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





PROLOGUE.

Chap.—II.
Chap.—III.
Chap.—IV.
Chap.—V.
Chap.—VI.
Chap.—VII.
Chap.—VIII.
Chap.—IX.
Chap.—X.

BOOK I.

CHAPTER I.
CHAPTER II.
CHAPTER III.
CHAPTER IV.
CHAPTER V.
CHAPTER VI.
CHAPTER VII.
CHAPTER VIII.
CHAPTER IX.
CHAPTER X.
CHAPTER XI.
CHAPTER XII.
CHAPTER XIII.
CHAPTER XIV.
CHAPTER XV.
CHAPTER XVI.
CHAPTER XVII.
CHAPTER XVIII.
CHAPTER XIX.
CHAPTER XX.
CHAPTER XXI.
CHAPTER XXII.
CHAPTER XXIII.
CHAPTER XXIV.
CHAPTER XXV.
CHAPTER XXVI.
CHAPTER XXVII.
CHAPTER. XXVIII.
CHAPTER. XXIX

BOOK II.

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.




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 subpoeœna 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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