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Title: I, Thou, and the Other One - A Love Story
Author: Barr, Amelia Edith Huddleston, 1831-1919
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "I, Thou, and the Other One - A Love Story" ***

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  A Love Story



  _Copyright, 1898_,

  University Press:


  Chapter                                                     Page
        I THE ATHELINGS                                          1
       II CECIL AND EDGAR                                       23
      III THE LORD OF EXHAM                                     42
       IV THE DAWN OF LOVE                                      66
        V ANNABEL VYNER                                         81
       VI THE BEGINNING OF THE GREAT STRUGGLE                  103
      VII THE LOST RING                                        121
     VIII WILL SHE CHOOSE EVIL OR GOOD?                        150
       IX A FOOLISH VIRGIN                                     169
        X TROUBLE COMES UNSUMMONED                             193
       XI LIFE COMES AND GOES THE OLD, OLD WAY                 213
      XII THE SHADOW OF SORROW STRETCHED OUT                   235
     XIII NOT YET                                              263
      XIV AT THE WORST                                         288
       XV LADY OF EXHAM HALL AT LAST                           315
      XVI AFTER TWENTY GOLDEN YEARS                            341

I, Thou, and the Other One



    "_The Land is a Land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the
rain of heaven._"

Beyond Thirsk and Northallerton, through the Cleveland Hills to the sea
eastward, and by Roseberry Topping, northward, there is a lovely, lonely
district, very little known even at the present day. The winds stream
through its hills, as cool and fresh as living water; and whatever beauty
there is of mountain, valley, or moorland, Farndale and Westerdale
can show it; while no part of England is so rich in those picturesque
manor-houses which have been the homes of the same families for twenty

The inhabitants of this region are the incarnation of its health,
strength, and beauty,--a tall, comely race; bold, steadfast, and
thrifty, with very positive opinions on all subjects. There are no
Laodiceans among the men and women of the North-Riding; they are one
thing or another--Episcopalians or Calvinists; Conservatives or Radicals;
friends or enemies. For friendship they have a capacity closer than
brotherhood. Once friends, they are friends forever, and can be relied on
in any emergency to "aid, comfort, and abet," legally or otherwise,
with perhaps a special zest to give assistance, if it just smacks of
the "otherwise."

Of such elements, John Atheling, lord of the manors of Atheling and
Belward, was "kindly mixed," a man of towering form and great mental
vigour, blunt of speech, single of purpose, leading, with great natural
dignity, a sincere, unsophisticated life. He began this story one evening
in the May of 1830; though when he left Atheling manor-house, he had
no idea anything out of the customary order of events would happen. It is
however just these mysterious conditions of everyday life that give it
such gravity and interest; for what an hour will bring forth, no man
can say; and when Squire Atheling rode up to the crowd on the village
green, he had no presentiment that he was going to open a new chapter in
his life.

He smiled pleasantly when he saw its occasion. It was a wrestling match;
and the combatants were his own chief shepherd and a stranger. In a
few moments the shepherd was handsomely "thrown" and nobody knew
exactly how it had been done. But there was hearty applause, led by
the Squire, who, nodding at his big ploughman, cried out, "Now then,
Adam Sedbergh, stand up for Atheling!" Adam flung off his vest and
stepped confidently forward; but though a famous wrestler among his
fellows, he got as speedy and as fair a fall as the shepherd had received
before him. The cheers were not quite as hearty at this result, but the
Squire said peremptorily,--

"It is all right. Hold my horse, Jarum. I'll have to cap this match
myself. And stand back a bit, men, I want room enough to turn in." He
was taking off his fine broadcloth coat and vest as he spoke, and the lad
he was to match, stood looking at him with his hands on his hips, and a
smile on his handsome face. Perhaps the attitude and the smile nettled
the Squire, for he added with some pride and authority,--

"I would like you to know that I am Squire Atheling; and I am not going
to have a better wrestler than myself in Atheling Manor, young man, not
if I can help it."

"I know that you are Squire Atheling," answered the stranger. "I have
been living with your son Edgar for a year, why wouldn't I know you? And
if I prove myself the better man, then you shall stop and listen to me
for half-an-hour, and you may stop a whole hour, if you want to; and I
think you will."

"I know nothing about Edgar Atheling, and I am not standing here
either to talk to thee, or to listen to thee, but to give thee a fair
'throw' if I can manage it." He stretched out his left hand as he
spoke, and the young man grasped it with his right hand. This result
was anticipated; there was a swift twist outward, and a lift upward, and
before anyone realised what would happen, a pair of shapely young legs
were flying over the Squire's shoulder. Then there rose from twenty
Yorkshire throats a roar of triumph, and the Squire put his hands on his
hips, and looked complacently at the stranger flicking the Atheling
dust from his trousers. He took his defeat as cheerily as his triumph.
"It was a clever throw, Squire," he said.

"Try it again, lad."

"Nay, I have had enough."

"I thought so. Now then, don't brag of thy wrestling till thou
understandest a bit of 'In-play.' But I'll warrant thou canst talk,
so I'll give myself a few minutes to listen to thee. I should say, I
am twice as old as thou art, but I notice that it is the babes and
sucklings that know everything, these days."

As the Squire was speaking, the youth leaped into an empty cart which
someone pushed forward, and he was ready with his answer,--

"Squire," he said, "it will take not babes, but men like you and these
I see around me, for the wrestling match before us all. What we have to
tackle is the British Government and the two Houses of Parliament."

The Squire laughed scornfully. "They will 'throw' thee into the
strongest jail in England, my lad; they will sink thee four feet under
ground, if thou art bound for any of that nonsense."

"They will have enough to do to take care of themselves soon."

"Thou art saying more than thou knowest. Wouldst thou have the horrors
of 1792 acted over again, in England? My lad, I was a youngster then,
but I saw the red flag, dripping with blood, go round the Champ-de-Mars."

"None of us want to carry the red flag, Squire. It is the tri-colour
of Liberty we want; and that flag--in spite of all tyrants can do--will
be carried round the world in glory! When I was in America--"

"Wilt thou be quiet about them foreign countries? We have bother enough
at home, without going to the world's end for more. And I will have no
such talk in my manor. If thou dost not stop it, I shall have to make

"King William, and all his Lords and Commons, cannot stop such talk.
It is on every honest tongue, and at every decent table. It is in the
air, Squire, and the winds of heaven carry it wherever they go."

"If thou saidst _William Cobbett_, thou mightst happen hit the truth.
The winds of heaven have better work to do. What art thou after anyway?"

"Such a Parliamentary Reform as will give every honest man a voice in
the Government."

"Just so! Thou wouldst make the door of the House of Commons big enough
for any rubbish to go through."

"The plan has been tried, Squire, in America; and

    As the Liberty Lads over the sea,
    Bought their freedom--and cheaply--with blood;
        So we, boys, we
    Will die fighting; or live free,
    And down with--"

"Stop there!" roared the Squire. "Nonsense in poetry is a bit worse
than any other kind of nonsense. Speak in plain words, or be done with
it! Do you know what you want?"

"That we do. We want the big towns, where working men are the many, and
rich men, the few, to be represented. We want all sham boroughs thrown
out. What do you think of Old Sarum sending a member to Parliament,
when there isn't any Old Sarum? There used to be, in the days of King
Edward the First, but there is now no more left of it than there is of
the Tower of Babel. What do you think of the Member for Ludgershall
being not only the Member, but the _whole constituency_ of Ludgershall?
What do you think of Gatton having just seven voters, and sending
_two_ members to Parliament?"--then leaning forward, and with burning
looks drinking the wind of his own passionate speech--"What do you
think of _Leeds! Manchester! Birmingham! Sheffield!_ being _without
any representation_!"

"My lad," cried the Squire, "have not Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham,
Sheffield, done very well without representation?"

"Squire, a child may grow to a man without love and without care; but
he is a robbed and a wronged child, for all that."

"The Government knows better than thee what to do with big towns full of
unruly men and women."

"That is just the question. They are not represented, because they
are made up of the working population of England. But the working man
has not only his general rights, he has also rights peculiar to his
condition; and it is high time these rights were attended to. Yet these
great cities, full of woollen and cotton weavers, and of fine workers
in all kinds of metals, have not a man in Parliament to say a word for

"What is there to say? What do they want Parliament to know?" asked the
Squire, scornfully.

"They want Parliament to know that they are being forced to work twelve
hours a day, for thirty pennies a week; and that they have to pay ten
pennies for every four-pound loaf of bread. And they expect that when
Parliament knows these two facts, something will be done to help them in
their poverty and misery. They believe that the people of England will
_compel_ Parliament to do something."

"There are Members in both Houses that know these things, why do they
not speak?--if it was reasonable to do so."

"Squire, they dare not. They have not the power, even if they had the
will. The Peers and the great Landlords own two-thirds of the House of
Commons. They _own_ their boroughs and members, just as they _own_ their
parks and cattle. One duke returns eleven members; another duke returns
nine members; and such a city as Manchester cannot return one! If this
state of things does not need reforming, I do not know what does."

So far his words had rushed rattling on one another, like the ring of
iron on iron in a day of old-world battle; but at this point, the Squire
managed again to interrupt them. From his saddle he had something of an
advantage, as he called out in an angry voice,--

"And pray now, what are _you_ to make by this business? Is it a bit of
brass--or land--or power that you look forward to?"

"None of them. I have set my heart on the goal, and not on the prize.
Let the men who come after me reap; I am glad enough if I may but plough
and sow. The Americans--"

"_Chaff_, on the Americans! We are North-Riding men. We are Englishmen.
We are sound-hearted, upstanding fellows who do our day's work, enjoy
our meat and drinking, pay our debts, and die in our beds; and we
want none of thy Reform talk! It is all scandalous rubbish! Bouncing,
swaggering, new-fashioned trumpery! We don't hold with Reformers, nor
with any of their ways! I will listen to thee no longer. Thou mayst talk
to my men, if they will be bothered with thee. I'm not afraid of
anything thou canst say to them."

"I think they will be bothered with me, Squire. They do not look like

"At any rate, there isn't one Reform fool among them; but I'll tell
thee something--go to a looking-glass, and thou mayst shake thy fist in
the face of one of the biggest fools in England,"--and to the laughter
this sally provoked the Squire galloped away.

For a short distance, horse and rider kept up the pace of enthusiasm;
but when the village was left behind, the Squire's mood fell below its
level; and a sudden depression assailed him. He had "thrown" his man;
he had "threeped" him down in argument; but he had denied his son,
and he brought a hungry heart from his victory. The bright face of his
banished boy haunted the evening shadows; he grew sorrowfully impatient
at the memories of the past; and when he could bear them no longer, he
struck the horse a smart blow, and said angrily,--

"Dal it all! Sons and daughters indeed! A bitter, bitter pleasure!"

At this exclamation, a turn in the road brought him in sight of two
horsemen. "_Whew!_ I am having a night of it!" he muttered. For he
recognised immediately the portly figure of the great Duke of Richmoor,
and he did not doubt that the slighter man at his side was his son,
Lord Exham. The recognition was mutual; and on the Duke's side very
satisfactory. He quickened his horse's speed, and cried out as he
neared the Squire,--

"Well met, Atheling! You are the very man I wished to see! Do you
remember Exham?"

There was a little complimentary speaking, and then the Duke said
earnestly: "Squire, if there is one thing above another that at this
time the landed interest ought to do, it is to stand together. The
country is going to the devil; it is on the verge of revolution. We
must have a majority in the next Parliament; and we want you for the
borough of Asketh. Exham has come back from Italy purposely to take
Gaythorne. What do you say?"

It was the great ambition of the Squire to go to Parliament, and the
little dispute he had just had with the stranger on the green had whetted
this desire to a point which made the Duke's question a very interesting
one to him; but he was too shrewd to make this satisfaction apparent.
"There are younger men, Duke," he answered slowly; "and they who go
to the next Parliament will have a trying time of it. I hear queer
tales, too, of Parliament men; and the House keeps late hours; and late
hours never did suit my constitution."

"Come, Atheling, that is poor talk at a crisis like this. There will be
a meeting at the Castle on Friday--a very important meeting--and I shall
expect you to take the chair. We are in for such a fight as England has
not had since the days of Oliver Cromwell; and it would not be like John
Atheling to keep out of it."

"It wouldn't. If there is anything worth fighting for, John Atheling
will be thereabouts, I'll warrant him."

"Then we may depend upon you--Friday, and two in the afternoon, is the
day and the hour. You will not fail us?"

"Duke, you may depend upon me." And so the men parted; the Squire, in
the unexpected proposal just made him, hardly comprehending the messages
of friendly courtesy which Lord Exham charged him to deliver to Mrs. and
Miss Atheling.

"My word! My word!" he exclaimed, as soon as the Duke and he were far
enough back to back. "Won't Maude be set up? Won't little Kitty
plume her wings?" and in this vague, purposeless sense of wonder and
elation he reached his home. The gates to the large, sweet garden stood
open, but after a moment's thought, he passed them, and went round to
the farm court at the back of the house. The stables occupied one
side of this court, and he left his horse there, and proceeded to
the kitchen. The girls were starting the fires under the coppers for
the quarterly brewing; they said "the Missis was in the houseplace,"
and the Squire opened the door between the two rooms, and went into
the houseplace. But the large room was empty, though the lattices were
open, and a sudden great waft of honeysuckle fragrance saluted him as
he passed them. He noticed it, and he noticed also the full moonlight
on the rows of shining pewter plates and flagons, though he was not
conscious at the time that these things had made any impression upon him.

Two or three steps at the west end of this room led to a door which
opened into Mrs. Atheling's parlour; and the Squire passed it
impatiently. The news of the night had become too much for him; he wanted
to tell his wife. But Mrs. Atheling was not in her parlour. A few ash
logs were burning brightly on the hearth, and there was a round table
spread for supper, and the candles were lit, and showed him the
mistress's little basket containing her keys and her knitting, but
neither wife nor daughter were to be seen.

"It is always the way," he muttered. "It is enough to vex any man.
Women are sure to be out of the road when they are wanted; and in the
road when nobody cares to see them. Wherever has Maude taken herself?"
Then he opened a door and called "Maude! Maude!" in no gentle voice.


In a few minutes the call was answered. Mrs. Atheling came hurriedly
into the room. There was a pleasant smile on her large, handsome face,
and she carried in her hands a bowl of cream and a loaf of white bread.
"Why, John!" she exclaimed, "whatever is to do? I was getting a bit
of supper for you. You are late home to-night, aren't you?"

"I should think I was--all of an hour-and-a-half late."

"But you are not ill, John? There is nothing wrong, I hope?"

"If things go a bit out of the common way, women always ask if they have
gone wrong. I should think, they might as well go right."

"So they might. Here is some fresh cream, John. I saw after it myself;
and the haver-cake is toasted, and--"

"Nay, but I'll have my drinking to-night, Maude. I have been flustered
more than a little, I can tell thee that."

"Then you shall have your drinking. We tapped a fresh barrel of old ale
an hour ago. It is that strong and fine as never was; by the time you
get to your third pint, you will be ready to make faces at Goliath."

"Well, Maude, if making faces means making fight, there will be enough
of that in every county of England soon,--if Dukes and Radical orators
are to be believed."

"Have you seen the Duke to-night?"

"I have. He has offered me a seat in the next Parliament. He thinks
there is a big fight before us."

"Parliament! And the Duke of Richmoor to seat you! Why, John, I am

"I felt like I was dreaming. Now then, where is Kate? I want to tell
the little maid about it. It will be a grand thing for Kate. She will
have some chances in London, and I'll warrant she is Yorkshire enough to
take the best of them."

"Kate was at Dashwood's all the afternoon; and they were riding races;
and she came home tired to death. I tucked her up in her bed an hour

"I am a bit disappointed; but things are mostly ordered that way. There
is something else to tell you, Maude. I saw a stranger on the green throw
Bill Verity and Adam Sedbergh; and I could not stand such nonsense as
that, so I off with my coat and settled him."

"You promised me that you would not 'stand up' any more, John. Some
of them youngsters will give you a 'throw' that you won't get easy
over. And you out of practice too."

"Out of practice! Nothing of the sort. What do you think I do with
myself on wet afternoons? What could I do with myself, but go to the
granary and have an hour or two's play with Verity and Sedbergh, or any
other of the lads that care to feel my grip? I have something else to
tell you, Maude. I had a talk with this strange lad. He began some Reform
nonsense; and I settled him very cleverly."

"Poor lad!" She spoke sadly and absently, and it nettled the Squire.
"I know what you are thinking, Mistress," he said; "but the time has
come when we are bound to stick to our own side."

"The poor are suffering terribly, John. They are starved and driven to
the last pinch. There never was anything like it before."

"Women are a soft lot; it would not do to give up to their notions."

"If you mean that women have soft hearts, it is a good thing for men
that women are that way made."

"I have not done with my wonders yet. Who do you think was with the

"I don't know, and I can't say that I care."

"Yes, but you do. It was Lord Exham. He said this and that about you,
but I did not take much notice of his fine words." Then he rose and
pushed his chair aside, and as he left the room added,--

"That stranger lad I had the tussle with to-night says he knows your
son Edgar--that they have lived and worked together for a year,--a very
unlikely thing."

"Stop a minute, Squire. Are you not ashamed of yourself to keep this
news for a tag-end? Why it is the best thing I have heard to-night; and
I'll be bound you let it go past you like a waft of wind. What did you
ask the stranger about _my_ son?"

"Nothing. Not a word."

"It was like your stubborn heart. _My son_ indeed! If ever you had a
son, it is Edgar. You were just like him when I married you--not as
handsome--but very near; and you are as like as two garden peas in your
pride, and self-will, and foolish anger. Don't talk to me of Dukes, and
Lords, and Parliaments, and wrestling matches. I want to hear about
_my_ son. If you have nothing to say about Edgar, I care little for
your other news."

"Why, Maude! Whatever is the matter with you? I have lived with you
thirty years, and it seems that I have never known you yet."

"But I know you, John Atheling. And I am ashamed of myself for having
made nothing better out of you in thirty years. I thought I had you
better shaped than you appear to be."

"I shall need nothing but my shroud, when thou, or any other mortal,
shapest me."

"Fiddlesticks! Go away with your pride! I have shaped everything for
you,--your house, and your eating; your clothes, and your religion; and
if I had ever thought you would have fallen into Duke Richmoor's hands,
I would have shaped your politics before this time of day."

"Now, Maude, thou canst easily go further than thou canst come back,
if thou dost not take care. Thou must remember that I am thy lord and

"To be sure, thou hast that name. But thou hast always found it best
to do as thy lady and mistress told thee to do; and if ever thou didst
take thy own way, sorry enough thou hast been for it. Talk of clay in the
hands of the potter! Clay is free and independent to what a man is in the
hands of his wife. Now, John, go to bed. I won't speak to thee again
till I find out something about _my_ son Edgar."

"Very well, Madame."

"I have been thy guardian angel for thirty years"--and Mrs. Atheling
put her head in her hands, and began to cry a little. The Squire could
not bear that argument; he turned backward a few steps, and said in a
more conciliatory voice,--

"Come now, Maude. Thou hast been my master for thirty years; for that
is what thou meanest by 'guardian angel.' But there is nothing worth
crying about. I thought I had brought news that would set thee up a bit;
but women are never satisfied. What dost thou want more?"

"I want thee to go in the morning and find out all about Edgar. I want
thee to bring his friend up here. I would like to question him myself."

"I will not do it."

"Then thou oughtest to be ashamed of thyself for as cruel, and stubborn,
and ill-conditioned a father as I know of. John, dear John, I am very
unhappy about the lad. He went away without a rag of his best clothes.
There's the twelve fine linen shirts Kitty made him, backstitched
and everything, lying in his drawers yet, and his top-coat hanging on
the peg in his room, and his hat and cane so natural like; and he never
was a lad to take care of his health; and so--"

"Now, Maude, I have humbled a bit to thee many a time; and I don't
mind it at all; for thou art only a woman--and a woman and a wife can
blackguard a man as no other body has either the right or the power to
do--but I will not humble to Edgar Atheling. No, I won't! He is about as
bad a prodigal son as any father could have."

"Well, I never! Putting thy own son down with harlots and swine, and
such like!"

"I do nothing of the sort, Maude. There's all kinds of prodigals.
Has not Edgar left his home and gone away with Radicals and Reformers,
and poor, discontented beggars of all makes and kinds? Happen, I could
have forgiven him easier if it had been a bit of pleasuring,--wine and
a bonny lass, or a race-horse or two. But mechanics' meetings, and
pandering to ranting Radicals--I call it scandalous!"

"Edgar has a good heart."

"A good heart! A cat and a fiddle! And that friend of his thou wantest
me to run after, he is nothing but a bouncing, swaggering puppy! Body of
me, Maude! I will not have this subject named again. If thou thinkest I
will ever humble to Edgar Atheling, thou art off thy horse; for I will

"Well, John, as none of thy family were ever out of their senses before,
I do hope thou wilt come round; I do indeed!"

"Make thyself easy on that score. Lord! What did the Almighty make women
of? It confounds me."

"To be sure it does. Didst thou expect the Almighty to tell thee? He
has so ordered things that men get wed, and then try and find the secret
out. Thou hadst better go to bed, John Atheling. I see plainly there
is neither sense nor reason in thee to-night. I fancy thou art a bit
set up with the thought of being sent to Parliament by Duke Richmoor. I
wouldn't if I was thee, for thou wilt have to do just what he tells
thee to do."

"What an aggravating woman thou art!" and with the words he passed
through the door, clashing it after him in a way that made Mistress
Atheling smile and nod her handsome head understandingly. She stood
waiting until she heard a door clash sympathetically up-stairs, and
then she said softly,--

"He did not manage to 'throw' or 'threep' me; if he was cock of
the walk down on the green--what fools men are!--I see clear through
him--stubborn though--takes after his mother--and there never was a woman
more stubborn than Dame Joan Atheling."

During this soliloquy she was locking up the cupboards in the parlour
and houseplace. Then she opened the kitchen door and sharply gave the
two women watching the malt mash her last orders; after which she took
off her slippers at the foot of the stairs, and went very quietly up
them. She had no light, but without any hesitation she turned towards
a certain corridor, and gently pushed open a door. It let her into a
large, low room; and the moonlight showed in the centre of it a high
canopied bedstead, piled with snowy pillows and drapery, and among them,
lying with closed eyes, her daughter Kate.

"Kate! Kitty darling! Are you awake?" she whispered.

"Mother! Yes, dear Mother, I am wide awake."

"Your father has been in one of his tantrums again--fretting and fuming
like everything."

"Poor father! What angered him?"

"Well, child, I angered him. Why wouldn't I? He saw a man in the
village who has been living with Edgar for a year, and he never asked
him whether your poor brother was alive or dead. What do you think of

"It was too bad. Never mind, Mother. I will go to the village in the
morning, and I will find the man, and hear all about Edgar. If there is
any chance, and you want to see him, I will bring him here."

"I would like him to come here, Kitty; for you know he might take Edgar
his best clothes. The poor lad must be in rags by this time."

"Don't fret, Mother. I'll manage it."

"I knew you would. Your father is going to Parliament, Kate. The Duke
offers to seat him, and you will get up to London. What do you think of

"I am very glad to hear it. Father ought to be in Parliament. He is such
a straight-forward man."

"Well, I don't know whether that kind of man is wanted there, Kate; but
he will do right, and speak plain, I have no doubt. I thought I would
tell you at once. It is something to look forward to. Now go to sleep and
dream of what may come out of it,--for one thing, you shall have plenty
of fine new dresses--good-night, my dear child."

"Good-night, Mother. You may go sweetly to sleep, for I will find out
all about Edgar. You shall be at rest before dinner-time to-morrow."
Then the mother stooped and tucked in the bedclothing, not because it
needed it, but because it was a natural and instinctive way to express
her care and tenderness. Very softly she stepped to the door, but
ere she reached it, turned back to the bed, and laying her hand upon
Kitty's head whispered, "Lord Exham is home again. He is coming here

And Kate neither spoke nor moved; but when she knew that she was quite
alone, a sweet smile gathered round her lips, and with a gentle sigh she
went quickly away to the Land of Happy Dreams.



Early the next morning the Squire was in the parlour standing at the
open lattices, and whistling to a robin on a branch of the cherry-tree
above them. The robin sang, and the Squire whistled, scattering crumbs
as he did so, and it was this kindly picture which met Kate's eyes as
she opened the door of the room. To watch and to listen was natural;
and she stood on the threshold doing so until the Squire came to the
last bars of his melody. Then in a gay voice she took it up, and sang to
his whistling:

    "_York! York! for my money!_"[1]

[Footnote 1: "York! York for my monie
             Of all the places I ever did see
             This is the place for good companie
                 Except the city of London."]

"Hello, Kate!" he cried in his delight as he turned to her; and as
joyously as the birds sing "Spring!" she called, "Good-morning,

"God bless thee, Kate!" and for a moment he let his eyes rest on the
vision of her girlish beauty. For there was none like Kate Atheling in
all the North-Riding; from her sandalled feet to her shining hair, she
was the fairest, sweetest maid that ever Yorkshire bred,--an adorable
creature of exquisite form and superb colouring; merry as a bird, with a
fine spirit and a most affectionate heart. As he gazed at her she came
close to him, put her fingers on his big shoulders, and stood on tiptoes
to give him his morning greeting. He lifted her bodily and kissed her
several times; and she said with a laugh,--

"One kiss for my duty, and one for my pleasure, and all the rest are
stolen. Put me down, Father; and what will you do for me to-day?"

"What wouldst thou like me to do?"

"May I ride with you?"

"Nay; I can't take thee with me to-day. I am going to Squire Ayton's,
and from there to Rudby's, and very like as far as Ormesby and

"Then you will not be home to dinner?"

"Not I. I shall get my dinner somewhere."

"Can I come and meet you?"

"Thou hadst better not."

At this moment Mrs. Atheling entered, and Kate, turning to her,
said, "Mother, I am not to ride with father to-day. He is going a
visiting,--going to get his dinner 'somewhere,' and he thinks I
had better not come to meet him."

"Father is right. Father knows he is not to trust to when he goes
'somewhere' for his dinner. For he will call for Ayton, and they two
will get Rudby, and then it will be Ormesby, and so by dinner-time they
may draw rein at Pickering, and Pickering will start 'Corn Laws' and
'Protection for the Farmers,' and midnight will be talked away. Is not
that about right, John?" but she asked the question with a smile that
proved Maude Atheling was once more the wise and loving "guardian
angel" of her husband.

"Thou knowest all about it, Maude."

"I know enough, any way, to advise thee to stand by thy own heart,
and to say and do what it counsels thee. Pickering is made after the
meanest model of a Yorkshireman; and when a Yorkshireman turns out to
be a failure, he is a ruin, and no mistake."

"What by that? I can't quarrel with Pickering. You may kick up a dust
with your neighbour, but, sooner or later, it will settle on your own
door-stone. It is years and years since I learned that lesson. And as for
Pickering's ideas, many a good squire holds the same."

"I don't doubt it. Whatever the Ass says, the asses believe; thou wilt
find that out when thou goest to Parliament."

"Are you really going to Parliament, Father?"

"Wouldst thou like me to go, Kate?"

"Yes, if I may go to London with you."

"It isn't likely I would go without thee. Did thy mother tell thee,
Lord Exham has come back from Italy to sit for Gaythorne."

"A long way to come for so little," she answered. "Why, Father! there
are only a few hovels in Gaythorne, and all the men worth anything have
gone to Leeds to comb wool. Poor fellows!"

"Why dost thou say 'poor fellows'?"

"Because, when a man has been brought up to do his day's work in fields
and barns, among grass, and wheat, and cattle, it is a big change to sit
twelve hours a day in 'the Devil's Hole,' for Martha Coates told me
that is what the wool-combing room is called."

"There is no sense in such a name."

"It is a very good name, I think, for rooms so hot and crowded, and so
sickening with the smells of soap, and wool, and oil, and steam. Martha
says her lads have turned Radicals and Methodists, and she doesn't
wonder. Neither do I."

"Ay; it is as natural as can be. To do his duty by the land used to
be religion enough for any Yorkshire lad; but when they go to big towns,
they get into bad company; and there couldn't be worse company than
those weaving chaps of all kinds. No wonder the Government doesn't
want to hear from the big towns; they are full of a ranting crowd of

"Well, Father, if I was in their place, and the question of Content, or
Non-content, was put to me, I should very quickly say, 'Non-content.'"

"Nobody is going to put the question to thee. Thy mother has not managed
to bring up a daughter any better than herself, I see that. Kate, my
little maid, Lord Exham will be here to-day; see that thou art civil
enough to him; it may make a lot of difference both to thee and me."

"John Atheling!" cried his wife, "what a blunderer thou art! Why
can't thou let women and their ways alone?"

When they rose from the breakfast-table, the Squire called for his horse,
and his favourite dogs, and bustled about until he had Mrs. Atheling
and half-a-dozen men and women waiting upon him. But there was much good
temper in all his authoritative brusqueness, and he went away in a little
flurry of éclat, his wife and daughter, his men and maid-servants, all
watching him down the avenue with a loving and proud allegiance. He was
so physically the expression of his place and surroundings that not a
soul in Atheling ever doubted that the Squire was in the exact place to
which God Almighty had called him.

On this morning he was dressed in a riding suit of dark blue broadcloth
trimmed with gilt buttons; his vest was white, his cravat white, and his
hat of black beaver. As he galloped away, he swept it from his brow to
his stirrups in an adieu to his wife and daughter; but the men and
women-servants took their share in the courtesy, and it was easy to
feel the cheer of admiration, only expressed by their broad smiles
and sympathetic glances. As soon as "the Master" was out of sight,
they turned away, each to his or her daily task; and Kate looked at
her mother inquiringly. There was an instant understanding, and very
few words were needed.

"Thou hadst better lose no time. He might get away early."

"He will not leave until he sees us, Mother. That is what he came to
Atheling for,--I'll warrant it,--and if I don't go to the village, he
will come here; I know he will."

"Kitty, I can't, I can't trust to that--and you promised."

"I am going to keep my promise, Mother. Have my mare at the door in ten
minutes, and I will be ready."

Mrs. Atheling had attended to this necessity before breakfast, and
the mare was immediately waiting. She was a creature worthy of the
Beauty she had to carry,--dark chestnut in colour, with wide haunches
and deep oblique shoulders. Her mane was fine, her ears tremulous, her
nostrils thin as parchment, her eyes human in intelligence, her skin
like tissue-paper, showing the warm blood pressing against it, and the
veins standing clearly out. Waiting fretted her, and she pawed the
garden gravel impatiently with her round, dark, shining hoofs until
Kate appeared. Then she uttered a low whinny of pleasure, and bent
her head for the girl to lay her face against it.


A light leap from the groom's hand put Kate in her seat, and a lovelier
woman never gathered reins in hand. In those days also, the riding
dress of women did not disfigure them; it was a garb that gave to Kate
Atheling's loveliness grace and dignity, an air of discreet freedom,
and of sweet supremacy,--a close-fitting habit of fine cloth, falling
far below her feet in graceful folds, and a low beaver hat, crowned
with drooping plumes, shadowing her smiling face. One word to the mare
was sufficient; she needed no whip, and Kate would not have insulted
her friend and companion by carrying one.

For a little while they went swiftly, then Kate bent and patted the
mare's neck, and she instantly obeyed the signal for a slower pace. For
Kate had seen before them a young man sitting on a stile, and teaching
two dogs to leap over the whip which he held in his hand. She felt
sure this was the person she had to interview; yet she passed him without
a look, and went forward towards the village. After riding half-a-mile
she took herself to task for her cowardice, and turned back again.
The stranger was still sitting on the stile, and as she approached
him she heard a hearty laugh, evoked doubtless by some antic or mistake
of the dogs he was playing with. She now walked her mare toward him, and
the young man instantly rose, uncovered his head, and, pushing the dogs
away, bowed--not ungracefully--to her. Yet he did not immediately speak,
and Kate felt that she must open the conversation.

"Do you--do you want to find any place?" she asked. "I think you are
a stranger--and I am at home here."

He smiled brightly and answered, "Thank you. I want to find Atheling
Manor-house. I have a message for Mrs. and Miss Atheling."

"I am Miss Atheling; and I am now returning to the house. I suppose that
you are the Wrestler and Orator of last night. My father told us about
the contest. Mother wishes to talk with you--we have heard that you know
my brother Edgar--we are very unhappy about Edgar. Do you know anything
of him? Will you come and see mother--_now_--she is very anxious?"

These questions and remarks fell stumblingly from her lips, one after
the other; she was excited and trembling at her own temerity, and yet
all the time conscious she was Squire Atheling's daughter and in her
father's Manor, having a kind of right to assume a little authority and
ask questions. The stranger listened gravely till Kate ceased speaking,
then he said,--

"My name is Cecil North. I know Edgar Atheling very well. I am ready to
do now whatever you wish."

"Then, Mr. North, I wish you would come with me. It is but a short walk
to the house; Candace will take little steps, and I will show you the

"Thank you."

He said only these two words, but they broke up his face as if there
was music in them; for he smiled with his lips and his eyes at the same
time. Kate glanced down at him as he walked by her side. She saw that
he was tall, finely formed, and had a handsome face; that he was well
dressed, and had an air of distinction; and yet she divined in some
occult way that this animal young beauty was only the husk of his being.
After a few moments' silence, he began that commonplace chat about
horses which in Yorkshire takes the place that weather does in other
localities. He praised the beauty and docility of Candace, and Kate hoped
she was walking slowly enough; and then Cecil North admired her feet
and her step, and asked if she ever stumbled or tripped. This question
brought forth an eager denial of any such fault, and an opinion that
the rider was to blame when such an accident happened.

"In a general way, you are right, Miss Atheling," answered North. "If
the rider sits just and upright, then any sudden jerk forward throws the
shoulders backward; and in that case, if a horse thinks proper to fall,
_he_ will be the sufferer. He may cut his forehead, or hurt his nose, or
bark his knees, but he will be a buffer to his rider."

"Candace has never tripped with me. I have had her four years. I will
never part with her."

"That is right. Don't keep a horse you dislike, and don't part with
one that suits you."

"Do you love horses?"

"Yes. A few years ago I was all for horses. I could sit anything. I
could jump everything, right and left. I had a horse then that was made
to measure, and foaled to order. No one borrowed him twice. He had a
way of coming home without a rider. But I have something better than
horses to care for now; and all I need is a good roadster."

"My father likes an Irish cob for that purpose."

"Nothing better. I have one in the village that beats all. He can trot
fourteen miles an hour, and take a six-foot wall at the end of it."

"Do you ride much?"

"I ride all over England."

She looked curiously at him, but asked no questions; and North continued
the conversation by pointing out to her the several points which made
Candace so valuable. "In the first place," he said, "her colour is
good,--that dark chestnut shaded with black usually denotes speed. She
has all the signs of a thoroughbred; do you know them?"

"No; but I should like to."

"They are three things long,--long ears, long neck, and long forelegs.
Three things short,--short dock, short back, and short hindlegs. Three
things broad,--broad forehead, broad chest, and broad croup. Three
things clean,--clean skin, clean eyes, and clean hoofs. Then the nostrils
must be quite black. If there had been any white in the nostrils of
Candace, I would have ranked her only 'middling.'"

Kate laughed pleasantly, and said over several times the long, short,
broad, and clean points that went to the making of a thoroughbred;
and, by the time the lesson was learned, they were at the door of the
Manor-house. Mrs. Atheling stood just within it, and when Kate said,--

"Mother, this is Edgar's friend, Mr. Cecil North," she gave him her
hand and answered:

"Come in! Come in! Indeed I am fain and glad to see you!" and all the
way through the great hall, and into her parlour, she was beaming and
uttering welcomes. "First of all, you must have a bit of eating and
drinking," she said, "and then you will tell me about my boy."

"Thank you. I will take a glass of ale, if it will please you."

"It will please me beyond everything. You shall have it from the
Squire's special tap: ale smooth as oil, sweet as milk, clear as
amber, fourteen years old next twenty-ninth of March. And so you know
my son Edgar?"

"I know him, and I love him with all my heart. He is as good as gold,
and as true as steel."

"To be sure, he is. I'm his mother, and I ought to know him; and that
is what I say. How did you come together?"

"We met first at Cambridge; but we were not in the same college or set,
so that I only knew him slightly there. Fortune had appointed a nobler
introduction for us. I was in Glasgow nearly a year ago, and I wandered
down to the Green, and was soon aware that the crowd was streaming to one
point. Edgar was talking to this crowd. Have you ever heard him talk to
a crowd?"

The mother shook her head, and Kate said softly: "We have never heard
him." She had taken off her hat, and her face was full of interest and
happy expectation.

"Well," continued North, "he was standing on a platform of rough
boards that had been hastily put together, and I remembered instantly
his tall, strong, graceful figure, and his bright, purposeful face.
He was tanned to the temples, his cheeks were flushed, the wind was in
his hair, the sunlight in his eyes; and, with fiery precipitance of
assailing words, he was explaining to men mad with hunger and injustice
the source of all their woes and the remedy to be applied. I became
a man as I listened to him. That hour I put self behind me and vowed
my life, and all I have, to the cause of Reform; because he showed me
plainly that Parliamentary Reform included the righting of every social
wrong and cruelty."

"Do you really think so?" asked Kate.

"Indeed, I am sure of it. A Parliament that represented the great middle
and working classes of England would quickly do away with both black
and white slavery,--would repeal those infamous Corn Laws which have
starved the working-man to make rich the farmer; would open our ports
freely to the trade of all the world; would educate the poor; give much
shorter hours of labour, and wages that a man could live on. Can I ever
forget that hour? Never! I was born again in it!"

"That was the kind of talk that he angered his father with," said Mrs.
Atheling, between tears and smiles. "You see it was all against the land
and the land-owners; and Edgar would not be quiet, no matter what I said
to him."

"He _could not_ be quiet. He had _no right_ to be quiet. Why! he sent
every man and woman home that night with hope in their hearts and a
purpose in their wretched lives. Oh, if you could have seen those sad,
cold faces light and brighten as they listened to him."

"Was there no one there that didn't think as he did?"

"I heard only one dissenting voice. It came from a Minister. He called
out, 'Lads and lasses, take no heed of what this fellow says to you.
He is nothing but a Dreamer.' Instantly Edgar took up the word. 'A
Dreamer!' he cried joyfully. 'So be it! What says the old Hebrew
prophet? Look to your Bible, sir. Let him that hath a dream tell it.
Dreamers have been the creators, the leaders, the saviours of the world.
And we will go on dreaming until our dream comes true!' The crowd
answered him with a sob and a shout--and, oh, I wish you had been there!"

Kate uttered involuntarily a low, sympathetic cry that she could not
control, and Mrs. Atheling wept and smiled; and when North added, in a
lower voice full of feeling, "There is no one like Edgar, and I love
him as Jonathan loved David!" she went straight to the speaker, took
both his hands in hers, and kissed him.

"Thou art the same as a son to me," she said, "and thou mayst count on
my love as long as ever thou livest." And in this cry from her heart
she forgot her company pronoun, and fell naturally into the familiar and
affectionate "thou."

Fortunately at this point of intense emotion a servant entered with a
flagon of the famous ale, and some bread and cheese; and the little
interruption enabled all to bring themselves to a normal state of
feeling. Then the mother thought of Edgar's clothing, and asked North
if he could take it to him. North smiled. "He is a little of a dandy
already," he answered. "I saw him last week at Lady Durham's, and he
was the best dressed man in her saloon."

"Now then!" said Mrs. Atheling, "thou art joking a bit. Whatever would
Edgar be doing at Lady Durham's?"

"He had every right there, as he is one of Lord Durham's confidential

"Art thou telling me some romance?"

"I am telling you the simple truth."

"Then thou must tell me how such a thing came about."

"Very naturally. I told Lord Grey and his son-in-law, Lord Durham,
about Edgar--and I persuaded Edgar to come and speak to the spur and
saddle-makers at Ripon Cross; and the two lords heard him with delight,
and took him, there and then, to Studley Royal, where they were
staying; and it was in those glorious gardens, and among the ruins of
Fountains Abbey, they planned together the Reform Campaign for the next

"The Squire thinks little of Lord Grey," said Mrs. Atheling.

"That is not to be wondered at," answered North. "Lord Grey is the
head and heart of Reform. When he was Mr. Charles Grey, and the pupil
of Fox, he presented to Parliament the famous Prayer, from the Society of
Friends, for Reform. That was thirty-seven years ago, but he has never
since lost sight of his object. By the side of such leaders as Burke,
and Fox, and Sheridan, his lofty eloquence has charmed the House until
the morning sun shone on its ancient tapestries. He and his son-in-law,
Lord Durham, have the confidence of every honest man in England. And
he is brave as he is true. More than once he has had the courage to tell
the King to his face what it was his duty to do."

"And what of Lord Durham?" asked Kate.

"He is a masterful man,--a bolder Radical than most Radicals. All over
the country he is known as Radical Jack. He has a strong, resolute will,
but during the last half-year he has leaned in all executive matters upon
'Mr. Atheling.' Indeed, there was enthusiastic talk last week at Lady
Durham's of sending 'Mr. Atheling' to the next Parliament."

"My word! But that would never do!" exclaimed Mr. Atheling's mother.
"His father is going there for the landed interest; and if Edgar goes
for the people, there will be trouble between them. They will get to
talking back at each other, and the Squire will pontify and lay down
the law, even if the King and the Law-makers are all present. He will

"It would be an argument worth hearing, for Edgar would neither lose
his temper nor his cause. Oh, I tell you there will be great doings in
London next winter! The Duke of Wellington and Mr. Peel will have to go
out; and Earl Grey will surely form a new Government."

