that was her character!"


"Yes, Fanny, one would think such conduct would have been sufficient
to quench John Farleigh's love; but there are some natures that never
change; and his was one of them. He loved her still with the same
unreasoning, all-absorbing devotion as before; yet, so outraged was his
sense of honor by the indignity she had cast upon him, that had she
at the last moment repented of her folly, and offered to fulfil her
engagement, he would have turned from her in disdain."


"And serve her right too!" ejaculated Fanny, with energy.


"Well, as I said, she became Mrs. Harpoul, the wife of a horse-dealer.
Their honeymoon had not expired when he began to neglect and ill-treat
her; and before two months had passed he had more than once felled her
to the ground with his cowardly hand. Six months after their wedding
he returned to London, taking her with him. His brutal ill-treatment
grew worse and worse. He half-starved her, whipped her, insulted and
degraded her in every way, and her hopeless, uncomplaining patience
only seemed to exasperate him the more. Her intolerable anguish was
made the more acute by remorse. She knew that she deserved it, that
she had brought it all upon herself. She knew that she had wantonly
cast away as worthless the greatest blessing a woman can have--the love
of one, who, to use her own words, would have died to save her from a
finger-ache--and all for the sake of a wretch who delighted to make her
life a dreary desolation."


"Poor thing! How bitterly she must have repented of her folly!"
interrupted Fanny, with emotion.


"Yes, Fanny! Had it been possible for Esther Hazelden to live her life
over again, how differently she would have acted. The inhuman wretch,
her husband, had insured her life to a large amount a few days after
their marriage. I cannot believe that he tried to burn her to death for
the sake of the money; but one night about fifteen months after, his
stables--they lived in two little rooms over them--caught fire, and
were burnt down to the ground. He was out, and as usual she was locked
in. He kept his money in a strong box in his bedroom; and generally,
when going out of an evening to enjoy himself, he took the precaution
of locking her in, under the idea, I suppose, that burglars would be
less likely to steal it, if someone was left at home. But, whatever
his motive may have been for doing so, on the night of the fire, when
the flames burst up through the floor into the room where she was
sitting, she was a close prisoner. There being a great deal of dry hay
in the stables, the whole building was enveloped in flames within a few
minutes of the alarm being given. Harpoul was soon on the spot--some
said he was on the watch, and waiting till a crowd collected to divert
suspicion from himself. Snatching up an axe, that lay ready close by,
he smashed the stable door in, and rescued his horses. "Your wife, man!
Your wife!" a fireman exclaimed, seizing him by the arm. "She has not
escaped yet! See her up at the window there, wringing her hands. Show
me the stairs; and I'll save her. No woman shall be burnt to death, and
Ned Garrett looking on."

"There's no way up now; the ladder is burnt," the wretch sullenly
answered. "No man can climb up a steep wall like that. I'd save her if
I could; but a man can't do impossibilities!"

"A blow between the eyes from a gentleman, who had just rushed up, and
who had heard the fireman's words, and the husband's answer, felled
Harpoul to the earth. It was John Farleigh, who had gone to London
soon after Esther Hazelden's marriage, and was now in good practice in
the city. He had been driving past with another gentleman in a cab;
and noticing the fire he and his friend had jumped out, dismissed
the driver, and hurried to the scene, little dreaming whose was the
white, terrified face at the upper window. After knocking the brutal
husband down, and killing him, as it was afterwards discovered, John
Farleigh madly tore off his coat and clambered the upright face of the
wall with the agility of a sailor, or an acrobat; and, smashing in the
window with one blow of his hand, he leapt into the room, then already
filled with smoke and flames. As he appeared through the window, Esther
fell into his arms, and fainted. Snatching up the bedclothes, he tied
them into a rope; and, fastening one end securely round her waist, he
let her gently down to ready arms waiting to receive her, and then
attempted to descend himself. Getting down a perpendicular wall is far
more difficult and dangerous than climbing up; and he lost his hold and
slipped. In falling he struck his head against a projecting beam; and
on picking him up the bystanders found that he was dead!"


"Poor man. What an unhappy fate!" murmured Fanny, warm tears of pity
streaming down her beautiful cheeks.


"Esther was taken ill of a brain fever, and lay in the greatest danger
for many weeks; but careful nursing and a strong constitution at last
restored her. One afternoon when she had somewhat recovered, and was
strong enough to walk, the simple-minded woman with whom she lodged,
and who had nursed her through her long illness, wishing to show her
how well Harpoul's funeral had been managed, took her for a walk to
the graveyard, without telling her, where they were going, thinking,
very likely, to give her a pleasant surprise. They walked on through
the graveyard almost to the further side, when the injudicious but
kind-hearted woman stopped before a newly erected tombstone, and after
saying that she thought it looked quite genteel, she read aloud:--


SACRED

TO THE MEMORY OF

ROBERT HARPOUL

AND

JOHN FARLEIGH

Who were killed at a fire in little Gerville-street, on the 10th May,
1812, while rescuing the wife of the former.

"Go thou, and do likewise!"


"What a silly quotation, to be sure!" said Fanny, brushing away her
tears. "But they did not bury them both in the one grave?"


"No, Fanny. John Farleigh was taken by his friends, and buried in
his native town; but the headstone maker, who was left to choose the
inscription, thought that they had died together in saving her, and
that she would, therefore, like them both mentioned. You see, Fanny,
that the fireman who saw John Farleigh knock Harpoul down said nothing
about it, when he found they both were dead. The shock was too much for
poor Esther; and exclaiming, 'Then it was he who saved me!' she fell
upon the new-made mound in a swoon. When she recovered she was, as you
see her now, a hopeless maniac, or, more properly speaking, monomaniac."


"Poor thing. She suffered enough to crush anyone's reason."

"Fortunately for her it was discovered that her inhuman husband had
amassed some considerable wealth. It has spared her the horror of being
taken to a lunatic asylum. The poor creature has about a thousand a
year for life; she has a house in Chelmsford, and keeps an attendant,
who has served her faithfully for many years. Indeed, I think she was
a servant in Esther's family before she was married. Poor Mad Esther
seems to have but two ideas now--one, to warn young ladies against
trusting too much to us knaves, as she calls us; and the other, to get
married again herself."

"To get married again herself?" echoed Fanny in surprise.

"Yes. She appears to labor under the illusion that she will yet meet
and marry John Farleigh; and occasionally she sees gentlemen, whom
she mistakes for him; and then they find her attentions rather more
persistent and conspicuous than pleasant. But see; here comes Harry."

Harry rode up the avenue at a quick pace; and reaching their side,
and saying "Hallo, Arthur, you here!" he dismounted; and noticing his
sister's tearful visage, he exclaimed in surprise, "Ha! What, Fanny?
Crying? Have I disturbed you in a lover's quarrel? or has this recreant
knight of yours been breaking your tender, little heart by making love
to some other lady. If he has, just make me your confidant. I will be
your champion, and demand his head in satisfaction."

"O, Harry, don't talk such nonsense!" said Fanny, blushing, crying, and
laughing, and all in a breath. "Arthur has been telling me Mad Esther's
story. It is such a pitiful one!"

"Mad Esther? That's the Chelmsford oddity, Arthur, isn't it--the old
lady who goes about in a head gear of green and yellow streamers? I met
her in the lane yonder just now."

"In the lane, Harry? I thought you had been at Fenwick Park!" said
Fanny in surprise.

"Did you, sis?" returned Harry, laughing. "Well, wherever I have been,
I rode back through the lane. But we may as well go in, I think. Dinner
will be served in a few minutes; and it will be dark, too, directly!"

"Arthur is going back again to-night, Harry," said Fanny, half hoping
that her brother would dissuade his friend from doing so.

"Yes," said Lieutenant Beaumont in answer to Harry's enquiring glance.
"Hernshaw is on the sick list; and Wilmot orders me back without delay."

"The dickens he does! O, well then, you'll have to go, for there's no
scheming out of the colonel's orders! I wish you could have waited for
me, but it cannot be helped. When do you start? To-morrow?"

"No, Harry, at once! But for getting into a chat with Fanny about poor
Mad Esther, I should be riding south now over briar and brake as fast
as my charger could bear me," returned Mr. Beaumont.

"Dear me, how poetical we are getting!" exclaimed the irrepressible
Clara, who had joined them unnoticed.

"Ha, Madcap, you here?" said Harry, turning abruptly round, and seizing
the merry girl in his arms. "Well, you girls had better hurry in.
Arthur and I will join you at dinner."

He liberated the struggling Clara; and she and Fanny went into the
house, leaving Harry and his comrade sauntering round to the stables.

"I will ride a few miles of the way with you, Arthur," said Harry, as
they were returning to the house. "I will go as far as Fenwick Park.
It will be a beautiful moonlight night; and I would like the ride. I
wonder what Hernshaw's down with!"

Directly dinner was over, and they had repaired to the drawing-room,
Lieutenant Beaumont bade the squire and Mrs. Fenton good-bye. They
pressed him to stay till the morning; but he firmly resisted the
temptation; and Harry, knowing that the colonel would take no excuse
for prompt obedience, went out to hurry the groom with the horses.

After shaking hands with her parents and sisters Mr. Beaumont walked
out with Fanny to the lawn to wait for Harry, and to take unobserved
leave of each other. They had not many minutes for conversation; for
Harry and his groom soon appeared leading the horses. A few hurried but
tender words, a gentle pressure of the hand (Harry and the groom were
too close by for the kiss) and Fanny hurried back to the drawing-room.

"It must be awfully nice to have a gay cavalier to come and woo you
like a goddess! eh' Fanny?" whispered the mischievous Clara, noticing
her sister's heightened color. "To murmur soft nothings; and swear by
all that's good, he'll die if you frown upon him! I wonder whether I
shall ever have one, and what he will be like! He must be----"

"That is quite enough of that nonsense, Clara," interrupted Mr. Fenton
sternly; and the startled offender glanced round to find herself
standing close behind her father's chair. With a look of intense
solemnity upon her pretty face, and her finger upon her lips, but a
contradictory twinkle of humor in her laughing blue eyes, Clara glided
off to the piano to play a duet with Miss Ainsworth the governess, and
to escape the reproof she knew was in store for her; and Fanny stole
away unobserved to the further end of the room 'to think.'

Lieutenant Beaumont and Harry rode on at a canter--a pace that was
better adapted for talking in than a trot--speculating as they went
upon the probable cause of Captain Hernshaw's illness, and discussing
the latest improvements in gunnery, and the respective merits of curved
and straight swords in a cavalry charge, and other professional topics.
They had kept up an animated conversation for nearly an hour, and were
within half a mile of the lodge gate of Fenwick Park, when Beaumont's
horse suddenly shied, nearly unseating its rider. "What the deuce is
the matter with the brute!" he exclaimed angrily, vainly trying to
spur the restive animal forward. It sprang about, and snorted; but
not a step would it advance. As if Beaumont's horse's restiveness was
contagious, Harry's reared, and then, wheeling suddenly round, tried to
bolt, and was with difficulty restrained in its determined effort to
gallop away.

"Upon my word Arthur, if we were at all superstitious, we might be
tempted to think there was something 'uncanny' about, as old Major
Kinross would call it!" said Harry springing to the ground. "Horses
don't jump about like this, unless there is some cause for it; and I
will find out what it is. Why, look, there's even the old stager my
groom is riding pricking up his ears, and snorting like a colt."

Mr. Beaumont also dismounted; and they led, or rather dragged the
horses for a few yards further--the groom, urging them forward from
behind--when Harry's horse by a desperate and sudden plunge broke free,
and galloped back along the road. "Never mind him, Porter," shouted
Harry to the groom who turned to give chase. "It's no use. Old Warwick
can never catch Nabob! You stay where you are, Arthur; or your horse
will be going next. I will search about, and find what is it that
scares them."

"Look, Harry, there's something in the middle of the road," said
Mr. Beaumont a second or two later. "See about thirty yards further
on--there in the shadow of that elm! It's lying in the shade prevented
our seeing it before."

Harry observed it now; and, walking up to it, exclaimed in no small
surprise, "Why, Arthur, it is a man, and either drunk or asleep." He
stooped down and laid his hand upon the man's shoulder to wake him;
but, feeling the coat cold and wet, he rose and looked at his hand.
"Blood! I say, Arthur, there's been foul play here. Give your horse to
the groom, and step this way."

Lieutenant Beaumont did so, and then joined Harry, who waited for him
in silence. "Poor fellow! Robbed and murdered most probably," suggested
Mr. Beaumont. "Do you know him?"

"No, Arthur," replied Harry, in a subdued tone. "But let us lift him a
little this way into the moonlight. We might recognise him then."

They gently removed the body from the sandy road to the bank, and
where the moon shone full upon its ghastly features. "Bradlaw!" they
exclaimed together; and Harry continued, "Why Arthur, I rode with him
from Redgate's this afternoon. I parted from him at the Park lodge
yonder."

"And he has been waylaid and murdered. But what are we to do Harry? We
cannot pass on, and leave him here."

"He may not be dead yet, Arthur. Jump on your horse, and gallop off to
Dunmow for a doctor. I will send the groom across to farmer Robinson's
to fetch assistance; and I will stay here till he returns."

Lieutenant Beaumont was on the saddle in a couple of seconds; and he
reached Dunmow in far less time than he had ridden the distance since
his last fox hunt. The groom galloped off to the farmhouse near; and
Harry was left alone with the dead. As he stood with folded arms (it
was by the bush, behind which the supposed artist had screened himself
a few hours before) gazing in silent pity upon the body, he suddenly
recollected the banter he and poor Bradlaw had had to submit to during
their ride from Redgate's to the Park; and an indefinable, but most
uncomfortable sensation took possession of his heart, as he remembered
his own words--"If loved a girl; and any man was to come between us, I
would shoot him down like a dog."




CHAPTER VIII.

MR. TALFORD sat in his chambers writing. His pupil had been away for
change of air for a week; and he did not expect him to--or rather he
hoped that he would not--return for some days longer. He was engaged
in writing his opinion upon an intricate legal point an attorney had
submitted for his judgement: and so absorbed was he in his work, that
he did not hear the door opened, and unsteady steps enter the room. The
newcomer, apparently not observing the barrister's presence, crossed
to the table by the window, and sank into a chair, and sat for some
minutes quite motionless, leaning upon the table, his head buried in
his arms (Mr. Talford writing on the while, wholly unconscious of
company) and then a profound sigh shook his frame; and the barrister
started, and glanced up. "What, Mr. Seymour! back again!" he exclaimed
rising, and approaching his pupil, "I did not hear you come in."

Frank looked up, as much startled as Mr. Talford had been. "I thought I
was alone, sir," he said, with a faint smile. "I have just come up from
Derbyshire."

The barrister regarded his pupil anxiously for some seconds, noticing
his pale features and the restless expression of his eyes, and then
observed in a disappointed tone, "If I may judge from appearance, your
run into the country has not done you much good. You should have stayed
away for another week or two. You look careworn and ill."

Frank's color rushed into his temples at the mention of his depressed
appearance. "I am a little fatigued sir; that is all. Thinking that
exercise might do me good, I made my trip a walking tour. I will be
back to work to-morrow."

Mr. Talford shook his head, and smiled incredulously, but did not
express his doubt.

"I think I will go on to my lodgings now, sir, and take a long rest,"
Frank continued. "Have you the last two or three copies of the Times
to lend me?"

"Yes," Mr. Talford replied, taking them up from a side-table. "Here in
yesterday's is an account of a murder recently perpetrated somewhere
down near Dunmow. It is not often I look into the sensation columns of
a newspaper--I meet quite crime enough in following my profession--but
my attention was arrested by the name of the estate upon which it was
committed--Fenwick Park, which belongs to some friends of your aunt's,
I think. At least, I have heard her mention the place."

Frank started perceptibly, and turned a shade paler; and, Mr. Talford,
thinking that his protegé was, perhaps, not well enough to bear such
harrowing news, hastened to change the subject. "I met Hepward this
morning; and he was enquiring about you. I expect he wants to employ
that versatile pen of yours again: but I think you had better lay it
aside for a while--the truth is my dear boy,----" and the barrister
drew his chair to Frank's side, and, seating himself, laid his hand
persuasively upon his pupil's arm. "You have been working too hard
lately; and you need rest, and must have it. It is idle to overwork
yourself at the outset. If you would rise to eminence as a lawyer, you
must husband your strength from the beginning. Dr. Fulton thinks with
me, that you should relinquish all work for the next three months at
least, and recruit----"

"Surely you have not thought it necessary to speak to the doctor about
me!" interrupted Frank uneasily.

"No. I called on your aunt the morning after you left. He was there;
and, as you had gone away for a change of air, our conversation
naturally turned upon the state of your health. Your aunt had called
him in to see your sister. Do you know, I am very much afraid she is
going into a decline! She looks very ill. Have you not noticed it?"

"I thought she did not look well, sir, when I saw her on the night I
went home!" replied Frank anxiously. "I only saw her for a few minutes;
and when I thought of it afterwards, I hoped it might have been fancy."

"It is no fancy, I am sorry to say! She is evidently very ill. I feel
very much concerned about her; for I like you both. I believe she needs
a change of air; and I would advise you to take her to the seaside for
three months. I can easily manage without you the while; and the change
will do you both good."

Frank was much affected by Mr. Talford's disinterested kindness; and he
decided at once to act upon his advice with reference to Polly; but he
felt it impossible to spare the time for so long a rest for himself.
"I will persuade my aunt to take her away for the change," he replied.
"But I cannot go myself; I have arranged to write several articles for
Hepward; and I cannot afford to break the agreement!"

"Cannot afford!" Mr. Talford echoed in surprise. "Your aunt is in
receipt of several hundreds a year; is she not?"

Frank's brow flushed. "Yes, sir. My aunt is tolerably well off, but I
know she is saving all she can as a dowry for my sister. As you know,
sir, Mary and I were left penniless; and I would rather submit to any
inconvenience than impose upon so good an aunt, or lessen by a sixpence
what my sister may receive. No, sir, I prefer writing for a living!"

"You are certainly a noble, generous youth!" exclaimed Mr. Talford in
admiration. "But," he continued, "even generosity may be pushed to
extremes. I strongly approve of your determination not to be a burden
to your aunt, nor to entrench on your sister's dowry; but you must
allow no false pride to deter you from accepting a trifling loan from
me."

"Not a farthing, sir! though I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude
to you for the generous offer! Your accepting me as pupil without
premium was equal to the gift of the amount of the premium; and I can
accept no other till I have in part at least repaid that! I am not so
unwell as you think, sir; but I will try and not work so hard for the
future."

Mr. Talford in vain endeavoured to persuade Frank to accept a loan,
which he really intended as a gift, but had the delicacy not to say so;
and, finding him firm in refusal, he said, "Well, Frank, there is one
thing I can do; and I will have my own way in it--I will hire a man to
do all the mere clerical work, for the next three months and make you,
to that extent at least, idle perforce; and, if you care to oblige me,
you will employ what time you can spare here in light reading. There's
Will Shakespeare yonder, next to Chitty on Pleading, I spend many
a half hour in his company when, perhaps, I ought to be consulting
his neighbours, and there on the next shelf between Starkey and
Selwyn is Beaumont and Fletcher, and old Gef. Chaucer. If you prefer
our modern filigree poetry, you may find your favourite authors in my
library; for I think I have all of any note. Yes, Frank, they will
prove the best companions for you for the next two or three months,
till you have thoroughly recruited your strength."

The generous offer was put too delicately for Frank to be able to
reject it; and after thanking his kind preceptor, he rose to go;
saying, "I have not been home yet since my return, sir; and your words
about my sister make me feel very anxious; I will go home and see her
at once."

Mr. Talford shook hands with his pupil; and as Frank passed out he
resumed his chair, but not his work. He sat for some considerable time
thinking, the subject of his reverie being Miss Seymour's legacy, and
the pleasure it would be to hand it over to the brother, and make
provision for the young lady himself.

Frank's impatience to look into the papers he had borrowed was too
great to allow him to wait until reaching Woodbine Cottage; and he
turned into the first coffee house he noticed, and, taking a vacant
table, ordered a cup of coffee as an excuse for occupying it. He
opened one of the papers, and glanced nervously down its columns,
as though searching for what he was afraid of finding. "It is not
here!" he muttered. "It was in yesterday's," he said; "and this is
Tuesday's." He opened the Times, of the yesterday's date; and looked
hurriedly through the police intelligence, and soon found the report
he was looking for, and with a quickened pulse, read the result of the
coroner's inquest--"Verdict recorded 'Wilful Murder against some person
or persons unknown,'" and cold beads of perspiration, bedewed his brow
as he read, "The only clue to the assassin yet discovered is a small
and handsome pistol, which was found near the body, and was undoubtedly
the weapon employed. It has the letters 'H. F.' cut into the barrel."

"'H.F.'" Frank exclaimed in horror. "'H.F.' His initials! Then it is
the pistol he lent me at our boyish duell! Oh, madman that I was! why
did I drop it! Why did I drop it!"

A gentleman here entered the room, and, mistaking Frank for an
acquaintance, accosted him; and Frank, impatient at the interruption,
rose from the table. As he was leaving the room a waiter touched him on
the arm. "Beg pardon! you have not settled for the coffee, sir!" Frank
dropped into the waiter's hand a coin worth a dozen cups of coffee; and
without giving the change a thought hurried to the nearest cabstand.

Polly and her aunt were in the arbor in their little front garden,
Miss Letitia reading Baxter's Saints' Rest, and her niece vainly
trying to combine the employments of knitting and thinking. The old
lady steadily marched on through the devotional pages, and had a fair
amount of progress to show for her pains; but the young girl's work
increased very slowly. The stitches would keep dropping, and picking
them up disturbed her thoughts; and then her thoughts would paralyze
her fingers, and cause the stitches to slide off again. Indeed during
the last twenty minutes she had picked up the same row at least half a
dozen times.

"There! 127!" exclaimed Miss Letitia triumphantly, closing the book
upon the page. "Two whole chapters is not bad for one afternoon!"

Polly glanced up smiling--wondering whether it was the quantity
she read, that gave her aunt such satisfaction--but what a smile!
Beautiful? Ay! as near an approach to angelic loveliness as a human
face may show! Too beautiful to be long for this world! The color
had returned to her cheeks, but it looked suspiciously like the
hectic flush of fever or consumption. Her white skin shone clear and
transparent as alabaster; and her glorious blue orbs burned with too
ethereal a light. As Miss Letitia looked round and caught the seraphic
expression of her niece's features, her heart stood still, and she
eagerly contemplated the beauteous face with a yearning and solicitous
gaze.

"What is the matter aunt?" Polly asked in surprise.

"Nothing!" was the old lady's embarrassed reply; and rising from her
seat she hurried into the house, entered her own room, and, locking
the door, fell upon her knees by her bedside; and burst into tears,
"Oh God! spare me, spare me this terrible blow!" she prayed earnestly
in her great alarm. "Oh take her not from me; I have no one else to
live for now! Oh in Thy mercy, spare me, spare me this bitter, bitter
trial!" then, hearing Polly come in from the garden she rose, bathed
her eyes with water, to hide all trace of tears; and then, assuming
as cheerful an expression as she could, she entered the parlor. Her
beloved niece was sitting in an easy chair and gazing through the open
window with the same pensive, preoccupied air, she had noticed many
times lately. She paused upon the threshold for a moment, and then,
crossing the room, disturbed Polly from her musings by throwing her
arms round her neck, and kissing her hysterically.

"What is the matter, auntie dear?" Polly asked in a low voice, brushing
away the warm tears that fall upon her face. "Are you not well?"

And the old lady, thoroughly overpowered by her foreboding of coming
trouble, cried through her sobs, "Oh, Polly, Polly, it would break my
heart to lose you! It would break my heart to lose you!"

"To lose me, aunt!" exclaimed Polly, her eyes expanding in amazement,
"Am I going anywhere then? Dr. Fulton said I ought to go to a watering
place for change of air; but I don't see any necessity for it. I feel
very well, only rather languid sometimes, and my cough is getting a
little troublesome. But, aunt, if you thought I really needed the
change wouldn't you go with me?"

"Yes, yes, my darling child! I could not bear you out of my sight, even
for a day! We may be separated soon enough, God knows!"

"Separated aunt? Not till we are separated by death. I shall never
marry, and I will never leave you till I die," replied the young girl
in pensive resignation. "You and Frank are all I have to love, and all
I shall ever have. No, auntie dear, you have been a good mother to me;
and I will never leave you now--never till I die!"

"Don't, Polly! Don't!" cried the old lady, raising her hands
deprecatingly. "You rend my heart by talking so lightly of death!"

Frank at this moment entered; and his aunt stepped into the next room
to hide her emotion.

"Oh, Frank, I am so glad you are home again!" cried Polly, joyfully, as
her brother caught her in his arms, and pressed a loving kiss upon her
white brow.

"Yes, my sweet sister, I am back again all safe," he replied fervently;
and, Mr. Talford's words still fresh in his ears, he held her for a
moment at arms length, and scanned her features with deep misgiving.
"He was right!" he thought uneasily, "I must have been blind not to
have noticed it before!" and taking a chair at her side he said, "You
will have to go to the seaside for a change of air, Polly! London smoke
is making you look quite thin and pale."

"Why, Frank, that's what aunt and Dr. Fulton say, so I suppose I shall
have to submit; but I never felt less inclined to move about than I do
now."

"Don't you see a great change in her Frank?" asked his aunt,
re-entering the room.

"Yes, aunt. She must most certainly go away somewhere for a change.
I think some quiet village near the coast would be better than going
to one of the thronged and fashionable watering places," he answered,
shrinking from the idea of encountering society. "I will go too for a
week or two. Of course you will go with her aunt."

"Can you doubt it, Frank? I would not be separated from my only darling
for worlds! You do not look well either, my boy; and the change will do
you good. But when will you be able to go? We can be ready as soon as
you can arrange to start."

"I will see Mr. Talford in the morning, aunt, and consult with him
about the best place to go; and we can settle the time when I return.
He spent his boyhood on the south coast, and will be able to advise me
upon the most suitable spot."

"I am so glad you can go too, Frank!" Polly said, twining her arms
in sisterly fashion about his neck. "The pleasure of having my only
brother all to myself again for a while almost reconciles me to leaving
this dear old cottage, where we have lived so long."

"But it is only for a short time, Polly; we shall be back again before
your flowers have done blossoming," said Frank hopefully.

"Ah, but, Frank, there is nothing certain in this life. I might never
come back!" she replied dreamily.

Miss Letitia tried hard to smother her rising sobs, but with only
partial success; and Frank's control over his emotion was well-nigh
lost. Nancy's opportune entrance to set the tea things enabled them
to change the subject; and while she was in the room they contrived
to keep up a flagging conversation upon general topics. As they were
about to take their seats at the table, Polly left the room for a
moment to get some essential Nancy had forgotten; and her aunt took the
opportunity of whispering her fears to Frank. "Dr. Fulton won't tell me
what is the matter with her, Frank; he only says she needs a change;
but I dread its being a rapid consumption--that's what your mother died
of and I am almost certain he thinks so too, from the medicine he gives
her." Polly's return checked Frank's reply; but the softened tenderness
and solicitude with which he addressed her, proved that his aunt's
apprehensive hints had sunk into his heart. He strove bravely to crush
down his feelings, and talked incessantly during the mealtime to amuse
her, and divert his aunt's thoughts from their gloomy current.

"O, Frank," exclaimed Polly, when handling him a second cup of tea,
"You have not told us where you have been; and what adventures you met
with! You were away in Derbyshire somewhere; weren't you?"

The wretched youth suddenly recollected a call he had forgotten to
make; and, rising abruptly from the table, he stammered, "I shall be
back within the hour, aunt; but you must excuse me now for I have to
see Hunt on business that cannot wait till to-morrow! Good-bye, Polly!
I will tell you about my travels when I return," and hurried from the
room.

"Hunt!" Miss Letitia exclaimed. "Isn't that the newspaper man, Polly? I
wish Frank would give up writing. He is undermining his health by such
continuous work."

It was nearly nine o'clock when Frank returned. He entered the parlour;
and finding it dark and deserted, he took possession of the easy chair
by the fireplace, and settled himself down to ruminate upon the inquest
he had that afternoon read in the Times. Presently Polly entered the
room with a lamp, and discovering her brother she drew a foot-stool to
his side, and, seating herself, and leaning upon his knees, reminded
him of his promise to tell her about his trip into the country. Frank
ran his fingers caressingly through her glossy hair; and then, pressing
it back from her temples, he stooped and kissed her tenderly, thinking
sadly, "If aunt's misgivings be realized. I shall not long have my
pretty sister with me!"

"Come, Frank, you promised, you know; and I want you to tell me what
you did; and where you went to," she said coaxingly.

Frank considered a minute or two, and then gave her a long and
high-colored account of a week's sojourn among the hospitable farmers
of Derbyshire and of the rural pleasures of reaping, ploughing,
fishing, and shearing--Polly the while gazing up into his face with a
pensive smile, and occasionally listening with deep attention.

Next morning, as Mr. Talford was stepping into a cab to drive to the
King's Bench, he encountered Dr. Fulton, who had gone to the same stand
for a vehicle.

"Ha! Well met, Doctor! I am glad to see you; for I want to speak with
you about that promising pupil of mine. I feel rather uneasy about him.
He came back yesterday from his run into the country; but the change
cannot have done him much good; for he looks more like a ghost than his
former self."

"Rest, my dear sir! Rest is all that he needs! There is nothing the
matter with him that I can see. He is not very stout certainly, but he
is tough and wiry," replied the doctor. "He has a constitution of iron.
I only wish his sister's was half as strong."

"Is Miss Seymour no better then, doctor?" Mr. Talford enquired eagerly.

"No, Mr. Talford; and, if I may judge from her symptoms, never will be
again! But not a word of this to her aunt or brother--they will know it
soon enough."

The barrister paused a moment to steady his voice, and then replied in
a tone of ordinary sympathy. "I am very sorry indeed that you think her
case so desperate. Are you certain it is consumption?"

"Yes. She must have had the seeds of it in her constitution; for I
never remember seeing a case develop so fast before. A week or two ago
she appeared in perfect health. In very delicate organizations phthisis
pulmonalis eats away life with inconceivable rapidity; and in her
instance its ravages must have been extensive before we suspected its
presence at all."

Mr. Talford shook hands with the doctor, and entered the cab without
reply. In a few seconds the driver enquired where his fare wished
to go; and, rousing himself sufficiently to exclaim impatiently.
"Westminster!" the barrister relapsed into a painful reverie.

"I never heard Talford make such a rambling address to the jury
before!" observed one barrister to another, as they walked out of the
court late in the afternoon.

"Nor I. How he won the case is a marvel to me," returned the other. "He
never once touched upon its strong points, but spent the time in what
appeared to me a weak repetition of immaterial and irrelevant matter."

"Well, he did win it; so it does not matter how, I suppose; but if ever
he owed success to good fortune or the whim of a jury, he did to-day!"




CHAPTER IX.

HARRY FENTON'S leave of absence had expired, and the morning arrived
for him to return to his regiment. It was within half an hour of the
time his groom was ordered to have his charger ready at the hall door;
and he and his father were sitting in the library, Mr. Fenton writing
a letter to his old friend Sir Cecil Wilmot, and Harry gazing absently
through the open window, and thinking of the many strange and important
events that had crowded themselves into the narrow compass of his brief
visit home--of his meeting again with his boyish love, and finding her
still true to him; of her father's opposition, and the tantalizing
position it placed him in, of knowing that she longed to see him,
yet dared not permit him to visit her; of his discovery of Nellie's
preference for himself, and the melancholy end of her devoted slave,
his friend Mr. Bradlaw. Harry's face assumed a very grave expression,
as his thoughts carried him back to that fatal afternoon, and his ride
from Redgate's farm. The inquest upon the unfortunate militia captain
had thrown no light upon the mystery in which the crime was shrouded;
and no clue but the pistol had been discovered; and it so far had been
valueless as such. He was trying to conjecture the motive that could
have led to the murder, when his reverie was disturbed by his father
rising and saying, "I have finished this note to your colonel, Hal;
so if the girls will only leave us in peace we may have a few minutes
quiet conversation before you start. You wanted to tell me something, I
think--about your charmer at Fenwick Park, eh?"

Harry smiled, and replied, "No, father; it is upon a far less pleasant
topic I want to speak with you. It is upon poor Bradlaw's death, and
something I said on that evening when he and I, with Bentree and
Chalmers, were riding home from Redgate's farm, I made use of words
then that have caused me some considerable uneasiness since."

"Considerable uneasiness, Hal. How?" asked the old gentleman, drawing
his chair to Harry's and sitting down again.

"As it was proved at the inquest, father, I was the last person seen
with him; and that fact gives a terrible but false significance to some
words I made use of that afternoon. As we were riding home Bentree
was amusing himself by teasing poor Bradlaw about Nellie; and one of
them, trying to turn the jest upon me, declared that I was jealous of
Bradlaw. I laughed at the idea, and denied the fact; and then, thinking
of Mabel, I was so unfortunate as to say 'Heaven help the man I should
be jealous of! I would shoot him down like a dog!'"

"But I cannot see, Hal, how making that silly boast need trouble you!
You did not shoot him."

"Don't you see, father, that after making what might appear, in the
light of the subsequent crime, as a threat, poor Bradlaw and I ride
away together, and the next that is heard of him is that he has been
shot down!"

"Humph!" ejaculated Mr. Fenton thoughtfully. "Your words viewed in
that light do bear a most disagreeable construction. You cannot tell
how glad I am now that we had that conversation about Nellie the other
evening. If I did not know of your affection for Miss Wilton, those
unfortunate words would have damned you, even in my eyes; and I dread
what may be the consequence of either of these young men repeating the
story. They were both examined at the inquest?"

"Yes, father; but for some reason neither mentioned our conversation."

"Had we not better see them, and warn them against repeating it, Hal?"

Harry paused a moment and then answered the question by another, "Would
that not be the policy of a guilty man, father? If I did, and it were
afterwards to transpire, doing so would be----"

"Enough to hang you! No, my boy, you are right; it will not do to
mention it; and we must trust that they have forgotten them, or did
not connect them with this melancholy event in the way you have done,"
replied Mr. Fenton gravely.

"Of course, I am very anxious to learn whether they noticed and
recollect my words; but for obvious reasons I dare not ask them. The
weapon too, which was found upon the scene of the murder, is marked H.
F. Under other circumstances I should not have noticed that--I know
half a dozen men with the same initials--but, taken in conjunction with
my words, it is a most disagreeable and embarrassing coincidence."

"It is indeed, Hal! It is indeed!"

"But do not mention it to my mother or the girls, father. Most probably
my uneasiness is groundless; and should these false links be forged
into a chain of presumptive evidence against me, it will be time enough
to harass them with my fears, when they have taken more tangible form!
But I must go and bid them good-bye now; for I want to get an early
start."

"Don't fear, my dear boy; I will not breathe a syllable of what you
have said!" returned the old gentleman earnestly. "It is needless to
alarm them by what, as you say, may prove groundless fears. Your mother
would fret herself into the grave, if she shared your apprehensions.
No, no! it will not do to let her know!"

Harry embraced his father in some emotion, and then hurried away into
the breakfast room to bid farewell to his mother and sisters.

"I think your choosing a profession was a great mistake, Harry; and if
I had my way you should resign," said Mrs. Fenton, as her son turned
to bid her good-bye. "I can see no necessity for people as rich as you
taking any profession, especially one that keeps you from home so much."

"Glory, mother dear! Glory! The whole inducement lies in the magic of
that little word!" returned Harry, laughing.

"When will you be likely to come home again, Harry?" enquired Fanny.
"Not for another long year, I expect!"

Harry smiled roguishly. "What, shall I not be required to take part
in a grand performance in the old church in the village yonder before
then? I thought the important ceremony was for May."

"O, I forgot. Of course you are to come in May," replied Fanny,
blushing. "But do you think you will have a long leave then?"

"No, sister mine: only just long enough to take a seat at the wedding
breakfast, and away again. But I must be off."

"You are not going to escape us so easily, sir!" said Clara. "Fanny,
Beatrice, and I are going as far as the lodge with you. Aren't we, Bee?"

Beatrice clung to her brother's hand sobbing, and made no answer; and
Harry embraced his mother, and then walked on with his sisters to the
lawn.

"Give Beatrice a ride, Harry," suggested Clara, as Harry took his horse
from the groom, and drew his arm through the rein.

"I don't want a ride!" cried the child, vainly trying to force back her
tears. "Oh, Harry, don't go away yet! Stay for another week! We might
as well have no brother at all; for you are never at home now!"

The young man tenderly lifted the broken-hearted little maid up into
his arms. "Harry must go away now, pet!" he replied soothingly: "But
some day he will come home, and never go away again."

"But someday is so long coming, Harry! Can't you stay now? What's the
use of being a big boy like you, if you can't do as you like?" replied
Beatrice.

Harry answered the childish philosophy by a kiss; and, setting her upon
her feet again, he said gently, "I must go to-day pet! But, come, brush
those tears away; and I will come home very soon again then."

Beatrice busied herself in striving to repress her tears, and shape her
doleful little face into a cheerful expression; and turning to Fanny,
Harry said, "I expect you may occasionally meet Mabel at different
mutual friends, Fanny, when she is settled, and begins to return the
visits she has received. Don't forget to tell me in your letters all
you can about her. Her father will of course prohibit her writing to
me; but she might, perhaps, send me messages sometimes through you."

"And can't I be of any use Harry? Is there no oppressed, lovelorn
maiden I can help to correspond with her gallant Hussah?" enquired
Clara laughing. "Let me see--there's Nellie. But she will doubtless
write direct; so there would be no romance in sending you stealthy
messages from her! It must be delightful to know some simpleton silly
enough to mistake you for gods and goddesses! Verily you are two
fortunate individuals. Heigho! when will it be my turn!"

Harry laughed at Clara's merry nonsense, and replied. "Your turn,
Madcap? He would be an unhappy wight indeed, who should fall a victim
to your fancied charms! But, here we are at the lodge!"

Resisting their entreaties to wait a little longer, Harry kissed them
each, mounted, and, waving his handkerchief, galloped off. His sisters
watched him in silence, till he disappeared round the first bend
in the road--Beatrice sobbing the while as if her little heart was
breaking--and then Clara exclaimed, "He was in a great hurry to leave
us, Fanny; but he will not be so impatient to tear himself away, when
he is bidding Mabel good-bye."

"He will not have the opportunity of seeing her, Clara. If you
recollect, Squire Wilton ordered him not to go near the Park again."

Clara arched her eyebrows in unfeigned surprise at what she thought
her sister's simplicity. "And are you goose enough to think that fifty
orders will stop Harry. He is not such a gentle, patient mortal as you,
Fanny; he is more like me. If I loved anybody, opposition would only
make me the more determined. It's a pity someone does not fall in love
with me, and papa look black and say 'No,' that I might show you how a
high-spirited, self-willed girl would act."

Fanny smiled without replying; and taking Beatrice by the hand, they
returned to the Hall.

Harry Fenton kept to the high road, on his way to Fenwick Park, which
he was to cross to reach Dunmow on route for his regiment. He rode
fast till he reached the scene of Captain Bradlaw's death, and then
drew rein, and viewed the place for a few minutes with an anxious,
thoughtful gaze. "Poor fellow! How sad to be cut down so suddenly!" he
mused, as he spurred on. "So full of life and hope! Little Nellie lost
a true and faithful admirer when he died. She will never meet a truer."

At the lodge-gate of Fenwick Park he paused, "Now, how am I to manage
it?" he communed with himself. "I must not go boldly up to the House,
and ask for her; and yet I am determined not to return without seeing
her." He seemed undecided for a minute or two when an idea suddenly
occurred to him. A lad about eleven years of age was nursing a baby on
the doorstop of the lodge.

"Well, my boy!" he said dismounting, and leading his horse to the
cottage. "What is your name?"

"Ernest Merville, sir!" the lad replied, with a self-possessed smile of
intelligence not often met with in cottager's children.

"Do you go to school?"

"No, sir; we are too poor; but mamma teaches me herself."

Harry was very much surprised at the lad's manner and speech. He
evidently did not belong to the rank of the peasantry.

"Is your mamma in then?" he asked, smiling at the ill-clothed but
cleanly urchin's use of the word mamma. At this moment the boy's mother
appeared at the door, an enquiring glance in her dark eyes. Harry
involuntarily raised his hat, and observed, "This is a bright lad of
yours Mrs.--Mrs.----"

"Merville," prompted the boy.

"Mrs. Merville. He does not go to school, he tells me."

"No, sir, Ernest does not go to school now; but I teach him myself at
night. He is a good boy; and I do not know what I should do without
him," replied the woman, fondly stroking her little son's curly hair.

"What do you intend to make of him by-and-by? He seems above the
general run of country lads," asked Harry with more interest than he
usually took in the plans and prospects of the surrounding poor.

"I hope to get Mr. Wilton to take him as under-gardener or gamekeeper,
when he is old enough, sir. It is the best he may aspire to now, poor
boy, but before my husband died we expected to educate him for a
lawyer."

"A lawyer!" echoed Harry in astonishment.

The woman smiled faintly. "You seem surprised, sir, at a simple
peasant lad having so high an ambition; but the truth is we were
not always in our present station. My husband was a barrister; but
when he died we were left penniless; and I was obliged to face the
world myself. Mr. Wilton's steward was in my father's service years
ago; and, as the late lodge-keeper left about the time I came to the
village with my children, he kindly gave me the vacancy. What little
I receive as wages, together with what I earn by the needle, keeps us
very comfortably; and we try to reconcile ourselves to the position
Providence has lowered us to."

Harry gazed searchingly into the woman's face for a few seconds; and
then apparently satisfied, he said abruptly, "You wish to make a lawyer
of Ernest: I think I can help you!"

The boy sat the baby on the floor; and rose to his feet, his whole soul
in his eyes; and his mother exclaimed incredulously, "You sir! How?"
and in her turn scrutinized the young man's features keenly.

"I presume you do not know me, Mrs. Merville," Harry said, amused at
her look of amazement.

"No, sir. I do not," she answered bluntly.

"My name is Fenton--of Elmgrove Hall."

"O, indeed! Then I have heard of you," she replied, recollecting
Jepson's gossip about Miss Wilton's early attachment to the son of
Squire Fenton.

"I wish to speak to you about----" he paused, and glanced at the boy.

"Ernest take Amy to the sunshine on the other side of the drive," said
the woman's catching the significance of his glance, and the boy took
his little charge out of hearing.

Harry cleared his throat; and then plunged into the communication he
had determined to make. "I want you to do me a kindness. Mrs. Merville,
there exists a necessity for me to have a confidant at the Park; and,
if I may take your face as a recommendation, you are a person who may
be trusted."

"I thank you for the compliment Mr. Fenton," replied the woman. "But it
depends very much upon the nature of the confidence you wish to repose
in me, whether I may be trusted or not; and I tell you candidly first,
that unless it is fair and honourable I make no promise not to betray
it."

"I shall expect nothing of you, Mrs. Merville, but what is fair and
honourable," replied Harry, his confidence in the woman's reliability
strengthened by her plain speaking; and, as a sort of introduction to
the favour he intended asking, he gave her a brief account of his love
for Mabel and the opposition of the young lady's father, and concluded
by saying earnestly, "And now, Mrs. Merville, I am on my way to join
my regiment again; and I want you to set your woman's wit to work, and
contrive a meeting between us this morning; for, as I shall be away
for some months, it is only natural I should wish to bid her good-bye
before I go."

Mrs. Merville considered for a few minutes before replying. Her own
marriage had been a love match made against her parents wishes; and she
had never had cause to regret it; and she naturally felt sympathy for
others in the same difficulties. Her eyes turned upon her children:
and she keenly felt the different position they would be placed in,
if she could gain the gratitude of the young people. "I will help
you if I can, Mr. Fenton. Returning the compliment you paid me just
now, to judge from your face, you are not one to meditate anything
dishonourable. But how can I assist you?"

"I am now going down to the lake. You can make some excuse for calling
at the house to see her; and then tell her I am waiting there to bid
her adieu. If she cannot come, or is from home, send your little boy
with some message to me: I shall understand your meaning." Here he took
out his purse. "Do not misunderstand me, Mrs. Merville," he continued,
noticing her color rise; "I only mean this as something towards your
boy's education."

"Not now, Mr. Fenton, thank you. We can manage very well for the
present," she replied with a touch of pride in her tone. "By-and-bye
when I have taught him all that I can, I shall be grateful for some
assistance; but for the next year at least, we can manage without it.
You may ride on to the lake to meet Miss Wilton, if she cares to go
down; and I will visit her at once as your ambassadress, my ostensible
mission being to enquire if your friend has any sewing to put out."

Harry thanked the woman for her willingness to aid him; and after
shaking hands he mounted, and rode slowly along the path through
the park till opposite the lake; and then, alighting again, he led
his horse behind a clump of stunted trees, that concealed it from
the House, hitched it to a broken branch, and then walked on to the
lake, where, throwing himself upon the grass, he resigned himself to
fairy-castle building. He had lain buried in reverie for nearly a
quarter of an hour, when he was disturbed by the excitement of the
swans; and, glancing up, he found Mabel approaching. Springing to his
feet, and meeting her, he exclaimed joyfully, "I was beginning to fear
that you could not come, my darling!"

"I can only stay a few seconds, Harry; for papa is at home; and he may
miss me at any moment," she replied. "He has hardly spoke to me since I
was at the Hall; and I am so very unhappy!"

The young man felt unhappy too at this inability to say anything to
comfort her, "May I hope you will write to me regularly now Mabel?"
he asked, after expressing his sympathy with her in her father's
estrangement. "I will write regularly to you."

"No, no, Harry, you must not! and I cannot write to you, till I can do
so with papa's approbation," she answered hurriedly.

"What! and are we to remain as strangers till then?" he exclaimed in
surprise, "Mrs. Merville could receive my letters for you, and post
yours to me."

"And deceive papa again! Oh, Harry, I could not; I have suffered too
much for my first offence! You cannot know what it is to have no mother
nor sister's, only a father whom you have deceived! No, Harry, we must
rest content in knowing that we love each other! But I cannot stay any
longer, papa may miss me. I will be true to you, Harry; and I will
trust you to be true to me. Good-bye!"

"What, darling, must you hurry back so soon? Cannot you spare me one
half hour of your company? We may not meet again for months," he urged.
"Your papa is not at all likely to ask where you have been."

"No, Harry. I must go back at once!" she answered, trying to smile
through her gathering tears. "Good-bye!"

They were alone in the park, out of sight of the House, with no
witnesses but the birds in the lake; and, taking her in his strong
arms, he pressed a dozen burning kisses upon her blushing cheeks before
she could resist. "Good-bye my darling! good-bye! Heaven bless you."

She broke from his embrace, and hurried back home, her heart too
full for words--her unusual agitation mainly caused by the nervous
excitement she had worked herself into by grieving in silence over
her father's displeasure. Harry watched her till she disappeared into
the shrubbery, and then mounted, and slowly pursued his journey. He
had ridden about half a mile when Bentree and Chalmers overtook him.
"Hallo, Fenton!" cried Bentree, as they reined in at his side. "How
do you feel? I have not seen you since----" he paused, and glanced
significantly at his companion. "Since we rode this way together last
week. Poor Bradlaw was with us then."

Harry caught the glance and understood the drift of the allusion, and
coloured with vexation. "Yes," he replied with forced calmness. "We did
not think then it was to be our last ride together."

"We did not!" returned Bentree, laying a perceptible stress upon the
word 'We.'

For a moment Harry was inclined to attempt to correct their mistaken
impression by reiterating the account he had given at the inquest of
his parting from the ill-fated captain at Fenwick Park lodge gate;
but he felt that an innocent man was not supposed to understand their
hints, and that doing so would look like a guilty one's effort to turn
them from the scent; and, utterly at a loss what to answer, he said at
a venture--stumbling upon the very thing he was anxious to avoid--"It
was a strange coincidence his being shot so soon after your banter."

"Very!" observed Bentree drily; and turning to his companion, he
suggested that they would chance to miss the train unless they hurried.

"Yes! We must push on," returned the other. "Good-bye, Fenton! I expect
you will not forget our last ride together for a lifetime!"

They passed on without enquiring whether Harry was going the same
way; and the pointed omission spoke as plainly as their words their
unpleasant suspicions; and the young man slowly followed, a prey to the
most perplexing doubts.

Bentree and Chalmers were just in time; and had barely taken their
seats when the whistle answered the bell and the train glided off.

"Dear me, and I've bin an' forgot my bandbox; and my new, gray alpacky
gown's in it too!" exclaimed an overdressed fussy, old lady in the same
carriage. "Can't nobody stop the railway? Where's the guard? Drat him!"
No one answering her, she continued with rising energy, "Can't nobody
stop the train? I don't see the fun of running away from a bandbox with
a brand new gown in it!"

One of the young men explained the impossibility of returning for the
missing parcel; and the old lady subsided into sullen silence, broken
occasionally by interjections upon the value of the lost articles, and
the 'disobligingness of that dratted guard.'

"Splendid weather, Bentree, isn't it!" observed Chalmers, after a few
minutes' silence. "I thought we were in for a showery day this morning."

"O, hang the weather!" replied the other irritably. "Any one would
think that we English have nothing else to talk about but the weather.
If I have been told once to day it is splendid weather, I have been
told a score of times! Did you notice how startled and confused Fenton
looked when I mentioned poor Bradlaw's untimely end?"

A pair of official ears, presumably belonging to a clergyman, were
here pricked up attentively; and the white cravat and long-tailed coat
sidled a little nearer to the young men, though the wearer was so
deeply engrossed in the last report of a Missionary Society, that he
did not observe for some seconds that one of his heels was upon one of
the old lady's corns--not, indeed, till the handle of her umbrella came
down heavily upon his own--and then, all apologies for his absence of
mind, he courteously offered to change seats with her, that she might
enjoy the fine prospect from the window.

"Don't you think sir, them railway people can be made to pay for
that bandbox with my new alpacky gown in it?" the old lady enquired,
inspired by the benevolent appearance of the gentleman to unbosom her
trouble to him.

"My dear madam, I make no doubt you will find the guard has it safe,
when you reach the next station. I am sorry I cannot enjoy the pleasure
of a chat with you; but I am to speak at a missionary meeting this
evening, and I am now engaged in looking up some statistics. If you
would like to render some practical assistance to the glorious work of
evangalizing the heathen, who are now groping in gross mental darkness,
I can receive your contributions on behalf of the Society."

The old lady excused herself from helping the charitable scheme, on
the plea of having no small change, and was especially careful not to
disturb the gentleman in the search for statistical data into which he
soon relapsed again.

"Strange that he should have been so unguarded as to make the threat
that he would shoot a rival down like a dog, when he was planning to
put the poor fellow out of the way!" said Bentree after revolving the
tragedy over in his mind for several minutes. "But you know the old
saying 'murderers are their own detectives.'"

"You did not mention his words at the inquest, I noticed," replied
Chalmers.

"No! Let the police ferret it out, if they can; and if they can't, it
is their business, not mine. You did not either."

"No, I wasn't going to mix myself up in the affair more then I could
help."

"That pistol was enough to----" Bentree abruptly paused, and glanced at
the gentleman in the long black coat.

"He is too deeply buried in that pamphlet to notice what we are
saying!" whispered Chalmers.

"Better be guarded, Chalmers!" returned the other, in the same
undertone. "I caught his eye peering at your face over the top of the
page. We had better change the subject," and he continued aloud, "I am
offered Houston's practice for three hundred and fifty. Do you think it
is cheap? He is going to Manchester, where his wife's friends live."

At the next station, the gentleman in the clerical suit left the
carriage, and walked into the waiting-room to stay for the next train
back to Dunmow; and, finding it empty, he took out his pocket-book,
and made a memorandum, a peculiar smile upon his face the while. "On
the scent at last! I thought I should run the game down yet; but this
simplifies the work considerably."




CHAPTER X.

A FORTNIGHT had passed since it was decided to take Polly Seymour to
the coast for change of air; and Miss Letitia Vaughan and her niece
were living in a small detached villa residence which they had rented
furnished, and which was situated upon the gentle slope of a low hill
a little way back from the bay, in the outskirts of the beautiful town
Torquay. The air is drier and of a more uniform temperature at this
watering place than in any other part of England, and, consequently, is
especially favorable to those suffering from consumption. The scenery
in the neighbourhood, too, is varied and picturesque in the extreme;
and, as external impressions often materially assist the efforts of
medical art, the situation is doubly beneficial to invalids.

Polly was not apparently much worse though her apathy and listlessness
had not decreased; and she still passed the principal part of her time
in 'day-dreaming,'--musing in pensive resignation upon that unhappy
letter of Fanny Fenton's, and picturing to herself the superlative
felicity of Mabel in being so dear to Harry. Her aunt had made several
attempts to discover what was the subject that held her in silent
thought for hours at a time when left undisturbed; but the young girl
timidly shrank from speaking of the secret grief that was eating her
life away; and Miss Letitia grew to look upon her silent reserve
as a natural symptom of that fatal disease, which the local doctor
had assured her, was in her niece's instance too deeply rooted to
be eradicated by earthly means. "All that medicine can do now is to
relieve her a little; so you had better prepare her for the end by
breaking to her the true nature of her disease," the doctor had said,
with a commendable candor that is rarely met with in medical men, who
usually defer to the last moment the disagreeable task of warning
patients that their time for preparing for eternity is so short, that
they had better make the most of it. But the heart-broken old lady had
been hoping against hope, and could not force herself to talk of death.
She shunned the subject as if speaking of it would bring it nearer.

Frank had accompanied his sister in her long journey from London; and
he stayed with her for a week, during which time he strove hard to
suppress his own gloomy abstraction, and do all in his power to enliven
and amuse his sister, whom he now knew must soon pass away from this
sunny earth. Like his aunt, he shirked the mournful duty of telling her
how short a time she would be with them; but she guessed it from the
tender solicitude with which she was treated; and she knew it, too,
by that prescience, often mercifully vouchsafed to those afflicted by
incurable maladies. She knew that she was dying; and she was content.
Without Harry's love life was valueless to her; and that she could
never win: it was Mabel's. But though she knew that probably the next
snowdrops would blossom upon her grave, she had given no thought yet to
what lay beyond her recent and unspeakable grief absorbing her whole
waking hours and often invading her restless sleep. The excitement and
change of scene had roused her a little at first; and she had been able
to visit some of the interesting places in the neighborhood of Torquay,
while her brother was with her; but Frank's feverish anxiety to learn
if any further clue had been found to the tragedy near Fenwick Park
became so intolerable, that he was constrained to leave her solely in
the care of their aunt, and return to London.

Mr. Talford firmly adhered to his determination not to allow his pupil
to look into a law-book for the next two or three months; and as Frank
was too unsettled to keep his engagements with Hipward he was thrown
very much upon light reading to while away the tedious hours. Every
morning he eagerly searched the papers for news from Dunmow; and the
remainder of the day and often half the night he passed wandering
absently up and down the Temple Gardens or in skimming through works
of the great writers--writing no more himself then sufficed to pay his
weekly bills.

On the third morning after the return from Torquay he was sitting in
Mr. Talford's chambers, a copy of Beaumont and Fletcher before him. He
was buried in the quaint and fanciful drama of Philaster; and while
poring over the emotional scenes, deeply sympathetic with the trials
and troubles of the heroine, the barrister entered and drew his chair
to his escritoire without disturbing his pupil. After a few seconds
Frank glanced up, and seeing Mr. Talford engaged in writing letters, he
turned again to the dramatic pages; and a quarter of an hour elapsed
before the silence was broken, when the barrister was disturbed by a
deep-drawn sigh from his pupil; and, pushing back his chair, he said
abruptly, "By-the-way, Frank, I have decided to take a few days holiday
and go down to Torquay. It is a long time now since I was there and, I
have told you, all my people live in that neighborhood. As your aunt
and sister are there now, you had better go too!"

Frank raise his eyes. "But sir----"

"Let us have no 'Buts,' my dear boy!" said Mr. Talford, "It is quite
two years since I last saw my parents--they are both alive yet, though
very old now--and I have three sisters married, and settled in the
locality somewhere--like you, I am an only son--and I have a sister
about the age of Miss Seymour; and with whom I am an especial favorite."

"I only intended saying, sir that perhaps I had better stay to attend
to----"

"Not at all, my dear fellow! Not at all!" interrupted Mr. Talford
impatiently. "I wish for your company. There are many beautiful places
in and around Torquay worth seeing; and my sister Rachel is searching
to organize numberless picnic parties to visit them while I am there;
and I have been thinking that as Miss Seymour may feel lonely (you say
you have no friends in that part of England!) it would be as well to
introduce her to Rachel. They are of the same age, and would probably
soon become fast friends. If anything can save Miss Seymour it is a
total absence of all care or anxiety. For her to last through the
autumn, her life must be one continued round of innocent excitement and
pleasure; and I think the companionship of a merry light-hearted girl
of her own age will contribute more than anything else to make it so."

"I cannot sufficiently thank you for your and great disinterested
kindness in----" commenced Frank.

"Then don't attempt to!" interrupted Mr. Talford with less than his
usual suavity. "I have written a note to Grattan, asking him to take
up any cases that may come in while I am away. Our factotum Murray can
pass them on to him. I have made all other arrangements necessary,
and intend to start this afternoon; so you may as well go on to your
lodgings at once, to make what preparations you need; leave this at
Grattan's chambers as you pass. I will call for you in a couple of
hours."

Frank took the note for Mr. Grattan and departed to make ready for
his journey; and Mr. Talford after a few minutes cogitation resumed
his pen. In an hour he had finished his letters; and after locking
his desk, he rose from his chair. He stood for some seconds leaning
upon the mantle-piece in thoughtful silence, an expression of pain and
doubt upon his features; and then rousing himself he noticed the book
Frank had left upon the desk, and which was still open at the page his
pupil had been reading; and drawing his chair to the table, he sat down
before it! He said, as his eye caught a passage margin marked, and
observed the first line, "Is this what the matter is?--The old, old
story!" and he read aloud:--


"If it be love
To forgot all respect of his own friends
In thinking of your face; if it be love
To sit cross-arm'd and sigh away the day,
Mingled with starts, crying your name as loud
And hastily as men i' the streets do fire;
If it be love to weep himself away
When he but hears of any lady dead.

Or kill'd, because it might have been your chance;
If when he goes to rest (which will not be)
'Twixt every prayer he says, to name you once,
As others drop a bead,--be to be in love."

"Then, madam, I dare swear he loves you!"


"And this is what the matter with the boy is?" he mused. "He must have
a severe attack indeed to make so great an alteration in his manner
and appearance as is visible in the last few weeks. A man must be weak
to allow a disappointment of that nature to have a lasting effect upon
him! and yet;" his thoughts here reverted to a fair girl whom he hoped
to see before many hours had passed; and, a sigh escaped him, as he
continued, "In these matters the strongest and proudest of us are as
weak as sentimental school girls. If she dies I shall never think of
woman more."

At this moment a timid rap at the door disturbed his reflections; and
in response to his impatient "Come in!" in shuffled Grundy's clerk.
"Well, Mr. Telfe!"

"Mr. Grundy's compliments, sir, and will you be pleased to accept this
brief in Rex. v. Stunson: Bigamy!" stammered the youth, eyeing
the barrister with an enquiring and distrustful stare. He was thinking
of Mr. Talford's threat on the occasion of his having reported Mr.
Seymour to his preceptor as being blind drunk, and wondering whether
his having mentioned it in his own office, had reached the great man's
ears.

"I am going into the country for a few days, perhaps a week or two,
tell Mr. Grundy with my compliments," replied Mr. Talford, unobservant
of the clerk's shrinking hesitation; "And so I am unable to take it up.
But Mr. Grattan will attend to it, if Mr. Grundy is agreeable. Here is
a note I was about to post to Mr. Grundy. You may as well take it; and
he will then receive it the sooner. Good-day!"