"The Squire says Earl Grey and Reform will bring us into civil war."

"On the contrary, only Reform can prevent civil war. Hitherto, the
question has been, 'What will the Lords do?' Now it is, 'What must
be done with the Lords?' For once, all England is in dead earnest;
and the cry everywhere is, 'The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing
but The Bill!' And if we win, as win we must, we shall remember how
Edgar Atheling has championed the cause. George the Fourth is on his
death-bed," he added in a lower voice. "He will leave his kingdom in
a worse plight than any king before him. I, who have been through the
land, may declare so much."

"The poor are very poor indeed," said Mrs. Atheling. "Kate and I do
what we can, but the most is little."

"The whole story of the poor is--slow starvation. The best silk weavers
in England are not able to make more than eight or nine shillings a
week. Thousands of men in the large towns are working for two-pence
half-penny a day; and thousands have no work at all."

"What do they do?" whispered Kate.

"They die. But I did not come here to talk on these subjects--only when
the heart is full, the mouth must speak. I have brought a letter and a
remembrance from Edgar," and he took from his pocket a letter and two
gold rings, and gave the letter and one ring to Mrs. Atheling, and the
other ring to Kate. "He bid me tell you," said North, "that some day
he will set the gold round with diamonds; but now every penny goes for

"And you tell Edgar, sir, that his mother is prouder of the gold thread
than of diamonds. Tell him, she holds her Reform ring next to her wedding
ring,"--and with the words Mrs. Atheling drew off her "guard" of
rubies, and put the slender thread of gold her son had sent her next her
wedding ring. At the same moment Kate slipped upon her "heart finger"
the golden token. Her face shone, her voice was like music: "Tell
Edgar, Mr. North," she said, "that my love for him is like this ring:
I do not know its beginning; but I do know it can have no end."

Then North rose to go, and would not be detained; and the women walked
with him to the very gates, and there they said "good-bye." And all
the way through the garden Mrs. Atheling was sending tender messages to
her boy, though at the last she urged North to warn him against saying
anything "beyond bearing" to his father, if they should meet on the
battle-ground of the House of Commons. "It is so easy to quarrel on
politics," she said with all the pathos of reminiscent disputes.

"It has always been an easy quarrel, I think," answered North. "Don't
you remember when Joseph wanted to pick a quarrel with his brethren, he
pretended to think they were a special commission sent to Egypt to spy
out the nakedness of the land?"

"To be sure! And that is a long time ago. Good-bye! and God bless thee!
I shall never forget thy visit!"

"And we wish 'The Cause' success!" added Kate.

"Thank you. Success will come. They who _care_ and _dare_ can do
anything." With these words he passed through the gates, and Mrs.
Atheling and Kate went slowly back to the house, both of them turning
the new ring on their fingers. It was dinner-time, but little dinner
was eaten. Edgar's letter was to read; Mr. North to speculate about; and
if either of the women remembered Lord Exham's expected call, no remark
was made about it.

Yet Kate was neither forgetful of the visit, nor indifferent to it. A
sweet trouble of heart, half-fear and half-hope, flushed her cheeks
and sent a tender light into her star-like eyes. In the very depths of
her being there existed a feeling she did not understand, and did not
investigate. Was it Memory? Was it Hope? Was it Love? She asked none of
these questions. But she dressed like a girl in a dream; and just as she
was sliding the silver buckle on her belt, a sudden trick of memory
brought back to her the rhyme of her childhood. And though she blushed
to the remembrance, and would not for anything repeat the words, her
heart sang softly to itself,--

    "It may so happen, it may so fall,
    That I shall be Lady of Exham Hall."



On the very edge of the deep, tumbling becks which feed the Esk stands
Exham Hall. It is a stately, irregular building of gray stone; and when
the sunshine is on its many windows, and the flag of Richmoor flying from
its central tower, it looks gaily down into the hearts of many valleys,

    "The oak, and the ash, and the bonny ivy-tree,
    Flourish at home in the North Countree."

Otherwise, it has, at a distance, a stern and forbidding aspect. For
it is in a great solitude, and the babble of the beck, and the cawing
of the rooks, are the only sounds that usually break the silence. The
north part was built in A. D. 1320; and the most modern part in the reign
of James the First; and yet so well has it stood the wear and tear of
elemental and human life in this secluded Yorkshire vale that it does
not appear to be above a century old.

It was usually tenanted either by the dowager of the family, or the
heir of the dukedom; and it had been opened at this time to receive its
young lord on his return from Italy. So it happened that at the very
hour when Mrs. and Miss Atheling were talking with Cecil North, Piers
Exham was sitting in a parlour of Exham Hall, thinking of Kate, and
recalling the events of their acquaintanceship. It had begun when he was
seventeen years old, and Kate Atheling exactly twelve. Indeed, because it
was her birthday, she was permitted to accompany an old servant going to
Exham Hall to visit the housekeeper, who was her cousin.

This event made a powerful impression on Kate's imagination. It was
like a visit to some enchanted castle. She felt all its glamour and
mystery as soon as her small feet trod the vast entrance hall with
its hangings of Arras tapestry, and its flags and weapons from every
English battlefield. Her fingers touched lightly standards from Crecy,
and Agincourt, and the walls of Jerusalem; and her heart throbbed to the
touch. And as she climbed the prodigiously wide staircase of carved
and polished oak, she thought of the generations of knights, and lords
and ladies, who had gone up and down it, and wondered where they were.
And oh, the marvellous old rooms with their shadowy portraits, and
their treasures from countries far away!--shells, and carved ivories,
and sandalwood boxes; strange perfumes, and old idols, melancholy,
fantastic, odd; musky-smelling things from Asia; and ornaments and
pottery from Africa, their gloomy, primitive simplicity, mingling with
pretty French trifles, and Italian bronzes, and costly bits of china.

It was all like an Arabian Night's adventure, and hardly needed the
touches of romance and superstition the housekeeper quite incidentally
threw in: thus, as they passed a very, very tall old clock with a silver
dial on a golden face, she said: "Happen, you would not believe it,
but on every tenth of June, a cold queer light travels all round that
dial. It begins an hour past midnight, and stops at an hour past noon.
I've seen it myself a score of times." And again, in going through
a state bed-room, she pointed out a cross and a candlestick, and said,
"They are made from bits of a famous ship that was blown up with an
Exham, fighting on the Spanish Main. I've heard tell that candles
were once lighted in that stick on his birthday; but there's been no
candle-lighting for a century, anyway." And Kate thought it was a
shame, and wished she knew his birthday, and might light candles again in
honour of the hero.

With such sights and tales, her childish head and heart were filled;
and the mazy gardens, with their monkish fish-ponds and hedges, their old
sun-dials and terraces, their ripening berries and gorgeous flower-beds,
completed her fascination. She went back to Atheling ravished and
spellbound; too wrapt and charmed to talk much of what she had seen, and
glad when she could escape into the Atheling garden to think it all over
again. She went straight to her swing. It was hung between two large
ash-trees, and there were high laurel hedges on each side. In this
solitude she sat down to remember, and, as she did so, began to swing
gently to-and-fro, and to sing to her movement,--

    "It may so happen, it may so fall,
    That I shall be Lady of Exham Hall."

And as she sung these lines over and over--being much pleased with their
unexpected rhyming--the young Lord of Exham Hall came through Atheling
garden. He heard his own name, and stood still to listen; then he softly
parted the laurel bushes, and watched the little maid, and heard her
sing her couplet, and merrily laugh to herself as she did so. And he
saw how beautiful she was, and there came into his heart a singular
warmth and pleasure; but, without discovering himself to the girl, he
delivered his message to Squire Atheling, and rode away.

The next morning, however, he managed to carry his fishing-rod to the
same beck where Edgar Atheling was casting his line, and to so charm the
warm-hearted youth that meeting after meeting grew out of it. Nor was it
long until the friendship of the youths included that of the girl; so
that it was a very ordinary thing for Kate to go with her brother and
Piers Exham to the hill-streams for trout. As the summer grew they tossed
the hay together, and rode after the harvest wagons, and danced at the
Ingathering Feast, and dressed the ancient church at Christmastide, and
so, with ever-increasing kindness and interest, shared each other's joy
and sorrows for nearly two years.

Then there was a break in the happy routine. Kate put on long dresses;
she was going to a fine ladies' school in York to be "finished," and
Edgar also was entered at Cambridge. Piers was to go to Oxford. He
begged to go to Cambridge with his friend; but the Duke approved the
Tory principles of his own University, and equally disapproved of
those of Cambridge, which he declared were deeply tainted with Whig
and even Radical ideas. Perhaps also he was inclined to break up the
close friendship between the Athelings and his heir. "No one can be
insensible to the beauty of Kate Atheling," he said to the Duchess;
"and Piers' constant association with such a lovely girl may not
be without danger." The Duchess smiled at the supposition. A royal
princess, in her estimation, was not above her son's deserts and
expectations; and the Squire's little home-bred girl was beneath
either her fears or her suppositions. This also was the tone in which
she received all her son's conversation about the Athelings. "Very nice
people, I dare say, Piers," she would remark; "and I am glad you have
such thoroughly respectable companions; but you will, of course, forget
them when you go to College, and begin your independent life." And
there was such an air of finality in these assertions that it was only
rarely Piers had the spirit to answer, "Indeed, I shall never forget

So it happened that the last few weeks of their friendship missed much
of the easy familiarity and sweet confidence that had hitherto marked
its every change. Kate, with the new consciousness of dawning womanhood,
was shy, less frank, and less intimate. Strangers began to call her
"Miss" Atheling; and there were hours when the little beauty's airs
of maidenly pride and reserve made Piers feel that any other address
would be impertinent. And this change had come, no one knew how, only it
was there, and not to be gainsaid; and every day's events added some
trifling look, or word, or act which widened the space between them,
though the space itself was full of sweet and kindly hours.

Then there came a day in autumn when Kate was to leave her home for the
York school. Edgar was already in Cambridge. Piers was to enter Oxford
the following week. This chapter of life was finished; and the three
happy souls that had made it, were to separate. Piers, who had a poetic
nature, and was really in love--though he suspected it not--was most
impressed with the passing away. He could not keep from Atheling, and
though he had bid Kate "good-bye" in the afternoon, he was not
satisfied with the parting. She had then been full of business: the
Squire was addressing her trunks; Mrs. Atheling crimping the lace
frill of her muslin tippets; and Kate herself bringing, one by one,
some extra trifle that at the last moment impressed her with its
necessity. It was in this hurry of household love and care that he had
said "good-bye," and he felt that it had been a mere form.

Perhaps Kate felt it also; for when he rode up to Atheling gates in the
gloaming, he saw her sauntering up the avenue. He thought there was
both melancholy and expectation in her attitude and air. He tied his
horse outside, and joined her. She met him with a smile. He took her
hand, and she permitted him to retain it. He said, "Kate!" and she
answered the word with a glance that made him joyous, ardent, hopeful.
He was too happy to speak; he feared to break the heavenly peace between
them by a word. Oh, this is the way of Love! But neither knew the ways
of Love. They were after all but children, and the sweet thoughts in
their hearts had not come to speech. They wandered about the garden
until the gloaming became moonlight, and they heard Mrs. Atheling calling
her daughter. Then their eyes met, and, swift as the firing of a gun,
their pupils dilated and flashed with tender feeling; over their faces
rushed the crimson blood; and Piers said sorrowfully, "Kate! Sweet
Kate! I shall never forget you!" He raised the hand he held to his
lips, kissed it, and went hurriedly away from her.

Kate was not able to say a word, but she felt the kiss on her hand
through all her sleep and dreams that night. Indeed five years of
change and absence had not chilled its warm remembrance; there were
hours when it was still a real expression, when the hand itself was
conscious of the experience, and willingly cherished it. All through
Cecil North's visit, she had been aware of a sense of expectancy.
Interested as she was in Edgar, the thought of Lord Exham would not be
put down. For a short time it was held in abeyance; but when the early
dinner was over, and she was in the solitude of her own room, Piers put
Edgar out of consideration. As she sat brushing and dressing her long
brown hair, she recalled little incidents concerning Piers,--how once
in the harvest-field her hair had tumbled down, and Piers praised its
tangled beauty; how he had liked this and the other dress; how he had
praised her dancing, and vowed she was the best rider in the county.
He had given her a little gold brooch for a Christmas present, and she
took it from its box, and said to herself she would wear it, and see if
it evoked its own memory in Exham's heart.

It had been her intention to put on a white gown, but the day darkened
and chilled; and then she had a certain shyness about betraying, even
to her mother, her anxiety to look beautiful. Perhaps Piers might not now
think her beautiful in any garb. Perhaps he had forgotten--everything.
So, impelled by a kind of perverse indifference, she wore only the gray
woollen gown that was her usual afternoon attire. But the fashion of
the day left her lovely arms uncovered, and only veiled her shoulders
in a shadowing tippet of lace. She fastened this tippet with the
little gold brooch, just where the folds crossed the bosom. She had
hastened rather than delayed her dressing; and when Mrs. Atheling came
downstairs in her afternoon black silk dress, she found Kate already in
the parlour. She had taken from her work-box a piece of fine cambric,
and was stitching it industriously; and Mrs. Atheling lifted her own
work, and began to talk of Edgar, and Edgar's great fortune, and what
his father would say about it. This subject soon absorbed her; she
forgot everything in it; but Kate heard through all the radical
turmoil of the conversation the gallop of a strange horse on the
gravelled avenue, and the echo of strange footsteps on the flagged halls
of the house.


In the middle of some grand prophecy for Edgar's future, the parlour
door was opened, and Lord Exham entered. He came forward with something
of his boyhood's enthusiasm, and took Mrs. Atheling's hands, and said
a few words of pleasant greeting, indistinctly heard in the fluttering
gladness of Mrs. Atheling's reception. Then he turned to Kate. She had
risen, but she held her work in her left hand. He took it from her,
and laid it on her work-box, and then clasped both her hands in his. The
firm, lingering pressure had its own eloquence. In matters of love,
they who are to understand, _do_ understand; and no interpreter is needed.

The conversation then became general and full of interest; but from
Oxford, and France, and Italy, it quickly drifted--as all conversation
did in those days--to Reform. And Mrs. Atheling could not keep the
news that had come to her that day. She magnified Edgar with a sweet
motherly vanity that was delightful, and to which Piers listened with
pleasure; for the listening gave him opportunity to watch Kate's
eloquent face, and to flash his sympathy into it. He thought her
marvellously beautiful. Her shining hair, her rich colouring, and her
large gray eyes were admirably emphasised by the homely sweetness of
her dress. After the lavish proportions, and gaily attired women of
Italy, nothing could have been more enchanting to Piers Exham than
Kate's subdued, gray-eyed loveliness, clad in gray garments. The
charming background of her picturesque home added to this effect; and
this background he saw and realised; but she had also a moral background
of purity and absolute sincerity which he did not see, but which he
undoubtedly felt.

While Piers was experiencing this revelation of womanhood, it was not
likely Kate was without impressions. In his early youth, Exham had a
slight resemblance to Lord Byron; and he had been vain of the likeness,
and accentuated it by adopting the open collar, loose tie, and other
peculiarities of the poetic nobleman. Kate was glad to see this servile
imitation had been discarded. Exham was now emphatically individual. He
was not above medium height; but his figure was good, and his manner
gentle and courteous, as the manner of all superior men is. Grave and
high-bred, he had also much of the melancholy, mythical air of an
English nobleman, conscious of long antecedents, and dwelling in the
seclusion of shaded parks, and great houses steeped in the human aura
of centuries. His hair was very black, and worn rather long, and his
complexion, a pale bronze; but this lack of red colouring added to
the fascination of his dark eyes, which were remarkable for that deep
glow always meaning mental or moral power of some kind. They were
often half shut--and then--who could tell what was passing behind them?
And yet, when all this had been observed by Kate, she was sure that
something--perhaps the most essential part--had escaped her.

This latter estimate was the correct one. No one as yet had learned
the heart or mind of Piers Exham. It is doubtful if he understood his own
peculiarities; for he had few traits of distinctive pre-eminence, his
character being very like an opal, where all colours are fused and
veiled in a radiant dimness. So that, after all, this meeting was a
first meeting; and Kate did not feel that the past offered her any
intelligible solution of the present man.

The conversation having drifted to Edgar and Reform, stayed there.
Lord Exham spoke with a polite, but stubborn emphasis in favour of his
own caste, as the governing caste, and thought that the honour and
welfare of England might still be left "to those great Houses which
represented the collective wisdom of the nation." Nor was he disturbed
when Mrs. Atheling, with some scorn and temper, said "they represented
mostly the collective folly of the nation." He bowed and smiled at
the dictum, but Kate understood the smile; it was of that peculiarly
sweet kind which is equivalent to having the last word. He admitted
that some things wanted changing, but he said, "Changes could not be
manufactured; they must grow." "True," replied Kate, "but Reform
has been growing for sixty years." "That is as it should be," he
continued. "You cannot write Reforms on human beings, as you write it on
paper. Two or three generations are not enough." In all that was
said--and Mrs. Atheling said some very strong things--he took a polite
interest; but he made no surrender. Even if his words were conciliatory,
Kate saw in his eyes--languid but obstinately masterful--the stubborn,
headstrong will of a man who had inherited his prejudices, and who had
considered them in the light of his interest, and did not choose to bring
them to the light of reason.

Still the conversation was a satisfactory and delightful vehicle of human
revelation. The two women paled and flushed, and grew sad or happy in
its possibilities, with a charming frankness. No social subject could
have revealed them so completely; and Exham enjoyed the disclosures of
feeling which this passionate interest evoked,--enjoyed it so much that
he forgot the lapse of time, and stayed till tea was ready, and then was
delighted to stay and take it with them. Mrs. Atheling was usually
relieved of the duty of making it by Kate; and Piers could not keep his
glowing eyes off the girl as her hands moved about the exquisite Derby
teacups, and handed him the sweet, refreshing drink. She remembered
that he loved sugar; that he did not love cream; that he preferred his
toast not buttered; that he liked apricot jelly; and he was charmed and
astonished at these proofs of remembrance, so much so indeed that he
permitted Mrs. Atheling to appropriate the whole argument. For this sweet
hour he resigned his heart to be pleased and happy. Too wise in some
things, not wise enough in others, Piers Exham had at least one great
compensating quality--the courage to be happy.

He let all other feelings and purposes lapse for this one. He gave
himself up to charm, and to be charmed; he flattered Mrs. Atheling into
absolute complaisance; he persuaded Kate to walk through the garden
and orchard with him, and then, with caressing voice and a gentle
pressure of the hand, reminded her of days and events they had shared
together. Smiles flashed from face to face. Her simple sweetness, her
ready sympathy, her ingenuous girlish expressions, carried him back to
his boyhood. Kate shone on his heart like sunshine; and he did not
know that it had become dark until he had left Atheling behind, and found
himself Exham-way, riding rapidly to the joyful whirl and hurry of his

Now happiness, as well as sorrow, is selfish. Kate was happy and not
disposed to talk about her happiness. Her mother's insistent questions
about Lord Exham troubled her. She desired to go into solitude with the
new emotions this wonderful day had produced; but the force of those
lovely habits of respect and obedience, which had become by constant
practice a second nature, kept her at her mother's side, listening with
sweet credulousness to all her opinions, and answering her hopes with
her own assurances. The reward of such dutiful deference was not long
in coming. In a short time Mrs. Atheling said,--

"It has been such a day as never was, Kate; and you must be tired. Now
then, go to bed, my girl, and sleep; for goodness knows when your father
will get home!"

So Kate kissed her mother--kissed her twice--as if she was dimly
conscious of unfairly keeping back some pleasure, and would thus atone
for her selfishness. And Mrs. Atheling sat down in the chimney-corner
with the gray stocking she was knitting, and pondered her son's good
fortune for a while. Then she rose and sent the maids to bed, putting
the clock an hour forward ere she did so, and excusing the act by saying,
"If I don't set it fast, we shall soon be on the wrong side of

Another hour she sat calmly knitting, while in the dead silence of the
house the clock's regular "_tick! tick!_" was like breathing. It
seemed to live, and to watch with her. As the Squire came noisily into
the room it struck eleven. "My word, Maude!" he said with great good
humour, "I am sorry to keep you waiting; but there has been some good
work done to-night, so you won't mind it, I'll warrant."

"Well now, John, if you and your friends have been at Pickering's, and
have done any 'good' work there, I will be astonished! You may warrant
_that_ with every guinea you have."

"We were at Rudby's. There were as many as nine landed men of us
together; and for once there was one mind in nine men."

"That is, you were all for yourselves."

"No! Dal it, we were all for old England and the Constitution! The
Constitution, just as it is, and no tinkering with it."

"I wonder which of the nine was the biggest fool among you?"

"Thou shouldst not talk in that way, Maude. The country is in real
danger with this Reform nonsense. Every Reformer ought to be hung, and I
wish they were hung."

"I would be ashamed to say such words, John. Thou knowest well that thy
own son is a Reformer."

"More shame to him, and to me, and to thee! I would have brought up a
better lad, or else I would hold my tongue about him. It was thy fault he
went to Cambridge. I spent good money then to spoil a fine fellow."

"Now, John Atheling, I won't have one word said against Edgar in this

"It is my house."

"Nay, but it isn't. Thou only hast the life rent of it. It is Edgar's
as much as thine. He will be here, like enough, when I and thou have gone
the way we shall never come back."

"Maybe he will--and maybe he will not. I can break the entail if it
suits me."

"Thou canst not. For, with all thy faults, thou art an upright man,
and thy conscience wouldn't let thee do anything as mean and spiteful
as that. How could we rest in our graves if there was any one but an
Atheling in Atheling?"

"He is a disgrace to the name."

"He is nothing of that kind. He will bring the old name new honour. See
if he does not! And as for the Constitution of England, it is about as
great a ruin as thy constitution was when thou hadst rheumatic fever, and
couldn't turn thyself, nor help thyself, nor put a morsel of bread
into thy mouth. But thou hadst a good doctor, and he set thee up; and a
good House of Commons--Reforming Commons--will happen do as much for
the country; though when every artisan and every farm labourer is hungry
and naked, it will be hard to spread the plaster as far as the sore. It
would make thy heart ache to hear what they suffer."

"Don't bother thy head about weavers, and cutlers, and artisans. If
the Agriculture of the country is taken care of--"

"Now, John, do be quiet. There is not an idiot in the land who won't
talk of Agriculture."

"We have got to stick by the land, Maude."

"The land will take care of itself. If thou wouldst only send for thy
son, and have a little talk with him, he might let some light and wisdom
into thee."

"I have nothing to say on such subjects to Edgar Atheling--not a word."

"If thou goest to Parliament, thou mayst have to 'say' to him, no
matter whether thou wantest to or not; that is, unless thou art willing
to let Edgar have both sides of the argument."

"What tom-foolery art thou talking?"

"I am only telling thee that Edgar is as like to go to Parliament as
thou art."

"To be sure--when beggars are kings."

"Earl Grey will seat him--or Lord Durham; and I would advise thee to
study up things a bit. There are new ideas about, John; and thou wouldst
look foolish if thy own son had to put any of thy mistakes right for

"I suppose, Maude, thou still hast a bit of faith left in the Bible.
And I'll warrant thou knowest every word it says about children obeying
their parents, and honouring their parents, and so on. And I can
remember thee telling Edgar, when he was a little lad, about Absalom
going against his father, and what came of it; now then, is the Bible, as
well as the Constitution, a ruin? Is it good for nothing but to be
pitched into limbo, or to be 'reformed'? I'm astonished at thee!"

"The Bible has nothing to do with politics, John. I wish it had!
Happen then we would have a few wise-like, honest politicians. The
Bible divides men into good men and bad men; but thou dividest all men
into Tories and Radicals; and the Bible has nothing to do with either
of them. I can tell thee that. Nay, but I'm wrong; it does say a deal
about doing justice, and loving mercy, and treating your neighbour
and poor working-folk as you would like to be treated yourself. Radicals
can get a good deal out of the New Testament."

"I don't believe a word of what thou art saying."

"I don't wonder at that. Thou readest nothing but the newspapers; if
thou didst happen to read a few words out of Christ's own mouth, thou
wouldst say, 'Thou never heardest the like,' and thou wouldst think
the man who quoted them wrote them out of his own head, and call him a
Radical. Get off to thy bed, John. I can always tell when thou hast
been drinking Rudby's port-wine. It is too heavy and heady for thee.
As soon as thou art thyself again, I will tell thee what a grand son
thou art the father of. My word! If the Duke gives thee a seat at his
mahogany two or three times a year, thou art as proud as a peacock; now
then, thy son Edgar is hob-nobbing with earls and lords every day of
his life, and they are proud of his company."

The Squire laughed boisterously. "It is time, Maude," he said, "I went
to my bed; and it is high time for thee to wake up and get thy head on a
feather pillow; then, perhaps, thou will not dream such raving nonsense."

With these scornful words he left the room, and Mrs. Atheling rose
and put away her knitting. She was satisfied with herself. She expected
her mysterious words to keep the Squire awake with curiosity; and in
such case, she was resolved to make another effort to reconcile her
husband to his son. But the Squire gave her no opportunity; he slept
with an indifferent continuity that it was useless to interrupt. Perhaps
there was intention in this heavy sleep, for when he came downstairs
in the morning he went at once to seek Kate. He soon saw her in the
herb garden; for she had on a white dimity gown, and was standing
upright, shading her eyes with her hands to watch his approach. A good
breeze of wind from the wolds fluttered her snowy skirts, and tossed
the penetrating scents of thyme and marjoram, mint and pennyroyal
upward, and she drew them through her parted lips and distended nostrils.

"They are so heavenly sweet!" she said with a smile of sensuous
pleasure. "They smell like Paradise, Father."

"Ay, herbs are good and healthy. The smell of them makes me hungry. I
didn't see thee last night, Kitty; and I wanted to see thee."

"I was so tired, Father. It was a day to tire any one. Was it not?"

"I should say it was," he replied with conscious diplomacy. "Now what
part of it pleased thee best?"

"Well, Mr. North's visit was of course wonderful; and Lord Exham's
visit was very pleasant. I enjoyed both; but Mr. North's news was so
very surprising."

"To be sure. What dost thou think of it?"

"Of course, Edgar is on the other side, Father. In some respects that
is a pity."

"It is a shame! It is a great shame!"

"Nay, nay, Father! We won't have 'shame' mixed up with Edgar. He
is in dead earnest, and he has taken luck with him. Just think of our
Edgar being one of Lord Durham's favourites, of him speaking all over
England and Scotland for Reform. Mr. North says there is no one like
him in the drawing-rooms of the Reform ladies; and no one like him on
the Reform platforms; and he was made a member of the new Reform Club in
London by acclamation. And Earl Grey will get him a seat in Parliament
next election."

"Who is this Mr. North?"

"Why, Father! You heard him speak, and you 'threw' him down on the
Green, you know."

"_Oh! Him!_ Dost thou believe all this palaver on the word of a
travelling mountebank?"

"He is not a travelling mountebank. I am sure he is a gentleman. You
shouldn't call a man names that you have 'thrown' fairly. You know
better than that."

"I know nothing about the lad. And he does not seem to have told thee
anything about himself. As for thy mother--" and then he hesitated, and
looked at Kate meaningly and inquiringly.

"Mother liked him. She liked him very much indeed. He brought both
mother and me a ring from Edgar," and she put out her hand and showed
the Squire the little gold circle.

"Trumpery rubbish!" he said scornfully. "It didn't cost half a crown.
Give it to me, and I will get thee a ring worth wearing,--sapphires or

"I would not part with it for loops and hoops of sapphires and rubies.
Edgar sent it as a love-token; he wants his money for nobler things than
rubies--but, dear me! you can't buy love for any money. Oh, Father!
I do wish you would be friends with Edgar."

"My little lass, I cannot be friends with any one if he goes against
the land, and the King, and the Constitution. I am loyal straight
through; up and down to-day, and to-morrow, and every day; and I can't
bear traitors,--men that would sell their country for a bit of mob
power or mob glory. All of Edgar's friends and neighbours are for the
King and the Laws; and it shames me and pains me beyond everything to
have a rascal and a Radical in my family. The Duke and his son are
finger and thumb, buckle and belt; and Edgar and I ought to be the
same. And it stands to reason that a father knows more than his own
lad of twenty-six years old. What dost thou think of Lord Exham?"

The question was asked at a venture; but Kate had no suspicion, and
she answered frankly, "I think very well of him. He talked mostly of
politics; but every one does that. It was pleasant to see him at our
tea-table again."

"To be sure. So he stayed to tea?"

"Yes; did not mother tell you?"

"Nay, we were talking of other things. What does he look like?"

"I think he is much improved."

"Well, he ought to be. He must have learned a little, and he has seen
a lot since we saw him. Come, let us go and find out what kind of a
breakfast mother can give us. I am hungry enough for two."

So Kate lifted the herbs which she had cut into her garden apron, and
cruddling close to her father's side, they went in together, with the
smell of the thyme and marjoram all about them. Mrs. Atheling drew it in
as they entered the parlour, and then turned to them with a smile. The
Squire went to her side, and promptly kissed her. It was one of his ways
to ignore their little tiffs; and this morning Mrs. Atheling was also
agreeable. She looked into his eyes, and said:

"Why, John! are you really awake. You lay like the Seven Sleepers when I
got up, and I said to myself, 'John will sleep the clock round,' so
Kate and I will have our breakfasts."

"Nay, I have too much to look after, Maude." Then he turned the
conversation to the farms, and talked of the draining to be done, and
the meadows to be left for grass; but he eschewed politics altogether,
and, greatly to Mrs. Atheling's wonder, never alluded to the information
she had given him about their son Edgar. Did he really think she had
been telling him a made-up story? She could not otherwise understand
this self-control in her curious lord. However, sometime during the
morning, Kate told her about the conversation in the herb garden; then
she was content. She knew just where she had her husband; and the little
laugh with which she terminated the conversation was her expression of
conscious power over him, and of a retaliation quite within her reach.



There is always in every life some little part which even those dearer
than life to us cannot enter. Kate had become conscious of this fact. She
hoped her mother would not talk of Lord Exham; for she did not as yet
understand anything about the feelings his return had evoked. She would
have needed the uncertain, enigmatical language which comes in dreams
to explain the "yes" and the "no" of the vague, trembling memories,
prepossessions, and hopes which fluttered in her breast.

Fortunately Mrs. Atheling had some dim perception of this condition, and
without analysing her reasons, she was aware "it was best not to
meddle" between two lives so surrounded by contradictious circumstances
as were those of her daughter and Lord Exham. Besides, as she said to
her husband, "It was no time for love-making, with the King dying,
and the country on the quaking edge of revolution, and starvation and
misery all over the land." And the Squire answered: "Exham has not one
thought of love-making. He is far too much in with a lot of men who
have the country and their own estates to save. He won't bother himself
with women-folk now, whatever he may do in idle times."

They had both forgotten, or their own love affair had been of such
Arcadian straightness and simplicity that they had never learned Love's
ability to domineer all circumstances that can stir this mortal frame.
Exham had indeed enlisted himself with passionate earnestness in the
cause of his class, which he called the cause of his country--but as the
drop of

    "lucent sirup tinct with cinnamon"

is forever flavoured and perfumed by the spice, so Exham's life was
coloured and prepossessed by the thought of the sweet girl who had been
blended with so many of his purest and happiest hours.

It was then of Kate he thought as he wandered about the stately rooms and
beautiful gardens of Exham Hall. He was not oblivious of his engagements
with the Duke and the tenants; but he was considering how best to keep
these engagements, and yet not miss a visit to her. The dying King,
the riotous land, were accidentals of his life and condition; his love
for Kate Atheling was at the root of his existence; it was a fundamental
of the past and of the future. For five years of constant change and
movement, it had lain in abeyance; but old love is a dangerous thing
to awaken; and Piers Exham found in doing this thing that every event
of the past strengthened the influence of the present, and fixed his
heart more passionately on the girl he had first found fair; the

    --"rosebud set with little, wilful thorns,
    And sweet as English airs could make her,"

that had sung and swung herself into his affection when she was only
twelve years old.

He was however quite aware that any proposal to marry Kate Atheling
would meet with prompt opposition from his family; indeed the Duke had
already mentioned a very different alliance; and in that case, he did
not doubt but that Squire Atheling would be equally resolved never to
allow his daughter to enter a home where she would be regarded by any
member of it as an intruder. But he put all such considerations for
the present behind him. He said to himself, "The first thing to do, is
to win Kate's love; with that sweet consciousness, I shall be ready for
all opposition." For his heart kept assuring him that every trouble
and obstacle has an hour in which it may be conquered,--an hour when
Fate and Will become One, and are then as irresistible as a great force
of Nature. He was sure the hour for this conflict had not yet come.
It was the day for a different fight. His home, his estate, his title,
and all the privileges of his nobility were in danger. When they were
placed beyond peril, then he would fight for the wife he wanted, and
win her against all opposition. And who could tell in what way the
first conflict would bring forth circumstances to insure victory to the

He was deeply in love; he was full of hope; he was at Atheling some part
of every day. If he came in the afternoon, Kate's pony was saddled, and
they rode far and away, to where the shadows and sunshine elbowed
one another on the moors. The golden gorse shed its perfume over their
heads; the linnets sang to them of love; they talked, and laughed, and
rode swiftly until their pace brought them among the mountains that
looked like a Titanic staircase going up to the skies. There, they always
drew rein, and went slower, and spoke softer, and indeed often became
quite silent, and knew such silence to be the sweetest eloquence. Then
after a little interval Piers would say one word, "_Kate!_" and
Kate only answer with a blush, and a smile, and an upturned face. For
Love can put a volume in four letters; and souls say in a glance what
a thousand words would only blunder about. Then there was the gallop
home, and the merry cup of tea, and the saunter in the garden, and the
long tender "good-bye" at the threshold where the damask roses made
the air heavy with their sweetness.

So Lord Exham did not find his politics hard to bear with such delicious
experiences between whiles. And Kate? What were Kate's experiences?
Oh, any woman who has once loved, any pure girl who longs to love, may
divine them! For Love is always the same. The tale he told Kate on the
Atheling moors and under the damask roses was the very same tale he
told high in Paradise by the four rivers where the first roses blew.

As the summer advanced, startling notes from the outside world forced
themselves into this heavenly solitude. On the twenty-sixth of June,
King George died; and this death proved to be the first of a series of
great events. Piers felt it to be a warning bell. It said to him, "The
charming overture of Love, with its restless pleasure, its delicate
hopes and fears, is nearly at an end." He had been with Kate for
three divine hours. They had sat among the brackens at the foot of the
mountains, and been twenty times on the very point of saying audibly
the word "Love!" and twenty times had felt the delicious uncertainty
of non-confession to be too sweet for surrender. Nay, they did not
reason about it; they simply obeyed that wise, natural self-restraint
which knew its own hour, and would not hurry it.


With a sigh of rapture, they rose as the sun began to wester, and rode
slowly back to Atheling. No one was at the door to receive them, and
Kate wondered a little; but when they entered the hall, the omission
was at once understood. There was a large open fireplace at the
northern extremity, and over it the Atheling arms, with their motto,
"_Feare God! Honour the Kinge! Laus Deo!_" Squire Atheling was
draping this panel with crape; and Mrs. Atheling stood near him with
some streamers of the gloomy fabric in her hands. She pointed to the
King's picture--which already wore the emblem of mourning--and said,
"The King is dead."

"The King lives! God save the King!" replied the Squire, instantly.
"God save King William the Fourth!"

Then all the clocks in the house were stopped, and draped, and when this
ceremony was over, they had tea together. And as it is a Yorkshire
custom to make funeral feasts, Mrs. Atheling gave to the meal an air
of special entertainment. The royal Derby china added its splendour
to the fine old silver and delicate damask. There were delicious
cheese-cakes, and Queen's-cakes, and savoury potted meats, and fresh
crumpets; and the ripe red strawberries filled the room with their
ethereal scent. No one was at all depressed by the news. If King George
was dead, King William was alive; and the Squire thought, "Everything
might be hoped from 'The Sailor King.' Why!" he said, "he is that
good-natured he won't say a bad word about the Reformers; though, God
knows, they are a disgrace to themselves, and to all that back them up."

"There will now be a general election," said Exham positively.

"To be sure," answered the Squire. "And it is to be hoped we may get
together a few men that will take the Bull of Reform by the horns, and
put a stop to that nonsense forever in England."

"Before they do that," said Mrs. Atheling, "they will have to consider
the swarms of people they have brought up in dirt, and rags, and misery.
For if they don't, they will bring ruin to the nation that owns them."

"King William is a fighter. He will back the Law with bayonets, if he
thinks it right," said the Squire.

Mrs. Atheling looked at him indignantly. Then, putting her cup down
with unmistakable emphasis, she exclaimed, "The Lord forgive thee,
John Atheling! I'll say one thing, and I'll say it now, and forever,
it isn't law backed with bayonets that has saved England so far; it is
the bit of religion in every man's heart, and his trust that somehow
God will see him righted. If it wasn't for that it would have been all
up with our set long ago."

"That is just the way women talk politics," said the Squire, with some
contempt. "If there was nothing else in this Reform business to make a
man sick, the way they have given in to women, and got them to form clubs
and make speeches, is enough to set any sensible person against Reform;
and if there is no way of talking people into doing what is right--then
they must be _made_ to do right; and that's all there is about it."

"Very well, John; but there are two sides to play at making other
people do right. I'll tell you one thing, the Government will have to
take a lot of things into consideration before they put their trust in
backing law with bayonets. It won't work! Let them start doing it, and
we shall all find ourselves in a wrong box."

"I think there is much good sense in what Mrs. Atheling believes," said
Lord Exham.

"And as for the Reformers getting round the women of the country,"
she continued, "that is as it should be. Men have done all the governing
for six thousand years; and, in the main, they have made a very bad job
of it. Happen, a few kind-hearted women would help things forwarder.
There is going to be some alterations, you may depend upon it, John."

"Father," said Kate, "you had better not argue with mother. She knows
a deal more about the country than you think she does; and mother is
always right."

"To be sure, Kate. To hear mother talk, she knows a lot; but if she
would take my advice, she would forget a lot, and try and learn
something better." Then touching his wife's hand, he continued,
"Maude, I always did believe thou wert in favour of the land, and
the law, and the King."

"I don't know that I ever said such a thing, John; but thou mayst have
believed it. What I _thought_, was another matter. And I am beginning
to think aloud now, that makes all the difference."

Such divided opinions were in every household; and yet, upon the
whole, the death of the selfish, intolerant George was a hopeful
event. When people are desperate, any change is a promise; and William
had a reputation not only for good nature, but also for that love of
fair play which is the first article of an Englishman's personal
creed. He came to the throne on the twenty-sixth of June; and on the
twenty-ninth Parliament resumed its sittings. Mr. Brougham led the
opposition, and violent debates and unmeasured language distinguished
the short session. The Duke of Wellington, representing the Government,
was prominently bitter against Reform of every kind; and Mr. Brougham
boldly declared that any Minister now hoping to rule either by royal
favour or military power would be overwhelmed. In less than a month
the King prorogued Parliament in person, and in so doing, congratulated
his country on the tranquillity of Europe. Forty-eight hours afterwards,
France was insurgent, and Paris in arms. Three days of most determined
fighting followed; and then Charles the Tenth was driven from his
throne, and the white flag of the Bourbon tyranny gave place to the
Tri-colour of Liberty.

Now if there had been a direct electric or magnetic current between
England and the Continent, the effect could not have been more
sympathetically startling; and these three memorable "Days of
July" in Paris impelled forward, with an irresistible impetus, the
cause of freedom in England. The nobility and the landed gentry were
gravely aware of this effect; and the great middle class, and the
working men in every county, were stirred to more hopeful and united
action. Far and wide the people began anew to express, in various
ways, their determination to have the Tory Ministers dismissed, and a
Liberal Government in favour of Reform inaugurated.

For the first time the Squire was anxious. For the first time he saw
and felt positive symptoms of insubordination among his own people.
Pickering's barns were burnt one night; and a few nights afterwards,
Rudby's hay-ricks. Squire Atheling was a man of prompt action; one
well disposed to do in his own manor what he expected the Government
to do in the country,--take the Reform bull by the horns. He sent for
all his labourers to meet him in the farm court at Atheling; and when
they were gathered there, he stood up on the stone wall which enclosed
one side of it and said in his strong, resonant voice,--

"Now, men of Atheling manor and village, you have been sulky and ugly
for two or three weeks. You aren't sulky and ugly without knowing _why_
you are so. If you are Yorkshiremen worth your bread and bacon, you will
out with your grievance--whatever it is. Tom Gisburn, what is it?"

"We can't starve any longer, Squire. We want two shillings a week more
wages. Me and mine would hev been in t' churchyard if thy Missis hed
been as hard-hearted as thysen."

"I will give you all one shilling a week more."

"Nay, but a shilling won't do. Thy Missis is good, and Miss Kate is
good; but we want our rights; and we hev made up our minds that two
shillings a week more wage will nobbut barely cover them. We are varry
poor, Squire! Varry poor indeed!"

The man spoke sadly and respectfully; and the Squire looked at him,
and at the stolid, anxious faces around with an angry pity. "I'll tell
you what, men," he continued; "everything in England is going to the
devil. Englishmen are getting as ill to do with as a lot of grumbling,
contrary, bombastic Frenchers. If you'll promise me to stand by the
King, and the land, and the laws, and give these trouble-making Reformers
a dip in the horse-pond if any of them come to Atheling again--why, then,
I will give you all--every one of you--two shillings a week more wage."

"Nay, Squire, we'll not sell oursens for two shillings a week; not one
of us--eh, men?" and Gisburn looked at his fellows interrogatively.