Mr. Telfe took the note, and lost no time in placing the door between
himself and the barrister. "Grundy hasn't told him of my blabbing about
young Seymour getting tight that time; or he'd have taxed me with it.
I don't know so much about that, though! What's in this letter!" and
the self-convicted youth viewed his missive with a most inquisitive
gaze, "I'd like to have a peep in and see if I'm mentioned! I would
only it might be a hanging matter!" Restrained from breaking the seal
by his dread of consequences, Mr. Telfe slowly wended his way back to
Mr. Grundy's office, and duly handed the letter to his master, and he
lingered within hearing, though out of sight, while the communication
was being read. "Mr. Sanberg," exclaimed the attorney to his head
clerk as he thrust the letter into a pigeon-hole before him, "Talford
will be out of town for a week or two; so we must send Stunson's brief
elsewhere. He recommends Grattan."

Mr. Telfe stole off to his desk in a merrier mood than he was in a
minute before; and he muttered to himself as he climbed up to his
stool, "It's no good bothering over that affair any more. I don't
suppose old Grundy recollected it ten minutes after I told him!"

Mr. Talford called punctually for his pupil at the appointed hour;
and they reached the railway station in time to take the last train
for Devonshire. During the journey Frank was wrapped in his now usual
gloomy and uncommunicative mood; and the barrister, though generally a
most free and genial travelling companion, readily forgave his pupil's
silence, being himself oppressed by a weight of care perhaps as heavy
as the younger man's, and was consequently but little disposed for
conversation. As the railway did not extend to Torquay, they took post
chaise at the point of the line nearest their destination; and it was
late on the following afternoon when the heavy coach rolled into the
renowned little watering place.

"That is my father's house, Frank--that pretty, little gothic villa
standing back in the garden across the green yonder," said Mr. Talford
to his companion as they turned from the post inn. "You may as well go
in with me, and stay to dinner. Your aunt's residence is some distance
further on I think."

"Yes, sir, about a quarter of a mile up the opposite slope. But I will
hurry on; for I am very anxious to see my sister."

"If you will oblige me by waiting until after dinner, I will go with
you to your aunt's. I wish to introduce you to my father. He is a
subscriber to that literary venture of Hepward, and a great admirer of
some of your articles that have appeared in it. Come! I shall take it
as a great unkindness, if you refuse!"

Frank was in a poor mood for a dinner party; but, recollecting their
relative positions he felt constrained to accept Mr. Talford's
invitation as a command, and reluctantly consented; and the barrister
taking the young man's arm, they walked on for five minutes in silence,
when Mr. Talford startled his pupil by saying, "O, by-the-way, Frank I
discovered yesterday afternoon what is the cause of your recent morose
and unsocial isolation! You must learn to bear troubles of that nature
with more fortitude."

Frank disengaged himself from his preceptor's arm in unutterable
astonishment at the oracular assertion. "I do not understand you sir!"
he stammered. "Have you found me morose or unsociable? If so, I most
humbly beg your forgiveness. You have treated me with too much kindness
and consideration, for me willingly to either to you."

"Don't be so short-grained, Frank! Perhaps the words are ill-chosen. By
morose and unsocial I mean, what shall I say--taciturn and reserved.
You left my copy of Beaumont and Fletcher open on your desk; and
casually taking the book up after you went out, I read the passage you
had marked--the poet's fanciful test of the identity of love."

Frank's very knees knocked together in his great disconcertion, as the
thought flashed through his mind. "If he has discovered that secret, he
may know of my crime also!" In a few seconds he asked in an ill-feigned
air of unconcern, "so you regard me, sir, as a martyr to the idle
frenzy called love. Have you any further proof than that passage being
marked by my pencil!"

"Only that, and the great change I have noticed in you recently."

Frank breathed more freely again. "Well, sir, I think you will believe
me when I tell you that I have never spoken to any lady of love and
that there is not one in the whole of England I ever shall," he said
with sincerity.

"Then I am mistaken," replied Mr. Talford in a disappointed tone. "I
thought I had found the clue and your symptoms were so perfect too."

"Have you then even heard me tally my prayer's by a lady's name?"
returned Frank, with a feeble attempt at gaiety. "Or seen me


'Sit cross arm'd and sigh away the day
Mingled with starts, crying her name as loud
And hastily, as men in the streets do fire.'


because those are the far-fetched tests of the passage you have judged
me from!"

Mr. Talford was compelled to admit that he had not, and, that his guess
had overshot the mark, and they walked on in silence till they reached
the gate of the elder Mr. Talford's home.

"This is Devon House, as my father calls his Torquay residence. The
miniature grounds are prettily laid out, are they not?"

Frank briefly admitted the fact, without giving a more than cursory
glance at Devon House embossed in its miniature grove of ornamental
trees, just touched by the mellowing breath of autumn; and which backed
by the green undulations of the higher ground beyond, showed to fine
effect as it stood in the glow of the setting sun, its windows fired
with a blaze of burnished gold.

"Look, man! Turn your eyes out from their everlasting contemplation
of your inner self, and give external things a few moments undivided
attention!" exclaimed Mr. Talford irritably, hurt at his pupil's
apparent want of appreciation for the beautiful scene. "Did you ever
see a prettier specimen of an English home?"

Frank roused himself, and observing his patron's annoyance, praised
Devon House in no measured terms.

"There are many places within easy access of Torquay even more
picturesque than the magnificent view before us now, Frank; and, as
I intend to make my brief rest a thorough holiday, we must contrive
to visit them all, if Miss Seymour is well to accompany us. I expect
Rachel will have a dozen picnic schemes ready for approval before I
have been at home half an hour. But we are at the gate."

The barrister was received with demonstrative delight by his sister
Rachel, and with no less deep though quieter pleasure by his aged
parents. He had neglected to write to tell them of his intended visit;
and their surprise at his sudden appearance was as great as the
happiness it afforded them.

"And this is my friend and pupil, Mr. Frank Seymour, father," said Mr.
Talford, introducing his protegé. The old gentleman cordially shook
the visitor's hand, and welcomed him to Devon House; and then himself
presented Frank to Mrs. Talford and her daughter.

Miss Talford proposed half-an-hour's walk in the garden to her brother;
and Frank was left in the snug parlor in conversation with the older
folk.

"I hope you will grow to be as good and clever as my son!" said Mrs.
Talford proudly. "He is looked upon now as one of the leading counsel
in London."

Frank indorsed both the old lady's expression of hope for his own
future, and her opinion of her gifted son's ability, and then gave a
brief account of the barrister's generous treatment of himself; after
which Mr. Talford, sen., entered into a discussion with him upon the
position of political parties in the Commons, and the necessity of men
of great and original powers like his son getting into Parliament.

Mr. Herbert, as the barrister was always called in Torquay, paced up
and down the gravel walks with his sister for some time, listening
to her lively description of the last water party she was at, and a
laughable contretemps at the start that was nearly upsetting all
their arrangements. When she had concluded the recital, and was about
to plunge into some other subject, he checked her by saying, "Let us
take a seat in the summer house, Rachel, I want to tell you of a young
girl about your own age, whom I intend introducing you to, and with
whom I am anxious for you to become great friends. She is an invalid,
and I am afraid, will never get well again."

Miss Rachel was all attention in an instant, curiosity and sympathy
amusingly blended in her pretty face and large brown eyes.

They took a seat in the summerhouse; and Mr. Talford began his
communication by saying, "The young girl I allude to is the sister of
Mr. Frank Seymour, the gentleman who came with me!"

"Is she pretty?"

"Pretty? What an odd question! Why do you ask?"

"Odd do you call it, Herbert? I think it a very natural one," replied
Miss Rachel, arching her eye brows. "Neither in books nor in real life
do gentlemen usually feel very deep interest in ladies, unless they
have the recommendation of a pretty face. That is the 'open sesame'
into a masculine heart."

"You are a shrewd observer, Rachel! Yes: she is more than pretty; she
is beautiful!" returned the barrister with enthusiasm.

"Has her beauty anything to do with your disinterested generosity to
her brother?"

"You would make a good inquisitor, Rachel. Yes; more than any suspects.
I saw her first on the occasion of her brother's being introduced to
me. Hepward and I were talking in his office about one of Mr. Seymour's
articles, when the youth entered with some proof sheets. His sister
was with him; and I felt drawn to the dear child at first sight; and
when Hepward afterwards hinted at the brother's ambition, it was the
recollection of the sister's gentle face, and not my disinterested
kindness (you see I noticed your ironical emphasis) that led me to make
the apparently liberal offer of taking him as a free pupil."

"Then you love her?"

"It is a pity you are not a man, Rachel, that you might be a lawyer;
there is no escape from your leading questions. Yes, I do love her;
and,--and, Rachel, she is dying!"

"O, Herbert, I hope not! For your sake I hope not!" exclaimed Rachel,
all her mirth subsiding in a moment, and a look of deep concern taking
the place of the roguish smile upon her pretty face, "Does she return
your love?"

"She does not even know of its existence."

"No?"

"In my proud self-sufficiency, Rachel, I felt that her acceptance must
follow my suit as a matter of course, when it would be convenient for
me to press it; and I had decided to wait for a year or two before
speaking. My enthusiasm for my profession took up so much of my time
that I seldom thought of her; but when I did, it was always with that
calm complacency, as though she was mine by right. It was not until her
medical attendant told me three weeks ago that there was no hope that I
learned how dearly I loved her."

"Poor Herbert!" exclaimed the young girl, tears of sympathy starting to
her soft, brown eyes, "And she knows nothing of your sentiments."

"Nothing! And never may know now!"

"Never know, Herbert? Will you let her die ignorant of your love?"

"Yes, Rachel, it must be so; it is best thus! I have thought deeply,
painfully, over it, and I think it best not to tell her now!" he
replied mournfully. "She cannot live a year, Dr. Fulton says, perhaps
but a few weeks; and I must not overshadow what little is now left to
her of life by such a trouble."

"Trouble, Herbert! If she cares for you, will it not be a joy for her
to learn that you love her?"

"I have so seldom seen her, Rachel, that she cannot love me yet; and,
grant that I could teach her to, would it not make it the harder for
her to reconcile herself to her melancholy fate? No, she must never
know now! As death is inevitable, let the tranquillity of her last
hours be marred by no care of my making! Ah, Rachel, you can never
comprehend the depth of agony I was plunged into, when Dr. Fulton said
in his blunt candor, 'Nothing can save her now!' I had to go straight
away, stricken as I was, to plead a cause in court; but how I managed
I have little recollection now; my brain was a whirl of confusion for
days after."

"My poor, poor brother!" sobbed Rachel, her tender little heart melted
by her brother's sorrows.

"During those terrible days my proud heart was laid bare to my view;
and I knew myself as I never did before. I saw that I was haughty
self-sufficient, callous to the feelings of others, and I recognise the
punishment as one well merited."

"No, no, Herbert! You do yourself injustice," demurred the sister. "You
were never cruel or selfish!"

"My dear Rachel, I have deceived others as well as myself. I thought
myself, as others think me a very good man as the world goes; but the
mask was torn from my eyes by this bitter trial. Rachel, I can make
a proud boast that no other man at the bar may do--I have never lost
a case. Do not think from that, that I have always pleaded in the
cause of right; I have often persuaded juries into verdicts that have
surprised myself, and there are men whose only cause of losing their
cases was that I was against them. I do not blame myself for this.
It is the advocate's duty to make the worse appear the better cause,
when he is retained by the worse; but my pride was such that when I
knew my cause was bad, I would rather the innocent be sacrificed, than
my prestige should suffer by my losing a case! Where now is my
unselfishness?"

Rachel sobbed, "You are cruelly unjust to yourself Herbert! And I will
not believe it of you!" she said, passionately.

"But I am justly punished. I love for the first time in my life; and
the bright object of my affection is stricken down before me, withered
by a lingering, but certain death; and I must look upon, speak to her,
but as an ordinary acquaintance. I, who would draw her to my breast
in my passionate love, dare but touch the tips of her fingers! But
enough of this! Never mention the subject to me again, Rachel. I had no
intention of being so weak as to speak like this (I, who felt myself as
superior to all men in my strength) but your random questions surprised
me into this admission. I only meant to ask you to be her friend--to
love her as--as I dare not do. Let her for my sake be your constant
care. Respect the sacredness of the secret I have confided to you,
and in everything let her be first to you, as she is to me! Rachel, I
have never been a Christian, and never till I was compelled to look
her death in the face have I thought of death at all: but the reality
of the after-life was vividly presented to me in those days of doubt
and dread; and it has left, I hope, an indelible impression upon me. I
feel now that for each of us, high above all earthly considerations, is
that of our prospects for eternity. Lose her I must. I cannot say that
I have reconciled myself to the loss, though I strive hard to say and
mean 'Thy will be done!' but I have admitted the agonizing fact; and my
one hope now is, if she has not already turned her thoughts to Heaven,
to see her do so at once, and depart with the blessed assurance of a
joyful resurrection."

Rachel was so affected that she could not answer, and her brother
continued earnestly, "you have always been a pious, bible-reading girl;
and I want you to take every opportunity of impressing upon her the
terrible necessity for repentance, if you find that she has hitherto
neglected to do so. I do not mean with the obtrusive importunity some
injudicious though well-meaning dissenters show, who misapplying the
command to be constant in season and out of season, often defeat their
object by their ill-directed fervour."

"Does she know that her end is so near?" Rachel asked.

"I cannot say," her brother replied. "Dr. Fulton (he is the gentleman
who attends her in London) cautioned me against repeating his opinion;
so I am led to infer he has not told them."

"It is not right that she should be kept ignorant of her approaching
death, and her time slipping away so fast!" exclaimed Rachel
indignantly. "But, Herbert," she continued in a softer tone, "it would
seem an unwarrantable interference for a girl like me to tell her what
her friends try to hide. You break the truth to her; and I will talk
with her afterwards. What is her name?"

"Mary. They usually call her Polly I think! We will go in now, Rachel;
or father and mother may miss us."

The young girl reiterated her promise to be as a sister to Polly; and,
taking her brother's arm, they returned to the house, where they found
Mr. Talford senior in a warm discussion and endeavour to convince his
visitor of the fallacy of the liberal views upon the extension of the
franchise the young had expounded in his famous article upon Electoral
Reform.




CHAPTER XI.

DINNER over, Mr. Talford (or Mr. Herbert, rather) promised that his
sister should accompany Mr. Seymour and himself to Miss Letitia
Vaughan's. Mrs. Talford thought that the air might be frosty, that
perhaps the ground was damp and that it was likely there might be a
fog in the low land to be crossed: but on going with her brother to
the front door to judge of the weather the young lady found that the
beautiful scene in its silver flood of moonbeams (the moon was then and
there at the full) that her mother's demurs were soon overruled; and
the trio set off, Miss Rachel (strictly speaking, Miss Talford--her
eldest sisters all being Mrs. somebody else--but she was never anything
else but Miss Rachel, and probably never would be till it came to be
her turn to change her name) Miss Rachel walking between Mr. Seymour
and her brother leaning on the arm of each. During the first part of
the walk they each shunned allusion to the invalid they were going
to see; and as the gentlemen's thoughts were too full of her to heed
aught else, the conversation was not very brisk, though Miss Rachel,
with the tact and delicacy of her sex, exerted herself to rouse them,
and divert their attention to the varying scenes around. Reaching the
summit of the diminutive upon which Devon House was built, Miss Rachel
paused. "What do you think of our beautiful Torquay by moonlight!" she
asked, pointing in proud exultation to the magnificent scene below.
Her companions roused themselves, and regarded the fair prospect in
unfeigned admiration. The full-orbed moon (its disc doubled by its
proximity to the horizon it was leaving) shed its cold and chaste
effulgence upon the valley beneath that lay spread before them like
a map, and which with its receding slopes, was dotted with numerous
villas and cottages that shone like marble in contrast to the
umbrageous shade in which they stood. The small stream that flowed
along the opposite hill glistened like molten silver here and there in
the break of foliage along its banks where the moonbeams could reach
it; and a couple of miles to the south appeared the dark waters of
Torbay in their night robe of invisible blue, "There is a picture from
nature's scrap book Mr. Seymour! Can you boast of anything half so
beautiful in smoky old London?" she asked in triumph. "Who can refuse
credence to the fanciful old poets, who peopled the greenwood shade
with fairy Mab and her elfin train! O, Mr. Seymour, who was the fairy
queen--Mab or Titania? I have never felt very clear upon that point,"
she asked referring the knotty questions to her brother's visitor; but
Frank had already relapsed into his brown-study; and he replied curtly
to avoid a discussion, "Some poets preferred one and some the other."

"See, my aunt's home is yonder--there by that clump of poplars."

The subject which really occupied the thoughts of each being thus
introduced, conversation began to flow more evenly and the invalids
health, and the peculiar advantages of Torquay were freely discussed;
and by the time they reached the door Rachel had learned sufficient of
Polly's previous history to feel at home with her, even before the form
of introduction was gone through.

"As I had business in Torquay, and shall stay a few days, I took the
liberty, as you see, of bringing my sister to see you, Miss Seymour,"
said Mr. Talford in a firm voice (he was at the moment stroking her
snow-white kitten. He could not bear to look upon that dear face so
changed in its growing beauty--it warned him too plainly that the time
was fast approaching, and was very near now, when death must take her
away to the realms of eternal beauty) "I thought that probably as you
are strangers here you would like to have a friend of your own age."

Polly's lustrous, speaking, eyes gazed upon the visitor in grateful
thanks; and she told him how glad she was that he had brought Miss
Talford to see her; and Rachel, drawing a chair to to the invalid's
side, stooped and kissed her white brow, and whispered, "I am so glad
to see you! I have no sister at home now; and I already begin to love
you as one," then, recollecting her brother, she changed the subject by
saying, "I shall often come to see you, if you have no objection."

"Objection!" echoed Polly, "I shall be only too happy to see you! I
never had a sister; and I shall soon learn to love you as one."

Miss Talford was very fond of outdoor exercise and she was never so
happy as when careering across the country upon her docile pony, or
steering a boat in the beautiful bay. Picnic parties were her especial
delight; and she fulfilled her brother's prediction to his pupil by
saying "Have you been to Watcombe yet? That is the grandest piece of
scenery we have to boast of. We must get up a picnic there some day
soon, if you haven't." As Watcombe chanced to be one of the places
Frank had not taken his sister to, Polly admitted that she had not seen
it, but would very much like to.

"Aunt," Frank whispered to the old lady, "Let us go into the drawing
room," (they were sitting in the snug little parlor Miss Letitia and
her niece usually spent their evenings in) "and leave Polly and Miss
Talford to themselves for a little while. Girl-like, they will chat
more freely and become friends quicker, if we leave them together." The
fact was that the young man was anxious to make enquiries about the
result of the change of air, and whether the local doctor attending his
sister had found any improvement in his patient--enquiries he could
hardly make in her presence. Miss Letitia took up a candle, and telling
the girls she was going to leave them to make friends, led the way to
the drawing-room, where she was soon subjected by both Frank and his
preceptor to a warm cross questioning upon the subject of the invalid's
symptoms, and what modification the change of air had appeared to have
worked upon them.

The girls as they sat together in earnest converse formed a striking
contrast--Polly radiant in all the wondrous beauty of an advanced stage
of that fatal disease, that seems to work upon earth a preparation for
the glorious scenes of heaven, Rachel bright in all the bloom and blush
of bodily health, her soft brown eyes and rich dark complexion setting
off the transparent skin and lustrous blue orbs of the dying girl.

"Herbert--that's my brother--thinks you may be lonely here among
strangers; so he has made me promise to spend all my leisure with you;
so I shall be running across to see you now every day, Miss Seymour,"
said Rachel gently.

"I shall be delighted to see you, Miss Talford. You cannot come too
often, but call me Polly. It sounds so formal and distant to say Miss
Seymour."

Rachel gladly agreed to drop the ceremonious form of address,
stipulating on her own part though that the practice should be mutual
after which understanding as arrived at, she expressed a hope that she
might have the pleasure of being her new friend's cicerone to all the
places of interest about Torquay. "Do you like boating?" she enquired,
after a short account of a ride in Pomery Castle she had recently had.
Polly admitted that she had never been upon the water in her life.

"Never!" echoed Rachel in astonishment. "Well, Herbert is passionately
fond of boating; and, if you would like it, we will go to Watcombe by
water. The view of the combe from the bay is truly magnificent (don't
laugh at me for using such a big word!--there really isn't a little one
that can express the grandeur of the scene), the cliffs are all of red
rock, and the contrast to the bright green of the hills beyond is very
beautiful. Don't you think it will be delightful to go by water?"

Polly acquiesced in Rachel's anticipation of the pleasure of boating,
but was afraid she might be frightened. Rachel however gave such
abundant and convincing reasons why the danger was purely imaginary,
that the invalid yielded the point rather than contest it, and
consented to go.

"But when will you be well enough, I wonder!" exclaimed Rachel,
excitedly, all eagerness now to complete the arrangements--the
pleasures of a water-party presenting themselves vividly to her
imagination.

Polly had felt a little stronger during the previous day or two; and
she expressed herself as ready to go whenever Miss Talford and her aunt
could arrange the excursion.

"Are you fond of riding?" enquired Rachel next, abruptly plunging into
another subject.

Polly blushed at having to admit that her experience in riding was as
limited as in boating.

"Well, you will have to learn then, Polly; so I will bring my pony over
to-morrow morning for you to take your first lesson," replied Rachel,
delighted at the prospect of having a pupil. "He is such a dear little
fellow--a beautiful dappled grey!" and here followed a long digression
upon the many excellent qualities of the unparalleled Azim. "My habit
will do for you to have your lessons in; and as soon as you can ride
well enough to manage a horse, and ride out with me, you can get one
for yourself. Mine is made of blue cloth."

Polly smiled faintly as she gave a nod of assent, the thought occurring
that she would not long require a habit. Aunt Letitia and the gentlemen
here returned to the parlor. Mr. Talford having accomplished his
purpose of introducing his sister to Miss Seymour, felt that it would
be an intrusion to stay longer, and so determined to return home at
once. "Now, Rachel, bid Miss Seymour good-bye, and then get your
hat on," he said turning to his sister; and, noticing her look of
disappointment, he continued, "You must not forgot that Mr. Seymour and
I have been travelling by the lumbering stage coach, and consequently
have every excuse for pleading fatigue! I will not answer for him; but
I, at least, shall be glad to get to bed early."

The hint was sufficient to put Miss Talford onto her feet and into
her hat in a very few seconds. "O, Herbert, Miss Seymour and I have
arranged to go to Watcombe by water; so you will have to see to getting
a boat!" she said while tying her hatstrings.

Miss Letitia and Frank cast enquiring glances at Polly; and Mr. Talford
answered "Indeed, Rachel, when?"

"Whenever aunt and Miss Talford agree, sir; unless aunt has any
objection," said Polly, anticipating her new friend in reply.

"I will run over in the morning, Miss Vaughan; and you and I can talk
the matter over," said Rachel, fearful that the aunt would veto the
arrangement if allowed to decide then and there, and feeling sure of
her own ability to persuade the old lady into compliance if she could
only defer the matter till the morrow.

"Very well Miss Talford, we will leave it till then," replied Miss
Letitia; and Rachel, having thus succeeded in arresting judgment for
the present, bade Polly good-bye, and then reported herself ready.

The invalid was evidently much benefited by the visit; for the
inspiriting cheerfulness of the light-hearted Rachel had so roused
her, that she gave her aunt and brother an animated account of her
new friend's plan for the water party to Watcombe, and her proposal
in reference to the dappled grey pony. After prayers, which formed as
regular a portion of the daily routine in the old lady's home, as the
morning and evening meals that preceeded them, Miss Letitia whispered
to her nephew, "You can not imagine how glad I am, Frank, that you
brought Miss Talford with you this evening! Her cheerful company will
do Polly more good than all the doctors in the world."

The words were not intended for Polly's ears, but she overheard them,
and, glancing up, said, "O yes, Frank, and so am I! I am sure I shall
like her, she is so pleasant and companionable."

Next morning Rachel rode over to see Polly, and arrange preliminaries
for the excursion to Watcombe; and after a long consultation upon its
numberless small but important details, they decided that, weather
permitting, the picnic should be held on the Thursday following (it was
now Tuesday) and that Miss Letitia and Polly should spend the morrow
(Wednesday) at Devon House, Rachel promising on behalf of her brother
that he should drive over for them directly after luncheon. The lesson
in riding, however, was unavoidably postponed in consequence of a
drizzling rain setting in, while they were yet busy in arranging the
time for the boating party.




CHAPTER XII.

SQUIRE WILTON had one foot in the stirrup, and was in the act of
mounting to the saddle when the sound of a horse approaching up the
avenue arrested him; and he stepped back and glanced round. A groom in
livery was riding up the carriage-way at full trot, and in a few seconds
reined in before him. "General Graham's compliments sir; and he bade me
give you this letter," said the groom, touching his hat.

Mr. Wilton tore open the envelope. "Wait a moment, my man, and I will
give you an answer to take back," he said, after reading the brief
epistle; and, handing the reins to his own groom, he entered the
house. In a few minutes he returned with a letter for General Graham;
and dropping it with a coin into the groom's ready hand turned he to
his horse. At this moment a heavy clap of thunder announced the near
approach of a storm; and the General's servant set spurs to his horse,
and trotted off. Another louder clap, followed by some big drops of
rain, caused Mr. Wilton to raise his eyes to the sky, which he found
becoming rapidly overcast with heavy clouds.

"There's a storm coming on, sir!" observed Rugby, noticing his master's
look of annoyance.

"Yes; so you may take the horses back to their stalls. There is no
necessity for courting a wetting," replied the squire; and the groom
led them back to the stables, while the old gentleman re-entered the
house. In the hall he met his daughter.

"Did you hear the thunder, papa?" Mabel enquired, in the hope of
surprising her father into conversation. He had not yet forgiven her
for visiting Elmgrove Hall.

"Yes!" returned Mr. Wilton shortly; and he was passing on, when he
paused and said, "I am going to Chelmsford on Thursday, Mabel; and I
shall take you with me."

"O, thank you, papa! But were are we going to?" she asked eagerly--less
anxious about their destination than to conciliate her father.

"Do you remember General Graham? But no, you were a mere infant, when
he was last in England!"

"General Graham, papa? I do not recollect the name."

"He was an old friend of mine; but he has been in India for the last
fifteen years. He has just returned invalided, and has bought that
property of Iceton's beyond Chelmsford. I have just received a note
from him stating that he took possession of his new estate a week
since."

A servant here announced to Mabel that Mrs. Merville, the lodge-keeper,
had brought home some sewing; and Mr. Wilton, annoyed at the
interruption, passed on to the library. A very heavy clap of thunder
here startled Mabel so much that she did not observe the entrance of
Mrs. Merville.

"Are you afraid of a thunder storm, Miss?" the lodge-keeper enquired,
noticing the sudden start it gave the young lady.

"No, Mrs. Merville, not usually, but that crash came so unexpectedly.
Have you finished the work? Come up to my room; and I will look at it,"
replied Mabel, still trembling.

"I cannot leave my little ones, as a storm is coming on, Miss. I must
hurry back, or they may be frightened. Here is a----" the woman paused
and glanced round the hall to ascertain that no one was within hearing;
but apparently reassured, continued. "Here is a note for you which
was enclosed in a letter to me. If you wish to reply to it, I shall
be answering my letter to-morrow." The house-keeper here entered: and
before Mabel could recover herself from her surprise sufficiently to
speak the woman added, "With your leave I will hurry back at once,
Miss. I will call in the morning to see if you have any more sewing for
me," and then turned to go.

"It is raining heavens hard Mrs. Merville. Won't you have an umbrella?"
said the house-keeper.

Mrs. Merville thanked the house-keeper for the offer, and receiving the
article plunged into the rain, which was now pouring down in torrents,
and on reaching the lodge she found her children huddled up on the
hearthrug in great distress, little Amy sitting on her brothers knees
her face buried in the breast of his jacket, and sobbing in terror.

Mabel ran up to her room with her letter and with trembling fingers
tore the mission open. "I told him not to write!" she exclaimed half
angrily, "and I won't deceive papa any more!" The offending letter was
but a short one, and perusing it caused a glow of pleasure to rise to
her face.

"My darling Mab," it ran, "I could not resist the temptation to write
even this short note which your lodge-keeper will hand to you.

"I reached my regiment safely, and I would be comparatively happy, if
I could have a letter from you occasionally. I am bitterly envious of
my future brother-in-law, and discontented with fate who allows him to
receive a regular weekly billet deux from the lady he loves, while
I am denied even the pleasure of writing to you. I shall not trespass
more this time than to beg of you to reconcile your determination not
to permit me to write and not only to remove the unkind restriction,
but to agree to answer my letters with your own dear hand. I am very
unhappy. I trust that your honoured father is well and that he may soon
learn to look with more favour upon your faithful Harry."

Mabel read the crude little note twice through, and then sinking into
a chair burst into tears. "It is really unkind of Harry to write like
that, when I told him so plainly that I could not deceive papa again!"
she cried, "I must not and I will not make papa ashamed of my deceiving
him again! and asking his permission is out of the question. No, I will
tell Mrs. Merville to write and say that I will be true to him and
trust to him, but that I can neither write nor receive letters till
papa will allow it."




CHAPTER XIII.

THURSDAY, the day Mr. Wilton had arranged to call upon his old friend
General Graham, arrived and was beautifully fine. A bracing autumn
breeze was blowing; and small fleecy clouds sailed leisurely athwart
the clear blue sky. The groom was ordered to have horses ready by
twelve; and after an early luncheon Mabel and her father mounted at
the hall door, and rode away through the park in the direction of
Chelmsford. The young lady rode a chestnut mare her father had recently
bought for her, and 'Jessie' as the new purchase was called, acquitted
herself very creditably, being well paced and docile. Mabel was in
high spirits; for her father had been less distant during the last few
days; and she was in hope that his displeasure was wearing off. They
cantered their horses to the boundary of the park, Mabel enjoying the
exhilarating exercise immensely. As they reined in she exclaimed, "Do
you see that coppice papa, there by the bend in the carriage drive.
That is where the gipsy woman tried to rob me."

"Tried to rob you! I remember just before we went away to Cornwall your
attendant, what was her name? that greyhound, attacking some gypsies
who were begging, but I never heard before that they tried to rob you,"
said Mr. Wilton in surprise. "Why did you not tell me at the time."

"I don't recollect that part of it, papa; but I suppose I screened them
because I was afraid you would punish them," returned Mabel, patting
her horse's neck. "I shall never forget how terrified the gypsy looked,
when the dog (we used to call her Mab, if I recollect right) seized her
by the throat."

They spent a few minutes more in recalling reminiscences of Mabel's
childhood, and then rode on again at a canter for a mile or two, along
the high-road, which was here bordered by hedges over which were tracks
of meadowland in the silent possession of a number of sleepy looking
cows, whose sole business in life appeared to be to ruminate upon their
own affairs. As they steadied their horses into a walk they met two
young ladies on horseback, attended by a groom; and Mabel blushed as
she returned their smile and nod of recognition.

"Who are those ladies, Mabel? They appear to know you!" said Mr. Wilton
in surprise, when they had passed out of hearing.

"Fanny Fenton and her sister Clara, papa," replied Mabel; and she
thought regretfully, "O dear, I wish we had not met them now? It will
remind papa of my visit to Elmgrove Hall; and I was in hope he would
forget it."

Mr. Wilton frowned but made no remark; and eager to change the subject,
Mabel plunged into a multitude of enquiries concerning his old friend
General Graham, and the veteran's battles and adventures; and pleased
with her excitement, Mr. Wilton exerted himself to amuse her with
anecdote of his friend's experience in the last. They were in the
midst of a discussion upon the method of trapping elephants in Ceylon;
and had arrived to within a mile of Chelmsford, when Mabel suddenly
exclaimed, "Why, papa, what is the matter with Jessie? She is walking
so strangely."

"She is limping. Rein up a moment; something is wrong with her off fore
hoof; she can hardly put it to the ground."

The groom who had also noticed the sudden lameness, here trotted up.
"The mare has cast a shoe sir or at least part a one! for a piece of
the iron is still sticking to the hoof."

"How excessively annoying to be sure!" Mr. Wilton exclaimed
impatiently. "How is it you did not look to the shoes before starting!"

The groom earnestly protested that he had examined the shoes before
starting; that he always examined the shoes before starting; that it
was a fixed and invariable habit (second nature in fact) for him to
examine the shoes before starting. And he concluded by suggesting that
a new one could be got at Merrit's farriery in Chelmsford, which they
would now reach in ten minutes.

There was nothing else to do, but to submit to the vexatious delay; so
Mr. Wilton assisted his daughter to dismount; and then give the reins
of the disabled horse to the groom with directions to meet them with it
at the Crown and Anchor as soon as the new shoe was fixed. They were
now close to the ancient town and in sight of the post in at which they
were to wait for the repairs to the horse. The groom slowly rode on as
ordered leading the poor beast which limped painfully.

"Come on, Mabel. You cannot help the horse by looking at it! and we
have a mile to walk to reach the inn."

Mabel was gazing in deep commiseration upon her unfortunate palfrey;
but, gathering her riding habit about her, she prepared to walk on. "It
must be a painful operation having heavy iron-shoes nailed on!" she
said in a speculative voice, half question, half soliloquy, thinking
of Jessie's coming trial. Mr. Wilton fully explained the theory of the
painlessness of the practice of horse-shoeing which subject occupied
the intervening minutes till they reached the Crown and Anchor. The
Crown and Anchor by Barnabus Scott was one of the old class of post
inns. It was a large brick building roofed and floored with great
square tiles. It had quite a forest of chimney tops, and its gables
projected nervously over the walls. The window's were all glazed with
diamond shaped panes, which the industrious ivy had nearly monopolized.
The inn stood back from the road, a large orchard and full fruit on
one side, and the spacious stable yard on the other. The orchard and
yard both came out to the road and formed a sort of bay in front of the
inn. Before the door stood a large elm, with a rough bench round it,
upon which in warm summer evenings the patrons of the Crown and Anchor
usually quaffed their beer and talked polities. The host himself who
stood at the bar door as Mr. Wilton and his daughter appeared was a
fine representative specimen of the genus. His height (or want of it
rather) was such, that on tiptoe his head, which was smooth, and bold,
and glossy as pink satin, could barely touch the minimum standard;
yet, as he had often himself averred with a genial grin, 'he had it
in breadth if he had'nt in height.' He was literally as broad as he
was long, and of a good natured tubular sort of figure, so to speak,
besides being a great and acknowledged authority upon all political
points, discussed under the elm of the 'Crown and Anchor.' There
was one special feature about Mr. Barnabus Scott, and that was his
smile. He smiled on a principle peculiarly his own. The height of his
good-humour could be gauged to a hair's breadth, by the depth of his
smile. Mr. Barnabus Scott was in the happy and unconscious possession
of a mouth of extensive and uncertain capacity; the greater his mirth,
the more distended his jaws, and as a natural consequence, the deeper
his smile. To see him when he had decided some knotty question under
the elm, or had just finished one of his half dozen stock jokes, and
was about to lead off into the usual ha! ha! ha! was a sight never to
be forgotten. But Mr. Barnabus Scott, the host, wit, and politician,
was rarely seen to smile when the boys of a neighbouring grammar
school were passing the door. One youngster, more remarkable as the
innkeeper often said, for impudence than learning, once observed
to a schoolfellow in Mr. Scott's hearing, that "When Barny Scott's
in a merry mood, he has a strong family likeness to a good-natured
alligator;" to which the other had replied, "Yes when he laughs he's
all mouth; and I expect if any one tickled him long enough his head'd
drop off." Mr. Scott had considered the uncalled for remarks personal
and vulgar; and as he never forgot them, he was seldom in a merry mood
when the insulting young dogs (to use his own words) or any of their
grinning comrades were in sight.

Mr. Barnabus Scott ambled across to the road to meet Mr. Wilton and
volunteered to send the horse to the stables for a dish of oats and a
rub down, but the squire explained that they merely intended waiting
for the groom, and declining the attention on behalf of the the horse,
preferred leaving its reins in the charge of a small boy, who was
hovering around the hostelry in the hope of earning an occasional penny
that way.

Would the squire and the young lady honor Mr. Scott by stepping into
the house, and waiting in the best parlour? The young lady however
preferred staying in the bright sunshine, and said so; and seated
herself upon the bench. Mr. Barnabus Scott had just opened a case of
the choicest port; would the gentleman or the young lady like to try
it? Neither the gentleman or the young lady had any curiosity in the
matter but had sufficient confidence in Mr. Scott to take his word as
a guarantee of the excellence of his port. Mr. Scott thought the wine
an exceptionable fine sample, and that the gentleman and the young lady
couldn't do wrong in giving him the benefit of their judgement upon
it; and on his showing a disposition to demonstrate the merits of the
article at some length, Mr. Wilton impatiently hinted that he would
prefer being left unmolested and the imperturbable host smiled with his
usual cavernous expression of countenance, bowed and ambled back to
his bar to serve a bricklayer who entered with him to a customary pint
of half-and-half. His daughter Ruth (she acted in the double capacity
of daughter and barmaid) walked into the bar from an inner room while
she was engaged in the pleasant occupation in putting the coppers
into the till; and knowing the liberal though irritable character of
the gentleman in the front, he sent her to attend the young lady. Mr.
Wilton was pacing to and fro in the space between the orchard and the
stable yard fuming over the annoying delay; and Mabel was sitting under
the elm, musing upon a letter which had made her angry on receiving,
and which she had only answered second hand, yet which lay there in
her bosom, the most precious treasure she possessed. Her day-dream
was short lived; for she had barely composed herself to think, when
she was disturbed by the rosy-cheeked Ruth, who curtsied and said
"Father told me to attend you, miss, in case you might want anything."
Mabel was sure that she wanted nothing; but Ruth loved a chat, and
was determined to have one. "You came from that beautiful park the
other side of Dunmow, miss, did you not?" she asked, after several
unsuccessful attempts to draw the young lady into conversation. Mabel's
curt "Yes," would have daunted any other barmaid than a daughter of Mr.
Barnabus Scott but she returned to the attack with the pertinacity of
an inveterate gossip.

"Did you see the wedding party as you passed the church, Miss?" was
the next experiment; and Mabel's indifferent "No, what wedding?"
was sufficient to launch her into a full and minute account of a
wedding that morning, celebrated between Joe Briggs, eldest son of
a neighbouring undertaker and Sarah Ann, the third daughter of old
Stephen Finch, the milkman. She was about half through the spirited
narrative, which Mabel payed but occasional attention to, when a
stylish dogcart and tandem stopped at the stable-yard gate, and a young
man about nineteen years of age stumbled out, and called to the hostler
to come and take away the horses. The other occupant stepped down from
his seat very deliberately saying as he felt about for the step with
his foot, "Bedad Sir Toby, you'll be after breaking your neck skipping
out that way. My plan's to be careful at all times, and double careful
when I've got outside o' a bottle or two o' port." Sir Toby laughed,
and flung a crown piece to the man who came out to take charge of the
horses. The younger man, Sir Toby Cadman, was dressed in the height
of fashion, and was profusely adorned with rings. He was rather above
the middle height, stout built, inclining to corpulence, and of a fair
complexion, with watery-looking blue eyes. He wore a budding moustache
of a pale flaxen color matching his long lank hair. His companion
appeared to be double his age and at least double his size. He wore a
sort of round, devil-may-care expression upon his round, full-blown
face, and a twinkle of native humor in his greenish-grey eyes. He was
an Irishman. No need for him to tell any one though--he carried his
nationality stamped as unmistakably upon his flaring visage, as the
genus of a tiger or leopard in its stripes or spots--yet his name
was Turnbul. How the Saxon patronism got into his family he could
never decide; for, as he said, "all of his own immediate friends and
relations were Irishmen excepting his great grandmother," and his own
private opinion was, "that she had brought the name wid her when she
came over to old Ireland to make an illigant match."

"I t--t--t-tell you, Turnbul, your'e a g--g-gentleman!" observed the
younger man solemnly.

The 'gentleman' whispered something and tried to hurry his friend on to
the bar.

"All r-r-right, Turnbul! Do you t-t-think I c-c-can't be a gentleman
too? Hang your impudence!" he retorted savagely, and, gallantly raising
his hat, he said, as he staggered towards the elm, "G-good-day, ladies!
Will you t-t-take a drop of something hot?"

Turnbul tried to drag him on, but he made a show of resistance; and he
exclaimed angrily, "All r-r-right Turnbul! Do you think it's a half
b-b-bred Irishman that knows how to c-c-conduct himself b-b-before
ladies! D-d-do you th-th-think I'm drunk? I'll bet you a n-n-new hat I
can walk to th-th-the bar d-door as str-r-raight as a----"

"Corkscrew," suggested Turnbul.

"Cork g-g-grandmother!" returned the young baronet indignantly, "As
str-r-raight as a ch-chalk line!"

To get his companion quietly into the bar without a scene, Mr. Turnbul
accepted the wager; and Sir Toby gravely attempted the trial. He
very deliberately balanced himself by extending his arms after the
fashion of a young ostrich just learning to walk, and then made a
sort of running dive at the bar door. He took a rather circuitous
route, it is true; but, as he ultimately 'brought up' at the door,
he insisted that he had fairly won the bet, and generously offered
to take the value of the stakes out in brandy, and share it with the
loser, which arrangement the innkeeper declared was magnanimous. "Show
us the way int-t-to a p-p-parlor, old B-B-Beer-barrel, and b-b-bring
us a d-d-decanter and g-g-glasses!" said Sir Toby, staggering in the
direction of a private sitting-room he often occupied. In a minute or
two the friends and the host were seated round a table of the private
sitting-room sampling the Crown and Anchor's last case of brandy.

"Who is that young man who just staggered into the inn?" asked Mabel.
"He is intoxicated."

"That's young Sir Toby Cadman. He's father was buried only last week,
and he has never been sober since," replied Ruth, now fairly afloat
upon a subject for gossip. "They say old sir Jonas was the richest man
in Chelmsford; but his son will soon run through it I expect."

"What a pity to see one so young becoming a drunkard!" observed Mabel.
"He seems little more than a mere boy. It is grief for the loss of his
father that makes him give way so I imagine."

"Grief!" returned Ruth contemptuously. "Why, bless your simplicity, he
don't care, except that he has no one to grumble at him now, and he can
spend what he likes. Just fancy, he was carried home from the funeral
on a shutter!"

"On a shutter!" echoed Mabel. "On a shutter! Did he meet with an
accident then?"

"Accident? Some of them said he was overcome by grief; but I know what
it was overpowered him, for I served him myself. Ha, Sir Toby Cadman is
a wicked young man."

At this moment the miserable being, popularly known in Chelmsford as
Mad Esther, appeared, walking up the road at a great pace; and noticing
Mabel and the barmaid talking under the elm she stalked across to
them; and confronting Mabel with a stern face she said, pointing to
Mr. Wilton, "Ah! an elopement is it! And are you waiting for a post
chaise? Oh, fools and blind women are all alike! all alike mark me,
young Miss! If you would be wretched for life, a slave, a half-starved,
abused, dependant slave, marry that man! If you would wear out your
days in toil and your nights in tears, marry that man! If you would
leap into the fire, if you would rush into a whirlwind, marry that
man: but if you, poor foolish thing that you are, if you would escape
a life of unutterable anguish, fly anywhere, anywhere but into his
arms! Away--down that lane and into the fields beyond: I will stay his
following you. Better a thousand times better, starvation, death, than
to be the life-long slave of a stoney-hearted, perfidious man!" She had
to pause for breath; and Mr. Wilton, seeing that the poor creature's
excitement was alarming his daughter, stepped up to her and whispered,
"Do not be frightened, Mabel. She is as gentle as a lamb, although she
looks so fierce. I remember she used to live here before we went to
Cornwall. She is mad, poor woman, and goes by the name of 'Mad Esther'."

Mad Esther noticed Mr. Wilton speak to Mabel, and shaking her huge
bonnet at him till the ribbons flew about a very maze of green and
yellow bunting, she burst forth again, "No billing and cooing, sir!
Don't flatter yourself you have her yet; I'll save her from you, if I
die in the attempt. Come with me my poor child. He shall not molest
you, if you will be advised by me, and leave him while there is yet
time."

"You are all in a cloud this morning, Esther!" said the barmaid,
laughing. "This gentleman is only the young lady's----"

"Don't tell me! Don't tell me!" interrupted Mad Esther angrily. "She's
a bigger fool than the rest of them, or if she's determined to throw
herself away, she would sacrifice herself in a church by rule and
book, and not run away with him like this;" and turning to Mabel, and
raising her hands in an attitude of solemn entreaty, she continued;
"Come with me poor, misguided creature. Let me rescue you from this
deadly temptation; and the world shall never know how narrow was your
escape?" She paused for Mabel to speak, but the young girl was at the
moment eagerly watching her father's face in dread that the wretched
creature's vagaries should anger him. Mabel had an extravagant idea of
the summary powers of a magistrate; and her father was a magistrate.
Mr. Wilton, was, however, regarding Mad Esther with an amused smile,
evidently studying her peculiar phase of lunacy. Mabel not replying,
Mad Esther grew quite pathetic in her appeal. "If you will not be
advised to fly from the terrible fate you are rushing into, let me beg
of you, let me implore you upon my knees," here she knelt down upon
the hard gravel, "not to stir another step till you have been legally
married! Let me----"

"Come, come, my good woman, you are under a great mistake," interrupted
Mr. Wilton, thinking it time to put an end to the scene. "This young
lady is my daughter."

"Do you think I would believe a man?" Mad Esther asked in supreme
disdain. "You, who are capable of deceiving this lamb, would not
hesitate in lying to me."

"O, Esther I heard you were married!" said Ruth, who knew by experience
how to substitute either of the unhappy being's two subjects for the
other. "I think you might have invited me to the wedding."

The allusion to her own matrimonial prospects effectually changed the
current of mad Esther's thoughts, and she slowly rose to her feet. "No,
Ruth, it is a mistake. I am not married yet; but I shall be. I know he
is coming and soon to claim his bride. I feel it here!" striking her
breast. "I feel it here! Ah, Ruth, I have been faithful, so faithful,
all these long years. Not the whole world could change me. Yes, Ruth, I
shall live to marry him yet. It is written in the book of Fate I shall!"

"See, papa, here comes Rugby with Jessie," interrupted Mabel, pointing
to the groom riding up the road.

"My faithful heart shall be hap----" The mad woman paused, her eyes
fixed upon the bar-door, and her mouth open, as if held ajar by the
unspoken end of the sentence. Sir Toby stood in the doorway, holding
on by the side posts, a tipsy leer in his weak eyes. He was evidently
the worse for the fresh potations he had just guzzled. "I'm an an
Englishman, Turnb-b-bul! an Englishman! one of the b-b-bones and sinews
of th-th-this brave l-l-little island!" As he uttered the maudlin folly
in grave seriousness, he staggered with weak and uncertain steps into
the space before the door.

The ludicrous spectacle was too much even for the youth's half-drunken
companion, who leaned against the wall and laughed with a vigor that
threatened to choke him, his hands deep in his breeches pockets, and
his battered hat lodged on the back of his head. "Bedad, Sir Toby,"
he gasped as soon as he had recovered his breath. "If you're a decent
specimen of an Englishman, I'll speculate in a brandy still! Be the
mass but I'll do a roaring trade!"

"D-d-do you know th-th-the difference between an Englishman and a half
b-b-bred Irishman?" Sir Toby asked with a grin of infinite disdain. His
companion did not, unless it was the same that distinguished his cousin
Tim Macquire from his dog Tony, only that Englishmen weren't always as
faithful as Tony.

"You're a foo-foo-fool, you Ce-ce-celtic hog! You Hibernian b-b-bog
trotter!" retorted Sir Toby angrily. "An Englishman's a John Bull, and
and and a half b-b-bred Irishman's a T-t-turnb----"

Sir Toby did not finish the silly attempt at wit; for Mad Esther,
exclaiming, "Oh John, John, my love, my own darling! I knew you would
come for me at last! I knew you would come for me after all these long
years!" rushed across to him, and flung her arms round his neck in a
transport of delight. There were several reasons why the affectionate
demonstration was most inopportune, the principal one being that the
young baronet was just then rather too much for his own legs, which
consequently gave way under the impetus, leaving their owner to find
his level as best he could, which he speedily succeeded in doing upon
the hard gravel; and the lady, not reckoning upon such a diversion,
turned a complete somersault over him in a manner that could hardly be
considered dignified or graceful out of pantomine.

The groom here reached the inn; and slipping a piece of gold into the
tittering barmaid's hand, Mr. Wilton assisted Mabel into her saddle,
and then mounted himself; and they rode on, leaving Mad Esther and Sir
Toby to scramble to their feet amidst the uproarous merriment of Mr.
Turnbul and Mr. Barnabas Scott.

Half an hour's ride brought Mr. Wilton and Mabel to General
Graham's new mansion, where they were received with expressions of
hearty welcome by the old soldier and his wife. In anticipation of
his friend's visit, General Graham had invited a few of his new
acquaintances to dine with him; and quite a sociable and select party
sat down to dinner. Mabel was led in by Captain Graham, the General's
one-armed son who sat next her at table, and interested her deeply with
a humorous account of some of his adventures in the east, chief among
which was the tiger hunt in which his sword arm was bitten through by
a royal Bengal. When the cloth was removed, and the ladies had retired
to the drawing-room, one after another of the gentlemen excused himself
and followed till the old friends were left together over their wine.
After some time had been spent in talking of old times the General
suddenly said, "By-the-by, Wilton, I like that girl of yours, I have no
daughter; and the sooner Charley presents me with a daughter-in-law the
better I shall be pleased; and if he has only the gumption to fall in
love with Mabel, he may count on my consent! What do you say!"

Mr. Wilton was quite willing to let matters take their course. If the
young people found that they suited each other, he would place no
obstacle in their way.




CHAPTER XIV.

THURSDAY (the same Thursday, by-the-way, that Mabel and her father rode
over to Chelmsford) was ushered in at Torquay by a cool sea breeze
and a clear sky. Scarcely a cloud was to be seen: and what few there
were seemed to float lazily along in thorough abandonment to a sleepy
sort of passive enjoyment--heedless alike of the beautiful sky above
and the beautiful earth beneath. On this particular Thursday morning
Miss Rachel Talford was, figuratively speaking, mad with delight and
excitement. To save time she was up and dressed before the stars had
left off blinking; and her brother, who seldom cared to compete with
the lark for the chilly honor of being first in the field, was for
the once, thanks to her incessant and urgent raps at his door, up
before a good many larks--probably before all the larks in the United
Kingdom--which would give him a good start with them in any future
contest. Rachel allowed him no peace till she took her pony and rode
down to the bay to see if the 'Golden Glitter,' the boat they were
to sail to Watcombe in, was ready and waiting. It was a small yacht
belonging to one of their friends on the other side of the bay, who
was to form one of the party, and who had promised to bring the little
vessel over the night before, so as to be ready early. There was no
absolute necessity for the yacht to appear till ten o'clock--the
hour they were to start--but Rachel had insisted upon the expediency
of having it ready overnight. Why it was expedient she would have
found hard to explain, unless by the usual and unanswerable, feminine
argument 'it was because it was.' But the owner, who always (for
reasons best known to himself) humoured her in everything, promised
faithfully to be at his post according to orders. By the time the
brother returned and reported the 'Golden Glitter' riding snugly at
her moorings, the sister had unpacked and repacked everything in the
expectation that the most important articles had been forgotten.
Somebody's memory must have been a very good one, however; for nothing
had been over-looked.

"There!" the young lady exclaimed, as she tied a cord round the last
hamper, a warm flush on her pretty face, and a sparkle of excitement
in her soft brown, eyes. "There! Everything is ready, Herbert--cakes,
table-napkins, ham sandwiches, chicken-pie, champagne, knives and
forks, lemonade, wine biscuits, etcætra, etcætra, etcætra, and all the
rest of them."

By the time breakfast was disposed of, everything but the time was
in readiness for a start. It still wanted two hours of ten o'clock
however; and though Rachel had influence enough in a certain quarter
to insure the boat being ready and waiting overnight, the time for
starting would submit to no such charming tyranny, for all her eager
impatience. "Eight o'clock, Herbert!" she exclaimed, pushing back her
plate and cup and saucer, (which said as plainly as chinaware could,
that she had too much on hand to think of breakfast) and rising from
the table, "We had better go now for Miss Vaughan and Polly! Mamma,
you and papa will walk down to the yacht, won't you? It's hardly any
distance; and the walk will do you good; and Herbert can drive the
carriage over for our visitors. James can take the baskets and hampers
down in a cart," she said, asked, and suggested all in the one set of
words. Mrs. Talford agreed to the proposed arrangement; and in a few
minutes the barrister was a the door with the carriage.

"Don't wait for me, Herbert!" cried Rachel from the depth of a hamper
which she had unpacked for the third time (on this occasion to put a
second stool in, in case it might be wanted) "You hurry on; I will
overtake you!"

"What; are you going to ride, then? There is no necessity for that;
there is plenty of room here."

The question of room or no room was not one that troubled the young
lady just then. She had a secret intention of giving Polly her first
lesson in riding on this particular morning; but, giving no hint of it,
she laughed, and retorted. "Now, tyrant, do you intend to dictate, when
everyone else lets me do as I like?"

As the brother had no intention of establishing his right to the title
by any dictation, he smiled, and drove on. Five minutes after Azim was
saddled again, and at the door, and a minute and three quarters later
was bearing his young mistress along at a pace slightly faster than a
legitimate canter. "Caught at last!" she exclaimed, breathlessly, as
she presently reined up by the side of the carriage. "And now for the
rest of the way, Herbert, I shall keep pace with your sober, old coach
horse, and give Azim time to breathe a little."

"I think you ride altogether too recklessly, Rachel. You were almost
galloping down the hill yonder. You do not appear to consider the
danger you would be in, if a girth or a strap were to give way!" said
her brother gravely.

Rachel did not feel inclined to listen very patiently to a lecture on
such a gala day as this; so after a few seconds demure silence she
adroitly changed the subject by saying, "Herbert, after seeing Miss
Seymour, I cannot wonder at the deep interest you feel in her. She is
a most interesting girl; and I believe if I were a man I should fall
in love with her at first sight. But what a gloomy, morose individual
her brother is! You say he is clever--half a genius in fact. If all
clever men are like him, I want to see no more of the species. His very
presence, with his settled frown and sealed lips, oppresses me."

The barrister passed by unnoticed the portion of Rachel's observation
referring to Polly. He could not lightly chat about her even with
a sister; and this was no day for talking seriously. "You must not
judge Mr. Seymour too harshly, Rachel!" he said gently. "He was not
always as you see him now. Indeed it is only during the last few weeks
that he has grown so unsocial and reserved. For every effect there is
some cause; and if he is grieving in silence over his sister's fast
approaching death, shall we censure him!"

Mr. Talford spoke with the faintest tremor in his words; but his
sister's quick ear caught it, and, knowing what she did, her own voice
trembled a little as she said, "O, Herbert, I did not think of that!
Poor Mr. Seymour! She must be all the world to him!--neither father nor
mother, nor any other relation but his aunt; and every day bringing
his gentle sister's death nearer and nearer! His whole heart must
be centered in her. You cannot tell how sorry I am, Herbert, that I
thought so hardly and unkindly of him!"

Nothing more was said till they reached Ethelton (the name was painted
in neat black letters upon the gate) each busy with the saddening
thoughts the few words had awakened.

Polly and her aunt were both ready, with their contribution towards
the general larder, packed, and waiting. "You see, my dear," said Miss
Letitia deprecatingly, noticing Rachel's glance of surprise, "I know
you intended to provide everything; but I always like in little parties
of this sort to take something with me. I have only some sponge cake of
my own making, and a bottle or two of gooseberry wine."

Rachel's answer was intercepted by her brother's enquiries after
Miss Seymour's health. Polly felt a little stronger, and had done so
during the whole of the previous week: but the hectic flush upon her
transparent cheek was deepened, and those wonderful eyes shone with
an increased brilliance--symptoms that went like dagger's through the
barrister's heart. "Frank went for a walk half an hour ago, sir!" said
Polly, after she had given the required information concerning her
health. "He said he would be back again by a quarter past eight." It
was after that time already, yet the gentleman in question, who at the
moment appeared coming up from the river, which he had just passed by a
rude plank bridge, sauntered as leisurely along as if he had half a day
to spare.

"Here is Mr. Seymour now," said Rachel, the first to observe his
approach. "He and Miss Vaughan can go with you Herbert. Polly is to
take her first lesson in the saddle this morning; so she can ride down
to the bay."

Both aunt Letitia and Mr. Talford protested against the proposed
arrangement; but as usual Rachel had her own way. She proved beyond all
disproof that there was plenty of time for her to walk and lead the
pony; and as Polly appeared inclined to try the experiment, further
opposition was abandoned. While Mr. Talford was busy putting into
the carriage the baskets and sundry other essentials in the form of
wraps and umbrellas, which the thoughtful old lady provided, the girls
repaired to Polly's room and prepared for the riding lesson by the
one getting out of and the other into the blue cloth habit. By the
time the change was effected, and the 'things' stowed snugly away in
the carriage, Frank reached the gate. A few minutes delay was caused
in placing Polly safely upon the saddle, which was however soon done
to everybody's satisfaction (but the pony's--he most unmistakably
resented a stranger's mounting him by several little significant neighs
and shakes) and everyone was ready to start. Polly whispered to her
instructress that she would rather wait till the others had gone on
before she should take the first step; and Rachel instantly noticing
that her pupil was nervous, and did not want the others to see it, told
her brother that she would lead the pony across the green instead of
going by the road, and that there was no necessity for him to wait; and
Mr. Talford, accustomed to obeying his spoilt sister's behests, touched
the old horse with the whip, and drove on. As the carriage rolled off
all the eyes it contained were fixed upon the pupil for the purpose
of seeing her start, but Rachel contrived to take so long in showing
her how to hold her reins and whip, that the carriage was crossing
the bridge before she said, "We will go now, Polly. They will be
hidden from view by a turn in the road directly." Polly's nervousness
increased at such a rate that she prepared for starting by dropping
her reins. A laugh, as Rachel's ready hands restored them, and another
attempt was made, this time by Azim, who suddenly appeared to be seized
by a serious misgiving as to the safety of his tail, and in consequence
took a promenade round (in a circle) to look for it. "O, stop him,
Rachel! Stop him, or I shall turn giddy!" exclaimed Polly, dropping her
reins a second time, the more readily to grasp the horns of the saddle,
with both hands. Rachel dextrously caught the offender by the mane,
and lectured him sternly upon the impropriety of his conduct--both
girls laughing the while. "I really do believe, Polly, that the cunning
little scamp knows as well as we do that you cannot manage him yet!"
said Rachel patting her favourite upon his glossy grey neck. "I shall
have to lead him a little at first till you get accustomed to using the
reins."

Acting upon her own suggestion Rachel slowly led the pony on, Polly
grasping her share of the reins and one horn with her right hand, and
the other horn with her left. Her courage returned so fast, however,
that before they had travelled a quarter of a mile she needed only
one hand to steady herself by, and contrived to spare the whole of
the other for the management of the reins. Another quarter of a mile
passed and she suddenly discovered that there was no real necessity
for holding on even by one hand, as it was possible to balance
herself without; and very soon after she proposed taking the whole
responsibility of guiding the pony upon herself. When his young
mistress let go of the reins Azim appeared inclined to take another
promenade round in interest of his tail but Polly gave such a decided
tug at the reins, and said "Woa, sir!" with so much force and dignity,
that in his amazement the pony forgot his anxiety about his caudal
appendage, and stepped out freely. Polly soon learned to guide him
straight (at first using both hands for the purpose) and when they
reached the rendezvous (twenty minutes after time) Rachel proudly
presented her to the waiting and impatient picnicers as a marvel of
proficiency.

In a few minutes the excursionists were aboard, and the pony was
trudging leisurely homeward at the heels of a ragged urchin, who
earned a much needed sixpence by leading him back to his stables. It
was unanimously decided to take a sail round the bay before going on
to Watcombe; and the 'Golden Glitter's' bows were accordingly turned
south; and away they went. The party was not a large one, including
only the two families and a few of Miss Rachel Talford's friends,
among whom were the owner of the yacht and his cousin, Miss Rose
Shadwell, a hazel-eyed little witch of twenty-two. There was only just
sufficient wind for sailing purposes; and the water was as smooth as
the proverbial mill-pond. The sail took up some considerable time; but
at last the 'Golden Glitter' was fairly bearing down for Watcombe, all
agreeing that they had thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

"Look, Mr. Seymour! there is a picture worthy a place in your
sketchbook, if you paint!" cried Rachel with enthusiasm, as the little
vessel shot round a point, and Watcombe with its beauty of scenery
burst upon their view. Mr. Seymour could not paint; and he enquired
whether Miss Talford could. The young lady did not profess to be an
artist; but she was fond of sketching, and had taken rough views,
so she said, of most of the places of interest near Torquay. Would
Miss Talford give him the pleasure of judging for himself whether her
sketches really deserved being called rough views. She would, if Mr.
Seymour would promise not to laugh at her awkward attempts, which were
in reality little better than caricatures. Frank began to observe
that he felt sure there would be nothing to laugh at in the sketches,
though probably much to admire; but, his thoughts gradually wandering
away from the bright noontide around him to a certain twilight evening
and an unutterable deed done in the gaze of God's sentinel stars, he
abruptly turned and walked to the other end of the yacht, leaving his
words but half spoken. Rachel felt at first rather more than half
inclined to take the singular conduct as an intentional slight, but
glancing at Polly and remembering her own brother Herbert's conjecture
upon the cause of Mr. Seymour's gloomy absence of mind, pity took the
place of annoyance; and she turned to the beautiful invalid with a yet
deeper interest. Polly's wonderful eyes were dilated in admiration and
enjoyment, as she gazed upon the magnificent scene before her. The
combe lay at the head of a diminutive bay or cove bounded or edged in
by cliffs of red conglomorate rock; and above and beyond it the valley
rose, sloping away to the right and left in its rich vesture of green.
The scene taken as a whole was at once picturesque in its variety, and
beautiful in the perfect harmony of its blending colors. The differing
shades of blue in sky and sea, of green in the grass and the foliage
of the trees, with the dull red of the rugged cliffs, and the snowy
white of the tiny, drifting clouds, formed a landscape beyond the
imitative power, for all art critics say, of the greatest masters of
the painters' craft.

But the 'Golden Glitter' had something else to do than idle her time
upon the dancing wavelets, for her freight to gaze all day upon the
scene from a sea point of view; and while they looked on and admired,
she sped nearer and nearer; and presently was close in upon those red
rocks, which lost much of their beauty on closer acquaintance (red
rocks are not the only things in this world that borrow their charms
from the glamour of distance) and was soon moored to the landing stage.
Now came the bustling disembarking of hampers and baskets, and all
the rest of the hurlyburly incidental to, and apparently inseparable
from, a gypsy party. While the ladies waited upon the little wharf,
chatting upon the pleasures of the present or past picnics, the
gentlemen carried the 'lumber' (as one of them jocosely called their
burdens) to the green heights above, and then returned to escort and
assist their fair friends up the steep ascent. Miss Rachel Talford
waited for neither escort nor assistance, but led the way up the
broken, stair-like path, hurrying along for the purpose of escaping
the attentions of the owner of the yacht (at least so thought that
individual, and savagely bit his lip in consequence) and she was
closely followed by most of the other pleasure-seekers, who merrily
helped each other along amidst laughter and raillery. The senior Mr.
Talford with Miss Letitia followed at a more decorous pace, conversing
as they went upon the degeneracy of the times; and Frank, supporting
his invalid sister, and the barrister, leading his aged mother, slowly
brought up the rear.

The sail round the bay had taken so long, and had given the picnicers
such urgent appetites, that the elder Mr. Talford suggested spreading
table cloths and opening baskets at once. It was unanimously decided
to act upon the advice, and in a few minutes the lunch or dinner or
dejeuner, or whatever it might be called, was served up (or down)
upon the grass and under the broad branches of a patriarchal oak.
Rachel thought it pleasanter in the sunshine, and so spread a separate
cloth (formed of two table-napkins arm-in-arm as it were) for herself
and her new friend at a short distance from the principal group; and
she and Polly were soon chatting away at such a rate that their own
special supply of cakes etc. was at a loss for something to do.

They were not alone long before the owner of the yacht, whose appetite
had undoubtedly been left abroad, came to the logical conclusion
that two young ladies sitting apart in such an unsocial manner could
not fail to feel lonely, and very considerately stepped across to
them; and, throwing himself upon the grass on the other side of the
arm-in-arm table napkins, observed solemnly (and with a slight cough)
that it was splendid weather for a picnic. Miss Rachel was of the
same opinion, and hiding her annoyance at the interruption behind a
smile (her gentle little face couldn't have looked unkind if she had
tried ever so hard) she added, "O, Mr. Ford, will you do me a favor!"
Mr. Ford would be delighted to do her a dozen favors, only tell him
how and he would serve her faithfully, well, and find it a pleasure.
"I am afraid they may miss us over there," glancing in the direction
of the group at the table cloth which wasn't two napkins arm-in-arm,
"perhaps you will go and try to make up for our absence by exerting
yourself to entertain them." Mr. Ford would be delighted (he looked
about as delighted as a boy who takes his physic under the conviction
that it will do him good) and he rose to return with a somewhat similar
expression of countenance to which a boy under such circumstances might
be expected to wear. Rachel looked after him with a glance of pain and
regret. She cared nothing for the gentleman and was not pleased at
the impression she had made. As for the gentleman himself, he bit his
lips more savagely than ever, and fulfilled his mission by alternately
talking to nobody in particular, and watching the evolutions of a flock
of sea-birds in the bay. The rest of the company contrived to keep up a
very animated conversation; and their occasional bursts of merriment at
some witty sally or other, now and then caused the girls to look round
and smile.

Rachel did nearly all the talking at the duplicate table-napkin cloth;
and gave Polly glowing accounts of many a previous picnic she had
been at. Presently in the midst of one of her earliest recollections
their attention was attracted by the advent of three or four large
wagon-loads of children in holiday attire, who were set down a few
hundred yards further on; and she exclaimed; "Look, Polly! We're not
the only visitors here to-day. See: a Sunday school treat." The little
people were no sooner on their feet than they entered with spirit into
'Kiss in the ring,' 'Thread the sailor's needle,' and other juvenile
spots, while their teachers set about preparations for the feast. The
appearance of the school children turned the girls' conversation into
a new channel; and Rachel spoke of her experience as a Sunday school
teacher. How imperceptibly and with what subtle and inexplicable
gradations do we glide from subject to subject--the thread unbroken,
though the first from the last, and the intermediate from either be as
distinct and disconnected as though a gulf were between them.

Presently they were talking of the noble work of converting the
heathen; and Rachel observed, "Wouldn't it be strange if we were to
become missionaries wives by-and-by!" This young lady had long looked
upon marrying a missionary as the greatest sacrifice she could make
for the good cause (hardly complimentary to the missionary, some may
say) and she never read of any other young lady making the important
'sacrifice' by accompanying the Rev. Mr. Smith or Brown to Feegee or
the Sandwich islands, without feelings, which, if fairly analysed,
would be found to consist of at least two thirds envy. There was no
special and particular missionary in view, for, as she said, she had
never seen a real live missionary in her life. It was only a piece of
girlish enthusiasm. "I shall not live to marry a missionary, or anyone
else!" replied Polly, with a faint smile. "Not very long now, Rachel,
before they put me into the quiet churchyard!"

"Into the churchyard!" exclaimed Rachel, as startled and pained by the
low sweet voice in its words of calm resignation, as if she heard the
terrible truth for the first time. "Don't say so; you may get well
again soon. Numbers of people, who come here, go away quite restored.
See how much better you have been lately!"

Polly shook her head. "No, no, Rachel! I am dying; and I know it,
although all try to hide it from me, even you. You know it is the
doctor's opinion; for they would be sure to tell you."

Rachel felt a big lump rise in her throat; and several warm tears fell
upon Polly's thin hand, as she took it into her own. She thought of her
brother's wish that the dying girl should be made acquainted with the
true nature of her position; and by a brave effort she nerved herself
to say, "Dear Polly, it is only too true! We all know, and bitterly
grieve over the hopelessness of your case. But think how much brighter
and happier than this earth heaven will be; no more pain or sorrow
there."

Polly did not answer for some seconds. She was wondering whether heaven
would be heaven to her, or whether her great earthly grief would follow
her even there. Presently she replied dreamily, gazing at the distant
sky, as though she were trying to peer through into the realms of joy.
"I am sorry to say, Rachel, that I have not given much thought to the
future; but I have found the present bitter enough!"

Here the principal group rose from the grass; and Rose Shadwell, ran
across to Rachel to suggest a game of Blind-man's-buff. "Very well,
Rose; I'll be ready by the time you set the game moving. Tell Herbert:
he'll soon have everybody in the humor." Rose ran off, not loth to
have an excuse for speaking to Mr. Herbert; and in a very snort
space of time her own bright eyes were eclipsed by that gentleman's
handkerchief; and there she stood in the midst of the excitement the
prettiest blind man alive. "Polly," said Rachel gravely as they rose to
join the game, "We should all of us think of our immortal future--even
we, who may live many years--how much more then you, Polly, who have
so little time left you. But we will talk of this at a more convenient
season. As the Bible says, there is a time for all things."

Mr. Ford here stepped across to hurry the loiterers to the game. "We
are waiting for you, Miss Rachel!" he said with a little preliminary
cough. "Allow me to--to----" He paused a moment to make up his mind
to what; and the young girl, pitying his absurd embarrassment, though
annoyed at his attentions filled up the blank with, "Escort us to the
game yonder. Thank you Mr. Ford. Come along, Polly. See, there is
Mr. Bell caught. Well done Rose! I wonder whether she will guess him
right!" Rose did guess right, thanks to somebody's whisper, and so
escaped the forfeit; and the disappointed captive sulkily submitted
to be blindfolded. Polly took possession of a camp stool, and at a
safe distance watched the progress of the game, and Rachel in response
to repeated and eager calls joined in. A vast deal of excitement and
laughter and racing about, and Mr. Talford, senior, was caught, then
Mr. Bell again and little Annie Shadwell, followed by half a dozen
others in turn; and then Mr. Ford 'turned round three times' &c.

The fun now grew fast and furious, Mr. Ford made prodigious efforts to
miss a promiscuous catch. He had determined to take advantage of the
privilege, if he could only manage it. "At last I have caught her!" he
thought with a sort of nervous delight; and his heart beat as fast and
loud as the tick of an old Dutch clock, as he securely held the slender
form in his grasp. "Who is she? Who is she?" cried the laughing players
in chorus; and Mr. Ford with his usual preliminary cough guessed
"Maggie Chisholm," because he guessed she was not. "Wrong! wrong!
The forfeit! The forfeit!" shouted the delighted blind-mans-buffers;
and the excited Mr. Ford in blissful though nervous anticipation
fumbled at the snowy bandage till it slipped down his neck like a dog
collar; and--Oh horror--Miss Letitia, her fair cheeks darkened by
her fifty nine summers and her ill concealed annoyance; and Rachel
standing ten yards off enjoying her admirer's look of consternation
and disappointment. "The forfeit, Mr. Ford!" she cried; and the
luckless victim to adverse circumstances made a desperate effort to
look unconcerned; and gallantly raising his hat, paid the unpalatable
forfeit, and then courteously tied the bandage over the old lady's
eyes, and the game went on. Presently Rose Shadwell ran across to
Polly, and begged her to join the game. Mr. Talford, who happened to be
passing at the moment, whispered "Yes, do, Miss Seymour! Half an hour's
excitement will do you good." And yielding to the double request, she
reluctantly entered the laughing group, and was soon as much interested
in the fun as the rest of them.

While the fun was at its height, and every one too much absorbed in the
game to notice anything else, a young officer on foot, followed by a
groom leading his horse, approached the group without being observed,
and stood looking on with folded arms for some minutes before he was
seen. The barrister who was the first to notice him, stepped across
and said in a genial and offhand manner, "We are a picnic party out
for a day's enjoyment. If you would like to join us, you will be
most heartily welcome." The stranger would join them with pleasure.
He had, he said, come to Torquay with dispatches for his colonel who
was on a visit here; and having heard of the beauty of the scenery
at Watcombe, he had taken the opportunity to see it for himself.
Polly had been caught a few minutes before: and was now the blind
man, and was moving about nervously. Dispensing with the conventional
necessity, an introduction, the officer entered the game, and in a
very few minutes was caught. "It would not be fair to expect her to
guess the gentleman's name when she does not know it!" cried Rose
Shadwell; and all admitting the unfairness, the guess and forfeit were
passed over, and the handkerchief removed. One startled glance at the
stranger before her, her color vanished, her voiceless lips moved, and
staggering back a few paces she fell. The officer sprang forward to
catch her; but the barrister had anticipated him; and the insensible
girl lay in his arms, her head upon his breast--she had fainted. Her
aunt flew to her side in a moment. The usual means for restoring
consciousness were employed; and in a few minutes she opened her
lustrous eyes. An involuntary glance of yearning, unutterable love at
the stranger before her, and she whispered plaintively, "Take me home,
auntie! Oh, take me home!"

"The excitement of the game has been too much for her, sir!" observed
the elder Mr. Talford to the officer who stood with arms folded,
speculating upon the wonderful beauty of the young girl, and the cause
of her sudden indisposition. "She is an invalid, and should be kept
very quiet."




CHAPTER XV.

IN a few seconds the invalid recovered sufficient strength to rise
to her feet; and she blushed painfully on discovering in whose arms
she had lain. "Take me home, auntie!" she pleaded again; and Miss
Letitia and Rachel supporting her between them slowly began the descent
to the yacht. The barrister offered his arm; but the aunt, rightly
interpreting Polly's glance assured him that she and Miss Talford were
quite able to take her niece down without assistance.

The incident threw quite a damp upon the little gathering; and the
barrister's suggestion that they should set sail and return homeward at
once, was instantly agreed to, and baskets and hampers were hurriedly
packed. "O, where is Miss Seymour's brother, Mr. Talford?" suddenly
enquired Rose Shadwell as they were about to follow.

"Bye-the-bye, yes. I have not seen him since we began the game!"
returned the barrister, looking hurriedly about.

"Look, sir; is that the gentleman you have missed? See, standing on the
cliff there," said the officer pointing to a man leaning against a rock
and gazing steadfastly down upon the bay.

"Yes! that is Mr. Seymour sir! I will run across and tell him we are
going," said Ross. "It will not take me a minute."

"Allow me to save you the trouble. Miss! I shall pass him directly,"
said the officer; and, bowing, he continued "I have spent a really
pleasant half-hour among you; and I can assure you I shall not soon
forget this beautiful spot." He shook hands with the barrister and
Rose, the only two now left on the scene, and then, beckoning to his
groom to follow, walked across to warn the loiterer that his friends
were waiting for him. "What a heavenly face!" he thought as he walked
on. "If I did not love Mab so deeply, it would be dangerous for me to
see it often!" Frank was standing with his back towards the approaching
officer, and so did not see him until he was startled by "I beg your
pardon for disturbing you, sir; but your party is waiting for you
aboard!"

Frank turned abruptly; and his face changed to the color of ashes as he
recognised the officer before him. He raised his arm as to ward off a
blow, and stepped backward several paces. Indeed but for a mass of rock
that lay between him and the edge of the cliff he must fallen over the
precipice.

"What is it possible? Frank?" exclaimed the officer in surprise; and
holding out his hand, he said "Come, old fellow, we've not been on very
good terms for some years now: let's shake hands and be friends, and
forget the past! I dare say it was my fault that we disagreed!"

Forget the past! Could he ever forget the past now? The very suggestion
sounded like mockery. Forget the past! Never till memory and remorse
were silent as the dead--the dead! By a great exertion Frank
overcame his emotion sufficiently to reply, "Harry Fenton, I said
before, friendship is impossible. Nothing has happened to remove the
barriers between us, much to aggrivate and increase them! I ----"

"It is no use talking such romantic stuff as this!" interrupted the
young Hussah hotly. "If I ever in any way offended you, I could
understand your talking in this way: but I have not; and even the very
nature of these formidable barriers you speak of, is a mystery to
me! Come! explain it, old fellow; and, for the sake of our grand old
school-days, let's clear up this nonsensical misunderstanding!"

"Impossible! Impossible!" murmured Frank dreamily; and then in a louder
key he continued, "Harry Fenton, it is better to end this painful scene
at once. I have no wish to see or to speak to you again at any time.
Why? you would ask. It matters not why. It is better for you perhaps
that you never know why. But I leave it to your honor after my speaking
thus plainly that you never thrust your hateful friendship upon me
again!"

"Sorry to interrupt you, gentlemen; but I want a word with one of you
for a moment!"

Both of the young men glanced round, and saw two strangers at their
side, who had approached unobserved. One of them was dressed like a
horse dealer, the other was hidden in the folds of a heavy cloak.

"Indeed!" replied the young officer haughtily. "If it is I you want to
see, you will be good enough to wait at a distance and out of hearing
until I am disengaged. If it is my friend----"

Frank cast a hurried glance at the man who was dressed like a horse
dealer, and then stepped up to Harry and whispered "It is a detective!
Fly!"

"If you will just run your eye over this document, Mr. Fenton, you will
see that it is a disagreeable duty which compels me to force my company
upon you," said the man, leaning from the saddle, and holding a printed
forme on blue paper for Harry's inspection. "Just mount your horse,
and make some excuse to return with us to Torquay," he continued in a
whisper. "No need to let your friend know our business. I wouldn't have
disturbed you for a few minutes, only that I want to catch the outgoing
stagecoach."

Harry Fenton was so stunned by the blow, although he had been expecting
it for days or weeks, that for some seconds he could not speak.

"Good God, you do not arrest him for that crime!" Frank exclaimed
hoarsely.

"Yes! I am grieved to say such is my duty," returned the detective
calmly.

"But he is innocent! I tell you, madman, he is innocent!"

"I have nothing to do with the gentleman's innocence or guilt! That
will be the judge's business! But as we now understand each other, we
had better be going!" replied the detective unmoved.

"I am innocent!" said Harry in a firm but low tone, "And now, Frank,
now that I am in this trouble, will you still refuse to shake hands
with me? Believe me, I am as innocent as you are!"

"Ten thousand times more so, Harry!" cried Frank with inexpressible
emotion. "I would to God I was as innocent!" he murmured below his
breath. "Forgive me, Harry! Never till now have I known myself! That
such a fiend as I should live! should cumber God's earth! You are
innocent! Too well I know you are innocent! But I can save you, Harry
and I will; by Heaven I will!"

"We will be moving, Mr. Fenton, if you have no objection!" interposed
the detective, glancing at Frank as if under the impression that he had
gone mad.

The detective hurried his prisoner into the saddle; and they rode away
to the post inn at a rapid pace, escorted by the man in the cloak, and
followed by the wondering groom.

Frank paced the cliff, literally mad with excitement and remorse;
and presently the party in the waiting boat growing impatient, the
barrister proposed going to urge him to hasten aboard. "Don't tell him
Polly has been ill sir!" whispered the considerate aunt as Mr. Talford
passed her in reaching the gangway, "She is better now; and it would
only alarm him unnecessarily." In a few minutes the barrister was by
his pupil's side. "Come, Frank, we are waiting! We have been----"
Noticing Frank's haggard features he paused in concern "What, are you
ill?" he asked anxiously.

"No, sir! No! Leave me! I will walk home! Leave me! For Heaven's sake
leave me!"

The hurried words were spoken in a voice trilled by agony; and Mr.
Talford's heart beat faster as he thought "Poor boy! he sees how
rapidly she is fading away! Heaven help him! I fear the end is nearer
than they think!"

Frank strove hard to conceal his emotion; and he said in as steady a
voice as he could command, "It will be a pleasant afternoon to walk
back to Torquay, sir. Will you be kind enough to tell my aunt I am not
going home in the yacht!"

Mr. Talford promised to do so; and forbearing to intrude further upon
the sacredness of the young man's natural grief, he returned to the
yacht with the message; and a few minutes later the 'Golden Glitter'
was homeward-bound.

Far into that terrible night Frank paced the cliff; and in the morning
his aunt and sister were amazed to see his late glossy black hair
thickly streaked with silver.




CHAPTER XVI.

A WEEK had passed since the heir of Elmgrove Hall was arrested; and the
buzz of indignation and excitement the news occasioned had in a measure
subsided. At first every one was incredulous. None could, none would
believe that the open-hearted, generous Harry Fenton, who had grown up
among them from childhood, could be guilty of such a deed. Before the
preliminary hearing not a friend but would have staked his reputation
upon the young officer's innocence. But he was committed. Before
arresting him the detective had carefully collected and arranged every
item of evidence, so that there was not a link wanting; and although
the proofs of guilt were purely circumstancial and presumptive, yet so
conclusive and damning were they, that the magistrates, anxious though
they were to acquit, found committal inevitable; and then people looked
serious, and began to whisper that, innocent or guilty, it would go
hard with him.

A heavy cloud had settled upon Elmgrove Hall, and was reflected upon
the anxious faces of all its inmates, from the grieving parents and
sisters to the deeply sympathizing domestics. "My darling, don't
give way like this! His innocence must soon be proved!" said the
heart-stricken father again and again to the weeping mother: but as
often he had to hurry away to hide his own tears. The prisoner's
sisters bravely strove to conceal their own grief in their parents'
presence, and exerted themselves nobly to make the terrible sorrow
as light as possible; and even little Beatrice, schooled thereto by
the thoughtful Fanny, spoke hopefully of her brother's prospects
when her father or mother were by; though generally such moments of
forced cheerfulness were followed by long fits of sobbing in the first
secluded corner the little girl could find. "Thank God, Bessie!"
the old gentleman said again and again, "Thank God that I had that
conversation with our dear boy about Nellie! But for that even we might
be led to believe him guilty!"

A week had passed since the arrest; and the prisoner was waiting in
Chelmsford jail the approach of the November assizes. But little time
was left for preparing the defence, for it was now late in October; and
Mr. Fenton was sitting with his son in the cold prison cell consulting
with him upon what counsel they should retain. Or, more correctly
speaking, the old gentleman had gone to the prison for that purpose,
but he was passing the slow minutes in railing at fate, while Harry
was thinking of Mabel, and whether she would prove true to him in his
trouble. "This will test her!" he thought bitterly. "If she deserts me
now, I shall know what her love is worth; but," and a shade passed over
his pale features as he muttered "as the sage old proverb says, 'where
ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise.'"

Presently his thoughts were rudely scattered by his father exclaiming
after several minutes silence, "However you have entangled yourself
so hopelessly in the meshes of this knot of evidence, Hal, I cannot
possibly understand! Turn which way you may; you appear beset with
difficulties, and confronted by proofs of guilt. Your mother and I are
confident of your innocence; but, unfortunately, innocence of itself is
not sufficient to clear you. I feel perfectly paralysed by the blow;
but we must do something. Shall I telegraph to our solicitors to retain
Sir John Glanville? or would you prefer Sergeant Eastgaith. They are
both eminent men."

The warder here entered the cell with the report that a gentleman in
the corridor was 'perticeler anxious to see the pris'ner.' Visions of
a message or messenger from Mabel flashed through Harry's mind; and he
said eagerly, "Who is he? Admit him at once!" The old gentleman made
some slight objection to anyone being permitted to intrude just then;
but the warder observed that he had 'telled the stranger the prisoner
was onnekel to the 'casion of meeting permiskeus friends; but that he
was importanant, and said it was a matter of life and deff.'

"Admit him at once then!" said Harry impatiently; and the warder
quitted the cell for half a minute, and then returned with the
'permiskeus friend.'

"What, Frank! Come to see me here? This is indeed kind of you!"
exclaimed Harry, holding out his hand, which his visitor feigned not to
notice. "This is Frank Seymour, an old school friend of mine, father!"
Harry continued, rising to introduce the stranger.

Frank bowed awkwardly, and then turned to Harry and said in a husky
voice. "I have come, Harry, to--to----" His tongue seemed too dry to
articulate; and taking up a mug of water from the bench by the wall
he drained it off at a draught. "I have come to beg of you to tell
me everything you know that can throw any light upon this miserable
business."

"Dare you insinuate that my son has any knowledge of this crime!"
the father exclaimed haughtily, his eyes kindling at the supposed
imputation.

"And so you, too, believe me guilty, Frank! Well, I cannot blame you;
for on Monday while I was listening to the witnesses, it seemed almost
incredible that I could be innocent, and they not committing perjury!
No, Frank, I cannot blame you."

"Harry, I know that you are innocent; but the evidence against you must
be met and explained," returned Frank, nervously playing with his watch
chain. "And it is possible that you may have some knowledge which may
help to explain it. Can you not prove an alibi?"

"No," the prisoner answered gloomily. "I parted from poor Bradlaw at
that lane near Fenwick Park lodge; and unfortunately no one saw me,
that I am aware of, until I reached home. No, an alibi is out of the
question."

"No! By some inconceivable means," observed the old gentleman
fretfully, "he has stumbled into a perfect maze of evidence that there
appears no way out of!"

Frank stood for a few seconds gazing thoughtfully at the narrow and
barred window. "I will save him, if I have to hang in his stead," he
mused. "I will never be the mean pitiful coward to allow even a hated
rival to pay the penalty of my crime; but I must see first if I cannot
save him without. If he is sentenced to death, and no reprieve can be
obtained, I will proclaim myself as the murderer; but not yet--not yet!"

"That that wretched pistol should turn up again after being lost so
long!" said old Mr. Fenton. "As if fate was bent on his destruction!"

Frank stepped suddenly back into the shade, so that what little light
the dingy window afforded fell short of him; and after a short pause
observed, "Yes! Strange, Harry, that the pistol should be marked with
your initials! If we could discover whose it is, we might get a clue to
the mystery."

"It is mine, Frank. I would have said so on Monday but for father's
begging me not to. You ought to remember the pistol. Don't you
recollect our duel at school?"

Frank took out his handkerchief and wiped his hot face before
answering. "Yes, Harry, I am not likely to forget that. And this was
one of the pistols, you say."

"Yes I remember dropping one into the river; but I quite forget what I
did with the other."

"Perhaps it was left on the bank," suggested the old gentleman, who
since the arrest has heard for the first time of the adventure with the
now notorious pistol.

"Then it may have been found, and passed through a dozen pairs of hands
since then," said Frank; and he asked suddenly, turning to Harry, "Who
is this Nellie Brison, for whose sake you are presumed to have--to have
shot poor Bradlaw?"

"I cannot see that dragging her into the discussion will benefit
me, Frank; so, if you please we will leave her out," replied Harry
carelessly.

"Harry, I have come to Chelmsford for the purpose of collecting
rebutting or rather, explanatory evidence for your defence; and I have
a reason for asking. No one who reads the evidence against you but will
say it is conclusive enough to--to----"

"Hang me! Don't be afraid to speak plainly, Frank," exclaimed Harry.

"To hang you. But I may have a chance of saving you if you will only be
unreserved with me. Who is this Miss Brison?"

Harry, from a feeling of mistaken chivalry, still refused to permit the
lady's name to be used: but Frank caught and understood a significant
glance from the father, who was beginning to feel confidence in his
son's school day friend.

"Very well, Harry: we will allow that to rest for the present," he
said quietly. "And now in the matter of counsel--who have you decided
upon? If you have not yet retained anyone, may I take the liberty of
recommending my preceptor, Mr. Talford; he is a man that can boast that
he never lost a case."

"Father just mentioned Sergeant Eastgaith and Sir John Glanville,"
replied Harry. "We have not secured counsel yet."

"Yes, Mr. Seymour, we were discussing that matter, when you came in,"
said the old gentleman. "Both Glanville and Eastgaith are admitted to
be clever men."

"They are," Frank assented. "But what you need is the most successful
special-pleader you can find; and neither of these gentlemen is that.
Sergeant Eastgaith is perhaps the best equity man you could find; and
Sir John Glanville is said to have no superior as a chancery lawyer.
No! Grattan and Mr. Talford are the best pleaders in the profession;
and Mr. Talford never lost a case."

"There is every probability of mine being the exceptions to the rule
then," said Harry, for the moment despondent. "I can see no way out of
the maze, as father calls it."

"Then let me advise you to employ Talford. If any man can find a clue
to the maze, he can."

"What do you say father?"

"I have often heard him highly spoken of, Hal; and I think we could not
do better," replied Mr. Fenton. "So be it then, Frank, we will trust
the defence in Mr. Talford's hands if he is not otherwise engaged."

"Then I will start at once, and secure him, Harry," said Frank,
buttoning up his coat. "He is at present away on a visit to Torquay;
but I will take the next train for London so that I may catch the last
South-Western. You may rest sure of his keeping free and accepting your
brief."

"Torquay? Was he at that water-party at Watcombe, Frank? If so, I saw
him--a venerable, white-haired, old gentleman, tall and portly."

"That was his father, Harry. The barrister is a man about
thirty-five--with----"

"Light brown hair, and a high, broad forehead, and most prepossessing
manners. I saw him too," and turning to his father, Harry continued,
"The very sight of that gentleman's easy movements, and genial,
self-reliant smile is sufficient to inspire hope. And you are his
pupil, Frank? I predict your future success with confidence with such a
preceptor as he, if you only plod on with half the dogged perseverance
that distinguished you during our last two years at old Shelswood's."

"I hope, so, Harry!" replied Frank gloomingly--thinking bitterly of
the bright motive of that perseverance and how utterly beyond hope he
had lost her. "I will spend my whole time in collecting, rebutting,
or, more correctly speaking, explanatory evidence (you admit the facts
against you to be true, and what we have to do is to satisfactorily
account for them) and if I have any little ability I will strain it
to the utmost in the search. Good-bye Harry! I will hurry away to the
station at once. You may comfort yourself with----," he paused, and
thought, "No, I will not tell him yet that I will save him at every
hazard! That miserable secret I will never tell until I find that his
life hangs upon it."

"Comfort myself with what, Frank?" enquired the prisoner observing the
hesitation.

"This!" replied Frank hurriedly, as he took up the bible from the bench
and handed it to his rival.

Harry held out his hand and said "Thank you, Frank! Thank you! I am
beginning to feel hopeful already. Good-bye; and God speed you!" and
though Frank would have gladly have escaped the grateful and friendly
grasp he was constrained to place his fingers in Harry's hand. There
was no abatement of Frank's hatred, although remorse now held the
reins of his actions. He felt that he must save his hated rival from
the danger he had placed him in--must die in his stead if need be--but
would curse him with his latest breath.

"I will walk with you to the station, Mr. Seymour," said Mr. Fenton,
snatching up his hat. "I shall be back in half an hour, Hal."

After his father and Frank left the cell, the prisoner sat for some
minutes speculating upon how many innocent men Justice had sacrificed
in her blindness; and then, taking up his Bible, he strove, but vainly,
to rivet his attention upon its sacred pages--the novelty, the danger,
and the ignominy of his terrible position, and the absence of visit or
word from Mabel, filled him with the deepest forebodings and anxiety;
and the distressing thoughts each unhappy theme gave birth to, jostled
each other in his despondent mind, and shut out all devotional feeling.

"Yes, Mr. Seymour!" exclaimed Mr. Fenton, the moment they had passed
the gate and were out of the prison. "Yes. The only comfort that I
have is the knowledge that my son does not love Miss Brison, and had
no motive of jealousy for shooting poor Bradlaw. If he did love her,
even I must condemn him--the presumptive proofs of his guilt are so
strong." And the old gentleman entered upon a full account of his late
conversation with his son in reference to Nellie, Frank remaining the
while, a silent but attentive listener.

"And this was before the--the murder?" the young man asked eagerly, as
the father concluded his narration by saying "And so you see, as we
know that he could have won Miss Brison, if he had wished to, without
shooting poor Bradlaw, who had no more chance than you or I had, we are
positive of his innocence."

"Yes, Mr. Seymour, a week at least. Bradlaw was shot on the evening
that Harry's comrade (Lieutenant Beaumont) returned to his regiment,
and this conversation occurred several days before. And again,--Miss
Wilton. None but a madman would believe him capable of committing this
crime, and be sure of the love of such a girl as Mabel."

Frank made some memorandums in his note book in silence.

"It seems more like a disagreeable, a horrible dream, than reality;
and I fancy sometimes that I shall turn over and wake up from the
nightmare. It seems impossible that any innocent man could stumble into
such an inextricable web of----"

Frank impatiently interrupted the old gentleman. "I hardly think there
is any necessity for you to go any further sir. You have told me all
you can that can be of any service at present, and I would like to be
by myself for a while to think over what you have said. You will hear
from me directly I see Mr. Talford. Good-day." And without waiting for
his companion to speak, he strode rapidly on, leaving him standing in
the street.

Frank walked hurriedly on for a few minutes, and then stopped to buy
a paper from a passing newsboy, in the idea of perhaps meeting some
mention or comment upon the case that was uppermost in his thoughts.

"Poor Mr. Bradlaw! And to suppose that Harry would shoot him in
jealously of me. Why, Fanny, people must be mad to imagine such a
thing! Even if he did love me, he could never be guilty of such a
crime."

Frank glanced hurriedly up from the paper, he had just bought, and
discovered two young ladies on horseback waiting in front of a book
shop close by.

"I cannot understand how it is, Nellie, that Mabel has neither gone to
see him herself, nor sent a word of consolation," [condolence perhaps
she meant] "If Arthur was in such trouble, nothing on earth could keep
me from his side."

"Ah! if she only loved him a tenth part as devotedly as I do, she would
not rest a moment till she was there to comfort him!" said the first
speaker with a sigh--thinking, no doubt, how little some people value
privileges that would be precious, there are no words can express how
precious, to some other people, "If I could do anything for him--I
would care nothing for what the world might say! If I could do anything
for him, Fanny, I would do it gladly even to the sacrifice of my own
life!"

"If you are whom I take you for," thought the unnoticed listener,
"I will give you the opportunity of making a sacrifice for him, and
putting your courage to the test."

"I believe she can know nothing of it yet!" observed the young lady
addressed as Fanny. "She goes out very little; and her father would
in all probability keep the papers out of her sight, and prohibit the
servants from telling her the news." At this moment a groom in livery
came out of the shop with a book in his hand. "You have got it then,
Porter----"

"Yes, Miss. It is seven and sixpence. They haven't a better bound
copy," answered the man respectfully.

"Very well, it will do. You need not take it back to be wrapped
in paper," replied the young lady, handing the groom the change.
"'Pilgrim's Progress' Nellie; it is the best book I could think of,
but I am sorry I came away without the ones she wanted. And this was
written in prison too." Tears started to her soft grey eyes, as she
thought of the old prison-written book going as a solace to the lonely
prisoner. "Poor Harry!" she murmured, "little did we think----" The
subject of this thought was spoken in so low a tone that it escaped
Frank's ears and the young lady turned her horse continuing in a firmer
voice, "Come, Nellie, the groom can overtake us; let's hurry on." And
they rode off down the street at a canter.

"When I return you shall have the opportunity you covet of making a
sacrifice for him," said Frank, as he turned to continue his walk. "A
greater heroine than you are equal to, unless you are a very heroine
indeed!"




CHAPTER XVII.

Mabel's apparent neglect filled Fanny's gentle heart with half-formed
feelings of resentment, but at the very moment the jealous sister was
saying to her companion, as they rode on to the jail, "and yet it does
seem impossible, Nellie, that Harry could be in prison a whole week,
and Mabel know nothing of it!" At this very moment Mabel was making
her headache by creating and rejecting plan after plan to evade her
father's vigilance and hurry to the jail. She was herself a close
prisoner, and confined to her rooms by her father's orders. She had
heard nothing of the arrest until the day after the committal, so
jealously had her father guarded the secret from her; but on that
morning the lodge-keeper had occasion to send some work up to the
House: and, possibly by accident she wrapped it in the newspaper
containing a report of the hearing and its result. Perhaps the thick
penstroke drawn down the paper opposite to the commencement of the
report was accidental too: but, be that as it may, Mabel's attention
was drawn thereby to the unhappy intelligence; and after sending her
maid away with the work, she drew an easy chair up to the fire in her
boudoir, and settled herself comfortable among the pillows to read.

"I expect Mrs. Merville has found some silly piece of scandal--if it
is that I shall not read it," she thought, as she straightened out the
paper, "Or perhaps she has seen some notice of Harry,--a sham fight, or
promotion, or something. Lieutenant Fenton! How martial it sounds! But
I shall love him no dearer when he is a general than I do now! Ah!" Her
eyes caught the significance of the heading, and her colour vanished,
as if seared from her cold face, by the dread tidings. She read the
first ten lines in silence, then abruptly rose from her chair; dropped
the paper upon the carpet, paced hurriedly up and down the room several
times, and then taking up the paper again, sank into the chair again.
"Arrested for murder? It is not true! It cannot be true! It is some
vile calumny!" She read on to the end of the long report without again
speaking, and then rose and walked to the window; and for some seconds
stood gazing upon the distant hills without seeing them; and then,
rousing herself, she returned to her seat and read the report a second
time through.

"That he has been arrested, there can be no doubt," she said in a
voice of forced composure, as she laid the paper upon a table close by
and rose from her chair again. "The unfortunate Mr. Bradlaw was shot;
and Harry has been arrested for shooting him. That is clear enough. I
suppose if I am to act up to what is expected of young ladies, whose
lovers are in jeopardy, I must swoon away, or fall ill of a brain
fever, or something of that sort!" She laughed hysterically, and then
compressing her lips began pacing the room again in silence. In a
few minutes she stepped across to the bell, and rang for her maid.
"Put on your hat, and run down to the lodge and tell Mrs. Melville to
come to me at once!" she said imperiously, as the domestic appeared
on the threshold. The maid raised her eyebrows in surprise at the
tone, but hurried off without reply; and Mabel took up the paper
again, and returned to her chair. "There are two things of which I am
positive--that he is innocent; and that, guilty or innocent, he is all
the world to me!"

She did not read the report again, though she held the paper in her
hands, but sat gazing into the embers and puzzling her little head
about the hard facts of the case, till it ached cruelly. Presently she
heard steps approaching; and she rose, still retaining the paper in her
grasp. "The idea of his shooting any one out of jealously for this Miss
Brison! It is perfectly absurd! No doubt she is a very nice girl, or
she could be no friend of his: but to be jealous of her when he loves
me, they must be mad to think it even for a moment." In her excitement
Mabel appeared to forget that 'they' (the public) were not supposed to
be in the secret of her engagement with the prisoner.

Mrs. Merville entered the room with a quick, soft tread, expecting to
find the young lady prostrated by the blow, and she was much surprised
by the appearance of unconcern with which Mabel received her, and
motioned her to a seat, "Not there Mrs. Merville, sit here by the
fire," she said, pointing to a chair on the opposite side of the hearth.

"I am very sorry Miss, that such an unfortunate----" the lodge-keeper
began observing the paper in Mabel's hands.

"This is no time for condolence, Mrs. Merville," interrupted Mabel, in
the same strange, unemotional tone (unnatural the lodge-keeper thought
it.) "You have read this," holding up the paper and pointing to the
all-important report. "On your honor as a woman, tell me candidly what
you think of it."

"That he is innocent!" the woman replied with warmth. "If the proofs of
guilt appeared ten times blacker, (and they look black enough as it is,
heaven knows) I would still believe him innocent!"

"Thank you, thank you, Mrs. Merville!" Mabel exclaimed in a choking
voice, for the moment overpowered; and throwing her arms round the
lodge-keeper's neck, she burst into a flood of heart-relieving tears,
and sobbed upon the woman's breast for several minutes. But she soon
checked herself; and wiping her eyes, she said, sadly, "I have read it
over two or three times; and I am much afraid that people who do not
know him as we do, will believe that he is guilty. But if the whole
world turns from him he shall at least find me true! Did you write that
message I asked you to!"

"Yes, Miss. It is a pity now: but I----"

"No, no, Mrs. Merville!" Mabel, interrupted. "I am glad you did. While
Harry was prosperous and happy I owed a greater duty to papa, although
I would not have given Harry up even to please him. Then, I refused
positively to receive either letters or visits until papa would give
his consent; and I am glad you wrote. But now----" she nearly broke
down again, but by a desperate effort she repressed her rising sobs.
"But now the case is different. Now that he is in trouble, perhaps in
deadly peril, I feel that my first consideration should be for him--and
it shall too, though the whole world opposed me!" Her eyes flashed with
excitement and resolution. "Wait a moment while I write a----" she
broke abruptly off, and turning to her desk wrote a few hurried lines.
The blots that disfigured the page may have been caused by the pen; but
the occasional tears that dropped upon it perhaps did their share in
smearing the paper. "Address this to him, Mrs. Merville. I do not want
my writing seen," she said, offering the lodge-keeper the pen. "You can
give it to one of the stable boys to deliver. Give him this," laying
a piece of gold on the desk as the woman was directing the note, "and
hint that if you find him trustworthy he may occasionally earn another
in the same way."

Mrs. Merville took the letter and the half sovereign and hurried
away on her mission; and Mabel bathed her hot temples with
eau-de-cologne, and then laid down upon a couch to compose herself
for a short sleep. But her thoughts were too busy for repose; and
when her father roused her from a painful reverie half an hour later,
whatever benefit the eau-de-cologne may have worked had worn off,
and her poor little head was aching worse than ever.

"Did you write this?"

The unexpected voice roused her and the tone of concentrated passion
caused her to spring to her feet; but she met her father's angry glance
with a fearless gaze; and with her rich full lips compressed in calm
resolution.

"Did you write this?"

"Yes, papa, I did!" she replied in a clear, steady voice, firm, though
with no touch of defiance.

"And you are not ashamed to own it!"

"No, papa! I have never yet done anything I am ashamed to own, and
never shall. I once acted a piece of mean and paltry deception in
twisting your words into permission to go to Elmgrove Hall, knowing
at the time that you would refuse your consent. For that I was justly
punished by incurring your displeasure; and I am heartily ashamed of my
conduct then; but I am not ashamed of writing that letter. How did you
come by it, papa!"

For a few moments the father was dumbfounded. In the place of the
gentle, yielding child he was accustomed to stood a self-reliant, proud
woman, prepared to defend a glaring act of disobedience. "One of the
stable boys passed me on horseback, just beyond the park," he replied
presently. "I saw him drop it; and I ordered him to pick it up, and
hand it to me. Will you deny that you have again been guilty of mean
and paltry deception, as well as wilful disobedience? The very address
is a piece of contemptible deceit. It is not in your hand."

There was no droop of shame or fear in those beautiful eyes, that
looked at her father as though she would read his inmost thoughts. "I
am not ashamed either of writing the letter papa, or of having the
address written by someone else," she answered quietly. "I love Harry;
and now that he is in trouble I will be true to him. As I knew you
would be displeased with me if you were aware that I wrote, I tried to
conceal the act from you papa; as your knowing would only cause you
annoyance, which could do no good, as I am determined to be true to
Harry, be the consequences what they may!"

Mr. Wilton was utterly astonished by the tone of quiet resolution with
which she spoke, and her calm and unflinching gaze. Here was a new
development of character in one, whom he had thought inherited all her
mother's gentleness and timidity.

"See, papa!" she continued, drawing a letter from her bosom, and
handing it to him. "I received this from Harry. Setting aside our
relationship, I trust to your honor as a gentleman that you will give
it back to me when you read it." He took the letter, ran his eyes over
the contents, and handed it back to her in silence. "You think, papa,
that I answered it;" she went on, "but I did not. Dearly as I would
have liked to, I resisted the temptation, because I would not disobey
you; and I told someone else to write to him to assure him that I could
never change, but that I would neither see him nor receive his letters,
until I had your permission."

"Which you never will have!" he exclaimed hoarsely.

"I will hope in patience, papa!" she replied smiling faintly. "But now,
papa, now that he is in this awful trouble, I will be true to him in
the face of all opposition!"

"A dutiful speech for a daughter, certainly! And am I to understand
then that for the sake of this red-handed murderer you mean to defy
your father?" he asked in a tone of withering scorn.

Mabel shuddered, "I mean, papa, that now that he is alone, and in
unmerited shame--now when even you prejudge him, and brand him as
guilty--I mean that now I will be true to him at every hazard.
I know that he is innocent; but, guilty or innocent, he is all the
world to me!"

"Girl, are you mad!" cried the father hoarsely, losing all control of
his temper.

"Papa, when Harry was free and happy I refused to disobey you even for
him," she pleaded earnestly.

"And you hold doing your duty in a small matter then a sufficient
excuse for this monstrous and unnatural act of rebellion now? Girl, if
you do not instantly retract all that you have said, I will discard
you utterly, I will turn you out of doors to beg in the streets!" he
exclaimed, his face growing purple.

"Papa, even if you were to cut me to pieces, I would never cease to
love and honor you. While Harry was free and happy you were always
first in my heart; but now that he is in this trouble I must be true
to him. If you turn me away and disown me, you will only be adding to
my unhappiness, without changing my purpose. Not to save my life will I
now forsake Harry!"

Mr. Wilton took several turns up and down the room before speaking;
and then pausing in front of the resolute girl, he said in an
uncompromising, determined voice, "Mabel, this is the first time you
have defied me; it shall be the last! You do not leave these rooms
again until you unsay every word you have just uttered. And beware! If
you are obstinate, I may be led to act more harshly than I wish. I have
no intention of influencing your choice of a husband, unless you drive
me to; but remember, if you persist in this romantic folly, I may go
as far as to provide one for you myself, and compel you to marry him!
Better any extreme measure, than to see you run away with a murderer;
which you will meditate next, I suppose, if he should chance to escape
the gallows!"

Mabel sank upon her knees before her father, and begged him with tears
not to condemn Harry until after the trial. "He is innocent, papa: and
the judge will be sure to say so! You may do anything you like with me,
papa--beat me, starve me; and I will not complain; anything but marry
me to anyone else. That you can never do! If you were to drag me to the
church, I would denounce the act to the assembled people: I would bite
my tongue off before I would say 'Yes!' Punish me as you will, papa,
but do not believe him guilty! He is as innocent as I am!"

"You are a weak, credulous fool to defend the man who is base enough to
pretend to love you, while he is so entangled with another woman as to
shoot down a rival like a dog--his own words--like a dog!"

"Papa, it is useless to urge proofs of his guilt! Those idle words had
no reference to her, I am positive. Even if I had seen him fire the
shot, I would have discredited the evidence of my own senses, rather
than believe Harry capable of crime!" she said, with a noble confidence
in the goodness of her lover.

"Girl, you are mad! I will give you forty-eight hours to consider; and
if you do not by then repent of this insane resolution, I will give
you every cause to! If I were to force you into marriage, you would
denounce me to the assembled people you say. Have you never heard of
private weddings with no witnesses but those who would swear anything
for gold?"

"And could you, papa," she exclaimed, springing to her feet, her
beautiful eyes flashing in scorn and indignation. "You, whom I have
always felt to be the soul of honor, could you, a gentleman, a Wilton,
stoop to such a mean, such a cowardly, contemptible piece of tyranny? I
will not believe it possible!"

The father seemed staggered by the thrust, but recovering himself
quickly he asked with a sneer. "Which would cast the most disgrace upon
us, an enforced marriage to save our name from dishonor, or a Wilton
assisting a low-bred scoundrel, a felon, to escape, and then eloping
with him, as I plainly see you are prepared to do, if the opportunity
offers? I will see you again on Wednesday morning; and I hope by then
you may have recovered your senses!" and without waiting for her
to answer, he hurriedly left the room, and locking the door on the
outside, put the key into his pocket.

Directly her father left her presence she sank upon a couch, and
abandoned herself to a fit of passionate weeping, which in some measure
gave relief to her overcharged heart. She was now a prisoner. To a
nature such as hers enforced inaction at such a time was inexpressible
agony. She was a prisoner and could raise no finger in his defence,
could say no word of love or sympathy to comfort and strengthen him in
his trouble, and, perhaps bitterer than all, could do nothing to prove
to him that her heart was unchanged--what would he, what must he think,
as days crawled by, and no word from her reached in his lonely cell!
That the first trial was too much for such a spurious love as hers!
that she was fickle and heartless enough to desert him in his sorrow
and shame! that she, who would gladly die to save him even were he the
guilty thing some thought! that she, who now vowed to herself again
and again not to survive him if there be virtue in the little phial of
laudanum, they had sent her for her toothache, that she was unworthy of
his love! Under other circumstances her father's anger would have been
sufficient to fill her with grief; but she had no thought now but for
the lonely prisoner pining in the cold prison cell.

In about a quarter of an hour the key turned and the house-keeper and
Mabel's maid entered the room. "I beg pardon, Miss, but your papa has
just given me orders that you and your maid are not to leave these
rooms until he gives you permission. I am to bring you your meals
myself, and I am on no account to let the key out of my possession
until I give it up to him."

Mabel glanced up for a moment, and replied wearily. "Very well, Mrs.
Chamberlain. Leave me now; for my head aches, and I would be alone?"

"You cannot tell, Miss, how sorry I am!" said the house-keeper with
feeling, not noticing her young mistress's words, "I have been servant
in this house, girl and woman, nigh thirty years, and I always served
your papa faithfully, and I must now; but I would rather have heard of
the Dunmow bank breaking with all my little savings, than have to be
jailor to your mother's daughter!"

Mabel's only answer was a sigh; and the house-keeper turning from
the sorrowing girl and wondering, like a kind-hearted inquisitive
old body as she was, what the trouble was about, left the room for
some luncheon. The sound of the key turned in the lock and withdrawn
reminded Mabel so forcibly of another door that was locked and barred,
that she burst into tears a second time--they were both prisoner, she
to be released in a few days when her father's anger had cooled, he,
perhaps to be led out--innocent men had suffered before--to be led out
to die.




CHAPTER XVIII.

IT was a clear, cool afternoon at Torquay, and a week after the picnic
to Watcombe, and the fair invalid had just dozed into a peaceful
slumber. The doctors (there were two--the barrister had called in
the most eminent physician in Torquay to consult with Dr. Woods the
gentleman attending Polly) the doctors were sitting in the adjoining
parlour deliberating in whispers upon the dangerous probabilities of
the symptoms; and the barrister was standing by the fireplace, an elbow
upon the mantle-piece, gazing upon the floor, and to all appearance
deep in the study of the pattern of the carpet. Miss Letitia and the
barrister's sister were in the sick room silently watching by the
bedside. Miss Letitia with her hands clasped and tears streaming down
her wrinkled cheeks, was gazing upon the face of her beloved niece,
so beautifully in its still repose, and Rachel, with an open Bible in
her lap, was searching for texts that could bring into clearest light
the blessed truth of atonement by the death of Christ. Her endeavour
to draw the dying girl to think of what lay beyond the grave had been
crowned with more success than she had dared to hope for; and Polly had
already realised the significance of such warnings as 'What shall it
profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?' and if
such promises as 'Come unto me all ye who are heavy ladened, and I will
give you rest!' She had lost her only hope for earth. 'Whom God loveth,
he chasteneth,' said the Bible. God had chastened her; but Heaven
was within her reach. All was as calm and still as in a chamber of
death. Not a sound save the distant tolling of a bell broke the solemn
silence. "She looks as beautiful as a sleeping angel!" thought the
broken-hearted aunt. "As beautiful as if she was an angel now, and that
bell was tolling for her funeral!" The oppressive stillness and the
dismal clanging of the bell so worked upon the old lady's feelings,
that presently she disturbed Rachel's mediation by bursting into tears
and murmuring, "Oh, Rachel, does'nt it seem as if that bell was tolling
for her?" and then hurrying from the room.

"She will be better alone!" thought Rachel, as so forebore to follow
her. "A few minutes crying will do her good." Presently Rachel's
thoughts wandered from the sick girl to Frank. "He is a most heartless
man, or he could not leave his sister dying here, and he amusing
himself away in London," she mused. "He can have no more feeling
than a heathen." And now her thoughts were turned to her brother,
"Poor Herbert," she sighed heavily, "Poor Herbert! If this disappoint
makes him think more of heaven, it will prove a blessing in disguise.
How very dearly he must love her! How happy it might be if her life
could be spared! But that is not possible now!" And with another sigh
she turned to the sacred pages. At the same moment the invalid's
brother entered the parlor from the outer door; and the physician not
recognizing him said sternly, though in an undertone, "Less noise, sir!
If you cannot step more quietly, you had better leave your boots at the
gate the next time you enter a sick house."

Frank glanced at the speaker without reply, and then, turning to Mr.
Talford, said in a whisper, "What is the meaning of this, sir? Tell me
quickly, is she worse? is she dead?"

Mr. Talford raised his eyes from the carpet, and gazed at Frank, with a
look of pity and concern. "My dear boy, she is worse!" he said sadly.
"No! Stay a moment!" he continued, laying his hand on the young man's
shoulder as he turned to hurry to his sick sister's side, "Stay a
moment! She is asleep now. Your aunt and Rachel are with her. Restrain
your impatience for a little while till she wakes."

Frank sank into a chair and sat silent for several minutes, his face
buried in his hands. Polly had appeared very much better on the morning
of the sail to Watcombe and he had barely recollected more than her
existence since, so deeply had his hated rival's danger occupied his
thoughts. "How long has she been worse?" he asked presently, without
raising his head. "She seemed almost well on the day of that picnic."

"She has been slowly sinking ever since she fainted there. In fact----"

"Fainted?" interrupted Frank rising to his feet, "I heard nothing of
that. She was at the breakfast table next morning; and she did not
appear to be any worse."

"Yes, Frank," replied Mr. Talford gloomily. "At the picnic she joined
in the game for a few minutes, and the exertion was evidently too much
for her for she fainted; and she had been sinking ever since."

Frank turned to the doctors. "Tell me at once, bluntly and without
reserve,--how is my sister?"

"Past all human aid, as I told you a month ago," replied one of them.
"She may perhaps rally a little, and walk about again for a few weeks;
but she is past all hope of recovery. You may prepare yourself for the
worst; for though she may linger even for six months she may go off in
as many seconds. That bell (ah, it has just stopped) may toll for her
to-morrow."

Frank staggered back to his chair, and sat down again, his lips tightly
compressed, and heavy tears falling upon his clenched hands; and Mr.
Talford softly stole out to the garden to hide his own emotion.

Rachel sat reading by the bedside alone for nearly a quarter of an
hour, Polly sleeping the while; and then Miss Letitia returned to
the room. Her eyes were red with weeping; but shedding tears had
relieved her, and she felt much more composed. As she took her place
by the bedside the invalid opened her eyes; and the old lady rose, and
stooping over her, kissed her pale brow, "My darling!" was all she
could utter.

"Frank!" Polly murmured. "Where is Frank?"

"I wrote to him three days ago. He must surely come to-day."

"I do so want to see him before I die!"

The aunt had to hurry from the room again--not even her late burst of
weeping had prepared her to hear Polly speak of death unmoved--and
Rachel gently drawing her chair a little nearer whispered, "If your
brother does not come to-day, dear Polly, I will ask Herbert to go up
to London for him."

"Ha! our patient is awake again I see!" said a gruff whisper voice;
and glancing up, Rachel found the physician in the doorway. That
gentleman stepped up to the bedside, nodded to Rachel, smiled at the
sick girl, and taking her thin hand in his, said cheerfully, "A decided
improvement since breakfast time, Miss Talford! Pulse slower and
firmer."

Rachel smiled with pleasure, and whispered, "If her brother came she
would be more easy. She is very anxious to see him."

"He came in ten minutes ago; but he has been waiting for her to wake.
Shall I send him in?"

Polly smiled a faint assent; and the doctor saying, "He must not stay
with her many minutes--she is too weak for the excitement," left the
room. In a few seconds Frank was by the bed. He did not appear to
notice the young lady by his side. He saw only the thin, wasted but
inexpressibly beautiful features of his dying sister. Polly uttered a
faint exclamation of welcome as he stooped and kissed her. "My dear,
dear sister, I had no idea you were so much worse!" he murmured in a
broken voice; and Rachel's conscience pricked her sorely as she saw
tear after tear fall upon the snowy coverlet, and remembered some very
uncharitable thoughts, of which the heart-wrung brother before her had
been the subject; and she rose and retired to the window out of hearing.

"You seemed so well that afternoon at Watcombe? I never knew till I
came in just now that you fainted at the picnic!"

An expression of acute pain passed like a cloud over the young girl's
face. "Don't speak of that day, Frank? Never speak of that day again!"
she murmured; and after a moment's pause, she said softly, "Frank, dear
brother, I shall soon leave the bright world now; will you promise to
meet me in heaven? It would not seem like heaven if I missed anyone I
loved on earth. I have only you and aunt; oh, Frank let us be united
again in heaven!" Her eyes closed, and her lips continued to move for a
few seconds; but Frank did not catch the fervent prayer, "And grant, oh
God, for Jesus sake that Harry may go too and--and Mabel!"

The physician here entered the room again, and touching Frank on the
shoulder motioned him to leave the room. And the young man kissed his
sister on the lips, and turned to obey. Polly opened her beautiful eyes
for a moment and smiled on her brother and then closed them again. "She
is not strong enough to endure two minutes conversation at a time; she
is so weak," whispered the physician as they left the room together.
"The excitement is too much for her. She is a little stronger again;
and I should not be surprised from the change were she to rally so much
as to leave her room again for a little while; but as Mr. Woods said
just now, that bell may toll for her to-morrow."

"You think she is a little better then?" Frank asked eagerly.

"A little? Yes! But not enough to build hope upon. Did you ever observe
the strange tenacity of life, as it were, of a burnt-out candle? The
fuel appears exhausted, the light sinks lower and lower till you
could swear it was dead, then all unexpectedly it flickers back into
brightness for a few seconds. Then again it all but dies away and
again gleams up now dim, now bright, now dim again, now brighter than
ever, till presently in the midst of it's false glare it is suddenly
extinguished. So often is it with life in cases like this--burning the
brightest but a few seconds before it goes out for ever."

Frank shuddered, and passed out to to the garden without replying, and
joined his preceptor, who was pacing the garden walks in deep thought.
"Thank God, sir, she is better!" Frank cried clasping the barrister
hands. "The doctor says she is better----"

Mr. Talford did not reply for some seconds. He felt that if he spoke
his tone might tell more than he wanted known. Presently he said in a
well steadied voice, "Thank God indeed, Frank, for the mercy! Her life
is in His hands!"

"If she is better to-morrow, sir, I must return to London."

"Return to London, man? Are you devoid of all natural affection!"
exclaimed the barrister, utterly surprised and angered by what appeared
to be little better than brutal callousness. "Did you not hear Woods
say that the bell might toll for your sister to-morrow!"

Frank sighed deeply. The other doctor when speaking of the improvement
had said the same. He would freely die to save his only sister's
life; but he could not prolong it by so much as one moment; and his
absence from Chelmsford might endanger his hated rival's life, or
make necessary a confession that for the sake of his own and his
sister's name he recoiled from making. "No!" he thought bitterly, as
the doctor's words echoed in his ear, "they shall never engrave on
her tombstone the sister of a murderer!" Turning to Mr. Talford he
replied, "You recollect the officer who joined you at the picnic? He
is an old school friend of mine; and he is now in prison for murder. I
know he is innocent; but the evidence against him, which is purely
circumstantial, is very black. His friends wish to retain you to defend
him."

The barrister declared that he had no intention of returning to London
at present; as he intended to make his stay a long one; but on Frank's
explaining the case more fully, and begging as a personal favor that he
would defend his old school friend, he reluctantly consented. It seemed
almost like a duty to defend any friend of her brother.

"I shall collect evidence to explain away the apparent proofs of guilt,
sir, and I can do so with greater opportunity of success, if you are
the counsel for the defence," explained Frank.

"But why not leave the collecting of evidence to the solicitors? It is
their business, not ours!"

"I have reasons, sir, which I may not tell," replied Frank gloomily.

Dr. Churchill here joined them. "Our patient has had a decided change
for the better, Mr. Talford. I must hurry away now; for I must drive
over and see old Lord Rushton. He has another severe attack of gout."