"Sell oursens!" replied the Squire's blacksmith, a big, hungry-looking
fellow in a leather apron; "no! no, Squire! Thou oughtest to know us
better. Sell oursens! Not for all the gold guineas in Yorkshire! We'll
sell thee our labour for two shilling a week more wage, and thankful;
but our will, and our good-will, thou can't buy for any money."

There was a subdued cheer at these words from the men, and the Squire's
face suddenly lightened. His best self put his lower self behind him.
"Sawley," he answered, "thou art well nicknamed 'Straight-up!' and I
don't know but what I'm very proud of such an independent, honourable
lot of men. Such as you won't let the land suffer. Remember, you were
all born on it, and you'll like enough be buried in it. Stand by the
land then; and if two shillings a week more wage will make you happy, you
shall have it,--if I sell the gold buttons off my coat to pay it. Are
we friends now?"

A hearty shout answered the question, and the Squire continued, "Then go
into the barn, and eat and drink your fill. You'll find a barrel of old
ale, and some roast beef, and wheat bread there."

In this way he turned the popular discontent from Atheling, and doubtless
saved his barns and hay-ricks; but he went into his house angry at the
men, and angry at his wife and daughter. They had evidently been aiding
and succouring these discontents and their families; and--as he took
care to point out to Kate--evil and not good had been the result. "I
have to give now as a right," he said, "what thee and thy mother have
been giving as a kindness!" And his temper was not improved by hearing
from the barn the noisy "huzzas" with which the name of "the young
Squire" was received, and his health drank.

"Wife, and son, and daughter! all of them against me! I wonder what
I have done to be served in such a way?" he exclaimed sorrowfully.
And then Kate forgot everything about politics. She said all kinds of
consoling words without any regard for the Reform Bill, and, with the
sweetest kisses, promised her father whatever she thought would make him
happy. It is an unreasonable, delightful way that belongs to loving
women; and God help both men and women when they are too wise for such
sweet deceptions!

Yet the Squire carried a hot, restless heart to the Duke's meeting that
night; and he was not pleased to find that the tactics he had used with
his labourers met with general and great disapproval. Those men who had
already suffered loss, and those who knew that they had gone beyond a
conciliating policy, said some ugly words about "knuckling down,"
and it required all the Duke's wisdom and influence to represent it as
"a wise temporary concession, to be recalled as soon as the election
was over, and the Tory Government safely reinstalled."

Upon the whole, then, Squire Atheling had not much satisfaction in his
position; and every day brought some new tale of thrilling interest. All
England was living a romance; and people got so used to continual
excitement that they set the homeliest experiences of life to great
historical events. During the six weeks following the death of King
George the Fourth occurred the new King's coronation, the dissolution
of Parliament, the "Three Days of July," and the landing of the
exiled French King in England; all of these things being accompanied
by agrarian outrages in the farming districts, the destruction of
machinery in the manufacturing towns, and constant political tumults
wherever men congregated.

The next six weeks were even more restless and excited. The French
King was a constant subject of interest to the Reformers; for was he
not a stupendous example of the triumph of Liberal principles? He was
reported first at Lulworth Castle in Devonshire. Then he went to Holyrood
Palace in Edinburgh. The Scotch Reformers resented his presence, and
perpetually insulted him, until Sir Walter Scott made a manly appeal for
the fallen tyrant. And while the Bourbon sat in Holyrood, a sign and
a text for all lovers of Freedom, England was in the direst storm and
stress of a general election. The men of the Fen Country were rising.
The Universities were arming their students. There was rioting in this
city and that city. The Tories were gaining. The Reformers were gaining.
Both sides were calling passionately on the women of the country to come
to their help, without it seeming to occur to either that if women had
political influence, they had also political rights.

But the end was just what all these events predicated. When the election
was over, the Tory Government had lost fifty votes in the House of
Commons; but Piers Exham was Member of Parliament for the borough of
Gaythorne, and Squire Atheling was the Representative of the Twenty-two
Tory citizens of the village of Asketh.



The first chapter of Kate's and Piers' love-story was told to these
stirring events. They were like a _trumpet obligato_ in the distance
thrilling their hearts with a keener zest and a wider sympathy. True,
the sympathy was not always in unison, for Piers was an inflexible
partisan of his own order, yet in some directions Kate's feelings
were in perfect accord. For instance, at Exham Hall and at Atheling
Manor-house, there was the same terror of the mob's firebrand, and
the same constant watch for its prevention. These buildings were not
only the cherished homes of families; they were houses of national pride
and record. Yet many such had perished in the unreasoning anger of
multitudes mad with suffering and a sense of wrong; and the Squire
and the Lord alike kept an unceasing watch over their habitations. On
this subject, all were unanimous; and the fears, and frights, and
suspicions relating to it drew the families into much closer sympathy.

After the election was over, there was a rapid subsidence of public
feeling; the people had taken the first step triumphantly; and they
were willing to wait for its results. Then the Richmoor family began
to consider an immediate removal to London, and, as a preparatory
courtesy, gave a large dinner party at the Castle. As Kate was not
yet in society, she had no invitation; but the Squire and Mrs. Atheling
were specially honoured guests.

"The Squire has been of immense service to me," said Richmoor to
his Duchess. "A man so sincere and candid I have seldom met. He has
spoken well for us, simply and to the point, and I wish you to pay
marked attention to Mrs. Atheling."

"Of course, if you desire it, I will do so. Who was Mrs. Atheling? Is
she likely to be detrimental in town or troublesome?"

"She is the daughter of the late Thomas Hardwicke, of Hardwicke--as you
know, a very ancient county family. She had a good fortune; in fact, she
brought the Squire the Manor of Belward."

"In appearance, is she presentable?"

"She was very handsome some years ago. I have not seen her for a long

"I dare say she has grown stout and red; and she will probably wear blue
satin in honour of her husband's Tory principles. These county dames
always think it necessary to wear their party colours. I counted eleven
blue satin dresses at our last election dinner."

"Even if she does wear blue satin, I should like you to be exceedingly
civil to her."

"I suppose you know that Piers has been at Atheling a great deal. I
heard in some way that--in fact, Duke, that Piers and Miss Atheling were
generally considered lovers."

The Duke laughed. "I think I understand Piers," he said. "These
incendiary terrors have drawn people together; and there has also been
the election business as well. Many perfectly necessary natural causes
have taken Piers to Atheling."

"Miss Atheling, for instance!"

"Oh, perhaps so! Why not? When I was a young man, I thought it both
necessary and natural to have a pretty girl to ride and walk with. But
riding and walking with a lovely girl is one thing; marrying her is
another. Piers knows that he is expected to marry Annabel Vyner; he
knows that for many reasons it will be well for him to do so. And above
all other considerations, Piers puts his family and his caste."

The Duke's absolute confidence in his son satisfied the Duchess. She
looked upon her husband as a man of wonderful penetration and invincible
wisdom. If he was not uneasy about Piers and Miss Atheling, there was
no necessity for her to carry an anxious thought on the subject; and she
was glad to be fully released from it. Yet she had more than a passing
curiosity about Kate's mother. The Squire she had frequently seen,
both in the pink of the hunting-field and in the quieter dress of the
dinner-table. But it so happened that she had never met Mrs. Atheling;
and, on entering the great drawing-room, her eyes sought the only lady
present who was a stranger to her.

Mrs. Atheling was standing at the Duke's side; and she went directly
to her, taking note, as she did so, of the beauty, style, and physical
grace that distinguished the lady. She saw that she wore a gown--not of
blue--but of heavy black satin, that it fell away from her fine throat
and shoulders, and showed her arms in all their exquisite form and
colour. She saw also that her dark hair was dressed well on the top of
the head in _bouillonés_ curls, and that the only ornament she wore
was among them,--a comb of wrought gold set with diamonds,--and that
otherwise neither brooch nor bracelet, pendant nor ruffle of lace broke
the noble lines of her figure or the rich folds of her gown. And the
Duchess was both astonished and pleased with a toilet so distinguished;
she assured herself in this passing investigation that Mrs. Atheling
was quite "presentable," and also probably desirable.

The favourable impression was strengthened in that hour after dinner
when ladies left to their own devices either become disagreeable or
confidential. The Duchess and Mrs. Atheling fell into the latter mood,
and their early removal to London was the first topic of conversation.

"We have no house in town," said Mrs. Atheling; "but the Squire has
rented one that belonged to the late General Vyner. It is in very good
condition, I hear, though we may have to stay a few days at '_The

"How strange! I mean that it is strange you should have rented the
General's house. Did you make the arrangement with the Duke?"

"No, indeed; with a Mr. Pownell who is a large house agent."

"Mr. Pownell attends to the Duke's London property. I am sure he will
be delighted to know his old friend's home is in such good hands. I
wonder if you have heard that the Duke is General Vyner's executor and
the guardian of his daughter?"

Mrs. Atheling made a motion indicative of her ignorance and her
astonishment, and the Duchess continued, "It is quite a charge
everyway; but there was a life-long friendship between the two men,
and Annabel will come to us almost like a daughter."

"A great charge though," answered Mrs. Atheling, "especially if she
is yet to educate."

"Her education is finished. She is twenty-two years of age. It is her
wealth which will make my position an anxious one. It is not an easy
thing to chaperon a great heiress."

"And if she is beautiful, that will add to the difficulty," said Mrs.

"I have never seen Miss Vyner. I cannot tell you whether she is
beautiful or not so. She joins us in London, and my first duty will be to
present her at the next drawing-room."

A little sensitive pause followed this statement,--a pause so sensitive
that the Duchess divined the desire in Mrs. Atheling's heart; and Mrs.
Atheling felt the hesitancy and wavering inclination weighing her wish
in the thoughts of the Duchess. A sudden, straight glance from Mrs.
Atheling's eyes decided the question.

"I should like to present Miss Atheling at the same time, if you have
no objection," she added. And Mrs. Atheling's pleasure was so great,
and her thanks so candid and positive, that the Duchess accepted the
situation she had placed herself in with apparent satisfaction. Yet
she wondered _why_ she had made the offer. She felt as if the favour
had been obtained against her will. She was half afraid in the very
moment of the proposal that she was doing an imprudent thing. But when
she had done it, she never thought of withdrawing from a position she
must have taken voluntarily. On the contrary, she affected a great
interest in the event, and talked of "the ceremonies Miss Atheling
must make herself familiar with," of the probable date at which the
function would take place, and of the dress and ornaments fitting for
the occasion. "And the young people must meet each other as soon as
possible," she continued.

Then the gentlemen entered the drawing-room, and the groups scattered.
The Duchess left Mrs. Atheling; and Lord Exham took the chair she
vacated. And the happy mother was far too simple, and too single-hearted
to keep her pleasure to herself. She told Exham of the honour intended
Kate, and was a little dashed by the manner in which he heard the
news. He was ashamed of it himself; but he could not at once conquer
the feeling of jealousy which assailed him. It was the first time
that the image of Kate had been presented to him in company with any but
Piers Exham; and it gave him real suffering to associate it with the
attention and admiration her beauty was sure to challenge from all
and sundry who would be present at a court drawing-room. However, he made
the necessary assurances of pleasure, and Mrs. Atheling was not a woman
who went motive hunting. She took a friend's words at their face value.

Of course Kate was delighted, and the Squire perhaps more so; for
though he pretended to think it "all a bit of nonsense," he opened
his purse-strings wide, and told his wife and daughter to "help
themselves." So the last few days at Atheling were set to the dreams,
and hopes, and expectations of that gay social life which always has
a charm for youth. The clash of party warfare, the wailing of want, the
insistent claims of justice,--all these voices were temporarily hushed.
They had become monotonous and, to Kate, suddenly uninteresting. What
was the passing of a Reform Bill to a girl of nineteen, when there was
such a thing as a court drawing-room in expectation?

It made her restless and anxious during the two weeks occupied by their
removal from Atheling, and their settlement in London. And though the
great city was full of wonder and interest, and the new splendours of
the Vyner mansion very satisfactory, yet she could not enjoy these
things until there was some token that the Duchess remembered, and
intended to fulfil her promise. If only Piers had been in London! But
Piers had been detained in Yorkshire, and was not expected until the
formal opening of Parliament, so that Kate could only speculate, and
wish, and fear, and in so doing discount her present, and forestall
her future pleasures. So prodigal is youth of happiness and feeling!

However, at the end of October, Mrs. Atheling received a letter from
the Duchess. It reminded her of the drawing-room, and asked Miss
Atheling's presence that evening in order to meet Miss Vyner, and
consult with her about the dresses to be worn. The visit was to be
perfectly informal; but even an informal visit to Richmoor House was a
great event to Kate. And how pretty she was when she came into her
father's and mother's presence, dressed for the occasion! Mrs.
Atheling looked at her with a smile of satisfaction, and the Squire
instantly rose, and took her on his arm to the waiting carriage. This
carriage was the Squire's pet extravagance, and there was not a more
splendidly-appointed equipage in London. Its horses were of the finest
that Yorkshire breeds; the servant's liveries irreproachable in taste;
and when he saw his daughter's white figure against its rich, blue
linings he was satisfied with his outlay.

Richmoor House was soon reached, and Kate looked with wonder at its
noble frontage, and its stone colonnades. How much greater was her
wonder when she stepped into its interior vestibule! This vestibule was
eighty-two feet long, by more than twelve feet wide; it was ornamented
with Doric columns and fine carvings, and at each end there was a
colossal staircase. Up one of these stately ways Kate was conducted
into a gallery full of fine paintings, and forming the corridor on
which the one hundred and fifty rooms appropriated to the use of the
family opened. Here, one servant after another escorted her, until she
was left with a woman-in-waiting, who led her into a tiring-room and then
assisted Kate's own maid to remove her mistress's wrap and hood, and
tie in pretty bows her white satin sandals. The simple girl felt as if
she was in a dream, and she accepted all this attention with the calm
composure of a dream-maiden. It was just like one of the old fairy tales
she used to live in. She was an enchanted princess in an enchanted
castle, and all she had to do, was to be passive in the hands of her
destiny. Transient and illogical as this feeling was, it gave to her
manner a singular air of serene confidence, and the Duchess noticed and
approved it. She was relieved at once from any apprehension of anything
_malapropos_ in The Presence.

She went forward to meet Kate, and was both astonished and pleased at
her _protegée's_ appearance. The white llama in which she was gowned,
its simple trimming of white satin, and its pretty accessories of
white slippers and gloves satisfied both the pride and the taste of
the Duchess. Any less attention to costume she would have felt as a
want of respect towards herself; any more extravagant display would
have indicated vulgar display and a due want of subordination to her
own rank and age. But Kate offended no feeling, and she took her by
the hand and led her down the long room. At its extremity there was a
group of girls: one was standing; the others were sitting on a sofa
before her. The eyes of all were fastened on Kate as she approached;
but she was not disturbed by this scrutiny. She had all the strength and
assurance which comes from a proper and moderate toilet; and she was even
competent to do her own share of observation.


The three girls sitting on the sofa offered no points of remark or
speculation. They were the three Ladies Anne, Mary, and Charlotte
Warwick; and all alike had the beauty of youth, the grace of noble
nurture, and the pretty garments indicative of their station. But the
young lady standing was of a different character. Her personality
pervaded the space in which she stood; she domineered with a look; and
Kate knew instinctively that this girl was Annabel Vyner. The knowledge
came with a little shock, a sudden failing of heart, a presentiment. She
had given her hand with a pleasant impulse, and without consideration,
to the Ladies Warwick; she did not offer it to Annabel; and yet she was
not aware of the omission. All of these girls were intending to make a
Court _début_, and at that moment were discussing its necessities. Kate
at first took little part in this discussion. Mrs. Atheling had already
decided on the costume she thought most suitable for her daughter;
and Kate was quite satisfied with her choice. Miss Vyner was however
dictating to Lady Charlotte Warwick what she ought to wear; and Kate
watched with a curious wonder this girlish oracle, laying down laws
for others her equal in age, and far more than her equal in rank and
social position.

Miss Vyner was not beautiful; but she possessed an irresistible
fascination. She was large, and rather heavy. She reminded one of a
roughhewn granite statue of old Egypt; and she was just as magnificently
imposing. Her hair was long, and strong, and wavy; her eyes very black
and intrepid, but capable of liquid, languishing expressions, full of
enchantment. Her nose, though thick and square at the end, had wide,
sensitive nostrils; and her fine, red lips showed white and dazzling
teeth. But it was the sense of power and plenitude of life which she
possessed which gave her that natural authority, whose influence all
felt, and few analysed or disputed.

She was quite aware that standing was a becoming posture, and that it
gave to her a certain power over the girlish figures who seemed to sit
at her feet. It was not long, however, before Kate felt an instinctive
rebellion against the position assigned her; she knew that it put her
in an unfair subordination; and she rose from her chair, and stood
leaning against the Broadwood piano at her side. The action arrested Miss
Vyner's attention. She stopped speaking in the middle of a sentence,
and, looking steadily at Kate, said suavely, as she pushed the chair

"Do sit down, Miss Atheling."

"No, thank you," answered Kate. "I have been sitting all day. I am
tired of sitting."

Then Annabel gave her a still more searching look, and something came
into Kate's eyes which she understood; for she smiled as she went on
with her little dictation; but the thought in her heart was, "So you
have thrown down the glove, Miss Atheling!"

Nothing however of this incipient defiance was noticeable; and Annabel's
attention was almost immediately afterwards diverted from her companions.
For in the middle of one of her fine descriptions of an Indian court, she
observed a sudden loss of interest, and a simultaneous direction of
every glance towards the upper end of the room. The Duchess was
approaching, and with her, a young man in dinner costume. A crimson
flush rushed over Kate's neck and face; she dropped her eyes, but
could not restrain the faint smile that came and went like a flash
of light.

"It is Lord Exham," she said in a low voice to Anne Warwick; and
the Ladies nodded slightly, and continued a desultory conversation,
they hardly knew what about. But Annabel stood erect and silent. She
glanced once at Kate, and then turned the full blaze of her dazzling
eyes upon the advancing nobleman. For once, their magnetic rays were
ineffectual. The Duchess, on her son's arrival, had notified him of
the ladies present; and Kate Atheling was the lodestar which drew his
first attention. He had in the button-hole of his coat a few Michaelmas
daisies, and after speaking to the other ladies, he put them into Kate's
hand, saying, "I gathered them in Atheling garden. Do you remember the
bush by the swing in the laurel walk? I thought you would like to have
them." And Kate said "thank you" in the way that Piers perfectly
understood and appreciated, though it seemed to be of the most formal

The dinner was a family dinner, but far from being tiresome or dull. The
Duke and Lord Exham had both adventures to tell. The latter in passing
through a little market-town had seen the hungry people take the wheat
from the grain-market by force, and said he had been delayed a little
by the circumstance.

"But why?" asked the Duchess.

"There were some arrests made; and after all, one cannot see hungry
men and women punished for taking food." There was silence after
this remark, and Kate glanced at Exham, whose veiled eyes, cast upon
the glass of wine he held in his hand, betrayed nothing. But when he
lifted them, they caught something from Kate's eyes, and an almost
imperceptible smile passed from face to face. No one asked Exham for
further particulars; and the Duke hurriedly changed the subject.
"Where do you think I took lunch to-day?" he asked.

"At Stephen's," answered the Duchess.

"Not likely," he replied. "I am neither a fashionable officer, nor
a dandy about town. If I had asked for lunch there, the waiters would
have stared solemnly, and told me there was no table vacant."

"As you want horses, perhaps you went to Limmers," said Exham.

"No. I met a party of gentlemen and ladies going to Whitbread's
Brewery, and I went with them. We had a steak done on a hot malt shovel,
and plenty of stout to wash it down. There were quite a number of
visitors there; it has become one of the sights of London. Then I rode as
far as the Philosophical Society, and heard a lecture on a new chemical

"The Archbishop does not approve of your devotion to Science," said
the Duchess, reprovingly.

"I know it," he answered. "All our clergy regard Science as a new kind
of sin. I saw the Archbishop later, at a very interesting ceremony,--the
deposition in Whitehall Chapel of twelve Standards taken in Andalusia
by the personal bravery of our soldiers."

"I wish I had seen that ceremony," said Kate.

"And I wish I had myself been one of the heroes carrying the Standard
I had won," added Annabel.

The Duke smiled at the pretty volunteers, and continued, "It was a
very interesting sight. Three royal Dukes, many Generals and foreign
Ambassadors, and the finest troops in London were present. We had some
good music, and a short religious service, and then the Archbishop
deposited the flags on each side of the Altar."

"I like these military ceremonies," said the Duchess. "I shall not
forget the Proclamation of Peace after Waterloo. What a procession of
mediæval splendour it was!"

"I remember it, though I was only a little boy," said Exham. "The
Proclamation was read three times,--at Temple Bar, at Charing Cross,
and at The Royal Exchange. The blast of trumpets before and after each
reading!--I can hear it yet!"

"And the Thanksgiving at St. Paul's after the procession was just as
impressive," continued the Duchess. "The Prince Regent and the Duke of
Wellington walked together, and Wellington carried the Sword of State. It
was a gorgeous festival set to trumpets and drums, and the roll of organ
music, and the seraphic singing of '_Lo! the conquering hero comes_.'
The Duke could have asked England for anything he desired that day."

"Yet he is very unpopular now," said Kate, timidly. "Even my father
thinks he carries everything with too high a hand."

"His military training must be considered, Miss Atheling," said the
Duke. "And the country needs a tight rein now."

"He may hold it too tight," said Exham, in a low voice.

Then the conversation was turned to the theatres, and while they were
talking, Squire Atheling was introduced. He had called to escort his
daughter home; and after a short delay, Kate was ready to accompany
him. The Duke and the Squire--who were deep in some item of political
news--went to the entrance hall together; and Lord Exham took Kate's
hand, and led her down the great stairway. It was now lighted with a
profusion of wax candles in silver candelabra. They were too happy to
speak, and there was no need of speech. Like two notes of music made
for each other, though dissimilar, they were one; and the melody in
the heart of Piers was the melody in the heart of Kate. The unison was
perfect; why then should it be explained? Very slowly they came down
the low broad steps, hardly feeling their feet upon them; for spirit
mingled with spirit, and gave them the sense of ethereal motion.

When they reached the vestibule, Kate's maid advanced and threw round
her a wrap of pink silk, trimmed with minever; and as Piers watched the
shrouding of her rose-like face in the pretty hood, a sudden depression
came like a cloud over him. Oh, yes! True love has these moments of
deep gloom, in which intense feeling suspends both movement and speech.
He could only look into the warm, secret foldings of silk and fur which
hid Kate's beauty; he had not even the common words of courtesy at
his command; but Kate divined the much warmer "good-night" that was
masked by the formal bow and uncovered head.

After the departure of the Athelings, father and son walked silently up
the stairs together; but at the top of them, the Duke paused and said,
"Piers, the King opens Parliament on the Second of November. We have
only three days' truce. Then for the fight."

"We have foemen worthy of our steel. Grey--Durham--Brougham--Russel and
Graham. They will not easily be put down."

"We shall win."

"Perhaps. The House of Lords is very near of one mind. Will you come to
my smoking-room and have a pipe of Turkish?"

"I must see the ladies again; afterwards I may do so."

With these words they parted, and Piers went dreamily along the state
corridor. In its dim, soft light, he suddenly saw Miss Vyner approaching
him. He was thinking of Kate; but he had no wish to escape Annabel. He
was even interested in watching her splendid figure in motion. Only from
some Indian loom had come that marvellous tissue of vivid scarlet with
its embroidery of golden butterflies. It made her look like some superb
flower. She smiled as she reached Piers, and said,--

"I only am left to wish you a 'good-night and happy dreams.'The Ladies
Warwick were sleepy, the Duchess longing to be rid of such a lot of
tiresome girls, and I--"

"What of 'I'?" he asked with a sudden, unaccountable interest.

"I am going to the Land where I always go in sleep. I shut my eyes, and
I am there."

"Then, 'Good-night.'"

"Good-night." She put her little, warm, brown hand, flashing with gems,
into his; and then with one long, unwinking gaze--in which she caught
Piers' gaze--she strangely troubled the young man. His blood grew hot as
fire; his heart bounded; his face was like a flame; and he clasped her
hand with an unconscious fervour. She laughed lightly, drew it away,
and passed on. But as she did so, the Indian scarf she had over her
arm trailed across his feet, and thrilled him like some living thing.
He had a sense of intoxication, and he hurried forward to his own room,
and threw himself into a chair.

"It is that strange perfume that clings around her," he said in a
voice of controlled excitement. "I perceived it as soon as I met her.
It makes me drowsy. It makes me feverish--and yet how delicious it is!"
He threw his head backward, and lay with closed eyes, moving neither
hand nor foot for some minutes. Then he rose, and began to walk about
the room, lifting and putting down books, and papers, and odd trifles,
as they came in the way of his restless fingers. And when at last he
found speech, it was to reproach himself--his real self--the man within

"You, poor, weak, false-hearted lover!" he muttered bitterly. "Piers
Exham! You hardly needed temptation. I am ashamed of you! Ashamed of
you, Piers! Oh, Kate! I have been false to you. It was only a passing
thought, Kate; but you would not have given to another even a passing
thought. Forgive me. _O Thou Dear One!_"

"Thou Dear One!" These three words had a meaning of inexpressible
tenderness to him. For one night,--when as yet their Love was but
learning to speak,--one warm, sweet July night, as they stood under the
damask roses, he said to Kate,--

"How beautiful are the words and tones which your mother uses to the
Squire. She does not speak thus to every one."

"No," replied Kate. "To strangers mother always says '_you_.' To
those she loves, she says '_thou_.'"

And Piers answered, "Dear--if only--" and then he let the silence speak
for him. But Kate understood, and she whispered softly,--

"_Thou Dear One!_"

It seemed to Piers as if no words to be spoken in time or in eternity
could ever make those three words less sweet. They came to his memory
always like a sigh of soft music on a breath of roses. And so it was at
this hour. They filled his heart, they filled his room with soft delight.
He stood still to realise their melody and their fragrance, the music
of their sweet inflections, the perfume of their pure and perfect love.

"_Thou Dear One!_" He said these words again and again. "It has always
been Kate and Piers! Always _I_ and _Thou_--and as for _the Other One_--"

This mental query, utterly unthought of and uncalled for, very much
annoyed him. Who or What was it that suggested "The Other One"? Not
himself; he was sure of that. He went to his father, and they talked
of the King, and the Ministers, and the great Mr. Brougham, whom both
King and Ministers feared--but all the time, and far below the tide of
this restless conversation, Piers heard this very different one,--

"_I_ and _Thou_!"

"And _the Other One_."

"There is no 'Other One.'"



"If Annabel were Destiny?"

"Will is stronger than Destiny."

"If Annabel should be Will."

"Love is stronger than Will."

"It is Kate and Piers."

"And the Other One."

He grew impatient at this persistence of an idea that he had not evoked,
that he had, in fact, denied. But he could not exorcise it. His very
dreams were made and mingled of the two girls,--Kate, whom he loved,
Annabel, who came like a splendid destiny to trouble love. In the
pageant of sleep, he lost that will-power which controlled his life;
he was tossed to-and-fro between blending shadows: Kate was Annabel;
Annabel was Kate; and the fretful, unreasonable drama went on through
restless hours, always to the same tantalising refrain,--

"_I, Thou, and the Other One!_"



There is no eternity for nations. Individuals may be punished hereafter;
nations are punished here. In the first years of the Nineteenth Century,
Englishmen were mad on war; and though wise men warned them of the ruin
that stalks after war, no one believed their report. The treasure that
would have now fed the starving population of England, had been spent
in killing Frenchmen. Bad harvests followed the war years, taxation
was increased, wages were lowered and lowered, credit was gone, trade
languished, hunger or scrimping carefulness was in every household.
For the iniquitous Corn Laws of 1815, forbidding the importation of
foreign grain, had raised English wheat to eighty shillings a quarter.
And how were working men to buy bread at such a price? No wonder,
they clamoured for a House of Commons that should represent their
case, and repeal Acts that could only benefit one class, and inflict
ruin and misery on all others.

A feeling therefore of intense anxiety pervaded the country on the
Second of November,--the day on which the King was to open Parliament.
No one could work; every one was waiting for the King's speech. He was
as yet very popular; it was his first message to his people; and they
openly begged him for some word of hope--some expression of sympathy for
Reform. He went in great state to Westminster, and was cheered by the
city as he went. "Will Your Majesty say a word for the poor? God bless
Your Majesty! Stand by Reform!" Such expressions assailed him on every
hand; they were the prayers of a people wronged and suffering, yet
disposed to be patient and loyal, and to seek Reform only to spare
themselves and the country the ruth and ruin of Revolution.

Richmoor House was on the way of the royal procession, and Kate was there
to watch it. A little later, a great company began to assemble in its
rooms; for the Duke had promised to bring, or to send, the earliest news
of the event. There was however an intense restlessness among these
splendidly attired men and women. They could not separate Reform from
Revolution; and the French Revolution was yet red and bloody in their
memories. They still heard the thunder of those famous "Three Days of
July," and there was constantly before their eyes, the heir of forty
kings finding in a British palace an ignominious shelter. Not only was
this the case, but French noblemen, in poverty and exile, were earning
precarious livings all around; and English noblemen and ladies looked
forward with terror to a similar fate, if the Reformers obtained their
desire. Indeed, Sir Robert Inglis had boldly prophesied, "Reform would
sweep the House of Lords clear in ten years."

No wonder then the company waiting in Richmoor House were restless and
anxious. Kate did not permit herself to speak, and Mrs. Atheling had
very prudently remained in her own home. She had told the Squire she
"must say what she thought, if she died for it!" and the Squire had
answered, "To be sure, Maude. That is thy right; only, for goodness'
sake, say it in thy own house!" But though Kate knew she would follow
her mother's example, if she was brought to catechism on the subject,
she did not have much fear of such a result; there were too many older
ladies present, all of them desirous to express the hatreds and hopes
of their class.

Yet it was these emotional, expressional women that Annabel Vyner
naturally joined. She stood among them like a splendid incarnation of
its spirit. She hoped vehemently that "Earl Grey and Lord John Russell
would be beheaded as traitors;" she declared she would "go with
delight to Tower Hill and see the axe fall." She flashed into contempt,
when she spoke of Mr. Brougham. "Botany Bay and hard labour might do
for him; and as for the waiting crowds in the streets, the proper thing
was to shoot them down, like rabid animals." She wondered "the Duke
of Wellington did not do so." These sentiments were vivified by the
passion that blazed in her black eyes and flushed her brown face crimson,
and by the gown of bright yellow Chinese crape which she wore; for it
fluttered and waved with her impetuous movements, and made a kind of
luminous atmosphere around her.

"What a superb creature!" exclaimed Mr. Disraeli to the Hon. Mrs.
Norton. And Mrs. Norton put up her glass and looked at Annabel critically.

"Superb indeed--to look at. Would you like to live with her?"

"It would be exciting."

"More so than your 'Vivian Grey,' which I have just read. It is the
book of the year."

"No, that honour belongs to a little volume of poems by a young man
called Tennyson. Get it; you will read every word it contains."

"I am wedded to my idols,--Byron and Scott and Keble. I am much
interested at present in those 'Imaginary Conversations' which that
queer Mr. Landor has given us. They are worth reading, I assure you."

"But why read them? Listen to the 'Conversations' around us! They are
of Revolution, Civil War, Exile, and the Headsman. Could anything be more

"Who can tell? Here comes Richmoor. He may be able to prognosticate.
What a murmur of voices! What invisible movement! Can you divine the news
from the messenger's face?"

"He thinks that he brings good news. He may be fatally wrong."

The Duke certainly thought that he brought good news. He was much
excited. He came forward with his hands extended, palms upward.

"The King stands by us!" he cried. "God save the King!"

Twenty voices called out at once, "What did he say?"

"He said plainly that in spite of the public opinion expressed so
loudly in recent elections, Reform would have no sanction from the
Government. I only stayed until the end of the royal speech. Yet in
some way rumours of its purport must have reached the street. In the
neighbourhood, there was much agitation, and even anger."

Then Kate slipped away from the excited throng. Piers had evidently
remained for the discussion on the King's speech; and it might be
midnight when the House adjourned. The winter day was fast darkening;
she ordered her chairmen, and the pretty sedan was brought into the
vestibule for her. She had no fear, though the very gloom and silence of
the waiting crowd was more indicative of danger than noise or threats
would have been. When she reached Hyde Park corner, however, angry faces
pressed around a little too close, and she was alarmed. Then she threw
back her hood and looked out calmly at the crowd, and immediately a
clear voice cried out, "It is Edgar Atheling's sister! Take good care
of her!" And there was a cheer and a cry, and about twenty men closed
round the chair, and saw it safely to its destination.

Then Cecil North stepped to the door and opened it. "I knew it was you,
Mr. North!" cried Kate. "I knew your voice. How kind of you to come
all the way with me! How glad mother will be to see you!"

"I cannot wait a moment, Miss Atheling. Can you give me any news?"

"Yes. The King says the Government will not sanction Reform."

"Who told you this?"

"The Duke of Richmoor--not an hour ago."

"Then 'good-night.' I am afraid there will be trouble."

Mrs. Atheling and Kate were afraid also. The murmur of the crowd grew
louder and louder as the tenor of the King's speech became known; and
many a time they wished themselves in the safety and solitude of their
Yorkshire home. So they talked, and watched, and listened until the
night was far advanced. Then they heard the firm, strong step of the
Squire on the pavement; and his imperative voice in denial of something
said by a group of men whom he passed. In a few minutes he entered the
drawing-room with an angry light in his eyes, and the manner of a man
exasperated by opposition.

"Whatever is it, John? Is there trouble already?" asked Mrs. Atheling.


"Plenty of it, and like to be more. The King has spoken like a fool."

"John Atheling! His Majesty!"

"His Imbecility! I tell you what, Maude, there has been enough said
to-day, and to-night, to set all the dogs of civil war loose. Give me a
bit of eating, and I will tell thee and Kitty what a lot of idiots are
met together in Westminster."

The Squire always wanted a deal of waiting upon; and in a few minutes
his valet was bringing him easy slippers and a loose coat, and two
handmaidens serving a tray, bearing game pastry, and fruit tarts, and
clotted cream. But he would take neither wine, nor strong ale,--

"Water is all a man wants that gets himself stirred up in the House of
Commons," he said. "And if I had been in the Lords' House, I would
have needed nothing but a strait-jacket."

He had hardly sat down to eat, when Piers Exham came in. No one could
have been more welcome, and the young man's troubled face brightened
in the sunshine of Kate's smile, and in the honest kindness of the
Squire's greeting. "I was just going to tell Mrs. Atheling all I knew
about to-night's blundering," he said; "but now we will have your
report first, for you have seen the Duke, I'll warrant."

"Indeed, Squire, the Duke is not dissatisfied--though the general
opinion is, that the Duke of Wellington has committed an egregious

"I shouldn't wonder. Wellington does not know the difference between
a field-marshal and a Cabinet Minister. What did he say?"

"He said that as long as he held any office in the Government, he would
resist Reform. He said there was no need of Reform; that we had the best
government in the world. The Duke of Devonshire, whom I have just seen,
told me that this statement produced a feeling of the utmost dismay, even
in the calm atmosphere of the House of Lords."

"Calm!" interrupted the Squire. "You had better say, Incurable

"Wellington noticed the suppressed excitement, the murmur, and the
movement, and asked Devonshire in a whisper, 'What can I have said to
cause such great disturbance?' And Devonshire shrugged his shoulders
and answered candidly, 'You have announced the fall of your government,
that is all.'"

"Wellington considers the nation as a mutinous regiment," answered the
Squire. "He thinks the arguments for Reformers ought to be cannon balls;
but Englishmen will not endure a military government."

"It would be better than a mob government, Squire. Remember France."

"Englishmen are not Frenchmen," said Kate. "You ought to remember
_that_, Piers. Englishmen are the most fair, just, reasonable, brave,
loyal, honourable people on the face of the earth!"

"Well done, Kitty!" cried the Squire. "It takes a little lass like
thee to find adjectives plenty enough, and good enough, for thy own. My
word! I wish thou couldst tell the Duke of Wellington what thou thinkest
of his fellow-citizens. He would happen trust them more, and treat them

"There is Mr. Peel too," she continued. "Both he and the Duke of
Wellington are always down on the people. And yet the Duke has led these
same people from one victory to another; and Mr. Peel is one of the
people. His father was a day-labourer, and he ought to be proud of it;
William Cobbett is, and William Cobbett is a greater man than Robert

"Now then, Kitty, that is far enough; for thou art wrong already.
Cobbett isn't a greater man than Peel; he isn't a great man at all,
he is only a clever man. But the man for my money is Henry Brougham. He
drives the world before him. He is a multitude. He had just one idea
to-day,--Reform and again Reform. He played that tune finely to the
House, and they danced to it like a miracle. Much good it will do them!"

"He was scarcely decent," said Piers. "He gave notice, as you must
have heard, in the most aggressive manner that he should bring 'Reform'
to an immediate issue."

"Yes," answered the Squire. "There is doubtless a big battle before
us. But, mark my words, it will not be with Wellington and Peel. They
signed their own resignation this afternoon."

"That is what my father thinks," said Piers.

"If Wellington could only have held his tongue!" said the Squire,

"And if Daniel O'Connell would only cease making fun of the

"That man! He is nobody!"

"You mistake, Squire. His buffoonery is fatal to our party. I tell
you that Ridicule is the lightning that kills. Has not Aristophanes
tossed his enemies for the scorn and laughter of a thousand cities for a
thousand years? I fear O'Connell's satire and joking, far more than
I fear Grey's statesmanship, or Durham's popularity."

Then Piers turned to Kate, and asked if she had seen the royal
procession. And she told him about her visit, and about Mr. North's
interference for her safety, and his escort of her home. Piers was
much annoyed at this incident. He begged her not to venture into the
streets until public feeling had abated, or was controlled, and
asked with singular petulance, "Who is this Mr. North? He plays the
mysterious Knight very well. He interferes too much."

"I was grateful for his interference."

"Why did you not remain at Richmoor until I returned? I expected it,

"I was afraid; and I knew my mother would be anxious--and I felt so
sad among strangers. You know, Piers, I have always lived among my own
people--among those who loved me."

This little bit of conversation had taken place while the tray was
being removed, and the Squire and Mrs. Atheling were talking about
the engagements for the next day, so that definite orders might be
given concerning the carriage and horses. The movements of the servants
had enabled Piers and Kate, quite naturally, to withdraw a little
from the fireside group; and when Kate made her tender assertion,
about living with those who loved her, Piers's heart was full to
overflowing. This girl of sweet nature, with her innocent beauty and
ingenuous expressions, possessed his noblest feelings. He clasped her
hands in his, and said,--

"Oh, Kate! I loved you when you were only twelve years old; I love you
now beyond all measure of words. And you love me? Speak, Dear One!"

"I love none but thee!"

The next moment she was standing before her father and mother. Piers held
her hand. He was talking to them in low but eager tones, yet she did not
realise a word, until he said,--

"Give her to me, my friends. We have loved each other for many years.
We shall love each other for ever. She is the wife of my soul. Without
her, I can only half live." Then bending to Kate, he asked her fondly,
"Do you love me, Kate? Do you love me? Ask your heart about it. Tell us
truly, do you love me?"

Then she lifted her sweet eyes to her lover, her father, and her mother,
and answered, "I love Piers with all my heart."

The Squire was much troubled and affected. "This is taking a bit of
advantage, Piers," he said. "There is a time for everything, and this
is not my time for giving my little girl away."

"Speak for us, Mrs. Atheling," said Piers.

"Nay, I think the Squire is quite right," she replied. "Love isn't
worth much if Duty does not stand with it."

"And there is far more, Piers," continued the Squire, "in such a
marriage as you propose than a girl's and a lover's 'yes.' When
the country has settled a bit, we will talk about love and wedding. I
can't say more for my life, can I, Mother?"

"It is enough," answered Mrs. Atheling. "Why, we might have a civil
war, and what not! To choose a proper mate is good enough; but it is
quite as important to choose a proper time for mating. Now then, this is
not a proper time, when everything is at ups-and-downs, and this way and
that way, and great public events, that no one can foretell, crowding
one on the neck of the other. Let things be as they are, children. If
you only knew it, you are in the Maytime of your lives. I wouldn't
hurry it over, if I was you. It won't come back again."

Then Kate kissed her father, and her mother, and her lover; and Piers
kissed Kate, and Mrs. Atheling, and put his hand into the Squire's
hand; and the solemn joy of betrothal was there, though it was not openly

In truth the Squire was much troubled at events coming to any climax.
He would not suffer his daughter to enter into an engagement not openly
acknowledged and approved by both families; and yet he was aware that
at the present time the Duke would consider any subject--not public or
political--as an interruption, perhaps as an intrusion. Besides which,
the Squire's own sense of honour and personal pride made him averse
to force an affair so manifestly to the preferment of his daughter.
It looked like taking advantage of circumstances--of presuming upon a
kindness; in fact, the more Squire Atheling thought of the alliance, the
less he was disposed to sanction it. Under no circumstances, could he
give Kate such a fortune as the heir of a great Dukedom had a right to
expect. She must enter the Richmoor family at a disadvantage--perhaps
even on sufferance.

"No! by the Lord Harry, no!" he exclaimed. "I'll have none of the
Duke's toleration on any matter. I am sorry I took his seat. I wish
Edgar was here--he ought to be here, looking after his mother and
sister, instead of setting up rogues on Glasgow Green against their
King and Country! Of course, there is Love to reckon with, and Love does
wonders--but it is money that makes marriage."

With such reflections, and many others growing out of them, the Squire
hardened his heart, and strengthened his personal sense of dignity, until
he almost taught himself to believe the Duke had already wounded it. In
this temper he was quite inclined to severely blame his wife for not
"putting a stop to the nonsense when it first began."

"John," she answered, "we are both of a piece in that respect."

"On my honour, Mother."

"Don't say it, John. You used to laugh at the little lass going off
with Edgar and Piers fishing. You used to tease her about the gold brooch
Piers gave her. Many a time you have called her to me, 'the little

"Wilt thou be quiet?"

"I am only reminding thee."

"Thou needest not. I wish thou wouldst remind thy son that he has a
sister that he might look after a bit."

"I can look after Kate without his help. He is doing far better business
than hanging around Dukes."

"If thou wantest a quarrel this morning, Maude, I'm willing to give
thee one. I say, Edgar ought to be here."

"What for? He is doing work that we will all be proud enough of some
day. Thou oughtest to be helping him, instead of abusing him. I want thee
to open this morning's _Times_, and read the speech he made in Glasgow
City Hall. Thou couldst not have made such a speech to save thy life."

"Say, I _would not_ have made it, and then thou wilt say the very

"Read it."

"Not I."

"Thou darest not. Thou knowest it would make thee turn round and vote
with the Reformers."

"Roast the Reformers! I wish I could! I would not have believed thou
couldst have said such a thing, Maude. How darest thou even think of thy
husband as a turncoat? Why, in politics, it is the unpardonable sin."

"It is nothing of the kind. Not it! It is far worse to stick to a sin,
than to turn from it. If I was the biggest of living Tories, and I found
out I was wrong, I would stand up before all England and turn my coat in
the sight of everybody. I would that. When I read thy name against Mr.
Brougham bringing up Reform, I'll swear I could have cried for it!"

"I wouldn't wonder. All the fools are not dead yet. But I hear Kitty
and her lover coming. I wonder what they are talking and laughing about?"

"Thou hadst better not ask them. I'll warrant, Piers is telling her
the same sort of nonsense, thou usedst to tell me; and they will both
of them, believe it, no doubt."

At these words Piers and Kate entered the room together. They were
going for a gallop in the Park; and they looked so handsome, and so
happy, that neither the Squire nor Mrs. Atheling could say a word to
dash their pleasure. The Squire, indeed, reminded Piers that the House
met at two o'clock; and Piers asked blankly, like a man who neither
knew, nor cared anything about the House, "Does it?" With the words on
his lips, he turned to Kate, and smiling said, "Let us make haste, my
dear. The morning is too fine to lose." And hand in hand, they said
a hasty, joyful "good-bye" and disappeared. The father and mother
watched them down the street until they were out of sight. As they
turned away from the window, their eyes met, and Mrs. Atheling smiled.
The Squire looked abashed and disconcerted.

"Why didst not thou put a stop to such nonsense, John?" she asked.

Fortunately at this moment a servant entered to tell the Squire his horse
was waiting, and this interruption, and a rather effusive parting, let
him handsomely out of an embarrassing answer.

Then Mrs. Atheling wrote a long letter to her son, and looked after the
ways of her household, and knit a few rounds on her husband's hunting
stocking, and as she did so thought of Kate's future, and got tired
of trying to settle it, and so left it, as a scholar leaves a difficult
problem, for the Master to solve. And when she had reached this point
Kate came into the room. She had removed her habit, and the joyous look
which had been so remarkable two hours before was all gone. The girl
was dashed and weary, and her mother asked her anxiously, "If she was

"No," she answered; "but I have been annoyed, and my heart is heavy,
and I am tired."

"Who or what annoyed you, child?"

"I will tell you. Piers and I had a glorious ride, and were coming
slowly home, when suddenly the Richmoor liveries came in sight. I saw
the instant change on Piers's face, and I saw Annabel slightly push the
Duchess and say something. And the Duchess drew her brows together as
we passed each other, and though she bowed, I could see that she was
angry and astonished. As for Annabel, she laughed a little, scornful
laugh, and threw me a few words which I could not catch. It was a most
unpleasant meeting; after it Piers was very silent. I felt as if I had
done something wrong, and yet I was indignant at myself for the feeling."

"What did Piers say?"

"He said nothing that pleased me. He fastened his eyes on Annabel,--who
was marvellously dressed in rose-coloured velvet and minever,--and she
clapped her small hands together and nodded to him in a familiar way,
and, bending slightly forward, passed on. And after that he did not talk
much. All his love-making was over, and I thought he was glad when we
reached home. I think Annabel will certainly take my lover from me."

"You mean that she has made up her mind to be Duchess of Richmoor?"


"Well, my dear Kate, a beautiful woman is strong, and money is stronger;
but _True Love conquers all_."



"To-morrow some new light may come, and you will see things another way,
Kitty." This was Mrs. Atheling's final opinion, and Kitty was inclined
to take all the comfort there was in it. She was sitting then in her
mother's room, watching her dress for dinner, and admiring, as good
daughters will always do, everything she could find to admire about the
yet handsome woman.

"You have such beautiful hair, Mother. I wouldn't wear a cap if I was
you," she said.

"Your father likes a bit of lace on my head, Kitty. He says it makes me
look more motherly."

She was laying the "bit of lace" on her brown hair as she spoke. Then
she took from her open jewel case, two gold pins set with turquoise, and
fastened the arrangement securely. Kitty watched her with loving smiles,
and finally changed the whole fashion of the bit of lace, declaring that
by so doing she had made her mother twenty years younger. And somehow
in this little toilet ceremony, all Kitty's sorrow passed away, and
she said, "I wonder where my fears are gone to, Mother; for it does not
now seem hard to hope that all is just as it was."

"To be sure, Kitty, I never worry much about fears. Fears are mostly
made of nothing; and in the long run they are often a blessing. Without
fears, we couldn't have hopes; now could we?"

"Oh, you dear, sweet, good Mother! I wish I was just like you!"

"Time enough, Kitty." Then a look of love flashed from face to face,
and struck straight from heart to heart; and there was a little silence
that needed no words. Kitty lifted a ring and slipped it on her finger.
It was a hoop of fine, dark blue sapphires, set in fretted gold, and
clasped with a tiny padlock, shaped like a heart.

"What a lovely ring!" she cried. "Why do you not wear it, Mother?"

"Because it is a good bit too small now, Kitty."

"Miss Vyner's hands are always covered with rings, and she says every
one of them has a romance."

"I've heard, or read, something like that. There was a woman in the
story-book, was there not, who kept a tally of her lovers on a string of
rings they had given her? I don't think it was anything to her credit.
I shouldn't wonder if that is a bit ill-natured. I ought not to say such
a thing, so don't mind it, Kitty."

"Is this sapphire band yours, Mother?"

"To be sure it is."


"May I wear it?"

"Well, Kitty, I think a deal of that ring. You must take great care of

"So then, Mother, one of your rings has a story too, has it?" And there
was a little laugh for answer, and Kitty slipped the coveted trinket on
her finger, and held up her hand to admire the gleam of the jewels, as
she said, musingly, "I wonder what Piers is doing?"

"I wouldn't 'wonder,' dearie. Little troubles are often worrited into
big troubles. If things are let alone, they work themselves right. I'll
warrant Piers is unhappy enough."

But Mrs. Atheling's warrant was hardly justified. Piers should have
gone to the House; but he went instead to his room, threw himself among
the cushions of a divan, and with a motion of his head indicated to
his servant that he wanted his Turkish pipe. The strange inertia and
indifference that had so suddenly assailed, still dominated him, and
he had no desire to combat it. He was neither sick nor weary; yet he
seemed to have lost all control over his feelings. Had the man within
the man "gone off guard"? Have we not all--yes, we have all of us
succumbed to just such intervals of supreme, inexpressible listlessness
and insensibility? We are "not all there," but _where_ has our inner
self gone to? And what is it doing? It gives us no account of such lapses.

Piers asked no questions of himself. He was like a man dreaming; for if
his Will was not asleep, it was at least quiescent. He made no effort
to control his thoughts, which drifted from Annabel to Kate, and from
Kate to Annabel, in the vagrant, inconsequent manner which acknowledges
neither the guidance of Reason or Will. And as the Levantine vapour
lulled his brain, he felt a pleasure in this surrender of his noblest
attributes. He thought of Annabel as he had seen her the previous
evening, dressed in a shaded satin of blue and green, trimmed with the
tips of peacock feathers. The same resplendent ornaments were in her
strong, wavy, black hair, and round her throat was a necklace of
emeralds and amethysts. "What a Duchess of Richmoor she would make!"
he thought. "How stately and proud! How well she would wear the coronet
and the gold strawberry leaves, and the crimson robe and ermine of her
state dress! Yes, Annabel would be a proper Duchess; but--but--" and
then he was sitting with Kate among the tall brackens, where the
Yorkshire hills threw miles of shadow. She was in her riding dress; but
her little velvet cap was in her hand, and the fresh wind was blowing
her brown hair into bewitching tendrils about her lovely face. How well
he knew the sweet seriousness of her downcast eyes, the rich bloom of
her cheeks and lips, the tender smile with which she always answered his
"_Kate! Sweet Kate!_"

Even through all his listlessness, this vision moved him, and he heard
his heart say, "Oh, Kate, wife of my soul! Oh, Beloved! Love of my life,
who can part us? Thou and I, Kate! Thou and I--"

"And the Other One."

From _whom_ or from _where_ came the words? Piers heard them with his
spiritual sense plainly, and their suggestion annoyed him. Now if we
stir under a nightmare, it is gone; and this faint rebellion broke the
chain of that mental inertia which had held him at least three hours
under its spell. He moved irritably, and in so-doing threw down the lid
of the tobacco jar, and then rose to his feet. In a moment, he was "all

"I ought to be in the House," he muttered, and he touched the bell
for his valet, and dressed with less deliberation than was his wont.
And during the toilet he was aware of a certain mental anger that longed
to expend itself: "If Mr. Brougham is as insufferably dictatorial as
he was last night, if Mr. O'Connell only plays the buffoon again, we
shall meet in a narrow path--and one of us will fare ill," he muttered.

The hour generally comes when we are ready for it; and Piers found
both gentlemen in the tempers he detested. He gladly accepted his own
challenge, and the Squire was so interested in the wordy fight that he
did not return home to dinner. Mrs. Atheling neither worried nor waited.
She knew that the Squire's vote might be wanted at any inconvenient
hour; and, besides, the night had set stormily in, and she said
cheerfully to Kate, "It wouldn't do for father to get a wetting and
then be hours in damp clothes. He is far better sitting to-day's
business out while he is there."

But the evening dragged wearily, in spite of the efforts of both women
to make little pleasantries. Kate's whole being was in her sense of
hearing. She was listening for a step that did not come. On other nights
there had been visitors; she heard the roll of carriages and the clash
of the heavy front door; but this dreary night no roll of wheels broke
the stillness of the aristocratic Square; and she listened for the
sound of the closing door until she was ready to cry out against the
strain and the suspense. However, the longest, saddest day wears to
its end; and though it does not appear likely that a loving girl's
anxiety about a coolness in her lover should teach us how far deeper,
even than mother-love, is our trust in God's love, yet little Kitty's
behaviour on this sorrowful evening did show forth this sublime fact.

For the girl left undone none of her usual duties, left unsaid none of
the pleasant words she knew her mother expected from her; she even
followed her--as she always did when the Squire was late--to her bedroom,
and helped her lay away her laces and jewels ere she bid her a last
"good-night." But as soon as she had closed the door of her own room,
she felt she might give herself some release. If she did not read the
whole of the Evening Service, _God would understand_. She could trust
His love to excuse, to pity, to release her from all ceremonies. She
knelt down, she bowed her head, and said only the two or three words
which opened her heart and let the rain of tears wash all her anxieties

And though sorrow may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning;
and this is specially true in youth. When Kate awoke, the sun was
shining, and the care and ache was gone from her heart. "He giveth His
Beloved sleep," and thus some angel had certainly comforted her,
though she knew it not. With a cheerful heart she dressed and went
into the breakfast-room, and there she saw her father standing on the
hearthrug, with _The Times_ open in his hand. He looked at her over
its pages with beaming eyes, and she ran to him and took the paper
away, and nestling to his heart, said, "she would have no rival, first
thing in the morning."

And the proud father stroked her hair, and kissed her lips, and answered
her, "Rival was not born yet, and never would be born; and that he was
only seeing if them newspaper fellows had told lies about Piers."

"Piers!" cried Mrs. Atheling, entering the room at the moment, "what
about Piers?"

"Well, Mother, the lad had his say last night; but, Dal it! Mr. Brougham
went at the Government and the Electors as if they were all of them
wearing the devil's livery. I call it scandalous! It was nothing else.
He let on to be preaching for Reform, but he was just preaching for
Henry Brougham."

"What was Mr. Brougham talking about, Father?"

"Mr. Brougham can talk about nothing but Reform, Kitty, the right of
every man to vote as seems good in his own eyes. He said peers and
landowners influenced and prejudiced votes in a way that was outrageous
and not to be borne, and a lot more words of the same kind; for Henry
Brougham would lose his speech if he had anything pleasant to say. I was
going to get up and give him a bit of my mind, when Piers rose; and the
cool way in which he fixed his eye-glass, and looked Mr. Brougham up and
down, and straight in the face, set us all by the ears. He was every
inch of him, then and there, the future Duke of Richmoor; and he told
Brougham, in a very sarcastic way, that his opinions were silly, and
would neither bear the test of reason nor of candid examination."

"But, Father, I thought Mr. Brougham was the great man of the Commons,
and held in much honour."

"Well, my little maid, he may be; but I'll warrant it is only by people
who have their own reasons for worshipping the devil."

"Come, come, John! If I was thee, I would be silent until I could be

"Not thou, Maude! Right or wrong, thou wouldst say thy say. I think I
ought to know thee by this time."

"Never mind me, John. We want to hear what Piers said."

"Brougham's words had come rattling off in full gallop. Piers,
after looking at him a minute, began in that contemptuous drawl of
his,--you've heard it I've no doubt,--'Mr. Brougham affords an
example of radical opinions degrading a statesman into a politician.
He cannot but know that it is the positive, visible duty of every
landowner to influence and prejudice votes. It is the business and the
function of education and responsibility to enlighten ignorance, and to
influence the misguided and the misled. If it is the business and the
function of the clergy to influence and prejudice people in favour
of a good life; if it is the business and function of a teacher to
influence and prejudice scholars in favour of knowledge,--it is just as
certainly the business and function of the landowner to influence
his tenants in favour of law and order, and to prejudice them against
men who would shatter to pieces the noblest political Constitution in
the world.'"

The Squire read this period aloud with great emphasis, and added, "Well,
Maude, you never heard such a tumult as followed. Cries of '_Here!
Here!_' and '_Order! Order!_' filled the House; and the Speaker had
work enough to make silence. Piers stood quite still, watching Brougham,
and as soon as all was quiet, he went on,--

"'If you take the peers, the gentry, the scholars, the men of
enterprise and wealth, from our population, what kind of a government
should we get from the remainder? Would they be fit to select and
elect?' Then there was another uproar, and Piers sat down, and
O'Connell jumped up. He put his witty tongue in his laughing cheek,
and, buttoning his coat round him, held up his right hand. And the
Reform members cheered, and the Tory members shrugged their shoulders,
and waited for what he would say."

"I don't want to hear a word from _him_," answered Mrs. Atheling.
"Come and get your coffee, John. A cup of good coffee costs a deal now,
and it's a shame to let it get cold and sloppy over Dan O'Connell's

"Tell us what he said, Father," urged Kate, who really desired to know
more about Piers's efforts. "You can drink your coffee to his words. I
don't suppose they will poison it."

"I wouldn't be sure of that," said Mrs. Atheling, with a dubious shake
of her head; while the Squire lifted his cup, and emptied it at a draught.

"What did he say, Father? Did he attack Piers?"

"To be sure he did. He took the word 'Remainder,' and said Piers had
called the great, substantial working men of England, Scotland, and
Ireland _Remainders_. He said these '_Remainders_' might only be
farmers, and bakers, and builders, and traders; but they were the
backbone of the nation; and the honourable gentleman from Richmoor
Palace had called them 'Remainders.' And then he gave Piers a few
of such stinging, abusive names as he always keeps on hand,--and he keeps
a good many kinds of them on hand,--and Piers was like a man that
neither heard nor saw him. He looked clean through the member for
Kilkenny as if he wasn't there at all. And then Mr. Scarlett got
up, and asked the Speaker if such unparliamentary conduct was to be
permitted? And Mr. Dickson called upon the House to protect itself
from the browbeating, bullying ruffianism of the member for Kilkenny;
and Dan O'Connell sat laughing, with his hat on one side of his head,
till Dickson sat down; then he said, he 'considered Mr. Dickson's
words complimentary;' and the shouts became louder and louder, and
the Speaker had hard work to get things quieted down."

"Why, John! I never heard tell of such carryings on."

"Then, Maude, I thought _I_ would say a word or two; and I got the
Speaker's eye, and he said peremptorily, 'The member for Asketh!'
and I rose in my place and said I thought the honourable member for

"John! I wouldn't have called him 'honourable.'"

"I know thou wouldst not, Maude. Well, I said honourable, and I went
on to say that Mr. O'Connell had mistaken the meaning Lord Exham
attached to the word 'Remainder.' I said it wasn't a disrespectful
word at all, and that there were plenty of 'remainders,' we all of us
thought a good deal of; but, I said, I would come to an instance which
every man could understand,--the remainder of a glass of fine, old
October ale. The rich, creamy, bubbling froth might stand for the
landowners; but it was part of the whole; and the remainder was all the
better for the froth, and the more froth, and the richer the froth,
the better the ale below it. And I went on to say that Lord Exham, and
every man of us, knew right well, that the great body of the English
nation wasn't made up of knaves, and scoundrels, and fools, but of
good men and women. And then our benches cheered me, up and down,
till I felt it was a good thing to be a Representative of the Remainder,
and I said so."

Then Mrs. Atheling and Kitty cheered the Squire more than a little, with
smiles, and kisses, and proud words; and he went on with increased
animation, "In a minute O'Connell was on his feet again, and he
called me a lot of names I needn't repeat here; until he said, 'My
example of a glass of ale was exactly what anybody might expect from
such a John Bull as the member for Asketh.' And, Maude and Kitty, I
could not stand that. The House was shouting, 'Order! Order!' and
I cried, 'Mr. Speaker!' and the Speaker said, 'Order, the member for
Kilkenny is speaking!' 'But, Mr. Speaker,' I said, 'I only want to
say to the member for Kilkenny that I would rather be a John Bull, than
a bully.' And that was the end. There was no 'Order' after it. Our
side cheered and roared, and, Maude, what dost thou think?--the one to
cheer loudest was thy son Edgar. He must have got in by the Speaker's
favour; but there he was, and when I came through the lobby, with Piers
and Lord Althorp, and a crowd after me, he was standing with that
young fellow I threw on Atheling Green; and he looked at me so pleased,
and eager, and happy, that I thought for a moment he was going to shake
hands; but I kept my hands in my pockets--yet I'll say this,--he has
thy fine eyes, Maude,--I most felt as if thou wert looking at me."

"John! John! How couldst thou keep thy hands in thy pockets? How couldst
thou do such an unfatherly thing? I'm ashamed of thee! I am."

"Give me a slice of ham, and don't ask questions. I want my breakfast
now. I can't live on talk, as if I was a woman."

Fortunately at this moment a servant entered with the morning's mail.
He gave Mrs. Atheling a letter, and Kate two letters; and then offered
the large salver full of matter to the Squire. He looked at the pile with
indignation. "Put it out of my sight, Dobson," he said angrily. "Do
you think I want letters and papers to my breakfast? I'm astonished at
you!" He was breaking his egg-shell impatiently as he spoke, and he
looked up with affected anger at his companions. Kitty met his glance
with a smile. She could afford to do so, for both her letters lay
untouched at her side. She tapped the upper one and said, "It is from
Miss Vyner, Father; it can easily wait."

"And the other, Kitty? Who is it from?"

"From Piers, I don't want to read it yet."

"To be sure." Then he looked at Mrs. Atheling, and was surprised. Her
face was really shining with pleasure, her eyes misty with happy tears.
She held her letter with a certain pride and tenderness that her whole
attitude also expressed; and the Squire had an instant premonition as to
the writer of it.

"Well, Maude," he said, "I would drink my coffee, if I was thee. A
cup of coffee costs a deal now; and it's a shame to let it get cold and
sloppy over a bit of a letter--nobody knows who from."

"It is from Edgar," said Mrs. Atheling, far too proud and pleased to
keep her happiness to herself. "And, John, I am going to have a little
lunch-party to-day at two o'clock; and I do wish thou wouldst make it
in thy way to be present."

"I won't. And I would like to know who is coming here. I won't
have all kinds and sorts sitting at my board, and eating my bread and
salt--and I never heard tell of a good wife asking people to do that
without even mentioning their names to her husband--and--"

"I am quite ready to name everybody I ask to thy board, John. There
will be thy own son Edgar Atheling, and Mr. Cecil North, and thy wife
Maude Atheling, and thy daughter Kitty. Maybe, also, Lord Exham and Miss
Vyner. Kitty says she has a letter from her."

"I told thee once and for all, I had forbid Edgar Atheling to come to
my house again until I asked him to do so."

"This isn't thy house, John. It is only a rented roof. Thou mayst be
sure Edgar will never come near Atheling till God visits thee and gives
thee a heart like His own to love thy son. Thou hast never told Edgar to
keep away from the Vyner mansion, and thou hadst better never try to do
so; for I tell thee plainly if thou dost--"

"Keep threats behind thy teeth, Maude. It isn't like thee, and I won't
be threatened either by man or woman. If thou thinkest it right to set
Edgar before me, and to teach him _not_ to 'Honour his father'--"

"Didn't he 'honour' thee last night! Wasn't he proud of thee? And
he wanted to tell thee so, if thou wouldst have let him. Poor Edgar!"
And Edgar's mother covered her face, and began to cry softly to herself.

"Nay, Maude, if thou takest to crying I must run away. It isn't
fair at all. What can a man say to tears? I wish I could have a bit of
breakfast in peace; I do that!"--and he pushed his chair away in a
little passion, and lifted his mail, and was going noisily out of the
room, when he found Kitty's arms round his neck. Then he said peevishly,
"Thou art spilling my letters, Kitty. Let me alone, dearie! Thou
never hast a word to say on thy father's side. It's too bad!"

"I am all for you, father,--you and you first of all. There is nobody
like you; nobody before you; nobody that can ever take your place." Then
she kissed him, and whispered some of those loving, senseless little
words that go right to the heart, if Love sends them there. And the
Squire was comforted by them, and whispered back to her, "God love
thee, my little maid! I'll do anything I can to give thee pleasure."

"Then just think about Edgar as you saw him last night, think of him
with mother's eyes watching you, listening to you, full of pride and
loving you so much--oh, yes, Father! loving you so much."

"Well, well,--let me go now, Kitty. I have all these bothering letters
and papers to look at; they are enough to make any man cross."

"Let me help you."

"Go to thy mother. Listen, Kitty," and he spoke very low, "tell her,
thou art sure and certain thy father does not object to her seeing her
son, if it makes her happy--thou knowest my bark is a deal worse than
my bite--say--thou believest I would like to see Edgar myself--nay,
thou needest not say that--but say a few words just to please her; thou
knowest what they should be better than I do,"--then, with a rather
gruff "good-morning," he went out of the room; and Kitty turned to
her mother.

Mrs. Atheling was smiling, though there were indeed some remaining
evidences of tears. "He went without bidding me 'good-morning,'
Kitty. What did he say? Is he very angry?"

"Not at all angry. All put on, Mother. He loves Edgar quite as much as
you do."

"He can't do that, Kitty. There is nothing like a mother's love."

"Except a father's love. Don't you remember, that God takes a
father's love to express His own great care for us? And when the
Prodigal Son came home, Christ makes his father, not his mother, go to
meet him."

"That was because Christ knew children were sure and certain of their
mother's love and forgiveness. He wasn't so sure of the fathers. So he
gave the lesson to them; he knew that mothers did not need it. Mothers
are always ready to forgive, Kitty; but there is nothing to forgive in

"Is he really coming to-day?"

"Listen to what he says, Kitty. 'Darling Mother, I cannot live
another day without seeing you. Let me come to-morrow at two o'clock,
and put my arms round you, and kiss you, and talk to you for an hour.
Ask father to let me come. London is not Atheling. If he counts his
passionate words as forever binding between him and me, surely they are
not binding between you and me. Let me see you anyway, Mother. Sweet,
dear Mother! When father forgives the rest, he will forgive this also.
Your loving son, Edgar.' Now, Kitty, if Edgar was your son, what would
you say?"

"I would say, Come at once, Edgar, and dearly welcome!"

"To be sure you would. So shall I. What is Miss Vyner writing about?"

Then Kitty lifted the squarely folded letter with its great splash of
white wax stamped with the Vyner crest, and after a rapid glance at its
contents said, "There is likely to be a great House to-night; and the
Duchess has three seats in the Ladies Gallery. One is for Annabel, the
other for me; and she asks you to take her place. Do go, Mother."

"I'll think about it."

"Don't say that."

"It is all I will say just yet. Did you have a letter from Piers?"


"I knew you would. Go and read it, and tell Dobson to send the cook to
me. We want the best lunch that can be made; and put on a pretty dress,
Kitty. Edgar must feel that nothing is too good for him."

In accordance with this intent, Mrs. Atheling took particular pains
with her own dress; and Kitty thought she had never seen her mother so
handsome. Soft brown satin, and gold ornaments, and the bit of lace
on her head set off her large, blonde, stately beauty to perfection;
while the look of love and anxiety, as the clock moved on to two, gave to
her countenance that "something more" without which beauty is only
flesh and blood.

She had said to herself that Edgar might be detained, that he might not
be able to keep his time, and that she would not feel disappointed if he
was a bit behind two o'clock. But fully ten minutes before the hour,
she heard his quick, firm knock; and as she stood trembling with joy in
the middle of the room, he took her in his arms, and, between laughing
and crying, they knew not, either of them, what they said. And then
Kitty ran into the room, all a flutter with pale-blue ribbons, and it
was a good five minutes before the two women found time to see, and
to speak to Cecil North, who stood watching the scene with his kind
heart in his face.

Evidently the meeting had bespoke a fortunate hour. The weather, though
it was November, was sunny; the lunch was perfection, and they were
in the midst of the merriest possible meal when Annabel Vyner and
Piers Exham joined them. Annabel had expected nothing better from
this visit than an opportunity to show off her familiar relations with
Lord Exham, and torment Kitty, as far as she thought it prudent to do
so; but Fate had prepared motives more personal and delightful for
her,--two handsome young men, whom she at once determined to conquer.
Cecil North made no resistance; he went over heart and head in love
with her. Her splendid vitality, her manner,--so demanding and so
caressing,--her daring dress, and dazzling jewelry, her altogether
unconventional air charmed and vanquished him, and he devoted himself to
pleasing her.

During the lunch hour the conversation was general, and very animated.
Annabel excelled herself in her peculiar way of saying things which
appeared singularly brilliant, but which really derived all their
point from her looks, and shrugs, and flashing movements. The good mother
was in an earthly heaven, watching, and listening, and attending to
every one's wants, actual and possible. Laughter and repartee and
merry jests mingled with bits of social and parliamentary gossip, though
politics were instinctively avoided. Piers knew well the opinions of
the two men with whom he was sitting; and he was quite capable of
respecting them. Besides, he had an old friendship for Edgar Atheling;
and he loved his sister, and was well aware that she had much sympathy
with her brother's views. So all Annabel's attempts to make a division
were futile; no one took up the little challenges she flung into their
midst, and the parliamentary talk drifted no nearer dangerous ground
than the Ladies Gallery. Piers knew of the invitation given to the
Athelings, and he proposed to meet the ladies in the courtyard near
the entrance to the exclusive precinct.

"Too exclusive by far," said Annabel. "Why do English ladies submit
to that grating? It is a relic of the barbarous ages. I intend to move
in the matter. Let us get up a petition, or an act, or an agitation of
some kind for its removal. I think we should succeed. What do you say,
Lord Exham?"

"I think you would _not_ succeed," answered Piers. "I have heard the
Duke say that the proposition is frequently made in the House; that it is
always enthusiastically cheered; but that every time the question comes
practically up, there is a dexterous count out."

"Well, then, I will propose that the front Treasury Bench be taken away,
and twenty-four ladies' seats put in its place. Do you see, Mr. North,
what I intend by that?"

"I am sure it is something wise and good, Miss Vyner."

"My idea is, that twenty-four ladies should sit there as representatives
of the women of England. Twenty-four bishops in lovely lawn sit as
representatives of the clergy of England; why should not English women
have their representation? I hope while Reformers are correcting the
abuses of Representation, they will consider this abuse. Mr. Atheling,
what do you say?"

"I am at your service, Miss Vyner."

"Indeed, sir, just at present you are hand and heart in the service of
Mrs. Atheling. I must turn to Mr. North."

Then Mrs. Atheling perceived that in her interesting conversation with
Edgar, she was keeping her guests at table; and she rose with an apology,
and led the way into the parlour. There was a large conservatory opening
out of this room, and Kate and Piers, on some pretext of rosebuds,
went into it.

"My dear Kate, I have been so unhappy!" he said, taking her hand.

"But why, Piers?"

"We parted so strangely yesterday. I do not know how it happened."

"We were both tired, I think. I was as much in fault as you. Is not
this an exquisite flower?" That was the end of the trouble. He drew
her to his side, and kissed the hand that touched the flower; and so
all explanations were over; and they took up their love-story where
the shadow of yesterday had broken it off. And as their hands wandered
among the shrubs, it was natural for Piers to notice the ring on Kate's
finger. "It is a very singular jewel," he said; "I never saw one
like it."

"It is my mother's," answered Kate. "She told me this morning it was
her betrothal ring and that father bought it in Venice."

"Kate dear, I wish to get you a ring just like it. Let us ask Mrs.
Atheling if I may show it to my jeweller, and have one made for you."

"I am sure mother will be willing," and she slipped the shining circle
from her finger, and gave it to Piers; and he whispered fondly, as he
placed it on his own hand, "Will you take it from me, Kate, as a love
gage?--never to leave your finger until I put the wife's gold ring
above it?"

And what she said need not be told. Many happy words grew from her
answer; and they forgot the rosebuds they had come to gather, and the
company they had left, and the flight of time, until Edgar came into
the conservatory to bid his sister "good-bye." There had been a slight
formality between Piers and Edgar at their first meeting; but with
Kate standing between them, all the good days on the Yorkshire hills
and moors came into their memories, and they clasped hands with their
old boyish fervour, and it was "Piers" and "Edgar" again. So the
parting was the real meeting; and they went back to the parlour in an
unmistakable enthusiasm of good fellowship.

Annabel was then quite ready to leave, and the question of the Ladies
Gallery came up for settlement. Mrs. Atheling declared she was too
weary to go out; and Kate preferred her own happy thoughts to the
tumult of a political quarrel. Annabel was equally indifferent. She
had discovered that Mr. North was a son of the Earl of Westover, and
might with propriety be asked to the Richmoor opera-box, that there was
even an acquaintance strong enough between the families to enable her
new lover to pay his respects to the Duchess in the interludes, and, in
fact, an understanding to that effect had been made for that very
night, if the offer of the seats in the Ladies Gallery was not accepted.
So their refusal caused no regret; for when politics come in competition
with youth and love, they have scarcely a hearing. But during the
slight discussion, Piers found time to speak to Mrs. Atheling about the
ring; and the direction of three pair of eyes to the trinket caught
Annabel's attention. Her face flamed when she saw that it had passed
from Kate's hand to the hand of Exham; and for the first time, she
had a feeling of active dislike against Kate. Her sweet, calm, innocent
beauty, her happy eyes and ingenuous girlish expression, offended her,
and set all the worst forces of her soul in revolt.

She did not dare to trust herself with Piers. In her present mood, she
knew she would be sure to say something that would hamper her future
actions. She declared she would only accept Mr. North's escort to
Richmoor House; for she was sure the Duke was expecting Piers to be
in his place in the Commons when the vote was taken.

Piers had a similar conviction, and he looked at his watch almost
guiltily, and went hurriedly away. Then the little party was soon
dispersed; but Mrs. Atheling and Kate were both far too happy to need
outside aids. They talked of Edgar and Cecil North, and Annabel's
witcheries, and Piers's great and good qualities, and the promised ring,
and the excellent lunch, and the general success of the impromptu
little feast. Everything had been pleasant, and the Squire's absence
was not thought worth worrying about.

"He will come round, bit by bit," said the happy mother. "I know
John Atheling. The first thing Edgar does to please him, will put all
straight; and Edgar is on the very road to please him most of all."

"What road is that, Mother?"

"Nay, I can't tell you, Kitty; for just yet it is a secret between
Edgar and me. He was glad to meet Piers again; and, if I am any judge,
they will be better friends than ever before."

Thus the two women talked the evening away, and were by no means sorry
to be at their own fireside. "We could have done no good by going to the
House," said Kate. "If we were men, it would be different. They like
it. Father says the House is the best club in London."

"It gives men a lot of excuses," said Mrs. Atheling, with a sigh. "I
dare say your father won't get home till late. You had better go to bed,

"Perhaps Piers may come with him."

"I don't think he will. He looked tired when he left here; he will
be worse tired when he gets away from the Commons. He said he was going
to speak again, if he got the opportunity,--that is, if he could find
anything to contradict in Mr. Brougham's speech. Piers likes saying,
'No, sir!' his spurs are always in fighting trim. Go to bed, Kitty.
Piers won't be back to-night, and I can say to father whatever I think

Mrs. Atheling judged correctly. Piers sat a long time before his
opportunity came, and then he did not get the best of it. Brougham's
followers overflowed the Opposition benches, the Government side,
and the gangway, and Piers exhausted himself vainly in an endeavour
to get a hearing. It was late when he returned to Richmoor House, but the
Duke was still absent, and the Duchess and Annabel at the opera. He
went to the Duke's private parlour, for there were some things he felt
he must discuss before another day's sitting; and the warmth and
stillness, added to his own mental and physical weariness, soon overcame
all the resistance he could make. The couch on which he had thrown
himself was also a drowsy place; it seemed to sink softly down, and
down, until Piers was far below the tide of thought, or even dreams.

It was then that Annabel returned. She came slowly and rather
thoughtfully along the silent corridor. She had exhausted for the time
being her fine spirits, her wit, almost her good looks. She hoped she
would _not_ meet Piers, and was glad in passing the door of his
apartments to see no man in attendance, nor any sign of wakeful life. A
little further on she noticed a band of light from the Duke's private
parlour; the door was a trifle open, left purposely so by Piers in
order that his father might not be tempted to pass it. Tired as she was,
she could not resist the opportunity it offered. She liked to show
herself in her fineries to her guardian, for he always had a compliment
for her beauty; and although she had listened for hours to compliments
her vanity was still unsatiated. With a coquettish smile she pushed
wider the door and saw Lord Exham. There could be no doubt of his
profound insensibility; his face, his attitude, his breathing, all
expressed the deep sleep of a thoroughly-exhausted man.

For one moment she looked at him curiously, then, at the instigation
of the Evil One, her eyes saw the ring upon his hand, and her heart
instantly desired it; for what reason she did not ask. At the moment
she perhaps had no reason, except the wicked hope that its loss might
make trouble between Kitty and her lover. With the swift, noiseless step
that Nature gives to women who have the treachery and cruelty of the
feline family, she reached Piers's side. But rapid as her movement had
been, her thought had been more rapid. "If I am caught, I will say I
won a pair of gloves, and took the ring as the gage of my victory."

She stooped to the dropped hand, but never touched it. The ring was
large, and it was only necessary for her to place her finger and thumb
on each side of it. It slipped off without pressing against the flesh,
and in a moment it was in her palm. She waited to see if the movement
had been felt. There was no evidence of it, and she passed rapidly out
of the room. Outside the door, she again waited for a movement, but
none came, and she walked leisurely, and with a certain air of weariness,
to her own apartments. Once there all was safe; she dropped it into
the receptacle in which she kept the key of her jewel-case, and went
smiling to bed.

Not ten minutes after her theft the Duke entered the room. He did not
scruple to awaken his son, and to discuss with him the tactics of a
warfare which was every day becoming more bitter and violent. Piers
was full of interest, and eager to take his part in the fray. Suddenly
he became aware of his loss. Then he forgot every other thing. He
insisted, then and there, on calling his valet and searching every inch
of carpet in the room. The Duke was disgusted with this radical change
of interest. He went pettishly away in the middle of the search, saying,--

"The Reformers might well carry all before them, when peers who had
everything to lose or gain thought more of a lost ring than a lost

And Piers could not answer a word. He was confounded by the circumstance.
That the ring was on his hand when he entered the room was certain.
He searched all his pockets with frantic fear, his purse, the couch on
which he had slept. There was no part of the room not examined, no piece
of furniture that was not moved; and the day began to dawn when the
useless search was over. He went to his room, sleepless and troubled
beyond belief. Government might be defeated, Ministers might resign,
Reform might spell Revolution, the estates and titles of nobles might
be in jeopardy,--but Kitty's ring was lost, and that was the first,
and the last, and the only thought Piers Exham could entertain.



Annabel had a very good night. Her conscience was an indulgent one,
and she easily satisfied its complaining. "It was after all only a
joke," she said. "In the morning I can restore the ring. The Duke
will have a good laugh at his son's discomfiture, and will praise my
cleverness. The Duchess will either knit her brows, or else take it
merrily; and Piers will owe me a forfeit, and that will be the end of
the affair. What is there to make a fuss over?" Annabel's conscience
thought, in such case, there was nothing to fuss about; and it let her
sleep comfortably on the prevaricating promise.

She considered the matter over as she was dressing. She had slept
well, was refreshed and full of life, and therefore full of selfish

"I will restore the ring to Piers." She said this to please one side
of her nature.

"I will not restore the ring." She said this to please the other
side. "As a thing of worth, it is by no means costly. I will give Kate
Atheling a ring of twice its value. As a thing of power it is mine,
the spoil of my will and my skill; and I will not part with it." Still
she kept the first decision in reserve; she promised herself to be
influenced by the circumstances which the affair induced.

But the way out of temptation is always very difficult, and circumstances
are rarely favourable to it. They were not in this case. Before
Annabel was dressed she received a message that overthrew all her
intentions. The Duchess was going to breakfast in her own parlour, and
she desired Annabel's company at the meal. The desires of the Duchess
were commands, and the young lady reluctantly obeyed them; for she
anticipated the reproof that came, as soon as they were alone, regarding
her attitude towards Cecil North.

"It will not do, Annabel," said the Duchess, severely. "The Norths
are a fine family, but poor, even in the elder branches. This young man
can look forward to nothing better than some diplomatic or military
appointment, and that in an Indian Presidency."

"What could be better?" asked Annabel, with an affectation of delight.
"An Indian Court is a court. It has the splendour, the ceremony, the
very air of royalty."

"But with your fortune--"

"I assure you, Duchess, any man who marries me will need all my fortune.
He will in fact deserve it. You know that I am _not_ amiable, and that I
_am_ extravagant and luxurious."

"But you may avoid such a foolish, unwomanly thing as flirtation, even
if you are not amiable. It seems to me the world has forgotten how to be
amiable. This morning, the Duke is touchy and disagreeable; and Piers
has not come to ask after my health, though it is his usual custom when I
remain in my room. He angered the Duke also last night."

"Did you see him last night?" asked Annabel, with an air of

"The Duke did. Piers seems to have behaved in an absurd way about a
ring he has lost. The Duke says, he turned his room topsy-turvy, and
went on as if he had lost his whole estate."

"Was it the ring with the ducal arms that he always wears?"

"No, indeed! Only a simple band of sapphires, or some other stone. The
Duke thinks it must have been the gift of some woman. Were you the donor,

"I! I should think not! I do not give rings away. I prefer to receive
them. He wore no sapphire band yesterday when he and I went to the
Athelings--" and she looked the rest of the query, over her coffee-cup,
straight into the eyes of the Duchess.

"What is it you mean to ask, Annabel?"

"Do you think that Miss Atheling--"


"Miss Atheling! That girl! What an absurd idea! Why should she give Lord
Exham a ring?"

"_Why!_ There are so many '_whys_' that nobody can answer." And
with this remark, Annabel felt that her opportunity for confession
had quite lapsed. For if the Duchess had thought it right to reprove
her for such freedom as she had shown towards Cecil North, what would
she say about an act so daring, so really improper in a social sense, as
the removal of a ring from her son's hand? Annabel had no mind to
bring on herself the disagreeable looks and words she merited. She gave
the conversation the political turn that answered all purposes, by
asking the Duchess if she was not afraid Piers's principles might be
influenced by his friendship with young Atheling. "They were David
and Jonathan yesterday," she said; "and as for Cecil North, he is a
Radical of the first water."

"Lord Exham is not so easily persuaded," answered the Duchess, loftily.
"He could as readily change his nose as his principles. But I am
seriously annoyed at this intercourse with a family distinctly out of our
own caste. The Duke has been very foolish to encourage it."

"You have also encouraged Miss Atheling."

"I have been too good-natured. I admit that. But as I have promised to
present her, I must honourably keep my word; that is, if any opportunity
offers. It now appears as if there would be no court functions. The King
declined the Lord Mayor's feast,--a most unprecedented thing,--and
it is said the Queen is averse to receive while the Reform agitation
continues. When it will end, nobody knows."

"It will end when it succeeds, not before," said Annabel. "I am only
a woman, but I see that conclusion very clearly." It gave her pleasure
to make this statement. It was her way of returning to the Duchess the
disagreeable words she had been obliged to take from her; and she was
not at all dismayed by the look of anger she provoked.