"If you will give me a seat in your gig, doctor, I will go with you.
You can set me down at my own door," replied Mr. Talford. "Frank,
tell my sister I will call and see her in the morning, when I hope to
find Miss Seymour very much better. You may rely upon my presence in
Chelmsford," and the doctor following he passed through the gate to the
gig, while Frank returned to the house.




CHAPTER XIX.

Clara Fenton and Nellie Brison were walking up and down in the
shrubbery, eagerly discussing the now exclusive theme of conversation
at Elmgrove Hall--Harry's approaching trial. Mrs. Fenton was laid
up with a sick headache, and Fanny was with the house-keeper giving
directions about sundry household matters; and little Beatrice had
coaxed her papa to take her with him in the carriage to see poor
Harry. It was a cold morning; and a sharp breeze was blowing: but the
girls, wrapped in their warm, heavy shawls, paced the paths of the
sheltered shrubbery unconscious of the weather, so deeply were their
thoughts engaged upon the one sorrowful subject. Clara's voice was at
rather a high pitch; but that was occasioned by the wind probably. It
is not considered ladylike to talk so loud: but then her usual tone
would have been drowned in such weather. "You cannot tell, Nellie, how
angry I am with Mabel Wilton," she said with vehemence. "She must be a
mean-spirited, false-hearted girl, or she would have gone to see him,
or at the least have written to him before this! I have no patience
with Fanny: she is always taking her part, and making excuses for
her--perhaps this, and perhaps that till she drives me frantic! I wish
I had a lover in trouble--I would show you all how a devoted girl would
act!" Clara's pretty face was flushed with excitement, and her blue
eyes sparkled like gems and as her fair curls fluttered about in the
wind she looked fifty percent prettier than ever. So thought Nellie;
and, though she was in no very happy mood at the moment, she smiled.
She had so often heard the girlish boast before, that she half wished
the energetic, high-spirited young lady might meet with a suitable
opportunity of playing the heroine. But she sighed as she smiled, and
thought, "Oh if I had only a chance of doing something to save Harry!
There is nothing that I would not do, that could benefit him! I would
prove my love by my devotion, as Mabel appears afraid to do!"

"What is the sense of loving at all, if you are to let the first little
storm daunt you!" argued Clara. "If people are ready to become joined
for ever to fight the battle of life together, they should be ready
to bear each other's troubles from the first. If the first hour of
danger is enough to frighten a girl, how is she to be expected to be a
faithful wife to the end of the chapter!"

"Ah!" thought Nellie; and another heavy sigh escaped her, "If Harry had
loved me with but a quarter of the love he lavishes upon that false,
callous Mabel Wilton, I would have shown how a true woman could cling
to her lover in this hour of trial! I would not let two weeks pass
and be ashamed to be seen to visit him. And even now, though he cares
nothing for me, I would count any trouble, any sacrifice a blessing
that could save him!"

"I suppose Mabel is afraid people will think it beneath her dignity to
visit a prisoner!" continued Clara bitterly. "It would disgrace her
so. She seems to think more of appearance than of the true heart that
is breaking in Chelmsford through her cruel neglect. Her neglect is
wearing him out faster than all his other trouble, Nellie!"

"I wish he could see her as we do!" returned Nellie, thinking no doubt
the wish a most pure and disinterested one.

"Well, Susan!" exclaimed Clara, turning as her maid touched her gently
on the arm.

"I beg pardon Miss Clara, but you did not hear me when I spoke," said
the girl timidly. She stood in great awe of her young mistresses's
impetuous temper.

"I wonder who could hear such a baby-voice as yours in this wind! What
is the matter?"

"A gentleman wants to see Miss Brison."

"To see me? It is my cousin George, I expect, Clara. He is the only
gentleman who knows I am here," said Nellie.

"Let him come here then. I don't feel inclined to go in just yet. Do
you?"

Nellie did not; and so the maid was dispatched to bring her cousin into
the shrubbery. "He is such a shivery mortal; he will be certain to
grumble at this chilly reception."

"A chilly mortal indeed!" exclaimed Clara contemptuously. "A man who
is afraid of such a day as this ought to be wrapped up in flannel and
stuck in a chimney corner like an old grandmother!"

"Why, Clara, see! That is'nt George!" exclaimed Nellie in a whisper, as
Susan returned down the path with a stranger. "Whoever can he be?"

In a few seconds the stranger stood before them. He bowed. "Pardon my
intrusion, Miss Brison!" he said addressing Nellie. "I called at your
house, and your father referred me here. My name is Frank Seymour. I am
engaged in collecting evidence for the defence of your friend Mr. Harry
Fenton."

Before Nellie could reply, Clara burst forth with, "Then you are the
gentleman I heard papa speak of! Do you really think you can save him?"

"I cannot say yet, Miss Fenton! I hope----"

"O, I'm not Miss Fenton: I'm only Clara--a very unimportant individual
indeed! You hope----"

"I hope, Miss Clara, that I shall succeed: but a great deal will depend
upon Miss Brison," he replied.

"Upon me?" asked Nellie, in unfeigned surprise.

"I think you are the young lady I overheard the other day in Chelmsford
say you would make any sacrifice for the prisoner Harry Fenton!"

"I would most certainly suffer any sacrifice that could benefit him,
sir; but I do not know where you could have heard me say so," she
answered, more and more puzzled.

"Mr. Fenton is supposed to have shot Bradlaw through jealously for
you," pursued Frank, passing in silence the latter part of her answer.

"It is false! he----" commenced Clara, before Nellie could speak.

"Yes. Yes?" interrupted Frank impatiently, "we all know he is
innocent, but the evidence against him has to be met and disproved or
accounted for. Now, Miss Brison, the first step is to prove the imputed
motive false; and that you must do."

"Me, sir? How?" asked Nellie eagerly.

"By telling the judge that you loved Harry and that he did not return
your love, that he loved Mabel Wilton and not you." Frank spoke Mabel's
name so reluctantly that Clara noticed it, and drew certain conclusions.

"What! I stand up before all the people in the court and confess myself
weak enough to love a man who cares nothing for me! Oh, I couldn't! I
couldn't! I would rather die than do it!" Nellie's courage began to ebb
very fast, and she had to cling to Clara for support.

"Your dying, Miss Brison could not affect his case in any way. Your
saying these few words might save his life," urged Frank.

"I cannot! Oh, I cannot! What will people think of me to give my love
away unsought! Oh I cannot! I cannot! You tell them, Mr. Seymour! You
tell them?"

"Your telling them would have more weight with the jury, Miss Brison.
This is a matter of life or death with Harry Fenton remember. If you
shrink from this sacrifice your boast was but an empty vaunt?" Frank
replied. "I have a means of compelling you to do so, Miss Brison, but I
would prefer your serving Harry of your own free will!"

"But it is such a terrible thing for a girl to stand up in court and
confess her love before a crowd of men. And then it will appear in all
the newspapers. Oh, I would a thousand times rather save Harry's life
by dying for him."

"It is useless going into heroics, Miss Brison," Frank replied sternly.
He could not understand the terrible torture such a position would be
to a woman, and was beginning to feel very angry at what he considered
a weak trifling with a grave subject. "Your dying can benefit no one
but the undertaker, while doing as I say may save Harry's life. Just
look over this document. It will give you all necessary information."
He placed a subpoena in her hands.

Nellie dashed it upon the ground. "Do you think that law paper
necessary, sir," she exclaimed as tears of shame and anger welled to
her eyes. "If you could understand a woman's nature, you would know
that what you wish me to do is the greatest sacrifice a woman could
make; but you would know also that after the first terror wore off
no true woman would need compulsion to induce her to do her duty. Of
course I will go; but I hope I shall not live to leave the court again;
for I shall never dare to hold up my head after the world knows I love
the man who cares nothing for me."

Clara here embraced her friend with a most demonstrative hug,
exclaiming as she did so, "I knew you would after all, Nellie! I knew
you would! It will be awfully disagreeable no doubt; but what is that
to Harry's safety, you darling! you heroine! Harry will perhaps owe his
life to you. That ought to make you wild with delight, if you love him
as a woman should love!"

Nellie did not reply. It would take time to reconcile herself to the
situation. Though she would go through the terrible ordeal bravely
enough when the hour came, she felt confused and frightened now; and
she longed to be by herself for a little while, that she might think
over what was expected of her.

"I am going to Dunmow, Miss Clara, to find a man named Hugh Fletcher.
Perhaps one of your grooms or stablemen may know him. He was groom to
Captain Powell of----Broadhurst at one time."

"I will send for Porter, Mr. Seymour. He knows everybody," replied
Clara eagerly. "Has this man any evidence to help Harry?"

"I think so. I must trouble you to lend me a horse, as I want to ride
on to Chelmsford afterwards, Miss Clara. I have to go too far to-day on
this business to be able to walk. If you send your groom with me, he
can direct me to this man Fletcher, and in the evening bring the horse
back."

Clara beckoned to her maid, who had been waiting out of hearing in
case her capricious mistress might require her, and sent her to order
Porter to have horses at the door as soon as possible. "Will you stay
to luncheon, sir? or would you prefer starting to look for this man at
once," she next asked, anxious that Mr. Seymour should lose no time in
the search.

"I will press on, Miss Clara, thank you," he replied. "Be careful to
tell no one but Mr. Fenton of this. Harry must not know; or he will
refuse to allow Miss Brison to endure the pain of confessing the truth
however necessary it may be for his safety. Good morning, ladies! I
will walk round and meet the groom at the front," and bowing Frank
turned to go.

"O, Mr. Seymour, do you really believe that Nellie's doing what you say
will save Harry?" asked Clara.

"I have every reason to hope so, Miss Clara; but we must not be too
sanguine," he answered. "It is in God's hands." He shuddered as he
uttered the sacred name; for he recollected that God had witnessed the
transaction from the beginning, from that terrible evening when he
first vowed to take a deadly vengeance upon his unhappy rival until now.

Clara sighed and said, "What, if after all it is not!" then noticing
Nellie's start of horror she changed the subject by asking, "Are you
any relation to the Polly Seymour Fanny writes to? She has a brother
Frank."

"Yes, Miss Clara; she is my sister. She is very ill; and the doctor's
say she will never get better," he answered sadly.

"Indeed! Oh I am so very sorry! What is the matter with her?"

Frank could not stand there and talk of his dying sister: his voice
trembled as he answered briefly, "Consumption!" and before Clara could
frame another question he had walked hurriedly away.

For some seconds the two girls stood silent, Clara watching Frank's
retreating figure, and Nellie shoving the pebbles on the path aimlessly
about with her foot, and thinking.

"What, Nellie, crying?" exclaimed Clara looking round and seeing heavy
tears trickling down her friends cheeks. "You ought to be glad and
proud of having the opportunity of showing Harry the difference between
a true woman's love, and the passing fancy of such a false, fickle girl
as Mabel!"

"I am, Clara! I am! But let us go inside: my head is quite on the
whirl!" sobbed Nellie hysterically.

Clara turned with her friend towards the house. "Well," she thought, as
they walked silently back, "I really believe if Polly's brother saves
Harry I will fall in love with him although his hair is pretty well
grey already. But I must hurry in, and,--no, I will tell papa first."

Frank rode in silence till he reached the scene of that fatal accident
that had taken one life, and bade fair to take another. He involuntary
drew rein, and glanced nervously round at the too-well remembered spot.

"By George, sir, but the dead body lying in the middle o' the the road
did give the horses a jolly start, when me and Mr. Harry and Captain
Beaumont found it in the moonlight looking more like a ghost or a
bundle o' old rags than a feller Christian!"

Frank drove his spurs into his horses flanks, and galloped on without
replying to the garrulous groom. That scene, sleeping or waking, had
never left his thoughts since the moment the Recording Angel made that
black entry against him. Many and many a night had he sprang up in his
bed in horror as that fatal shot echoed in his ears, and his victim
fell weltering in his blood. He fled from the accursed spot, as he once
fled before, carrying remorse and despair in his bursting heart. As
he approached Fenwick Park he reined in and rode slower; and another
bitter remembrance rose on his heated brain. The last time he was in
that park she said, looking upon his hated rival with eyes of truth
and love. "I will never marry any one but you?" words that had driven
him to the madness that had cost poor Bradlaw his life! "And I must see
her now? No, no? I dare not? One glance at her heavenly face and he
should be left to his fate? I will see her father for both." He rode up
to the House, and dismounting, threw the reins to the groom. The squire
was at home, and received him in the library with stiff courtesy. He
sat at his desk writing letters and looked harassed and careworn.

"My business, sir," began Frank, taking the chair he was motioned to,
"Is in reference to your neighbour young Mr. Fenton, who is now in
Chelmsford jail."

"For committing a dastardly murder," said Mr. Wilton finishing the
sentence.

"Say rather charged with committing it, Mr. Wilton? Is it not
un-English to anticipate a verdict." The old gentleman bit his lip in
vexation at the well merited rebuke; and Frank continued, "Jealousy is
the motive imputed for the commission of the crime with which he is
charged. You can assist in removing it."

"Me?" Mr. Wilton exclaimed in consternation, rising from his chair,
"Me? What other absurdity have you to propose next?"

"Yes, Mr. Wilton! You know that he loves your daughter, and that were
he to shoot any one through jealousy, it would be an admirer of Miss
Wilton's, not of Miss Brison's."

Mr. Wilton literally gasped for breath. "What do you mean, sir, by
invading my house to insult me in this manner?" he cried. "Loves my
daughter? There may be a dozen other clods mad enough to aspire to her
hand, for aught that I know!"

"Permit me to remind you, Mr. Wilton that Mr. Fenton is a gentleman,"
Frank replied, quietly. He could not lose his temper at any provocation
from her father. "He most certainly does love Miss Wilton; and she
undoubtedly returns his affection."

Could the haughty old Tory have divined the cause of his unwelcome
guest's voice trembling as he uttered Miss Wilton's name, he would have
had a double motive for his impotent rage.

"It is a lie!" he exclaimed passionately. "Miss Wilton love such as he?
the idea is preposterous! But you must excuse me, sir; I am busy this
morning. I cannot understand what can be the motive of your intrusion."

"Let this explain it, sir," Frank replied, laying a subpoena open upon
the desk. "Remember, I have served it upon you."

Mr. Wilton tossed it angrily upon the carpet. "I will not take it!
Mind, I will not take it. If you do not carry it away with you, I will
issue a warrant for your arrest!" he declared wildly.

"Indeed sir, as a magistrate you know as well as I do the folly of such
idle words. Where is Miss Wilton?"

"What!" the old gentleman thought aghast. "Will he dare to subpoena her
too, and make my own daughter publish this disgrace to the world!" and
he replied aloud. "She is fortunately away from home just now, and
will not return for some months." Mr. Wilton abhorred the mean vice of
lying, but having succeeded thus far, he reasoned that great as the
disgrace of falsehood might be, the disgrace he sought to avoid by
practicing it was still greater, and thus emboldened he went on. "She
is away in the south of France somewhere, travelling with some friends
for change of air."

Frank observed the dye of shame upon the old gentleman's face as he
spoke, and he felt uncertain what to think. "It is only natural,"
he mused, "that he should hurry her away to the continent under the
circumstances, yet he hesitated as much as though he were inventing the
story for the occasion; but, the servants will know if she is away,"
and he said as he rose to go, "You say Miss Wilton is from home, so I
must give up the idea of subpoenaing her. Good morning."

As Frank reached the door, Mr. Wilton caught him by the arm. "Is there
any consideration will induce you to take this paper away, and forget
that you saw me? Five hundred, a thousand pounds--anything."

Frank shook his head. "A man's life is at stake, sir. Let that be my
answer!" he replied scornfully: and without deigning another word he
stalked from the library, leaving Mr. Wilton burning with anger and
shame. "Ah, well, I have at least saved myself the humiliation of
seeing that mad-brained girl dragged to court to plead for her felon
lover!" he muttered as he began to pace the room.

As Frank crossed the hall he encountered Mrs. Merville with a bundle of
sewing under her arm. "This is one of the servants," he thought. "She
will know whether Mabel is away." And stopping her he asked, "Can you
tell me what is Miss Wilton's address? She is in France, I believe."

"In France, sir!" repeated the woman in astonishment. "Miss Wilton is
here, not in France!"

"Here! Can I see her?" Frank enquired, thinking as he spoke: "Well,
perhaps I ought not to blame him. Seeing his daughter in court under
the peculiar circumstances would be a severe blow to his pride and his
idea of honor."

"I do not think so!" answered Mrs. Merville, debating with herself the
expediency of making the stranger a confidant; but deciding against
it she continued. "Miss Wilton is unwell, and refuses to receive any
visitors."

"Indeed! Well, will you please to tell her that a gentleman is waiting
to see her in the interest of a friend of hers in trouble!"

Mrs. Merville gazed at Frank for a moment and then asked anxiously. "Do
you mean Mr. Harry Fenton?"

"I do. Step a little nearer to the fireplace the porter is looking this
way. I wish to see Miss Wilton in reference to Mr. Fenton. Will you
tell her so?"

Mrs. Merville decided at once to be frank with the stranger. "I cannot
sir! Miss Wilton is a prisoner here, confined to her rooms by her
father's orders, to prevent her from holding communication with Mr.
Fenton?"

"Ha! Is it possible!" exclaimed Frank, a dark frown clouding his pale
features.

"I trust to you, sir, not to let anyone know who told you! If my doing
so reached the squire's ears I might be driven with my children from
the lodge."

"Trust me, I will mention to none how I learned this secret!" Frank
replied, and added, "Are you in Miss Wilton's confidence?"

"Yes, sir; and in Mr. Fenton's too," she answered.

"Well, I must be brief. It will not do for her father to see us talking
together. There is some evidence she can give at the trial that may be
of use to the accused. Give her this subpoena if you can obtain access
to her; and tell her that at all hazards she must appear at the trial.
Should you hear of any attempt to remove her from the Park let me know
at once. I am staying at the 'Marquis of Granby' hotel. This is my
name," and he gave the woman his card. "If you have any doubt about
your power to insure that paper reaching her hands, say so, and I will
try other means! but I do not wish to make this unfortunate business
more unpleasant for her father than necessary."

Mrs. Merville assured Frank that he might feel perfectly easy upon the
question of Miss Wilton getting the subpoena and his message; and also
that he should be instantly informed of any movement to take her away
before the trial, and then the good woman passed on to give up her work
to the house-keeper, that she might hurry back to the lodge, and set
her wits to work to devise some means of fulfilling her promises, while
Frank walked away to to the waiting groom. "A prisoner!" he pondered.
"If I know her character she will prove as true as steel to him in his
trouble, and my folly has only taught her to cling the closer to him! I
was mad; and I am well punished, justly punished. I am trying to save
him! If I had any hope even now of winning her love I would let him die
a thousand times to realise that hope--I would win her, if an eternity
of damnation were its inevitable cast. But I have none! I have none!
and there is nothing left for me now but to undo my work and cement by
this trial their mutual love the closer!" He rode on to Dunmow: and the
groom directed him to Mr. Hugh Fletcher's establishment, a small livery
and bait stables. As Frank rode into the yard and dismounted, Mr.
Fletcher was busy in saddling a horse for a waiting customer, a young
doctor who was not able yet to keep a horse for himself. "A few words
with you Mr. Fletcher when you are disengaged," Frank said.

"All right, gov'nor? I'll be with you as soon as I swing this job off
as the hangman said?" replied Mr. Fletcher in the act of taking the
girth strap between his teeth to tighten it another hole or two.

In a few minutes the job was 'swung off,' and the swinger at leisure;
and sitting down upon an inverted bucket he asked with a merry twinkle
in his eyes, "Well sir, what may your business be? as the sailor said
to the bear, when she gave him a friendly hug."

"I have heard of you, Mr. Fletcher, as a man not to be bribed into
doing a wrong action by any price," began Frank.

"You're on the right horse this time! as the gambler said to the jockey
that won the Ledger," replied the stable-keeper solemnly. "Yes, sir.
Thank's to my old mother's Bible, and the Sunday school, I'm a little
more particular than some is."

"Would you object to earning fifty pounds in a right action?"

"By George, sir, I'd take a hundred and fifty in a good cause as the
martyr said to the flogger. But how, sir?"

"Your initials are H. F. Have you any pistols or fowling pieces marked
with them!"

Mr. Hugh Fletcher rose from his low perch, and cast an enquiring glance
at his visitor. "I see what your are driving at, sir, as the pile said
to the monkey!" he exclaimed in his peculiar way of illustrating.
"That's what's on the pistol young Fenton's in trouble about. His
initials and mine are both the same."

"Where were you on the day of the--the murder?" Frank enquired abruptly
turning to another view of the case.

"All right and tight sir, as the rat said in the trap. I was in London
at a sale. That's the day I bought that irongrey cob," answered Mr.
Fletcher, pointing to a colt in a loose box of the open stable before
them.

"Then you could easily have proved an alibi if you had been suspected?"
pursued Frank.

"As easy as kissing your hand, as the milkman said to the housemaid."

Frank paused in thought for a few minutes; and Mr. Fletcher stood
filling his short pipe, and wondering what the next question would
be. By the time the pipe was ready for lighting Frank spoke again.
"You reverence the influence of your good mother and her Bible, Mr.
Fletcher. You are consequently a man to be trusted. The principal
evidence against Mr. Fenton is the lettering on that pistol. If I can
produce a witness with the same initials who also has a pistol marked
with them that evidence will loose its point. Do you follow me?"

"Like a dog sir, as the retriever said to his master," replied Mr.
Fletcher gravely. "I've got an old pair of horse pistols somewhere.
You'll give me fifty pounds to cut my initials into them and take them
to the assizes next week!"

"Yes, Mr. Fletcher! And here is ten pounds of it down."

"To bind the bargain as the bridegroom said when he put the ring on.
Thank you, sir! I'd do it for nothing; for all here about respect Mr.
Fenton; but he's rich, and if I can earn a fifty I don't see why I
shouldn't for the wife and little ones sakes."

"If there is anything you could put the pistols into to make the
lettering look old, it would be as well to do it," suggested Frank,
turning to his horse. "And recollect this, you must not recognise me,
should you meet me in court, and this conversation is to be mentioned
to no one. Here is the subpoena. It is unnecessary perhaps, but it is as
well to make no exception in your case."

"Trust me sir, I'll be as dark as a vault and as mum as the grave, as
the whale said to Jonah. You may depend on me. This bit of paper 'll do
to light my pipe with," and he tore the document in slips, and twisted
them for the purpose.

Frank shook hands with the honest stable-keeper, and then mounted and
rode away. "Now I have done all in my power for him!" he thought as
he turned his horse's head towards Chelmsford. "If after all he is
convicted and sentenced to death, all that remains for me to do, is to
hang in his place."




CHAPTER XX.

MABEL had been a prisoner for two days: but it was now Wednesday
morning; and she was waiting with much impatience for her father
to come and release her. During the two days she had heard nothing
of Harry; and she longed to be free again that she might send for
Mrs. Merville, and learn from her all that had transpired since the
preliminary trial. Her determination to remain faithful to her lover
in his distress was if possible firmer than ever, still she hoped to
prevail upon her father to pity and forgive her. Alas for her hope,
she as little knew her father's temper, as he did hers. There were
depths of force and feeling in the character of each that the other
was stranger to. Between the obstinate pride of the one and the
self-sacrificing devotion of the other lay deep under currents that
needed opportunity to come to the surface; and here was opportunity
enough to develop them into full strength. The haughty old man would
rather his name be blotted out of existence than stained and dishonored
by a mesalliance, and that with an inhuman felon, as he honestly
believed the prisoner to be. The heroic girl would rather die a death
of torture than desert her lover in the hour of his need, be he guilty
or innocent. Between such natures compromise was impossible.

Mabel's two days of confinement and suspense had told terribly upon
her. She looked pale and thin, though her violet eyes sparkled with
excitement and resolution; and when at ten o'clock her father unlocked
the door and entered her sitting-room, he was shocked and surprised by
the change. "Your punishment has not improved your appearance Mabel,"
he exclaimed, as he drew a chair near the couch on which she was
sitting. "You find detention here rather irksome and monotonous; but I
presume you have come to your senses by this."

Mabel rose from the couch and threw herself on her knees at her
father's feet, "Oh, papa, your anger is making me so very unhappy! It
is slowly breaking my heart! I have no one but you now that dear mamma
is dead. Do forgive me, papa! Do forgive me for mamma's sake!"

Mr. Wilton's eyelashes grew damp. His motherless child pleading for
forgiveness for the sake of her dead mother touched his heart. If he
ever loved a human being with an undivided affection, it was his lost
Emilie. He loved his beautiful daughter chiefly because of her great
resemblance to her mother; and for that mother's sake he felt he must
forgive her, and take her to his heart again. "No! no!" he thought. "I
have a parent's duty to perform! I must not be weak enough to be melted
by a few tears!"

"Oh, papa, do in pity say you forgive me! I can never be happy again
till you do!"

The father coughed, and tried to steady his voice into a tone of
sternness before he answered; and then his answer drove all hope from
her breast. "Mabel, before you can fairly expect forgiveness you must
be prepared to unsay all the wild and unfilial things you uttered.
You know why you are punished. Have you repented of your folly, and
renounced for ever all thought of the blood-stained felon in Chelms----"

She sprang to her feet in a moment; "Hold! Hold! papa!" she exclaimed
in hear uncontrollable excitement. "No one shall defame Harry before
me! It is mean! it is cowardly to speak of him thus! It is unworthy of
you papa! What right has any private gentleman to usurp the place of
the judge and jury, and condemn a man before he has been tried! Who has
proved him a felon?"

Mr. Wilton slowly rose. "You have not recovered your senses yet I see.
Well, if two days is not sufficient to break your fiery spirit, we
will see what effect twenty will have. Or, rather, you do not leave
these rooms again, until you send me word by the house-keeper that you
have repented of your madness, be it twenty days or twenty years!" and
before Mabel could reply, he passed out, and locked the door after
him. Mabel did not burst into tears now: she had no tears left to
relieve her agony by. For nearly an hour she stood as he left her,
her eyes and throat dry, and her surging thoughts as it were blocked
in their current--she stood like one in a trance gazing with a vacant
meaningless stare upon the pictures upon the opposite wall. Bye-and-bye
her maid came in from the adjoining room to ask a question concerning
a dress she was trimming. Receiving no answer the maid glanced at her
mistress, and seeing her standing motionless in the middle of the room,
staring at the wall and concluding that she had gone mad, she rushed
to the door in terror, and commenced screaming, and battering at the
panels to make her escape. The noise roused Mabel, and tottering across
to the couch, she sank upon it, and ordered Marjory to be quiet.

"Why Miss," explained the trembling maid, "I thought you had gone
crazy."

"I was thinking: that is all, Marjory," replied Mabel wearily. "I want
to be alone; so you may put that book away, and get a book in the next
room."

Marjory had no desire to be alone. However, there was no help for it,
so taking up her work she left the room, muttering as she went, "If I'm
to be shut up here much longer I'll give warning. I wouldn't stop moped
up here with no one to to talk to for double wages. I'm sick and tired
of it!"

Mabel's couch was under the window that commanded a view of the lawn;
and she casually chanced to glance out at the same moment that Mrs.
Merville, who was approaching the hall, happened to look up. The window
was open and the lodge-keeper catching a glimpse of Mabel at it,
looked hurriedly round to make certain no one else was in sight, and
then waved a handkerchief to attract her young mistress's attention.
Mabel rose and leaned from the window. "Ah!" she thought, "It would
answer splendidly!" as a scheme for communicating with the outside
world rose upon her ready fancy; and pointing to the ground below the
window, she withdrew into the room. Snatching up her pen, she wrote
a few hasty lines, and taking a reel of thread Marjory had left she
tied the missive to the end of the thread to lower it to the expectant
lodge-keeper. As she approached the window she noticed the force of the
wind by the swaying of the trees, and instantly concluded that paper
could scarcely be expected under the circumstances to find its way very
quickly to Mrs. Merville's hands. She paused irresolute for a moment
and then ballasted the thread from the coal skuttle, and unreeling the
thread sent the note on its way. Mrs. Merville was by this close under
the window, and touching her lips with her fingers to caution the young
lady from speaking, she opened the note, then slowly counting eight
upon her fingers to intimate that at that hour Mabel might expect her
again, she slipped the note into her pocket, and hurried back to the
gravel walk, from whence she approached the hall with a well-feigned
air of unconcern. Mabel drew up her line, closed the window, and
resumed her seat to wait with what patience she might the hour the
lodge-keeper could communicate with her in safety.

For nearly twenty minutes she sat thinking; but the hands of the clock
moved as slowly as if the drowsy little machine were asleep, and
she next tried to keep pace with it by sleeping herself. Her eager
excitement was however too great. She could barely keep her eyes shut
for ten seconds together. The anticipation of hearing of Harry in a
few short hours how interminable they seemed to her in passing kept
her fully, painfully awake. Presently she touched the bell, and to
the social Marjory's infinite relief Mabel ordered her to put her
work away and bring a book to read aloud. Either Marjory, who was a
really good reader, was not up to the level of her usual performance,
or Mabel's ears were out of tune, for in a few minutes the reader was
ordered to put the book away, and talk. Soon her impatient mistress
interrupted her in the midst of a choice piece of gossip. "For mercy's
sake, girl, leave the room. You ought to know that I never listen to
scandal, whether it is true or not!" Madge was bitterly disappointed
by the dismissal. There were few things she enjoyed more than picking
holes in other people's coats, whether figuratively in the matter or
characters, or literally with respect to dress and the fashions. Before
many minutes she was recalled to try another volume. "Well, I declare!"
she thought, as she was peremptorily ordered to close the second book,
and heave the room again, "if she wouldn't wear out the patience of Job
himself! Either she's got a fever coming on, or, I really don't know
what ails her! When people are generally patient and into aggravating
fidgets without some gentle they don't change all of a sudden cause or
other."

The days since Mabel read of Harry's arrest had crawled by slower than
a couple of feeble old snails but this day seemed to move on at less
than half their rate, however by unceasing perseverance it at last drew
towards its close; and eight o'clock struck. Mabel was leaning out of
the open window in a state of intense impatience; and her maid, who had
been ordered to bed half an hour before, was deep in a novel, leaving
the candle and bed curtains to the care of Providence. Before the last
stroke of eight Mrs. Merville was at her post below the window, and
groping about soon found the waiting thread. There was no moon, and as
heavy clouds veiled the stars it was too dark to see, but the woman
tied the packet she had brought with her to the thread, and whispered
to Mabel to draw it up, and then hurried away fearful of being seen.
It would be a serious thing for the widow and her two children, if the
squire discovered her act and turned her out of the lodge, and winter
coming on too.

Mabel nervously drew up her frail line, and snatching up the packet as
it reached the sill, hurried with it to the table; and with trembling
fingers tore it open. It contained the days local newspaper with a
notice to those interested that the Chelmsford assizes would begin
on the following Tuesday (this paragraph was indicated by a heavy
pen stroke) and also the subpoena and a short note from Mrs. Merville
but without signature. The note briefly stated how the writer became
possessed of the subpoena, and that she would be at the window for a
few minutes every evening at eight o'clock. "And this is a summons
for me to go to the court on Harry's behalf," she exclaimed as soon
as she realised the meaning of the document. "Thank Heaven for giving
me an opportunity to do something--anything--for him! I will go if I
have to set the house on fire and escape in the confusion: Yes; Harry!
Yes! Though the whole world hiss me, and cry shame, I will go! Welcome
disgrace, death, anything by which I may save you, my darling! my
darling!"




CHAPTER XXI.

THE Friday after Frank had returned to London; and Polly was so much
recovered again as to be able to sit in an easy chair propped up by
pillows. It was tea time; and in addition to the invalid and her aunt
and their now constant visitor Rachel, as that young lady's brother.
The barrister had not till this afternoon visited Ethelton since he
last saw Frank. He had with heroic self-denial satisfied his anxiety
concerning Polly's health with the little bulletins his sister had sent
him daily.

It was now however necessary for him to leave Torquay on the morrow,
that he might redeem his promise to his pupil, and appear at Mr.
Fenton's trial; and consequently he had easily yielded to the
temptation of going over to Ethelton under cover of the excuse of
bidding his sister good-bye. It was teatime; and while Rachel and Polly
as privileged individuals were chatting in whispers upon the late
misconduct of Azim, who had deliberately lain down in a pond thereby
nearly drowning the stable-boy, who had taken him there to drink, Miss
Letitia and the barrister were conversing upon the state of Frank's
health. "It is indeed strange, sir, what can be the matter with the
boy!" continued the anxious old lady after a full and minute account of
all Frank's ailments since infancy. "I cannot understand it all. Dr.
Fulton insists that there is really nothing the matter with him, and
that all he needs is rest; but I can see him changing every day. Why he
is not quite of age, and yet his hair is getting quite grey!"

"Grey!" echoed Mr. Talford in astonishment, "Grey! I did not observe
it! and I saw him here too a few days ago."

"Perhaps you saw him in the desk of this room; or he may have had his
hat on at the time," answered Miss Letitia. "Yes, sir, I assure he is
already grayer than some men at fifty!"

Mr. Talford was interrupted in his reply by the entrance of the
subject of their conversation. Frank shook hands with his aunt and the
visitors, and then hurried to his sister. While the anxious brother was
embracing the invalid and making eager inquiries about her health, the
barrister took the opportunity of noticing the great alteration that
had taken place in his appearance during the last three weeks. "Hem!
There is something very serious here!" he thought uneasily. "There must
be something on his mind. A bodily sickness or disease never turns
beardless youths grey-headed!"

After the tea things were removed, the group sat conversing for some
considerable time. Frank was in a much more social mood than they had
seen him in for some months; and he strove to interest and amuse his
sister and her friend. Several things contributed to his cheerfulness
to-night. Polly was better, and he had succeeded, so he thought, far
beyond his most sanguine expectations, in finding witness to neutralize
the evidence against his rival, and to remove the need of any exposure
of his own dark deed. His anxious and arduous search had in a measure
drawn away his thoughts from her whose beauty was the primary cause of
all this trouble and mischief. Pity 'tis so bright a gift to the sons
of men should be the fountain of confusion and broil, bickering and
bloodshed! But 'twas so centuries before Helen's fair face cost Troy so
dear; and so it will remain till the grand consummation of all mundane
things.

Presently Miss Letitia declared it was time for the sick girl to
be taken to bed; and although everybody else protested that it was
too early, the old lady carried her point by quoting Dr. Woods'
instructions, which insisted strongly upon the necessity of avoiding
fatigue; and after bidding her brother and his friend good-night, Polly
was assisted to her chamber by Rachel and her aunt.

"I have succeeded, sir, in obtaining the witnesses I went to Dunmow
for," began Frank, directly he and Mr. Talford were left together;
and while the barrister gravely listened he went carefully through
the evidence against the prisoner confronting it item by item as
he proceeded with the rebutting evidence he had collected. When he
concluded Mr. Talford expressed an opinion that with one exception the
chain of countervailing proof was perfect.

"The prisoner is really the owner of the pistol you say. I think it
wiser to admit ownership, and prove the loss," he demurred. "If the
opposite side should bully your witness Fletcher into admitting that
he is paid for his evidence the jury will look black; and from your
account of the man he is not likely to perjure himself. If it were
by any accident to transpire that the prisoner owned the weapon, the
concealment of the fact would under the circumstance be considered
enough to condemn him. Yes! My advice is, admit ownership. It is
dangerous no doubt, but the least dangerous course of the two."

Frank sat silent and thoughtful for some minutes. There were certain
urgent private reasons why ownership must not be admitted; but reasons
which must be jealousy guarded from discovery. "It may be very
difficult, sir, to prove the loss," he said after carefully weighing
the subject. "But perhaps it may be as well to hear what Mr. Fenton
thinks before deciding." Time enough to confess his connection with
the pistol, if his rival was condemned, without risking exposure by
reference now to the last time the weapon was seen with him.

Miss Letitia here returned to the room.

"Miss Talford goes back with you to-night, sir, she tells me," said the
old lady resuming her chair. "I will call her when you are ready. She
wishes to stay with Polly till you go."

"O, aunt, by-the-way, before I forget it, I want to caution you against
letting Polly see the newspapers!" said Frank. "You remember Harry
Fenton. He is just now in trouble--arrested for a great crime, in fact."

"What! That open-hearted, generous boy arrested for crime!" the old
lady exclaimed in horrified surprise. "Then I for one am certain he is
as innocent as I am! He saved Frank's life years ago in the Serpentine,
sir, when they were boys," she continued, turning to the barrister.

"Indeed, then that accounts for your nephew's great anxiety on his
behalf now," replied Mr. Talford.

Frank winced, but passing the subject unnoticed, he said, "Polly and
Miss Fenton are friends; and in Polly's delicate state of health the
excitement the news would cause her might prove fatal."

Mr. Talford warmly acquiesced in the wisdom of keeping the papers out
of the sick girl's way. "And I will warn Rachel against repeating
anything of the trial she may hear. She seldom reads newspapers herself
I believe; but she is very likely to hear of it, if any of her friends
see the account of the trial."

While the advisableness of shielding Polly from exciting news was being
discussed in the parlour, Rachel read a chapter from her pocket Bible
and then joined the sick girl in prayer. "What a strange, changeable
world this is!" said Polly speaking more to herself than her companion
as Rachel rose from her knees, "It seems so bright at first, all
flowers and meadows and blue sky; and yet we soon find it a relief to
leave it behind us, and go through the cold, dark grave, to the place
where there is no more sorrow, or heartache!"

Rachel glanced at her new friend in surprise. "Excepting your illness,
Polly, yours cannot have been a very unhappy life!" she said.

Polly smiled faintly. "'Every heart knoweth its own bitterness!'" she
answered softly in the words of a text of the chapter just read; and
she thought as she closed her eyes to shield them from the glare of the
lamp, "No one but God knows mine or ever shall!"

Rachel was considerably puzzled. She had never heard of any especial
trouble that Polly had been called upon to bear beyond her sickness;
and that could not be the bitterness meant; for Polly seemed to be very
ready to submit herself uncomplainingly to the will of heaven. But
repressing her natural curiosity, she spoke with fervent enthusiasm
of the unceasing peace and joy in the realms of the redeemed till,
presently perceiving that the sick girl was exhausted, she kissed her
tenderly and after putting the lamp back where its light was shaded
from the bed, she withdrew to the parlor.

"Ah, here is Rachel, so we will hurry away now. I will meet you at the
post inn in the morning, Frank. Good-bye, Miss Vaughan! I sincerely
hope that Miss Seymour's improvement may prove permanent!" said Mr.
Talford, rising and shaking hands with his pupil and the aunt, "Tell
Polly I will ride over and see her to-morrow in the afternoon, Miss
Vaughan. Good-bye!" and with the usual feminine parting salutation,
Rachel was ready to follow her brother.

"Good-bye, Miss Talford!" said Frank, stepping forward to shake hands,
"Accept my heart-felt thanks for all your kindness to my poor sister!
My gratitude to you will never cease but with my life!"

Rachel blushed painfully and was for a moment too confused to speak,
but recovering herself she exclaimed candidly, "Forgive my rudeness in
turning away without bidding you good-bye, Mr. Seymour! I really had
forgotten you. You must not thank me so much for visiting Polly. I am
beginning to love her so dearly that I am never happy out of her sight."

The stars were shining with almost their winter brilliance, the air
was crisp and chilly; and Mr. Talford and Rachel walked on briskly, at
first in silence, the barrister busy in reviewing the facts of the case
he had to defend in Chelmsford, and his sister thinking of his love for
the beautiful invalid, and speculating upon the probability of his ever
marrying if she died. Presently Rachel broke the silence by observing
that it was such a splendid night she was glad her brother had not
brought the carriage for her. Thus roused from his meditation the
barrister turned to talk, and their conversation soon took a serious
turn. "Polly does strive then to prepare herself for the death that is
nearer perhaps than we think?"

"Yes, Herbert! If an earnest and trusting faith in salvation through
the death of Jesus can save anyone, she is certain of heaven if she
dies to-night!" replied Rachel warmly.

"Then I will meet her there!"

No more was said, as they walked hurriedly on: the few words had
stirred up solemn thoughts in the hearts of both. The barrister, strong
in his pride and power, thought in the simple words of scripture,
"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!" and he there, as
he walked, vowed to God to spend the remainder of his life, and all
the grand intellect he had been endowed with, in persuading men to
the narrow way that terminates in heaven. "I will meet her there and
not alone! By the favour of God many shall owe heir conversion to the
change wrought in me by her death!"




CHAPTER XXII.

ALL was hurry and bustle in Chelmsford; the assizes were to be
opened on the morrow. Circuit time was looked forward to by the good
people of Chelmsford as a season of extra profit, a time to make up
for whatever depression in trade they may have had the ill luck to
experience between term and term. The presence of so many visitors,
legal and lay, gave new life to business; and every tradesman, however
petty his transactions, felt the improvement. The great shops and the
little shops alike found the demand for their wares increased by the
general excitement. There was quite a run on silks and laces, gloves
and nicknacks; butchers and bakers grew busy, and even the blind
lucifer-merchant, who had built up a business on the curb opposite
the general entrance to the gloomy old court, had been able, in
anticipation of the coming season of prosperity, to promise on his
'verd an nonner' to pay the arrears for his lodgings from his extra
takings. Nor was the hurry and bustle confined to the tradesmen. The
elite of the city was in active preparation for the reception of
its friends, the wigs on circuit; and the preliminaries for balls and
parties in honour of their transitory visit formed, and had formed for
days past, its staple of conversation. Yes! all was hurry and bustle
and excitement at Chelmsford. But there was another cause of the public
agitation than the tradesmen's profit and the gentry's pleasure. Never
before within the memory of the oldest inhabitant had the son of a
landed gentleman of Essex stood in the dock charged with a felony; and
on the morrow this novel and distressing spectacle was to be seen.
The first impression of public opinion had been in the favour of the
accused. The idea of a gentleman, wearing the king's uniform, and heir
to a large estate, being idiot enough to be guilty for the sake of one
lady, when he was both handsome and rich enough to captive a score--and
he, too, engaged to the heiress of Squire Wilton, one of the wealthiest
men in Essex! He must be an idiot indeed, who could think so! So at
first said public opinion. Then came the preliminary hearing; and
public opinion cogitated laboriously over those unfortunate words, 'If
I loved a girl and any man came between us, I would shoot him down like
a dog!' and it looked helplessly grave and undecided. Then followed
the rumour that Squire Wilton had denied the engagement between his
daughter and the prisoner; and public opinion at once grew more grave
and less undecided; and it now shook its head ominously and said
'Matters looked black; but still appearances were against innocent men
sometimes!'

The wigs and gowns on circuit had arrived, and were already comfortably
settled--some at hotels, and others at the houses of friends, whom they
had met on former visits--and all looked forward to a few evenings of
exceptional enjoyment. As one of the younger barristers said, "There's
no city in the circuit so justly renowned for hospitality, picnics,
and pretty women!" and all the legal gentleman present (with but one
exception) were prepared to do justice to their hospitable reception.
The old judge, solemn, stately, and severe as he was on the bench, was
as urbane and sociable as the youngest barrister on circuit when his
bald head was disencumbered of his wig. Indeed, one maiden lady of
about fifty summers had repeatedly declared that she considered him
by far the most agreeable and interesting company of any of the legal
gentlemen who made their periodical visits to the city. But, then,
as some of the younger ladies ill-naturedly hinted, the judge was a
bachelor; and the elderly Miss Foster had sense enough to see that she
could not expect to marry a young man. Among the barristers most in
requisition was the eminent special pleader, Mr. Talford. He had not
been in Chelmsford for several circuits, but his friends of the past
remembered him; and invitations flowed in with embarrassing rapidity.
All invitations, however, were declined with the excuse of ill-health
(he was really very unwell) and pressure of business.

Mr. Talford reached Chelmsford early in the morning; but he shut
himself in his own room at the hotel as soon as he arrived, and, giving
orders that he was not on any account to be disturbed, abandoned
himself to the most painful and depressing meditations. Towards
evening, however, he roused himself and took a cab and drove to the
jail. Frank was in his own room at the 'Marquis of Granby' hotel
carefully going through the brief again, lest by any chance some
important point had been over-looked. Mr. Talford met Mrs. Fenton and
her little girl, Beatrice at the gate of the jail as he stepped from
his cab; but, not knowing them, he passed on and was soon admitted.
When he entered the dark cell he found the prisoner deeply engaged
in reading letters from his sisters Fanny and Clara. Harry rose as
the door closed behind his visitor. "I am the counsel who defends you
to-morrow, Mr. Fenton," Mr. Talford said, introducing himself. "My
pupil, Mr. Seymour, has made me minutely acquainted with every detail
of your case: so that I shall be fully prepared. He is a very clever
youth, and will surprise the world some of these days I expect; but,
nevertheless, there is one point in the course he recommends, in which
I most decidedly believe he is wrong."

"Is that about the pistol, sir?" Harry enquired. "Frank was here this
morning; and he and father had a long consultation about it."

"Yes!" replied Mr. Talford taking a seat upon the bench under the
grated window, "And I most strongly advise you not to conceal that the
weapon is yours."

Harry replied that, for himself, he considered it the more honourable
and straight-forward course to tell the whole truth fearlessly, and
trust to Providence: but his father was afraid of the pistol being
acknowledged, as they had no direct proof for its loss. "I would
rather, sir," he concluded by saying, "hang as an innocent man than
save myself by shuffling and deceit!"

Mr. Talford reiterated his advice to admit ownership of the pistol, and
then drew the youthful prisoner on to talk of his ride with the unhappy
Bradlaw, "I had not the slightest thought either of poor Bradlaw or
Miss Brison, when I used those unfortunate words, sir!" Harry declared
solemnly, after he had given a full account of that ill-fated ride.

"Who were you thinking of then!" the barrister enquired.

"I must decline to say, sir!" replied Harry proudly. "Drawing her name
into the discussion cannot possibly benefit me; and if it could I would
refuse to mention it!" and he thought bitterly, "I care very little now
how the trial goes! She has deserted me; and finding her fickle and
faithless, takes away my only hope and aim in life! If she cared one
jot whether I live or die, she would at the least have written to me!"

Mr. Talford refrained from speaking of the principal line of evidence
to be set up, as he was aware from his pupil of Harry's strong
disinclination to benefit in any way by such evidence; and when Harry
after a brief pause asked carelessly (carelessly, for Mabel's supposed
forgetfulness had made him utterly indifferent to his fate) "Honestly,
sir, what do you think of my chance of an acquittal?" he replied, "I
feel sanguine, Mr. Fenton. For my own part, I am convinced that the
guilty man is still at large; and I have every hope of persuading the
jury to believe the same. But I must bid you good afternoon now, Mr.
Fenton, and hurry back to my hotel. Mr. Seymour dines with me; and
perhaps some of my Chelmsford friends may drop in. Don't forget my
caution in reference to the pistol. Believe me, my experience has been
great enough to enable me to form a correct opinion: and, I repeat,
admit ownership!"

Harry replied that he would tell his father Mr. Talford's words
directly he came in; and that, for his own part, he would rather follow
the advice, even if it was the most likely to hang him; for he was
pretty well tired of his life.

The barrister glanced at him with surprise, "Come, come, Mr. Fenton,
you must not look upon your position with such desponding eyes!" he
said kindly. "You have a Bible I see. Whatever your chance of acquittal
may be, study that book!"

"I do, sir, a little sometimes," replied Harry wearily. "I find this
Pilgrim's Progress more interesting: but reading here is dry work to
people like me, who always preferred cricket or boating to poring over
musty old books."

"Ah!" thought the barrister, as the turnkey conducted him to the outer
gate. "He is a very long way from being prepared to die! How few of us,
indeed, appear to feel sufficient interest in our future prospects to
induce us to search the Scriptures for our assurance of salvation! It
is time I began. I have barely read a dozen chapters since I was a boy."

Frank had spent the whole of the afternoon in studying Mr. Talford's
brief in Harry's case; and he had again gone with laborious minuteness
over every particle of evidence likely to be urged against the
prisoner. He had taken each item as it appeared, and exercised his
subtle brain in finding an answer or countervailing proof. He had
now finished the tedious work, and was preparing to go round to dine
with his preceptor, when a waiter appeared with the intelligence that
a lady was waiting in a parlor downstairs to see him. "A lady!" he
thought, as he followed the waiter, "Miss Brison, I expect, come to
beg of me to do without her at the trial! Her boasted anxiety for an
opportunity of sacrificing herself for Harry was but a shallow piece
of sentimentality." The waiter left him at the door, and he passed in.
It was rather dusk, and the lamps were not yet lighted. Advancing to
the lady, who rose from her chair as he entered, he bowed, "I am sorry
to have detained you, Miss Brison. I was---- O, I beg pardon, Mrs.
Merville, I mistook you for another lady."

The lodge-keeper smiled; but without commenting upon the blunder, she
handed Frank a letter, saying as she did so, "Miss Wilton told me, sir,
to beg of you to give this note to Mr. Harry Fenton."

"Certainly! Certainly!" Frank replied; as he thought gloomily, "And
is this what my vow of revenge has brought me to--to carry letters
from the woman I love to the man I hate!" but firmly crushing down the
maddening reflection, he asked quietly, "And the subpoena--you gave it
to her?"

"Yes, sir; and you may be perfectly certain of her attending the court.
I believe she would go, if she had to die in his place. I have been
puzzling myself ever since I saw you, sir, how to assist her to escape;
but I thought of a plan a few minutes ago as I was walking up to this
hotel. I was once in a very similar position myself; that is to say,
I had to leave my home in the night, and elope with Mr. Merville to a
church, where he had everything prepared, as my parents were averse to
our marriage. So you see, sir, I have a little experience to guide me
in those matters."

"Let me see," returned Frank, "To-morrow is the first day of court.
Miss Wilton need not attend till Wednesday. The earlier cases may
perhaps occupy the court till Thursday or Friday; but I am certain that
our case will not be called on to-morrow." As Frank spoke he chanced
to glance at the letter in his hand. It was open; and he saw that the
direction was to Mrs. Merville. "Ha! There is some mistake here!" he
exclaimed in astonishment, "This is addressed to you."

Mrs. Merville took the letter, and looked at it, and then coloured
with vexation. "That is not Miss Wilton's letter sir! I gave you that
by mistake." After searching each pocket and possible receptacle for
at least a dozen times, she said in a tone of great annoyance and
disappointment, "How unfortunate to be sure! I must have taken up the
wrong letter from my desk in mistake, as I came away."

Nothing remained for Mrs. Merville but to return, and to seize the
first opportunity of sending the letter on--an opportunity not easily
obtained, unless she should happily see someone passing the lodge, who
was riding to Chelmsford and who might be trusted. She dared not
again go near the stables, her last attempt there had led to exposure.

"Good evening, Mrs. Merville!" said Frank shaking hands. "I am sorry
you made the mistake; but it is worse than useless to fret about it. If
you send it to me to-morrow, I will see that it reaches Mr. Fenton's
hands."

Mrs. Merville thanked Frank for his kindness in the name of Miss
Wilton, and then departed, reproaching herself bitterly as she went for
her blundering stupidity; and Frank took his hat and hurried to Mr.
Talford.

"To-morrow will prove what God's will is!" mused Fanny Fenton, as she
sat alone in an arbor in a shady corner of the garden, thinking of
her brother's trouble. It was a chilly spot to sit in on a November
afternoon: but the fair girl was too deep in her brother's sorrow to
notice the weather, "I wish I could feel as hopeful as papa and Clara
do! I am more like mamma, I suppose, and prone to look on the dark side
of things: but I cannot be sanguine! I feel quite despondent now and
full of presentiments of coming misery!" Her melancholy meditations
were interrupted by a hand placing itself upon her shoulder with a
quiet air of proprietorship. She glanced timidly up, and then sprang to
her feet, her gentle face suffused with blushes, and her soft grey eyes
beaming with surprise and pleasure, "Oh, Arthur, I am so glad! You said
nothing of this visit in your last letter."

"No, darling! I did not know myself till half-an-hour before I
came away. I am here now altogether against my will," Lieutenant
Beaumont answered, taking a seat by her side. "Now, don't cast such a
reproachful glance at me!" he continued observing her quick look of
dismay, "I am here on very unfortunate business. The detective has
subpoenaed me because I was with Harry at the finding of poor Bradlaw's
body. How is he?"

"He is in very good health Arthur; but he is very low spirited
sometimes. Mabel has neither gone to see him, nor sent a letter since
he was arrested; and the neglect worries him more than all his other
trouble."

"What! Has Miss Wilton forsaken him the first time the world looks
black? I flatter myself that were I thrown into prison to-morrow, my
gentle Fanny would set Miss Wilton a better example!"

Fanny smiled with pleasure. "Clara and Nellie Brison are certain that
Mabel is false and fickle; but I believe her father prohibits her
holding any intercourse with him. You know, Arthur, he hated Harry
before this trouble came upon him, and forbade him to visit the House;
and it is not likely that he would relent now--his pride would be
doubly hurt. Do you speak for Harry to-morrow?"

"Certainly, Fanny. But I have very little to say. I can only explain
how Harry and I found the body. What do people about here think of the
case? Our regiment is ready to pledge its colors on his innocence."

"I don't know, Arthur," she replied doubtfully. "All our personal
friends are confident he is not guilty; but, as papa says, most people
shake their heads, and will be more ready with an opinion after the
trial than now."

A few minutes more in conversation upon this painful theme, during
which Fanny spoke of Harry's school friend, Mr. Seymour, having taken
the case up, and subpoenaed Nellie Brison among others, and Mr. Beaumont
abruptly changed the subject by observing. "Only six months to May now,
Fanny! How impatiently I shall count the lazy weeks till then!"

Fanny blushed; but raising her loving, trustful eyes to his face, she
said quietly, "Arthur, we must not even think of our happiness while
Harry is in trouble. Innocent men have suffered before; and he is not
safe yet. No, Arthur, dearly as we love each other we must not think of
our happiness till Harry is free, and among us again."




CHAPTER XXIII.

THE momentous day had at length arrived; the time of sickening suspense
between arrest and trial had passed away. It was Friday--a most unlucky
day, as the superstitious old gardener as Elmgrove had assured Miss
Clara, to that excitable young lady's utmost consternation. All the
witnesses with the exception of Mabel, were waiting about the court;
and she was sitting with Mrs. Merville in a private parlor of the inn
opposite, waiting with feverish impatience a message from Mr. Seymour
that she was needed. Mrs. Fenton was at home prostrated by a nervous
headache; and Fanny was with her; but Clara had accompanied her friend
Nellie to the court, and was now, as they passed up and down a lobby to
pass time, doing her utmost to drive Nellie distracted by her ceaseless
talk. Poor Nellie would have preferred the company of a mute just then;
but Clara kept bravely on, talking, as she fancied, to divert her
friend's thoughts from their unpleasant channel.

The court was thronged to suffocation already, though it wanted a
quarter of an hour of the time the judge would take his seat. The
day was bright though cold; and all the prisoner's friends and
acquaintances were in court; indeed, nearly every gentleman in the
county was present. Old General Graham and his son Ensign Charles were
sitting on a front bench, with young Sir Toby Cadman and his big shadow
Mr. Turnbul; and behind them, and in the gallery, were packed among
the ill-assorted crowd many other friends and acquaintances. Everybody
was talking to everybody else, speculating upon the probable result of
the trial; but presently the eager buzz abruptly ceased; and the judge
entered and took his seat. The usual courtesies passed between the
judge and the barristers at the table; and then amidst the breathless
excitement of the motley assemblage the prisoner was brought into
court. He was very pale; but he glanced round the court, and gazed
upon the sea of faces before him, as calmly as though he were a mere
spectator, instead of being an actor in that drama of life or death,
playing a part full of deadly peril.

Mr. Talford, the prisoners counsel, looked grave and annoyed. At the
last moment old Mr. Fenton had finally decided not to admit ownership
of the pistol as they had nothing to prove its loss; and the barrister
was compelled to give way, and do the best he could with the evidences
in his hands. At another time he would have thrown up the brief on
finding his advice rejected; but he now felt it would be a dereliction
of duty to forsake any friend of her family in trouble; and he
determined to pass by the real though unintended discourtesy, and do
what he could with the evidence before him. Frank sat at the table with
his preceptor, but he seemed so wrapped in contemplation of the cobwebs
that hung in natural festoons from the ceiling, that he did not once
glance towards the prisoner. The preliminary business of empaneling
the jury was very quietly gone through. The crown challenged no one;
and the prisoner only one, a cousin of the deceased Captain Bradlaw.
After what appeared to the crowd in court a very long and unnecessary
delay, the prisoner pleaded 'Not guilty;' and Mr. Sergeant Russel, K.
C., rose to open the case for the crown. "My lord, and gentlemen of the
jury," he began, "I have now the painful duty of bringing before you
one of the most deliberate and blood-thirsty murders ever perpetrated
in this land; and I doubt not that when I have laid bare before you the
damning proofs of guilt, you will rise in your righteous indignation
and vindicate and avenge, the sacred cause of outraged justice!"

He told them that the chain of evidence, by which the prisoner at the
bar was encompassed, was so strong, so perfect in its every link, so
overwhelming, that it must carry irresistible conviction to their
intelligence; and that therefore elaborate comment was unnecessary
and he would at once proceed to lay it before them. He dwelt at great
length upon the love of the ill-fated victim, Captain Bradlaw, for the
bountiful and wealthy heiress, Miss Nellie Brison; and of the jealousy
of the prisoner before them growing day by day till it culminated in
a thirst for revenge, in muttered threats, in murder. He spoke of the
vigilance of the Great Father of all, Who never slumbers nor sleeps,
and Who sooner or later unveils all crime. "See!" he exclaimed, "how
a watchful Providence paves the way for vengeance to overtake the
pitiless destroyer! The waiting assassin may have many weapons; but
it is the one his tell-tale initials are cut into, that in his blind
haste he snatches up, as he goes in search of his victim!" With clear
and awful vividness, as though it had occurred every wit as he said it,
the able sergeant laid like a picture before them the meeting of the
rivals, the flush of exultation and triumph that rose to the prisoner's
dark brow, as with vengeance at his heart, and a loaded pistol in his
breast pocket, he encounters his doomed victim. They ride together to
the farm and back, on opportunity arising by the way to carry out his
cruel and blood-thirsty intentions--perhaps passers-by are too many,
or he may yet shrink from dyeing his hands in blood. But now comes
Dr. Bentree's unfortunate banter, and the die is cast. His commanding
will--and only men capable of such deeds have wills so resistless--his
commanding will sternly interposes when their friends Bentree and
Chalmers, having heard the dark threat, and dreading the consequence of
allowing the rivals to ride away together, try hard to separate them,
and take the doomed man away with them. But no! Like a sheep to the
slaughter is led the confiding victim. A deserted spot is reached, and
without truth or remorse the rival is shot down like a dog.

Such was the wonderful power of the orator, that, as the last dread
scene was pictured the crowd in the body of the court was moved as
one; and several women fainted and had to be carried out. As for the
prisoner himself, he calmly gazed upon the speaker, wondering how
often innocent men like him had been sacrificed by such grand displays
of rhetoric. Frank shuddered and in lifting a glass of water to his
feverish lips his hand trembled so violently that it was in part spilt
upon the papers before him. After the confusion caused by removing the
fainting women, had subsided, and order been restored, the prosecuting
sergeant continued. He now came to the finding of the body, and
the motive which led the prisoner so readily to offer to ride with
Lieutenant Beaumont as far as Fenwick Park. He suddenly discovers that
he has dropped the mute but eloquent witness of his crime. With what
rapidity of thought! with what fertility of resource he acts! The body
discovered, he sends one here and the other there, that alone, he may
search for the weapon, which holds, deep cut in its polished barrel,
the clue to his bloody crime. But the eye of Heaven was not closed.
Search with what eagerness he could, he cannot find it; and there, all
unseen it lies, within reach of the hands of God to be discovered next
day by the police as the grand completing link of the evidence that
shall to-day bring home guilt to the guilty. "Yes my lord and gentlemen
of the jury," the learned sergeant concluded his long and powerful
address by saying, "I will now carry you step by step through the
evidence, from the prisoner's darkly significant threat to the finding
of his victim's body; and though I can offer you no witness to the
actual crime--what felon so mad as to allow such witness!--I will fence
the accused about with a wall of incontestable proof there shall be no
escape through."

The prisoner's counsel took but few notes during the crown prosecutor's
opening address. The first witness called was the apprehending
detective: Mr. James Shaw, a famous man in his profession indeed, the
most successful terrier, as the swell-mob element of London society
called him, in all Scotland Yard. He deposed to the arrest, and gave
an account of the conversation he had heard in the train, which first
caused him to suspect the prisoner. Mr. Talford had no question to ask
of this witness; and he retired to make way for Mr. Surgeon Bentree.
Mr. Bentree told of the banter he had unfortunately submitted the
deceased Captain Bradlaw to, and the dark threat the prisoner had made.
In answer to a question from the judge, he admitted that previous
to that afternoon he had no idea of the prisoner was a rival of the
deceased in reference to Miss Nellie Brison; and at the time he took
no notice of the threat; and merely advised Captain Bradlaw not to
trust himself with the prisoner, for the purpose of teasing him. Mr.
Talford had only one question to ask this witness--"Would he swear
that the prisoner's threat had any reference whatever to either Miss
Nellie Brison, or the deceased Captain Bradlaw!" He would not! The next
called was Mr. Chalmers, whose evidence was a mere corroboration of
the previous witness. The prisoner's counsel put the same question to
the witness as the last, and with the same result--he would not swear
that the prisoner's threat bore any reference to either Miss Brison or
the deceased. Lieutenant Beaumont was the next sworn. He gave a clear
and brief account of the finding of the body, and of his being sent
for the nearest doctor. In answer to Mr. Talford, he swore that there
was nothing in the prisoner's manner at the time of finding the body
to lead him to suppose he knew of the murder beforehand. He appeared
as much horrified and surprised as the witness, but not more so. The
groom followed, and corroborated this part of the evidence, was very
positive that the prisoner did not act as though he knew the body was
there before he found it. Next followed the constable who had found the
pistol. It had the letters "H. F." cut into the barrel. In answer to
the prisoner's counsel the witness said he found the weapon on the open
road, where any person searching for it in the broad moonlight would
hardly fail to find it. He knew a poacher named Henry Foster. Henry
Foster had once been tried for murder, and had been sentenced to five
years for manslaughter. This poacher had now been out of jail for over
a year. He (the witness) would not swear that the pistol now before
the court did not belong to Henry Foster; it might! He also knew Mr.
Herbert Fraser, the architect in Dunmow. He could not swear that the
pistol did not belong to Mr. Herbert Fraser! He saw the surgeon Mr.
Kerr extract the bullet from the head of the deceased Captain Bradlaw.
He fitted it into the barrel of the pistol before the court, and found
that it corresponded exactly.

Mr. Surgeon Kerr corroborated the portion of the last witness's
evidence referring to the extraction of the bullet; and gave
professional evidence as to the cause of death!

This closed the case for the crown. The evidence was very meagre; but
judging from the dark faces of the jury it had carried great weight.

The counsel for the defence now rose. The motive assigned by his
learned friend for the crime it was assumed the prisoner had committed
was jealousy of the deceased on the account of Miss Nellie Brison. He
would first produce witnesses to prove how utterly without foundation
the absurd supposition was. He would call Mr. Fenton, senior, the
father of the accused. The old gentleman entered the court in answer
to his name, and slowly made his way to the witness box. He appeared
more keenly alive to the danger of his son's position than did that
young man himself: and his handsome jovial features were now sombre and
clouded. He told the jury of his recent attempt to influence his son to
marry the daughter of his friend General Brison, and his son's absolute
refusal to listen to the proposal because he was the accepted lover of
Miss Wilton of Fenwick Park. The prosecuting counsel himself submitted
him to a long and severe cross examination; but without shaking his
evidence in any way. As he was leaving the box, Frank placed a slip
of paper in Mr. Talford's hands, and glancing at it, that gentleman
asked how long to the witness's own knowledge had the prisoner and Miss
Wilton been engaged to each other. "They were sweethearts as children,"
was the reply. "My son tells me they formally engaged themselves to
each other when he was fifteen and Mabel Wilton thirteen--that was
before Mr. Wilton left the Park--five years ago."

A buzz of sympathy and approval rose through the court; but in a
moment all was silent as suspense. The cryer called Nellie Brison. The
prisoner regarded his counsel with a quick glance of angry surprise,
then turning to the judge, exclaimed, "I submit, my lord, there
is no need of this----," the judge frowned, "Silence, prisoner,"
he interrupted sternly, "You may have an opportunity of speaking
presently, in the meanwhile you must leave the conduct of your defence
to your counsel!"

Every pair of eyes in the court that could by any possible amount of
twisting or straining catch a glimpse of the door, were turned to it
in eager curiosity, as the witness entered, leaning on the arm of the
prisoner's sister, Miss Clara Fenton. There was much speculation among
those in the crowd who had never seen the lady before, what she would
look like.

"She must be uncommon 'ansome to set them young swells by the ears
like this!" declared a journeyman tailor, gravely; "It's my opinion
she's another Ellen of Paris;" to which an old woman, the wife of a
costermonger, replied, "Yes, they tell me them French galls is allers
good lookin'."

Then prisoner's counsel stepped forward to meet the lady and assist
her to the witness box; and Miss Clara, after a hurried glance at her
brother, made her way to the enclosed seat where her father and other
of the witnesses were sitting. Nellie was very pale and her fingers
twitched nervously. For a moment she raised her eyes to the prisoner;
but, encountering his glance of pity and concern, she blushed and
looked down. She kissed the Book with trembling lips, and then waited
in a state of the most exquisite torture the questions she must answer.
In her state of nervous timidity, she was not capable of doing more
than giving brief answers to what questions might be asked. Mr. Talford
saw this at a glance, and determined to draw what evidence he needed by
as few questions as possible.

"Do you know the prisoner at the bar?"

"Yes," in a sweet clear voice, low, but sufficiently distinct to be
heard by the jury.

"Did you know the deceased Captain Bradlaw, whom the prisoner is
charged with shooting?"

"Yes."

"Did the late captain Bradlaw ever make you an offer of marriage?"

"Yes; twice."

"Did you accept him?"

"No; I refused to marry him."

"Did the prisoner ever make you an offer of marriage, or act in any way
to lead you to suppose that he meditated doing so?"

"No; never!"

Mr. Talford paused a moment before putting the next question, which was
one he felt must wring any true woman's heart to answer, "Would you
have accepted the prisoner if he had made you such an offer?"

If looks could have killed, the prisoner's glance just then would
have utterly annihilated his counsel. The crowd held its breath, and
strained its ears to catch the reply. As for a few seconds, Nellie
timidly shrank from the painful confession. Her face grew scarlet, and
she trembled violently; but by a brave effort she overcame her emotion
sufficiently to say firmly, "Yes; I would have accepted him!"

The crowd in court, made up for the most part though it was of the
lowest and roughest stratum of Chelmsford society, understood and
appreciated the noble act of self-devotion that answer involved; and no
reverence for the august presence in which it sat could restrain its
spontaneous outburst of heart-felt applause. For nearly a minute the
clapping of hands was deafening, then, suddenly recollecting itself,
the sympathetic crowd relapsed again into respectful silence.

"That will do, Miss Brison!" said Mr. Talford, glancing at Mr. Sergeant
Russell to see if he intended to cross examine the witness. That
gentleman rose, coughed, glanced at the painfully embarrassed features
of the young girl, coughed again, and then resumed his seat, thinking
as he began paring his nails, "No, poor little thing, she has had
enough for to-day! She is a true-hearted, brave girl, although that
booby of a prisoner turns his back upon her; and I will not prolong her
torture!"

Mr. Talford assisted the witness to a seat by the side of her friend
Clara Fenton, and then called Edgar Wilton. It is impossible to
describe the feelings with which the prisoner heard Mabel's father
called. The principal line of defence had been kept secret from him,
as it was known that he would not willingly owe his safety to such
evidence. His friends were aware that he strongly objected to the idea
of Nellie being permitted to undergo the torture of speaking in the
witness box of her unfortunate preference for himself; and that he
would rather plead 'Guilty' than allow Mabel's name to be bandied about
in court; and here was Mr. Wilton, present against his will, no doubt,
but still here to speak of his daughter's love. It required all his
self-command and the knowledge that he was a prisoner to restrain
him from vehemently expressing his determination not to accept such
evidence in his favour. Mr. Fenton glanced up with a look of amazement
as his proud old neighbour was called; and Clara and Nellie exchanged
glances of surprise. After a few minutes delay Mr. Wilton entered, and
walked haughtily up to the witness box. He appeared in a very irascible
mood, and impatiently taking the oath turned to the counsel standing at
the table. "Will you be good enough, Mr. Wilton, to tell the jury all
you know of the engagement of marriage existing between the prisoner
and your daughter!"

The witness recollected where he was, and checking his rising anger,
he replied with forced calmness, "I have no statement to make, Mr.
Talford. I am prepared to answer any question you may put to me,
because I must; but I have no statement to make!"

"Very well, Mr. Wilton! Did the prisoner visit you at Fenwick Park on
the afternoon of your return home from Cornwall?"

"Yes! He intruded himself upon me with scant ceremony!"

"Did he tell you then of his love for your daughter?"

"I cannot say what he told me, I paid so little heed to his vagaries."

Mr. Talford smiled. "Come, come, Mr. Wilton! This is trifling. It is
hardly necessary for me to remind you that you are on oath, I suppose!
Now--Yes! or No! Did the prisoner on the occasion of that visit tell
you that he loved your daughter?"

The witness cast about for some seconds for an equivocal or ambiguous
answer; but finding none, he replied, "Yes, he did; and I was so much
surprised at his presumption and audacity, that I----"

"We will pass by your surprise, Mr. Wilton!" interrupted the counsel.
"I have but one other question to trouble you with---- Was there not an
attachment existing between the prisoner and your daughter years ago,
when they were mere children, 'Yes!' or 'No.'"

"There was some childish romance, I believe," replied the witness,
forgetting for the moment that he was on oath, "but it died out years
ago as far as Miss Wilton is concerned. I doubt not she never thinks of
his name but even when she may chance to hear it mentioned."

Mr. Talford looked hard at the witness, and then told him he might as
well go down now, unless his learned friend wished to cross-question
him.

Clara Fenton whispered to Nellie, as Mr. Talford sat down, "I don't
wonder now at her not coming near him! Do you? Forget his name, indeed!
She's a false, wicked girl, and as bad as her father!"

Nellie only answered by an indefinite shake of her pretty head--a
shake that puzzled Clara to decide whether it was an indorsement or
contradiction of her words.

The prosecuting counsel put a few unimportant questions to Mr. Wilton,
who was then shown into one of the seats reserved for the witnesses;
and at a preconcerted signal from Frank, an old man near the door left
the court. The evidence of the last two witnesses had considerably
softened the jury, who had been carried away by the eloquence and
plausibility of Mr. Sergeant Russell's opening address; and more than
one individual in the crowd came to the conclusion that the man who
ought to be in the dock was Henry Foster, the poacher. Some few seconds
of delay occurred before the next witness was summoned; and then
the cryer called 'Mabel Wilton!' The name caused no small amount of
excitement. It was surprising no necks were dislocated in the crowd's
frantic endeavours to catch the first glimpse of the heiress of Fenwick
Park as she should enter the door. Mr. Fenton and Clara glanced at each
other in bewildered surprise; and Clara whispered, "Surely she will not
have the hardihood to come here and deny her engagement to poor Harry!"
Nellie almost fainted as she heard the name. Hope was beginning to take
the form of this question, which she had put to herself again and again
since she left the witness box, 'Can he help learning to love me now,
when he sees how faithful I am, and how lightly Mabel deserted him in
his trouble?' Her breath came thick, as now another question thrust
itself forward, 'What, if after all, Fanny is right, and they have
kept her from him by force--will he not despise me for my unmaidenly
confession?' She forgot, poor girl, that that confession had in a sense
been given on compulsion. But it was upon the prisoner and Mr. Wilton,
that the name called had the most marked effect. Harry turned to his
counsel, and exclaimed, "Is Miss Wilton here to give evidence on my
behalf? If so, I will plead 'Guilty,' and remove the necessity for her
doing so!" and he thought bitterly. "If she, whom I believed all truth
and devotion, can thus forsake me in my first hour of adversity, she
shall not come upon compulsion now to give evidence in my defence.
I would rather be convicted and hung, than owe my life to her now!"
The judge sternly bade the prisoner not to interrupt the business of
the court again; and he turned towards the door, and with a glance of
contempt and disdain (more forced indeed than real; for he loved her
still for all her supposed neglect) waited for her to approach. When
Mr. Wilton heard his daughter called he rose to his feet, but nearly
two minutes passed before he could utter a word. He appeared as though
strangling with astonishment and indignation. At last he gasped,
"Surely, Talford, you would not dare to drag my daughter here! But
you cannot; for she is not at the Park. She is away with some friends
in----"

"Court." Mr. Talford interrupted, finishing the sentence as Mabel
entered alone, Mrs. Merville, knowing that the squire was in court,
having from prudential reasons stayed without. Yes! There was the
beautiful heiress of Fenwick Park, whom every one in Chelmsford had
heard of, and very few seen! Yes! There she was with a quick, firm step
and erect form walking up the court to where she saw the barristers
sitting. All eyes were upon her she knew, though she glanced neither
to left or right; but she neither blushed nor shrank back. Was she
not there to say something for Harry--something to help to save him
from danger, perhaps death--and should she allow the rude gaze of
ill-mannered strangers to dismay her? Never! The penalty she must
pay for her devotion would be a heavy one. She felt that her act in
coming there would forfeit for ever her father's love. She would be
disinherited; turned away; have to earn her living henceforth with
her own hands. Everything she held dear (and nothing dearer than her
father's love) she must lose by her conduct now. But it was for him,
for Harry! and were the sacrifice of her young life needed--ay, and
that by the slowest, cruelest death they could devise--she would gladly
yield it, that his might be saved! In his adversity she lived but for
him! Her face was very pale! but her excitement had touched her cheeks
with the daintiest tint of damask, and her wonderful violet eyes,
with a passionate, tender light. She glanced at Harry, with a look of
unutterable love, as she drew near the witness box; but that steady
gaze of scorn and reproach with which he met her eyes--there was no
mistaking its meaning! The blood fled to her heart; and she nearly
fell. Mr. Talford saw the momentary weakness, and hastened to her
assistance; and the prisoner's resentment was softened by seeing the
effect of his angry glance, and he thought, "What, if she is false and
fickle--did not Shakespeare say of the whole sex 'Frailty, thy name is
woman!'" As Mr. Talford was supporting her now unsteady steps to the
witness box, Mabel glanced at the prisoner again, "Poor Harry," she
murmured, "I must not blame him. He cannot know why I have never seen
him nor written to him! He must think me unworthy of his remembrance
even, for neglecting him so. But I will show him now what my love is
worth!"

After the oath was taken the prisoner's counsel spoke. "Miss Wilton,
will you please tell the jury how long you have been betrothed to the
prisoner, and anything else you know which will prove that he is not in
love with Miss Brison!"

No need to question Mabel. She had come there to tell her tale of
life-long devotion to the prisoner. She had been told that morning by
Mr. Talford that her evidence might save the prisoner's life; and she
would tell it in her own way, that the jury should not misunderstand
her. See cast a quick glance round the court to discover where the jury
sat (she caught a glimpse of her father's face, white from suppressed
passion; and she sighed as she thought how dear a price in the loss of
her father's love her devotion to Harry must cost.) "Where is the jury,
sir?" The counsel pointed the jury out to her, and then handed her a
glass of water. She took a few sips to moisten her dry throat; and
then, turning to the jury, began in her rich, clear voice, a full and
artless account of the gradual growth of the mutual love that had made
the prisoner and herself all in all to each other almost from infancy.

Every eye in the court was strained to see the earnest expression
of her animated features as she spoke, and every ear to catch the
fearless words that fell from her eager lips. She told the jury of her
childhood, and of her love even then in that far away time for the
prisoner. Her papa and Mr. Fenton were friends in those bright days;
and Harry used then to ride over on his Shetland pony and spend whole
days at the Park. Almost every day they rode out together, sometimes
about the park, and sometimes to Dunmow on business for her mamma:
or to Elmgrove Hall to see her friend Fanny Fenton. They had loved
each other better than the whole world beside long before she could
remember; but she recollected well the first time he ever asked her to
be his wife. It was on her twelvth birthday. She had been to Dunmow;
and Harry went with her. They were riding slowly homeward upon their
ponies talking about some fairy tale they had lately read together
when Harry suddenly stopped and said, "We are only children yet, Mab;"
he always called her Mab, "but I want you to promise me now, that
you will marry me as soon as we are grown up!" She made that promise
then; and she would keep it. If she did not marry him, she would never
marry; for she could never change! As the prisoner stood and listened
to the impassioned eloquence of love, his features gradually changed
from their expression of anger and reproach to self-conviction and
humiliation. His proud head bent; and he leaned upon the rails of the
dock in an attitude of so great dejection and remorse, that, had the
jury chanced to glance at him, they would have seen 'Guilty' stamped in
unmistakable characters upon his bowed head--'Guilty,' not of the crime
their oaths had interest in, but of one in his eyes of even deeper dye.
Could he ever again dare to look that angel of truth in the face--he,
who had dishonored her by his treasonous doubts, who had condemned
her, the very embodiment of patient, trusting faith, as fickle and
untrue! Nellie, in her new distress, the death of her lateborn hope,
saw the change in the loved form, and understood it only too well;
and her heart bled afresh as his sister Clara whispered, "How little
we knew her, Nellie! Isn't she a noble girl? And to think that she
should have been locked up all this while, and have to escape down a
ladder of ropes like the heroine in a book! Look at Harry! He appears
thoroughly ashamed of himself for having doubted her. And well he may;
for he knew her, if we didn't!" Mabel next spoke of Harry's going away
to school, and his visits in the vacations; of her mamma's death at
Dover, and her papa then taking her away to Oakville, where she did not
see Harry nor have a letter from him for five long years (her voice
trembled and was almost too low to be heard while speaking of the
loss of her mother); of their recent return to Fenwick Park; and her
papa's commands to forget Harry; but that, she told the jury, she could
not--it was impossible. She spoke of her meeting Harry on the threshold
of her father's library and the confession she was there surprised
into; of her visit to Elmgrove Hall, and the well-merited punishment
she received in her father's displeasure; of her meetings with Harry in
the park: and of his unanswered letter--all was told with a clearness,
earnestness and simplicity that carried away the jury, and caused Mr.
Sergeant Russell to mutter, "If Talford is wise, he'll leave off with
that little heroine, and go straight to the jury!"

"That will do, I think, Miss Wilton!" said the prisoner's counsel;
but as Mabel turned to leave the box Mr. Sergeant Russell rose. "One
question, Miss Wilton, before you go down! You have not visited nor
written to the prisoner since he was arrested. Why did you not, if you
love him as you say?"

Mabel looked up startled. "I would rather not tell, sir!"

"Indeed! And why not?"

"Because I do not want to!" she replied, changing color.

"I am very sorry to distress you Miss Wilton;" returned the Sergeant,
"but I must press for an answer!"

"Oh, please, sir, don't ask me that!" she begged piteously, "I really
do not want to tell!"

"But you must tell!" said the judge kindly, "Your other evidence will
lose its value, if you do not answer this question."

Mabel glanced appealingly at Mr. Talford. "Yes!" he said, "You must
answer, or the jury may doubt what you have already told them." He saw
her reply would strengthen the impression she had already made upon the
jury. Bursting into tears, she sobbed, "I could not visit Harry nor
write to him, because papa would not allow me to!"

"That will do!" said the Sergeant, seeing that he had asked the wrong
question.

Mr. Talford glanced at the jury and then asked, "Did your papa confine
you to your rooms to prevent your seeing or communicating with the
prisoner?"

The witness's distress on being compelled to expose her father's
harshness was so great, that for several minutes she could not speak.
Nothing but the knowledge that Harry's life was at stake could have
induced her to answer; but for that she would have submitted to torture
and then refused. Presently in a tone as strained as though wrung from
her in agony she answered "Yes!"

"How did you reach the court then?"

"I escaped from my dressing-room window down a ladder before daylight
this morning!"

"That will do now Miss Wilton!"

Her strength appeared suddenly to have forsaken her; and she had to
lean against the witness box for support. Mr. Talford assisted her
down, and gave her a chair near the barristers' table. As he handed her
a glass of water, he whispered, "Don't give way now, Miss Wilton. Your
evidence has completely won the jury!"

This was the last witness to be called to prove the absence of motive
for the commission of the crime; the prisoner's counsel had now only to
show how flimsy and valueless was the evidence with which his learned
friend would link the prisoner with the weapon before the court.
The first witness called for this purpose was Mr. Harold Frazer. He
was an architect, practicing his profession in Dunmow. Most of his
household linen was marked with the now notorious initials "H. F." He
had no pistols marked with his initials. He had no pistols to mark.
The probabilities were that if he had a pair he valued, he would have
them marked. Mr. Sergeant Russell only asked this witness one or two
unimportant questions; and he left the box and was followed by the
poacher Mr. Henry Foster.

An angry buzz greeted this witness as he entered the court; and one
excitable, old lady near the door whispered loud enough for him to hear
as he passed. "If one might take a book by its cover, there's murder
written on every page of this walking Newgate Calendar!" Public opinion
in court had made up its mind upon hearing the constable's evidence,
that Henry Foster, who had been tried for murder, and sentenced to five
years imprisonment for manslaughter, should take the prisoner's place
now, and not be brought in guilty of the lesser charge. The poacher was
most certainly an ill-looking fellow, beetle-browed, with a louring,
vindictive gleam in his bloodshot, yellow eyes; and the glance he gave
the impertinent whisperer as he passed said as unmistakably as eyes may
speak, that he would not forget her when a chance occurred of having
a reckoning. This witness admitted that he had been tried for murder,
and, had served the full sentence for manslaughter. His 'first letters'
were the same as those on the pistol before the court. He never marked
any of his things with his first letters: it wasn't safe. The poacher
was soon dismissed; and Mr. Hugh Fletcher called. His initials were
the same as the prisoner's. His wife always marked his shirts and
things with his initials. He here rolled up his right coat sleeve, and
showed the letters in question worked in the linen above the cuff with
red cotton. He showed the jury also his big blue cotton handkerchief,
marked in the same manner; and then amidst the breathless excitement of
the court he pulled out two heavy horse-pistols from the side pockets
of his overcoat, and exhibited his initials graved in their steel
barrels.

"Then, perhaps, it may be you who committed this crime, as you seem so
well provided with weapons similarly initialled, eh?" said Mr. Sergeant
Russell, rising to cross-question the witness.

"Well, yes! It may be, only it isn't! as the blind fiddler said to
the lawyer's clerk, who borrowed a half-crown and paid it back with a
copper!" replied Mr. Hugh Fletcher, with a grin, and a perceptible wink
at the table at which Frank sat, too absorbed in studying a folio of
manuscript to observe that he held the paper upside down. A suppressed
titter ran through the court; and the Sergeant, who never cared to
provoke a trial of wit where nothing could be gained by it, smiled at
the witness's silly illustration, and told him he might go down now.

The prisoner's counsel now rose to address the jury. There were two
things for him to do--first to show them from the evidence that the
motive his learned friend had proposed to them as the cause of the
crime was a myth, an unsubstantial creation of imagination which did
not and never did exist; and, secondly, to prove that it was as absurd
and ill-logical to charge the prisoner with the crime because of the
initials upon the pistol, as it would have been to have accused any
of the witnesses with it, who possessed the same initials. Indeed,
if a man must be arrested upon supposition, one of the witnesses, he
need not say which, had from his antecedents the greater claim to
the distinction. The speaker's words were here lost in a sudden and
violent altercation between two gentleman upon the front bench. In
an instant all eyes were turned from the prisoner and his counsel
to the scene of the disturbance; and Sir Toby Cadman was discovered
struggling franticly in the grasp of his friend Turnbul, who firmly
held the youthful baronet by the skirts of his coat, as he exclaimed in
a loud whisper, "Bedad, Sir Toby, sit down, and don't be after making
a cowardly informer o' yourself! What's the poor divil done to you,
that you need act like the mangy dog you'll be, if you don't hold your
venomous tongue!"

"Let me go!" cried Sir Toby in the greatest excitement. "Let me go! I
said I wouldn't take that hiding for nothing; and I won't either!"

The judge sternly ordered the two drunken men to be removed from the
court.

"Be the mass, thin, yer honor!" said Turnbul, catching at the idea of
frustrating Sir Toby's intention by shamming intoxication, and getting
them both turned out. "It's just a trifle too much whiskey that's the
matter wid us, yer honor. If you'll tell them policemen, the darlints,
to help us outside, we'll thank your honor kindly!"

As Turnbul began to sham intoxication, he relaxed his hold upon the
skirts of his friend's coat; and Sir Toby, breaking from the policeman,
who had taken him very gingerly by the arm, stepped into the witness
box, and demanded to be sworn, as he knew who really owned the pistol.
Mr. Talford protested that as the case was closed, and he had begun to
address the jury, no fresh evidence could be taken; but the prosecuting
counsel submitted to the judge that every witness should be heard who
could throw any light upon the crime, and that, as the case had not yet
gone to the jury it was not closed, and therefore it was not too late
to receive fresh evidence. The judge decided to admit the evidence;
and Sir Toby was put upon oath. He carefully examined the pistol, and
then swore that he had seen it in the prisoner's possession. He gave
the court a long and rambling account of the boyish duel between the
prisoner and 'young Seymour at the table there,' when they were at
school. Mr. Talford cross examined this witness savagely. The judge
and barristers looked surprised. They had never seen him so thoroughly
out of temper before. The main points of Sir Toby's evidence remained
unshaken by the severe cross-questioning he underwent; and as he left
the box he pointed out Ensign Graham, and said that he and 'young
Seymour' could also indentify the pistol. "I'm even with 'em at last,
Turnbul!" he whispered as he took his seat again. "But I'm sorry it
isn't Charley Graham's coffin instead of Harry Fenton's I've knocked a
nail in!"

"Bedad," replied the Irishman in a tone of cutting contempt, "If I
thought there was a man in all Ireland could be such a d--- mean viper
as you, I'd deny my country, and turn Frenchman, by the green sod I
would!"

Mr. Sergeant Russell had Ensign Graham placed in the witness-box;
and the young man reluctantly corroborated Sir Toby's evidence. He
gave, however, a much fuller corroboration than the young baronet had
anticipated. He almost sent the court into hysterics by his humourous
description of the origin of the boyish duel, at which he had acted
as the prisoner's second; and the officials had much difficulty in
maintaining order while he told of the punishment his indignant
school-fellows subjected the craven Toby to, and of the fate of the
luckless kitten Toby hung in revenge. In reply to Mr. Talford, Ensign
Graham swore that he had never seen the pistol since the duel, and
that he believed it had been left behind upon the bank and lost. Frank
was now ordered into the witness box. He staggered to his feet, and
swallowed a glass of water at one gulp. Heavy beads of perspiration
stood out upon his clammy brow, and for a few seconds his sight
appeared to have left him, and he was compelled to grope his way from
the table to the witness-box, leaning upon the railings as he went for
support. He admitted being principal in a duel with the prisoner, when
they were boys at school. The pistol was one of the pair used on that
occasion. One of them fell into the river, as they entered the boat to
return to school, and was lost. This was all the crown prosecutor could
draw from the witness.

"Is it possible that the other pistol, the one now before the court,
was left upon the bank?" the prisoner's counsel asked, to which after
some hesitation the witness answered, "Yes! it is probable that it
may have been left; and in that case it may have passed through a
dozen pairs of hands since." The witness felt very bitter a short
time before when Mr. Wilton outraged his oath; and he bit his lip now
as he found himself doing the same thing. He was dismissed; and Mr.
Talford recalled Mr. Fenton, senior. The old gentleman trembled with
apprehension as he entered the witness-box; he vainly wished now that
he had listened to the advice of his son's counsel. He had not seen
the pistol before the court since his son first went to the Chelmsford
grammar school. He remembered once asking his son two or three years
ago what he had done with the weapons, and was told that they were
lost. He was very angry on finding that the pistols were lost, as they
had belonged to his brother, an Indian officer, who gave them to his
son as a birthday present. He never heard of the duel until within the
last few weeks. The pistols, although given to his son, were kept in a
case upon a high shelf in the library, and his son, being at the time
but a mere boy, was not allowed to touch them. His son had taken them
away without his knowledge or consent; and they were not missed till
long after his son had left school; and then all that he could learn
was that they were lost. After being cross-examined by Mr. Sergeant
Russell, the witness retired; and Mr. Talford rose to continue his
interrupted address to the jury.

He had never before, when addressing a jury, appeared so nervous and
discomposed; and his legal brethren watched him with much speculation
and surprise. He called upon the jury to remember their oaths, and
disabuse their minds of whatever prejudice the eloquent but confusing
address of the crown prosecutor had wrought in them. His learned friend
had endeavoured to warp and bias their judgements by the succession
of fanciful pictures he had with such force and power presented to
their imaginations. The supposed scenes of the jealous lover, burning
with fury, leading his confiding victim to the place of slaughter, and
of the murderer hurrying back to search by the body of the dead for
the mute witness of his crime, were drawn by a masterly hand and with
wonderful power and vividness; and he would have felt compelled to
compliment his learned friend upon his singular skill as a word painter
did he not remember that by British law and tradition a prosecuting
counsel should base his claim to a verdict upon evidence, and evidence
alone. His learned friend by his powerful rhetoric had attempted to
cause their emotions to usurp their reason, and to lead them to found
their judgement upon their overwrought feelings; but they must dismiss
from their minds all sympathy for the murdered Captain Bradlaw and
prejudice against the prisoner, and weigh the evidence before them in
the light of common sense and their own oaths. He carefully reviewed
the evidence bearing upon the assumption of jealousy, and from the
testimony of Miss Brison and Miss Wilton proved its utter falsity and
inconsistence; and in passing paid a high compliment to the heroism of
the young girl, who, to disprove the assumed motive for the crime, had
nobly braved the sneers and misrepresentations of a censorious world by
admitting her unrequited love for the prisoner. The evidence of those
two ladies established beyond all shadow of doubt that the prisoner,
sure of the heart of the one whom he had loved from childhood, and
conscious that to win the other he had but to ask for her hand, could
know no cause of jealousy; and not for a moment could the jury now
question which of the two occupied the prisoner's thoughts when he
said--little dreaming how soon the idle words would come home to him
again,--"If I loved a girl, and any man came between us, I would shoot
him down like a dog." The jury could not fail to see that no man had
yet come between the prisoner and the object of his affection, and
that, therefore, the prisoner had no motive of jealousy for shooting
the deceased Captain Bradlaw, who was not a rival, but only an
unsuccessful suitor for the hand of a lady, whom the prisoner had days
before the murder, as Mr. Fenton's evidence proved, refused to marry
when pressed to do so.

He now came to the evidence bearing upon the ownership of the weapon,
which had undoubtedly been used by the murderer. Five years ago it was
in the possession of the prisoner, who lost it on the occasion of his
boyish duel with Mr. Seymour, then a pupil with him at the Chelmsford
grammar school. Doubtless the jury had heard or read of cases in which
men, meditating murder, had purposely possessed themselves of weapons
belonging to other persons with the view of diverting suspicion from
themselves. This being no infrequent practice among criminals, it
would be necessary, even if it was known that the weapon was in the
prisoner's hands but half an hour before the crime was committed, to
prove that he actually held it when the fatal shot was fired. He (the
speaker) would challenge them to find one particle of evidence before
the court that could connect the prisoner with the weapon during the
last five years. No one with any intelligence could believe that the
prisoner when a boy at school would have said that the pistols were
lost, if they were not; and the evidence of Mr. Fenton, the prisoner's
father, and of Mr. Seymour and ensign Graham proves that neither of
the pair were seen with him after the duel. That they were then lost
there can be no doubt; for, even if the prisoner's character were such
that he was capable of this crime, it is impossible that he should have
prepared for it so long before by concealing possession of the pistol.

In referring to his learned friend's assumption that the prisoner
offered to ride with lieutenant Beaumont as far as Fenwick Park on
the evening of the murder with the secret intention of being first at
the finding of the body for the purpose of recovering the weapon, he
showed from the evidence of that gentleman and the groom that from
the prisoner's manner there was nothing to warrant the belief that he
knew beforehand of the crime, while the evidence of the constable who
subsequently found the pistol clearly proved that had the prisoner
searched for it, he could not possibly have failed to find it, as it
was lying upon the open road close to where the body was found. There
was not one particle of evidence from first to last that could in any
way connect the prisoner with the crime. The motive advanced by his
learned friend as the cause of the murder is proved by the testimony
of Miss Brison and Miss Wilton to exist but in his learned friend's
very fertile imagination. The same evidence proves that the idle threat
the prosecution laid so much stress upon bore no allusion to the
unfortunate deceased, but rather to any prospective rival for the love
of Miss Wilton. And there was no evidence before the court to prove
that the weapon in question had been in the prisoner's possession for
the last five years. As then the jury must found their verdict upon
the evidence before them, he left the fate of an innocent man with
confidence in their just and impartial hands.

As Mr. Talford resumed his seat one of the barristers at the further
end of the table whispered to a neighbour, "What a falling off is here!
A close, unimpassioned and logical address certainly; but far below
Talford's usual forensic utterances!" to which the other replied in
the same low tone, "But for the interruption of the late witnesses,
we should have heard something different. The evidence about the duel
has not improved his case; and he sees it; and it has unsettled him a
little. He ought to have admitted ownership at first and proved the
loss; and the evidence of that vindictive fool Sir Toby Cadman would
then have done no harm."

Mr. Sergeant Russell now rose to reply. He briefly recapitulated the
evidence in support of the charge, and drew the jury's attention to
the great care with which the defence had endeavoured to shuffle the
responsibility of ownership upon any one having the same initials as
the prisoner, while, as was subsequently proved, not only did the
pistol really belong to the prisoner, but that even as a boy at school,
he had shown his murderous propensity by using it against the life of
a fellow pupil. Mr. Talford rose, and took exception to his learned
friend's gross misrepresentation. The prisoner and Mr. Seymour as
school boys had fought a duel; or, rather, had been prevented from
doing so by the interposition of one of their class fellows; but there
was no evidence before the court to show that the prisoner was not
the aggrieved party, and the more reluctant of the two to resort to
so deadly a method of settling their boyish differences. Mr. Sergeant
Russell would withdraw the remark, if it displeased his learned
friend; still, doing so would not prevent the jury from drawing their
own inference. He ridiculed the assertion of his learned friend, the
counsel for the defence, that he had attempted to sway the jury by
exciting their feelings. It was clearly his duty to put the case for
the crown in the strongest light; and he had done so, and nothing more.
He would admit that he was in error in the motive he had suggested as
the cause of the crime; but that was a matter of minor importance.
There could now be no question as to who shot the unfortunate Captain
Bradlaw; and what the jury had to determine was the guilt or innocence
of the prisoner, and not whether the murder was prompted by jealousy
or some other form of malice. Indeed, the absence of jealousy only
aggravated the crime; for some men love so madly as to lose all control
of their passions, and while in the power of their insane infatuation
would destroy a rival without really being responsible for their deeds;
but the man who from any other cause shoots a follow man in cold blood
has no extenuating excuse to plead, and should meet with just the same
mercy he extended to his victim, and no more. In leaving the case in
their hands he would again enjoin them to weigh with extreme care the
later evidence, which had so unanaswerably established the ownership of
the pistol before the court.

As Mr. Sergeant Russell sat down Mr. Talford glanced at the jury; and
he bit his lip in his uneasiness as he caught the gloomy faces of
the men upon whose decision hung the fate of his unhappy client. The
prisoner, too, looked anxiously at the jury; and his heart sank, as he
encountered their stern and uncompromising gaze. When he entered the
court under the illusion that Mabel had forsaken him in his trouble,
he felt that he cared but little how his trial should end; but now
how dear life seemed! She had been true to him all along, had loved
him with all the trusting devotion of her pure, womanly nature, even
while he was doubting her faith and constancy--and to leave her now for
exile or death, branded in the world's eyes as a blood-stained felon!
Never till now had he realized the black horror of his position. For
a moment he turned his repentant eyes upon her. She had just before
eagerly scanned the dark visages of the jury, and was now silently
weeping--weeping for him. From her he glanced round the court. His
schoolfellow Frank was sitting motionless at the barristers' table,
his head resting upon his hands, and his eyes bent fixedly upon the
papers before him, his lips compressed, and a steadfast expression of
pain upon his pale features. Harry now glanced across to where the
witnesses were sitting. Nellie Brison and Clara sat silent and anxious,
Nellie forgetting her own immediate trouble in her great apprehension
for the prisoner's fate. He sighed and looked at his father, and Mr.
Wilton, who were sitting near each other, the one with his head bent
in dejection and sorrow, the other with anger and wounded pride still
shadowing his handsome and haughty face. The judge now began to sum up
the case for the jury, and the prisoner turned to him, and listened
breathlessly, as with consummate skill he disentangled the maze of
evidence, and laid it clear, pro. and con. before them. The judge
concluded his charge with the usual caution to give the prisoner the
benefit of any doubt; and the jury began to confer among themselves.
Mr. Stokes the foreman turned to his next neighbor, "Infortunate young
man! It's my expression that he ought to be acquitted to a madhouse;
for I am dissuaded that he did it in a fit of temporal sanity."

"But we must be guided by law, sir," returned the other, "and the law
is if a man of malice aforethought goes mad and slays another, he is
guilty of high misdemeanour, and is liable to be hanged during the
king's pleasure."

"That's Blackstone!" assented Mr. Stokes, delighted with the
opportunity of displaying his legal erudition. "That's Blackstone! I
have pursued Blackstone from cover to cover. No man should be impaled
on a jury till he has thoroughly digested Blackstone! But, you see, the
statues conferring to temporal sanity are so multiloquous that----" Mr.
Stokes exposition of the law in point was here interrupted by the clerk
of arraigns enquiring whether the jury wished to retire to consider
their verdict. The jury did wish to retire, and thereupon filed out of
court through the door of the room set apart for their use.

For a few seconds after the jury retired an oppressive silence hung
upon the the court. Then first one and then another began to whisper to
a companion, till the buzz grew loud and eager--some maintaining with
sturdy firmness the certainty of acquittal, others equally positive in
predicting conviction. The two ladies, who had so courageously borne
testimony in the prisoner's favour, came in for a share of the public
criticism; and the crowd, in its estimate of their relative heroism and
devotion to the prisoner, was about equally divided--some contending
that the beautiful Miss Wilton who spoke for him so fearlessly and
well, was the greater heroine, while others declared that she was well
repaid by the assurance of the prisoner's love, and that Miss Brison,
confessing in public that she would have married him if he had asked
her had made the greater sacrifice.

While the crowd was busy deciding these knotty points, the prisoner and
his friends waited in silent and inexpressible anxiety the return of
the jury; and the fifteen minutes occupied in finding the verdict, to
them appeared interminable; but, long as the time seemed in passing, it
soon passed; and the jury filed back to their places. The eager buzz
subsided again much quicker than it had risen; and the silence became
so painfully great that the flutter of the flies upon the window panes
could be distinctly heard all over the court. 'Guilty? or Not guilty?'
That problem was now solved--but, how? The die was now cast--had life
or death won the throw? The crowd in court, excited principally by
curiosity--little more than the denouement of an emotional drama was
the prisoner's fate to it--waited for the end in gaping expectation;
but those to whom it was in all its agonizing suspense a question of
life or death--how shall their feelings at this supreme moment be
described! The innocent prisoner, strong in his love of life, and
surrounded by all that makes it hard to exchange this bright sunny
world for the cold, dark grave,--with what intense solicitude he
hangs upon the moment that shall send him back to freedom and love,
or consign him to an early and dishonoured death! She, who had given
up all for him--her home and her only parent's love--who would gladly
forfeit her fair young life, could its loss in any way benefit him;
and she, who had made even a greater sacrifice, who had for his sake,
though she knew that her love was hopeless, dared the sneers and
mockery of society by outraging her maidenly reserve, and opening her
heart to its rude and captious gaze--who shall know the torture of
suspense in which they waited the consummation.


CLERK OF ARRAIGNS:--"Gentlemen of the jury, how find you the
prisoner--Guilty? or Not Guilty?"

FOREMAN OF JURY:--"Guilty with a strong commendation to mercy on
account of the verdict."


"Just what I expected!" exclaimed Mr. Talford in an angry whisper,
turning to his pupil, "If my advice had been followed, he must have
been acquitted!"

Frank was gazing steadily upon the judge with a hard, unmeaning stare,
like a man in a trance, and probably did not hear his preceptor's
words, for he made no reply.

A perceptible shudder ran through the prisoner's frame; and he
nervously clutched the rails of the dock. Some confusion was caused for
a few minutes by Dr. Bentree and Mr. Fraser, two of the witnesses, in
carrying Miss Nellie Brison out--she had fainted. Mr. Talford cast a
hurried glance towards the witnesses' seat. The prisoner's father was
sitting in an attitude of despair and anguish, his head sunk forward
upon his arms, and his elbows leaning upon the back of the seat in
front. His daughter with white face and streaming eyes sat by him,
her hand upon his shoulder, and gazing sorrowfully upon her unhappy
brother. He next turned to Mabel. Her eyes shone with wonderful light
in her great excitement and emotion; and love and apprehension were
blended in her expressive and beautiful features. No sign of fainting
there. The brave heart beat only for Harry; and the quick intelligence
of that little head was even now calculating the possibility of
effecting his escape. Had she not read of that heroic noble woman who
changed clothes with her imprisoned husband, when she visited him the
morning before he was to die, and thus enabled him to escape, while
she remained to front the vengeance of his enraged and disappointed
jailors. What this lady had done could not she? Mr. Talford leaned
forward to her and whispered, "Do not give way yet, Miss Wilton. We
may save him even now!" The noble girl replied by a glance of grateful
thanks, and then turned her wonderful eyes upon the stern face of the
judge; who said in a severe, and ominous voice, "Prisoner at the bar,
you have now been found guilty of murder. Have you anything to say why
sentence of death should not be passed upon you?"

Harry drew himself proudly up to his full height. "Only this, my lord,
that I stand here innocent before God!"

The judge put the black cap upon his head, "Prisoner at the bar, you
stand convicted of one of the most inexcusable and atrocious murders
that has disgraced this country for many years. Had you been prompted
to its commission by jealousy, or had you been some miserable outcast
from society, dependent upon crime for bread, who had perpetrated
this murder to avert by robbery the prospect of starvation, there had
at least been a palpable cause for the act; but for one in affluent
circumstances, and moving as you do in refined circles apart from
the influence of evil, I can discern no motive for the crime but the
inherent blood-thirstiness of your nature. Unhappy young man! Devoid of
every human sentiment must be that heart, which neither pity for those
made desolate by the crime, nor anticipation of its seedy and terrible
retribution could restrain! Let me beseech you in the few brief hours
that remain to you of life by an earnest repentance and faith in Him
who alone can save you, to prepare to meet that Judge in whose awful
presence you shall so soon appear. The sentence of this court is that
you be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and from
thence on a day to be named by the king to the place of execution,
there to be hanged by the neck till your body be dead. And may the Lord
have mercy on your soul!"




CHAPTER XXIV.

THE great trial Rex. v. Fenton was concluded at last; and its result
was now spreading like wild fire far and wide; but public opinion
was more undecided than ever. True, an intelligent jury (a more than
ordinarily intelligent jury, if its foreman the learned Mr. Stokes
could be taken as an average sample of its intelligence!) had found the
prisoner "guilty"; but still public opinion wavered, and refused to be
satisfied. Yes, now that public opinion had every excuse for being of
one mind, it was divided against itself--part upholding the verdict,
the remainder branding it as a palpable miscarriage of justice. The
court had risen about a quarter of an hour; and that fraction of
public opinion which had set out the trial (or the rougher element of
it rather) was accompanying the young baronet, Sir Toby Cadman, much
against his will, to a green at the back of the hotel opposite the
court. The prisoner was by this introduced to the condemned cell, and
was with his grief-stricken father and weeping sister; and lieutenant
Beaumont with Nellie Brison, who was sobbing as she rode as if her
little heart must break, was hurrying to the Hall to make the evil news
as light as possible by insisting upon the certainty of a reprieve.
The old gentleman was completely broken down by the blow, and kept
murmuring as he rocked himself in his despair to and fro upon the
stretcher. "Oh, my son! my son! I have murdered you! I have murdered
you! Why, oh why was I so mad as to set up my opinion against the
judgement of your counsel! I have murdered you! I have murdered you!"

Harry strove in his blunt, awkward way to comfort his father, and
insisted that it was of no avail to lament what was done. "It was to
be, father!" he argued, quite unconscious of the atheistic fatalism he
was advancing, "It is of no use to blame yourself. If I was to have
been acquitted, you would have taken Mr. Telford's advice, or that
villain Cadman would not have been in the court. No, father, it was to
be; so you are not to blame. I feel certain that I shall be reprieved,
and all come right in the end; so we must not torture ourselves by
meeting trouble before it knocks at the door. And above all things,
as our colonel says, we must not take upon our own shoulders the
responsibility of fate! What is to be, will be." Though Harry spoke
so hopefully to rouse his father, he really felt very anxious and
despondent. The "fate" that had sentenced him to death might carry him
on to the bitter end, and hang him. 'What is to be; will be!' is an
aphorism of cold consolation, a very Job's comforter; and Harry's heart
sank as he asked himself. "Ah! What is to be? Am I to escape, or to
die!"

Clara did nothing but cling to her brother and weep; but what more
could be expected of a warm-hearted, impulsive child of sixteen!
Presently the warder announced that it was time to leave and she flung
herself upon her brother's breast in her passionate sorrow and could
scarcely be torn away. A few minutes later the father and sister
were being driven back to their sorrowful home, and the prisoner
was alone--alone in the dark condemned cell with no company for his
dreary thoughts but the empty solace of his colonel's maxim, "What is
to be, will be!" and he felt, as those thoughts grew darker and more
despondent, "If it was not for Mabel, and the dear ones at home I'd
care very little how it ended!"

Mabel had returned to her room in the hotel opposite the court-house,
directly the trial was concluded; and was now sitting alone at the open
window, Mrs. Merville having just left her to return to her children.
The cold November sun was setting; and she sat gazing pensively upon
the warm-coloured western clouds heedless of the chilly evening air,
her thoughts upon the great trial just ended, and the awful position
it had placed Harry in. Not softened by a confiding trust in Heaven,
her thoughts just now were very bitter. "Providence knows that Harry is
innocent, as well as I do!" she thought as her eyes flashed defiantly,
"and yet to shield the wretch who is really guilty Harry is to be
punished! Who can believe in the mercy or justice of Providence now!"
Poor Mabel! Nothing but her terrible grief could excuse such wild and
reckless thoughts; but a sympathizing heaven can never expect one
steeped in such present agony to reason calmly! "What had she or Harry
ever done that they should have all this trouble and misery, while
really wicked people were so happy in their prosperity?" Her bitter
reflections were here interrupted by a waiter entering and announcing
Mr. Talford. She remembered his encouraging hint in court a short time
before, and would see him at once. She smiled faintly as he entered,
but did not rise.

"I met your papa few minutes since, Miss Wilton," he said, taking a
chair near her, and handing her a letter. "He asked me to give you this
note."

She turned a shade paler, and her hands trembled as she took it. She
did not dare to open it yet, but thought sadly, "It is to tell me I am
disinherited, and that for the future I must consider myself a stranger
to papa and my home."

Mr. Talford guessed both her thoughts and the contents of the letter.
Her action in appearing at the trial against her father's will he
knew was sufficient to cause an estrangement; and to divert her mind
for a few minutes from its sorrowful channel he told her of the rough
'British justice' which was just then amusing itself by dragging the
craven Sir Toby through a filthy horse pond at the back.

"And serve him right too, the mean, contemptible coward, even if they
drown him!" Mabel exclaimed, rising in her excitement, her speaking
eyes flashing with a fierce and vindictive light--it would have gone
hard with the poltroon just then, if the crowd had referred his fate to
her. "But for that miserable wretch's interference you could have saved
Harry, sir!"

"Yes, Miss Wilton! But we must not despair even now. My pupil, Mr.
Seymour, who appears distracted by the result of the trial, is already
engaged in preparing a petition to the Home Secretary for a reprieve;
and he commences collecting signatures in the morning. I feel confident
that he will be reprieved. The jury recommended him to mercy; and the
judge in forwarding their recommendation will strengthen it by his own
favorable report. He told me so before I left the court."

"And yet he spoke to Harry as if he was the wickedest, cruellest man on
earth!" she replied bitterly. "I shall never forgive him for what he
said. Never! Never!"

Mr. Talford's reply was drowned in the hubbub at the scene of Sir
Toby's punishment. The actors in that impromptu farce of rough and
ready justice were either growing more excited or were drawing nearer.
The latter it seemed to be; for in a few minutes the noisy crowd
appeared coming round the corner of the inn, Sir Toby in its midst
carried in a chair in a general situation of discomfort and filth and
with a drowned cat suspended from his neck by a top-string, "It's only
in mamoriam, as the parson says, o' the cat as he hanged at school
in revenge, 'cos the other lads gived him the larrepin for getting
young Mr. Fenton into that row with the pistols!" explained Joe, the
undertaker's eldest, a boy of fourteen, to a newcomer. Joe had been in
court all day, and, as a natural consequence, had followed the throng
to the horse pond to see the fun, and on discovering the body of the
deceased cat in the stagnant water, had fished it out and suggested
its appropriate use. The crowd was unanimous in adopting the hint; and
when Sir Toby, almost as much drowned as the cat, was dragged through
the green slimy pool for the last time and then tied into a chair,
the cat, with much ado and formality was hung dangling from his neck
by Joe's ready top-string. The crowd came straggling round the corner
and towards the front of the inn, Turnbul, the miserable victim's
friend, making mock effort to protect him, while by nods and winks
and humorous witticisms he was inciting the crowd on. "No, bedad!" he
said to himself as the bearers of the chair set down their burden for
a minute to rest. "If my own brother turned informer, d---- me if I'd
interfere till they three parts killed him!" As the front of the inn
was reached Turnbul proposed that they should fine Sir Toby a barrel of
beer, and then let him off with a caution. The suggestion was received
by acclamation, the landlord brought out, beer ordered and paid for,
one of the baronet's hands being loosed for the purpose; and before
Sir Toby, who was thereupon freed, and his now over-solicitous friend
could get out of sight the barrel of beer was standing on end on the
curb, broached and on a fair way to be disposed of. Directly the crowd
began to slake its thirst with the beer it grew comparatively quiet;
and the shouts of mingled derision and anger with which it had saluted
the "cowardly informer," changed into animated discussions upon the
chances of the unfortunate prisoner dying game, if he wasn't reprieved.
The general opinion was well expressed by a little ancient cobbler with
a few white hairs and a very dirty face, who gave it as his "expressed
conwixion that them swells wi' blood in 'em, 'yes, blood in 'em, blood
o' the right color, always hangs plucky! If them's standin' on the
gallers an' shiverin' wi' fright, it's on'y inside. Them's a sight too
proud to let you see 'em cowed. No depend on't it's the blood what does
it! Them always hangs game." Some few who regarded the matter in this
light almost felt that it would be a pity if a reprieve should lose
the prisoner so excellent an opportunity of distinguishing himself and
proving his blood by hanging game. However a discussion upon this view
of the case was avoided by no one openly stating it; and the crowd was
very soon unanimous upon one point--a steady and sustained attack upon
their natural foe the barrel of beer.

"The noise has subsided a little now Miss Wilton," observed Mr. Talford
as soon as he could hear himself speak. "I presume you are anxious to
see young Mr. Fenton as you have been prevented from doing so before
since he has been in trouble."

Mabel glanced up with a grateful smile. "I could not intrude myself
upon him now, sir, as of course his father and Clara are with him; but
I am very anxious indeed to see him to-morrow."

"I will call for you here then at ten o'clock to-morrow morning, and
take you to see him. I feel certain of a reprieve; so you must not
give way to despair on his account, Miss Wilton, and I feel certain
also that, though for His own good purpose God permits the innocent to
suffer now, the guilty shall not escape long, and that all will come
right in the end. Good-bye, Miss Wilton," rising, and shaking hands. "I
must go now and see to my pupil Mr. Seymour. He seems almost distracted
by the verdict!"

Mabel's lips moved to express her thanks, but no sound escaped them;
and in a few seconds she was alone. Her heart was cold and sad, and
she turned her tear-filled eyes again to the western clouds, now
almost as grey and sober as their fellows floating at other points of
the compass. On and on till the long twilight had faded into darkness
she sat at the chilly window with her father's unopened letter in her
listless hands. The tray with her tea, which the servant had brought
in some time before, remained undisturbed, and the candles which had
then been lighted were guttering down unsnuffed. But one subject
occupied her thoughts--that Harry was condemned to death--and she
thought and thought over the dreadful theme till her little head was
ready to split; and again, and again, and again, she went over in full
detail the plan she had formed for setting him free, if Mr. Talford's
expectation of a reprieve should not be realized. By-and-bye the rising
wind roused her; and she closed the window and turned to the table. She
shoved back the tray--she could not think of food then--snuffed the
candles, and tore open her father's letter. Her fingers trembled as she
drew a number of bank notes from the envelope. What could they mean but
separation from her father, and banishment from home. The letter was
very short, very cold and business-like, and betrayed none of the agony
that had wrung the writer in penning it. It briefly informed her that,
as for reasons of which she was aware she could never return to Fenwick
Park, and must for the future rely solely upon her own exertions for a
living, her father enclosed one hundred pounds in notes, which would
serve to support her until she could procure a situation as governess
in some distant county where she was not known. The letter counselled
her to be very careful of the money as her father had determined to
close the Park and go abroad at once; and that it was both the last
money she should ever receive from him, and the last time she should
ever hear from him. "Shut the Park up; and we only back so few weeks!"
she thought sorrowfully as she put the money into her pocket and turned
to the couch, "Oh, papa, it is cruel, it is cruel to turn me away like
this! I would be a false wicked girl if I forsook Harry in his trouble.
I would obey you, papa, if I could, but I cannot. Oh! I cannot!" and
her tears began to flow again.

When at nine o'clock the innkeeper's wife came to enquire at what time
she would be shown to her room, she had sobbed herself to sleep.

Next morning Mabel was at the open window a full hour before ten
o'clock, waiting with what patience she could command the coming of
Mr. Talford. Ever and anon she kept glancing back at the slow-paced
clock upon the mantle-piece, whose stiff hands seemed more deliberate
in their movement than ever. Her eyes were red with weeping. The horror
of Harry's awful position in the condemned cell she was only now
beginning to realize with all its terrible surroundings. Her mind had
been too much numbed the evening before by the reaction of excitement
to fully feel the awful significance of his being sentenced to death,
but through that long sleepless night the truth had gradually dawned
upon her feelings. Yesterday she knew the worst, now she felt
it; and in her terror her face was white as ashes. Just as the clock
downstairs struck the last stroke of ten a step crossed the threshold
and springing up in her anxious haste she encountered not Mr. Talford
but his pupil Mr. Seymour. He was almost as pale as herself, and his
fingers twitched nervously as he played with his watch chain. "I
extremely regret, Miss Wilton, that I have to act as Mr. Talford's
substitute this morning," he said glancing wistfully at her white
face, and then setting his eyes to examine the prints upon the wall.
"He received some important letters this morning, and has to go up to
London by the midday train."

In her impatience it mattered little who accompanied her to the prison,
so that she could hasten to Harry's side. "Can we start at once?" was
all her answer. The prison was not far; and they walked, he gazing
furtively upon her beauty, his heart on fire as the tempting thought
would rise. "If he is removed from my path by the law, who knows but
that a year or two hence she may be mine!" He strove to drive the idea
from him, "What?" he asked himself in horror, "Shall I murder her lover
by letting him die for my crime, that her priceless love may reward my
sin? Never? I am not sunk so low as that yet! If he is not reprieved I
must save his accursed life by taking his place upon the gallows. With
what noble trust and devotion she loves him!"

The last sentence of Frank's thoughts were unconsciously murmured
audibly; and Mabel looking up exclaimed, "Love him! He is all the world
to me! And you must love him too; for you have been very, very good to
him. I have been told of all the trouble you took to get the evidence
to save him."

"Love him!" muttered Frank under his breath. "I wish to God he were in
heaven, so that my hand did not send him there!"

"Mr. Talford told me you were writing a petition to the king to spare
his life. I can never tell you how grateful I am for all your kindness
to Harry."

Frank did not reply. He could not trust himself to speak further;
and no more was said until they reached the gate of the jail, he as
he went cursing the madness that had succeeded so well in wrecking
her happiness and his own, without bringing one jot nearer the
accomplishment of his wild hopes, that rather had raised new barriers
between them by concentrating and intensifying her love for his hated
rival--she questioning the probability of a reprieve, and going through
the plan of escape she had formed and reformed at least a hundred times
since the sentence.

The prisoner was alone; and they were admitted at once. Frank held
back just inside the door. The cell was too dark for them to see very
clearly for a few minutes; but as a dark object rose from the stretcher
Mabel knew it at once for Harry, and flung herself upon his breast.
"Harry! Harry!" was all she could utter.

"My darling! My true, faithful Mab!" he exclaimed, holding her to his
breast; but recollecting his former doubts of her love, he said with
a tremor in his full, deep voice, "But can you forgive me Mabel? I
didn't trust in your love. I thought you had forsaken me! I was a weak,
doubting traitor; and would not believe, till I heard you in court,
that you were true. Can you ever forgive me!"

"It was not your fault, Harry!" she replied earnestly. "You could not
know why I never came near you. But you will never doubt me again,
Harry! You know me better now!" Harry folded her to his breast again;
and she whispered softly. "No one but God shall part us now!" Ah! could
they have guessed the fierce war of passions raging in the heart of
the youth watching them from the door with such eager eyes, they must
have pitied him despite the evil he had wrought them. But they saw him
not, heard not the agony of the muttered cry. "O God, my punishment is
greater than I can bear!"




CHAPTER XXV.

The execution was fixed for the 28th; and it was now the 25th, and
nothing had yet been heard of the petition for reprieve which had been
sent to the Home Secretary, and the receipt of which had been duly
acknowledged. It was early; and Mr. Talford was with the prisoner
striving to turn him to prepare for his apparently fast approaching
death. The chaplain had visited the prisoner several times, but had
not been able to make any impression upon his impatient despondency;
and Mr. Talford, though feeling almost as far from thorough conversion
as the prisoner, determined to do all in his power to soften and
break through the crust that made the prisoner's heart impervious
to the chaplain's teaching. At first he began to despair. Harry was
ready enough to talk upon any other subject; but he seemed unable to
comprehend the necessity for such a dry topic of conversation. But by
this time he had not only discovered the vital need of searching the
Scriptures, but had learned to pray earnestly for light by which he
might find that Pearl of great price--sincere repentance, and a full
pardon. This morning they had been reading together the XIII. Chapter
of the II. Epistle to the Corinthians; and as Mr. Talford listened to
Harry's subdued and reverent remarks upon the beauties of that rarest
of the graces charity, and his grateful thanks that a merciful God had
indeed opened his eyes before it was too late, he thought, "Ah, Polly,
you will not have lived in vain, short as your fair young life must be.
Two souls already owe their conversion under God to the sweet influence
of your pure and gentle life. Losing you is a bitter trial; but it
shall be the gain of many."

In the midst of their conversation they were disturbed by the entrance
of Frank, pale and excited. "I have just come from the sheriff, sir!"
he exclaimed hurriedly addressing Mr. Talford, "It is only three days
now; and no answer to the petition, yet! He says something must be done
at once; or it may come too late. He advised that some one should go up
to London at once, in case the Home Secretary should be absent, or the
judges recommendation and the petition have gone astray."

"He is right Frank; and I am culpable not to have thought of it myself!
To-day is Monday; and Thursday is the day. Yes, there is doubtless some
hitch of that sort; and the sooner some one goes up to town to push the
matter through the better."