"I am astonished at you, Annabel. Are you also in danger of changing
your opinions?"

"I am astonished at myself, Duchess. My opinions are movable; but I have
not yet changed them. Truth, however, belongs to all sides, and I cannot
avoid seeing things as they are."

"That is, as young Atheling and Cecil North show them to you."

"Lord Exham has still more frequent opportunities of showing me the
course of events. I have 'influences' on both sides, you see, Duchess;
but, after all, I form my own opinions."

"Reform will never be accomplished. The people must follow the nobles,
as surely as the thread follows the needle."

"I have ceased to prophesy. Anything can happen in a long enough time;
and I often heard my father say that, 'They who _care_ and _dare_
may do as they like.' I think the Reform party both '_care_' and

"Have you fallen in love with Cecil North, or with Mr. Atheling?"

"I am in love with Annabel Vyner. I worship none of the idols that have
been set up, either by Tories or Reformers. Men who talk politics are
immensely stupid. I shall marry a man who is a good fighter. Mere talkers
are like barking dogs. Why don't these Reformers stop whimpering, and
fly like a bull dog at the throat of their wrongs? Then I should go
with them, heart and soul and purse."

"You are talking now for talking's sake, Annabel. You are actually
advocating civil war."

"Am I really? Well, war is man's natural condition. It takes churches,
and priests, and standing armies, and constables always on hand, to
keep peace in any sort of fashion. We are all barbarians under our
clothes,--just civilised on the top."

"Such assertions are odious, and you cannot prove them."

"I can. The other evening I was reading to Lord Tatham a most exquisite
poem by that young man Tennyson; and he seemed to be enjoying it,
until Algernon Sydney showed him his watch, and said something about
'the Black Boy.' Then his face fairly glowed, and he went off with a
compliment that meant nothing. The next morning I found out 'the
Black Boy' was a famous pugilist. We are all of us, in some way or
other, in this mixed condition."

"I think you are particularly disagreeable this morning, Miss."

"Pardon, Duchess. We have fallen on a disagreeable subject. Let us
change it. Are we to drive to Richmond to-day?"

"If Piers will accompany us. Ay! that is his knock." She turned a
radiant face to meet her son, but received a sudden chill. Piers was
pale and sombre-looking; he said he had not slept, and politely declined
the Richmond excursion. Annabel was sure he would. "He will have an
explanation at the Athelings instead," she thought; and she waited
curiously for some remark which might open the way for her confession--or
else close it. But Lord Exham did not allude to his loss, and the
Duchess either attached no importance to the subject, or else thought it
too important to bring forward. The tone of the room was not brightened
by the young lord's advent, and Annabel quickly excused herself from
further attendance.

"He will tell his mother when I am not there; and I shall get his
opinions, with commentaries from her," she thought, as she hurried
to her own rooms. Once there, she dismissed her maid, and sat down
to realise herself. She doubled her little hands, and beat her knees
softly with them. It was her way of summoning her mental forces, and of
collecting vagrant and undecided thought.

"I am just here," she said to her own consciousness. "I have taken a
ring from Lord Exham's finger. What for? Mischief or a joke? Which?
Probably mischief. I wanted to turn it into a joke, and my opportunity is
gone. Not my fault. If the Duchess had been in a good humour, I should
have told her all about it. If Exham's manner had not frozen everything
but the commonplaces of propriety, I would have teased him a little,
and then given up the ring. It is their own fault. If people are cross
at breakfast, they deserve a disagreeable day. I am not sorry to give
them their deserts."

Then she rose and went to her jewel-case, and took the ring out and
put it on her finger. "It is a poor little thing after all," she
said as she turned it round and round. "The stones are not very
fine; I have sapphires of far finer colour. If I give Kate Atheling my
diamond locket, she will have reason to be grateful,--the setting is,
however, really beautiful; that is the point, I suppose. I would like
to have a ring set in the same way; but it would be dangerous--" and
she laughed as if she enjoyed the thought of the danger. She took off
the ring at this point, and looked at it more critically. "What must I
do with the troublesome thing?" she asked herself. "Justine is a
curious, suspicious creature, and when she hears the talk in the
servants' hall, if she got but a glimpse of it, she would put two and
two together." A momentary resolve to throw it into the fire-place of
the Duke's parlour came into her mind. "If it is found there,"
she argued, "the only supposition will be that Piers dropped it on the
hearth. If it is not found, there will be no suppositions at all."

This resolve, however, received no real encouragement. There is a
perverse disposition in human nature to keep with special care things
that incriminate, or which might become sources of suspicion or trouble;
and the ring exercised over the girl this fatal fascination. She closed
her jewel-case deliberately, holding the lid a trifle open for a moment
or two of last consideration; then she dropped it with decision, and
took from her pocket a small purse, made of gold as flexible as leather
or satin. There were a few sovereigns in one compartment, and a Hindoo
charm in another. She put the ring with the charm, and closed the purse
with a smile of satisfaction. For the time being, at any rate, it was
out of her way; and there were yet possibilities of turning the whole
matter into a pleasantry.

"I may even take it to Kate Atheling and tell her to claim my forfeit."
This very improbable solution satisfied Annabel's conscience; she was
at peace after it, and able to consider more personal affairs.

In order to do this under the most favourable conditions, she placed
herself comfortably on her lounge. Her fine, tall form lay at length,
supine and indolent, the feet, in their crimson sandals, crossed at the
ankles. Her dark, powerful head, with its masses of strong, black hair,
looked almost handsome on the pale amber cushions, with the hands and
arms--jewelled though it was only morning--clasped above it. She was
going to examine herself, and she was not one to shirk even the innermost
chamber of her heart.

"First," she thought, "there is Lord Exham. Do I really want to
marry him? Let me be sure of this, and then there is nothing for him
to do, but make out the settlements. He cannot resist my influence
when I choose to exert it. As yet I have not troubled him much; but I
can trouble him--and I will, if I want to. Do I? Be honest, Annabel.
There is no use lying to yourself. Well, then, I want to be Duchess of
Richmoor; but I do _not_ want to be Exham's wife. And if I marry
him, the present Duke may live ten, twenty, even thirty years. I would
not wait for the crown of England thirty years, with a husband I rather
despised; only--only what? I do not want that Atheling girl to marry
him. Jane Warwick, or Helen Percy, or Margaret Gower, I would not
mind--but Kate Atheling! No! Why? I cannot tell." Nor could she. It was
one of those apparently unreasonable dislikes we bring into the world
with us, and which, probably, are the most reasonable dislikes of
all. "Very well, then," she continued, "I will not marry Piers, nor
shall Kate Atheling marry him. That is fair enough. If I manage to
make her give him up, I give him up myself also. I am only doing to
her as I do to myself.

"Now there is Wynn, and Sidmouth, and Russell--and others. Every one of
them have appraised my value, and made inquiries about my wealth. No
one has told me this, but I know it. I know it with that invincible
certainty with which women know things they are never told. Cecil North?
Yes, I like Cecil North. He really fell in love with me,--with _me_,
_myself_. A woman knows; she is never deceived about that unless she
wants to be deceived. He is poor,--the Westovers are all poor,--I do
not care if he is as poor as Job. I am tired to death of rich people.
If Cecil North would get a military commission in India, I could be
his wife. I could follow the drum, or live in quarters with him, and I
should be a better and a happier woman than I am here. This life is
too small for me."

She was right in this estimation of herself. Her nature was one fitted
to respond to great emergencies. She was a woman for frontiers and
forts, for strife with men or elements, for days of danger in the shadow
of suffering or death; and she was living in a society so artificial
that any real cry of nature and needless familiarity, any sign of
genuine passion was startling and distasteful to it. The soldierly
temper inherited from her father demanded an adventurous life, because
people made for overcoming obstacles cannot be morally healthy without
obstacles to overcome. And, therefore, it was a poor life for Annabel
Vyner that offered her no difficulty to surmount but the claims of Kate
Atheling. She was quite aware of this, and the ring in her purse was
no real triumph. It was rather one of those irreparable facts, the
very thought of which gives pain.

If she had been morally stronger, she would have dominated her
environment, and defied the circumstances that so easily prevented
her from doing the right thing. She would have been obedient to Duty;
and that grand, immutable principle would have given her strength to
resist temptation, or, having fallen into it, to make the obvious
reparation; for

    "So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
      So near is God to man,
    When Duty whispers low, '_Thou Must_,'
      The Soul replies, '_I Can_.'"

This morning, though she was far from diagnosing her feelings correctly,
Annabel soon began to suffer from that nervous and even that physical
fatigue which is bred of moral indifference. For nothing is more certain
than that moral strength is the very _Life_ of life. She yawned; she
felt the hours too long to be endured, while she pictured to herself
the scene in the Atheling parlour, when Piers would confess the loss of
the ring, and Kate lovingly excuse it. Finally, she became nervously
angry at the persistence of the vision. In every possible way she tried
to banish it, but though she fetched memories from farthest India, the
exasperating phantasm would not be driven away.

In reality the affair produced very little apparent effect. Piers made
his confession to Mrs. and Miss Atheling with so much genuine emotion
that they could not but make light of the loss while he was present. Yet
it troubled both women very much. Mrs. Atheling cried over it when she
was alone; and Kate took it as a sign of some untoward event in the
course of love between Piers and herself. No one is able to put aside
such inferences and presentiments; and, quite unconsciously, it worked
towards the end Kate feared. Piers began to fancy--perhaps unjustly--that
he never entered Kate's or Mrs. Atheling's presence without seeing in
their first glance an unspoken inquiry after the lost ring. In some
measure he was to blame, if this was so. He had employed detectives to
watch such servants of the Richmoor household as could have had access
to the Duke's parlour on that unhappy night; and as the ladies were
aware of this movement, it was only natural they should desire to know
if any result came from it.

Of course there was no result; and the real culprit remained absolutely
unsuspected. As the days wore away, her conscience grew accustomed to
the situation; it made no troublesome demands; and Annabel even began to
feel a certain pleasurable excitement in holding in her hands what might
prove to be a power for great good, or great evil,--for she was not yet
ready to admit an entirely evil intention; she chose rather to regard it
as a practical jest which she might undo, or explain, in some future,
favourable hour.

She kept the jewel always in her purse; she went frequently to the
Athelings; and once or twice she had a transitory impulse to tell Kate
the whole circumstance, and be guided by her advice in the matter. But
the Evil One, who had prompted her in the first instance to take it,
always met these intents or impulses with some plausible excuse; and
every good impulse which does not crystallise into a good action, only
tends towards the strengthening of the evil one. Then outside events
made delay more easy. On the fifteenth of November, there was a short,
decided argument in the House of Commons on the Civil List; a division
was promptly taken, and the Government was found to be in a minority
of twenty-nine. The Squire and Lord Exham returned home together, both
very much annoyed at this result.

"All this election business will be to go over again," the Squire
said, wearily. "Wellington and Peel are sure to take this opportunity
to resign."

"Why should they resign, John?" asked Mrs. Atheling.

"Well, Maude," he answered, "they are bound to resign sooner or
later; and I should think, if they have any sense left, they will go
out as champions of the royal prerogative, rather than be driven out by
a Reform division, which is sure to come. They will go out, my word
for it, Maude!"

"And what then, John?"

"Well, then, we shall have all the bother of another election; and
Earl Grey will form a new Ministry, and Lord Brougham will bully the
new Ministry, as he has done the old one, about this Reform Bill. He
intended to have begun that business this very night; but there wasn't
any Ministers, nor any Administration to arraign, and so he said, in
his domineering way, that he would put the question of Reform off until
the twenty-fifth of this month, and not a day longer, no matter what
circumstances prevailed, nor who were His Majesty's Ministers. I can
tell you the city was in a pretty commotion as we came home. We shall
have a Reform Government now, with Earl Grey at the head, and the real
fight will then begin."

"Earl Grey!" said Mrs. Atheling; "that is Edgar's friend."

"Well, I wouldn't brag about it, Mother, if I was thee. I shall have
to go back to Yorkshire, and so will Exham; and there will be no end of
bother, and a Reform Ministry at the end of it. It is too bad! What they
will do with Mr. Brougham, I am sure I don't know. No Ministry can live
without him; and it will be hard work for any Ministry to live with him;
for if he drew up a bill himself, he would find faults in it, and never
rest until he had torn it to pieces."

Piers was sitting in the embrasure of a window, holding Kate's hands,
and talking to her in those low, sweet tones that women love; and at this
remark he rose, and, coming towards the Squire, said with a grave smile,
"For such dilemmas, Squire, there are remedies made and provided. If
it is a clever clergyman who arraigns the church, or his superiors, he
is made a bishop; and thereafter, he sees no faults. If it is a clever
Commoner who arraigns the Government, the Government makes him a peer;
and in the House of Lords, he finds the grace of silence. Earl Grey will
have Mr. Brougham made Lord High Chancellor, and then _Lord_ Brougham
will only have the power to put the question."

Exham's prophecy proved to be correct. Brougham had declared that
under any circumstances he would bring up Reform on the twenty-fifth of
November; but, on the twenty-second of November, he took his seat as
Chancellor in the House of Lords. It was said the Great Seal had been
forced upon him; but the Squire wondered what pressure, never before
known, had been discovered to make Henry Brougham do anything, or take
anything, he did not want to do or take.

However the feat was an accomplished one; and with Earl Gray, Lord
Durham, Sir James Graham, Viscounts Melbourne and Palmerston, and other
great leaders, Brougham kissed the King's hand on his appointment
just three days before his threatened demonstration for Reform. Soon
after Parliament adjourned for the re-election of Members in the Lower
House; and the Duke, with Lord Exham and Squire Atheling, went down
into Yorkshire.

Edgar and Cecil North also disappeared. "They have gone into the
country on business, and I'll tell you what it is, Kitty," said Mrs.
Atheling, with a little happy importance. "A friend of Earl Grey has a
close borough, and Edgar is to have it. I am sure I don't know what
will happen, if he should clash with father in the House. Father cannot
bear contradicting."

"Nothing wrong will happen, Mother."

"To be sure, the floor of the House of Commons is a bit different from
his own hearthstone. When Edgar is a Parliament man, father will give
him his place."

"And Edgar will never forget to give father his place, I am sure of

"I wouldn't stand a minute with him if he did. What a father and son
say to each other in their homestead, is home talk; but Edgar must not
threep his father before strangers. No, indeed!"

"I wouldn't wonder if father comes round a little to Edgar's views.
He listened very patiently to Cecil North, the last time they talked on

"He _has_ to listen in Parliament, and so he is getting used to
listening. He never listened patiently at home--not even to me. But we
can hope for the best anyhow, Kitty."

"To be sure, Mother. Hoping for the best is far better than looking for
the worst."

"I should think it was. Do you believe Piers will be in London at

"I fear not. Mother, he is going to send us each a ring at Christmas;
then we will forget the other ring--shall we not?"

"I don't know, Kitty. I think a deal of that other ring. No new one
can make up for it. Why, my dear, your father gave it to me the night I
promised to marry him. We were standing under the big white hawthorn at
Belward. I'll never forget that hour."

"It is so long ago, Mother--you cannot care very much now about it."

"Now, Kitty, if you think only young people can be in love, get that
idea out of your mind at once. You don't know anything about love yet.
After twenty-five years bearing, and forbearing, and childbearing, you
will smile at your gentle-shepherding of to-day. Your love is only a
fancy now, it will be a fact then that has its foundations in your very
life. You do not love Piers Exham, child, as I love your father. You
can't. It isn't to be expected. And it is a good thing, love is so
ordered; for if it did not grow stronger, instead of weaker, marrying
would be a poor way of living."

"That weary ring! I am so sorry that I ever put it on."

"I did not ask you to put it on, Kitty. I did not want you to put it

"Mother, please don't be cross."

"Kitty, don't be unjust; it is not like you."

Then Kitty laid her cheek against her mother's cheek, and said sadly,
"I fear, somehow, that ring will make trouble between Piers and me."

"Nonsense, dearie! The ring is lost and gone. It can't make trouble

"Its loss was a bad omen, Mother."

"There is no omen against true love, Kitty. Love counts every sign a
good sign."

"The Duke was very formal with me at my last visit. The Duchess dislikes
me; and Miss Vyner has so many opportunities; it seems nearly impossible
that Piers should ever marry me."

"If Piers loves you, there is no impossibility. Love works miracles.
You cannot say 'impossible' to Love. Love will find out a way."



Parliament was adjourned on the twenty-third of December, and did
not re-assemble until the third of February. The interval was one of
great public excitement and of great private anxiety. The country had
been assured of a Government pledged to Reform; and, in the main,
were waiting as patiently as men, hungry and naked, and burning with a
sense of injury and injustice, could wait. But no one knew what hour a
spark might be cast into such inflammable material,--that would mean
Revolution instead of Reform.

Consequently life was depressed, and not disposed to any exhibition of
wealth or festivity; the most heartless and reckless feeling that it
would not be endured by men and women on the very verge of starvation.
The Queen also was unpopular, and the great social leaders were, as a
general thing, bitter political partisans; in theatres and ball-rooms and
even on the streets, the Whig and Tory ladies, when they met, looked
at one another as Guelphs and Ghibellines, instead of christened English

Both the Duchess of Richmoor and Miss Vyner were women of strong and
irrepressible prejudices; and, before Parliament adjourned, they had made
for themselves an environment of active, political enemies. And women
carry their politics into their domestic and social life; the Duchess
had wounded many of her oldest friends; and Annabel, with the haughty
intolerance of youth and wealth, had succeeded in making herself a person
whom all the ladies of the Reform party delighted either to positively
offend, or to scornfully ignore.

These circumstances, with all her audacity and advantages, she was unable
to control. Her brilliant beauty, her clever tongue, her ostentatious
dress and display were as nothing against the united disposition of a
score of other women to make her understand that they neither desired
her friendship nor felt her influence; and she had at least the sense
to retire from a conflict "whose weapons," she said contemptuously,
"were not in her armory." This condition of affairs naturally threw
her very much upon the Athelings for society. While the Duchess sat with
a few old ladies of her own caste and political persuasion, talking
fearfully of the state of English society and of the horrors Reform would
inaugurate for the nobility, Annabel spent her time with Mrs. and
Miss Atheling, and learned to look hopefully into a future in which,
perhaps, there would be neither dukes nor lords. Besides, Cecil North
had a habit of visiting the Athelings also; and, without expressed
arrangement, both Cecil and Annabel looked forward to those charming
lunches which Mrs. Atheling dispensed with so little ceremony and so
much good nature. It had been Cecil's intention to go with Edgar into
the country; but when the hour for departure arrived, he had not been
able to leave Annabel's vicinity, and, in some of those mysterious ways
known to Love, she understood, and was pleased with this evidence of
her power.

Cecil's mother had been particularly prominent in that social
ostracism the Reform ladies had meted out to her; and it gave to the
real liking which she had for Cecil a piquant relish to parade the young
man as her devoted servant in all places where his noble mother
would be likely to see or hear tell of her son's "infatuation." But
Cecil North's affection, and the favour it received, did not much
influence Kate. With the perversity of a woman in love, she believed
Annabel to be only amusing herself during Lord Exham's absence; and she
accepted, without a doubt, all the little innuendoes, and half-truths,
and half-admissions which Annabel suffered herself, as it were, without
intent, to make.

Thus the dreary winter days passed slowly away. In January Edgar
returned. His election had been a mere walk over the ground. The patron
of the borough of Shereham had spoken the word, and Edgar Atheling was
its lawful representative. It was a poor little place, but it gave
Edgar a vote on the right side; and Earl Grey also hoped much from his
power as a natural orator. He might take Brougham's place, and be far
more amenable to directions than Brougham had ever been. Mrs. Atheling
considered none of these things. She took in only the grand fact that
her son was in Parliament, and that he must have won his place there
by some transcendent personal merit. True, she had some little qualms of
fear as to how Edgar's father would treat the new representative of
Englishmen; but her invincible habit of hoping and her cheerful way of
looking into the future did not suffer these passing doubts to seriously
mar her glory and pride in her son's dignity.

In fact, even in Annabel's eyes, Edgar Atheling was now an important
person. Women do not consider causes, they look at results; and in
Edgar Atheling's case the result was satisfactory. On the day the new
member for Shereham returned home, she was lunching with the Athelings,
eating her salad and playing with Cecil North's heart, when Edgar
entered the room. His honour sat well on him; he neither paraded, nor
yet affectedly ignored it. His mother's pride, his sister's pleasure,
and the congratulations of his friends made him happy, and he showed it.
The lunch that was nearly finished was delayed for another hour. No
one liked to break up the delightful meal and conversation; and when
Annabel got back to Richmoor House the short day was over, and the
Duchess had sent an escort to hurry her return.

"You are exceedingly imprudent, Annabel," she said, when the girl
entered her presence; "and I do think it high time you stopped visiting
so much at one house."

"Duchess, will you say what other house equally charming is open to
me? You know how little of a favourite I am. To-day I was delayed by an
event,--the return of young Atheling after his election. He is now an
M. P.,--a great honour for so young a man, I think."

"Honour, indeed! Grey or Durham, or some of those renegades to their
own caste, have given him a seat. Grey would give a seat to a puppy if
it could bark 'aye' for him."

"Well, I should not think Atheling will be a dumb dog; he has a ready
tongue. Mr. North says he will take Brougham's place."

"He will do nothing of the kind. Young Atheling is a fine talker
when he has to face a mob of grumbling men on a Yorkshire moor or a
city common. It is a different thing, Annabel, to stand up before the
gentlemen of England. As for Mr. North, I have told you before that both
the Duke and myself seriously object to that entanglement."

Annabel laughed. "There is no entanglement, Duchess,--that is, on my

"Then why throw yourself continually in the young man's way?"

"You are scarcely polite. He throws himself in my way."

"Pardon. I meant nothing disrespectful."

"And I have reasons."

"May I know them?"

"Yes. Mr. North's mother was particularly insulting to me at the last
Morning Concert I attended. I heard also that she had spoken of me as
'an Indian girl of doubtful parentage.' She is particularly fond of
Cecil, who is her youngest child, and she is trying to make a marriage
between him and that enormously rich Miss Curzon. I am going to defeat
her plans."

Then the Duchess laughed. "I never interfere with any woman's
retributions," she said. "But do not burn yourself at the fire you
kindle for others."

"I am fire-proof."

"I must think so, or surely Piers would have influenced you."

"Lord Exham never tried to 'influence' me; and only one woman in the
world can 'influence' him."

"You mean Miss Atheling, of course; and I have already told you that
there is not even a supposition in that case. Miss Atheling is out of the
question. The Duke would never consent to such a marriage; and I would
never forgive it. Never! I should prefer to lose my son altogether."

"Then you ought to let Miss Atheling know how you feel. She is a very
honourable, yes, a very proud girl. She would not force herself into your
family, no matter how much she loved your son. Now, I would. If I had
thought you did _not_ want me to marry Lord Exham, I should probably
have been his wife to-day."

The Duchess glanced at the speaker a little scornfully, and said,
"Perhaps you over-estimate your abilities. However, Annabel, your
suggestion about Miss Atheling has much likelihood. I shall make an
opportunity to speak to her. Will you go out to-night? There will be
the usual crush at Lady Paget's."

"Excuse me, I do not wish to go." The statement was correct. She had
begun to weary of a routine of visiting that lacked decisive personal
interest. She had many lovers; but even love-making grows tiresome
unless it is reciprocal, or has some spice of jealousy, or some element
of the chase in it. Cecil North did interest her, and Piers Exham did
stimulate her desire for conquest; but Cecil was most pleasantly met at
the Athelings, and Lord Exham was in Yorkshire.

So, after dining alone with the Duchess, she went to a little
drawing-room that was her favourite resort. The great ash logs burned
brightly on the white marble hearth, and threw shifting lights on the
white-and-gold furnishings, on the pictured walls, on the ferns and
flowers, and on the lovely marble forms of two wood nymphs among them.
She placed herself comfortably in a large easy-chair, with her back
to the argand lamp, and stretched out her sandalled feet before the
blaze, and nestled her head among the soft white cushions. The delicious
drowsy atmosphere was a physical satisfaction of the highest order to
her, quite as much so as it was to the splendid Persian cat that
grumblingly resigned, at her order, the pleasantest end of the
snow-white rug.

"Now I can think," she said with lazy satisfaction, as she closed her
restless eyes and began the operation. "In the first place, I have set a
ball rolling that I may not be able to manage. It is in the hand of
the Duchess, and she will have no scruples--she never has, if she is
fighting for her own side. Perhaps I ought not to have given her such a
'leader,' for Kate Atheling has always been kind to me--thoughtful
about Cecil, ready at making excuses to let us have a little solitude,
arranging shopping excursions in his presence, so that he would know
where he could 'accidentally' meet us--and so on. No, it was not
exactly kind; but then, in love and war, all things are fair--and I
dare say Miss Kate's motives were probably selfish enough. She would
give me Cecil to make her own way clear to Piers; and, also, Cecil
is a favourite with the Athelings and young Atheling's friend; and they
know that he is poor, and doubtless wish to help him to a rich wife.
Every one works out their own plan, why should not I do the same? But I
must find out something about that ring, and, as the straight way is the
best way, I will ask Kate the necessary questions. She will be sure to
betray herself."

Then she opened her purse, took out the ring, and placed it upon her
finger, holding up her hand to the blaze to catch its reflections. "It
is a pretty little thing, but I have bought it two or three times
over with my diamond locket. I wonder why Kate never wears that locket!
Is it too fine? Or has she some feeling against me? I gave her it at
Christmas, and I have only seen it once on her neck--that is strange!
I never thought of it before--it really is not much of a ring--I have
twenty finer ones--and I dare say I shall give it back some day: yes,
of course I shall give it back--but at present--" and she stopped
thinking of the demands of the present, and taking the ring off her
finger laid it in the palm of her hand, and softly tossed it and the
Hindoo charm up and down together ere she replaced them in their

Evidently she had arranged things comfortably with herself, for, after
closing the purse, she began to swing it by its golden chain before
the cat's eyes, until the creature became thoroughly annoyed, and
tried to catch the gleaming, tantalising worry with its claws. The
play delighted her; she gave herself up to its tormenting charm, and
for once lost, in the momentary amusement, all consciousness of herself
and her appearance. It was then the great white door swung noiselessly
open, and Lord Exham stood within it. The sensuous little drama, so
full of colour and life, instantly arrested him; and he stood motionless
to watch it. The girl's strong, vivid face, her black hair, her dress
of bright scarlet, her arms and hands flashing with gems, were thrown
into dazzling prominence by the chair of white brocade in which she
sat, and the white rug at her feet, and the lamp shining behind her. She
waved the golden purse before the cat's eyes, and let it almost fall
into the eager paws, and then drew it backward with a little laugh,
and was not aware that she was, in the act, an absolutely bewitching
type of mere physical beauty.

But Piers was aware of it. He forgot everything but delight in the
moving picture; and, as he advanced, he cried, in a voice full of
pleasure, "_Annabel! Annabel!_" And the girl answered her name with
an instantaneous movement towards him. Her radiant face looked into
his face, and ere they were aware they had met in each other's arms
and Piers had kissed her.

She was silent and smiling, and he instantly recovered himself. "I ask
your pardon," he said, releasing her and bowing gravely; "but you are
one of the family, you know, and I have been long away, and am so glad
to get home again that some liberty must be excused me."

"Oh, indeed!" she answered, with a pretty pout, "I think the apology
is the worst part of the business," and she looked into his eyes with
that steady, unwinking gaze which none withstand. Then he drew her
closer, and said softly, "You are simply bewildering to-night, Annabel.
How have you made yourself so beautiful?" As he spoke he led her to her
seat, and drew a chair close to her side; and the cat leaped to his knee
and began to loudly purr her satisfaction in her master's return.

"Are you alone to-night?" he asked. "Or perhaps you are expecting

"I am alone. I expected no company; but Destiny loves surprises, and
to-night she has surpassed herself. The Duchess has gone to Lady
Paget's. I could not sacrifice myself so far. You know what her
political nights are. And if it is not Relief Bills, and Reform Bills,
then it is Mr. Clarkson and Anti-Slavery; and we are solemnly told to
make little petticoats for the negro children if we desire to go to
heaven." She laughed, and dropped her eyes, and was silent; and the
silence grew dangerous. Fortunately, she herself broke the spell by
asking Piers if he had seen Squire Atheling in Yorkshire.

"We came from Yorkshire together," he said. Then he began to talk about
the election, and in a few minutes a butler announced his dinner, and
Annabel's hour was over.

She was not disappointed. "We went far enough," she thought. "I am not
yet ready to put my hand out further than I can draw it back. I cannot
give up Cecil now; he is the only private pleasure I have. Every other
thing I share with the Duchess, or somebody else. And Piers I should
have to share with her and the Duke. As heir to the dukedom, they will
always retain a right in his time and interests. No, Lord Exham, not
yet--not yet."

She rose with the words, and went to the piano and dashed off in splendid
style that famous old military fantasia, "The Battle of Prague." And
the drift of her uncontrolled thoughts during it may be guessed by the
first query she made of her intelligence when the noisy music ceased:--

"I wonder what the Athelings are doing? Piers says the Squire is at
home. I suppose Mrs. Atheling and Kate are coddling, and petting, and
feeding him."

In some respects Annabel judged fairly well. The Squire reached his home
about the same time that Lord Exham arrived at Richmoor House, and found
Mrs. Atheling waiting to receive him. He made no secret of his joy in
seeing her again. "I was afraid thou mightst be gadding about somewhere,
Maude," he said. "It is pleasant to find thee at home."

"John Atheling!"

"Well, it is too bad to say such a thing, Maude. I knew well I would
find thee at home when there was either chance or likelihood of my
getting back there. But where is little Kitty? It isn't right without

"Well, John, Squire Pickering's family came to London a few days ago,
and Kitty has gone to the theatre with them."

"I'll tell thee a good joke about Squire Pickering, Maude," said
the Squire, laughing heartily as he spoke. "He was feared young Sam
Pickering was going to vote for Reform, and he served a writ on him
for a trespass, or something of that sort, and got him put safely in
jail till voting time was over. Then he quashed the writ and let the
lad out. But, my word! young Sam is fighting furious, and he has treated
his father nearly as bad as Edgar treated me."

"Edgar is going to Parliament now. I told thee he would. John, for
goodness' sake, don't quarrel with him before all England!"

"Maude Atheling! I never quarrelled with Edgar. Never! He quarrelled
with me. If he had done his duty by his father, we would have been finger
and thumb, buckle and strap, yesterday, and to-day, and to-morrow, and
every other day. The Duke says my anger at Edgar is quite reasonable
and justifiable."

"_The Duke!_ So then thou art framing thy opinions to what _he_ says.
Dear me! I wouldn't have believed such a thing could ever come to pass."

"Wait till it _does_ come to pass. Why, Richmoor and I very near came
to quarrelling point because I would _not_ frame my opinions by his
say-so. I have been looking into things a bit, Maude, more than I ever
did before, and I have learned what I am not going to deny for anybody.
I met Philip Brotherton of Knaseborough, and he asked me to go home
with him for two or three days--You know Philip and I have been friends
ever since we were lads, and our fathers before us."

"I know that."

"So I went with him, and he showed me how working men live and labour
in such towns as Leeds and Manchester; and I am not going to say less
than it is a sin and a shame to keep human beings alive on such terms. I
do not believe any Reform Bill is going to help them; but they ought to
be helped; and they must be helped; or else government is nothing but
blunderment, and legislating nothing but folly. And I said as much
to Richmoor, and he asked me if my son had been lecturing me; and I
told him I had been using my own eyes, and my own ears, and my own

"What did he say to that?"

"He said, 'Squire, I do not like your associating with Philip
Brotherton. The man has radical ideas, though he does not profess
them.' And I said, 'I like Philip Brotherton, and I shall associate
with him whenever I can make it convenient to do so; and as for his
ideas, if they are radical, then Christianity is radical; and as for
professing them, Philip Brotherton does better than that, he lives
them;' and I went on to say that I thought it would be a right and
righteous thing if both landlords and loomlords would do the same."

"My word, John! Thou didst speak up! I'll warrant Richmoor was angry

The Squire laughed a little as he answered, "Well, Maude, he got as red
in the face as a turkey-cock, and he asked me if I was really going to
be Philip Brotherton's fool. And I answered, 'No, I am like you,
Duke, I do my own business in that line.' And he said, '_Squire
Atheling!_' and turned on his heel and walked one way; and I said,
'_Duke Richmoor!_' and turned on my heel and walked the other way. Now
then, Maude, dost thou think he orders my opinions for me?"

And Mrs. Atheling smiled understandingly in her lord's face, and cut
him a double portion from the best part of the haunch of venison she was

A few days after this event Annabel called one morning at the Athelings.
She expected Cecil North to be there, and he was not there; she waited
for him to come, and he did not come; she tried in many devious ways
to get Kate to express an opinion about his absence, and Kate seemed
entirely unconscious of it. It provoked her into an ill-natured anger;
and, casting about in her mind for something disagreeable to say, she
remembered her resolve to find out how the sapphire ring came to be in
Lord Exham's possession. Even if "the straight way had not been the
best way," she was by nature inclined to direct inquiries; and she
had just proven in her mental manoeuvring about Cecil North that
indirect methods were not satisfactory. So she said bluntly:--

"Kate, did you ever hear about Lord Exham losing a ring he valued very

"Yes," answered Kate, without the slightest embarrassment; "it was
my mother's ring."

"Your mother's ring?"


"But Lord Exham had it on his finger."

"My mother loaned it to him. He admired it very much, and wished to have
one made like it."

"The Duchess was sure that some lady had given it to him as a love gage.
Do you know that he has fretted himself sick about its loss?"


"Oh, no! I am sure he is not sick. My mother made light of the loss to
him, though she really was very much attached to that particular ring."

"Have I ever seen her wear it?"

"No. It was too small for her."

"Then it was a simple souvenir?"

"It was more than that; it was her betrothal ring. Father bought it in


"But she had a slim little hand, then--like mine is now--" said Kate,
laughing, and spreading out her hand for Annabel to observe.

"Then you must have been talking of rings, and shown it to him."

"I was wearing it. I had it on during the lunch hour, and you were
present. It is a wonder you did not notice it, for you are so curious
about finger-rings."

"Yes, I am quite a ring collector."

"It was rather a singular ring."

"Will you describe it to me?"

Kate did so, and Annabel listened with apparent curiosity. "I wonder
what Exham could want with such a queer ring," she said in answer.

"Perhaps he is also a ring collector."

"Perhaps!" But the one word by no means explained the thoughts forming
in her mind. She rose, and, lifting her bonnet, went to a mirror and
carefully tied the satin ribbons under her chin, in the big bows then
considered vastly becoming. Kate tried to arrest her hands. "Stay
and take lunch with us," she urged. "Edgar is sure to be here; and
I should like him to see you in that pretty cloth pelisse."

"Mr. Atheling never notices me; then why should he notice my pelisse?
I heard Lady Inglis say that he is very much in Miss Curzon's society.
If so, he will clash with his friend Mr. North, who is also her devoted

"Now, Annabel! You know that Cecil North loves no one but you."

"How can you be so wise about his love-affairs?"

"No great wisdom is needed to see what he cannot hide."

"Was he here yesterday?"

"He was here last night. He called to tell us he was going to Westover
on some business for his father. I suppose he wanted you to know."

"But you never thought of telling me. How selfish girls in love are!
They cannot think a thought beyond their own lover. I declare I was going
without giving you my news,--the Duchess has a large dinner party on
the first of March. The Tory ladies will wait in her rooms the reading
of this famous Reform Bill that Lord John Russell is concocting, and
there will be a great crowd. Kate, if I was you, I would wear your court
dress. It is very unlikely that the Queen will receive at all this

"Perhaps we shall not be invited to the dinner."

"You certainly will be invited. I heard the list read, and as your name
begins with 'A' it was almost the first. If Mr. Atheling does come to
lunch, give him my respects and describe my pelisse to him."

She went away with this mocking message, and was driven first to a famous
jeweller's, where she bought a sapphire band sufficiently like the
one Lord Exham had lost to pass for it, if the view was cursory and at a
distance. Kate's confidence had made one course exceedingly plain to
Annabel. She said to herself as she drove through the city streets,
"My best plan is evidently to arouse Squire Atheling's suspicions.
I will let him see the ring on my hand. I will lead him to think Piers
gave it to me. He will of course make inquiries, and I wonder what Mrs.
Atheling and Kate will say. It is a pretty piece of confusion--and,
if the matter goes too far, I reserve the power to play the good fairy
and put all right. This is a complication I shall enjoy thoroughly,
and I am sure, with nothing on earth but Reform and Revolution in my
ears, I deserve some little private amusement. All I have to do is to
be constantly ready for opportunities."

Opportunities, however, with Squire Atheling, were few and far between.
It was not until the day before the first of March she found one. On
that afternoon she called at the Athelings, and found Mrs. and Miss
Atheling out. The Squire was walking from the fire-place to the window,
and from the window to the fire-place, and grumbling at their absence.
Miss Vyner's entrance diverted him for a few minutes; and as they
were talking a servant brought in a small package. The Squire took it up,
and laid it down, and then took it up again, and was evidently either
anxious or curious concerning its contents.

"Why do you not open your package, Squire?" asked Annabel.

"Well, young lady, I am not going to act as if your presence was not
entertainment enough and to spare."

"Nonsense! Please do not stand on ceremony with me. It may contain
important papers--something relating to Church or State. I am only a
young woman. Open it, Squire."

"Well, then, if you say so, I will open it," and he began fumbling at
the well-tied string. Annabel saw her opportunity. In a moment she had
slipped on to the forefinger of her right hand the lost ring, and the
next moment she had gently pushed aside the Squire's hands, and was
saying, "Let me unfasten the knots. I am cleverer at that work than

"To be sure you are. There is work little fingers do better than big
ones, and this is that kind of a job. But I will get my knife and cut
the knots; that is the best and quickest way."

He began to hunt in his pockets for his knife, but could not find it.
"Dobson never does put things where they ought to be," he said
fretfully; and then he pulled the bell-rope for Dobson with a force
that fully indicated his annoyance. In the mean time, Annabel was
quietly untying the string, and the Squire naturally watched her
efforts. He was complaining and scolding his servant and his womenkind,
and Annabel did not heed him; but when he suddenly stopped speaking,
in the middle of a sentence, she looked into his face. It expressed the
blankest wonder and curiosity. His eyes were fixed upon her hands, and
he would probably have asked her some inconvenient question if Dobson
had not entered at the moment. Then Annabel retired. Dobson had taken
the parcel in charge, and she excused herself from further delay.

"I have several things to do," she said, "and I shall only be in the
way of the parcel and its contents. Tell Mrs. Atheling and Kate that I
called, will you, Squire?"

"To be sure! To be sure, Miss Vyner," he answered; but his eyes were on
the papers Dobson was unfolding, and his mind was vaguely wandering to
the ring he had seen on her finger. When he had satisfied his curiosity
concerning the papers, his thoughts returned with persistent wonder to
it. "I'll wager my best hunter, yes, I'll wager _Flying Selma_ that
was the ring I bought in Venice and gave to Maude. How did that girl
get it? Maude would never sell it or give it away. Never! _Dal it!_ there
is something queer in her having it. I must find out how it comes to

When he arrived at this decision Mrs. Atheling came into the room. She
was rosy and smiling, and put aside with sweet good nature the Squire's
complaints about both her and Kitty being out of the house when he was
in it. "Not a soul to say a word to me, or to see that I had a bit of
comfortable eating," he said in a tone of injury.

"Never mind, John!"

"Oh, but I do mind! I mind a great deal, Maude."

"You see, it was Kitty wanted me. She had to have a new clasp to the
pearl necklace your mother left her; and she was sure you would like me
to choose it, so I went with her. I thought we should certainly be home
before you got back."

"Well, never mind, then. Nothing suits me so much as to see Kitty
suited. I hope you bought a clasp good enough for the necklace."

"I did not forget that she was going with you to-morrow night."

"But you are going too, Maude?"

"Nay, I am not. When I can shut my ears as easy as my eyes, I can afford
to be less particular about the company I keep. I know beforehand what
the women in that crowd will say about their own danger, and about the
murmuring poor who won't starve in peace, and I know that I would be
sure to answer them with a little bit of plain truth."

"And the truth is not always pleasant, eh, Maude?"

"In this case I'm sure it wouldn't be pleasant. So, then, the outside
of Richmoor House is the best side for me."

"I must say I'm getting a bit tired myself of the Duke's masterful
way, and of his everlasting talk about the 'noble memories of the

"Then tell him, John, that the noble hopes of the future are something
better than the noble memories of the past. The country is in a bad
condition as ever was. Something must be done, and done quickly."

"I'm saying nothing to the contrary, Maude. But even if Reform was
right, it cannot be carried. We must drive the nail that will go. That
is only good common-sense, Maude."

"Mark my words, John. Reform will _have_ to come, and better now than
later. That which fools do in the end, wise men do in the beginning. I
know, I know."

"On this subject thou knowest nothing whatever, Maude. Now, then, I
am going to have a bit of sleep. But I will say thus far--as soon as
ever I am sure that I am on a wrong road I won't go a step further.
John Atheling is not the man to carry a candle for the devil."

With these words he threw his bandana handkerchief over his head,
adding, "He hoped now he had a 'right' to a bit of sleep." Then Mrs.
Atheling went softly out of the room. There was a tolerant smile on her
face, for she was not deceived by the Squire's habit of dignifying his
self-assertions and his self-indulgences with the name of "rights."