"I will go up by the 11.30 train. Whom had I better take with me to
see the Home Secretary? The crown prosecutor in the case and the judge
ought to have some weight."

Mr. Talford warmly approved of Frank's determination to discover the
cause of delay at once. He gave him the private address of the judge
and Mr. Sergeant Russell, who were both in London, and also of the
Under Secretary, in case he might require it; and he advised him to
call upon the legal gentlemen and enlist their co-operation at once.
The jailor here entered and announced to the prisoner that his mother
and Miss Fenton were waiting to see him. "Then I will walk with you to
the station, Frank. I can advise you more fully on the way," said Mr.
Talford putting on his hat. "Good bye, Mr. Fenton. I may see you again
later in the day."

"Don't mention to my mother or any of them your apprehensions about the
reprieve. It would completely upset them," Harry urged, as he shook
hands with Mr. Talford, and returned Frank's bow. He often wondered why
Frank, who had worked and was even now working so hard to save him,
should never have lost the distant, gloomy reserve with which from the
first he had met him.

Full of dread that the reprieve would certainly come too late to save
him from his dreaded confession, Frank started for London. It was
late in the afternoon before he had reached his now almost deserted
lodgings; but after taking a cup of tea with his garrulous old
landlady, who worried him sorely by her numberless enquires as to the
cause of his altered manner and appearance, he set forth in search
of the judge who had presided at the late Chelmsford assizes, and he
soon found his pretty semi-detached villa which formed his bachelor
abode. The judge was at home in dressing-gown and slippers, seated in
a low chair, with his legs upon the mantle-piece in American fashion
and enjoying himself with brandy and water and the last new novel. He
seemed much surprised at no reply to the petition having reached the
sheriff. He had only received an acknowledgement of his report and the
jury's recommendation with the usual reply that they should receive
the most serious attention. He readily consented to accompany Frank on
the morrow to the Home office to make enquiries. Frank declined the
invitation to stay to dinner; and hurried away to find Mr. Sergeant
Russell, whom he discovered was out of town. Next morning at ten
o'clock Frank, accompanied by the judge, were introduced to the Under
Secretary. He had been ill for a week, and only returned to the office
this morning, consequently he knew nothing personally of the matter,
but would cause enquiries to be made. The Home Secretary was out of
town, but was expected back on the morrow. As it was so urgent a case
he would not lose a moment in placing it before the Minister when
he returned. It would perhaps be as well for them to call to-morrow
afternoon to learn what had transpired. They thanked the secretary and
bowed themselves out and then separated, the judge to return to his Law
Reports and Frank to wander aimlessly about for hours in the nearest
Park--a prey to the terrible presentiment that the reprieve would be
too late to save him from the shame of confessing his crime--and worse
still, his hopeless frenzy.

After spending an hour in debating with himself the urgent necessity of
losing no time in confessing the crime lest the Minister should return
to town too late, he (Frank) shelved the disagreeable subject for
the time by hurrying away to telegraph the critical situation to Mr.
Talford; and the barrister turned pale, when an hour later he tore open
the yellow envelope and read the alarming message. "Home Secretary out
of town. Is to return to-morrow. Under Secretary just back after week's
illness! Knows nothing of reprieve. Will make enquiries. If Minister
not here to-morrow, what shall I do? Could I get order from another
Minister to stay execution pending Home Secretary's return?" and turned
to write the reply. "See Premier instanter, judge and Under Secretary
with you!"

Frank walked slowly back to his lodgings, the unsettled subject of
the confession returning to his vacillating mind in all its harassing
force. Once he suddenly determined to go to Scotland Yard, and give
himself up to Mr. James the law detective who apprehended Harry Fenton,
but before he had gone a dozen yards he wavered again, and decided to
wait and see what the morrow should bring forth. "If I go and make
a confession to-day, and to-morrow he gets a reprieve I shall have
brought disgrace upon myself unnecessarily. No, I will put it off till
five o'clock to-morrow afternoon; and if by then the reprieve is not
secured, I will delay no longer; for after then the confession would
be too late." Acting upon this resolution to the subject, and turned
his thoughts to Torquay and his invalid sister, but only for a moment,
the harrowing question, who should hang on the 28th (only the day
after to-morrow) he, or his rival? would thrust itself forward, and
bring with it hideous visions of the grim preparations now going on at
Chelmsford for the horrible performance announced for Thursday morning,
visions it was of no avail to close his eyes to avoid, he could see
them as vividly with his eyes shut as open.

He reached his lodgings in a state of perplexity and remorse not to be
described; and rejecting his landlady's offer of a cup of tea, he threw
himself upon a chair by the fire in his sitting room, and abandoned
himself to the bitter and distressing train of thoughts that had held
possession of him so long. All the accumulation of events that had
brought him step by step to this maddening crisis passed in slow review
before him--from the hour when as a mere schoolboy he first met Mabel
and from which dated his wild, reckless, unreasoning passion, to the
hour when his hopeless infatuation added another to the black list of
crime, and cost an innocent man his life, and he gnashed his teeth
and clenched his hands, as he thought, "What am I at the best but the
puppet of fate? Born with a nature that loves even to madness, and can
love but once, as a child she is drifted across my path; and can I
then be held accountable that I loved her still with a love unquenched
and unquenchable? When I resisted the temptor, and would have turned
away, had not fate fired the shot when I hesitated? What is fate but
another name for the unseen working of Providence. What has fate done
for me but cast me into this sea of trouble? And springing to his feet,
"All that is left to me is to curse God, and die!" In the agony on the
moment he turned to enter his bedroom where his shaving implements were
kept; but at the moment several previous and unnoticed raps at the
sitting-door were here succeeded by a louder rough one; and, resuming
his seat the young man sullenly called "Come in? Come in?" in response
to which invitation the landlady opened the door and entered, carrying
a steaming jug, a small kettle in a similar condition, a tumbler and a
small basin of loaf sugar.

"If you won't be vexed sir, at the liberty I've took, I've mixed you
a little brandy punch. You wouldn't take no tea, and you don't look
anyways well, so I made bold to think a drop of somemut warm 'ud set
you up like. When my good man, dead and gone these two years (Heaven
rest his soul) was alive, we----"

"Brandy punch!" interrupted Frank impatiently. "You are very kind, Mrs.
Harrison, but I never touch either wine or spirits."

"I'm of your way of thinking too, sir, although I'm not altogether
what you'd call a teetotaller. None of these things should be used for
common beverages like water or tea; but there's a time for all things,
as you know sir, and even the Bible says we should take a little wine
for the stomach sake. I know when I'm weak, sick, faint or bad, what
an unmentionable comfort is a little brandy punch. How it consoles and
soothes me, you wouldn't believe."

"Nevertheless you may take it away, Mrs. Harrison, thank you I--but
stay a moment." And he thought, "It is said to deaden thoughts, and
deaden it must, this way or that other" (he shuddered as he glanced at
the open bedroom door, and thought of what he might have been doing
now but for this interruption.) "If I do not do something I shall be
a suicide or a lunatic before morning," and he continued aloud, "yes,
Mrs. Harrison thank you, I think I will try it."

"And if you think there isn't enough sir, (my old man before he
died--Heaven rest his soul--'ud drink twice as much and then look for
more). I'll leave this," she said, drawing a small brandy flask from
her pocket and standing it upon the table. "Set this kittle on the
hob to keep warm, while I'll run for some biscuits, and then you'll
feel comfortable. Pity you don't smoke, sir! My old man when he was
alive, (Heaven rest his soul) used to say smoking was great company."
The kindly old woman bustled away for the biscuits without waiting for
Frank's reply; and in a few minutes the biscuits were brought, the
landlady dismissed, and Frank, drawing the table nearer the fire, set
himself to drown his remorse in the Lethean bowl. At first the novelty
of the flavor drew off his thoughts from their maddening theme; but
presently he found himself sipping his punch and thinking, thinking
of the public spectacle for Thursday, which the people of Chelmsford
were looking forward to, and of how he should feel upon the scaffold
with the hempen noose round his neck, and the sea of eager faces below
him. When the jug was empty he rose to reach the flask of brandy, which
the landlady had left on the other side of the table; but he fell
back into his chair with a wild laugh--his head on the whirl, and his
limbs paralysed. "Ah, the potent charm, the waters of Lethe! I shall
soon----" His head sank upon his breast; and within five minutes his
heavy breathing announced that he had indeed drowned both reason and
remorse in the oblivion of a drunken sleep.




CHAPTER XXVI.

It was Wednesday; and the family at Elmgrove Hall had just sat down
to breakfast. Miss Brison was staying with her friend Clara. Mrs.
Fenton was at the table, a most unusual thing lately; but she was going
presently to Chelmsford to see her darling son; and ill though she felt
her impatience would not allow her to remain quietly on the couch in
her boudoir till she was ready to start as Fanny had earnestly advised.
Fanny was doing the honors of the table by presiding at the tea-tray;
and her father's attention was divided between fondling his little
daughter Beatrice and attending to the more substantial wants of the
circle. As usual Clara sat by her friend Nellie, and engaged her in a
dragging discussion upon the righteous judgement King Mob had melted
out to "that execrable wretch," (as Clara called him) Sir Toby Cadman.
Clara and her friend spoke in whispers and the others were silent, each
one busy with their own sad thoughts. Presently Beatrice pushed her
plate away, and roused them all by observing in a grave, thoughtful
voice, "Papa, one day poor Harry said troubles were just like great
black clouds. Have all clouds got silver linings?"

"Yes, pet!" replied her father, stroking her curls, "God made both, you
know!"

"O, then all will be bright and happy by-and-bye like the black clouds
I saw last night with the silver linings outside?" cried the hopeful
child joyously.

At this moment the clock struck eight.

"This time to-morrow! Oh, heaven, protect my son?" exclaimed Mrs.
Fenton, bursting into tears. Fanny was by her mother's side in a
moment; and pouring some sal volatile into a glass (she always
carried a small bottle of it in her pocket, now that her mother might
need it at any moment) she diluted it with a little water and said
gently, "Take this, mamma. It will strengthen your nerves." By dint of
much persuasion she prevailed upon her mother to swallow the reviving
draught, and then led her away sobbing from the room.

All had caught the meaning the heart-wrung mother had drawn from the
striking of the clock; and not an eye was dry--when the time should
come in the morning Harry would be no more, unless this long expected
reprieve could come before it. Mr. Fenton could only murmur, "Don't
give way so, Bessie! You quite unman me!" and Beatrice threw herself
into his arms and cried bitterly, thinking, poor child, that the silver
lining of the great black cloud of trouble that shadowed them was a
very very long time in showing itself.

Neither Clara nor Nellie could speak for several minutes; and then
the former young lady whispered, "Oh, Nellie, it is a terrible thing
to have an only brother within four and twenty hours perhaps of being
hung; and no answer to that petition. This uncertainty is killing
mamma!" Nellie could only answer with her tears. She felt the agony
of suspense perhaps as much as his mother, sisters, or beloved Mabel,
although she knew that she was nothing to him, and never could be.

Mr. Fenton gently unclasped his little daughter's arms from about his
neck, and, pushing back his untouched plate, rose from the table, and
went away to the stables for his horse. His groom had orders to have it
at the hall door at half-past eight; but he was too impatient to reach
Chelmsford to learn if tidings of the reprieve had yet been received to
delay any longer.

Beatrice stole off to her bedroom to soothe her grief by sobbing
herself to sleep.

"It is of no use sitting here pretending to breakfast, Nellie. I can
eat nothing; and you appear to have no appetite either. Why won't you
go with us to see Harry? I know he wants to see you to thank you for
what you underwent for him at the trial."

"No, no, Clara? I can never meet him again. I would gladly change
places with him, if I could; but I can never look him in the face again
after the confession I made in court. He must think me very bold and
unmaidenly," replied poor Nellie in some distress.

"He thinks you an angel; I heard him say so. If he wasn't so wrapped up
in Mabel, I believe----"

"Don't! Don't, Clara!" interrupted Nellie. "That may never be now! He
loves Mabel; and she deserves his love more than I do. What have I done
compared to her? For him she has sacrificed home, fortune, everything;
she has been turned from home by a father's curse for being true to
him. No, Clara, she deserves his love more than I do; and I sincerely
hope that this trouble may pass away, and her faithfulness be rewarded
by her being happy with him by-and-bye." Nellie's voice trembled as she
spoke. It was hard to wish that a successful rival should be happy with
one she loved; but she was a true-hearted, generous girl, and did wish
it heartily, hard as it was.

"Let us take a walk to the lodge and back Nellie. I cannot rest here
doing nothing. Susan," to her maid who entered at the moment, "bring
our hats and shawls, and be quick about it."

In a few minutes they started down the avenue well wrapped up. The air
was bleak and raw; but this was not a time to spare thought for the
weather. They walked on in silence till they reached the lodge, each
finding sufficient occupation in her own thoughts. At the gate they
paused. "Here Fanny and I bade Harry good-bye when he was going away,
Nellie. Ah, little did he guess where we should meet him next!"

"Or where part!" sobbed Nellie, thinking of the grim ceremony that
would most probably take place at the Chelmsford jail at eight o'clock
next morning.

Clara could not reply, she had so much difficulty with the hard lump
that would keep rising in her throat; and they turned to retrace their
steps in silence. They had gone nearly half way up the avenue, when,
hearing a horse approach at a rapid pace, they both glanced back.
"Mabel!" they exclaimed in a breath as they recognized the slight but
elegant figure mounted upon a heavy, brown horse. Nellie began to
tremble violently "Oh, Clara, I cannot meet her. Let us turn off the
drive into the park, till she passes. Fanny will receive her."

"I can't," returned Clara. "I must wait and ask her to forgive the
unkind things I thought of her. I have not met her since the trial."

"Yes, Clara, you ought to: but I cannot stay to see her. I will turn
off down this path," and almost before she had finished speaking she
stepped out of the avenue into a path that cut short across towards the
stables, thinking as she hurried along "I wish her every happiness, for
she deserves it; but I cannot meet her yet. I could not bear to!"

In a few seconds Mabel reined in at Clara's side, and sprang lightly
to the ground. "Oh, Clara," she said in a quivering voice, "this is
Wednesday, and no sign of the promised reprieve yet. This suspense is
terrible!"

"It is killing mamma," replied Clara, returning Mabel's embrace. "I
have been very anxious to see you Mabel; for I am really ashamed of the
hard things I thought of you; and I want to beg your forgiveness."

"Beg my forgiveness!" echoed Mabel in surprise. "Whatever can I have to
forgive you for?"

"I thought you were false to Harry; and when your name was called in
court I believed you were there to deny your engagement to him. Can you
ever forgive me?"

"There is nothing to forgive, Clara; or I would forgive you freely,"
said Mabel, looking into the honest blue eyes of the candid girl. "It
was only natural for you to doubt me, when you could not possibly know
that I was a prisoner myself. Why, even Harry doubted me."

"How cruel and wicked of your papa to treat you in that way!" cried
Clara, her eyes flashing in indignation. "I wonder how you can ever
forgive him!"

"Hush, Clara!" said Mabel, raising her hand authoritatively, but
speaking very gently, "You must not speak of my papa in that way! He is
so good and kind; and I love him very dearly."

"Good and kind, when he first locks you up, and then turns you away
from home!" exclaimed Clara. "A very strange way of showing his
goodness and kindness certainly!"

"Hush, dear! I will not allow any one to speak of papa like that!"
replied Mabel firmly. "You cannot understand him as I do. He loves me
deeply; and I have no doubt that his treating me so harshly makes him
as miserable and unhappy as it does me!"

"Then why does he do it! He need not unless he likes. People don't
often make themselves miserable when they can avoid it," persisted
Clara.

"Papa believes in what I may call the 'right divine' of parents, Clara,
and thinks a child should admit no greater claim than a father's
wishes. Under ordinary circumstances papa is right; but in a case like
mine, when those we love are in danger and distress, filial obedience
must yield to a yet higher claim. Nothing but the awful position Harry
is in could excuse me for wilfully disregarding papa's commands. But
please let us talk of something else."

"But suppose Harry had never got into this trouble;" argued Clara,
not noticing Mabel's expressed disinclination to discuss the subject,
"and by-and-bye he were to ask you to marry him, and your papa were to
forbid it. And suppose you were of age----"

"What would I say? I would tell Harry if he really wanted me, he must
wait till papa did consent."

"And if he never did?"

"Then Harry would have to marry someone else, or still wait."

"Well!" said Clara decidedly, "you may be right in theory; but the
practice is quite another thing. I know if it was my case, and a
hundred papas said 'No!' I would please myself. I don't believe when
people love each other parents have any right to interfere."

"I cannot say, Clara," replied Mabel gently. "People cannot all think
alike; and I can only speak for myself. I am not like you, Clara. You
have both father and mother, as well as sisters and a brother. I have
only a father; but, oh, I love him so dearly. But let us change the
subject. This is a very painful one! Is Fanny at home?"

"Yes! Do you know, Mabel, that while everyone else, even Harry, doubted
you, you had one warm champion here. Fanny believed you true all the
time."

"Dear Fanny!" Mabel said softly, her eyes glistening with grateful
tears.

Mr. Fenton, followed by a groom, here galloped up on his way to
Chelmsford. He nodded to his daughter, and dismounted and shook hands
with Mabel. He had met her several times since the trial and knew of
her unhappy estrangement from her father--as, indeed, did everybody
else in the county by this time. Seeing tears in her eyes, and taking
it for granted that her sorrow had the same source as his own, he said
in a choking voice, "We must hope for the best, my girl! We must hope
for the best!"

"I am almost afraid, sir, it is getting too late to hope now," she
replied mournfully.

"While there's life there is hope!" he answered, as he remounted,
"While there is life there is hope! Good-bye and heaven bless and
protect you!" He galloped off and in a few seconds he was out of sight
round the first curve in the road.

Mabel led her horse (a hired one) by the heavy, thick bridle-rein; and
she and Clara walked the rest of the way to the Hall in silence. At the
steps a man-servant took the horse away to the stables. "Fanny and I
ride to Chelmsford about ten o'clock," said Clara as they were going up
the steps, "Will you go back with us?"

"No, Clara. I can only stay a few minutes. I want to hurry back to
learn if any news has been received about the reprieve," replied Mabel.

"Papa left Porter at the sheriff's last night. He is to gallop home the
moment any news does come. I would like to hurry the horses, and go
back with you at once; but I must wait for Fanny. Arthur Beaumont is
to be here at ten o'clock to drive mamma and Beatrice over; and Fanny
won't start until she sees them off safely, she is so particular. But
come up to our dressing room; and I will send Susan for her at once."

The two girls were soon seated by the fire in the sisters' dressing
room, Mabel gazing pensively into the embers and musing; Clara watching
the sad but beautiful features of the visitor and thinking it no wonder
that with such a rival, Nellie should be so little thought of. In a
few minutes Susan returned with the message that Fanny was bathing her
mother's temple with vinegar; but that she would come as soon as she
could. "Just as though she couldn't have set Susan to bathe mamma's
head, and come herself now!" exclaimed Clara impatiently, "But it's
just like her. She always thinks no one else can attend to mamma as
well as she can!"

Mabel glanced up without replying; but she thought, "Ah, Clara, when
will you or I learn to be as good and attentive as gentle, kind,
patient Fanny! She is worth a dozen of either of us!" They sat on for
nearly half an hour, each occupied with her own thoughts, and then
Fanny entered. Mabel rose and embraced her, and enquired how her mamma
was now. "She has just dozed off; so I left the house-keeper with her
and slipped away for a few minutes. Her head is very bad this morning.
But how did you come so early? It must have been quite dark when you
left Chelmsford."

"I slept last night with Mrs. Merville at the lodge," replied Mabel.
"It was very hard to be so near home, and know that I must not enter
it. The Park you know is shut up now--only a few of the oldest left on
board wages, Mrs. Merville told me--and papa gone abroad. I could not
learn where. Mrs. Merville thinks he is in France; but Jepson said she
thought she heard him say something about Egypt and the East."

"And you have exposed yourself to the loss of home and fortune and your
father's love, and all for Harry!" exclaimed Fanny with emotion. "What
a noble sacrifice! How Harry must love and honor you for it!"

Clara here rose to leave the room to look for her friend Nellie.
"Clara, I wish you would see where Beatrice is?" said Fanny looking
round. "I have not seen her since breakfast." Clara nodded and went
out, leaving the friends in unreserved conversation. "And no reprieve
yet, Fanny! Is it not terrible! I am beginning to despair. Mr. Talford
and the jail chaplain say 'trust in God!'--but how can I? If everything
happens by His will, he is responsible for Harry's position now,"
exclaimed Mabel with flashing eyes.

"Oh, don't talk like that. It is very wicked," pleaded Fanny
earnestly,----"Perhaps it is only to try our faith that God is bringing
this heavy trouble upon us, and we must try to submit; or He may punish
us by allowing the worst to come."

"It looks very much as if the worst was coming. I know I am very wicked
in talking like this; but I can't help it! To think of Harry's being as
innocent as you or I, and yet to have to die within twenty-four hours
so that the guilty man may escape! Is that not enough to make anyone
question the justice and mercy of heaven?" she exclaimed half defiantly.

"But who knows, Mabel, that he is to die? Perhaps at the last moment
the reprieve may come."

"Yes!" returned the excited girl, shuddering. "Yes, at the last moment
when they are reading the burial service over his dead body--come to
show that he has been foully murdered by an English judge and jury!"

"Please, Miss, your mamma is awake again, she she is asking for you,"
interrupted the house-keeper, putting her head in at the open door.

"I must go to mamma now then, Mabel. I must not neglect her even for
any dearest friend," said Fanny, rising.

"And I must gallop back to Chelmsford to learn if any news has yet
reached them of the reprieve," Mabel said putting on her riding hat.

"Good-bye, then! I will see you there," returned Fanny, embracing her
friend. "And do try to be a little more patient and trustful in the
goodness of God!"

"If I can: but it is very hard!" replied Mabel mournfully.




CHAPTER XXVII.

THE early morning sun was shining through the window of Frank's
sitting-room, and upon the young man's haggard features as he lay upon
the hearthrug before the fire covered with a heavy pair of blankets,
his head supported by a thick bolster. Late on the previous afternoon
his landlady had knocked at his door to deliver a telegram she had just
taken for him, and receiving no answer had entered and found him asleep
in his chair. Her endeavours to rouse him had resulted in his sliding
down onto the hearthrug, from which she was powerless to move him; and
she had done the best thing she could under the circumstances, made
him as comfortable as the situation would admit. She was now trying
to rouse him; and a steaming cup of tea and dish of hot toast upon
the table, waited his awakening. After a great deal of shaking and
chatter Frank rolled over upon his side; but was soon to all appearance
as unwakeable as ever. The old lady with much fuss and grumbling
vigorously renewed the attack, and presently had succeeded so far as
to get him into a sitting posture, and was already congratulating
herself upon the fact, when, ceasing in her exertion for a moment, he
fell back upon the hearthrug more like a log than a sentient being.
This was certainly enough to provoke a saint: and no wonder that the
good woman was provoked, especially as one of his elbows fell heavily
upon some of her corns. The severe twinge in her toe must be taken as
sufficient excuse for the ugly little word which it wrung from her, and
which was uttered with great emphasis, especially as, with the heroic
patience of a martyr on one leg; she made a third attempt to get her
incomprehensible lodger upon his feet. The fall back upon the rug had
somewhat woke him; and soon, between dragging, pushing, and coaxing, he
was a second time got into a sitting position, and after rubbing his
eyes for a short space, opened them and gazed sleepily round.

"Ah! How did I come here?" he exclaimed in a thick, husky voice, that
sounded in his ears like an echo. "Is it morning? Have I slept on the
floor all night?"

"Bless my soul, yes, sir," assented the landlady warmly. "Who'd have
thought that a thimbleful of brandy punch like that 'ud have took such
a effect!"

He staggered to his feet in shame and confusion, the memory of last
night returning, as his scattered senses gathered themselves together.
"Yes! Yes! I remember! Leave me now please; I have much to think of and
do this morning. How my head aches! The veins in my temples feel as if
they were ready to burst!"

"Then drink this cup of hot tea, sir!" said the landlady, setting the
tray close to the chair from which he had slipped the previous night,
"It'll soon fetch you round. Bless me, but you were terrible hard to
wake! It reminds me of my good man (heaven rest his----"

"For heaven's sake and mine too, do leave the room, woman!" Frank
exclaimed impatiently. "I shall need nothing else this morning. This
toast will be sufficient."

"What shall I get you for dinner, sir?" asked the landlady, drawing a
slip of note paper from her pocket. She was not to be dismissed in this
offhand manner until she had had a little discussion with her lodger
upon money matters.

"Nothing! It is not likely that I shall return again for a day or two;
and, by-the-way, I shall leave you at the end of the week; so you will
please have my linen ready."

The good lady was so taken by surprise that for several minutes she
could not speak; and Frank continued, "Make up the account for what
I owe you, and add a month's rent to it; and I will pay you now. And
don't trouble me with any questions." He spoke in a very stern voice;
and the poor woman could only conclude that she had offended him by her
last night's feat of enticing him into the paths of dissipation: but
she only said, "Here is a bill, sir. Perhaps you will add the month to
it yourself?"

"What! Have I paid you nothing for six weeks!" he asked in surprise,
glancing at the date.

"No, sir! You've been away so much, you know," and then partly
recovering her composure, she began to explain some laundry item
omitted from the last account. Frank threw the amount upon the table.
"You must excuse me, Mrs. Harrison; but I wish now to be alone. I shall
see you again before I go."

There was no help for it now; and the landlady left the room, wondering
why her lodger was leaving, and how long her rooms would be empty.

Directly he was alone he threw himself into the chair before the fire,
and drew his hand across his forehead. "This headache is intolerable!"
he said aloud. "If this is the price men pay for the pleasure of
drowning their cares in the punch bowl, I'll no more of it!" He drank
the tea at a draught, and drew the toast close to his side; but at the
moment he caught sight of the telegram upon the mantle-piece. He rose
instantly, and snatching it up tore open the envelope, saying as he
did so, "Strange that such terrible and pressing business should have
escaped my memory even for a moment!" He drew the brief message from
its cover. "See the Premier instanter Judge and Under Secretary with
you."

"The last day too! Good God! if I cannot get this order before five
o'clock I am lost; for I dare not delay giving myself up any later than
then!" He entered his room and had a wash. The icy water much refreshed
him, but still it was with a very distressing headache that he went
out. It was nearly nine o'clock; and stopping a passing cab he hastened
away to the judge's residence. "We must lose no time, Mr. Seymour,"
said the judge when he had read Mr. Talford's telegram. "I met Sir
William Gresham last night, and he told me that all the other Ministers
are out of town somewhere, and are not expected back for a day or two!"

"Sir William Gresham!"

"Yes. He is one of the lesser lights at the Indian Office, and an old
friend of mine. We must be at the Home Office before ten; or some
red-hot enthusiast with a long-winded project of reform before us, and
lose us some valuable time."

At ten o'clock they were seated in the Under Secretary's room in
earnest conversation with a chief clerk. "Sorry to say, gentlemen, that
the Under Secretary is too ill again to come to the office to day,"
said that functionary, after a few preliminary enquiries. "He was too
eager to get back to work, and so got a relapse; and there's no telling
when the office may see him again, if ever it will."

"Ich! Ich! How unfortunate?" exclaimed the judge in great concern. "And
about the reprieve in Rex. v. Fenton. He was to have had enquiries
made."

"Then this is it I expect," said the clerk, taking up a paper from the
rack before the Under Secretary's desk. "Yes. A minute from the chief
clerk of the Records department--'Rex v. Fenton, murder, Chelmsford
assizes' Nov. term, sentenced to death. Reprieved. Sentence commuted to
ten years' penal servitude. W. T. chf. clerk Records dpt. Home Office.
This is dated a week back. The sheriff should have had it long since."

"Then it has gone astray somewhere, Mr. Seymour," exclaimed the judge.
"We must go at once and make enquiries at the Post Office."

"Too late for that now," replied Frank gloomily. "Before those
enquiries could be set on foot eight o'clock will have struck in
Chelmsford jail to-morrow morning. We must see the Premier at once."

"That will be impossible to-day, sir," said the clerk. "His lordship
is in Paris, where his eldest son is dangerously ill. He went over by
yesterday's packet. The other Ministers too are all out of town. His
lordship the Home Secretary is pretty certain to be back to-day. You
had better call here about two o'clock and wait for him."

"Where is the king?" asked Frank abruptly.

"In Scotland," replied the judge, "I saw by this morning's Times
that he started for the north yesterday afternoon."

"Then the name of heaven what is to be done now?" Frank exclaimed
excitedly.

"Nothing until two o'clock," the judge answered gravely. "I will meet
you here at two; and I trust to God his lordship does not fail us."

There was nothing to do but wait; and they separated as they did
yesterday, the judge to go and look up precedents for a decision in
a case he had reserved for judgement, and Frank to wander till two
o'clock in the nearest park.

A little after one o'clock Frank rose from his seat in the park, to
return to the Home Office; but he turned a little out of his way to
put in execution a resolution he had just formed and telegraph to
Mr. James Shaw, detective, Scotland Yard.--'Meet me at the Royal Oak
at five o'clock business of urgent importance.' The Royal Oak was an
hotel close by the Home Office; and if he had to give himself up it
would be as well to have the detective in the vicinity to save time.
He reached the Home Office as the clock struck two; and overtook the
judge as he was entering the door. They were ushered at once into the
presence of the clerk who saw them in the morning. "As this is a matter
of extreme importance sir, of life or death I may say," explained the
clerk as they sat down, "I took the liberty of writing a brief account
of the situation, and sending it to his lordship's town residence with
orders for it to be put into his hands the moment he returns, in case
he should go home before coming to the office. It is particularly
unfortunate that the other Ministers are all out of town."

"Unfortunate! It is fatal!" exclaimed Frank, rising again, and
beginning to pace the room. "It seems as though heaven itself was in
league against us!"

"I never remember an occasion when they were all out of town together
before," observed the clerk, turning to look over some papers.

The time passed very slowly as they waited, hoping against hope, for
the Minister's return. By four o'clock the judge had read an old number
of the Spectator, that he had picked up from a table, through two or
three times, and had many of the advertisements off by heart. As the
little clock upon the mantle-piece struck the hour he rose and tossed
the paper back upon the table. "I think I had better go to Stanley
House at once, Mr. Seymour, in case his lordship, should have returned,
and the blundering servants have forgotten to give him this gentleman's
letter. You will of course stay to see him if he should come here
first."

Frank roused himself with a start. He had been standing motionless
by the grate for the last hour and gazing vacantly into the fire. He
looked up and said something incoherent about it being the better
plan, and speedily relapsed into his silent contemplation of the fire;
and before the judge was well out of the room he had returned to the
question that had been occupying his thoughts--his giving himself up
to the law as a murderer at five o'clock. In a few minutes he glanced
at the clock "Only one hour now!" he said with a shudder, a sickening
dread grew upon him as the minutes fled by. He began now to watch
the clock with feverish eagerness. The hands soon told a quarter
past (they did not move slowly now!) then the half-past was reached,
and still no appearance of the Minister. Frank's mental torture
seemed to increase tenfold as the large hand passed the half hour
and began to ascend towards the fatal completing minute of that hour
of grace. He could neither sit nor stand: but moved about the room
like a madman. Presently the five minutes to was reached. "Oh, God
all things are possible with thee--Oh, in thy mercy grant that he may
yet be in time!" he cried, the prayer wrung from him in his agony and
helplessness----"Oh, God, all things are possible with Thee! Oh, in thy
mercy grant that he may yet be in time!" he cried, who had not till now
for many weeks, thought of God but with bitterness and anger almost
blasphemous. The clock struck. "Great heaven, it is now too late! too
late!" he exclaimed in horror, sinking into a chair and covering his
face with his hands.

"I am afraid it is, unless you can find him at his residence!" said the
sympathizing clerk, buttoning up his great coat, and handing Frank his
hat. "This is his lordship's private address," he continued, offering
Frank a slip of paper. "I am very sorry indeed at your disappointment;
but my staying here any longer can do no good; for his lordship is
certain not to come to the office so late. You know we are seldom here
after four."

In a few minutes Frank was slowly pacing up and down upon the pavement
opposite the 'Royal Oak' in a state of great excitement and indecision.
It had seemed a very natural and easy thing to give himself up to
justice to save his rival's life, when doing so had appeared only as a
remote and uncertain contingency; but now that he stood face to face
with the necessity, but two alternatives before him--on the one hand
an innocent man dying for his crime, on the other disgrace, and death
to himself; his will seemed paralysed. To confess was to die; for
admit his hopeless infatuation and jealousy he would not. To shield
that secret he would confess to shooting Captain Bradlaw, and refuse
to give a reason. He was indeed on the horns of a dilemma--despair and
anguish either way. Decide and act he could not. He was powerless. All
his courage and resolution had forsaken him. For nearly half an hour
he paced with unsteady steps up and down the block opposite the 'Royal
Oak' oblivious of the zealous policeman whose lynx eyes were upon him,
helplessly striving to decide what to do. Then with feelings akin to
the coward driven to suicide, who shut his eyes and plunges into the
water on impulse, afraid to pause and think lest his false courage
should give way Frank suddenly darted across the street, nearly running
against a cab then leaving the door, and rushing into the taproom
enquired for the detective.

"That's him that just left the door in a cab," said the barman. "He's
as savage as a bear with a sore head, for he thinks a party by the name
of Seymour has been making a fool of him."

"Do you know where he is gone now?"

"No! But I think I heard him tell the cabby something about London
Bridge or Waterloo Bridge, I didn't 'xactly catch which."

Frank fairly groaned in his anguish and remorse. "Madman, murderer that
I am; shall I have this second death at my door! My weak irresolution
has cut away his only hope of escape. No, by heavens, it has not! I
will go straight to Scotland yard, and give myself up to one of the
Inspectors. He will find some means of deferring the execution till my
trial has set him at liberty." He hurried across to the cabstand by the
Home Office. As he was stepping into a cab a hand was laid upon his
shoulder. "Thank God his lordship is home! I have just got his order to
stop the execution."

"Thank God, indeed!" exclaimed Frank turning and finding the judge at
his side.

"The next thing is to get it into the Sheriff's hands. You will have to
take a special, for the late train to Chelmsford left an hour ago. How
are you off for funds?"

"I have enough, thank you. Old Mr. Fenton supplied me with ample funds
to spend in his son's interest," replied Frank breathing freely again.
"I shall go to the station at once to order the special."

"Then I will go with you."

They both stepped into the cab, drove to Euston square, and in a few
minutes were seated in the manager's room.

"I am sorry I cannot push a special right through to Chelmsford till
very late, sir," said the manager to Frank, when the urgency of the
situation had been explained to him. "The fact is we have just had a
collision a little beyond the Broxbourne station: not much harm done
and no lives lost; but the line is torn up; and it will take some hours
to repair the damage."

"Good Heavens, then I shall still be too late!" Frank cried in the
utmost alarm.

"I don't think so," said the manager, touching a bell to summon a
messenger. "I will send you to Broxbourne; and they will pass you on
directly the repairs are made. The permanent-way inspector telegraphs
that the line will be open again by midnight."

"Midnight! Then you need be under no apprehension, Mr. Seymour,"
observed the judge.

"No. He will have plenty of time," assented the manager. "O, Robart,
tell Mr. Reid to get a special for Chelmsford at once. One carriage,"
he continued turning to the messenger who had just entered.

In half an hour the special had started and Frank, with the precious
order in his pocket-book, fairly on the way to stop the execution. In
another half hour the Broxbourne station was reached. "When will the
line ahead be open, sir?" Frank heard the guard ask the station-master,
as the train came to a stand-still by the platform. "O, about one or
two o'clock," was the reply. "That will leave me plenty of time,"
thought Frank. "I will go into the town, and see if any tea or supper
is to be had."

He felt quite light-hearted now that the terrible weight of dread and
uncertainty was removed. He had yet to realize the enormity of the
guilt of leaving his rival to pay even the mitigated penalty for his
crime. The horror of the anticipated tragedy now so happily escaped,
had been so great, that its removal seemed for the time to free him
from all care and trouble. "Yes, I am rather hungry, so I will go to
one of the inns and get something to eat." He went to the nearest
tavern, got a warm supper, walked about the town for an hour, and then
returned to the station. From the platform he could see the lights of
the navvies at work upon the line some two hundred yards further on;
and to wile away the time he walked across to them. A great mass of
debris was lying about; and to Frank's inexperienced eye it seemed that
the mischief could not possibly be repaired in less than a week.

"It'll be all right and tight again by two o'clock, sir!" said a
navvy in reply to an anxious question; and feeling rather tired Frank
returned to the carriage. He wrapped himself up in a rug the station
master had lent him, and laid down upon the cushioned seat. He was
thoroughly exhausted by the excitement of the day, and was soon asleep.
He slept soundly, and did not wake until a shrill whistle and the
forward motion of the carriage roused him. He jumped up, and glanced
from the window. It was snowing heavily.

"Half-past six!" he exclaimed in consternation, looking at his watch,
"Then I am indeed too late!" He looked from the window again in the
vain hope that the train might perhaps be nearing Chelmsford instead of
leaving Broxbourne. The train was moving very slowly; and at a glance
he saw that she was feeling her way over the newly-mended line. The
navvy who had spoken to him before, said as the train glided slowly by,
"We've bin longer over the job than we thought for, sir."

Full speed was now put on to make up for lost time. Both the guard
and the engine driver knew that they were on a mission of life or
death; and they determined that it should be no fault of theirs if
the reprieve arrived too late. All the doubt and horror of the day
returned, as Frank, leaning from the window counted the precious
moments as they flew by. Would the opposition of fate never cease till
this second murder was upon his head! At last Chelmsford was reached.
He leaped upon the platform almost before the carriage door was opened,
and rushed across to a fly standing by the gate, "To the jail! To the
jail! Quick as your horse can take me!"




CHAPTER. XXVIII.

THE dread day had now arrived; and all Chelmsford was ablaze with
excitement. At least half of the local public still believed the
prisoner innocent, albeit that that grand palladium of popular
liberty--a British jury--had pronounced to the contrary; yet had an
answer to the petition for reprieve been received refusing to grant its
prayer, so great was the instinctive, national trust in the supreme
wisdom and justice of government, that it would have been cheerfully
accepted as confirmation of the verdict; but no such answer had come;
and loud and vehement were the expressions of anger and dissent,
indulged in by the restless crowd now surging before the jail. Even
that portion of the public which looked upon the tragedy of the morning
as a righteous vindication of justice, was dissatisfied that the
authorities had shown such neglect in a matter so grave, and that the
doomed man's preparations for the end were disturbed by vain hopes of
escape. "It is nothing but a judicial murder!" declared one party. "A
most disgraceful case of official negligence," said the other; and
between them so great was the general uneasiness, that the sheriff had
felt it necessary to take extra precautions to prevent a disturbance.
It was a bleak, raw morning, and sleet was falling at intervals; yet
fully a couple of hours before day broke a detachment of half-frozen
policemen (the most ill-used body of men in the service, according to
their own account) was stationed in the vicinity of the jail to nip in
the bud the first appearance of a demonstration.

All eyes were eagerly turned to the grim preparations now being
finished upon the dim wall of the jail, and none more eagerly than
those of the little hoary and ancient cobbler, who on the occasion of
Sir Toby Cadman's penance had expressed such decided views upon the
certainty of the prisoner's dying game approaching. He had manfully
'backed his opinion' by 'making a book' on the event, and was here to
watch the success of his gambling spec.

The prisoner had slept peacefully during the night and rose at five
o'clock. At half-past five his late counsel, Mr. Talford, was admitted;
and they spent half an hour in prayer and reading the Scriptures.
Breakfast was now brought in; and on the prisoner's invitation Mr.
Talford joined him in what was presumably his last meal on earth's side
of the grave. Their conversation turned upon the infinite mercy of God,
and the manifold expedients adopted for the reclamation of frail and
erring humanity.

At six o'clock the prisoner's parents and sisters were admitted to take
their mournful farewell. The meeting between the so soon-to-be-bereaved
mother and her only son was so affecting that Mr. Talford, who had
remained by the prisoner's request, had to hold his book before his
eyes to hide his emotion. "Oh, Harry! Harry! Never to see you more! Oh!
what have we done that this terrible affliction is cast upon us! Oh, my
son! my son!" She sank upon his breast weeping; she could say no more.
The prisoner embraced his mother tenderly, his tears falling warm upon
her face as he strove to soothe and comfort her.

"Mother, we all must die some time or other. Now I shall leave you in
the blessed assurance of eternal life. If I had escaped this trouble, I
might perhaps have lived and died a stranger to salvation--and, mother,
after death the judgment. 'I know that my Redeemer liveth,' mother, and
that I only exchange this world of care and sorrow for the happiness of
heaven. Don't grieve for me as dead; think of me only as gone before.
Do strive, darling mother, to take the offered mercy of God, and meet
me in heaven. Learn the meaning of the blessed promise, 'Now is the
accepted time. Now is the day of salvation, and teach it to the others.
Let us all meet in heaven'." He could say no more; and for several
minutes they wept in each others arms in silence.

The father was sitting upon the stretcher holding the sobbing Beatrice
upon his knees, and striving bravely, though with but partial success,
to conceal his grief; and Clara was crouching in one corner of the
cell in wild abandonment of sorrow and despair. Fanny stood near
her mother, fearful lest the terrible ordeal should prove too much
for her strength. She had thoughtfully provided herself with the
indispensable sal volatile, and was ready to help anyone who might
need her assistance. Though she made no demonstration of sorrow, her
aching heart was as heavy as any of them. Someone, she felt, must be
prepared to attend to her mother if she gave away under this harrowing
trial; and hers was the only dry eye and outwardly composed manner in
the cell. After a few minutes she saw that some change was urgently
needed; and she stepped across to Mr. Talford, and begged him to read
aloud a chapter from the Bible. He at once complied, and read the LIII.
chapter of Isaiah, with its rich prophecies of a crucified Redeemer,
and then the XV. of St. Mark with its vivid narrative of their blessed
fulfilment; and the beautiful, life-giving words fell like heavenly
balm upon the sorrowing group, soothing their bitter grief into a
subdued and softened sadness; and in afterwards expounding the great
and comforting truths, and applying them to the sad situation of those
around him, the eminent special-pleader unconsciously preached his
first sermon.

He pointed out with rare clearness and force how utterly empty and
unsatisfactory are the hopes and aims of this life, and how brief
a tenure weak mortality holds of what little here is worth living
for, and in words of enkindling enthusiasm contrasted the fleeting
pleasures of earth with the endless joys of heaven, and gently and
reverently spoke of the heavy price paid by a pitying Saviour for
man's redemption--how for our sakes He became 'a man of sorrows and
acquainted with grief' 'wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for
our iniquities,' how, to save us from everlasting death 'He was brought
as a lamb to the slaughter.' As he spoke with fervid and convincing
eloquence, how worthless and insignificant to his hearers seemed the
things of this life, and how beyond all price the joys of that life to
come! and a new sense of confidence, and hope invaded their hearts as
he repeated those blessed promises. "Come unto Me all ye that labor
and are heavy laden; and I will give you rest!" "Though your sins
be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like
crimson, they shall be as wool!" and with eager gladness they heard
him tell of the prisoner's conversion, and knelt at his bidding to
offer grateful praise to God for leading the beloved one into the paths
of eternal life. Little recked it just then with the speaker's voice
still ringing in their ears, by what thorny path heaven was gained!
Oh, eloquence, how great, how grand, how irresistible is thy power for
good or evil, thou most godlike of the faculties of man! What among the
varied callings of life may rival the glorious work of the Preacher!

As they knelt the heavy door was slowly opened from the outside, and
Mabel was admitted. She took in the situation at a glance; and stepping
noiselessly up to Harry, knelt beside him. Her eyes shone with an
unusual brightness, her color was heightened by excitement, and her
manner was wonderfully, unnaturally calm. She paid no heed to the
fervent prayer the barrister was addressing to the throne of grace; her
whole thought and attention was centered in the beloved form at her
side.

The prisoner was kneeling with his head bent forward, his mother
clinging to his shoulder, and his father and sisters grouped around,
all, even the child Beatrice, too absorbed in their devotion to observe
Mabel's entrance. "Ah!" thought Mabel, and her eyes flashed proudly,
"much as they all love him, I am the only one who dares to follow him
into the cold, horrible grave!" and her grasp tightened upon the tiny
bottle in her delicate hand.

The earnest prayer was concluded in the words "Oh God, if it be indeed
Thy will that the prisoner before Thee shall enter the dark valley of
the shadow of death through this door of earthly shame and humiliation,
grant him in Thy boundless mercy, grace and strength to say with heart
and lips, 'Not my will but Thine, O Lord!' and if even now when to
human eyes is vain all hope of escape, Thou dost prolong his days,
grant that all through the years Thy mercy shall add to his life he
may still continue in Thy faithful service, and when the end does come
he may be reckoned among the saved in Christ, in the name of whom we
approach Thee with our prayers!" They rise from their knees, calmed
and composed by the sweet consolation of religion; and now, while life
and death, time and eternity stand before them unmasked and terrible
realities, the joy at feeling that the dying had by the grace of
heaven secured the inestimable treasure of salvation for a time seems
to reconcile them to their loss--but not for long; only too soon does
weak nature reassert her claim, and blind grief again hold her sway
and before the fervid eloquence of the Preacher dies in their ears the
horror of the situation shall have eclipsed its brighter side, and the
glorious future be lost in the agonizing present.

The sheriff and chaplain now entered, the former to superintend the
last, dread scene, the latter to prepare the prisoner for it. The
sheriff's silver locks appeared as if they had been forgotten this
morning and were sorely in need of brushing; and he looked as cross and
surly as if he would infinitely have preferred being snugly stowed away
in bed to being in that cold and dingy condemned cell; and he muttered
savagely "It was a great mistake to allow this leave-taking here this
morning; and hang me if I'll break my rule again for my grandfather! A
pretty scene we'll have here directly! If I hadn't been a soft-hearted
old fool this bother would have been over yesterday."

He had known the prisoner from boyhood, and liked him; and possibly
his angry glance and brusque manner were assumed to conceal his
feelings. The chaplain looked as grave as a rich undertaker as he
very deliberately placed his silk umbrella in a corner, and then drew
off and pocketed his warm woollen gloves. A clear white cloth was now
spread upon the little table that had been placed in the cell the
evening before (a warder had cleared it of the breakfast things while
they were at prayers) and the prison communion utensils placed upon it.
The chaplain addressed a few common-place words to the prisoner; and
all joined sadly yet reverently in the solemn and comforting service,
all but little Beatrice, who was too young to understand it, and Mabel
who in her present frame of mind dared not. "Not now! Not now!" she
murmured in reply to the chaplain's invitation; and while Harry with
his parents and sisters were taking the mystic and typical sacrament,
receiving as it were the direct pledge and token of a dying Saviour's
love, she, leaning upon his arm, was holding the little bottle in her
hand with a loving grasp, and dreaming of what happiness it would be,
if the jail people would only bury them both in the one grave.

Directly the ceremony was over the sheriff said gruffly "Now, Mr.
Talford, the prisoner's friends must leave him. Time flies!"

This final separation was heart-rending. Mrs. Fenton fainted, and was
carried away by Mr. Talford and a warder; and the chaplain led Clara
out in hysterics. The father was too much subdued and broken by grief
to show much outward sign, and followed, carrying the sobbing Beatrice
away in his arms. Fanny hung back for a moment, and for the first time
during the melancholy interview turned to her unfortunate brother. "Oh,
Harry!" she sobbed, her long pent up tears bursting forth as she flung
herself upon his breast, "The ways of God are hard to understand; but,
my dear, my only brother, we will meet again in heaven!"

The prisoner's own tears fell fast, as he bade farewell to his favorite
sister. "Yes my darling Fanny, that is our great and only consolation,
we shall meet again in heaven! Our dear parents will find this a
crushing blow; but I know whose patient tenderness will sustain them
in their great affection. Farewell my precious sister--till we meet
again!" He folded her to his breast, and pressed his lips fondly upon
her hot brow. Mr. Talford, who had just returned, at a gesture of
impatience from the sheriff, here stepped forward and led the weeping
girl from the cell.

"Now, Harry, you can spare a few seconds for me!" said Mabel, laying
her soft hand gently upon his arm; and gazing upon his face with a
glance of yearning, unutterable love. A strange light beamed from her
azure eyes, and a smile of exultation and triumph played upon her
parted lips. "You see I am yours to the end, Harry!" she said with
a touch of joyful pride in her voice. "There is only one text I can
remember now, Harry--'And in their death they were not divided!'"

Without for the moment replying he took her to his arms, and searched
her face eagerly, a vague sensation of uneasiness growing upon him.
What could she mean by "In their death they were not divided!"

The sheriff at the moment approached and gently touched Mabel on the
shoulder. "I'm sorry, Miss Wilton; but----"

She turned her glorious eyes full upon him in proud disdain "I will
not leave Harry's side, but by force sir!" she interrupted firmly.
"And I do not think you will descend to use that."

There was something in her glance and tone that seemed to awe the
sheriff; for he stepped back muttering, "Just what I expected! I knew
we'd have some bother before the thing was done with. These women are
as stubborn as asses."

"My darling Mab, the sheriff is right. You had better go now," the
prisoner steadied his voice to say, "Farewell! and heaven bless you, my
angel! my comforter! When I am gone your papa will receive you again."

"Hush, Harry!" she said holding her hand up in deprecation, "I will
never leave you Harry in life or in death!"

A faint glimmer of her meaning broke upon him, and he eagerly scanned
her face again to read there a confirmation of his suspicions. While
the others wept in sorrow, she had smiled in gladness; and an unnatural
expression of proud joy beamed from her exulting eyes. "'And in
death they were not divided.'" he thought, repeating her quotation,
doubtfully. "I think I understand her now. She, whose faith I doubted,
is prepared to die with me!" At the moment he caught a glimpse of the
neck of the little bottle, which she had unconsciously exposed. He took
her hand in his, and before she was aware of his intentions had gently
removed the deadly drug. "My darling! You must not!" he whispered in
great emotion.

"Oh, Harry, can you be so cruel, as to deny me the only happiness left
me now!" she cried passionately, bursting into tears, her eloquent
eyes pleading with and reproaching him with their yearning mournful
expression.

"Mab," he whispered solemnly, "By the mercy of God, I only exchange
this troublous world for the peace and glory of heaven. If you were
to take this," indicating the poison by a quick glance at the bottle,
"you could never enter there; and we should by your act be parted for
eternity. Better, my darling, live to prepare to meet me there. Make me
this promise, the last I may ask you on earth that you will for my sake
make your eternal welfare your first and greatest consideration."

"I promise!" she sobbed.

Two warders now entered, and at a signal from the sheriff stepped
across to pinion the prisoner. Harry gave his faithful Mab one last
embrace; and then Mr. Talford, catching his glance, came forward and
taking her from his arms, led her forcibly to the stretcher. Her
unnatural calmness and force of purpose seemed to have left her with
the little bottle of laudanum; and overpowered by the reaction of her
feelings she resigned herself helplessly to the barrister's stronger
will, and bathed in a flood of bitter tears threw herself upon the rude
bed. The prisoner had contrived to slip the bottle into Mr. Talford's
hands unnoticed by the officials, and tears of pity and admiration
filled the barrister's eyes as he gazed upon the prostrate form of the
heroic but misguided girl. The warders had neatly performed their task
and the prisoner was securely bound; and the sheriff, motioning to Mr.
Talford to keep close guard over his charge, ordered the sad procession
to move forward.

"'I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord!'" read the
chaplain, taking his place at the prisoner's side, and beginning the
funeral service. "'He that believeth in Me, though he were dead yet
shall he live!'"

The terrible significance of those beautiful words roused Mabel from
her brief prostration; and springing to her feet, she exclaimed wildly,
"Stand aside! In life or death, I will be with him!" Mr. Talford
promptly caught her in his arms; but it was with great difficulty that
he held her, so violently she struggled to break free.

The sheriff, fearful of 'bother,' hurried the warders, and in a few
seconds the great iron door swung back on its creaking hinges; and
Harry was fairly on his way to finish his part of the harrowing drama.

With a cry, half laugh, half scream, Mabel sprang from the barrister's
arms and fell fainting to the floor. He lifted her up gently, and
laid her upon the stretcher; and then took up a mug of water from the
table; but hesitating he thought, "No I will not try to restore her
yet. Better leave her unconscious till the last is over." In about
three minutes a couple of women, warders' wives, entered the cell to
'keep the young lady company,' as they said; and Mr. Talford left
the insensible girl in their charge, and hurried out to the scene of
execution.

He walked slowly to the gallows; and the policeman at the foot of the
rough stairs, knowing him for a constant visitor of the prisoner,
allowed him to ascend without question. As he reached the top the
prisoner turned to say a few words to the gaping crowd, who would
certainly consider the exhibition otherwise incomplete. Harry was very
pale, caused partly by his long confinement, and partly by the late
emotional scenes in the condemned cell; but his eyes were very bright;
and the bookmaking cobbler from the midst of the crowd watched him
with admiration, and felt quite at his ease in respect of his betting
investments. "He'll hang game as a badger!" he soliloquised with
infinite satisfaction.

A slight commotion at the outer edge of the crowd appeared to the
prisoner to indicate its impatience to hear his 'last dying speech
and confession;' and in a very grave voice he spoke. "My friends," he
began in a clear ringing voice distinctly heard by the utmost fringe
of the moving, excited mass. "I stand here before my Maker innocent
of the crime for which I am now to suffer; but I do not blame either
the jury who tried me, nor the judge who sentenced. They doubtless did
their duty fairly and honestly. My friends, you may be surprised when
I tell you that this trouble has been the greatest blessing Providence
ever bestowed upon me. Before I entered the condemned cell I was in the
same position that perhaps too many of you are in still--I was wholly
unprepared for death. I knew that we must all die some day; yet I had
taken no thought of what comes after; but in the gloom of my prison
a light broke in upon me; and by the mercy of God I saw that I was a
sinner, and that after death comes the judgement; and I also found
that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. My friends,
the wishes of men at the point of death are generally received with
attention. The hour of death will overtake everyone of you. Will you
all learn a short text from the Bible, and promise never to rest until
you have answered it to your satisfaction. 'What shall it profit a man
if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?' That was the----"

The noise and confusion had by this time increased so much that in
the uproar even those around the prisoner could but with difficulty
hear his voice; and he was compelled to cease. All upon the scaffold
now knelt while the chaplain said the last prayer, and the deathsman
fingered the noose, and saw that the fatal bolt was free to draw; but
before the short prayer was half through a sudden and tremendous cheer
lifted them as one to their feet, where the welcome and joyous word,
"Reprieved! Reprieved!" greeted them from a thousand willing throats.
"Thank God!" said more than one voice upon the scaffold; but the
prisoner was silent. The love of life was as strong in him as in most
people; and he did thank God; yet no word escaped him.

The crowd was now seen to separate with rather undignified celerity and
leave a clear lane to the prison gate; and the prisoner and Mr. Talford
recognized Frank in the hatless and energetic driver of the headlong
vehicle now approaching the jail.

"How does stake oughter go, sir, when there's no event?" enquired the
bookmaking cobbler eagerly of a gentlemanly looking man at his side.
The mender of shoes was more concerned just then in the success of his
own speculations than the fate of the prisoner; and he waited anxiously
for his new acquaintance to clear up his doubts.

"Have you much on that event?" the stranger asked, nodding his head in
the direction of the gallows, and turning his piercing black eyes full
upon his questioner, who replied in a sort of injured and confiding
tone, "More'n I'ud like to drop, sir. I backed him to hang game; and
here he's not agoing to hang at all. Did you ever here the likes?"

"Hem! I must confess it's a hard case either way--he to hang, game or
no game, or you lose your bet." The stranger answered with a gravity
that bordered closely upon the humourous. "Anyhow, you shall not be
ruined for the want of a hanging if that will save you," and before the
astonished cobbler had time to object to hanging in his own interest
he found himself lifted off his feet by the back of his coat collar,
and dangling at arms length from his friend's grasp, where he swang
for a half minute pawing the air and kicking like a kitten in similar
circumstances. "There! Now go to your betting friends and claim the
wager; and if they will not believe that a man has been hung to-day
refer them to me."

In his frantic exertion to reach the jail Frank was seen to run over
a blind beggar, breaking his wooden leg and otherwise damaging him.
At the gate Frank, finding it impossible to stop the horse, dropped
the reins, and leaped to the ground. The speed at which he drove would
have thrown him upon his face and perhaps broken his limbs; but that
Sir Toby's friend, Turnbul, was at hand to catch him as he reached the
pavement. "May ye never want for an angel to guard ye night or day!"
exclaimed Turnbul with no touch of the brogue, as he landed him safely
upon his feet. The horse, left to himself, galloped round the first
corner, and presently reached his stable door, where he left the fly,
finding it impossible to take it in with him; and very soon with the
broken shafts at his side he was composing himself by the dish of oats
intended for a later hour.

The heavy gate swung back on its hinges; and the messenger of mercy
was admitted. He was but a few seconds in mounting the gallows (using
the policeman, who attempted to bar his way, as the first step.)
The sheriff snatched the order from Frank's now trembling hand, and
ignoring the fact that the messenger had fallen insensible upon the
floor of the scaffold, hurriedly glanced at the message, and amid
cheers then waved it aloft as a signal for the vociferous crowd that
immediately answered it.




CHAPTER. XXIX

A week had passed since the so nearly fatal 28th; and the long lost
reprieve had come to light. It appeared that the messenger who was
sent to the Post Office with it and sundry other despatches, was
knocked down on his way by a cab and carried home insensible, and was
confined to his room for a week or two by the injuries he received. Of
course directly it was known at the Home Office that so important a
document had failed to reach its destination, enquiries were made for
the official who had been entrusted to post it; and one of the clerks
was sent to the absent-on-sick-leave messenger to learn what had been
done with it. The messenger recollected at once that the accident had
overtaken him on the way to the Post Office, and that therefore either
the letters he had to post were lost when he was knocked down, or else
were still in the inner pocket of his overcoat. Visions of dismissal
and an empty larder flashed across his mind, as he gave a warning
glance to his wife to keep her peace, and then said to the clerk with a
well assumed appearance of ingenousness, "Can't say what I posted that
day, Brown. All I know is that I posted 'em all, every mother's son of
'em! Tell Mr. Url that I'm certain every dispatch was safely posted
that morning. I dare say it's only some blunder at the Post Office."
Mr. Brown thereupon took himself off; and before he was a dozen doors
away the delinquent turned to his wife, "Look in the breast pocket of
my great coat, Patty, and see if there are any letters in it." The
letters were there. "Now slip off and post 'em at once, my girl. Maybe
it'll blow over if they reach their addresses safely after all." And
the reprieve was posted to the sheriff three days after the date for
execution.

Harry Fenton was now at Portland with his ten years penal servitude all
before him. The day previous to his removal from Chelmsford jail he
received a letter from the War Office intimating that in consequence
of his having been adjudged guilty of a felony he was cashiered and
dismissed the service. In comparison with the death he had so narrowly
escaped, a term of imprisonment had at first seemed to him a fate as
light as air; but the disgrace and indignity of being thus publicly
dismissed from his regiment as a felon unworthy to wear the king's
uniform caused all the shame and humiliation of his new position to
rise before him, and show the reprieve but a questionable advantage,
and it required all his new-found faith in heaven and all the strength
of his earthly ties to help him say, as he now looked back regretfully
to the memorable 28th, "Thy will be done!" Indeed, towards the close
of his first day's experience at Portland, when to rest himself for a
moment he sat down upon the block of stone he had been set to square,
and glanced at the brutal characters around, and at his blistered
hands, he almost forgot both heaven and friends in the agony of his
degradation.

Mr. Fenton proposed that Mabel should go and live at the hall till
her father should return from abroad; but though Fanny, and indeed
the whole family, from little Beatrice to the prospective son-in-law
lieutenant Beaumont, (who, by-the-way, was going back to his regiment
with a very indefinite prospect of having any special need to return
in May) warmly supported the proposal. Mabel resolutely declined to
accept the kind offer, giving as her reason that she knew her papa
would be displeased at her doing so, and that she was determined to
obey his lightest wishes where they did not clash with higher claims.
No. She would advertise in the Times for a situation as governess,
and remain at the inn till she obtained one. She decided to change her
name while obliged to earn her own living; and, after long and serious
consultation with her friend Fanny upon the all-important subject of
an alias, one was chosen as nearly like her real name as possible;
and in a week an answer to the advertisement reached her, addressed to
'Miss Amabel Milton, c/o Squire Fenton, of Elmgrove Hall' with an offer
which she at once agreed to accept.

The day after the execution was stopped Frank went back to London to
arrange for going abroad; and Mr. Talford returned to Torquay. The
barrister found to his joy that Rachel's new friend was much stronger
than when he went away, and was pronounced by the doctor to be very
much improved; but he curbed his almost irresistible inclination to
visit Ethelton, and gave himself up to a long and serious study of
his new resolution to leave the bar for the pulpit, and of the many
reasons for and against it. He sent a message by his sister to Miss
Vaughan that her nephew had determined to go abroad, and that she might
expect him in Torquay on the following Wednesday to bid her and his
sister good-bye. "And, Rachel," he said, as that impetuous young lady,
mounted upon Azim, was preparing to ride over to see her friend, "Be
doubly careful to keep the news of this unhappy trial away from our
frail and delicate invalid. The least excitement may kill her." Little
dreamt he the extreme danger of that news, or how night and day the
weary prisoner in Portland was the ever-present companion of her
pleasantest and saddest thoughts. Ay, if ye would keep her among you,
never tell her, never let her know that he is a weary prisoner in
Portland jail. And thou, sweet hypocrit, bright son of Venus, by what
incomprehensible and potent charm dost thou weave these unravelable
webs of cross-purposes--unravelable even to thy elsewise all powerful
fingers, thou master weaver of our earthly fates!--And thou, O
Preacher, living or dead she is not for thee, yet shall her love (thine
for her) still spur thee on to success in thy newer and grander sphere;
and, as thou hast said in thine heart a thousand times, die she soon or
late, her pure life shall not have been in vain!

The days to Wednesday had come and gone; and it was now Wednesday
afternoon. Frank was expected about teatime; and in honor of his coming
home some extras in the shape of sundry little delicacies he was
known to be fond of were being contrived in the kitchen. Miss Rachel
Talford with her brown eyes all sparkle and her sleeves rolled up, was
being initiated into the mystery of sponge-cake making, Miss Vaughan
superintending that ceremony and the baking of certain other cakes at
the same time. Polly was resting upon the couch, and reading her aunt's
favorite book, Baxter's 'Saints Rest.' She had done her share of
exercise earlier in the day by taking half an hour's walk with Rachel;
and her aunt had insisted upon her lying down until teatime. Presently
time for setting the tea things came, and with it Nancy the little
maid-of-all-work. "Please, Miss Polly, don't you know some folks down
in Essex?" asked Nancy, beginning to clear the table. Her tongue was
never idle while she could find employment, for it whatever her hands
might occasionally be.

"Yes, Nancy I have some friends in Essex," answered Polly, all
attention in a moment.

"The reason I asked, Miss Polly, is 'cause I've got a cousin down
there; and he sends me a newspaper now-and-then sometimes. He's
apprentice to a blacksmith in Chelmsford. He sent me one the other day;
but I haven't opened it yet. Perhaps you'd like to see it."

The prospect of perhaps seeing something in its columns about Harry,
caused Polly's fair cheeks to glow and her eyes to brighten for a
moment--but only for a moment--the color fled and the eyes drooped
before the thought, 'Yes, I may see the account of their wedding,'
but no trace of her emotion could be detected in her gentle voice, as
she replied "Thank you, Nancy! I would very much like to see it."

In a few seconds the still unopened newspaper was brought. "Why, how
pale you look, Miss Polly!" exclaimed Nancy in consternation, as she
handed it to her, and glanced at her face. Polly received the paper
in silence, merely acknowledging it by a brave little smile, and then
carried it away to the seclusion of the drawing-room; and Nancy, wholly
unconscious of having done wrong, addressed herself to pushing forward
preparations for tea.

Frank duly reached Torquay, and on his way home called at Devon House
with some letters that had been lying at his preceptor's chambers.
After a few minutes conversation Mr. Talford suddenly recollected that
he must not detain the anxiously expected brother, and that, having
several professional matters to discuss with him, he had better walk
on to Ethelton himself, forgetting perhaps that the more appropriate
time for this professional discussion would be after he had read
the professional letters he had just received, and whose seals would
probably not be broken till the morrow. He had rigidly abstained from
visiting the beautiful invalid since his return to Torquay; and such
noble self-abnegation deserved some reward. Not that he looked upon
it in that light, far from it, but--well, it would be pleasant to see
the dear face again, even though he must look upon it but with the
distant gaze of friendship. They walked on over the crackling snow,
talking as they went of their late case, and the singular concatenation
of accidents that had so nearly cheated the prisoner of his reprieve.
Frank had been wonderfully light-hearted during the last few days; but
conscience (his was a remarkably vigilant if not a very robust one) had
already commenced another campaign, and had warned him of the heinous
wrong he was still committing in allowing his hated rival to suffer
even the mitigated penalty in his stead; still the pleasure of meeting
his gentle sister again was great enough to silence conscience for a
time; and he was now in higher spirits than Mr. Talford had seen him in
for some months. At the gate they encountered Dr. Woods who had just
been summoned to a distance, and as he was likely to be away for some
days, was calling to see his fair patient before he left. Rachel met
them at the door, Nancy having just been sent on an errand, and Miss
Vaughan being still busy about her oven. Her soft eyes danced with
pleasure as her brother entered. "How do you do, Mr. Seymour? I hope
you are not tired after your long journey? Polly will be delighted.
She has missed you very much. Ah, Dr. Woods, your patient is getting
so strong, that she will soon be able to dismiss you, I expect! Oh,
Herbert, I am so glad you have come. Polly and I have planned to ride
to the Castle; and you and Mr. Seymour are to take us."

In response to his share of the happy girl's remarks Frank smiled and
assured her he wasn't half as tired as the coach horses; Dr. Woods
bowed and said he hoped so; and Mr. Talford gravely enquired whether
they intended starting at once, or waiting until after tea. Rachel
laughed, and led the way to the parlour. "Now excuse me for a moment,
and I will tell Miss Vaughan, and then look for Polly."

"This will be a hard winter for the poor," observed the doctor from the
window, looking out upon the snow-covered landscape.

"Miss Vaughan will be with you in a few minutes," said Rachel looking
in. "And now for Polly!" and she was gone again before any of them
could look up from the cold prospect outside at which they were
silently gazing. In a few minutes Rachel returned, looking very pale
and frightened. "Polly is on the couch in the drawing-room, and so fast
asleep that I cannot wake her. She is so cold too. Do you think she has
fainted, Dr. Woods?" In a very few seconds the anxious group were by
Polly's side. She appeared leaning cosily back against the head of the
couch, her feet upon a foot-stool, and looking the very embodiment of
comfort.

A week later. A small group of mourners stand around the bed, and in
the shadow of the doorway a man dressed in a rusty, business-like suit
of black, a screwdriver in his hand. Now must they who loved her so
dearly take their last fond look before she is hidden for ever from
earthly eyes. The inconsolable aunt, who had so long been as a mother
to her gentle charge, throws herself upon the coffin and is carried out
in a swoon. Each of the less-intimate friends glances with a choking
sensation upon the ethereal loveliness of the dead, and then steps
back to give place to the brother. With a long yearning gaze he looks
upon the beautiful face, that shall never smile upon him again; then
he stoops, presses his lips to her smooth brow, and turns away to the
window, dry-eyed, and silent. No sign upon that pale, cold face of the
burning agony in his heart. Upon his head this death too! Like the
wail of the distant storm runs through his ears the terrible words
"Vengeance is mine! I will repay, saith the Lord!" Rachel stands by the
head of the coffin, tears trickling down her cheeks. The man with the
screwdriver draws a step nearer; and, glancing up from the floor, Mr.
Talford motions him back, and steps to the side of the bed. Yes! There
she rests in her fleecy drapery like one of her snowdrops half-hidden
in a snow-wreath. Her glorious blue eyes are shaded by their filmy
lids, never from earth to look upon earth again. Her curved and
delicate lips are slightly parted, and upon the dear face is settled
an expression of sweet, infantile repose. And she has gone from him,
and never learned his secret--never known that of earth she was his
more than all! Yes! but she did know--and the knowledge had aided and
abetted Consumption in its fatal work, and touched her earthly features
with their more than earthly loveliness--she knew that to Harry she was
nothing--nothing. If she had not had his secret, who now with a heavy
heart mourns by her coffin, she had her own, one she had told to none
but her God--none upon earth may learn it now.

But again the veil must fall.

Another week and in the Kensington churchyard is a new-made grave, and
kneeling by it a slight figure in black too deeply buried in her grief
to observe a second figure in the same sombre hue, who is standing
near. The tombstone is not yet erected, but is even now assuming form
and character under the sculptors delicate touch--an angel, wreathed
with snowdrops, holding in one stony hand the anchor of Hope, and in
the other a scroll bearing the name of the beautiful dead and the
motto--"Resurgam!" The second figure waited aloof for a few minutes,
as though unwilling to intrude upon the sacredness of grief; and then
the mourner rose. She started at finding a stranger so near, and would
have turned away in silence, but was interrupted by a gentle "Pardon
me, madam, for disturbing you. Can you shew me where a Miss Seymour
lies buried?" spoken in a low and sweet voice. The questioner was a
young girl of singular beauty; and her earnest, violet eye, turned
upon the mourner with a glance of kindly concern. "Here!" replied the
other in a broken voice, removing the handkerchief from her eyes, and
pointing to the new-turned mound at her feet. Those beautiful violet
eyes glanced upon the mourner's face with a look of keen enquiry. "And
you are her aunt. Don't you recollect me, Miss Vaughan? You knew me
very well when I was a little girl, before we went to Cornwall."

The bereaved aunt gazed upon the fair face before her for a few seconds
in surprise and then exclaimed, "Yes, yes, I do now! How like your
mother you have grown! Oh Mabel, I am so very, very glad to see you!
And to think that we shall never see my darling again!" The allusion
for a few moments overcame them both; and their tears fell together
upon the sod that hid the beloved form from their gaze--then the elder
lady, assuming that Mabel had come to visit her, said "We must get home
now, dear. I am so very glad you have come to cheer me."

As they walked on, Mabel carrying a little travelling bag, Miss Vaughan
caught a glimpse of the address-card upon it. "Amabel Milton? Who is
she, Mabel?"

"That's my new name, auntie--may I call you auntie?"

"Certainly, dear. I shall like it."

"I have come to London to a situation as governess, auntie--the house
is just by the church--I dismissed the cab at the gate, and went into
the graveyard first;" and Mabel briefly told of Harry's trouble, and
her own estrangement from her father.

"Then, Mabel, you shall come and live with me, until your father comes
to his senses, which he will not be long in doing, depend upon it,"
said the old lady. "I cannot say come to take her place; that no one
can ever do! I don't believe the whole earth contains her equal, so
patient, so true and good. Ah, Mabel, if we were only half as worthy of
heaven as she, better for us both to be there now."

Another week has passed----The barrister is on a visit to the Bishop
upon ordination business; Rachel is at home, reading her Bible and
thinking of missionaries; Fanny (her marriage deferred till Harry
shall be free and among them again--postponed till Doomsday thinks
the luckless lieutenant). Fanny is striving in her gentle, unassuming
way to lighten her parent's terrible grief; Nellie has gone home,
resolutely determined to die an old maid; the recreant knight Sir Toby
is running through his estate as fast as he can; Mabel has resigned her
situation, and is now cheering the lonely home of her kind old friend;
the hapless prisoner at Portland is wearily learning to break stones,
and to bear with meekness the will that has placed the bitter draught
to his lips; and the hopeless, irresolute, remorseful Frank is at sea,
fleeing from the scenes of his sorrow and crime. In 'Beautiful Venice'
shall he smother the vulture gnawing so pitilessly at his heart. Never,
there or elsewhere, till reparation has been made to the victim now
toiling in the shameful and unmerited uniform of crime, never till
Harry may again walk erect upon God's earth as innocent in the sight of
man as in the eyes of his Maker!


END of BOOK I.

=================================

A NOVEL WITHOUT A NAME.




BOOK II.




Chapter I.

VENICE by daylight--a city of dinginess and dirt, a cluster of densely
populated islets separated by narrow straits,--many of them at low tide
little better than saltwater ditches--squalor and discomfort, poverty
and crime, at every turn,--such is 'beautiful Venice' the pride and the
bride of the sea under the searching rays of the stern uncompromising
sun--her marble palaces, her canals and gondolas notwithstanding.
Venice by moonlight--a city transformed by Cythnia's witchery of silver
beams into an abode of almost super-terrestrial beauty, all that
offends the eye, softened by the cold, uncertain light, or concealed in
the black depths of shade in which are set the glistening marble of her
countless palaces. Then upon the dancing wavelets of her watery highway
glides the quaint, picturesque gondola, with its merry freight of
pleasure seekers; and the still air resounds with its evening burden of
laughter and now and again broken by mirth, the tinkling guitar and the
love song of the swarthy serenader. A sweet, deceptive show of beauty
making this "queen of the sea" the boast of the whole earth--a beauty
of imagination and moonbeams.

It was moonlight; and under the power of the pale-faced queen of night
the city of isles was indeed for the sweet, brief hours, 'Beautiful
Venice.' In one of the most commodious and best appointed of the
countless gondolas moving through the labyrinth of canals sat Mr. Frank
Seymour, in deep and earnest conversation with a lady, young, and, so
far as could be seen in the moonlight, extremely beautiful. Her skin
appeared to be of a rich creamy brown, touched with damask, upon the
cheeks and her eyes, which were remarkably bright, just now, matched to
a shade her raven tresses.

Two years had passed since Frank Seymour first came to Venice; and
the principal portion of that time he had resided in the city. Just
after he arrived he passed on to Rome, thence to Greece and Egypt; but
after four months aimless wandering (little of those months of travel
he could now recollect), he returned to Venice, and finding his funds
getting low he took a situation as corresponding clerk in the office of
a wealthy Venetian merchant, in whose employment he had since remained.
He was looked upon by his master as a young man of rare intelligence
and probity, but of uncertain temper. He had on several occasions
appeared subject to fits of sullenness or melancholy, the merchant
could never satisfy himself which, and gone away for a few days, no one
knew whether, but, as he always returned to business with increased
diligence his excentric conduct had on every occasion been over-looked.
Once the signor Pietro Argostino questioned him sharply upon the reason
of his abrupt desertion and his proceedings while away; but the young
Englishman's haughty replies warned the merchant, that if he valued
the services of his, by that time, almost indispensable corresponding
clerk, he must bear with his humors in silence.

Frank's proud bearing, and the general air of mystery about him had
also raised the suspicion in the merchant's mind that he was a scion
of some noble English house, abroad through disappointment in love,
or disagreement with his parents. Under the impression the worthy
Venetian viewed with satisfaction the ripening friendship between his
moody clerk and his daughter the Signorita Helena--the lady now in the
gondola with him. The gondolier was now taking them through the Canale
Grande to one of the theatres where a translation of a new French
drama was announced for performance; but, so absorbed were they in the
subject of their conversation that the ever changing scenes of beauty
around passed them unnoticed.

The broad Canale Grande (broad for a Venetian waterway) lay like a
bright ribbon of molten silver in the rays of the unclouded moon, yet
they heeded it not as their pleasure boat glided on. The magnificent
palaces and the passing boats were as little regarded as the grand
old Rialto, under whose marble arch they swept, unconscious of its
vicinity. Yet their theme was not of love. It was nothing more romantic
than a lesson in English. The mother of the Signorita Helena had been
an English lady. She died when her only daughter was about twelve years
of age; but before she died she had taught her the language of Milton
and Shakespeare as far as a child of such tender years could be taught.
Helena Argostino had not heard a word of English from the time of her
mother's death until within the last few mouths, when her father's
confidential clerk, the signor Franco Seymour, hearing her profess a
wish to resume its study, volunteered his services as tutor, an offer
the young lady gladly accepted.

Frank had been admitted by his employer into his home circle,--a small
one, consisting only of his daughter, himself and an Armenian monk,
from the monastry of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, a small islet at the
eastern extremity of the Venetian group--and gratitude to the Signor
Pietro Argostino, more than gallantry to his beautiful daughter,
prompted the generous though unsocial young man in his offer. If Frank
was a puzzle to his master, he was much more so to his fair pupil, who
made him as well as his language, a deep study. In the latter subject
she was making rapid progress, in the former none. Her incomprehensible
tutor was a sealed book to her--read him she could not. Three several
times during the present lesson he suddenly lapsed into his chronic
fits of absent-mindedness; and, after a brief silence, roused himself
by an effort to continue the subject. What was the secret cause of this
strange and discourteous mood? That there was some secret cause for
this otherwise unaccountable manner, she felt persuaded. It was but
natural that, being a woman, she should determine to ravel it out.

It was but natural that she being a woman and animated by the tender,
pitying instinct's of her sex, should be anxious to share, and thereby
lessen, whatever hidden trouble made heavy the heart of her English
friend--of her English lover, perchance, had his eyes been open to read
the artless transparency of her rapid growth of love. But no ingenious
question could she frame whereby to draw this hidden grief from him;
and she keenly felt that his but too plain indifference forbade the
hope that by sympathy she could win his confidence. She broke in upon
one of his discourteous lapses into forgetfulness by saying "England
must be a beautiful country for the Signor Franco to be so often lost
in dreams of it. Or is it the memory of some lovely English maiden that
so often holds the Signor spell-bound?"

Frank passed the thrust by with some general expression of gallantry
in reference to the beauty of the young ladies of Venice; and, to
prevent further allusion to the painful and embarrassing subject,
plunged again into the interrupted study of English irregular verbs,
and did not again lose himself in the mazes of reverie till the theatre
was reached, where he almost forgot to give the Signorita his arm in
mounting the steps. At the door they encountered the occupants of a
gondola that had the moment before reached the steps. "See, Signor
Franco," whispered Helena, "here is the Signorita Marina Sanato. I
would speak with her."

With the Signorita Marina was a Austrian count, with whom Frank
was acquainted; and, after a few minutes conversation, the little
party entered the theatre. The piece selected for representation was
certainly either considerably toned down in the translation, or was
unique among its contemporary dramatic productions in being untainted
by questionable French morality, and the Signorita Helena deeply
enjoyed the time of its performance. Two or three times during the
first act she turned with some remark to Frank, but finding that
on each occasion she roused him from a deep study, she left him
undisturbed till the end of the piece. He little knew how he could have
increased her pleasure by appearing to take an interest in it. For the
common little courtesies of picking up her fan, which she dropped,
of carrying her cloak and focusing her opera glass, she was under
obligation to the gallant Austrian count, much to her own annoyance,
and to the chagrin of his special charge the Signorita Marina, a
wealthy and withered beauty of thirty-six, who had set her heart upon
becoming an Austrian countess.

When the piece was over and while Frank and his companion were waiting
at the steps to enter their gondola, which was edged back by several
others, a sudden and violent shower of rain fell upon them, and in
a few seconds the Signorita Helena was completely drenched, as was
also every other lady at the steps. Shawls and the usual wrappers
were utterly useless; and all stood cold, wet, and shivering, waiting
to enter their gondolas, which had to come and go in regular turn to
prevent crowding and accident. The delay was fortunately not long,
and within ten minutes their boat was gliding rapidly down the Canale
Grande towards the merchant's mansion. It was midnight when they
reached home; and Helena hurried to her own apartments to change her
dripping clothes; and Frank, after enquiring after his friend and
employer who was laid up by a slight attack of gout, ordered the
gondolier to take him across to his own abode on the isle opposite,
where within the half hour he was tossing about in his usual restless
sleep.

Directly Helena had changed her clothing, she prepared to go to her
father's room, as was since his illness her nightly custom, to enquire
how he felt, and if there was anything she could do to relieve or to
make him more comfortable; but at the door she was met by the venerable
Armenian monk Father Jacops. "My daughter," said the good priest, "I
have just come from your father, who is sleeping peacefully, and who
is not so much in need of your dutiful attentions, as you are just now
of this draught and a long rest." And Father Jacops handed her a cup
in which he had compounded some stimulating medicinal mixture. He had
studied medicine before entering the church, and was supposed among his
friends to equal the most eminent physician in Venice in his knowledge
and skill in the healing craft. "You have had a dangerous wetting, and
must guard against consequences. An unattended cold, you know, is the
mother of a thousand complaints."

Assured by the white-haired priest that her father would suffer no
neglect by her absence, Helena thanked him for his attention; and,
knowing from past experience that her reverend medical attendant always
expected his physics to be taken in his presence, bravely swallowed the
unpalatable mixture, and then after receiving his blessing, retired.

A very busy day lay before Frank next morning when he reached the
warehouse, which was situated on the Canale di Giudecca, and near
the Chalet of Santa Maria della Salute. The Signor Pietro Argostino
was prevented by his gout from attending to business, and everything
devolved upon his confidential clerk. Several important foreign letters
had to be written after the morning's mail had been waded through, and
then the indefatigable clerk had to go to the Rialto and the Piazzetta
to see some Greek merchants in reference to a large consignment of
goods from the Levant. When Frank reached his lodgings after his day's
work was over, he was thoroughly exhausted; but he was often thus. Not
that he took so great an interest in the business as Signor Argostino
credited him with--he cared, or rather he thought little about
that--but while he kept his mind fully employed conscience and remorse
seemed to doze.

After dinner, which he had served at six o'clock, he dressed to go
across the Canal to see his employer upon business; but just as he
was about to leave the house a messenger entered with a letter. He
returned to his room and broke the seal. The letter caused him no small
surprise. It was from his employer offering him a quarter partnership
in the business, to be increased on a stipulated scale of time to
one-third and then to a full half. His employer said that he had
watched his conduct and ability narrowly during the time he had been
in his employ, and that he felt the utmost confidence in his integrity
and diligence. He told his clerk to think of the offer seriously,
and that on that day week they would talk the matter over. He had
intended speaking to his clerk on getting back to business, but as
there was every appearance of his being confined to his room for some
days longer, he thought it better to acquaint him with his wishes and
intentions at once.

Frank's lips curled as he recollected his once high aims. "A buyer
and seller of Oriental goods, and I once ambitious of working my way
to the proud eminence of the Woolsack!" he thought bitterly, but a
softer expression came into his restless eyes as he continued,--"It is
generous, noble of him. He is every inch a man; I can never repay such
disinterested kindness unless by declining it, which I must do! His
full partner in three years, and no penny of my money in the business.
He deserves better treatment at my hands than my profiting by his
mistaken munificence. I will see him at once and decline it." Acting
upon the high-minded decision Frank opened his desk to put away the
letter, and in doing so a loose slip of paper fluttered out and fell
upon the floor. He picked it up and read it; and then, throwing himself
into a chair, soon forgot his employer's princely offer in the dark
train of thoughts he abandoned himself to. The paper was merely the
rough copy of some impromptu ryhmes written on his way from England;
but it was the awful past they suggested that filled him with gloomy
horror.


Oh, Ocean, how I love the restless waves
That roll in sport upon thy sapphire breast,
And leap and gambol in their mirth o'er caves
In wose recesses human bones all drest
In seaweed shrouds, have unmolested rest!

Ah! gladly would I join some mould'ring heap
Of bleaching skeleton's for peace in quest,
In the forgetfullness I then might sleep
Upon thy silent bed unnumbered fathoms deep.


But tell me Ocean! Do they ever dream
Who slumber on thy coral-fretted bed?
Have their encrystal'd eyes a vacant gleam?
Or in their fleshless skulls are visions bred?

I, fain would sound thy utmost depths, but dread
Lest busy Conscience still my rest should break;
For see my hands with guiltless blood are red?
Wert thou to lave my hands until they make
Thy sapphire waves to blush these stains thou couldst not take.


"For, see, my hands with guiltless blood are red"--it was in vain
that during these long, interminable months he had striven to soothe
his conscience into the belief that his victim had come by his death
through accident. Remorse would retort that had he not been lying in
ambush with murderous intent the accident could not have occurred.
Another torture he had hourly endured since the first sense of relief
at saving his penal substitute's life had worn off, was that the
punishment for his own crime or accident was being borne by another.
It mattered not that the man unjustly wearing his chains was his
hated and successful rival. Conscience would allow no distinction.
It was criminal, cruel, cowardly to shuffle the consequence of his
own act upon another--any other. He knew that never while this gross,
this hellish injustice continued, could he hope for happiness or peace
again; yet--strange perverseness of human nature--he had no thought
or intention of freeing his scapegoat by taking his well-merited
penalty upon his own head. It was not so much the actual punishment
that withheld him, as the crushing weight of scorn and shame society
must cast upon him for his pitiful cowardice in allowing another
man to suffer for him so long. He felt that he could gladly welcome
death even as a happy release from the stings of remorse, could he
thereby free his rival, and still keep his own secret from the world.
Presently, rousing himself by a strong effort from his dark reverie,
he took up his cloak and hastened to visit his generous employer. "No!
I must certainly refuse to enrich myself by his noble but mistaken
munificence!" he murmured as he buttoned up his English great coat to
his chin, and took his cloak upon his arm, "Of what value can money
be to such as me, fated to taste of earth nothing but it's ashes and
bitterness."

The Armenian monk received him; and informed him that during the day
the Signor Pietro Argostino had appeared much worse; but that he had
just sunk into a quiet doze, and must not be disturbed.

"I am deeply grieved to hear it!" replied the clerk. "You do not
apprehend any danger I trust."

The good monk saw no danger yet; but he had felt the case serious
enough to summon a physician, who was of the same opinion as himself
that much care and watchfulness was needed; but that the symptoms did
not yet warrant much uneasiness.

"And the Signorita Helena? She has received no harm from her last
night's wetting, I hope."

"I think not! I gave her something last night to wade it off; and she
appears to have escaped unhurt. As you are prevented from seeing her
father, she bade me ask you to go to her sitting-room and read Byron
with her, if you can spare the time. You seem to have made the study of
your language a very pleasant thing to her Signor. Are you aware of the
wrong you are doing her?"

Frank stepped haughtily back, and cast an angry and enquiring glance
upon the calm features of the old priest. "The wrong I am doing her?
Please explain your meaning, Father Jacops. You speak in enigmas."

"Nay, my son put by your anger; and forgive me if my words appear to
you impertinent," said the monk gently. "I have known the Signorita
from an infant and have grown to feel a father's love for her. You
cannot then be surprised at my evincing so much interest in her future."

"Certainly not!" assented Frank, considerably puzzled at the priest's
earnestness. "But I cannot see in what way I am likely to influence."

"Your answer confirms a part of my suspicions, signor. Come into my
study for a few minutes. I want a little conversation with you."

The priest spoke with a quiet, gentle firmness; and Frank, more and
more puzzled--silently followed him along a corridor to his own private
cell or study. Frank had never yet been admitted into this sanctum
before; but he was too much interested in the coming conversation to
observe more than the chair he was motioned to, and the unruffled face
of the priest. As soon as they were seated Father Jacops continued; "I
had a long conversation with the Signor Pietro Argostino yesterday--the
subject your admission into his business as partner."

"Indeed!" returned Frank haughtily, it being upon his tongue to ask by
what right the priest had presumed to canvas his private business. The
severe, mental torture he had endured in secret so long had made Frank
singularly short tempered and harsh. "The signor asked my opinion of
your character and worth," continued the monk, and then paused.

Frank frowned, but did not reply.

"And told me of his intention to take you into partnership at once, if
you would accept his offer. I advised him not to do so."

"I received my generous benefactor's letter this evening!" said Frank,
rising, "and I came here to decline his princely offer with grateful
thanks. So you perceive your kind interference was wholly uncalled for."

"Nay my son, sit down again," said the priest gently, not appearing to
notice Frank's biting irony. "Is it not your country who never gives
a verdict till both sides of the case are heard? Hear my reasons for
advising the signor as I did, before you form your judgment upon my
doing so."

Frank resumed his seat in angry silence.

"You do not love the Signorita Helena."

Frank's temper was all but beyond his control in a moment. "Have a
care, priest, not to trust too much to the protection of your office or
your grey hairs!" he exclaimed fiercely. "Did you oppose my supposed
interests from fear lest I should win the Signorita, and in process of
time become master here? Was it that you were apprehensive that this
comfortable asylum might be endangered by my becoming your host? If so,
is my word that I shall decline the offer not sufficient to allay your
fear?"

"Is this unseemly exhibition of temper an example of how Englishmen
hear evidence?" asked the unruffled priest, with just a touch of scorn
in his voice. "Listen. Though your temper is fiery and often unjust, I
know that your honor is above suspicion; and I am about to confide a
secret to your sacred keeping--Upon your everlasting soul be the infamy
if you divulge it! I have discovered from close observation that the
Signorita Helena is no more to you than any casual friend. I have found
also that, unhappily, you are the sunshine of earth to her."

Frank's uncertain temper was calmed in an instant. "Impossible! I can
be no more to the Signorita than she is to me, a friend."

"It is unfortunately but too possible!" replied the priest gravely. "I
do not believe she is herself yet fully aware of it. That she feels
happier in your company than in your absence, she undoubtedly knows;
but that she regards you in the light of a possible lover I doubt. In
time the truth must reveal itself; and, think, how terrible a fate it
is for a true woman to find that she has unconsciously given her heart
where it is neither valued nor desired! Can you wonder, then, that on
discovering that the seeds of this fatal passion had sown themselves in
her heart that I should counsel not only that the projected partnership
scheme be abandoned, but that you should be at once dismissed!"

"You did right! You did right!" replied Frank in emotion.

"Of course I could not give him any secret reason; and the Signor only
laughed at what he called my absurd national prejudice. But I had
studied your character, my son; and I relied upon your high sense of
honor to preserve a faithful and loving, too-loving friend from this
future trouble."

Frank sat for a few moments silent, and then, rising, said, "You acted
wisely, Father Jacops. I have now a twofold reason for leaving Venice."

"My son, I honor you so much as a man, and I feel so keen an interest
in the happiness of the Signorita, that had you loved her, I would have
hailed your union with pleasure, even though you do not yet belong to
Mother Church. But I know of no position more unfortunate than that of
a woman wedded to a husband, whose heart she has failed to win!"

"She has no idea of your suspicions?"

"Not a hint!"

"Never let her have. I most sincerely hope you are mistaken; but, be
that as it may, I will leave Venice at once."

"And the blessing of the Madonna follow you, my son! For some little
time the Signorita must certainly suffer from your absence, which
will, no doubt, reveal to her the true state of her heart; but she is
naturally religiously inclined, and will take the pain as a hint from
heaven that her chief care must be looking upward. I have no fear for
her future now that you comprehend the delicate situation!"

Frank held his hand to the good priest. "I thank you father Jacops!
Make some excuse for my not seeing her this evening. When I have
arranged to leave the city I will call and bid her farewell!"

"Nay, my son, you would do more harm than good by acting with such
injudicious abruptness in breaking off your intercourse with her! Go
to her as she desires; and amuse and instruct her by your English
readings. Perhaps it may be as well for you to assure yourself of the
truth of my discovery."

"How can I possibly do that without betraying your secret?"

"Easily enough. Tell her of your intended return to England--of course
you need not tell her your motive--and note the effects of your words
upon her features. Her tongue will give you no sign!"

In a few minutes Frank was with the Signorita, and more industrious
than ever in the exclusive interest he appeared to take in 'Childe
Harold's' grand description of Venice; but the while he was narrowly
watching the ever-varying expressions upon his beautiful companion's
mobile face. He found nothing there that could warrant him in believing
that she felt for him more than a warm, eager friendship. Presently
he closed the book, and began a conversation upon the many countries
visited by the proud and melancholy hero of Byron's sublime poem; and
in speaking of the classic beauty of the poet's description of Greece,
he told her of his recently formed plan of visiting that country of
ancient heroes. The glance of startled terror, the momentary blanching
of her cheek, and the tone of constrained indifference with which she
replied, "Indeed! Are you tired then of Venice?" told their own tale;
and confirmed the monk's suspicions.

Frank left the merchant's house that night determined to leave the
island city as soon as possible. He would, he arranged with himself,
give the merchant notice next day to find another corresponding clerk
to take his place, and then he would move eastward. "Poor little
thing!" he said as he gained his own door after half an hour spent upon
the canale. "Poor little thing! If I had had a heart for loving, I
might have wooed her in vain for a lifetime. 'Tis well for her the old
priest is so linx-eyed."

The Signorita sat for some time after her father's English clerk left
her buried in thought; and then she rose to go to her father's bedside
to learn how he was before retiring for the night. The mention of the
clerk's approaching departure had opened her eyes to the state of her
own feelings. Not till now that he was going, had she guessed even
how dear he had grown to her. She found Father Jacops in her father's
bedroom; and for the first time in her recollection she blushed at
and shrank from his steady and searching gaze. "Ah, I was right in
my conclusions!" he thought. "The wound is deep. It had better be
probed at once. It will heal the sooner then." After seeing that her
father was as comfortable as he could be under the circumstances, and
bidding him good-night, Helena turned to the good priest to receive
his blessing. "My child," he whispered too low for her father to hear
him. "Wait up in your sitting-room for a few minutes. I want to speak
with you as soon as I can leave the signor." He laid his hands upon
the young girl's head, and gave her his usual nightly benediction; and
then Helena hurried to her own apartment depressed in spirit and sick
at heart, her thoughts still running upon the intimated departure of
the signor Franco. She had not waited long in her sitting-room when she
was joined by father Jacops, who gazed upon her with mournful eyes as
he took a seat by her side. "My child," he began bluntly, thinking it
wisest to probe the wound to the very bottom at once. "My child, you
love the signor Franco!"

The Signorita glanced at him with a frightened look, and then burst
into tears. She had herself but made the discovery half an hour ago;
and yet the holy man before her, who gazed upon her as if he was
reading her most secret thoughts, already had learned it. She wept, and
was silent.

"And the signor only rewards you as a friend. Is it not better, my
child, to look the truth full in the face?"

"Yes! Yes!" she sobbed hysterically.

"This world is full of hard trials, my daughter, full of trials made
bitter by the hand of the Blessed Virgin to wean us from earth and lead
us to Heaven. Which would be the greater gain--the signor's love or the
smile of approbation Holy Mary will beam upon you, if you suffer her
chastening patiently?"

"But he is going away! I shall never see him again!" she cried wearily.

"Nay, my daughter, look your trial full in the face, and tell me--which
would be the greater gain, the approbating of the Holy Mother or
the love of this Englishman? You cannot have both; and in her mercy
the Madonna has taken from you the lesser one. Is it not so, my
daughter--the one of lesser worth? It will be hard to think so for a
time. But, tell me, has she not left you the better part?"

Helena hid her face in her hands, and whispered almost inaudibly "Yes!
Yes! father Jacops, heaven is worth the most!"

"Now go to your room, my child, and pray to the Madonna and Saint
Theresa to guide you safely through this sorrow; and then spend
to-morrow in reading the lines of some of the early martyrs. You will
feel more reconciled when you see how small and trifling is your
trouble compared with the fiery trials they reached heaven through."
Father Jacops left the room as he spoke, judging it better the
Signorita should be alone; and after a few minutes the young girl rose
and walked firmly to her bedroom, her eyes brightened by the religious
enthusiasm the priest's words had kindled in her breast. What greater
proof could she have of the Holy Mother's special and personal interest
in herself than this bitter sorrow that had been sent to teach her to
think less of this world and more of the world above? She would prove
herself worthy of the chastisement laid upon her. She would renounce
everything for heaven. Let her love for the noble Englishman--her
mother's countryman--burn in her heart, none should see her flince,
none should know of its existence save the holy father whose vigilant
care had first discovered it! She flung herself upon her knees before
the crucifix by the foot of her bed, and kept to the full count of her
beads praying with a fervor and earnestness her previous devotions had
been strangers to.

Frank returned from the warehouse on the following afternoon with his
intentions to quit Venice, strengthened by reflection. When he reached
his lodgings he was surprised to find Father Jacops awaiting him there.
"My son, do not tarry to go into your rooms," said the priest with
suppressed emotion. "Our excellent friend the signor Argostino is in
extreme danger, and if you would see him alive we must hurry!"

The unexpected intelligence was so awful that Frank staggered back, and
was several seconds before he could speak. "What!" he grasped, "dying?"

"Yes! He broke a blood vessel and the haemorrhage is internal. He is
slowly but surely bleeding to death," replied the priest sadly.

Without further speech they entered the gondola and were in a very few
minutes at the bedside of the dying man.

The signor Pietro Argostino was so very faint, and weak from excessive
loss of blood that it was with difficulty he could make himself heard.
He spoke so low that at first Frank could not distinguish his words,
though he was leaning anxiously over the dying man's bed. "He says, you
are to fetch his will, Signor Albertis," said the Signor Marco Gorti,
the physician Father Jacops had called in.

Signor Albertis, the lawyer, brought the will sealed up in a packet,
and, following the direction of the dying man's eyes, placed it in
Frank's hands. Frank saw the old man's lips move, and he leaned close
down to catch the faintly spoken words, "Swear by your faith in God
that you will obey my last wishes religiously and to the letter!" he
said with a great effort.

"I swear by my God and this Book!" replied Frank fervently taking up an
Italian Mass Book, not pausing to learn what was the aim and purpose of
the will.

"Then I die content! Father Jacops, I am ready for the last rites of
Mother Church. Thank God, and the blessed Mary, I am prepared."

At a signal from the priest, Frank bade his generous master a mournful
farewell, and then stepped from the room. As he was passing the
threshold the priest whispered, "Helena went to visit the Signorita
Marina Sanato this morning, before this terrible catastrophe occurred.
Will you go for her at once; and break the sad news to her as gently as
you can on the way. I have been unable to send for her earlier."

Frank departed for the Signorita Helena with a heavy heart. His
conversation with the priest the evening before had caused him to
think of the beautiful Venetian with much deeper interest than he had
hitherto regarded her with. Her father's munificent generosity to
himself too had knit the bonds of friendship the closer; and Frank
shrank from the painful task before him. It had to be performed
however; and stepping into the gondola waiting before the mansion, he
threw himself upon the cushioned seats and ordered the gondolier to
take him to the Riva delgi Schiavoni.




Chapter II.

AUNT LETITIA, as Annabel Milton (late Mabel Wilton) called her, still
lived at Woodbine Cottage, although it was more than two years since
her darling niece, Polly Seymour, died, and her incomprehensible nephew
went abroad. Annabel (on no account would she allow herself to be
called by her proper name until her father should become reconciled)
Annabel had remained with her adopted aunt ever since the mournful
meeting in the churchyard--her father had never during the two years
written or shown any sign of relenting. He returned to the Park after
spending six months in Germany; and he had lived there ever since. He
lived in great seclusion, seldom going beyond the precincts of his
own grounds, and he principally occupied himself by attending to his
tenants, and the improvement of his estate. But the stern old man in
his sullen pride was miserable. Sorely he missed the gentle voice and
dutiful little attentions of his beautiful daughter; but he hugged the
thought that she had wilfully forfeited all right to his love; and that
much as she suffered from his anger, he suffered also. His heart had
long since relented, and even now yearned with an unquenchable longing
for her return; but his pitiful, obstinate pride held him back when
in his eager anxiety he would have written to her. He knew Mabel's
address. Mrs. Merville, the lodge-keeper, had taken care to inform him
of that, though she had not acquainted him with the fact of Mabel's
having escaped the drudgery of earning her own living. She had, with
the view of exciting the father's compassion, led him to believe that
Mabel was earning a scanty maintenance by outdoor music lessons.

Annabel and her old friend were at breakfast, and talking at a rapid
rate, and with much excitement of the incident that the day chanced to
be the anniversary of----Frank's dip into the Serpentine and Harry's
heroism in rescuing him. "Rat! Tat!" The interruption caused them both
to glance up with eager expectancy as Nancy stepped to the door.

"Two letters!" cried Annabel, as Nancy returned with them. "Surely one
is for me!"

Fate was for the once impartial; and there was a letter for each of the
ladies. One bore a foreign postmark; the other was from Essex. "One for
me from my poor boy; the other is for you, Annabel. If I may guess, it
is Fanny Fenton's handwriting in the address." Miss Vaughan's guess was
correct; but without waiting to ascertain that fact, she dived at once
into her own.

Frank wrote to decline with grateful thanks her repeatedly rejected
offer of pecuniary help. He was very comfortable in his present
position; and was earning more than sufficient for his own immediate
necessity. He proposed staying in Venice for another year, and then
returning to England to continue his interrupted legal studies.

"Frank's coming home next year, Annabel!"

Receiving no reply Miss Vaughan glanced up, and found Mabel (or Annabel
rather) in tears. "Why, my child, what is the matter?" the kind-hearted
old lady enquired anxiously.

Without replying Annabel handed her letter across the table. It was
from Fanny, and was full of sad tidings. Mr. Wilton had been seriously
injured by his horse falling with him on the road near Elmgrove Hall;
and he was now living at the Hall unable to move. The doctors were
not apprehensive of any fatal results from the accident, but they
peremptorily refused to allow him to be removed to his own residence,
as he evidently wished. Fanny was nursing Mr. Wilton herself. For
Mabel's sake, said the letter, she would not leave him to the care of
a hired nurse. Fanny suggested Mabel's instant visit to the Hall. If
she would telegraph by what train she would reach Dunmow, Fanny would
meet her with the carriage. A postscript gave one drop of sweet to the
bitter news--Harry was well. Ensign Graham was away visiting a friend
in the vicinity of Portland; and he had gone to see Harry; he had just
written to Mr. Fenton, enclosing a letter from the convict son.

"I can go by the 11 o'clock train, auntie. I will go and telegraph to
Fanny at once," said Annabel, when glanced up and returned the letter.

"You are right, my child. It is clearly your duty to go at once. It
is possible your papa's accident may be the means of bringing about a
reconciliation. I will go to Torquay for a week or two while you are
away. Rachel is very anxious I should go and see her before she goes to
Ireton."

"I wish you could go with me, auntie!"

"As soon as your papa is well enough to remove to the Park, I will go
down, if you are reconciled by then and can invite me Annabel," replied
the old lady. "I shall feel too lonely and unsettled to stay here
without you till Frank comes back."

"Poor papa! I hope he is not in much pain!" said Mabel, tears gathering
in her eyes. "I wonder whether he ever thinks of me! Isn't it kind of
Fanny to take so much care of him? I am so glad he is at the hall. He
may get reconciled to old Mr. Fenton now through Fanny's kindness to
him in his sickness."

Aunt Letitia shared Annabel's sentiments, and she declared it a lucky
event that the accident had happened--"I mean if your papa isn't much
hurt!" she added in explanation, as she caught Annabel's glance of
surprise.

It was thus arranged for Annabel to go down to Elmgrove Hall to
nurse her father in his accident; and when the 11 o'clock train for
Chelmsford moved away from the platform next morning she was safe
aboard. At the Dunmow station she found her friend Fanny Fenton
awaiting her. "Your papa is better, the doctor says," declared Fanny
as they embraced, "But he cannot leave his bed yet. You musn't get
frightened, Mabel. There is no danger. He has had a severe shock to the
system, but a few weeks rest will make himself well again."

"Does he expect me, Fanny?" Mabel asked anxiously.

"No. Papa thought it would be better for you to come before he knew
that we had sent for you."

"Is he in much pain?" Mabel next asked; her eyes filling with tears as
she pictured to herself her loved father tortured by the terrible fall
he had had.

"I am afraid he suffers very much, Mabel; but it is a blessing it is no
worse. Papa says it is a miracle the horse did not roll over him, and
crush him to death. He owes his escape to a merciful providence."

Little more was said during their long drive to the Hall, Mabel's
thoughts being occupied with the sufferings of her father, and Fanny's
in wondering whether the accident would be likely to reconcile Mr.
Wilton with Mabel, and heal the breach of friendship between the two
families.

Mr. Wilton was asleep when Mabel arrived; and although the anxious
daughter wanted to hurry to him at once, Mrs. Fenton insisted upon her
having a cup of tea before she was introduced to the sickroom. "Do not
alarm yourself, my dear," she said kindly. "Dr. Kerr says there is no
danger whatever. He received a severe shock to his nervous system by
the fall; but quiet and complete rest will soon restore him to his
former state of health."

Twenty minutes later Mabel was in her father's room, and receiving
directions from Fanny with reference to the medicine to be given.
"Mind, Mabel, I do not intend to altogether relinquish my position as
nurse," Fanny whispered. "We will share it between us."

In about an hour Mr. Wilton woke. Fanny had left the room; and Mabel
was sitting by the bedside. "What! Mabel! You here?" he exclaimed in a
weak voice. Was he pleased or angry at her presence? Mabel did not wait
to think. With a cry of joy she sprang forward, and knelt at his side,
her arms about his neck, and her lips upon his temples.




Chapter III.

SIR TOBY CADMAN and his friend Turnbul were walking through a meadow
near Chelmsford, taking in fact a short cut from a neighbouring
squire's mansion (at which they had been spending the previous night
drinking) to the 'Crown and Anchor' (at which they had agreed to spend
the coming night--probably in a similar manner). They were neither of
them intoxicated, though treading close upon the line of demarcation
between ebriety and sobriety. As they were sauntering leisurely along
discussing the superior quality of the 'Crown and Anchor's' brandy,
a gentleman chancing to pass in the opposite direction met them, and
spoke before Sir Toby noticed his approach. Turnbul had observed him,
but for some reason neglected to say so, and the first intimation Sir
Toby had of his presence was the touch of the gentleman's hand upon his
shoulder. "Glad I met you, Sir Toby! There's that two fifty you lost on
the last Ledger not paid yet! I would feel obliged if you could favor
me with it at once. It is not often gentlemen allow debts of honor to
stand so long!"

Sir Toby glanced up in horrified surprise. The very man he had so
carefully avoided, here before him. "I--I--I really haven't the money,
Captain Waters," he stammered. "I told you on Friday I haven't an
acre or a guinea left me. Those infernal Jews have jewed me out of
everything."

"The Jews be d----!" exclaimed the captain savagely. "I tell you what
it is, Sir Toby! You will either have to pay this money, or fight me!
By Jupiter, I will have some satisfaction out of you! Jews indeed! Why,
everyone knows it's the brandy still and not the usurer's safe that has
swallowed up your fortune. You are a noted swindler, Sir Toby, a noted
swindler--take it as you like!"

Turnbul's eyes fairly glistened with delight as the prospect of a bit
of diversion. "Bedad, Sir Toby, you'll have to fight him now! There's
not a hole to creep out of!" and turning to the irate captain he added
"I'm Sir Toby's friend, yer honor. Your friend may meet me at the
'Crown and Anchor' any hour of the twenty-four between now and twelve
o'clock. It's more than likely that I'll be too drunk after then!"

Sir Toby did not want to fight, and said so with the energy of fear.
Cowardice was a large element in his base nature. But give him time
and he would pay the debt a dozen times over, he declared wildly; and
finally promised to have the money forthcoming on the morrow at noon.
Turnbul, who was anxious for the excitement of the duel, and certain
that Sir Toby could not possibly raise the money, made no objection,
feeling sure that if the captain was not paid the duel was inevitable.
Bowing, the captain replied. "Very well, Sir Toby, we will leave the
settling till then. I will meet you in the Essex Bank in James-street
at twelve to-morrow. Recollect, gold or lead," with which significant
threat he strode on.

"Where the devil's the money to come from, Sir Toby?" asked Turnbul
with a sneer. "There are no more Jews to trust you with that sum
without better security than you can give."

Sir Toby did not answer for a few minutes, and then looking up he said,
"Come, Turnbul, I'll let you into a secret--you know that old hag, Mad
Esther, who's always dogging my steps, I shall borrow the money off
her."

"Faix, an' she's mad enough if she'll trust your honor with a guinea,
barring the big sum you're after wanting!"

Sir Toby laughed. "She'd lend me her bank book if I asked for it," he
boasted. "I've promised to marry the old fool, and she's green enough
to believe me. She calls me her dear John, and swears all she's got is
mine."

"She'll find you dear enough, I expect, if she don't soon cut your
acquaintance."

Ten minutes walk brought them to the establishment of Mr. Barnabus
Scott. A couple of Turnbul's friends being seated upon the bench under
the elm in the front of the house, he joined them; and Sir Toby passed
on to the bar to attempt a conquest of the light-hearted Ruth. She
was busy dusting the shelves as he reached the door, and singing. He
halted at the threshold and listened to the simple air as she sang in a
pleasant clear voice this piece of sentimental nonsense:--


All meaner passions spurning,
That maiden's breast may move,
My lonely heart is yearning
For sympathy and love.

Naught less than love may still the
Wild beating of my heart.
With sweet contentment fill me,
Or soothing peace impart.

But there is none to love me
In all the world not one!
And by the stars above me,
I would my life was done!


"Hollo!" muttered Sir Toby as Ruth paused in her singing to reach down
a decanter from a high shelf. "She wants to be loved, does she! Well
I'm just in the key to humour her if she's not too particular in the
matter of church preliminaries. She's in the melting mood now, so now
is the time, to begin the siege, and my name's not Sir Toby, if I don't
have her at my own price before she's a day older. Let me see, there's
nothing like poetry to reach the heart of a sentimental girl in her
teens; so I will begin the assault by treating her to a verse of the
rhymes Turnbul recites." Having come to this determination, Sir Toby
strutted into the bar, and dropping gallantly upon one knee, before the
astonished Ruth, seized her hands, and recited with much energy and
melodramatic effect:--


"O, wouldn't the goddess of music rejoice
Could she only exchange her white harp for thy voice!
But as Cupid would just as soon part with his quiver
Of love-poisoned darts as the ecstatic pleasure
Of hearing the sing, he forbids thee to give her
On any pretence that rare, exquisite treasure.
And now the poor goddess, all sullen and lone,
Sits wistfully noting its richness and tone,--
All hopelessly wishing the treasure her own.


"Really, Sir Toby," said Ruth as soon as the amorous knight had
delivered himself of the silly rhymes, "it's a pity there isn't a
looking glass here for you to see what a ridiculous figure you make! If
you want father I'll call him."

"What else, my pigeon can I want when I have you by my side?" Sir Toby
replied reproachfully. "Don't disturb your father for me. It is you,
sweet girl, I have come to see. The witchery of your peerless beauty
has inthralled, ensnared, captivated me; and here I kneel your faithful
and devoted slave!"

The scene was so utterly absurd that Ruth burst into an irreverent
fit of laughter, and tried to wrench her hands from Sir Toby's grasp.
"Really, Sir Toby," she said, as soon as she had overcome her merriment
sufficiently to speak, "if you don't jump up at once, somebody may come
in, and they'll think you've had a bottle too many this morning. Let me
go at once. I'm too busy this morning to waste time here fooling with
you!"

Sir Toby was neither discomfited nor abashed by his reception. Still
retaining her hand in his he returned to the attack. "What, my lovely
Ruth, have you no one to love you? Does your gentle heart seek in vain
for the tender sympathy of love? Ah, my peerless charmer, you are far
richer than your wildest dreams ever aspired to; for here a loyal
gentleman humbly prostrates himself before your dainty feet, and vows
eternal love. Come to my arms, my bright bird, and lets me now seal our
bliss upon your rosebud lips!"

"Well, I'm sure! What imprudence," exclaimed Ruth, hardly knowing
whether the blear-eyed young sot was in jest or earnest. "Seal your
bliss upon my lips indeed! I declare I would rather be kissed by a
monkey! Let me go this instant: or I'll call father."

Sir Toby rose to his feet, still holding Ruth's hand. He did not feel
at all flattered by her preference for the monkey. He felt himself
superior at all events to that; and he half felt inclined to tell her
so. However he generously over-looked the offence, and replied in
an insinuating tone, "What, my pretty bird, you set up for a prude,
do you? Well, now you are at my mercy, and so you had better be
reasonable. You have just committed wilful perjury; and if you are not
kind I will indict you at the court of angry Cupid. Didn't you just
sing:--


'But there is none to love me,
In all the earth not one!'


"Yes! It was part of the song. What about it?" said Ruth, debating at
the moment whether to call her father, or to listen to the inane folly
of the young knight.

"There! Your own tongue convicts you; for in me you have a true and
devoted lover. Now, hear the sentence of offended Cupid--you are to
sing that song again, while I beat time upon your scarlet lips with
kisses!" He tries to kiss her, but she resists. "Still! While I give
the blissful cue to start!"

Sir Toby tries to kiss Ruth: but she struggles and breaks free,
exclaiming "You cowardly villain! is no girl safe from your insults!
You want a kiss well then, take this instead, and this, and this, and
this!" and snatching up some tumblers from the counter she pelted Sir
Toby with them with so much energy that the amorous youth had some
ado to evade her aim and shield his head. The landlord chanced at the
moment to be crossing the next room; and hearing the crash of breaking
glass, he rushed into the bar, and was met at the door by Turnbul
and the loiterers from under the elm, who were also attracted by the
disturbance. Mr. Barnabas Scott's usually genial smile vanished at the
first glance at the wreckage, and his capacious mouth closed like a
prison gate. "What have you done, girl!" he exclaimed in consternation.
"A half dozen of my best cut-glass tumblers, and not a week in the
house!"

Sir Toby looked round on the enquiring faces, and felt that an
explanation was necessary; and straightening himself he turned to the
landlord busy gathering up the fragments. "My dear sir," he began in a
sympathizing voice, "by a truly calamitious and totally inexplicable
disaster the oscillating waiter upon which your interesting daughter
was bearing these chrystal and amiable goblets, suddenly lost its
equilibrium; and the inevitable consequence ensued that, being
unavoidably abandoned to their own resources; and being irresistibly
influenced by gravitation and atmospheric pressure; and being,
moreover, wholly unaccustomed to rely upon themselves for support, in
reckless desperation they precipitated themselves upon the bosom of the
earth, which extended so rough a welcome that they were instantaneously
annihilated--in a word, smashed!"

"Bravo, Sir Toby! Where the devil did you find that mouthful of
crackjaws!" said one of the pothouse politicians who had just been
enacting the stump orator under the elm in front!

"By George, any one'd think, Sir Toby had been swallerin' a
dictionary!" exclaimed another.

"Well, I never!" said Ruth under her breath. "His impudence is really
surpassed by his talent for lying! Surely he has no equal unless it be
old Clovenfoot himself!"

"Oh, Ruth!" whined the landlord, "your clumsiness will drive me mad
some of these days!"

Sir Toby generously attempted to console Mr. Barnabas Scott. "Be a
philosopher, man! Be a philosopher!" he said, slapping him upon the
back. "And then misfortune's utmost rage shall fall as lightly on your
head, as bullets on a drowsy alligator! How's trade?"

"Slack, Sir Toby! Slack!" replied the landlord. "I hope you will excuse
me, Sir Toby, I've my brewer's account to meet to-morrow; and I hope
you will settle your score now? You promised to pay it this afternoon;
and it's been standing a long time now?"

"Certainly, Beerbarrel! Certainly! Here is a cheque for five guineas.
You can give me the change--thirty shillings I think." Sir Toby drew
the cheque from his otherwise empty purse, and handed it to the
publican. There being no further excitement in store Turnbul and his
friends returned to the elm.

"Esther Hazelden! This is one of Mad Esther's cheques, father," said
Ruth, who had taken the paper from her father's hand. Sir Toby started,
and for a moment appeared confused, an occurance that did not escape
Ruth's observation.

"It's as good as a Bank of England five pound note, if its her's," said
Mr. Scott counting out the change to Sir Toby. "Thanks Sir Toby! I hope
you didn't think me in much of a hurry; but the brewer's bill must be
met to the day!"

"Don't mention it, My dear sir? Business and friendship musn't clash.
I'm going into the parlor. Call Turnbul: and then bring us brandy and a
pack of cards," said Sir Toby, pocketing the change. In passing Ruth,
Sir Toby gave her a knowing wink, but the offended girl scornfully
turned her back upon him.

In a few minutes Sir Toby and his inseparable companion Turnbul and a
couple of the latter's friends were seated at a table in the private
parlour, consuming the first bottle and playing their first game of
whist.

"Want to kiss me, indeed!" exclaimed Ruth as soon as she was alone.
"Want to kiss me, indeed the conceited puppy! O, I wish I was a man
for about five minutes! I'd horsewhip him within an inch of his life!
But I will be even with him! He boasted the other night among a lot of
villains no better than himself that he can do what he likes with Miss
Mabel Wilton of the Park, when at the same time I know he never spoke
to her in his life. I believe Ensign Graham is in love with her; and
I'll tell him of his boast. He'll teach the mean scoundrel with his
sword how to respect a girl's name for the future. Want to kiss me,
indeed! I'd just like to catch him at it!"

Sir Toby felt so uneasy about the expected challenge from Captain
Waters that he rose from the table at the end of the first game; and
for the first time in his life successfully resisted the persuasions of
his boon companions. He hurried away to pay a visit to Mad Esther, with
the view of borrowing the money from her to save him from the duel.

Mad Esther had a few days before taken a little stray urchin from the
workhouse to train her as maid-in-waiting upon herself. Sophy as the
arab was called, was a ragged, untidy, bright-eyed girl of ten, and as
full of life and mischief as a kitten. A few days in Mad Esther's house
had improved her appearance in the matter of dress and cleanliness; but
her wild, high spirits were as unsubdued as ever.

On this afternoon Mad Esther was sitting in her parlor, letter writing.
Since meeting the supposed John Farleigh, a decided improvement in her
appearance had taken place. Her green and yellow ribbons, and other
outward signs of desolate grief had been discarded! She was now dressed
with much taste, with the simple exception that her toilet was more
appropriate for a girl of eighteen than a woman of her mature age. But
then Mad Esther was always eighteen, which accounted for it. Her mind,
too, seemed clearer. Excepting the peculiar illusion under which she
labored, she seemed sane enough, and now as she occasionally spoke
her thoughts aloud as she wrote, a stranger would have taken her for
a simple-minded--very simple-minded perhaps--old maid, instead of an
incurable monomaniac. When she had finished her letter she sat silent
for some seconds as if busy thinking, and then she said aloud, but to
herself, "I wish now I had taken advantage of Leap Year's privelege! I
was on the point of doing so, half a dozen times, but maidenly reserve
always restrained me. It is high time my darling John asked me to name
the day. This letter ought to bring matters to a crisis; for I have
hinted that I am likely to go into a nunnery; and if he loves me so
dearly as he professes, it will drive him to make definite arrangements
at once."

Mad Esther rose from her chair, and examined her haggard features
in the pier glass; and at the same moment Sophy, the tiny new maid,
entered, and began dusting the furniture with great apparent energy.
While her mistress was attentively observing her reflection in the
mirror, the pert little maid glanced up and said in an undertone, "Ha,
there's misses a makin' love to herself in the glass again!"

Mad Esther, quite unconscious of being the subject of observation,
smoothed back her thin, grey tresses, saying in a satisfied voice, "I
was always the belle of every party and ball. How beautifully clear my
eyes are, and what a golden gleam runs through my hair! I don't wonder
that my darling John loves me so!"

At this moment Sophy's attention was attracted by a small spider upon
one of the chairs. She knocked it off, a mischievous smile lighting her
face, "Hallo! here's a daddy-long-legs!" she said in a subdued voice,
"Misses is awful timid o' spiders--my eyes, I'll have a lark!" and she
then said aloud, putting on a well-feigned look or terror, "Please 'um,
here's a spider!"

Mad Esther in a moment forgot her good looks and thin value. "Where is
it, girl!" she asked in horror, turning hurriedly from the mirror.

"Please 'um, I don't think them 'll bite: them only stings!" asserted
Sophy, deliberately disregarding the question.

"Where is it child? Where is it?" cried Mad Esther in increasing
terror. "The horrid reptile! Where is it?"

"Please 'um, them isn't reptiles; them's insects!" coolly contended
Sophy. "Mr. Birch at the work 'us says as how them's insects; and he
ought 'er know, cos he knows everything."