Never had the ducal palace of Richmoor been more splendidly prepared
for festivity than on the night of the first of March, 1831. And yet
every guest present knew that it was not a festival, but a gathering
of men and women moved by the gravest fears for the future. The long
suites of parlours, brilliantly lighted, were crowded with peers and
noble ladies, wearing, indeed, the smiles of conventional pleasure; but
all of them eager to discuss the portentous circumstances by which they
were environed.

Annabel stood at the right hand of the Duchess, but was strangely
distrait and silent. Everything had gone wrong with her. It had been a
day of calamity. She began it with a fret and a scold, and her maid
Justine had been from that moment in a temper calculated to provoke to
extremities her impatient mistress. Then her costume did not arrive till
some hours after it was due; and when examined, it was found to be very
unbecoming. She had been persuaded to select a pale blue satin, simply
because she had tired of every other colour; and she was disgusted
with the effect of its cold beauty against her olive-tinted skin. She
wore out Justine's temper with the variety of her suggestions, and her
angry impatience with every effort. The girl became sulkily silent,
then defiantly silent, then, after a most unreasonable burst of anger,
actively impertinent, so much so that she left Annabel only one way of
retaliation--an instant dismissal. She lifted her purse passionately,
counted out the money due, and, pushing it contemptuously towards the
girl, told her "to leave the house instantly."

To her utter amazement, Justine pushed back the money. "I will not take
it," she said. "I have no intention of leaving the house until I see
the ring in your possession--the ring in your purse, Miss--returned to
the owner of it."

If Annabel had been struck to the ground, she could not have been more
confounded and bewildered; and Justine saw and pushed her advantage.
"Miss knows," she continued, "that police detectives are watching
night and day the innocent men whose duties are on this corridor.
Any hour some little thing may cause one of them to be suspected and
arrested; and then who but I could save him from the gallows? No,
Miss, I shall not leave till you give up the ring--till the real th--the
real taker of it is known."

These words terrified Annabel. She felt her heart stop beating; a strange
sickness overwhelmed her; she sunk speechless into a chair, and closed
her eyes. With an attention utterly devoid of sympathy, Justine put
between her lips a tea-spoonful of aniseed cordial which she brought
from her own apartment.

In a few minutes Annabel recovered herself physically; but her
prostration, and the hysterical mood which followed it, were admissions
she could not by any future word, or act, contradict. She had been taken
by surprise, and surrendered. If she had had but ten minutes to survey
the situation, she would have defied it; but such an emergency had
never occurred to her. Over and over again she had supposed every other
likelihood of discovery; this one, never! She was at the mercy of her
maid; but for the time being the maid was not inclined to extremities.
She only insisted that Annabel should use her influence to place the men
under suspicion out of the danger of arrest; and when Annabel had
explained, with a wretched little laugh, that the ring had been
taken "as a means of forwarding her love-affair with Lord Exham,"
the maid assured her "she was on her side in that matter." Then she
pocketed the sovereigns Annabel offered as a peace gift, and "hoped
Miss would think no more of what she had said."

But Annabel could not dismiss the subject. Under her magnificent but
singularly unbecoming gown, she carried a heart heavy with apprehension.
The shadow of the gallows, which Justine had evoked for the suspected
culprit, fell upon her own consciousness. In those days, the most
trifling theft was punished with death; and Annabel had a terror of that
mysterious Law of which she was so profoundly ignorant. How it would
regard her position, she could not imagine. Would even her confession
and restoration exonerate her? In this respect, she suffered from
fright, as an ignorant child suffers. Besides which, when the subject
of "confession" came close to her, she felt that it was impossible.
Constantly she had flattered her conscience with this promise; but if it
was to come to actuality, she thought she would rather die.

So it was with a wretched heart she took the place the Duchess had
assigned her at her own right hand. This position associated her
intimately with Lord Exham, and it was for this very reason the Duchess
had decided upon it. She knew the value of the popular voice; she wished
the popular voice to unite Lord Exham and her rich and beautiful ward;
and she felt sure that their association at her right hand would give
all the certainty necessary to such a belief. Heart-sick with her
strange, new terror, Annabel stood in that brilliant throng. Just
before the dinner hour, she saw Squire Atheling and Kate approaching
to pay their respects to the Duchess. She saw also the quick, joyful
lifting of Exham's eyelids, the bright flush of pleasure that gave
sudden life to his pale cheeks, and the irrepressible gladness that
made his voice musical, as he said softly, "How beautiful she is!"

"Miss Atheling?"


Then Annabel considered her rival's approach. Her eyes fell first on
the Squire, whose splendid physique arrested every one's attention. He
wore a coat of dark-blue broadcloth, trimmed with gold buttons, a long,
white satin vest, and exquisitely fine linen, rather ostentatiously
ruffled. On his arm Kate's hand just rested. Her gown of rich white
silk was soft as lawn, and resplendent as moonbeams; and around her
throat lay one string of Oriental pearls. Her bright, brown hair was
dressed high, without any ornament; but there were silver buckles, set
with pearls, on the front of her white satin sandals. A pause, a murmur
of admiration was perceptible; for conversation ceased a moment as a
creature so fresh, so pure, so exquisite, and so suitably protected,
moved among them. Lord Exham, forgetting all ceremonies, went eagerly
forward to meet these favoured guests; and the Duchess also had a
momentary pleasure in Kate's well-gowned loveliness. She was very
friendly to the Squire; and she took his daughter under her own

After dinner--which was specially early for that night--the majority
of the gentlemen went to the House. The Reform Bill, about which all
England was in agonising suspense, was to be read for the first time.
Never, within the memory of Englishmen, had there been so great a crowd
eager to get into the House. Every inch of space on the floor was filled;
and troops of eager politicians, from all parts of the country, were
waiting at the doors of the various galleries. When they were opened,
the clamour, the struggle, and the confusion was so indescribable that
the Speaker threatened to have all the galleries cleared. Even among the
members, there was great confusion and complaining; for their seats,
though marked with their cards, had in many instances been taken by

Outside, the streets were packed with men wrought up to feverish
excitement and anxiety; and in all the great centres of society, and in
every club in London, there were restless crowds waiting for news from
Westminster. The Duchess of Richmoor's parlours were the central point
of Tory interest. Not one of the company there present but believed with
Sir Robert Inglis--an orator of their party--that "Reform would sweep
the House of Lords clear in ten years." This night was, to them, their
salvation or their ruin. Below their jewelled bodices, their hearts
trembled with anxious terror. After the departure of the members for
the House, they gathered in little knots, wondering, and fearing, and
listening to the noises in the crowded streets, with an agitation not
quite devoid of pleasurable stimulation. For they were not without
comforters and encouragers. The Duke of Wellington went from group to
group, assuring them that Lord Grey's Ministry must go down, and that
no Reform Bill which could injure the nobility would be permitted to pass
the House of Lords.

Annabel was almost glad to see every one so unhappy. She had a perverse
desire to say contradictious things. Her heart was heavy with fear, and
it was burning with envy and jealousy. Kate's beauty, and Lord Exham's
undisguised admiration, made her realise all the bitterness of failure.
She wandered about making evil prophecies, or saying irritating truths,
and watching Kate the while, till she was ready to cry out with mental
pain and mortification. For the great Duke--never insensible to female
loveliness--had given Kate his arm, and was walking about the parlours
with her. Why had such honour not fallen to her lot? Never had she
been so desirous to lead, to be admired, to enforce her eminent fitness
to wear the Richmoor coronet. Never had she so signally failed. Even
her wit had deserted her; she said _malapropos_ clever things, and got
snubbed for them. In her anger, and fear, and disappointment, she
wished Reform _might_ make a clean sweep of such a selfish crowd of
so-called nobility. She had arrived at that point when her misery
demanded company.

About ten o'clock, the Duke and Lord Exham returned. The large lofty
rooms, with their moving throngs of splendidly attired men and women,
were yet crowded; but their atmosphere was charged with an electric
tension, generated by the unusual pitch to which every one's thoughts,
and feelings, and words were set. Many were almost hysterical; some had
subsided into mere waiting, conscious of requiring all their strength
for simple endurance of the suspense; others, more hopeful, were restless
and watching,--but all alike became instantly and breathlessly silent
as the two men appeared. For a moment no one spoke; then the Duke of
Wellington asked, with an assumption of cheerfulness, "What news? Has
the Bill been read?"

"It has been read," answered Richmoor. "Lord John Russell introduced
it in a speech lasting more than two hours."

"And pray what are its provisions."

"This infamous Bill proposes that every borough of less than two
thousand inhabitants shall lose the right to send a member to

"What a scandalous robbery of our privileges!" ejaculated some one of
the listeners.

"It is nothing else!" answered the Duke. "It robs me of the gift of
seven boroughs."

"What excuse did he make for such an act?"

"He supposed the case of a stranger, coming to England to investigate
our method of representation, being taken to a green mound, and told
that green mound sent two members to Parliament; or to a stone wall
with three niches in it, and told that those three niches sent two
members to Parliament; or to a green park with no signs of human
habitation, and told that green park sent two members to Parliament;
and then pictured the amazement of the stranger at this condition of
things. 'But,' he cried, 'how much greater would be his amazement if
he were then taken to large and populous cities, full of industry,
enterprise, and intelligence, and containing vast magazines of every
kind of manufactures, and was then told that these cities did not send
a single man to represent their rights and their necessities in the
great national council.' It was really a very effective passage."

"We have heard that argument before; it is stale and unprofitable,"
said the Duchess.

"Listen! This Bill proposes to give every man paying taxes for houses
of the yearly value of ten pounds and upward--_a vote_."

"What an absurdity!"

"It proposes to give Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, and
three other large towns, each two members, and London eight additional

"Infamous! It will give us a mob government."

"This so-called Reform Bill gives the franchise to one hundred and
ten thousand people in the counties of England who never had it before;
in the provincial towns, it gives it to fifty thousand; in London, it
gives it to ninety-five thousand; in Scotland, to fifty thousand; and
in Ireland, to forty thousand: in all, half a million of persons are to
be added to the constituency of the House of Commons."

At this information the tendency of the whole company was to laughter.
Indeed the Duke's face, and voice, and manner was that of a man telling
an utterly absurd story. Such sweeping alterations were not conceivable;
their very excess doomed them to ridicule and failure, in the opinion of
the privileged class; but the Duke of Wellington's face expressed an
anxiety not consonant with this feeling; and he asked gloomily:

"Did Lord John Russell _dare_ to read the names of the boroughs he
intends to disfranchise, with their members present?"

"He read them with the greatest emphasis and deliberation."

"And the result? What was the result? How did they take being robbed of
their seats in this summary way?"

"The excitement in the House was incredible. He was derisively
interrupted by shouts of laughter, and by cries of 'Hear! Hear!' and
by constant questions across the table from the members of those
boroughs. The wisest statesmen in the House were aghast at proposals so
sweeping and so revolutionary."

"What did Peel say?"

"Nothing. He sat rigid as a statue, his face working with emotion,
his brow wrinkled and sombre. His supporters, who were gathered round
him, burst again and again into uncontrollable laughter. Peel tried
to make them behave like gentlemen, and could not. Every one is sure such
a measure predicts a speedy downfall of Grey's Ministry."

"Of course it does," said the Duchess, with a contemptuous laugh.
The laugh was contagious, and the majority of the company burst into
merriment and ridicule.

"It is really a good joke," said an aged Marquis who had the idea that
England was the birthright of her nobles.

"A good joke!" answered the Duke of Wellington, sternly. "I can tell
you it is no joke. You will find it no laughing matter."

"I am weary of it all," whispered Annabel to Kate; "let us go into
the conservatory." Kate was willing also, and as they entered the sweet,
green place, with its tender lights and restful peace, she sighed with
pleasure and said, "I wonder, Annabel, if the roses and camellias think
themselves better than the violets and daisies."

"I dare say they do. Let us sit down here. I have had such a wretched
day, and I am worn out;" and for a moment, as she looked in Kate's
gentle face, she had a mind to tell her the whole truth about the
unfortunate ring. But while she hesitated, there was a footstep; and
in a moment, Piers pushed aside the fronds of the gigantic ferns and
joined them.

"It is allowable," said Annabel, "provided you do do not mention

"There is no necessity here," he answered gallantly. "How could
perfection be reformed?" Gradually the conversation fell into a more
serious mood, and they began to speak of Yorkshire, and to long after its
breezy wolds and lovely dales; and Annabel listened and said, "She
would be delighted when they went down there." Kate also acknowledged
that she was impatient to return to Atheling; and Piers watched her
every movement,--the smile parting her lips, the light coming and going
on her cheeks from dropped or lifted eyes, the graceful movements of
her hands, the noble poise of her head,--all these things were fresh
enchantments to him. What was the noisy, dusty Senate chamber to this
green spot filled with the charming presence of the woman he adored?

Very quickly Annabel perceived that she was the one person _not_
necessary; and she was too depressed to resent this position. With a
whisper to Kate, she went away, promising to return in ten minutes.
She did not return; but in half an hour--which had seemed as five
minutes--the Duchess came in her stead, and said blandly, "Annabel has
a headache, and has gone to sleep it away. I have sent the Squire
home, Miss Atheling; I told him I should keep you here to-night.
Indeed he was glad for you to remain; the streets are not in a very
pleasant condition. London has lost its senses. It has gone mad; in the
morning it may be saner."

So the sweet interval was over; but one secret glance between the lovers
showed how delicious it had been. Kate went away with the Duchess; and
waiting women led her to a splendid sleeping apartment. There, all
night long, she kept the sense of Piers holding her hand in his; and,
faintly smiling with this interior bliss, she dreamed away the hours
until late in the morning.

Her first thought on awakening was, "What shall I wear? I cannot go to
breakfast in a white silk gown." Then, as she rose, she saw a street
costume laid ready for her use. "Mrs. Atheling sent it very early this
morning," said the maid; and Kate thought with a blessing of the good
mother who never forgot her smallest necessities. At breakfast, the
Duchess was particularly gracious to her; she affected an entire oblivion
of Piers's evident devotion, and talked incessantly of the stupidity of
the Grey Ministry; but as she rose from the table, she said,--

"My dear Miss Atheling, will you do me the favour to come to my private
parlour before you leave?"

Kate stood up, curtsied slightly, and made the required promise. But
she did not at once attend the Duchess, as that lady certainly expected.
She had promised Piers to walk with him in the conservatory, and finish
their interrupted conversation of the previous night; and a gentle
pressure of her hand reminded her of this previous engagement. So it
was near the noon hour when she went to the room which the Duchess had
selected for their interview.

She entered it without a suspicion of the sorrow waiting there for her,
though the first glance at the cold, haughty face that greeted her made
her a little indignant. "I expected you an hour ago, Miss Atheling,"
said the Duchess.

"I am sorry if I have detained you, Duchess. I did not think my
interview with you could be of much importance."

"Perhaps not as important to you as the interview you put before it--and
yet, perhaps, far more so. For I must tell you that such entirely
personal companionship with Lord Exham, must cease from this very hour."

Kate had taken the seat the Duchess indicated on her entering the room;
she now rose to her feet, and answered, "If so, Duchess, it is proper
for me to leave your home at once. My mother is waiting to see me. She
will tell me what it is right for me to do."

"In this case, I am a better adviser than your mother. I believe you to
be a girl of noble principles, so I tell you frankly that Lord Exham
is bound, by every honourable tie, to marry Miss Vyner. When you are
not present, he is quite happy in her society; when you are present,
you seem to exert some unaccountable influence over him. Miss Vyner has
often complained of this. I thought it was simple jealousy on her part,
until I observed you with Lord Exham last night. I am now compelled,
by my duty to my son and his affianced wife, to tell you how impossible
a marriage between you and Lord Exham is and must be. I believe this
information to be all that is necessary to a girl of your birth and

"What information, Duchess?" She asked the question with a dignity that
irritated a woman who thought her word, without her reasons, was quite

"If you persist in having the truth, I must give it to you. Remember,
I would gladly have spared you and myself this humiliation. Know,
then, that many years ago the late General Vyner rendered the Duke a
great service. When Annabel was born, the Duke offered himself as
her godfather and guardian, and his son as her husband. It is not
necessary to go into details; the facts ought to be sufficient for you.
There are circumstances which make the fulfilment of this promise
imperative; and, if you do not interfere, my son will very willingly
perform his part of it. Pardon me if I also remind you that your
birth and fortune make any hopes you may entertain of being the future
Duchess of Richmoor very presumptuous hopes. I assure you that I have
spoken reluctantly, and with sincere kindness; and I do not desire this
conversation to interfere with our future intercourse. If you will give
me your promise, I know that I may trust you absolutely."

"What do you wish me to promise?"

"That you will allow no love-making between Lord Exham and yourself;
that you will not in any way interfere between Lord Exham and Miss
Vyner,--in fact, promise me, in a word, that you will never marry
Lord Exham. I assure you, such a marriage would be most improper and

Kate stood for a moment still and white as a marble statue; and when she
spoke, her words dropped slowly and with an evident effort. And yet her
self-control and dignity of manner was remarkable, as she answered,--

"Duchess, I have always done exactly what my dear wise father and mother
have told me to do. I shall ask their advice on this matter before I make
any promise. If they tell me to do as you wish me to do, I shall know
that they are right, and obey them. I do not recognise any other human
authority than theirs."

She was leaving the room after these words; but the Duchess cried
angrily, "Your father must not at present be asked to interfere. There
are interests--grave, political interests--between him and the Duke
that cannot be imperilled for some love-nonsense between you and Lord

"There are no grave political interests between my mother and the Duke;
and I shall, at all events, take my mother's counsel."

She had stood with the door open in her hand; she now passed outside. So
far she had kept herself from any exhibition of feeling; but, oh, how
wronged and unhappy and offended she felt! She went down and down the
splendid stairway, erect as a reed; but her heart was like a wounded
bird: it fluttered wildly in her bosom, and would not be comforted until
she reached that nest of all nests,--her mother's breast.

There she poured out all her grief and indignation; and Mrs. Atheling
never interrupted the relation by a single word. She clasped the weeping
girl to her heart, and stroked her hands, and soothed her in those tender
little ways that are closer and sweeter than any words can be. But when
Kate had wept her passionate sense of wrong and affront away, the good
mother withdrew herself a little, and began to question her child.

"Let me understand plainly, Kitty dear," she said. "Her Grace--Grace
indeed!--wishes you to promise her that you will give up Piers to

"Yes, Mother."

"And that you will never marry Piers under any circumstances?"

"Yes, Mother."

"And she thinks you 'presumptuous' in hoping to marry her son?"

"Yes, dear Mother. She said 'presumptuous.' Am I; ought I to do as
she wishes me? Oh, I cannot give up Piers! Only this morning he told me
that he would never marry any woman but me."

"Have I or your good father told you to give up Piers?"

"No, Mother."

"When we do, you will of course know we have good reasons for such
an order, and you will give him up. But as yet, father hasn't said
such a word; and I haven't. Kitty darling, the Fifth Commandment only
asks you to obey your own father and mother. Let the Duchess put the
'giving up' where it ought to be. Let her tell her son to give you
up--that is quite as far as her authority extends. She has nothing to
say to Kate Atheling; nor has my little Kitty any obligation to obey
her. She must give such orders to Piers Exham. It is the duty of his
heart and conscience to decide whether he will obey or not."

"Then I can go on loving him, Mother, without wronging myself or

"Go on loving him, dearie."

"He said he was coming to ride with me at three o'clock."

"Ride with him, and be happy while you can, dear child. Let mother kiss
such foolish tears away. I can tell you father was proud of your beauty
last night. He said you were the loveliest woman in London."

"The Duke of Wellington told me I was a beautiful girl; and he said
many wise and kind things to me, Mother. What did father think about
the Reform Bill?"

"It troubled him, Kitty; it troubled him very much. He said, 'It meant
civil war;' but I said, 'Nonsense, John Atheling, it will prevent civil
war.' And so it will, dearie. The people will have it, or else they
will have far more. Your father said all London was shouting till
daybreak, 'The Bill! The whole Bill! Nothing but the Bill!' Now
then, run away and wash your eyes bright, and put on your habit. I'll
warrant Piers outruns the clock."

"Have you seen Edgar this morning?"

"For a few minutes just before you came. Cecil was with him. They had
been up all night; but Cecil would have stayed if Annabel had been here.
How he does love that girl!"

"I think she loves him. She looked ill last night, and I did not see
her this morning. What a tangle it is! Annabel loves Cecil--Piers loves
me--and the Duchess--"

"Never mind the Duchess, nor the tangle either, Kitty. To-day is yours;
to-morrow is not born; and you are not told to unravel any tangle.
There are _them_ whose business it is; and they know all the knots and
snarls, and will wind the ball all right in the end."

"Oh, Mother, how I love you!"

"Oh, Kitty, how I love you!"

"Piers loves me too, Mother."

"I'll warrant he does. Who could help loving thee, Kitty? But men's
love isn't mother's love; it is a good bit more selfish. God Almighty
made thy father, John Atheling, of the best of human elements; but John
Atheling has his shabby moments. Piers Exham won't be different; so
don't expect it." Then the two women looked at each other and smiled.

They understood.



Annabel had purposely kept out of Kitty's way. She had more than a
suspicion of the probable interview between the Duchess and Kitty; and
she wished to avoid any unpleasantness with the Athelings. They gave
her the most reliable opportunities with Cecil North; and besides, she
was so little of a general favourite as to have no other acquaintances as
intimate. She was also really sick and unhappy; and the first occurrence
of the day did not tend to make her less so. She wished to see the Duke
about some matter relating to her finances; and, as soon as she left her
room, she went to the apartment in which she was most likely to find him.

The Duke was not there, but Squire Atheling was waiting for him. He
said he "had an appointment at two o'clock," and then, looking at the
time-piece on the mantel, added, "I always give myself ten minutes or so
to come and go on." Annabel knew this peculiarity of the Squire, and
made her little joke on the matter; and then the conversation turned a
moment on Kitty, and her probable return home. Annabel assured the Squire
she had already gone home, and then, offering her hand in adieu, was
about to leave the room. The little brown-gemmed hand roused a sudden
memory and anxiety in his heart. He detained it, as he said, "Miss
Vyner, I have a question to ask you. Do you remember untying a parcel
for me the other day?"

"I should think so," she replied with a laugh. "A more impatient man
to do anything for I never saw."

"I am a bit impatient. But that is not what I am thinking of. You wore
a ring that day--a sapphire ring with a little sapphire padlock--and that
ring interests me very much. Will you tell me where you got it?"

"No, sir. Even if I knew, I might have excellent reasons for not telling
you. Why, Squire, I am astonished at your asking such a question! Rings
have mostly a story--a love-story too; you might be asking for secrets!"

"I beg pardon. To be sure I might. But you see a ring exactly like the
one you wore, holds a secret of my own."

"Perhaps you are mistaken about the ring. So many rings look alike."

"I could not be mistaken. I do wish you would tell me--I am afraid you
think me rude and inquisitive--"

"Indeed I do, sir! And, if you please, we will forget this conversation.
It is too personal to be pleasant."

With these words she bowed and withdrew, and the Squire got up and
walked about the room until the Duke entered it. By that time, he had
worried himself into an impatient, suspicious temper, and was touchy
as tinder when his political chief asked him to sit down and discuss
the situation with him.

"Exham has gone to see a number of our party; but I thought I would
outline to you personally the course we intend to pursue with regard to
this infamous Bill." The Squire bowed but said not a word; and the Duke
proceeded, "We have resolved to worry and delay it to the death. In
the Commons, the Opposition will go over and over the same arguments,
and ask again, and again, and again, the same questions. This course
will be continued week after week--month after month if necessary.
Obstruction, Squire, obstruction, that is the word!"

"What do you mean exactly by 'obstruction'?"

"I will explain. Lord Exham will move, 'That the Speaker do now
leave the Chair.' When this motion is lost, some other member of the
Opposition will move, 'That the debate be now adjourned.' That being
lost, some other member will again move, 'That the Speaker do now leave
the Chair,' and so, with alternations of these motions, the whole
night can be passed--and night after night--and day after day. It is
quite a legitimate parliamentary proceeding."

"It may be," answered the Squire; "but I am astonished at your asking
John Atheling to take any part in such ways. I will fight as well as any
man, on the square and the open; if I cannot do this, I will not fight
at all. I would as soon worry a vixen fox, as run a doubling race of that
kind. No, Duke, I will not worry, and nag, and tease, and obstruct.
Such tactics are fitter for old women than for reasoning men, sure of a
good cause, and working to win it."

"I did not expect this obstruction from you, Squire; and, I must say, I
am disappointed--very much disappointed."

"I don't know, Duke Richmoor, that I have ever given you cause to think
I would fight in any other way than in a square, stand-up, face-to-face
manner. Wasting time is not fighting, and it is not reasoning. It is just
tormenting an angry and impatient nation; it is playing with fire; it
is a dangerous, deceitful, cowardly bit of business, and I will have
nothing to do with it."

"You remember that I gave you your seat?"

"You can have it back and welcome. I took my seat from you; but when
it comes to right and wrong, I take orders only from my own conscience."

"Advice, Squire, advice; I did not think of giving you orders."

"Well, Duke, I am perhaps a little hasty; but I do not understand
obstructing warfare. I am ready to attack the Bill, tooth and nail.
I am ready to vote against it; but I do not think what you call
'obstructing' is fair and manly."

"All things are fair in love and war, Squire; and this is a war to the
knife-hilt for our own caste and privileges."

Here there was a light tap at the door, and, in answer to the Duke's
"enter," Annabel came in. She said a few words to him in a low voice,
gave him a paper, and disappeared. But, short as the interview was,
it put the Duke in a good temper. He looked after her with pride and
affection, and said pleasantly,--

"Fight in your own way, Squire Atheling; it is sure to be a good,
straight-forward fight. But the other way will be the tactics of our
party, and you need not interfere with them. By-the-bye, Miss Vyner is a
good deal at your house, I think."

"She is always welcome. My daughter likes her company. We all do. She is
both witty and pretty."

"She is a great beauty--a particularly noble-looking beauty. She will
make a fine Duchess, and my son is most fortunate in such an alliance;
for she has money,--plenty of money,--and a dukedom is not kept up
on nothing a year. Perhaps, however, this Reform Bill will eventually
get rid of dukedoms and dukes, as it proposes to do with boroughs and

The Squire did not immediately answer. He wanted a definite assertion
about Lord Exham and Miss Vyner, and could not decide on words which
would unsuspiciously bring it. Finally, he blurted out an inquiry as to
the date of a marriage between them; and the Duke answered carelessly,--

"It may occur soon or late. We have not yet fixed the time. Probably
as soon as this dreadful Reform question is settled. But as the ceremony
will surely take place at the Castle, Atheling Manor will be an important
factor in the event."

He was shifting and folding up papers as he spoke, and the Squire _felt_,
more than understood, that the interview had better be closed. Ostensibly
they parted friends; but the Squire kept his right hand across his back
as he said "good-morning," and the Duke understood the meaning of
this action, though he thought it best to take no notice of it.

"What a fractious, testy, touchy fellow this is!" he said irritably
to himself, when he was alone. "A perfect John Bull, absolutely sure
of his own infallibility; sure that he knows everything about everything;
that he is always right, and always must be right, and that any one who
doubts his always being right is either a knave or a fool. _Tush!_ I am
glad I gave him that thrust about Piers and Annabel. It hurt. I could
see it hurt, though he kept his hand to cover the wound."

The Duke was quite right. Squire Atheling was hurt. He went straight
home. In any trouble, his first medicine was his wife; for though he
pretended to think little of her advice, he always took it--or regretted
that he had not taken it. He found her half-asleep in the chair by the
window which she had taken in order to watch Lord Exham and Kitty ride
down the street together. She was at rest and happy; but the Squire's
entrance, at an hour not very usual, interested her. "Why, John!"
she asked, "what has happened? I thought you went to the House at three

"I have some questions to ask in my own house, first," he answered.
"Maude, I am sure you remember the ring I gave you one night at
Belward,--the ring you promised to marry me on, the sapphire ring with
the little padlock?"

"To be sure I remember it, John."

"You used to wear it night and day. I have not seen it on your hand for
a long time."

"It became too small for me. I had to take it off. Whatever has brought
it into your thoughts at this time?"

"I saw one just like it. Where did you put your ring?"

"In my jewel-case."

"Is it there now."

She hesitated a moment, but a life-time of truth is not easily turned
aside. "John," she answered, "it is not there. It is gone."

"I thought so. Did you sell it for Edgar, some time when he wanted

"Edgar never asked me for a shilling. I never gave him a shilling
unknown to you. And I did not sell the ring at all. I would never have
done such a thing."

"But I have seen the ring on a lady's hand."

"Do you know the lady?"

"I think I could find her."

"I will tell you about it, John. I loaned it to Kitty, and Piers saw it
and wanted one made like it for Kitty, and so he took it away to show
it to his jeweller, and lost it that very night. He has moved heaven and
earth to find it, but got neither word nor sight of it. You ought to
tell him where you saw it."

"Not yet, Maude."

"Tell me then."

"To be sure! I saw it on Miss Vyner's hand."



"But how?"

"Thou mayst well ask 'how.' Piers gave it to her."

"I wouldn't believe such a thing, not on a seven-fold oath."

"Thou knowest little about men. There are times when they would give
their souls away. Thou knowest nothing about such women as Miss Vyner.
They have a power that while it lasts is omnipotent. Antony lost a world
for Cleopatra, and Herod would have given half, yes, the whole of his
kingdom to a dancing woman, if she had asked him for it."

"Those men were pagans, John, and lived in foreign countries. Christian
men in England--"

"Christian men in England, in proportion to their power, do things just
as reckless and wicked. Piers Exham has never learned any control; he
has always given himself, or had given him, whatever he wanted. And I can
tell thee, there is a perfect witchery about Miss Vyner in some hours.
She has met Exham in a favourable time, and begged the ring from him."

"I cannot believe it. Why should she do such a thing? She must have had
a reason."

"Certainly she had a reason. It might be pure mischief, for she is
mischievous as a cat. It might be superstition; she is as superstitious
as an Hindoo fakir. She has charms and signs for everything. She orders
her very life by the stars of heaven. I have watched her, and listened to
her, and never trusted her about Kitty--not a moment. Now this is a
secret between thee and me. I asked her to-day about the ring, and she
would say neither this nor that; yet somehow she gave me to understand
it was a love token."

"She is a liar, if she means that Piers gave it to her as a love token.
I saw the young man half an hour ago. If ever a man loved a maid, he
loves our Kitty."

"Yet he is going to marry Miss Vyner."

"He is not. I am sure he is not. He will marry Kate Atheling."

"The Duke told me this afternoon that Lord Exham would marry Miss Vyner
as soon as this Reform question is settled. He said the marriage would
take place at the Castle."

"The Duke has been talking false to you for some purpose of his own."

"Not he. Richmoor has faults--more than enough of them; but he treads
his shoes straight. A truthful man, no one can say different."

"I wouldn't notice a thing he said for all that. Pass it by. Leave
Kitty to manage her own affairs."

"No, I will not! Thou must tell Kitty to give the man up. He is going to
marry another woman."

"I don't believe a word of it."

"His father said so. What would you have?"

"Fathers don't know everything."

"Now, Maude Atheling, my girl shall not marry where she is not wanted.
I would rather see her in her death shroud than in her wedding gown, if
things were in that way."

"John, I have always been open as the day with you, and I will not
change now. The Duchess said something like it to Kitty this morning,
so you see there has been a plan between the Duke and Duchess to make
trouble about Piers. Kitty came home very troubled."

"And you let her go out with the man! I am astonished at you!"

"She asked me what she ought to do, and I told the dear girl to be happy
until _you_ told her to be miserable. If you think it is right to do so,
tell her when she comes home never to see Piers again."

"You had better tell her. I cannot."

"I cannot, and I will not, for the life of me." "Don't you believe
what I say?"

"Yes--with a grain of salt. Piers is to hear from yet."

"Well, you must speak to her, Mother. My heart is too soft. It is _your_
place to do it."

"My heart is as soft as yours, John. I say, let things alone. We are
going to Atheling soon--we cannot go too soon now. If it must be told
her, Kate will hear it, and bear it best in her own home; and, besides,
he will not be within calling distance. John, this thing cannot be done
in a hurry. God help the dear girl--to find Piers false--to give him
up--it will break her heart, Father!"

"Kitty's heart is made of better stuff. When she finds out that Piers
has been false to her, she will despise him."

"She will make excuses for him."

"No good woman will care about an unworthy man."

"Then, God help the men, John! If that were so, there would be lots of
them without any good woman to care for them."

"Show Kitty that Piers is unworthy of her love, and I tell you she will
put him out of her heart very quickly. I think I know Kitty."

"Women do not love according to deserts, John. If a woman has a bad
son or daughter, does she take it for comfort when they go away from
her? No, indeed! She never once says, 'They were nothing but a sorrow
and an expense, and I am glad to be rid of them.' She weeps, and she
prays all the more for them, just because they were bad. And one kind of
love is like another; so I will not speak ill of Piers to Kate; besides,
I do not think ill of him. If she has to give him up, it will not be
his fault; and I could not tell her 'he is no loss, Kate,'--and such
nonsense as that,--for it would be nonsense."

"What will you say then?"

"I shall help her to remember everything pleasant about him, and to make
excuses for him. Even if you put comfort on the lowest ground possible,
no woman likes to think she has been fooled and deceived, and given her
heart for worse than nothing. Nine hundred and ninety-nine women out
of a thousand would rather blame Fate or father or Fortune, or some
other man or woman, than their own lover."

"Women are queer. A man in such a case whistles or sings his heartache
away with the thought,--

    "'If she be not fair for me,
    What care I how fair she be?'"

"You are slandering good men, John. Plenty of men would not give
heart-room to such selfish love. They can live for the woman they
love, and yet live apart from her. My advice is that we go back to
Atheling at once. My heart is there already. Kitty and I were talking
yesterday of the garden. The trees will soon be in blossom, and the
birds busy building in them. Oh, John,--

          "'The Spring's delight,
          In the cowslip bright,
    As she laughs to the warbling linnet!
          And a whistling thrush,
          On a white May bush,
    And his mate on the nest within it!'"

And both caught the joy of the spring in the words, and the Squire,
smiling, stooped and kissed his wife; and she knew then that she had
permission to carry her daughter out of the way of immediate sorrow. As
for the future, Mrs. Atheling never went into an enemy's country in
search of trouble. She thought it time enough to meet misfortune when
it came to her.

Kate was not averse to the change. Her conversation with the Duchess
naturally affected her feeling towards Annabel. She could not imagine
her quite ignorant of it; and it was, therefore, a trial to have the
girl intruding daily into her life. Yet self-respect forbade her to make
any change in their relationship to each other. Annabel, indeed, appeared
wishful to nullify all the Duchess had said by her behaviour to Cecil
North. Never had she been so familiar and so affectionate towards him,
and she evidently desired Mrs. Atheling and Kate to understand that she
was sincerely in love, and had every intention of marrying for love.

But yet she was unable to disguise her pleasure when she was suddenly
told of their proposed return to the country. A vivid wave of crimson
rushed over her face and throat; and though she said she "was sorry,"
there was an uncontrollable note of satisfaction in her voice. She was
really sorry in one respect; but she had become afraid of the Squire. He
asked such point-blank questions. His suspicions were wide awake and
veering to the truth. He was another danger in her situation, and she
felt Justine to be all she could manage. Mrs. Atheling and Kate being
gone, her visits to the Vyner house could naturally cease; and, as
the winter was nearly over, she could arrange some other place for
her meetings with Cecil North. Indeed, he had already joined her in a
few early morning gallops; and, besides which, she reflected, "Love
always finds out a way." Cecil was a quite manageable factor.


About the middle of March, one fine spring evening, Mrs. Atheling and
Kate came once more near to their own home. The road was a beautiful
one, bordered with plantations of feathery firs on each side; and the
pure resinous odour was to these two northern women sweeter than a
rose garden. And, oh, what a home-like air the long, rambling old Manor
House had, and how bright and comfortable were its low-ceiled rooms!
When Kate went to her own chamber, a robin on a spray of sweet-briar
was singing at her window. She took it for her welcome back to the
happy place. To be sure, the polished oak floor with its strips of
bright carpet, the little tent-bed with its white dimity curtains, and
the low, latticed windows, full of rosemary pots and monthly roses, were
but simple surroundings; yet Kate threw herself with joyful abandon into
her white chair before the blazing logs, and thought, without regret,
of the splendid rooms of the Vyner mansion, and the tumult of men and
horses in the thousand-streeted city outside it.

Certainly Piers was in the city, and she had no hope of his speedy
return to the country. But, equally, she had no doubts of his true
affection; and the passing days and weeks brought her no reasons for
doubting. She had frequent letters from him, and many rich tokens of
his constant remembrance. And, as the spring advanced, the joy of her
heart kept pace with it. Never before had she taken such delight in the
sylvan life around her. The cool sweetness of the dairy; the satiny
sides of the milking-pails; the trig beauty of the dairymaids, waiting
for the cows, coming slowly out of the stable,--the beautiful cows, with
their indolent gait and majestic tramp, their noble, solemn faces, and
their peaceful breathing,--why had she never noticed these things
before? Was it because we must lose good things--though but for a
time--in order to find them? And very soon the bare, brown garden was
aflame with gold and purple crocus buds, and the delicious woody perfume
of wallflowers, and the springtide scent of the sweet-briar filled all
its box-lined paths. The trees became misty with buds and plumes and
tufts and tassels; and in the deep, green meadow-grass the primroses
were nestling, and the anemones met her with their wistful looks.

And far and wide the ear was as satisfied as the eye with the tones of
waterfalls, the inland sounds of caves and woods, the birds twittering
secrets in the tree-tops, and the running waters that were the tongue
of life in many a silent place. Oh, how beautiful, and peaceful, and
happy were these things! Often the mother and daughter wondered to each
other how they could ever have been pleased to exchange them for the
gilt and gewgaws and the social smut of the great city. Thus they fell
naturally into the habit of pitying the Squire, and Edgar, and Piers,
and wishing they were all back at Atheling to share the joy of the
spring-time with them.

One night towards the close of April, Kate was very restless. "I cannot
tell what is the matter, Mother," she said. "My feet go of their own
will to the garden gates. It is as if my soul knew there was somebody
coming. Can it be father?"

"I think not, Kitty. Father's last letter gave no promise of any let-up
in the Reform quarrel. You know the Bill was read for the second time as
we left London; and Earl Grey's Ministry had then only a majority of
one. Your father said the Duke was triumphant about it. He was sure that
a Bill which passed its second reading by only a majority of one, could
be easily mutilated in Committee until it would be harmless. The Lords
mean to kill it, bit by bit,--that will take time."

"But what then, Mother?"

"God knows, child! I do not believe the country will ever settle to work
again until it gets what it wants."

"Then will the House sit all summer?"

"I think it will."

At these words a long, cheerful "_hallo!_"--the Squire's own call in
the hunting-field--was heard; and Kate, crying, "I told you so!" ran
rapidly into the garden. The Squire was just entering the gates at a
gallop. He drew rein, threw himself off his horse, and took his daughter
in his arms.

"I am so glad, Father!" she cried. "So happy, Father! I knew you were
coming! I knew you were coming! I did that!"

"Nay, not thou! I told nobody."

"Your heart told my heart. Ask mother. Here she comes."

Then, late as it was, the quiet house suddenly became full of noise
and bustle; and the hubbub that usually followed the Squire's advent
was everywhere apparent. For he wanted all at once,--his meat and his
drink, his easy coat and his slippers, his pipe and his dogs, and his
serving men and women. He wanted to hear about the ploughing, and the
sowing, and the gardening; about the horses, and the cattle, and the
markets; the farm hands, and the tenants of the Atheling cottages. He
wanted his wife's report, and his steward's report, and his daughter's
petting and opinions. The night wore on to midnight before he would
speak of London, or the House, or the Bill.

"I may surely have a little bit of peace, Maude," he said
reproachfully, when she ventured to introduce the subject; "it has
been the Bill, and the Bill, and the Bill, till my ears ache with the
sound of the words."

"Just tell us if it has passed, John."

"No, it has _not_ passed; and Parliament is dissolved again; and the
country has taken the bit in its teeth, and the very mischief of hell
is let loose. I told the Duke what his 'obstructing' ways would do.
Englishmen like obstructions. They would put them there, if they were
absent, for the very pleasure of getting over them. Many a man that was
against the Bill is now against the 'obstructions' and bound to get
over them."

"Did Piers come down with you, Father?" asked Kate. She had waited long
and patiently, and the Squire had not named him; and she felt a little
wounded by the neglect.

"No. He did not come down with me, Kitty. But I dare say he is at the
Castle. The Duke spoke of returning to Yorkshire at once."

"He might have come with you, I think."

"I think not. A man's father and mother cannot always be put aside
for his sweetheart. Lovers think they can run the world to their own
whim-whams. 'Twould be a God's pity if they could!"

"What are you cross about, Father? Has Piers vexed you?"

"Am I cross, Kitty? I did not know it. Go to bed, child. England stands
where she did, and Piers is yet Lord of Exham Hall. I dare say he will
be here to-morrow. I came at my own pace. He would have to keep the pace
of two fine ladies. And I'll be bound he fretted like a race-horse yoked
in a plough."

And Kitty was wise enough to know that she had heard all she was likely
to hear that night; nor was she ill-pleased to be alone with her hopes.
Piers was at hand. To-morrow she might see him, and hear him speak, and
feel the tenderness of his clasp, and meet the love in his eyes. So
she sat at the open casement, breathing the sweetness and peace of the
night, and shaping things for the future that made her heart beat quick
with many thoughts not to be revealed. The faint smile of the loving,
dreaming of the loved one, was on her lips; and if a doubt came to her,
she put it far away. In fear she would not dwell, and, besides, her
heart had given her that insight which changes faith into knowledge.
She _knew_ that Piers loved her.