Poor Mad Esther almost screamed in her fright, "Tell me at once, Sophy,
where it is! If I thought the great, ugly beast was upon me, I'd faint!"

"O, please 'um it don't matter now. It's gone," said Sophy in a
soothing tone.

"Gone where, Sophy? Where? Oh, in mercy tell me where?"

Sophy drew her little face as long as she could, and answered in a
slow, measured voice. "It's--gone--down the--back--of----"

"My neck?" shrieked Mad Esther, filling up the pause, and tearing
frantically at her stay fastenings, "O! O! O! What shall I do! What
shall I do! I shall be bitten to death! Run for a doctor, Sophy! Run
for a doctor?"

At this moment Sir Toby entered. "Hollo! What's the row about?" he
exclaimed in surprise, "Are you rehearsing the death scene in a love
and murder tragedy?"

"Oh John, John, it will be the death of me! It will be the death of
me! I shall be eaten alive!" exclaimed Mad Esther, throwing herself
hysterically into Sir Toby's arms.

"Eaten alive? The devil? What, has your little maid here been
exhibiting carnivorous instincts? Will nothing but her kind-hearted
mistress serve her for supper?"

"Oh John, I have a great, monstrous, wild spider down my back. I can
feel it crawling, Sophy saw it go down."

Sophy put on an air of innocent surprise, and exclaimed in an injured
tone, "O, please 'um, I never! I only seen it go down the back of your
chair!" and then discretely left the room. For full five minutes Sir
Toby literally roared with amusement. He sank upon a couch, and rolled
about in a fit of boisterous merriment; but presently recollecting the
object of his visit, and that the chances of his borrowing the money
would be jeopardised by hurting Mad Esther's feelings, he gradually
subsided.

"You cruel, heartless creature! You would have laughed as merrily if I
had really been eaten alive!" Mad Esther exclaimed pettishly, as soon
as she could hear herself speak; and she continued reproachfully, "But
there was a time, John, when you loved me too tenderly to laugh at me
like this!"

Sir Toby rose from the couch; and seeing that her feelings were
ruffled, abruptly changed the conversation, and the current of her
thoughts by asking whether their bridal tour should be to Germany, and
through France to Italy. The question had the desired effect, and in
a moment the spider was forgotten; but Sir Toby had some trouble in
persuading Mad Esther to postpone naming the happy day. She thought no
necessity existed for further delay, and insisted strongly upon 'dear
John's' going for the marriage licence at once. "But my beautiful bird,
I have some business in Scotland that cannot be put off," he said in
answer to her passionate appeal, not to risk their happiness by further
waiting; "I must start by the next train; and that reminds me, darling,
I must beg of you to lend me about £300 till next week!"

Mad Esther's impression was that Scotland would be just the place to
spend their honeymoon in; and Sir Toby had some difficulty in turning
her attention from the expedience of accompanying him, and making it
their wedding trip, to the question of money. After half an hour's
flattery and hypocritical tenderness, he succeeded in obtaining
possession of her cheque for £300, which, he assured her, was to be
spent in paying off the balance of a pretty little seaside residence,
he had bought for their future summer home. "We will get the license
directly I come back; and then begins our heaven on earth!" he said
with pretended warmth, as he pressed his fastidious lips to her
wrinkled face at parting.

"Now I can square Waters, and have a clear fifty left!" he soliloquised
as he walked slowly back to the 'Crown and Anchor.' "I'm sorry I didn't
keep that cheque back, I paid old Scott. Forging's a ticklish game; and
I'll not try it again, if I can only get that first attempt back again.
Anyway, thanks to the old fool's creduality, I can give Scott the money
for it now."




Chapter IV.

THE Signor Pietro Argostino had been buried a week; and Frank Seymour
was still at the warehouse. The will of his late employer had expressly
urged that whether the Englishman would agree to accept the terms of
the bequest it contained or not, he should remain in possession of the
business for one year, in the interest of the Signorita Helena. The
terms of the will had caused considerable surprise and comment among
the late merchant's acquaintances, who began to look upon the proud
and taciturn young foreigner as a successful adventurer. A one half
share in the merchant's business was left unconditionally to Frank; the
other, together with his landed estate and personal effects, to the
Signorita; Frank and she were left sole legatees, and executors. One
clause of the will had caused Frank much embarrassment. It hinted at
the probability of a marriage taking place between the two legatees;
and expressed a wish that in the event, the young people would continue
to make Venice their home.

Frank had finished the business of the day, and was sitting in the
office alone, thinking of his late master's strange will, and puzzling
himself with scheme after scheme, for obeying the wishes therein
expressed without remaining in Venice. He would have his portion of
the business legally transferred to the daughter, and then if he could
not get some reliable person to manage the whole for her, sell it and
invest the proceeds on her behalf, and then quit the island city. As
he was thus planning, his eyes chanced to turn upon a portrait of the
Signorita, which the fond father had taken for the purpose of adorning
his office. Frank was struck at once with the child-like and tender
beauty of the countenance; and he sat gazing upon it silently for some
minutes. "Surely I can never have paid much attention to the looks of
the original, if this is a true likeness, often as I have seen it!" he
thought. "What a beautiful and gentle face! And she loves me too. It
is pleasant to feel that in one heart at least am I thought worthy of
love!" He rose, and left the office filled with a new idea, and walked
thoughtfully to his gondola. "Yes! I see no reason why it should not
be so!" he thought, as he took his seat. "She loves me; and I have no
doubt so much beauty and grace would soon teach me to love her too, now
that my eyes are opened. The only objection is her being so much richer
than I am. I am almost sorry I saw that portrait. My heart seems drawn
to her already!" He leaned back among the cushions of the gondola, day
dreaming, and before he had reached his lodgings, he, who had passed
unobserved the charms of the beautiful Venetian, was made captive by
the witching powers of her portrait, with which he had actually fallen
in love.

Instead of going to his lodgings, Frank ordered the gondolier to take
him to the Riva delgi Schiavoni, a favourite resort when he was in a
more than ordinary thoughtful mood. The promenade was usually crowded
of an evening; and there amid the thronging crowd of pleasure-seekers
he was, and felt as much alone, as he slowly paced the walks, as if
in a wilderness distant from the haunts of men. Here he now wandered
occupied with the strange new idea that had so completely taken
possession of his mind. He vainly strove to turn his attention to his
recently formed plans for leaving Venice. He could see nothing, think
of nothing but the gentle child-like face of the portrait in his late
master's private office. Presently, feeling rather tired of his walk,
he turned aside to rest awhile upon one of the seats that chanced to be
occupied by only one person--all of the others within sight were full.
He sank slowly upon it without observing who was his neighbour: but
he was soon roused by a hearty slap upon the shoulder, and a friendly
voice saying "Ah, Signor Franco Semiano, counting the ducats our good
friend the departed Signor Argostino left you! By the Triple Crown 'tis
a pleasant occupation!"

Frank glanced up in some surprise. "Pardon, Signor Albertis! I did not
see you till you spoke. No, I am not counting my too generous friend's
legacy. I was not even thinking of it. I intended seeing you to-morrow
in reference to it; but as I have met you here I may as well consult
with you now. Is the share in the business left to me mine absolutely?
As you drew up the will you can advise me best upon that point."

The Italian lawyer thought for a moment, and then replied slowly,
"Yes, signor, absolutely! The mention of your managing the business
personally for the first year was not a condition, only a request.
The idea of your being likely to decline the gift I thought absurd;
but the signor Argostino insisted that he knew the haughty spirit of
your nation better than I, and said he felt certain you would refuse
the legacy. If that be the mood of your English, to turn your backs on
all money not of your own earnings, all I can say is that you are more
proud than wise. Trust a Venetian to say, 'No! thank you!' to a fat
bequest."

"Well, be that as it may, Signor Albertis, I want you to draw up a deed
of gift, handing back to the Signorita Helena my share of the business."

The lawyer rose in amazement. "Surely, signor, you are not serious!"
he exclaimed, "Unless you are indeed some English nobleman in disguise
as old Father Jacops believes, you will be acting very foolishly in
throwing away this splendid chance of wealth. Pardon, my freedom,
signor! but my advice would be to marry the Signorita, if you are so
anxious for her to have the whole of her father's wealth, and make it
over to her that way."

The lawyer's suggestion coincided so closely with the previous subject
of Frank's thought, that for the moment he could not reply; and in
some confusion he turned his eyes from the keen gaze of the observant
Venetian, who gave his shoulders a knowing shrug and continued, "If you
have a finer sample of feminine beauty in England than our fair friend,
then was Pope Gregory right in calling your country Angel-land."

Frank frowned. "The Signorita is undoubtedly beautiful, Signor
Albertis, but that is beside the question. I shall most certainly give
over to her my share in the business; and as the will was drawn up in
your office, I would like the Deed of Gift to be drawn up by you also.
When can you have it ready? It need not be a long instrument. The day
after to-morrow?" The lawyer made a further effort to disuade the
incomprehensible foreigner as he termed Frank, from acting so unwisely,
but finding him growing very impatient under the advice, he ceased, and
promised to have the deed ready by the day named.

"I will call at your office to sign it then on Thursday," returned
Frank, rising--he was anxious to escape from the lawyer's officious
counsel and be alone with his thoughts again--"You will then act upon
it as her legal adviser. Remember, I will listen to no demurs on the
part of the Signorita. I shall leave Venice soon now; and I shall ever
gratefully remember her late father's kindness to me; but I cannot
accept his munificent gift. Good evening, signor!"

Before signor Albertis could reply Frank had walked away, and
his figure was disappearing in the thickening dusk. "Humph! This
incomprehensible foreigner is either mad or in love!" thought the
lawyer, as he lit another cigar. "He's a fool, either way! And now for
the charming Angiolina!" and dismissing the Englishman from his mind,
he hastened away to meet the lady whom he was ambitious of converting
into the future Signora Albertis.




Chapter V.

THE Signorita Helena was alone in her sitting room with an open letter
before her. She was seated by a window, but cast neither thought nor
glance upon the scene without. "O, Holy Mother, give me strength to
bear this grief," and she prayed, "to resist this great temptation of
my own strength. I cannot help loving him, he is so good and generous!"

Her devotional thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of her maid to
announce the lawyer Signor Albertis. Helena directed that the Signor
should be shown into the library, and then took up the open letter,
and read it through again. It was from Frank, announcing his intention
of quitting Venice immediately, and informing her of his recent action
in reference to their divided interest in her father's will. The brief
letter was concluded in the following words. "Do not for a moment think
me insensible to the noble disinterested sentiments of generosity which
prompted your honoured and lamented father to leave me this share of
his business. Words are powerless to convey my heart-felt gratitude.
A stranger in a strange land, your father offered me the hand of
friendship and brotherhood; gave me, as you know, a position of trust
in his business, and at the end offered to take me as his partner. Such
unexampled generosity has left upon my heart an impression of gratitude
that can never be effaced but with my life. You will thus see that it
is not pride which moves me to return his legacy. Reasons, which I
may not tell you, require both my leaving your beautiful city, and my
doing so without leaving any business responsibilities behind me. The
Signor Albertis holds a deed for you by which I relinquish all rights
obtained by me through your late father's will. If you can spare me
ten minutes to-morrow at noon, I will call upon you to take my leave."
The Signorita sighed as she replaced the letter in its envelope, and
thought how happy must they be whose love is returned, and how noble
and magnanimous was the generous Englishman in wishing to give back
her father's legacy. "But I will not accept it!" she mused, "I will
not take it back. Let him keep it for the English girl, that doubtless
holds his heart. He is not rich; and the money may at least serve to
smoothe the way for him to return and marry her. As for poor me, I will
endow a nunnery with my share, and take the veil." Another sigh escaped
her; and a tear or two dropped upon her clasped hands; but hastily
brushing them away, she locked up her letter and went down to meet the
lawyer.

"She looks as lovely in her sombre dress, as Venice is mourning!"
thought Signor Albertis, as she entered the library. "If Signor
Franco Semor is a fair type of an Englishman then by the Triple Crown
they're a queer people. I would like to see the Venetian who would
turn his back on the Signorita and her father's money bags!" He bowed
courteously to the beautiful subject of his thoughts and, going at once
to point in lawyer fashion, he handed her a parchment scroll, saying
as he did so. "This, Signorita, is a document from the Signor Franco
Semor, making over all his----"

"Yes! Yes! I know, Signor Albertis! I had a letter from the Signor
Franco this morning, in which he informed me of his intentions. I
refuse to take the legacy back. It was my father's hope that the Signor
Franco would accept it; and I for my part will do nothing to assist the
Signor in disregarding my father's dying wishes."

"Humph!" thought the lawyer. "Here's some twenty thousand pistoles
playing the part of shuttlecock between a couple of cupids because he
is too poor and too proud to accept money that would otherwise be hers,
and she with a woman's generous perverseness insists on his having it
even if it has to go to help him to make another woman happy!"

Helena continued in a quiet tone, a spot of crimson deepening upon her
cheek. "If he positively refuses to touch this money, I shall require
you to discover who is the lady he is likely to marry; and then to
make the money over to her. Don't spare any expense in doing so, if he
persists in rejecting the gift."

"Verily I am as good as a magician," said the lawyer, smiling, "I
was at the moment thinking that that would be your determination.
But, Signorita, has it never occurred to you that perchance it is his
love for you that makes him so perverse and unmanageable in this
business?"

Helena blushed scarlet, and for the moment found herself dumb from
confusion. Recovering herself she answered haughtily, "You are
mistaken, Signor! You have my instructions, please carry them out with
as little delay as possible."

She trembled violently despite her assumption of a sternness which was
foreign to her nature; and encountering the lawyer's penetrating gaze
she colored again and was silent. The fact was that from a momentary
embarrassment he had noticed in the Signorita on the Englishman's
entrance on the last occasion of his visit, he had drawn certain
inferences which his present question was intended to support or refute.

"Humph!" he thought as he watched the effect of his words upon her
countenance, "It is just as I said! She loves him, and, by the Triple
Crown, I am within a fraction of being convinced that it is the
proud foreigner's heart and not his head that lies in the way of his
accepting the legacy. Well! he is a good fellow; and if I can settle
matters I will! He deserves to win her, if it's for his refusing her
money," he continued aloud. "The Englishman, I believe to be poor. You
are rich; and it stands to reason that it would humiliate a generous
man to feel that he must accept half your wealth, before he could
aspire to your hand as an equal! But I must hurry on. I have urgent
business elsewhere awaiting me now. I will take charge of this Deed
of gift for you, and faithfully follow your instructions. Farewell!
May the Madonna make you her special charge!" The lawyer abruptly
quitted the room, leaving his random words to work out their own end.
He laughed as he entered the gondola, and thought "I shall have a
rare dish--of--of--of social intelligence shall I call it, to tell
my beautious Angiolina this evening. She will clap her pretty little
hands with glee when I tell her of my conspiracy to trap this couple of
purblind lovers into the matrimonial noose!"

Helena sat motionless in the library for upwards of an hour, dreaming
of the lawyer's hint. "What if he did love her all the time!" she
thought, "Father Jacops might have misjudged him--he was but a fallible
man although a priest--would it not be her duty if their love was
mutual, to marry him if he asked her to? It was but mutual that, being
poor, he should be too proud to accept the money, if he loved her as
the lawyer had hinted!" Presently she burst into tears; and rising
hurried to the bedroom; and there throwing herself before the crucifix
she gave passionate vent to her confession of having given way to the
temptation of hoping for what she so clearly felt the Holy Mother had
forbidden--was it not to try her strength that the lawyer had been
allowed to approach her with the dangerous hints!




Chapter VI.

HAD Mr. Wilton been strong enough to do so, he would have thrust
Mabel aside, when she embraced him; but he was too weak to resist her
affectionate demonstration; and his words of approach died in his
throat; if he had not even strength to ask her, as he strove to, by
what right she intruded. His displeasure with her when he detained her
in her rooms to prevent her from communicating with Harry, was mild
when compared with the weight of anger and indignation she roused in
his haughty spirit by appearing at the trial and publicly announcing
her attachment to the prisoner, and, worse, his own indefensible act in
trying to prevent her by force from giving her evidence. That he felt
could never be forgiven till forgotten. Most probably, (Torys are as
human and prone to her as even the unspeakable Whigs themselves) most
probably a sense of personal humiliation in having exposed herself to
the unsparing criticism of a vigilant and indignant press by his own
open and malignant prejudice to the prisoner when under examination,
added in no small degree to his vindictive anger to his daughter now.

But as her father was too weak to express his feelings Mabel
misconstrued the slight repelling movement of his hand into a sign of
reconciliation; and her tears, tears of joy, fell in a warm shower upon
his pale face. "Oh, papa!" she sobbed. "I am so very sorry you are
ill! So very glad you forgive me!" She could say no more, but yielding
herself to Fanny, who had remained at hand lest the joy of meeting
should be too great for her, she was quietly led from the room bathed
in a flood of tears.

A few minutes quiet, and a dose of Fanny's ever-ready sal volatile
restored her, and then she returned to the bedside. "Don't talk much
till the doctor calls, Mabel!" whispered Fanny, and then left the room.

Mr. Wilton's heart was full of bitter thoughts as he lay there
completely helpless. Here he was per force accepting the hospitality of
a hated, lowborn, upstart; and here too was he in the presence of an
ungrateful and rebellious daughter, and without the power to tell her
to leave the room. He lay motionless for two long hours till the doctor
came gloomily brooding over the intolerable position his luckless
accident had placed him in, and watching the now sad, now joyful
features of his daughter, as the senses of pleasure at her supposed
reconciliation with her father and sorrow at the pain he was suffering
alternately possessed her heart.

As she sat still and silent the striking likeness she bore her mother,
haunted him unpleasantly, and he could not keep the thought from his
mind. "If they of the other world may see us here, what will my lost
darling, my Emilie, think at this estrangement from our only child!"
but he strove to banish it by recalling the scene in court where she,
his daughter, who, as his daughter should under all circumstances have
shielded his honor, publicly exposed his own questionable act, at least
questionable in the eyes of the world, and especially of those caustic
papers. These recollections partly had the effect of acting as fuel to
the dying blaze of his anger; and, had he been strong enough to make
himself heard, he would have peremptorily ordered her from the bedside.

Mr. Fenton was determined that the accident which placed his unfriendly
neighbour under his roof, should be made the means of healing the
breech that had so long separated them, but he had the tact and
delicacy not to intrude into the sick man's presence too often. Every
morning after Dr. Kerr had examined his patient, Mr. Fenton looked
in to enquire how he was progressing; but he studiously avoided all
appearance of officious concern, trusting to the gentle influence of
his wife and daughter to do the rest. Mabel had been at the Hall a
week when Ensign Graham, who had been on a visit near Portland and
while there had taken every opportunity of visiting Harry, returned
to the Bungalow, as his father's home was called, and the next day
found his way to the Hall with messages from the prisoner for parents
and sisters. Forgetting for the moment that Harry did not know of her
stay at the Hall, Mabel was so disappointed and hurt at no mention of
herself being made, that to hide her tears she had to leave the room.

She returned to her father, whom she had a short time before left
asleep. Her entrance woke him; but she did not observe it, and took
her accustomed place at the bedside and, leaning her head upon her
hand, sat for some time sad, silent and thoughtful. "As soon as papa is
well enough to leave I will go to Portland and see him. It is cruel
and cowardly too to leave him month after month bearing such terrible
punishment and never in all that time to go near him! What comfort can
letters give compared with the happiness my visiting him would be! How
to manage to go so far I don't clearly see yet; but go I will!" So ran
the current of the young girl's thoughts; while the invalid, watching
her pensive features, and noting the occasional tears trickling down
her cheeks, found his heart melting at the sight of her distress, and
yearning to be again able to fold her to his breast and give her a
father's blessing.

"She is mourning over our estrangement, and praying, likely enough,
that we may be reconciled," he thought. "I feel very much inclined to
look upon this accident as a dispensation of providence to compel me to
forgive her; for under no circumstance, I fear, would I have suffered
her to approach me, if I had been able to refuse her entrance!"

As Mabel sat sorrowfully, planning a visit to Portland--an act she felt
likely to anger her father--and speculating upon the probability of
Miss Vaughan's willingness to accompany her, her father was mentally
reviewing the circumstances that had led to their present unhappy
relation; and though his brow lowered angrily as he remembered the
scenes in Mabel's boudoir when she boldly defied him, and the still
more irritating scene in court where she publicly confessed to his
tyrannous attempt to prevent her from attending the trial, yet the
intention gradually settled in his mind to at once forgive her and take
her to his home again. "Perhaps after all it was but natural for her
to think more of a lover than of her old father; and he had not been
proved guilty then!" he argued with himself.

Rather late to make this discovery, which everyone else had made so
long since, but it must be allowed that anger and wounded self-love are
glaring distorters of simple fact, and that the now relenting father
had had much both to kindle his anger and to wound his self-love.
Mr. Wilton, too, was beginning to look upon his bluff, jovial host
with more lenient eyes. True, he was still a 'lowborn upstart' and a
whig, and as such must ever be an object of contempt and distrust to
the haughty old Toby so proud of his long ancestral line, but, as a
man, the master of the Hall possessed some very excellent qualities,
brightest among which was the marked deference he paid his unwilling
guest. And Mr. Wilton reasoned farther, that after such unremitting
kindness as he had received, and still was receiving from him and his
family, it would be neither gentlemanly nor generous to do less than at
least put on an appearance of frankness and cordiality.

Mabel and her father were presently roused from their silent reveries
by the entrance of Dr. Keer; and Mabel instantly rose and left the
room. After examining the patient Dr. Keer pronounced him much improved
and fast approaching convalescence. "You must not let your father talk
too much now that he is getting better, Miss Wilton," said the Doctor
as Mabel entered again.

"Talk too much!" she exclaimed in surprise, "Papa has not been able to
talk at all yet!"

"But I shall be able to talk to you for the future, Mabel. I am getting
so much stronger now!" said the patient in some slight confusion. The
fact was that he had not been able to talk at all until within the
last week, and that since then, being undecided whether to forgive or
repulse her, he had remained silent in her presence.

For several minutes Mabel's joy at hearing her father speak again,
and to her, was so great that she could only embrace him in silence.
The last time she had heard his voice was when he had treated her so
harshly while a prisoner in her rooms. The last word she had heard him
speak was the threat to keep her a prisoner for twenty years even if
she would persist in her devotion to Harry. No wonder then that her
heart should be so deeply moved as the recollection struck upon her.
And her emotion thrilled the same chord of joy in her father's heart,
but the memory of much that was now beginning to appear so much like
injustice gave the chord a most unpleasant jar. Dr. Keer knew of the
long and unhappy estrangement between parent and child, and, feeling
that at this their first opportunity of real reconciliation a third
person must be an intruder, briefly gave his directions and then
hurried away.

"My child, I am deeply grieved that a necessity ever existed for me to
treat you as harshly as your unfilial conduct two years ago compelled
me to!" began the father, bent on defending his own action. "But
I think you have had time to see your error now. The fact of your
rebellious disregard of my wishes being shown before young Mr. Fenton's
crime was proved is one reason, perhaps, why----"

"Stay papa!" interrupted Mabel in a firm though low tone, "My dearest
wish is to be reconciled to you and to be taken back to your love; but
no mention must be made of Harry. I love him as faithfully now as I did
when I told the jury of our engagement two years ago. If you will be
friends again, papa, without making my giving up Harry a stipulation
I shall be so grateful, and happy; but, papa, I will never change. I
would not if I could; I would rather remain true to Harry, and be a
slave living on bread and water, than be false to him, and go back to
wealth and luxury!" Tears glistened in her soft blue eyes; and she
gazed upon her father's contracting brow with beseeching look.

He felt very uncomfortable under her steadfast, pleading gaze. He had
had no intention of stipulating for her giving up her lover--he knew
her too well by this time to think of offering forgiveness on such
terms as that--but he had thought of letting himself down lightly from
his now conscious position of cruelty and injustice by making a virtue
of his forgiving her without calling upon her to forsake Harry. She had
interrupted him before he had time to lay his view of her ingratitude
and his own generous pardon before her; and nothing was left now but
to forgive her without either condition or palliation, or to refuse to
forgive her at all. The latter he could not do now from many reasons.
What would the world say of his driving back to labour and poverty the
faithful daughter, who had forgiven his cruelty and come to nurse him
in his suffering? No, it was too late for that now. He must, at least
for appearance sake, patch up the breech of family unity in some way.

While these thoughts rapidly passed through her father's mind, Mabel
eagerly scanned his face for some sign of relenting, and, unable to
read his immobile features she flung herself upon her knees by the
bedside, and throwing her arms about her father's neck cried through
her tears, "Oh, papa, I have no one but you to love me now! Do forgive
me for mamma's sake! If angels in heaven can know what those they love
on earth are doing, mamma will be very very unhappy that you do not
love me now!"

Mr. Wilton started. Her words were an echo of his thoughts; were they
not also an echo of words he had heard before! Again memory showed
him the scene in Mabel's sitting-room two years ago, where he had so
cruelly turned from the same prayer, and refused to forgive even when
prayed to do so for the sake of his lost Emilie. For a few seconds
he lay silent in a vain attempt to control his feelings, and then
completely overpowered, he drew her hand to his lips, and burst into
tears. His emotion was perhaps as much due to his physical weakness
as softening of his heart. "My poor child!" he murmured, "I forgive
you freely, if I have anything to forgive? Can you forgive me for my
cruelty and neglect? It is not you I fear who has the most need of
forgiveness! I----"

"No! No! papa! you were right! You could not understand how a woman's
love absorbs everything--even her reason. You could not know the utter
impossibility of my forsaking Harry whether guilty or not! I wilfully
disobeyed you, and you were justly angry with me, and now you forgive
me! You can never know how happy you have made me." Her tears were
mingling with her father's in a grateful stream; and for the next few
minutes neither spoke.

"You shall never leave me again, my daughter!" the now happy father
presently broke the silence by saying, "I have been well punished by my
wretched loneliness during these last two miserable years; and----"

"Excuse the interruption, Miss Wilton!" exclaimed Dr. Keer opening the
door and looking in. "I cannot permit my patient any more excitement
to-day. Come, young lady, Mrs. Fenton is now going for a drive round
the park, and she insists upon your accompanying her. Come, your cheeks
are flushed a little; so I must prescribe a dose of fresh air, and
insist too upon your going out."

"Yes my darling. The doctor is right!" whispered the father; and Mabel
reluctantly gave way, and went to her own room to get ready for the
drive.

"Now, my dear sir, take this composing draught!" said the doctor,
turning to his patient, as Mabel disappeared, and offering a glass
he had prepared while speaking to the young lady, "I think with care
you may be able to go down stairs next week." Mr. Wilton quietly
swallowed the mixture; and the doctor with a short, "Good-bye sir till
to-morrow!" abruptly left the room and closed the door after him. In
the corridor he came face to face with Fanny Fenton.

"Ah, Miss Fenton!" he said roughly, though good humoredly, "You may
just go back and join your mamma and Miss Wilton in their drive, for
I will allow no more in my patient's room until time to give him his
medicine at six o'clock. By-the-way, Miss Wilton is not to go near her
father till after I see him in the morning.

"I met Mabel not a minute ago, sir. She says her father and she are
completely reconciled again. He has fully forgiven her. She seems
almost wild with joy."

"Forgiven her!" returned the doctor contemptuously, "I would have
thought she had cause to forgive him! Anyway between them he has been
worked into a state of feverish excitement, and so must be kept very
quiet. Good-bye!" and in a second or two he had disappeared down the
stairs. Eavesdropping is generally an indefensible piece of meanness,
but Dr. Keer in keeping within hearing during the late scene between
the patient and his daughter must have pleaded in extruation that
he had stepped out of the room in order to give opportunity for the
favorable moment for reconciliation to be taken advantage of, and that
he was compelled to remain within earshot for the purpose of guarding
his patient against too much excitement. As the cause of estrangement
was common property, everybody in that part of the country knowing
it, he had no fear of any disclosures of a private or family nature.
Anyway, as he said himself, he was doing what he felt for the best; and
he didn't care ten straws whether it was right or wrong, so long as he
could help to promote a reconciliation, without letting his patient
risk too much by the excitement of the scene.




Chapter VII.

"TEN minutes to twelve!" exclaimed the Signorita Helena, casting a
startled glance at her watch, on the morning after her interview with
the lawyer. "In his note he appointed twelve as the hour to come and
bid me farewell. My whole joy of life will go with him. Oh, why did he
come to steal away my heart like this, and then fling it away! But is
this the way to bear my cross? Oh, blessed Mary, give me strength! give
me strength!" She walked to her window, which commanded a magnificent
view of the great belfrey of St. Marks, and the grand dome of the
Church but she had no heart for the beautiful sunlit marble structures
before her, and soon returned to her chair. "I must try to compose
my thoughts for this painful farewell meeting," she thought, taking
up the 'Life of St. Theresa' for the purpose; but, not opening, she
continued the current of her thought, "Yes, like a martyr at the stake,
I will give no sign. He shall never know my heart--how I love him! How
I love him! If it indeed be the Madonna's will that this shall be my
thorny road to heaven, I will tread it bravely! Yet--No! it is only a
temptation of Satan to try me! Signor Albertis is wrong! This noble
Englishman cannot love me! It is only a test to try my strength!"

Frank entered the Signorita's sitting room, punctually upon the stroke
of twelve. The meeting to a casual observer would have appeared common
place enough. Helena, though she could hear her heart beat, seemed
as collected as possible, acting her chance-imposed part with all a
suffering a woman's delicate wit. She showed both by word and tone just
the measure of kindly regret she would be supposed to feel at the loss
of a valued friend, nothing more. In referring to his refusal to accept
her late father's gift she merely observed that the act was generous,
and that she had seen the lawyer Signor Albertis about it. When pressed
to tell the substance of her instructions to the lawyer she parried the
question by enquiring with pretended surprise whether he still wished
to have a voice in disposing of the money.

Frank's feelings were of a different nature, and were as well
concealed. He had thought and dreampt of the beautiful likeness at
the office, till he had made the task of bidding its more beautiful
original farewell for ever a very painful operation, and his resolution
to go away was so nearly breaking down once or twice that he had to
abruptly change the words of love that rose to his lips for more
expressions of common-place friendship. The half hour he had allotted
himself for his leave-taking passed, and he rose to go. She rose also,
and at the moment as she stood, a blood red rose in her dark hair,
she looked so inexpressibly like the likeness--floral ornament and
all, that he bent a deep, earnest, and perhaps, too expressible gaze
upon her. She colored, and her eyes fell, and her whole frame trembled
violently. She glanced timidly up, and their eyes met, and in a moment
he had taken her in his arms. She tried to break free; but a frail bird
in a net had as easily escaped. "Helena, I love you!"

But four little words, yet enough to drive away for the time all
thought of the Madonna, all question of her will. The confession, which
Frank had proudly resolved he would never make, and which, in common
with all his important resolutions, he had weakly broken, filled the
Venetian's heart with unexpected joy; and in her sweet confusion she
whispered, "Father Jacops told me you could never love me; but the
Signor Albertis said yesterday that it was your love for me caused you
to reject my father's gift. I believed Father Jacops."

At this moment Father Jacops entered the room with a rare old treatise
upon Penance and self-abasement for the instruction and spiritual
profit of his fatherless charge. He started and frowned at seeing the
position of the Signorita who tried to get free, as he came in. Frank,
however, held her fast, and led her to the astonished priest. "You said
the other day, reverend sir, that if I loved the Signorita you would
not withhold your blessing and consent," Frank said. "I told you I did
not love her then. Neither did I, but I have since learned to; and I
now ask you, as her spiritual guardian, to give your consent to our
betrothal!"

The Signorita trembled and looked down, and the priest after gravely
surveying the pair in silence for some seconds, replied, "This turn is
so unexpected and sudden, my children, that I must ponder over it in
prayer before I dare give you an answer. Leave us now, Signor, and at
noon to-morrow I will see you again. My daughter, I will speak with you
in private."

Frank understood the hint; and anticipating no serious opposition from
the good priest, he pressed the Signorita's hand and then took his
leave. He had come with the fixed purpose of seeing the fair Venetian
for the last time--that purpose fate, chance, or providence had set
aside. How like straws upon an eddying stream are the proudest of us.

The priest silently placed his book upon the table, and seating
himself, motioned Helena to do the same. "And so this vacillating
Englishman has been telling you of his new-found love my daughter," he
began in a grave yet ironical tone. "He must have an uncommon control
of his affections to be able to love at will."

Helena sank into the chair the priest pointed to, and for a moment was
unable to answer, then looking up earnestly into the venerable face of
her old friend confessor, she asked timidly, "Is it really wicked to
love a heritic, father Jacops?"

"It depends very much upon circumstances, my daughter. I have known
several occasions in which Mother Church has gained much good from
such marriages, where the wife has remained in the true faith and
the heretic husband has been converted. But generally it is not wise
nor expedient for a catholic lady to place her affections upon any
gentleman out of the pale of the Church. To go back to the Signor
Franco, I saw your lawyer this morning, and he told me of the deed of
gift, by which the Signor returns to you the bequest left him by your
late father."

"I told Signor Albertis I would not accept it," interrupted Helena. She
did not tell though of her instructions to the lawyer to bestow the
rejected legacy upon the lady the Signor Franco should chance to love.

"Yes, yes, my daughter, Signor Albertis told me all about that. It was
honorable and generous both; but it is this sudden growth of love which
puzzles me. There was no breath of it in his letter to you yesterday.
But go now and pray to the Madonna for strength to act aright. I will
spend the remainder of the day also in prayer and meditation; and after
I have seen the Signor to-morrow I will talk to you again. Remember,
the Blessed Mary may require a sacrifice from you. Are you prepared to
give up all for heaven, even to the love of this Englishman?"

"All! All! I would even give up my life to please the holy Mother!
Perhaps it is her will for me to take the veil. I will do anything,
sacrifice everything for her," returned Helena, with eyes beginning to
sparkle in her growing enthusiasm.

"Nay, my daughter, we must not make any hasty or rash resolves! It may
be that you are required to join the holy sisterhood, or it may be that
you are destined to be the means of rescuing the Signor's soul from
perdition. We must wait and learn what is the will of heaven in this."
The venerable monk rose, and placed his hands upon the Signorita's
head. "May the Holy Mother bless you, my daughter, and pour into your
heart such plenteous light that may guide you aright! And may she
teach you to know the calm depth of meaning in that prayer of true
submission, 'Thy will be done!'" He turned to leave her, but at the
door he paused, "I go to pray for you, my daughter. Let our prayers go
upward together. Retire to your room and miss not a single bead, but
pray with heart as well as lips, you are indeed exposed to a trying
position."

Father Jacops retired to his study, and spent several hours in
devotional exercises, and Helena went to her room, but her thoughts
were continually turned from her prayers by the words of the
priest,--"it may be that you are destined to be the means of rescuing
the Signor's soul from perdition," but the words she felt were but the
whispers of the tempter, and so strove heroicly though unsuccessfully
to banish them.

At noon on the following day Frank was punctual in visiting Father
Jacops. The venerable priest received him gravely. "I have prayed
earnestly for grace from heaven to enable me to judge aright, my son,"
he began, directly his eager visitor was seated. "You told me yesterday
that you have now learned to love the Signorita. Is not the growth of
this new-born affection suspiciously rapid?"

The question was ill-worded and ambiguous, and as a matter of course
the hot-headed Englishman caught it by a meaning not meant. His pale
cheeks flushed angrily, and haughtily rising he demanded by what right
the priest dared to doubt the sincerity of his love for the Signorita,
or to insinuate mercenary motives as the cause of its birth.

"Nay, my son, this is, at least to the Signorita and to me as her
spiritual guardian, too serious a matter to allow anger a place in
the discussion," returned the priest gently. "You misunderstand me.
Your giving up by legal means to the Signorita your half of her late
father's fortune is sufficient to clear you in my eyes from all
imputation of being actuated by mercenary motives. I mean that love so
sudden in its appearance, and quick in its development, promises to be
as rapid in its decay. Before I could conscientiously consent to your
betrothal to the Signorita, I should need some proof that this love has
deeper root than a mere passing fancy."

Frank's anger subsided as quickly as it had risen; and he quietly
resumed his seat. He saw in a moment the force of the priest's
objection. It did most certainly appear strange that he, who had for
two years known the Signorita intimately without any thought of love,
should so suddenly change so completely. He sat in silent thought for a
few minutes, the priest the while regarding him with an anxious gaze,
then glancing up, he told the priest of the portrait that had first
turned his thoughts to the Signorita, and of the ever-present troubles
(he spoke of them but in general terms) that had made him hitherto
live so within himself, as it were, as to hide all surroundings from
his conscious gaze. He had, he said, appeared to awaken to a new life,
when the beauty of that portrait roused him from brooding upon the
past, and turned his thoughts to the possible future. He admitted
that much as his heart was stirred with love for her, he visited the
Signorita the morning before with the full purpose of bidding her
farewell. Either by fate or accident his love at the last moment
overpowered his will, and he had confessed to her the secret he had a
thousand times vowed should die with him.

An hour's further conversation followed, at the conclusion of which
Father Jacops withdrew all opposition, and gave the young man sanction
to press his suit, and the promise of doing all he could to forward his
wishes. "You may find the Signorita now in her sitting-room, Signor.
You may go to her."

Frank needed no second bidding, and in a few seconds was at Helena's
door. The attendant, who admitted him, withdrew as he entered, and in a
moment Helena found herself in his arms; and her book, 'A Treatise on
Self-Sacrifice,' fell to the ground in her futile attempt to guard her
face from his eager lips. "You must be mine now, Helena! You love me;
and father Jacops has given his consent!"

It was in a very low and timid voice that the beautiful Venetian asked
the momentous question--"But you, Signor Franco do you love me?"

"Ay! Dearer than life!" and he folded the gentle loving form yet closer
to his breast. And Conscience and Remorse; who had followed Frank
so closely and so long--where were they? Had they abandoned their
pursuit; or were they but dozing? or were they thronged back by the
multitudinous thoughts bred of this new idea? Frank woos and wins a
wealthy and worthy wife, Harry still pines in Portland prison. And,
Justice! Where is she?




Chapter VIII.

TIME flies fast even for the most impatient lovers. When Father Jacops
consented to their betrothal, he also acquiesced in Frank's suggestion
that as the Signorita was now an orphan it would be better for them to
hasten the day that should give him the right to become her protector.
Helena's objections were easily overruled by her impetuous lover's
arguments, and the wedding was fixed to come off in six weeks. The
time sped fast, and the momentous day had now arrived. Only twice, and
then but for a few minutes, had Helena observed a relapse into the
lover's old fits of absence of mind. The prospect of coming happiness
had almost wholly smothered the hitherto ever-present torments of
remorse; and Frank was more like the eager ambitious Frank of old, than
he had been since reading that misery-charged letter of Fanny Fenton's
now nearly three years ago. Of course the idea of relinquishing the
business was abandoned. The once eager aspirant for forensic honors
was content enough now to settle down into a dealer in Oriental
merchandise; and every day as it passed found him with the new fervour
of interest working industriously at his desk, or driving hard bargains
on the Rialto or in the Piazzetta. Every evening he spent with the
Signorita, and thus between business and love was conscious and remorse
kept at bay.

The day had arrived. The clear sky in its bright robe of ethereal blue
set off with little fleecy cloud-trimmings, was beautiful enough to be
taken as an augury of a happy future for the young pair about to enter
the sacred relations of matrimony. The air too was warm and balmy,
everything in nature appeared in perfect keeping with the beauty and
serenity of the day. The wedding ceremony was to be performed in the
pretty little church of Saint Theresa at 11 o'clock; and long before
that hour the body of the sacred edifice was thronged by a motley
crowd, the friends of the Argostino family, being pretty well supported
by groups of medicants and fruit vendors. At 11 o'clock the bridal
party assembled at the church, and the rites of the marriage ceremony
began. The bride looked very beautiful in her sombre dress. It being
so short a time since her father's death, the Signorita was dressed in
black relieved only by the fleecy, white veil which reached the ground,
completely enveloping her in its snowy folds. Many were the comments
the inappropriate dress drew from the superstitious peasants watching
the proceedings with curious eyes; and more than one woman among them
declared she would rather get married in a winding sheet than in such
an unlucky-colored gown. She seemed conscious of the effect the color
of her wedding dress had upon the female critics present; for she was
nervous and uneasy, and cast many dissatisfied glances at the dull
costume she stood in although it had been her own whim to blend
her mourning with her bridal attire. The bridegroom was dressed in
the simple dress of an English gentleman and he wore a narrow band of
crape round his hat in mourning for his late master and friend, the
bride's father. The sight of a bridegroom with crape upon his hat and a
bride dressed in black under a flowing white veil filled the strangers
present with wonder and something akin to superstitions, and a vast
amount of speculation was occasioned by it.

The ceremony went very quietly through; but towards its close all
present noticed a sudden change of the bridegroom's complexion. His
pale features grew ghastly, and an appearance of pain slowly settled
upon his now clammy face. As the last words were uttered, and the young
pair made man and wife as fast as the rites of the church could bind
them, Frank was observed standing rigid, with his eyes fixed in horror
upon a clear space in the chancel. Slowly raising his right arm and
pointing in the direction of his gaze he step't back a pace and cried
in a voice of terror "See! Look! There he stands! Take him away! For
heaven's sake take him away! See! There is the red spot in his temples
where my bullet entered! Through that small wound his life's blood
oozed away! Ah! he grimly smiles! Vengeance! He has come for vengeance!
He will have it! Now he goes! He sinks through the marble slabs, and
beckons me to follow. Down! Down! Oh, God, must I follow him! Must I
follow him there?" He staggered slowly to the spot his staring eyes
were bent upon, and then stood for a moment as though peering down
into an abyss. Then, shuddering perceptibly, and mourning in horror
"There? Must I follow him there?" fell upon the cold floor in a
fit or swoon.

The whole church was now in confusion. As the strange paroxysm seized
the bridegroom every eye was turned upon him in horror; and as he fell
to the ground a general rush was made to his side. Signor Marco Gorti,
the physician who had attended the bride's father, was the first to
reach the fallen man's side; and he impatiently ordered the crowd of
strangers to be kept back. In a moment or two Helena was kneeling by
her husband's side and chaffing his rigid hands. The first thought
that flashed through her mind as he fell was, "Is it a judgement upon
me for yielding to this temptation! Has the Holy Mother slain him to
punish me for loving him more than my duty to her!" but in a moment her
religious superstition was forgotten, and her womanly feelings of love
and fear had complete possession of her. She did not weakly give way
to tears, but repressing her emotion, she held herself ready to second
the doctor's efforts to restore consciousness in the beloved form. A
considerable time was occupied in a fruitless attempt to revive Frank;
and then signor Gorti decided that the patient must be removed home at
once. A stretcher was soon improvised, and Frank carried out to the
steps, where his gondola was waiting. Of the number of acquaintances
or friends present none were allowed by the physician to enter the
boat but the Signorita Marina Sanato, an intimate friend of the bride,
and Signor Albertis the lawyer. These, with the physician, accompanied
Father Jacops and the broken-hearted bride to her now sorrowful home.

"What can you expect when people get married in black, but that
something will happen!" said an old peasant woman, with a shake of her
head as the gondola moved away from the steps, "Bad luck always follows
those who fly in its face!"

"Ah that's true, friend Risla!" asserted another. "Is not black the
color of the devil, himself. If people will wear the devil's livery,
what can they expect but that the Blessed Virgin will be angry, and all
the saints besides!"

Frank remained insensible during the row home, but slowly recovered
consciousness soon after reaching his room. A composing draught was
then administered by the physician; and the patient, by his young
wife's request, was left entirely to her care. The opiate soon caused
him to sink into a deep sleep; and he slept soundly for several hours,
Helena the while watching patiently by his bedside, and meditating upon
Father Jacop's words. "It may be that you are destined to be the means
of rescuing the Signor's soul from perdition." If that could be, if
indeed it was to be her glorious privilege to lead the noble Englishman
into the fold of the true faith, her life would be a useful one, and
the Holy Mother would look smilingly upon her and him. These thoughts
filled her breast with in eager enthusiasm; and she felt that she could
triumph even in death if that she might first be the instrument in
making her husband a good Catholic.

Helena watched, and meditated; and the physician with father Jacops
consulted together in an adjoining room, upon the name and nature of
the strange fit that had prostrated the Signor Franco. "I must learn
more of his previous history, before I can determine the character of
this disorder," observed Signor Gorti to the priest, who, shaking his
venerable head, replied. "I fear it is some disease of the mind rather
than of the body, that troubles him. God and the Holy Mother forgive
me, if I have done wrong in giving the Signorita to this mysterious
foreigner without discovering more of his antecedents!"




Chapter IX.

IT was a beautiful calm moonlight evening; and the air was warm and
balmy. The effects of the opiate had worn off; and Frank was able to
rise. His young wife insisted on his leaning upon her in walking to the
sitting-room adjoining; and although he laughed at the idea, he soon
found that even her weak arm was a steadying support to his uncertain
steps. The fit had considerably weakened him. They sat by the window,
and gazed out for some seconds in silence, both too full of thought to
feel equal to the task of talking--full of thought, sad and gloomy, and
strangely out of place in the hearts of bride and bridegroom, on the
evening of their wedding day. Regret for the unavoidable absence of the
usual wedding gayeties formed no portion of the young bride's silent
sorrow; and Frank, as his momentary-forced mirth faded from his pale
features, followed his dark thoughts from the inexpressible beauty of
the moonlit scene without, and the loving, faithful heart at his side,
back through the devious paths of memory to those never in life to be
forgotten scenes in distant England. A deep sigh escaped him presently.
Glancing quickly and anxiously up, Helena laid her hand upon his
shoulder. "Are you in pain, Franco!" she asked eagerly, rising at once
to go for medicine if it was required.

Frank was too deeply buried in his agonizing reminiscences to hear the
gentle voice; and Helena stopped and pressed her lips to his brow--now
her wifely privilege--to rouse him. He started, and glanced round with
a look of terror, but, recovering himself, he made a feeble attempt to
smile, and asked, "Ah, my darling wife, did you speak?"

Helena's heart almost stood still as she caught the startled glance of
terror which he had cast upon her; and for a few seconds she could not
reply. That look was the same he wore in church when that terrible fit
came upon him!

"I thought you were not well!" she forced herself to say; and instead
of answering her anxious question, he drew her down to him and kissed
her tenderly. "But, Franco, tell me: are you in pain!" she persisted,
pressing back the black locks from his brow.

"No, my darling wife, I am in no pain. Why do you ask?"

She was puzzled for an answer, but replied in a low tone.
"Because--because you looked so strange."

"Did I, my own sweet Helena! I was only thinking."

"Then Franco, you must have painful thoughts to make you look so sad.
If it is any trouble you have, let me share it. It is my privilege now
to share your sorrow as well as your joy!" She laid her hands upon his
shoulder, and looked into his face with such earnest eyes that Frank
was compelled to turn his own away. He feared lest those pure, eager
eyes of love should read his dark thoughts and penetrate to his black
and bitter secret.

"Trouble, sweetest? Why do you think I have any trouble to share with
you? Nay, my wife, be satisfied to take your part in my pleasures; and
if ever sorrow should lay her burdens upon me, let me bear them alone."

There was a something, the young wife could not say what, in Frank's
tone and manner that made her dissatisfied with the answer. There must
be some hidden grief that had caused this sudden and strange sickness
her instinct told her. Was it that he had really loved some other
lady, and had only married herself in a temporary quarrel which had
been removed after her wedding-day was fixed, and too late for him to
escape from it? Her heart almost ceased beating as she thought how
probable such a terrible misfortune would be the cause of his illness
in church. She bravely strove to drive the agonizing thought away, and
she asked herself how more likely it was that he had quarrelled with
his parents before leaving England, and that he had, perhaps, just
received intelligence of the death of one--dead without reconciliation;
dead, and no words of mutual forgiveness passed from and to the distant
son. Tears welled to her dark eyes; and she turned to him again,
"Franco, it is a wife's most dearly prized privilege to bear a part of
her husband's every care. Do not deprive me of that! Some hidden sorrow
must now hold you in its grasp. Tell me the worst." Frank had already
relapsed into his gloomy reverie and did not reply. "Is it, is it that
you have loved another even dearer than me? Tell me, Franco, I implore
you. Though it would break my heart to know it, it is better that you
tell me." Her voice of concentrated pain seemed to rouse him again; for
he looked up and said:

"Do I love anyone better than you? you ask. No, my darling, all but an
old aunt I loved are dead or lost. You are all I have to love now!"

She lifted his hand to her lips, and then said, "You have made me
almost happy, Franco. Let me share this secret trouble that overshadows
you; and then I shall be blessed indeed."

"But, my own sweet wife, I assure you I have no secret you would care
to hear!" he answered uneasily, casting a quick glance at her earnest
face. "I have no secret you would care to know."

"Believe me, Franco, all secrets that affect your happiness must
affect mine too. I can never feel contented or cheerful again while I
fear that you have some hidden grief to bear alone. Share it with me,
Franco; it will ease your burdened heart of half its load."

"I am strangely moved to tell her; but I dare not; the dreadful tale
would chill her blood with horror but to hear it!" Frank murmured
beneath his breath, and then added aloud, "I have no secret grief to
tell of, my wife. Would you doubt me!"

Her husband's manner and appearance every instant deepened Helena's
conviction that he was bearing in silence some terrible secret sorrow;
and she determined to learn it. "It will be easier for him to bear it
if he tells me," she argued with herself. "It is generous of him to
wish to shield me from all but what is bright and happy; but a wife's
duty is to help her husband when he needs help, and when so much as
when he is cast down by trouble. No! I will not be satisfied till I
learn his grief, and can sooth him with my sympathy."

"Franco, I know something troubles you. I can see it in your face," she
said solemnly, "I remember now how ever since you have been in Venice
something has seemed to haunt you, and to make you its constant prey. I
have many a time seen you turn away in conversation and lean your head
on your hand, and give way to some dark train of thoughts, and when
anyone has disturbed you by speaking, you have started up as from some
horrible dream, and glanced round, as if afraid even of the shadows on
the wall. From the day you told me you loved me until this morning, you
appeared to have broken free from that strange bondage of care; but you
seem now again its slave. Franco, I conjure you by the blessed altar
where to-day the Holy Mother joined our hands and our whole future
lives--I conjure you by all the love I have for you, and all that you
have said you have for me, to tell me without one word of reservation
all, all it is that troubles you!"

"I cannot! I dare not!" Frank cried in agony. "What, if upon your
husband's brow red crime had set his brand?"

"Then would I weep my life away in ceaseless prayer to heaven for his
forgiveness!" she sobbed, clinging to his arm.

"Helena, 'Thou shalt do no murder!' are the words that chain me to
despair!" he said in a voice almost too low in its concentrated horror
to be heard.

"A murderer! A murderer!" the horrified wife repeated to herself,
unable to realize the full import of the awful confession.

Frank rose half defiantly. "Now loathe, despise, and leave me, if you
will!" he exclaimed in anguish. "I am a blood-stained murderer, fitter
for the company of gallery slaves or the executioner than for yours."

Helena's tears burst forth into a flood. Pity, horror and changeless
devotion held her gentle heart. "Leave you, Franco? Never!" she said
firmly. "More wretched as more wicked, you have now more need of my
anxious, tender soothing care! I am your devoted wife for ever: and
neither good nor evil shall part us. Nothing but death shall tear me
from you!"

Frank held her at a distance, "Nay, Helena! First hear the ghastly
horror of my crime, before you rashly vow to trust me still."

"Sit then, Franco," the tearful wife urged. "I can listen to the story
of your troubles more calmly then."

Frank gloomily resumed his seat. "Helena," he began, keeping his face
from her eager eyes, "Years ago when I was but a lad at school, I met
a young girl who made so lasting an impression upon me, that from that
day my whole character was changed. Boy as I was, I determined to win
her love. I had before then been an idle dreamer, careless of the
future as of the present; but my wild love for her spurred me on and
fired my ambition. For her sake I would become great and rich. I worked
on with unflinching energy, and when I became a man I began reading
for the law; and I have no doubt I should have met with more than
ordinary success; for great as I found my powers to be, my perseverance
was still greater; but soon, too soon, the bubble that had buoyed up
my hopes burst, the sweet motive that had held me to work vanished--I
found that the hope of my life loved another. Filled with the madness
of jealously, I sought out my rival to kill him. I found him; and
time after time I had opportunity to fill my blood-thirsty purpose;
but each time my pistol was pointed at his heart, my courage failed
me. He had once saved my life; and I could not slay my preserver. He
escaped the threatened doom; but by a sad accident another man fell
under my bullet; and my rival was arrested for killing him. The death
was an accident, a twig of a bush by which I was standing caught in the
trigger, and the pistol went off without my knowledge. I fled away from
the dreadful scene, and a strange conspiracy of circumstances caused
my rival to be condemned to death for the crime, while I, the really
guilty, escaped even suspicion. He did not die, however; his sentence
was changed to imprisonment; and now even while we talk he is enduring
the shame and punishment for my crime."

"Thank heaven you are not a murderer in heart! The deed was an
accident! But your rival. It is terrible that another should bear the
penalty of your act! It is sin in the sight of God and the Holy Mother!"


[AUTHOR'S NOTE:]

(As published in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate 30
March 1878.)

It being necessary, from various reasons, to close this tale, the
author sends us a brief outline of the plot, as follows:--



CHAPTER IX. (Continued.)

FRANK SEYMOUR gave his young wife a vivid account of a terrible dream
he had had the night before (the night previous to their wedding),
in which Mabel had appeared before him pleading for justice for the
unfortunate Harry. He dreampt that she knelt before him, bathing his
cold hands with her tears, and that his own heart was melted at the
sight of her anguish, but when he opened his mouth to tell her he
would save her lover, a refusal harsh and cruel was uttered, instead
of the words of sympathy and hope that rose to his lips. He thought
in his dream that the kneeling suppliant before him then changed into
an avenging angel and in a voice of thunder, that roused him from his
sleep, she cried to the Almighty Ruler of the Universe to judge the
wretch who thus left another to bear the penalty of his crime.

The Signorita Helena, or more properly speaking, the Signora Seymour,
was so deeply affected by the recital of her husband's crime, and his
recent dream, that she felt all hope of earthly happiness was at at end
for both; and that all that remained was for each to strive to reach
the happiness of heaven. Feeling certain that while the punishment of
her husband's crime was borne by another, heaven could not pardon him;
she tried her utmost to prevail on him to at once take the first step
to earn forgiveness by giving himself up to justice to release his
unhappy substitute.

Frank refused to do so, more afraid of exposing his own cowardice than
of the punishment of his crime. After striving vainly to persuade
her husband to this course, his wife, now completely in the power of
religious enthusiasm, wrings a vow from him that on her death he will
give himself up to justice, and then forgetting that suicide was not
a safe way to begin her journey to heaven, mortally stabs herself,
thinking that by the martyrdom, she is rescuing her beloved husband
from perdition by compelling him to do that without which hope of
forgiveness hereafter is vain. After the funeral of his too faithful
wife Frank sails for England to keep his oath.

The scene now changes to England. Ruth, the daughter of the host of the
"Crown and Anchor," tells Ensign Graham of some of Sir Toby Cadman's
idle boasts respecting Miss Wilton of the Park (Mabel is now completely
reconciled to her father, and living at home again) and Graham
challenges the miscreant to a duel. Sir Toby at first refuses to fight
although incited to by his friend Turnbul, but being suddenly struck by
a brilliant idea, he changes his tone, and with much assumed courage
and eagerness accepts the challenge, and names the weapons, place, and
hour, which is no sooner done than he excuses himself for leaving, and
hurries to his lodgings and writes a letter in a feigned hand to Mabel
to the effect that at six o'clock on the following morning an escaped
prisoner from Portland will await her in the copse at the further side
of the park with news from her convict lover.

It is needless to say that Sir Toby's sudden acquisition of courage was
occasioned by the expectation of having his reconnoitre with Graham
disturbed by the presence of the cause of the quarrel herself. But Ruth
suddenly loses heart and the prospect of bloodshed and decides upon
another form of punishment. She had taken care to be within hearing,
though out of sight, at the time Ensign Graham challenged Sir Toby,
and so is aware of the time and place arranged; and no sooner does she
decide upon saving the recreant Sir Toby's life by interrupting the
duel, than she set her woman's wit to work to devise some other form of
punishment. The forged cheque she has endeavoured to obtain possession
of, and she suddenly stumbles upon the idea of making it the means of
wreaking a terrible punishment upon the boastful and cowardly knight.
Without taking any one into her confidence, she invites Mad Esther to
take a walk with her early on the following morning, and then after
borrowing sufficient money for the purpose from the unsuspicious old
lady, she procures a marriage license and ring, and then she visits the
police station and rectory and tells the clergyman and policeman of the
duel, arranging with each to take them to the place appointed in the
morning.

Duly at the hour fixed, the principals and seconds assemble: but to Sir
Toby's consternation no Miss Wilton appears. Seeing nothing before him
but the prospect of a fatal wound, Sir Toby speedily drops his bragging
air, and is in the midst of an abject prayer for mercy when the scene
is disturbed by the approach of Ruth, accompanied by Mad Esther, the
clergyman, and a policeman. To avoid arrest the principals sheath their
swords, and when the policeman is on the ground he can see nothing
to justify him in interfering. Ruth does not leave much time for
speculation, but calls Sir Toby apart, shows him the forged cheque (in
those days forgery was punishable by death) and gives him ten seconds
to choose between the clergyman and the policeman, that is to say
between arrest for forgery and marriage to the mad woman before him,
who was old enough for his grandmother twenty years before. Sir Toby
begs, prays, protests and promises to no purpose--Ruth is inexorible,
and insists upon his at once going upon his knee to Mad Esther and
begging her to marry him, which, under the circumstances, he has to do,
and does amidst the infinite amusement of the lookers on. The clergyman
is then appealed to and Sir Toby leads the antiquated bride-elect away
at Ruth's whispered orders, the threat ringing and tingling in his ears
that if he and Mad Esther are not man and wife by twelve o'clock, the
forged cheque will be given up to the police authorities without fail
ten minutes after. By twelve o'clock however Mad Esther is Lady Cadman,
or as she herself would say, Mrs. John Farleigh.

Frank had reached England by this time, and immediately on his leaving
the ship he hurried down to Essex determined to confess his dark
secret to the police authorities at Chelmsford. On the morning of
the interrupted duel he was in Fenwick Park to have one last look
at the home of his first love, before going to that trial which, he
believed, must end in death or transportation for life. He reached the
spot Sir Tony had chosen as the scene of the duel, some minutes after
the improvised wedding party had left. He had been wavering in his
determination for some days past, and now feeling that the time to act
had arrived, he did what might have been expected from his weak and
changeful purpose, swallowed a dose of poison to escape the ignominy of
trial; and then laid down by a holly bush to die.

Mabel had received Sir Toby's letter, but she was unable to reach the
rendezvous punctually, her father having been suffering all night
with an attack of gout. She, however, accompanied by Mrs. Merville
the lodge-keeper, reached the spot about twenty minutes past six, and
seeing Frank lying upon the grass; she naturally took him for the
person who was to give her news of Harry. Frank, who was by this time
beginning to suffer the agonies of death by poison, recognised her at
once and confessed the crime to her in the hearing of Mrs. Merville.
Directly Mrs. Merville had heard all that might be necessary she should
be a witness to, she hurried away for assistance, leaving Mabel with
the dying man. In a few minutes some servants arrived on the scene
and carried Frank upon a litter up to the House. Frank did not live
many hours, although all was done to save him that medical skill could
do; but he lived long enough to make a dying declaration before a
magistrate, and thus exculpated his hated rival.

Six weeks after the death of the unhappy Frank a wedding took place at
the Hall--the readers probably are able to guess who the young couple
were,--and before the honeymoon was finished another and double wedding
took place at the same place, Captain Beaumont's patience being at
last rewarded by gentle Fanny Fenton, and Ensign Graham leading the
sparkling, mischievous and vivacious Clara to the altar.



THE END.



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