The Squire had no such clear confidence. When Kitty had gone away, he
said plainly, "I am not pleased with Piers. I do not like his ways; I
do not like them at all. After Kate left London, he was seen everywhere,
and constantly, with Miss Vyner."

"Why not? She is one of his own household."

"They were very confidential together. I noticed them often for Kitty's

"I do wish, Squire, that you would leave Kitty's love-affairs alone."

"_That_ I will not, Maude. If I have any business now, it is to pay
attention to them. I have taken your 'let-alone' plan, far too long.
My girl shall not be courted in any such underhand, mouse-in-the-corner
way. Her engagement to Lord Exham must be publicly acknowledged, or else
broken entirely off."

"The man loves Kate. He will do right to her."

"Loves Kate! Very good. But what of the Other One? He cannot do right to

"Yes, he can. Their claims are different. You may depend on that. Kate
is the love of his soul; the Other One is like a sister."

"I do not trust either Piers or the Other One--and I wish she would give
me my ring."

"You do not certainly know that she has your ring."

"I will ask her to let me see it."

"Now, John Atheling, you will meddle with things that concern you, and
let other things alone. It may be your duty to interfere about your
daughter. You may insist on having her recognised as the future Duchess
of Richmoor,--it will be a feather in your own cap; you may say to the
Duke, you must accept my daughter, or I will--"

"Maude! You are just trying to stand me upon my pride. You cannot do
that any longer. If you are willing to let Kate 'drift,' I am not. It
is my duty to insist on her proper recognition."

"Then do your duty. But it is _not_ your duty to catechise Miss Vyner
about _my_ ring. When that inquiry is to be made, I will make it myself.
If Piers has to give up Kate, it will be to him a knock-down blow; it
will be a shot in the backbone; you need not sting him at the same time."

"I will speak to him to-morrow, and see the Duke afterwards. I owe my
little Kate that much."

"And the Duke and yourself will be the upper and the nether millstones,
and your little Kate between them. I know! I know!"

"I will do what is right, Maude, and I will be as kind as I can in doing
it. Who loves Kitty as I do? There is a deal said about mother love;
but, I tell thee, a father's love is bottomless. I would lay my life
down for my little girl, this minute."

"But not thy pride."

"Not my honour--which is her honour also. Honour must stand with love,
or else--nay, I will not give thee any more reasons. I know my decision
is right; but it is thy way to make out that all my reasons are wrong. I
wish thou wouldst prepare her a bit for what may come."

"There is no preparation for sorrow, John. When it comes it smites."

Then the Squire lit his pipe, and the mother went softly upstairs to look
at her little girl. And, as she did so, Kate's arms enfolded her, and
she whispered, "Piers is coming to-morrow. Are you glad, Mother?"

Then, so strange and contrary is human nature, the mother felt a
moment's angry annoyance. "Can you think of no one but Piers, Kate?"
she asked. And the girl was suddenly aware of her selfish happiness,
and ashamed of it. She ran after her mother, and brought her back to
her bedside, and said sorrowfully, "I know, Mother, that about Piers
I am a little sinner." And then Mrs. Atheling kissed her again, and
answered, "Never mind, Kitty. I have often seen sinners that were
more angel-like than saints--" and the shadow was over. Oh, how good it
is when human nature reaches down to the perennial!




When the Squire entered the breakfast parlour, Kate was just coming in
from the garden. The dew of the morning was on her cheeks, the scent
of the sweet-briar and the daffodils in her hair, the songs of the thrush
and the linnet in her heart. She was beautiful as Hebe, and fresh as
Aurora. He clasped her face between his large hands, and she lifted the
bunch of daffodils to his face, and asked, "Are they not beautiful? Do
you know what Mr. Wordsworth says about them, Father?"

"Not I! I never read his foolishness."

"His 'foolishness' is music; I can tell you that. Listen sir,--

    "'A smile of last year's sun strayed down the hills,
        And lost its way within yon windy wood;
    Lost through the months of snow--but not for good:
        I found it in a clump of daffodils.'

Are they not lovely lines?"

"They sound like most uncommon nonsense, Kitty. Come and sit beside me,
I have something far more sensible and important to tell you."

"About the Bill, Father?"

"Partly about the Bill and partly about Edgar. Which news will you have

"Mother will say 'Edgar,' and I go with mother."

"I do not think you can tell me any news about Edgar, John."

"Go on, Father, mother is only talking. She is so anxious she cannot
pour the coffee straight. What about Edgar?"

"I must tell you that I made a speech two days before the House closed;
and the papers said it was a very great speech, and I think it _was_ a
tone or two above the average. Did you read it?"

"You never sent us a paper, Father."

"You wouldn't have read it if I had sent it. I knew Philip Brotherton
would read every word, so it went to him. I was a little astonished at
myself, for I did not know that I could bring out the very truth the
way I did; but I saw Edgar watching me, and I saw no one else; and I
just talked to him, as I used to do,--good, plain, household words,
with a bit of Yorkshire now and then to give them pith and power. I
was cheered to the echo, and if Edgar, when I used to talk to him for his
good, had only cheered me on my hearthstone as he cheered me in the
Commons, there wouldn't have been any ill blood between us. Afterwards,
in the crush of the lobby, I saw Edgar a little before me; and Mr.
O'Connell walked up to him, and said, 'Atheling, you ought to take
lessons from your father, he strikes every nail on the head. In your
case, the old cock crows, but the young one has not learnt his lesson.'
I was just behind, and I heard every word, and I was ready to answer;
but Edgar did my work finely.'

'He should not have noticed him,' said Mrs. Atheling.

'Ah, but he did! He said, "Mr. O'Connell, I will trouble you to speak
of Squire Atheling respectfully. He is not old; he is in the prime of
life; and, in all that makes youth desirable, he is twenty-five years
younger than you are. I think you have felt his spurs once, and I would
advise you to beware of them." And what O'Connell answered I cannot
tell, but it would be up to mark, I can warrant that! I slipped away
before I was noticed, and I am not ashamed to say I was pleased with
what I had heard. "Not as old as O'Connell by twenty-five years!" I
laughed to myself all the way home; and, in the dark of the night, I
could not help thinking of Edgar's angry face, and the way he stood
up for me. I do think, Maude, that somehow it must have been thy fault
we had that quarrel--I mean to say, that if thou hadst stood firm by
me,--that is, if thou hadst--'

'John, go on and do not bother thyself to make excuses. Was that the end
of it?'

'In a way. The next afternoon I was sitting by the fireside having a
quiet smoke, and thinking of the fine speech I had made, and if it
would be safe to try again, when Dobson came in and said, "Squire, Mr.
Edgar wishes to see you," and I said, "Very well, bring Mr. Edgar
upstairs." I had thrown off my coat; but I had on one of my fine ruffled
shirts and my best blue waistcoat, and so I didn't feel so very out
of the way when Edgar came in with the loveliest young woman on his
arm--except Kitty--that I ever set eyes on; and I was dumfounded when
he brought her to me and said, "My dear Father, Annie Curzon, who
has promised to be my wife, wants to know you and to love you." And
the little thing--for she is but a sprite of a woman--laid her hand on
my arm and looked at me; and what in heaven's name was I to do?'

'What did you do?'

'I just lifted her up and kissed her bonny face, and said I had room
enough in my heart and home for her; and that she was gladly welcome,
and would be much made of, and I don't know what else--plenty of things
of the same sort. My word! Edgar was set up.'

'He may well be set up,' answered Mrs. Atheling; 'she is the richest
and sweetest girl in England; and she thinks the sun rises and sets in
Edgar Atheling. He ought to be set up with a wife like that.'

'He was, with her and me together. I don't know which of us seemed
to please him most. Maude, they are coming down to Lord Ashley's on a
visit, and I asked them _here_. I could not do any different, could I?'

'If you had you would have been a poor kind of a father. What did you

'I said, when you are at Ashley Place come over to Atheling, and I
gave Edgar my hand and looked at him; and he looked at me and clasped
it tight, and said, "We will come.'"

"That was right."

"I am glad I have done right for once, Maude. Do you know that Ashley
is one of the worst Radicals in the lot of them?"

"Never mind, John. I have noticed that, as a general thing, the worse
Radical, the better man; but a Tory cannot be trusted to give a Radical a
character. The Tories are very like the poor cat who said, 'If she only
had wings, she would gladly extirpate the whole race of those troublesome

"There are to be no more Tories now, we have got a new name. Lord John
Russell called us 'Conservatives,' and we took to the word, and it is
as like as not to stick to us. It will be Conservatives and Reformers
in the future."

"But you said the Reform Bill was lost."

"I said it had not passed. What of that? The rascals have only been
downed for this round; they will be up to time, when time is called June
the twenty-first; and they will fight harder than ever."

"How was the Bill lost? By obstructions?"

"Yes; when it was ready to go into Committee, General Gascoigne moved
that, 'The number of members returned to Parliament ought not to be
diminished;' and when the House divided on this motion, Gascoigne's
resolution had a majority of eight."

"Then Grey's Ministry have retired?" said Mrs. Atheling, in alarm.

"No, they have not; they should have done so by all decent precedents;
but, instead of behaving like gentlemen, they resolved to appeal to the
country. We sat all night quarrelling on this subject; but at five
in the morning I was worn out with the stifling, roaring House, and sick
with the smell of dying candles, and the reek and steam of quarrelling
human beings, so I stepped out and took a few turns on Westminster
Bridge. It was a dead-calm, lovely morning, and the sun was just rising
over the trees of the Abbey and the Speaker's house, and I had a bit
of heart-longing for Atheling."

"Why did you not run away to Atheling, Father?"

"I could not have done a thing like that, Kitty, not for the life of me.
I went back to the House; and for three days we fought like dogs, tooth
and nail, over the dissolution. Then Lord Grey and Lord Brougham did such
a thing as never was: they went to the King and told him, plump and
plain, he must dissolve Parliament or they would resign, and he must
be answerable for consequences; and the King did not want to dissolve
Parliament; he knew a new House would be still fuller of Reform members;
and he made all kinds of excuses. He said, 'The Crown and Robes were
not ready, and the Guards and troops had not been notified;' and
then, to his amazement and anger, Lord Brougham told him that the
officers of State had been summoned, that the Crown and Robes were
ready, and the Guards and troops waiting."

"My word, John! That was a daring thing to do."

"If William the Fourth had been Henry the Eighth, Lord Brougham's head
wouldn't have been worth a shilling; as it was, William flew into a
great passion, and cried out, 'You! You, my Lord Chancellor! You ought
to know that such an act is treason, is high treason, my lord!' And
Brougham said, humbly, that he did know it was high treason, and that
nothing but his solemn belief that the safety of the State depended on
the act would have made him bold enough to venture on so improper a
proceeding. Then the King cooled down; and Brougham took from his pocket
the speech which the King was to read; and the King took it with words;
that were partly menace, and partly joke at his Minister's audacity,
and so dismissed them."

"I never heard of such carryings on. Why didn't Brougham put the Crown
on his own head, and be done with it?"

"I do not like Brougham; but in this matter, he acted very wisely. If
the King had refused to dissolve a Parliament that had proved itself
unable to carry Reform, I do think, Maude, London would have been in
flames, and the whole country in rebellion, before another day broke."

"Were you present at the dissolution, John?"

"I was sitting beside Piers, when the Usher of the Black Rod knocked
at the door of the Commons. It had to be a very loud knock, for the House
was in a state of turbulence and confusion far beyond the Speaker's
control; while Sir Robert Peel was denouncing the Ministry in the
hardest words he could pick out, and being interrupted in much the
same manner. I can tell you that a good many of us were glad enough
to hear the guns announcing the King's approach. The Duke told me
afterwards that the Lords were in still greater commotion. Brougham was
speaking, when there were cries of 'The King! The King!' And Lord
Londonderry rose in a fury and said, 'He would not submit to--'
Nobody heard what he would not submit to; for Brougham snatched up the
Seals and rushed out of the House. Then there was terrible confusion,
and Lord Mansfield rose and was making a passionate oration against the
Reform Bill, when the King entered and cut it short. Well, London
went mad for a few hours. Nearly every house was illuminated; and the
Duke of Wellington, and the Duke of Richmoor, and other great Tories had
their windows broken, as a warning not to obstruct the next Parliament.
I really don't know what to make of it all, Maude!"

"Well, John, I think statesmen ought to know what to make of it."

"I rode down from London on my own nag; and in many a town and village I
saw things that made my heart ache. Why, my dears, there has been sixty
thousand pounds put into--not bread and meat--but peas and meal to
feed the starving women and children; the Government has given away
forty thousand garments to clothe the naked; and the Bank of England--a
very close concern--is lending money, yes, as much as ten thousand
pounds, to some private individuals, in order to keep their factories
going. Something is far wrong, when good English workmen are paupers.
But I don't see how Parliamentary Reform is going to help them to
bread and meat and decent work."

"John, these hungry, naked men know what they want. Edgar says a Reform
Parliament will open all the ports to free trade, and tear to pieces the
infamous Corn Laws, and make hours of work shorter, and wages higher

"Give the whole country to the working men. I see! I see! Now, Maude,
men are not going to run factories for fun, nor yet for charity; and
farmers are not going to till their fields just to see how little they
can get for their wheat."

"Father, what part did Piers take in all this trouble?"

"He voted with his party. He was very regular in his place."

"I will go now and put on my habit. Piers sent me word that he would be
here soon after eleven o'clock;" and Kate, with a smile, went quickly
out of the room. The Squire was nonplussed by the suddenness of her
movement, and did not know whether to detain her or not. Mrs. Atheling
saw his irresolution, and said,--

"Let her go this time, John. Let her have one last happy memory to keep
through the time of trouble you seem bound to give her."

"Can I help it?"

"I don't know."

"You speak as if it was a pleasure to me."

"What for are you so set on interfering just at this time?"

"Because it is the right time."

"Who told you it was the right time?"

"My own heart, and my own knowledge of what is right and wrong."

"You are never liable to make a mistake, I suppose, John?"

"Not on this subject. I never saw such an unreasonable woman! Never! It
is enough to discourage any man;" and as Mrs. Atheling rose and began to
put away her silver without answering him a word, he grew angry at her
want of approval, and put on his hat and went towards the stables.

He had no special intention of watching for Lord Exham, and indeed had
for the moment forgotten his existence, when the young man leaped his
horse over the wall of the Atheling plantation. The act annoyed the
Squire; he was proud of his plantation, and did not like trespassing
through it. Such a little thing often decides a great thing; and this
trifling offence made it easy for the Squire to say,--

"Good-morning, Piers, I wish you would dismount. I have a few words to
speak to you;" and there was in his voice that shivery half-tone which
is neither one thing nor the other: and Exham recognised it without
applying the change to himself. He was a little annoyed at the delay;
but he leaped to the ground, put the bridle over his arm, and stood
beside the Squire, who then said,--

"Piers, I have come to the decision not to sanction any longer your
attentions to Kate--unless your father also sanctions them. It is high
time your engagement was either publicly acknowledged or else put an
end to."

"You are right, Squire; what do you wish me to do? I will make Kate my
wife at any time you propose. I desire nothing more earnestly than this."

"Easy, Piers, easy. You must obtain the Duke's consent first."

"I could hardly select a worse time to ask him for it. I am of full age.
I am my own master. I will marry Kate in the face of all opposition."

"I say you will not. My daughter is not for you, if there is any
opposition. The Duke and Duchess are at the head of your house; and
Kate cannot enter a house in which she would be unwelcome."

"Kate will reside at Exham."

"And be a divider between you and your father and mother. No! In the
end she would get the worst of it; and, even if she got the best of it,
I am not willing she should begin a life of quarrelling and hatred. You
can see the Duke at your convenience, and let me know what he says."

"I will see him to-day," he had taken out his watch and was looking
at it as he spoke. "Will you excuse me now, Squire?" he asked. "I sent
Kate a message early this morning promising to call for her about eleven.
I am already late."

"You may turn back. I will make an excuse for you. You cannot ride with
Kate to-day."

"Squire, I made the offer and the promise. Permit me to honour my word."

"I will honour it for you. There has been enough, and too much, riding
and walking, unless you are to ride and walk all your lives together.

"Squire, give me one hour?"

"I will not."

"A few minutes to explain."

"I have told you that I would explain."

"I never knew you unkind before. Have I offended you? Have I done
anything which you do not approve?"

"That is not the question. I will see you again--when you have seen your

"You are very unkind, very unkind indeed, sir."

"Maybe I am; but when the surgeon's knife is to use, there is no use
pottering with drugs and fine speeches. It is the knife between you
and Kate--or it is the ring;" and the word reminded him of the lost
love gage, and made his face hard and stern. Then he turned from the
young man, and had a momentary pleasure in the sound of his furious
galloping in the other direction; for he was in a state of great turmoil.
He had suddenly done a thing he had been wishing to do for a long
time; and he was not satisfied. In short, passionate ejaculations, he
tried to relieve himself of something wrong, and did not succeed. "He
deserves it; he was all the time with that Other One,--day by day in
the parks, night after night in the House and the opera; he gave her
that ring--I'll swear he did; how else should she have it? My Kate is
not going to be second-best--not if I can help it; what do I care for
their dukedom?--confound the whole business! A man with a daughter to
watch has a heart full of sorrow--and it is all her mother's fault!"

Setting his steps to such aggravating opinions, he reached the Manor
House and went into the parlour. Kate stood at the window in her riding
dress. She had lost her usual fine composure, and was nervously tapping
the wooden sill with the handle of her whip. On her father's entrance,
she turned an anxious face to him, and asked, "Did you see anything
of Piers, Father?"

"I did. I have been having a bit of a talk with him."

"Then he is at the door? I am so glad! I thought something was wrong!"

"Stop, Kitty. He is not at the door. He has gone home. I sent him home.
Now don't interrupt me. I made up my mind in London that he should not
see you again until your engagement was recognised by his father and

"Should not see me again! Father!"

"That is right."

"But I must see him! I must see him! Where is mother?"

"Mother thinks as I do, Kate."

"Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do?"

"Go upstairs, and take off your habit, and think over things. You know
quite well that such underhand courting--"

"Piers is not underhand. He is as straight-forward as you are, Father."

"There now! Don't cry. I won't have any crying about what is only
right. Come here, Kitty. Thou knowest thy father loves every hair of
thy head. Will he wrong thee? Will he give thee a moment's pain he can
help? Kitty, I heard talk in London that fired me--I saw things that have
to be explained."

"Father, you will break my heart!"

"Well, Kitty, I have had a good many heartaches all winter about my
girl. And I have made up my mind, if I die for it, that there shall
be no more whispering and wondering about your relationship to Piers
Exham. Now don't fret till you know you have a reason. Piers has a deal
of power over the Duke. He will win his way--if he wants to win it.
Then I will have a business talk with both men, and your engagement and
marriage will be square and above-board, and no nodding and winking
and shrugging about it. You are Kate Atheling, and I will not have you
sought in any by-way. Before God, I will not! Cry, if you must. But
I think better of you."

"Oh, Mother! Mother! Mother!"

"Yes! you and your mother have brought all this on, with your 'let
things alone, be happy to-day, and to-morrow will take care of itself'
ways. If you were a milk-maid, that plan might do; but a girl with your
lineage has to look behind and before; she can't live for herself and
herself only."

"I wish I was a milk-maid!"

"To be sure. Let me have the lover I want, and my father, and my
mother, and my brother, and my home, and all that are behind me, and all
that are to come after, and all honour, and all gratitude, and all
decent affection can go to the devil!" and with these words, the Squire
lifted his hat, and went passionately out of the room.

Though he had given Kate the hope that Piers would influence his
father, he had no such expectation. There was a very strained political
feeling between the Duke and himself; and, apart from that, the Squire
had failed to win any social liking from the Richmoors. He was so
independent; he thought so much of the Athelings, and was so indifferent
to the glory of the Richmoors. He had also strong opinions of all
kinds, and did not scruple to express them; and private opinions are
just the one thing _not_ wanted and not endurable in society. In fact,
the Duke and Duchess had both been subject to serious relentings for
having any alliance, either political or social, with their opinionated,
domineering neighbour.

And Piers, driven by the anguish of his unexpected calamity, went into
his father's presence without any regard to favourable circumstances.
Previously he had considered them too much; now he gave them no
consideration at all. The Duke had premonitory symptoms of an attack
of gout; and the Duchess had just told him that her brother Lord
Francis Gower was going to Germany, and that she had decided to
accompany his party. "Annabel looks ill," she added; "the season has
been too much for a girl so emotional; and as for myself, I am thoroughly
worn out."

"I do not like separating Piers and Annabel," answered the Duke. "They
have just become confidential and familiar; and in the country too,
where Miss Atheling will have everything in her favour!"

"Annabel is resolved to go abroad. She says she detests England. You had
better make the best of the inevitable, Duke. I shall want one thousand

"I cannot spare a thousand pounds. My expenses have been very great this
past winter."

"Still, I shall require a thousand pounds."

The Duchess had just left her husband with this question to consider.
He did not want to part with a thousand pounds, and he did not want
to part with Annabel. She was the brightest element in his life. She had
become dear to him, and the thought of her fortune made his financial
difficulties easier to bear. For the encumbrances which the times forced
him to lay on his estate need not embarrass Piers; Annabel's money
would easily remove them.

He was under the influence of these conflicting emotions, when Piers
entered the room, with a brusque hurry quite at variance with his natural
placid manner. The Duke started at the clash of the door. It gave him a
twinge of pain; it dissipated his reveries; and he asked petulantly,
"What brings you here so early, and so noisily, Piers?"

"I am in great trouble, sir. Squire Atheling--"

"Squire Atheling again! I am weary of the man!"

"He has forbidden me to see Miss Atheling."

"He has done quite right. I did not expect so much propriety from him."

"Until you give your consent to our marriage."

"Why, then, you will see her no more, Piers. I will never give it.
Never! We need not multiply words. You will marry Annabel."

"Suppose Annabel will not marry me?"

"The supposition is impossible, therefore unnecessary."

"If I cannot marry Miss Atheling, I will remain unmarried."

"That threat is as old as the world; it amounts to nothing."

"On all public and social questions, I am your obedient son and
successor. I claim the right to choose my wife."

"A man in your position, Piers, has not this privilege. I had not. If
I had followed my youthful desires, I should have married an Italian
woman. I married, not to please myself, but for the good of Richmoor;
and I am glad to-day that I did so. Your duty to Richmoor is first; to
yourself, secondary."

"Have you anything against Miss Atheling?"

"I object to her family--though they are undoubtedly in direct descent
from the royal Saxon family of Atheling; I object to her poverty; I
object to her taking the place of a young lady who has every desirable
qualification for your wife."

"Is there no way to meet these objections, sir?"

"No way whatever." At these words the Duke stood painfully up, and
said, with angry emphasis, "I will not have this subject mentioned to me
again. It is dead. I forbid you to speak of it." Then he rang the bell
for his Secretary, and gave him some orders. Lord Exham leaned against
the mantelpiece, lost in sorrowful thought, until the Duke turned to
him and said,--

"I am going to ride; will you go with me? There are letters from
Wetherell and Lyndhurst to talk over."

"I cannot think of politics at present. I should be no help to you."

"Your mother and Annabel are thinking of going to Germany. I wish you
would persuade them to stop at home. Is Annabel sick? I am told she is."

"I do not know, sir."

"You might trouble yourself to inquire."

"Father, I have never at any time disobeyed you. Permit me to marry the
woman I love. In all else, I follow where you lead."

"Piers, my dear son, if my wisdom is sufficient for 'all else,'
can you not trust it in this matter? Miss Atheling is an
impossibility,--mind, I say an impossibility,--now, and to-morrow, and
in all the future. That is enough about Miss Atheling. Good-afternoon! I
feel far from well, and I will try what a gallop may do for me."

Piers bowed; he could not speak. His heart beat at his lips; he was
choking with emotion. The very attitude of the Duke filled him with
despair. It permitted of no argument; it would allow of no hope. He
knew the Squire's mood was just as inexorable as his father's. Mrs.
Atheling had defined the position very well, when she called the two
men, "upper and nether millstones." Kate and he were now between them.
And there was only one way out of the situation supposable. If Kate
was willing, they could marry without permission. The Rector of Belward
would not be difficult to manage; for the Duke had nothing to do with
Belward; it was in the gift of Mrs. Atheling. On some appointed morning
Kate could meet him before the little altar. Love has ways and means
and messengers; and his face flushed, and a kind of angry hope came
into his heart as this idea entered it. Just then, he did not consider
how far Kate would fall below his best thoughts if it were possible
to persuade her to such clandestine disobedience.

The Duke was pleased with himself. He felt that he had settled the
disagreeable question promptly and kindly; and he was cantering
cheerfully across Belward Bents, when he came suddenly face to face
with Squire Atheling. The surprise was not pleasant; but he instantly
resolved to turn it to service.

"Squire," he said, with a forced heartiness, "well met! I thank you
for your co-operation. In forbidding Lord Exham your daughter's society,
you have done precisely what I wished you to do."

"There is no 'co-operation' in the question, Duke. I considered only
Miss Atheling's rights and happiness. And what I have done, was not
done for any wish of yours, but to satisfy myself. Lord Exham is your
business, not mine."

"I have just told him that a marriage with Miss Atheling is out of
all consideration; that both you and I are of this opinion; and, I may
add, that my plans for Lord Exham's future would be utterly ruined
by a _mésalliance_ at this time."

"You will retract the word '_mésalliance_,' Duke. You know Miss
Atheling's lineage, and that a duke of the reigning family would make
no '_mésalliance_' in marrying her. I say retract the word!" and
the Squire involuntarily gave emphasis to the order by the passionate
tightening of his hand on his riding-whip.

"I certainly retract any word that gives you offence, Squire. I meant
no reflection on Miss Atheling, who is a most charming young lady--"

"There is no more necessity for compliments than for--the other thing. I
have told Miss Atheling to see Lord Exham no more. I will make my order
still more positive to her."

"Yet, Squire, lovers will often outwit the wisest fathers."

"My daughter will give me her word, and she would not be an Atheling
if she broke it. I shall make her understand that I will never forgive
her if she allies herself with the house of Richmoor."

"Come, come, Squire! You need not speak so contemptuously of the house
of Richmoor. The noblest women in England would gladly ally themselves
with my house."

"I cannot prevent them doing so; but I can keep my own daughter's
honour, and I will. Good-afternoon, Duke! I hope this is our last word
on a subject so unpleasant."

"I hope so. Squire, there are some important letters from Lyndhurst and
Wetherell; can you come to the Castle to-morrow and talk them over with

"I cannot, Duke."

Then the Duke bowed haughtily, and gave his horse both rein and whip;
and the angry thoughts in his heart were, "What a proud, perverse
unmanageable creature! He was as ready to strike as to speak. If I had
been equally uncivilised, we should have come to blows as easily as
words. I am sorry I have had any dealings with the fellow. Julia warned
me--a man ought to take his wife's advice wherever women are factors
in a question. Confound the whole race of country squires!--they make
all the trouble that is made."

Squire Atheling had not any more pleasant thoughts about dukes; but they
were an undercurrent, his daughter dominated them. He dreaded his next
interview with her, but was not inclined to put it off, even when he
found her, on his return home, with Mrs. Atheling. She had been weeping;
she hardly dried her tears on his approach. Her lovely face was flushed
and feverish; she had the look of a rose blown by a stormy wind. He
pushed his chair to her side, and gently drew her on to his knees, and
put his arm around her, as he said,--

"My little girl, I am sorry! I am sorry! But it has to be, Kitty. There
is no hope, and I will not fool thee with false promises. I have just
had a talk with Richmoor. He was very rude, very rude indeed, to thy
father." She did not speak or lift her eyes; and the Squire continued,
"He used a word about a marriage with thee that I would not permit.
I had to bring him to his senses."

"Oh, Father!"

"Would you have me sit quiet and hear the Athelings made little of."

"No, Father."

"I thought not."

"After what the Duke has said to me, there can be no thought of marriage
between Piers and thee. Give him up, now and forever."

"I cannot."

"But thou must."

"It will kill me."

"Not if thou art the good, brave girl I think thee. Piers is only one
little bit of the happy life thy good God has given thee. Thou wilt still
have thy mother, and thy brother, and thy sweet home, and all the honour
and blessings of thy lot in life--_and thy father, too_, Kitty. Is thy
father nobody?"

Then she laid her head on his breast and sobbed bitterly; and the Squire
could not speak. He wept with her. And sitting a little apart, but
watching them, Mrs. Atheling wept a little also. Yet, in spite of his
emotion, the Squire was inexorable; and he continued, with stern and
steady emphasis, "Thou art not to see him. Thou art not to write to
him. Thou art not even to look at him. Get him out of thy life, root
and branch. It is the only way. Come now, give me thy promise."

"Let me see him once more."

"I will not. What for? To pity one another, and abuse every other
person, right or wrong. The Richmoors don't want thee among them at
any price; and if I was thee I would stay where I was wanted."

"Piers wants me."

"Now then, if you must have the whole bitter truth, take it. I don't
believe Piers will have any heartache wanting thee. He was here, there,
and everywhere with Miss Vyner, after thou hadst left London; and I saw
the ring thou loanedst him on her finger."

Then Kate looked quickly up. Once, when Annabel had removed her glove,
and instantly replaced it, a vague suspicion of this fact had given her
a shock that she had named to no one. It seemed so incredible she could
not tell her mother. And now her father's words brought back that moment
of sick suspicion, and confirmed it.

"Are you sure of what you say, Father?"

"I will wage my word and honour on it."

There was a moment's intense silence. Kate glanced at her mother, who
sat with dropped eyes, unconsciously knitting; but there was not a
shadow of doubt or denial on her face. Then she looked at her father. His
large countenance, usually so red and beaming, was white and drawn
with feeling, and his troubled, aching soul looked at her pathetically
from the misty depths of his tearful eyes. Her mother she might have
argued and pleaded with; but the love and anguish supplicating her
from that bending face was not to be denied. She lifted her own to it.
She kissed the pale cheeks and trembling lips, and said, clearly,--

"I promise what you wish, Father. I will not speak to Piers, nor write
to him, nor even look at him again--until you say I may," and with the
words she put her hand in his for surety.

He rose to his feet then and put her in his chair; but he could not
speak a word. Tremblingly, he lifted his hat and stick and went out
of the room; and Mrs. Atheling threw down her knitting, and followed
him to the door, and watched him going slowly through the long, flagged
passageway. Her face was troubled when she returned to Kate. She lifted
her knitting and threw it with some temper into her work-basket, and
then flung wide open the casement and let the fresh air into the room.
Kate did not speak; her whole air and manner was that of injury and
woe-begone extremity.

"Kate," said her mother at last, "Kate, my dear! This is your first
lesson in this world's sorrow. Don't be a coward under it. Lift up your
heart to Him who is always sufficient."

"Oh, Mother! I think I shall die."

"I would be ashamed to say such words. Piers was good and lovesome, and
I do not blame you for loving him as long as it was right to do so. But
when your father's word is against it, you may be very sure it is _not_
right. Father would not give you a moment's pain, if he could help it."

"It is too cruel! I cannot bear it!"

"Are you asked to bear anything but what women in all ages, and in all
countries, have had to bear? To give up what you love is always hard. I
have had to give up three fine sons, and your dear little sister Edith. I
have had to give up father, and mother, and brothers, and sisters; but
I never once thought of dying. Whatever happens, happens with God's
will, or with God's permission; so if you can't give up cheerfully to
your father's will, do try and say to God, as pleasantly as you can,
_Thy_ Will be my will."

"I thought you would pity me, Mother."

"I do, Kate, with all my heart. But life has more loves and duties
than one. If, in order to have Piers, you had to relinquish every one
else, would you do so? No, you would not. Kate, I love you, and I pity
you in your great trial; and I will help you to bear it as well as I
can. But you must bear it cheerfully. I will not have father killed for
Piers Exham. He looked very queerly when he went out. Be a brave girl,
and if you are going to keep your promise, do it cheerfully--or it is not
worth while."

"How can I be cheerful, Mother?"

"As easy as not, if you have a good, unselfish heart. You will say
to yourself, 'What right have I to make every one in the house
miserable, because I am miserable?' Troubles must come to all,
Kitty, but troubles need not be wicked; and _it is wicked to be a
destroyer of happiness_. I think God himself may find it hard to forgive
those who selfishly destroy the happiness of others, just because
they are not satisfied, or have not the one thing they specially
want. When you are going to be cross and unhappy, say to yourself, "I
will not be cross! I will not be unhappy! I will not make my good father
wretched, and fill his pleasant home with a tearful drizzle, because I
want to cry about my own loss.' And, depend upon it, Kitty, you
will find content and happiness in making others happy. Good comes to
hearts prepared for good; but it cannot come to hearts full of worry, and
fear, and selfish regrets."

"You are setting me a hard lesson, Mother."

"I know it is hard, Kate. Life is all a task; yet we may as well sing,
as we fulfil it. Eh, dear?"

Kate did not answer. She lifted her habit over her arm, and went slowly
upstairs. Sorrow filled her to the ears and eyes; but her mother heard
her close and then turn the key in her door.

"That is well," she thought. "Now her good angel will find her alone
with God."



"Mothering" is a grand old word for a quality God can teach man as
well as woman; and the Squire really "mothered" his daughter in
the first days of her great sorrow. He was always at her side. He was
constantly needing her help or her company; and Kate was quite sensible
of the great love with which he encompassed her. At first she was
inexpressibly desolate. She had been suddenly dislodged from that life
in the heart of Piers which she had so long enjoyed, and she felt
homeless and forsaken. But Kate had a sweet and beautiful soul, nothing
in it could turn to bitterness; and so it was not long before she was
able to carry her misfortune as she had carried her good fortune, with
cheerfulness and moderation.

For her confidence in Piers was unbroken. Not even her father's
assertion about the lost ring could affect it. On reflection, she was
sure there was a satisfactory explanation; if not, it was a momentary
infidelity which she was ready to forgive. And in her determination
to be faithful to her lover, Mrs. Atheling encouraged her. "Time
brings us our own, Kitty dear," she said; "you have a true title to
Piers's love; so, then, you have a true title to his hand. I have not a
doubt that you will be his wife."

"I think that, Mother; but why should we be separated now, and both made
to suffer?"

"That is earth's great mystery, my dear,--the prevalence of pain
and suffering; no one is free from it. But then, in the midst of this
mystery, is set that Heavenly Love which helps us to bear everything. I
know, Kitty, I know!"

"Father is very hard."

"He is not. When Piers's father and mother say they will not have
you in their house, do you want to slip into it on the sly, or even
in defiance of them? Wait, and your hour will come."

"There is only one way that it can possibly come; and that way I dare
not for a moment think of."

"No, indeed! Who would wish to enter the house of marriage by the gates
of death? If such a thought comes to you, send it away with a prayer
for the Duke's life. God can give you Piers without killing his father.
He would be a poor God if He could not. Whatever happens in your life
that you cannot change, that is the Will of God; and to will what God
wills is sure to bring you peace, Kitty. You have your Prayer-Book; go to
the Blessed Collects in it. You will be sure to find among them just the
prayer you need. They never once failed me,--never once!"

"If I could have seen him just for an hour, Mother."

"Far better not. Your last meeting with him in London was a very happy,
joyous one. That is a good memory to keep. If you met him now, it would
only be to weep and lament; and I'll tell you what, Kitty, no crying
woman leaves a pleasant impression. I want Piers to remember you as he
saw you last,--clothed in white, with flowers in your hair and hands,
and your face beaming with love and happiness."

Many such conversations as this one held up the girl's heart, and
enabled her, through a pure and steadfast faith in her lover, to enter--

      "----that finer atmosphere,
    Where footfalls of appointed things,
      Reverberant of days to be,
    Are heard in forecast echoings;
      Like wave-beats from a viewless sea."

The first week of her trouble was the worst; but it was made tolerable
by a long letter from Piers on the second day. It came in the Squire's
mail-bag, and he could easily have retained it. But such a course would
have been absolutely contradictious to his whole nature. He held the
thick missive a moment in his hand, and glanced at the large red seal,
lifting up so prominently the Richmoor arms, and then said,--

"Here is a letter for you, Kitty. It is from Piers. What am I to do with

"Please, Father, give it to me."

"Give it to her, Father," said Mrs. Atheling; and Kate's eager face
pleaded still more strongly. Rather reluctantly, he pushed the letter
towards Kate, saying, "I would as leave not give it to thee, but I can
trust to thy honour."

"You may trust me, Father," she answered. And the Squire was satisfied
with his relenting, when she came to him a few hours later, and said,
"Thank you for giving me my letter, Father. It has made my trouble a
great deal lighter. Now, Father, will you do me one more favour?"

"Well, dear, what is it?"

"See Piers for me, and tell him of the promise I made to you. Say I
cannot break it, but that I send, by you, my thanks for his letter, and
my love forever more."

"I can't tell him about 'love forever more,' Kitty. That won't do
at all."

"Tell him, then, that all he says to me I say to him. Dear Father, make
that much clear to him."

"John, do what Kitty asks thee. It isn't much."

"A man can't have his way in this house with two women to coax or bully
him out of it. What am I to do?"

"Just what Kitty asks you to do."


"Please, Father!" And the two words were sent straight to the father's
heart with a kiss and a caress that were irresistible. Three days
afterwards the Squire came home from a ride, very much depressed. He
was cross with the servant who unbuttoned his gaiters, and he looked
resentfully at Mrs. Atheling as she entered the room.

"A nice message I was sent," he said to her as soon as they were
alone. "That young man has given me a heart-ache. He has made me think
right is wrong. He has made me feel as if I was the wickedest father
in Yorkshire. And I know, in my soul, that I am doing right; and that
there isn't a better father in the three kingdoms."

"Whatever did he say?"

"He said I was to tell Kate that from the East to the West, and from
the North to the South, he would love her. That from that moment to the
moment of death, and throughout all eternity, he would love her. And
I stopped him there and then, and said I would carry no message that
went beyond the grave. And he said I was to tell her that neither for
father nor mother, nor for the interests of the dukedom, nor for the
command of the King, would he marry any woman but her. And I was fool
enough to be sorry for him, and to promise I would give him Kate, with
my blessing, when his father and mother asked me to do so."

"I don't think that was promising very much, John."

"Thou knowest nothing of how I feel, Maude. But he is a good man, and
true; I think so, at any rate."

"Tell Kitty what he said."

"Nay, you must tell her if you want her to know. I would rather not
speak of Piers at all. Tell her, also, that the Duchess and Miss Vyner
are going to Germany, and that Piers goes with them as far as London. I
am very glad of this move, for we can ride about, then, without fear
of meeting them."

All the comfort to be got from this conversation and intelligence was
given at once to Kate; and perhaps Mrs. Atheling unavoidably made it
more emphatic than the Squire's manner warranted. She did not overstep
the truth, however, for Piers had spoken from his very heart, and with
the most passionate love and confidence. Indeed, the Squire's transcript
had been but a bald and lame translation of the young man's fervent
expressions of devotion and constancy.

Kate understood this, and she was comforted. Invincible Hope was at
the bottom of all her sorrow, and she soon began to look on the
circumstances as merely transitory. Yet she had moments of great trial.
One evening, while walking with her mother a little on the outskirts of
Atheling, the Duke's carriage, with its splendid outriders, suddenly
turned into the little lane. There was no escape, and they looked at
each other bravely, and stood still upon the turf bordering the
road. Then the Duchess gave an order to the coachman. There was
difficulty in getting the horses to the precise spot which was best
for conversation; but Mrs. Atheling would not take a step forward or
backward to relieve it. She stood with her hand on Kate's arm,
Kate's hands being full of the blue-bells which she had been gathering.

The carriage contained only the Duchess and Annabel. There had been no
overt unpleasantness between the ladies of the two families, and Mrs.
Atheling would not take the initiative, especially when the question was
one referring to the most delicate circumstances of her daughter's
life. She talked with the Duchess of her German trip, and Kate gave
Annabel the flowers, and hoped she would enjoy her new experience.
In five minutes the interview was over; nothing but courteous words had
been said, and yet Mrs. Atheling and Kate had, somehow, a sense of
intense humiliation. The Duchess's manner had been politely patronising,
Annabel's languid and indifferent; and, in some mysterious way, the
servants echoed this covert atmosphere of disdain. Little things are so
momentous; and the very attitude of the two parties was against the
Athelings. From their superb carriage, as from a throne, the Duchess
and her companion looked down on the two simply-dressed ladies who had
been gathering wild flowers on the roadside.

"How provoking!" was Kate's first utterance. "Mother, I will not walk
outside the garden again until they go away; I will not!"

"I am ashamed of you!" answered Mrs. Atheling, angrily. "Will you
make yourself a prisoner for these two women? _Tush!_ Who are they? Be
yourself, and who is better than you?"

"It is easy talking, Mother. You are as much annoyed as I am. How did
they manage to snub us so politely?"

"Position is everything, Kate. A woman in a Duke's carriage, with
outriders in scarlet, and coachmen and footmen in silver-laced liveries,
would snub the Virgin Mary if she met her in a country lane, dressed in
pink dimity, and gathering blue-bells. Try and forget the affair."

"Annabel looked ill."

"It was her white dress. A woman with her skin ought to know better than
to wear white."

"Oh, Mother! if Piers had been with them, what should I have done?"

"I wish he had been there! You were never more lovely. I saw you for
a moment, standing at the side of the carriage; with your brown hair
blowing, and your cheeks blushing, and your hands full of flowers, and I
thought how beautiful you were; and I wish Piers had been there."

"They go away on Saturday. I shall be glad when Saturday is over. I
do not think I could bear to see Piers. I should make a little fool of

"Not you! Not you! But it is just as well to keep out of danger."

Certainly neither the Squire nor Kate had any idea of meeting Piers on
the following Saturday night when they rode along Atheling lane together.
Both of them believed Piers to be far on the way to London. They had
been to the village, and were returning slowly homeward in the gloaming.
A light like that of dreamland was lying over all the scene; and the
silence of the far-receding hills was intensified by the murmur of the
streams, and the sleepy piping of a solitary bird. The subtle, fugitive,
indescribable fragrance of lilies-of-the-valley was in the air; and a
sense of brooding power, of mystical communion between man and nature,
had made both the Squire and Kate sympathetically silent.

Suddenly there was the sound of horse's feet coming towards them; and
the figure of its rider loomed large and spectral in the gray, uncertain
light. Kate knew instantly who it was. In a moment or two they must needs
pass each other. She looked quickly into her father's face, and he said
huskily, "Be brave, Kate, be brave!"

The words had barely been spoken, when Piers slowly passed them. He
removed his hat, and the Squire did the same; but Kate sat with dropped
eyes, white as marble. From her nerveless hands the reins had fallen; she
swayed in her saddle, and the Squire leaned towards her with encouraging
touch and words. But she could hear nothing but the hurrying flight of
her lover, and the despairing cry which the wind brought sadly back
as he rode rapidly up the little lane,--

"_Kate! Kate! Kate!_"

Fortunately, news of Miss Curzon's and Edgar's arrival at Ashley Hall
came to Atheling that very hour; and the Squire and Mrs. Atheling were
much excited at their proposal to lunch at Atheling Manor the next day.
Kate had to put aside her own feelings, and unite in the family joy of
reunion. There was a happy stir of preparation, and the Squire dressed
himself with particular care to meet his son and his new daughter. As
soon as he heard of their approach, he went to the open door to meet them.

To Edgar he gave his right hand, with a look which cancelled every hard
word; and then he lifted little Annie Curzon from her horse, and kissed
her on the doorstep with fatherly affection. And between Kate and Annie a
warm friendship grew apace; and the girls were continually together,
and thus, insensibly, Kate's sorrow was lightened by mutual confidence
and affection.

Early in June the Squire and Edgar were to return to London, for
Parliament re-opened on the fourteenth; and a few days before their
departure Mrs. Atheling asked her husband one afternoon to take a
drive with her. "To be sure I will, Maude," he answered. "It isn't
twice in a twelvemonth thou makest me such an offer." She was in her
own little phaeton, and the Squire settled himself comfortably at her
side, and took the reins from her hands. "Which way are we to go?" he

"We will go first to Gisbourne Gates, and maybe as far as Belward."

The Squire wondered a little at her direction, for she knew Gisbourne was
rather a sore subject with him. As they approached the big iron portals,
rusty on all their hinges from long neglect, he could not avoid saying,--

"It is a shame beyond everything that I have not yet been able to buy
Gisbourne. The place has been wanting a master for fifteen years; and
it lays between Atheling and Belward as the middle finger lays between
the first and the third. I thought I might manage it next year; but this
Parliament business has put me a good bit back."

"Many things have put you back, John. There was Edgar's college
expenses, and the hard times, and what not beside. Look, John! the gates
are open. Let us drive in. It is twenty years since I saw Gisbourne

"The gates are open. What does that mean, Maude?"

"I suppose somebody has bought the place."

"I'm afraid so."

"Never mind, John."

"But I do mind. The kind of neighbour we are to have is a very important
thing. They will live right between Atheling and Belward. The Gisbournes
were a fine Tory family. Atheling and Gisbourne were always friends. My
father and Sir Antony went to the hunt and the hustings together. They
were finger and thumb in all county matters. It will be hard to get as
good a master of Gisbourne as Sir Antony was."

"John, I have a bit of right good news for thee. Edgar is going to take
Sir Antony's place. Will Edgar do for a neighbour?"

"Whatever art thou saying, Maude?"

"The very truth. Miss Curzon has bought Gisbourne. Lord Ashley advised
her to do so; and she has brought down a big company of builders and
such people, and the grand old house is to be made the finest home in
the neighbourhood. She showed me the plans yesterday, and I promised
her to bring thee over to Gisbourne this afternoon to meet her architect
and Lord Ashley and Edgar. See, they are waiting on the terrace for thee;
for they want thy advice and thy ideas."

It was, indeed, a wonderful afternoon. The gentlemen went into
consultation with the architect, and a great many of the Squire's
suggestions were received with enthusiastic approval. Mrs. Atheling,
Kate, and Annie went through the long-deserted rooms, and talked of
what should be done to give them modern convenience and comfort, without
detracting from their air of antique splendour. Then at five o'clock
the whole party met in the faded drawing-room and had tea, with sundry
additions of cold game and pasties, and discussed, together, the
proposed plans. At sunset the parties separated at Gisbourne Gates,
Kate going with Miss Curzon to Ashley, and the Squire and Mrs.
Atheling returning to their own home. The Squire was far too much excited
to be long quiet.

"They were very glad of my advice, Maude," he said, as soon as the last
good-bye had been spoken. "Ashley seconded nearly all I proposed. He is
a fine fellow. I wish I had known him long ago."

"Well, John, nobody can give better advice than you can."

"And you see I know Gisbourne, and what can be done with it. Bless
your soul! I used to be able to tell every kind of bird that built in
Gisbourne Chase, and where to find their nests--though I never robbed a
nest; I can say that much for myself. Well, Edgar _has_ done a grand
thing for Atheling, and no mistake."

"I told you Edgar--"

"Now, Maude, Edgar and me have washed the slate between us clean. It
is not thy place to be itemising now. I say Edgar has done well for
Atheling, and I don't care who says different. I haven't had such a day
since my wedding day. Edgar in Gisbourne! An Atheling in Gisbourne! My
word! Who would have thought of such a thing? I couldn't hardly have
asked it."

"I should think not. There are very few of us, John, would have the face
to _ask_ for half of the good things the good God gives us without a
'please' or a 'thank you.'"

"Belward! Gisbourne! Atheling! It will be all Atheling when I am gone."

"Not it! I do not want Belward to be sunk in that way. Belward is as old
as Atheling."

"In a way, Maude, in a way. It was once a part of Atheling; so was
Gisbourne. As for sinking the name, thou sunkest thy name in Atheling;
why not sink the land's name, eh, Maude?"

And until the Squire and Edgar left for London, such conversations were
his delight; indeed, he rather regretted his Parliamentary obligations,
and envied his wife and daughter the delightful interest that had come
into their lives. For they really found it delightful; and all through
the long, sweet, summer days it never palled, because it was always a
fresh wing, or a fresh gallery, cabinet-work in one parlour, upholstery
work in another, the freshly laid-out gardens, the cleared chase, the
new stables and kennels. Even the gates were a subject of interesting
debate as to whether the fine old ones should be restored or there
should be still finer new ones.

Thus between Atheling, Ashley, and Gisbourne, week after week passed
happily. Kate did not forget, did not cease to love and to hope; she
just bided her time, waiting, in patience, for Fortune to bring in the
ship that longed for the harbour but could not make it. And with so
much to fill her hours joyfully, how ungrateful she would have been
to fret over the one thing denied her! The return of the Squire and
Edgar was very uncertain. Both of them, in their letters, complained
bitterly of the obstructive policy which the Tories still unwaveringly
carried out. It was not until the twelfth of July that the Bill got
into Committee; and there it was harassed and delayed night after night
by debates on every one of its clauses. This plan of obstructing it
occupied thirty-nine sittings, so that it did not reach the House of
Lords until the twenty-second of September. The Squire's letter at
this point was short and despondent:--

    DEAR WIFE,--The Bill has gone to the Lords. I expect they will
    send it to the devil. I am fairly tired out; and, with all my
    heart, I wish myself at Atheling. It may be Christmas before I
    get there. Do as well as you can till I come. Tell Kitty, I
    would give a sovereign for a sight of her.

    Your affectionate Husband,


About a couple of weeks after this letter, one evening in October,
Mrs. Atheling, Kate, and Annie were returning to Atheling House from
Gisbourne, where they had been happily busy all the afternoon. They were
easy-hearted, but rather quiet; each in that mood of careless stillness
which broods on its own joy or sorrow. The melancholy of the autumn
night influenced them,--calm, pallid, and a little sad, with a dull,
soft murmur among the firs,--so they did not hurry, and it was nearly
dark when they came in sight of the house. Then Mrs. Atheling roused
herself. "How good a cup of tea will taste," she said; "and I dare
say it is waiting, for Ann has lighted the room, I see." Laughing and
echoing her remark, they reached the parlour. On opening the door, Mrs.
Atheling uttered a joyful cry.

"Why, John! Why, Edgar!"

"To be sure, Maude," answered the Squire, leaping up and taking her
in his arms. "I wonder how thou feelest to have thy husband come home
and find thee out of the house, and not a bit of eating ready for him."

Then Mrs. Atheling pointed to the table, and said, "I do not think there
is any need for complaint, John."

"No; we managed, Edgar and me, by good words and bad words, to get
something for ourselves--" and he waved his hand complacently over
the table, loaded with all kinds of eatables,--a baron of cold beef,
cold Yorkshire pudding, a gypsy pie, Indian preserves, raspberry
tarts, clotted cream, roast apples, cheese celery, fine old ale, strong
gunpowder tea, and a variety of condiments.

"What do you call this meal, John?"

"I call it a decent kind of a tea, and I want thee to try and learn
something from its example." Then he kissed her again, and looked
anxiously round for Kitty.

"Come here, my little girl," he cried; and Kitty, who had been feeling
a trifle neglected, forgot everything but the warmth and gladness of
her father's love and welcome. Edgar had found Annie a seat beside his
own, and the Squire managed to get his place between his wife and his
daughter. Then the "cup of tea" Mrs. Atheling had longed for became a
protracted home festival. But they could not keep politics out of its
atmosphere; they were, indeed, so blended with the life of that time
that their separation from household matters was impossible, and the
Squire was no more anxious to hear about his hunters and his harvest,
than Mrs. Atheling was to know the fate of the Reform Bill.

"It has passed at last, I suppose, John," she said, with an air of
satisfied certainty.

"Thou supposest very far wrong, then. It has been rejected again."

"Never! Never! Never! Oh, John, John! It is not possible!"

"The Lords did, as I told thee they would,--that is, the Lords and the
bishops together."

"The bishops ought to be unfrocked," cried Edgar, with considerable
temper. "Only one in all their number voted for Reform."

"I'll never go to church again," said Mrs. Atheling, in her
unreasonable anger.

"Tell us about it, Father," urged Kate.

"Well, you see, Mr. Peel and Mr. Croker led our party against the Bill;
and Croker _is_ clever, there is no doubt of that."

"Not to be compared to Lord Althorp, our leader,--so calm, so
courageous, so upright," said Edgar.

"Nobody denies it; but Croker's practical, vigorous views--"

"You mean his 'sanguine despondency,' his delight in describing
England as bankrupt and ruined by Reform."

"I mean nothing of the kind, Edgar; but--"

"Did the Bill pass the Commons, Father?" asked Kate.

"It did; although in fifteen days Peel spoke forty-eight times against
it, and Croker fifty-seven times, and Wetherell fifty-eight times. But
all they could say was just so many lost words."

"Think of such men disputing the right of Manchester, Leeds, and
Birmingham to be represented in the House of Commons! What do you say to
that, Mother?"

"I only hope father wasn't in such a stupid bit of business, Edgar."
And the Squire drank a glass of ale, and pretended not to hear.

"But," continued Edgar, "we never lost heart; for all over the
country, and in every quarter of London, they were holding meetings
urging us not to give way,--not to give way an inch. We were fighting for
all England; and, as Lord Althorp said, we were ready to keep Parliament
sitting till next December, or even to next December twelvemonth."

"I'll warrant you!" interrupted the Squire. "Well, Edgar, you
passed your Bill in a fine uproar of triumph; all London in the street,
shouting thanks to Althorp and the others--Edgar Atheling among them."
Then the Squire paused and looked at his son, and Mrs. Atheling asked,

"What then, John?"

"Why, then, Lord John Russell and Lord Althorp carried the Bill to the
House of Lords. It was a great scene. The Duke told me about it. He
said nearly every peer was in his seat; and a large number of peeresses
had been admitted at the bar, and every inch of space in the House was
crowded. The Lord Chancellor took his seat at the Woolsack; and the
Deputy Usher of the Black Rod threw open the doors, crying, 'A Message
from the Commons.' Then Lord John Russell and Lord Althorp, at the head
of one hundred Members of the House of Commons, entered, and delivered
the Bill to the Lord Chancellor."

"Oh, how I should have liked to have been present!" said Kate.

"Well, some day thou--" and then the Squire suddenly stopped; but
the unfinished thought was flashed to every one present,--"some day
thou mayst be Duchess of Richmoor, and have the right to be present;"
and Kate was pleased, and felt her heart warm to conscious hope. She
caught her mother watching her, and smiled; and Mrs. Atheling, instantly
sensitive to the unspoken feeling, avoided comment by her eager inquiry,--

"Whatever did they say, John?"

"They said the usual words; but the Duke told me there was a breathless
silence, and that Lord John Russell said them with the most unusual
and impressive emphasis: 'My Lords, the House of Commons have passed
an Act to Amend the Representation of England and Wales, to which they
desire your Lordships' Concurrence.' Lord Grey opened the debate. I
dare say Edgar knows all about it. I believe Grey is his leader."

"Yes," answered Edgar, "and very proud I am of my leader. He is in
his sixty-eighth year, and he stood there that night to advocate the
measure he proposed forty years before, in the House of Commons. Althorp
told me he spoke with a strange calmness and solemnity, '_for the just
claims of the people_;' but as soon as he sat down Lord Wharncliffe
moved that the Bill be rejected altogether."

"That was like Wharncliffe," said the Squire. "No half measures for

"Wellington followed, and wanted to know, 'How the King's government
was to be carried on by the will of a turbulent democracy?'"

"Wellington would govern with a sword instead of a sceptre. He would
try every cause round a drum-head. I am not with Wellington."

"Lord Dudley followed in an elegant, classical speech, also against the

The Squire laughed. "I heard about that speech. Did not Brougham call
it, 'An essay or exercise of the highest merit, on democracies--_but
not on this Bill_.'"

"Yes. Brougham can say very polite and very disagreeable things. He
spoke on the fifth and last night of the debate. Earl Grey said a more
splendid declamation was never made. All London is now quoting one
passage which he addressed to the Lords: 'Justice deferred,' he said,
'enhances the price at which you will purchase your own safety; nor can
you expect to gather any other crop than they did who went before you, if
you persevere in their utterly abominable husbandry of sowing injustice
and reaping rebellion.'"

"Fine words, Edgar, fine words; just like Brougham,--catch-words, to
take the common people."

"They did not, however, alarm or take the Lords. My leader closed
the debate, and in a magnificent speech implored the archbishops and
bishops not to vote against the Bill, and thus stand before the people
of England as the enemies of a just and moderate scheme of Reform."

"And yet they voted against it!" said Mrs. Atheling. "I am downright
ashamed of them. The very date ought to be put up against them forever."

"It was the seventh of October. All night long, until the dawning
of the eighth, the debate was continued; and until three hours after
midnight, Palace Yard, and the streets about Westminster, were crowded
with anxious watchers, though the weather was cold and miserably wet.
Towards morning their patience was exhausted; and when the carriages of
the peers and bishops rolled out in broad daylight there was no one
there to greet them with the execrations and hisses they deserved.
The whole of our work this session in the Commons has been done in
vain. But we shall win next time, even if we compel the King to create
as many new Reform peers as will pass the Bill in spite of the old

"Edgar, you are talking nonsense--if not treason."

"Pardon me, Father. I am only giving you the ultimatum of Reform.
The Bill _must_ pass the Lords next session, or you may call Reform
Revolution. The people are particularly angry at the bishops. They
dare not appear on the streets; curses follow them, and their carriages
have been repeatedly stoned."

"There is a verse beginning, 'Inasmuch as ye did it not,' etc.,--I
wonder if they will ever dare to repeat it again. They will do the church
a deal of harm."

"Oh, no," said Edgar. "The church does not stand on the bishops."

"Be easy with the bishops," added the Squire. "They have to scheme
a bit in order to get the most out of both worlds. They scorn to answer
the people according to their idols. They are politically right."

"No, sir," said Edgar. "Whatever is morally wrong cannot be
politically right. The church is well represented by the clergy; they
have generally sympathised with the people. One of them, indeed, called
Smith--Sydney Smith--made a speech at Taunton, three days after our
defeat, that has gone like wild-fire throughout the length and breadth
of England;" and Edgar took a paper out of his pocket, and read,
with infinite delight and appreciation, the pungent wit which made
"Mrs. Partington" famous throughout Christendom:--

    "As for the possibility of the House of Lords preventing a
    reform of Parliament, I hold it to be the most absurd notion
    that ever entered into human imagination. I do not mean to
    be disrespectful, but the attempt of the Lords to stop the
    progress of Reform reminds me very forcibly of the great
    storm at Sidmouth, and of the conduct of the excellent
    Mrs. Partington on that occasion. In the winter of 1824,
    there set in a great flood upon that town; the waves rushed
    in upon the houses; and everything was threatened with
    destruction. In the midst of this sublime and terrible storm,
    Dame Partington--who lived upon the beach--was seen at the
    door of her house, with mop and pattens, trundling her mop,
    squeezing out the sea-water, and vigorously pushing away the
    Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic was roused. Mrs. Partington's
    spirit was up; but I need not tell you, the contest was
    unequal. The Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs. Partington. She was
    excellent at a slop or a puddle; but she should not have
    meddled with a tempest. Gentlemen, be at your ease, be quiet
    and steady. You will beat Mrs. Partington."[2]

[Footnote 2: Speech at Taunton by Sydney Smith, October 12, 1831.]

"It was not respectful to liken the Lords of England to an old woman,
now was it, Mother?" asked the Squire.

But Mrs. Atheling only laughed the more, and the conversation drifted so
completely into politics that Kitty and Annie grew weary of it, and said
they wished to go to their rooms. And as they left the parlour together,
Edgar suddenly stayed Kitty a moment, and said, "I had nearly forgotten
to tell you something. Miss Vyner is to be married, on the second of
December, to Cecil North. I am going to London in time for the wedding."

And Kitty said, "I am glad to hear it, Edgar," and quickly closed the
door. But she lay long awake, wondering what influence this event would
have upon Piers and his future, until, finally, the wonder passed into
a little verse which they had learned together; and with it singing in
her heart, she fell asleep:--

    "Thou art mine! I am thine!
    Thou art locked in this heart of mine;
    Whereof is lost the little key:
    So there, forever, thou must be!"



In the first joy of their return home, Squire Atheling and his son
had not chosen to alarm the women of the family; yet the condition of
the country was such as filled with terror every thoughtful mind. The
passionate emotion evoked by the second rejection of the Reform Bill did
not abate. Tumultuous meetings were held in every town and village as
the news reached them; houses were draped in black; shops were closed;
and the bells of the churches tolled backward. In London the populace
was quite uncontrollable. Vast crowds filled the streets, cheering the
Reform leaders, and denouncing with furious execrations the members of
either House who had opposed the Bill. The Duke of Newcastle, the
Marquis of Londonderry, and many other peers were not saved from the
anger of the people without struggle and danger. Nottingham Castle,
the seat of the Duke of Newcastle, was burnt to the ground; and Belvoir
Castle, the seat of the Duke of Rutland, was barely saved. Bristol saw
a series of riots, and during them suffered greatly from fire, and the
Bishop's palace was reduced to ashes.

Everywhere the popular fury settled with special bitterness and hatred
upon the bishops; because, as teachers of the doctrines of Jesus of
Nazareth, the "common people" expected sympathy from them. A cry
arose, from one end of England to the other, for their expulsion from
the Upper Chamber; and proposals even for the abolition of the House
of Lords were constant and very popular. For such extreme measures no
speaker was so eloquent and so powerful as Mr. O'Connell. In addressing
a great meeting at Charing Cross one day, he pointed in the direction of
Whitehall Palace, and reminded his hearers that, "A King had lost his
head there. Why," he asked, "did this doom come on him? It was," he
cried, "because he refused to listen to his Commons and his people, and
obeyed the dictation of a foreign wife." And this allusion to the
Queen's bad influence over William the Fourth was taken up by the
crowd with vehement cheering.

While Bristol was burning, the cholera appeared in England; and its
terrors, new and awful and apparently beyond human help or skill, added
the last element of supernatural fear to the excited and hopeless
people. It is hard to realise at this day, and with our knowledge of the
disease, the frantic and abject despair which seized all classes. The
churches were kept open, supplications ascended night and day from the
altars; and on the sixth of November, at one hour, from every place of
worship in England, hundreds of thousands knelt to utter aloud a form
of prayer which was constantly broken by sobs of anguish:--

    "Lord, have pity on thy people! Withdraw thy heavy hand from
    those who are suffering under thy judgments; and turn away from
    us that grievous calamity against which our only security is
    Thy Compassion."

In the presence of this scourge, Mrs. Atheling found it impossible to
persuade the Squire to let his family go up with him and Edgar to London.
About the cholera, the Squire had the common fatalistic ideas.

"You may escape through God's mercy," he said; "but if you are to
die of this fearsome, outlandish sickness, then it is best to face death
in your own home."

"But if you should take it in London, and me not near even to bid you
'good-bye,' John! I should die of grief."

"I do hope thou wouldst have more sense, Maude."

"I would follow thee beyond the grave, very quickly, John."

"No, no! Stay where thou art. Thou knowest what Yorkshire is," and
though he spoke gruffly, his eyes were dim with unshed tears for the
dreadful possibility he thought it right to face.

Kate was specially averse to return to London. It was full of memories
she did not wish to revive. Piers was there; and how could she bear
to meet him, and neither speak to nor even look at her lover? There was
Annabel's marriage also to consider. If she did not attend it, how
many unpleasant inquiries and suppositions there would be? If she did
accept the formal invitation sent her, how was she to conduct herself
towards Piers in the presence of those who knew them both intimately?

The marriage was to take place shortly before the opening of Parliament;
and, owing to the wretched condition of the country, it was thought best
to give it only a private character. The management of the social
arrangements were in Piers's hands, and during these last days a very
brotherly and confidential affection sprang up in his heart for the
brilliant girl who was so soon to leave them forever. One morning he
returned to Richmoor House with some valuable jewels for Annabel. He
sent a servant to tell her that he was in the small east parlour and
desired her company. Then, knowing her usual indifference to time,
he sat down and patiently awaited her coming. She responded almost
immediately. But her entrance startled and troubled him. She came in
hastily, and shut the door with a perceptible nervous tremour. Her face
was flushed with anger; she looked desperate and defiant, and met his
curious glance with one of mingled fear and entreaty and reckless
passion. He led her to a seat, and taking her hands said,--

"My dear Bella, what has grieved you?"

"Oh, Piers! Piers!" she sobbed. "If you have one bit of pity in your
heart, give it to me. I am the most miserable woman in the world."

"Bella, if you do not love Cecil--if you want to break off this

"Love Cecil? I love him better than my life! My love for Cecil is the
best thing about me. It is not Cecil."

"Who is it then?"

"I will tell you, though you may hate me for my words. Piers, I took
the ring you lost. I meant no harm in the first moment; mischief and
jealousy were then so mixed, I don't know which of them led me. I saw
you asleep. I slipped the ring off your finger. I told myself I would
give it to you in the morning, and claim my forfeit. In the morning,
the Duchess was cross; and you were cross; and the constables were in
the house; and I was afraid. And I put it off and off, and every day my
fear of trouble--and perhaps my hope of doing mischief with it--grew
stronger. I had then hours of believing that I should like to be your
wife, and I hated and envied Kate Atheling. I hesitated until I lost
the desire to explain things; and then one day my maid Justine flew in
a passion at me, and accused me of stealing the ring. She said it was
in my purse--_and it was_. She threatened to call in the whole household
to see me found out; and it was the night of the great dinner; and I
bought her off."

"Oh, Bella! Bella! that was very foolish."

"I know. She has tortured and robbed me ever since. I have wasted
away under her threats. Look at my arms, Piers, and my hands. I have
a constant fever. Last week she promised me, if I would give her two
hundred pounds, she would go away, and I should never see or hear of
her again. I gave her the money. Now she says she has made up her mind to
go to India with me. That I cannot endure. She has kept me on the rack
with threats to tell Cecil. He is the soul of Honour; he would certainly
cease to love me; and if I was his wife, how terrible that would be!
What am I to do? What am I to do? Oh, Piers, help me!"

"Where is the woman now?"

"In my apartments."

"Can I go with you to your parlour?"

"Yes--but, Piers, why?"

"Where is the ring, Bella dear?"

"In her possession. She was afraid I would give it to you."

"Why did you not tell me all this before? Come, I will soon settle the

When they reached the room, Annabel sank almost lifeless on a sofa; and
Piers touched a hand-bell. Justine called from an inner room:

"I will answer at my leisure, Miss."

Piers walked to the dividing door, and threw it open. "You will answer
_now_, at my command. Come here, and come quickly."

"My lord--I did not mean--"

"Stand there, and answer truly the questions I shall ask; or I promise
you a few years on the treadmill, if not a worse punishment. Do you know
that you are guilty of black-mailing, and of obtaining money on false
pretences?--both crimes to be expiated on the gallows."

"My lord, it is a true pretence. Miss Vyner stole your ring. She knows
she did."

"She could not steal anything I have; she is welcome to whatever of mine
she desires. How much money have you taken from Miss Vyner?"

"I have not taken one half-penny," answered Justine, sulkily. "She
gave me the money; she dare not say different. Speak, Miss, you know
you gave it to me." But Annabel had recovered something of her old
audacity. She felt she was safe, and she was not disposed to mercy.
She only smiled scornfully, and re-arranged the satin cushions under her
head more comfortably.

"Quick! How much money have you taken?"

Justine refused to answer; and Piers said, "I give you two minutes. Then
I shall send for a constable."

"And Miss Vyner's wedding will be put off."

"For your crime? Oh, no! Miss Vyner's wedding is far beyond your
interference. She will have nothing to do with this affair. _I_ shall
prosecute you. You have my ring. Will you give it to me, or to a

"I did not take the ring."

"It is in your possession. I will send now for an officer." He rose
to touch the bell-rope, keeping his eyes on the woman all the time; and
she darted forward and arrested his hand.

"I will do what you wish," she said.

"How much money have you taken from Miss Vyner?"

"Eight hundred and ninety pounds."

"Where is it?"

"In my room."

"Go and get it--stay, I will go with you."

In a few minutes Justine returned with her ill-gotten treasure; and then
she condescended to explain, and entreat,--

"Oh, my lord," she said, "don't be hard on me. I wanted the money for
my poor old mother who is in Marylebone Workhouse. I did, indeed I did!
It was to make her old age comfortable. She is sick and very poor, and
I wanted it for her."

"We shall see about that. If your story is true, you shall give the
money to your poor old sick mother. If it is not true, you shall give my
ring and the money to a constable, and sleep in prison this very night."

With impetuous passion he ordered a carriage, and Justine was driven to
the Marylebone Workhouse. By the time they reached that institution,
she was thoroughly humbled and afraid; her fear being confirmed by the
subservience of the Master to the rank and commands of Lord Exham. For
a moment she had an idea of denying her own statement; but the futility
of the lie was too evident to be doubted; and, very reluctantly, she
admitted her mother's name to be Margaret Oddy. In a few minutes--during
which Lord Exham ordered Justine to count out the money in her bag to the
Master--Margaret appeared. She was not an old woman in years, being but
little over forty; but starvation, sorrow, and hard work had made her
prematurely aged. When she entered the room, she looked around anxiously;
but as soon as she saw Justine, she covered her face with her thin hands,
and began to weep.

"Is this your daughter?" asked the Master, pointing to Justine.

"I am her mother, sure enough, sir; but she have cast me off long ago.
Oh, Justine girl, speak a word to me! You are my girl, for all that's
past and gone."

"Justine has come to make you some amends for her previous neglect,
Mother," said Lord Exham. "She has brought you eight hundred and ninety
pounds for your old age. To-morrow my lawyer will call here, and give
you advice concerning its care and its use. Until then, the Master will
take it in charge."

"Let me see it! Let me touch it with my hands! No more hunger! No more
cold! No more hard work! It can't be true! It can't be true! Is it
true, Justine? Kiss me with the money, girl, for the sake of the happy
days we have had together!" With these words she went to her daughter,
and tried to take her hands, and draw her to her breast. But Justine
would not respond. She stood sullen and silent, with eyes cast on the

"Why, then," said Margaret, with just anger, "why, then, keep the
money, Justine. I would rather eat peas and porridge, and sleep on straw,
than take a shilling with such ill-will from you, girl." Then, turning
to Piers, she added, "Thank you, good gentleman, but I'll stay where
I am. Let Justine keep her gold. I don't want such an ill-will gift."

"Mother," answered Piers. "You may take the money from my hands,
then. It is yours. Justine's good or ill-will has now nothing to do
with it. I give it to you from the noble young lady whom your daughter
has wronged so greatly that the gallows would be her just desert. She
gives up this money--which she has no right to--as some atonement for
her crime. Is not this the truth, Justine?" he asked sternly; and the
woman answered, "Yes." Then turning to the Master, he added, "To
this fact, and to Justine's admission of it, you are witness."

The Master said, "I am." Then addressing Margaret, he told her to
go back to her place, and think over the good fortune that had so
unexpectedly come to her; what she wished to do with her money; and where
she wished to make her future home. And the mother curtsied feebly and
again turned to her child,--

"If I go back to the old cottage in Downham--the old cottage with the
vines, and the bee skeps, and the long garden, will you come with me,
and we will share all together?"


"Let her alone, Mother," said Exham. "She is going to the furthest
American colony she can reach. Only in some such place, will she be safe
from the punishment of her wrong-doing."

"Justine, then, my girl, good-bye!"

No answer.

"Justine, good-bye!"

No answer.

"Why, then, my girl, God be with you, and God forgive you!"

Then Justine turned to Lord Exham, "I have done what you demanded. May I
now go my own way?"

"Not just yet. You will return with me."

He gave his card to the Master, and followed the woman, keeping her
constantly under his hand and eye until they returned to Annabel's
parlour. Annabel was in a dead sleep; but their entrance awakened her,
and it pained Piers to see the look of fear that came into her face when
she saw her cruel tormentor. She was speedily relieved, however; for
the first words she heard, was an order from Piers, bidding her to be
ready to leave the house in twenty minutes. He took out his watch as he
gave the order, and then added, "First of all, return to me my ring."

"I did not take your ring, my lord."

"You have it in your possession. Return it at once."

"Miss Vyner stole it--"

"Give it to me! You know the consequences of _one_ more refusal."

Then Justine took from her purse the long missing ring. She threw it on
the table, and, with tears of rage, said,--

"May ill-luck and false love go with it, and follow all who own it!"

"The bad wishes of the wicked fall on themselves, Justine," said Lord
Exham, as he lifted the trinket. "How much money does your mistress owe

"I have no 'mistress.' Miss Vyner owes me a quarter's wage, and a
quarter's notice, that is eight pounds."

"Is that correct, Annabel?"

"The woman says so. Pay her what she wants--only get her out of my

"Oh, Miss, I can tell you--"

"Go. Pack your trunk, and be back here in fifteen minutes. And, mind
what I say, leave England at once--the sooner the better."

Before the time was past, the woman was outside the gates of Richmoor
House, and Piers returned to Annabel. "That trouble is all over and
gone forever," he said to her; "now, dear Bella, lift up your heart to
its full measure of love and joy! Let Cecil see you to-night in your
old beauty. He is fretting about your health; show him the marvellously
bright Annabel that captured his heart with a glance."

"I will! I will, Piers! This very night you shall see that Annabel is
herself again."

"And in three days you are to be Cecil's wife!"

"In three days," she echoed joyfully. "Leave me now, Piers. I want to
think over your goodness to me. I shall never forget it."

Smiling, they parted; and then Annabel opened all the doors of her
rooms, and looked carefully around them, and assured herself that her
tyrant was really gone. "In three days!" she said, "in three days I am
going away from all this splendour and luxury,--going to dangers of
all kinds; to a wild life in camps and quarters; perhaps to deprivations
in lonely places--and I am happy! Happy! transcendently happy! Oh,
Love! Wonderful, Invincible, Omnipotent Love! Cecil's love! It will
be sufficient for all things."

Certainly she was permeated with this idea. It radiated from her
countenance; it spoke in her eyes; it made itself visible in the
glory of her bridal attire. The wedding morning was one of the darkest
and dreariest of London's winter days. A black pouring rain fell
incessantly; the atmosphere was heavy, and loaded with exhalations;
and the cholera terror was on every face. For at this time it was
really "a destruction walking at noon-day" and leaving its ghastly sign
of possession on many a house in the streets along which the bridal
party passed.

It came into the gloomy church like a splendid dream: officers in
gay uniforms, ladies in beautiful gowns and nodding plumes, and at the
altar,--shining like some celestial being,--the radiant bride in
glistening white satin, and sparkling gems. And Cecil, in his new
military uniform, tall, handsome, soldierly, happy, made her a fitting
companion. The church was filled with a dismal vapour; the rain plashed
on the flagged enclosure; the wind whistled round the ancient tower:
there was only gloom, and misery, and sudden death outside; but over
all these accidents of time and place, the joy of the bride and the
bridegroom was triumphant. And later in the day, when the Duke and
Piers went with them to the great three-decked Indiaman waiting for
their embarkation, they were still wondrously exalted and blissful.
Dressed in fine dark-blue broadcloth, and wrapped in costly furs,
Annabel watched from the deck the departure of her friends, and then
put her hand in Cecil's with a smile.

"For weal or woe, Bella, my dear one," he said.

"For weal or woe, for life or death, Cecil beloved," she answered,
having no idea then of what that promise was to bring her in the future;
though she kept it nobly when the time of its redemption came.

Three days after this event, Mrs. Atheling received by special messenger
from Lord Exham a letter, and with it the ring which had caused so
much suspicion and sorrow. But though the letter was affectionate and
confidential, and full of tender messages which he "trusted in her to
deliver for him," nothing was said as to the manner of its recovery,
or the personality of the one who had purloined it.

"Your father has been right, no doubt, Kate," she said. "In some weak
moment Annabel has got the ring from him, and on her marriage has given
it back. That is clear to me."

"Not to me, Mother. I am sure Piers did not give Annabel--did not give
any one the ring. I will tell you what I think. Annabel got it while he
was asleep, or he inadvertently dropped it, and she picked it up--and
kept it, hoping to make mischief."

"You may be wrong, Kitty."

"I may--but I _know_ I am right."

_No Diviner like Love!_

On this same day, with the cholera raging all around, Parliament was
re-opened; and Lord John Russell again brought in the Reform Bill. There
was something pathetic in this persistence of a people, hungry and
naked, and overshadowed by an unknown pestilence, swift and malignant
as a Fate. It was evident, immediately, that the same course of
"obstruction" which had proved fatal to the two previous Bills was to
be pursued against the third attempt. Yet the temper of the House of
Commons, sullenly, doggedly determined, might even thus early have
warned its opposers. All the unfairness and pertinacity of Peel and his
associates was of no avail against the inflexible steadiness of Lord
Althorp and the cold impassibility of Lord John Russell.

Week after week passed in debating, while the press and people waited
in alternating fits of passionate threats and still more alarming
silence,--a silence, Lord Grey declared to be, "Most ominous of trouble,
and of the most vital importance to the obstructing force." The Squire
was weary to death. He found it impossible to take a dutiful interest
in the proceedings. The tactics of the fight did not appeal to his
nature. He thought they were neither fair nor straightforward; and,
unconsciously, his own opinions had been much leavened by his late
familiar intercourse with Lord Ashley and his son.

In these days his chief comfort came from the friendship of Piers Exham.
The young man frequently sought his company; and it became almost a
custom for them to dine together at the Tory Club. And at such times
words were dropped that neither would have uttered, or even thought
of, at the beginning of the contest. Thus one night Piers said, in his
musing way, as he fingered his glass, rather than drank the wine in it,--

"I have been wondering, Squire, whether the wish of a whole nation,
gradually growing in intensity for sixty years, until it has become,
to-day, a command and a threat, is not something more than a wish?"

"I should say it was, Piers," answered the Squire. "Very likely the
wish has grown to--a right."


Then both men were silent; and the next topic discussed was the new
sickness, and Piers anxiously asked if "it had reached Atheling."

"No, it has not, thank the Almighty!" replied the Squire. "There has
not been a case of it. My family are all well."

Allusions to Kate were seldom more definite than this one; but Piers
found inexpressible comfort in the few words. Such intercourse might not
seem conducive to much kind feeling; but it really was. The frequent
silences; the short, pertinent sentences; the familiar, kindly touch
of the young man's hand, when it was time to return to the House; the
little courteous attentions which it pleased Piers to render, rather
than let the Squire be indebted to a servant for them,--these, and other
things quite as trivial, made a bond between the two men that every day


It was nearly the end of March when the Bill once more got through
the Commons; and hitherto the nation had waited as men wait the
preliminaries of a battle. But they were like hounds held by a leash
when the great question as to whether the Lords would now give way, or
not, was to be determined. The Squire was an exceedingly sensitive man;
for he was exceedingly affectionate, and he was troubled continually by
the hungry, wretched, anxious crowds through which he often picked
his way to Westminster, the more so, as his genial, bluff, thoroughly
English appearance seemed to please and encourage these non-contents. At
every step he was urged to vote on the right side. "God bless you,
Squire!" was a common address. "Pity the poor! Vote for the right!
Go for Reform, Squire! Before God, Squire, we must win this time, or
die for it!" And the Squire, distressed, and half-convinced of the
justice of their case, would lift his hat at such words, and pass a
sovereign into the hand of some lean, white-faced man, and answer,
"God defend the Right, friends!" He could not tell them, as he had
done in his first session, to "go home and mind their business." He
could not say, as he did then, a downright "No;" could not bid them,
"Reform themselves, and let the Government alone," or ask, "If
they were bereft of their senses?" If he answered at all now, it was in
the motto so familiar to them, "God and my Right;" or, if much urged,
"I give my word to do my best." Or he would bow courteously, and
say, "God grant us all good days without end." Before the Bill
passed the Commons, at the end of March, it had, at any rate, come to
this,--he was not only averse to vote against the Bill, he was also
averse to tell these waiting sufferers that he intended to vote
against it.

On the night of the thirteenth of April, when the Bill was before the
Lords, the Squire was too excited to go to bed, though prevented from
occupying his seat in the Commons by a smart attack of rheumatism. He sat
in his club, waiting for intelligence, and watching the passing crowds
to try and glean from their behaviour the progress of events. Piers had
promised to bring him word as soon as the vote was taken. He did not
arrive until eight o'clock the next morning. The Squire was drinking
his coffee, and making up his mind to return to Atheling, "whatever
happened," when Piers, white and exhausted, drew his chair to the table.

"The Bill has passed this reading by nine votes," he said wearily;
"and Parliament has adjourned for the Easter recess; that is, until
the seventh of May. Three weeks of suspense! I do not know how it is
to be endured."

"I am going to Atheling. Edgar will very likely go to Ashley, and I
think you had better go with us. Three weeks of Exham winds will make a
new man of you."

At this point Edgar joined them, and, greatly to his father's annoyance,
declared both Atheling and Ashley out of the question. "This three
weeks," he said, "will decide the fate of England. I have promised
my leader to visit Warwick, Worcester, Stafford, and Birmingham. At
the latter place there will be the greatest political meeting ever held
in this world."

"And what will Annie say?" asked the Squire.

"Annie thinks I am doing right. Annie does not put me before the hundred
of thousands to whom the success of Reform will bring happiness."

"It beats all and everything," said the Squire. "I wouldn't like
my wife to put me back of hundreds and thousands. Have you been up all
night--you and Piers?"

"All night," answered Edgar. "We were among the three hundred members
from the Commons who filled the space around the throne, and stood in
a row three deep below the bar. I was in the second row; but I heard
all that passed very well. Earl Grey did not begin to speak until five
o'clock this morning, and he spoke for an hour and a half. It was an
astonishing argument."

"It was a most interesting scene, altogether," said Piers. "I shall
never forget it. The crowded house, its still and solemn demeanour, and
the broad daylight coming in at the high windows while Grey was speaking.
Its blue beams mixed with the red of the flaring candles, and the two
lights made strange and startling effects on the crimson draperies and
the dusky tapestries on the walls. I felt as if I was in a vision. I kept
thinking of Cromwell and old forgotten things; and it was like waking out
of a dream when the House began to dissolve. I was not quite myself until
I had drunk a cup of coffee."

"It was very exciting," said the more practical Edgar; "and the small
majority is only to keep the people quiet. At the next reading the Bill
will be so mutilated as to be practically rejected, unless we are ready
to meet such an emergency."

Piers rose at these words. He foresaw a discussion he had no mind
for; and he said, with a touching pathos in his voice, as he laid his
hand on the Squire's shoulder, "Give my remembrance to the ladies at
Atheling,--my heart's love, if you will take it."

"I will take all I may, Piers. Good-bye! You have been a great comfort
to me. I am sure I don't know what I should have done without you; for
Edgar, you see, is too busy for anything."

"Never too busy to be with you, if you need me, Father. But you are such
a host in yourself, and I never imagined you required help of any kind."

"Only a bit of company now and then. You were about graver business.
It suited Piers and me to sit idle and say a word or two about Atheling.
Come down to Exham, Piers, _do_; it will be good for you."

"No, I should be heart-sick for Atheling. I am better away."

The Squire nodded gravely, and was silent; and Piers passed quietly out
of the room. His listless serenity, and rather drawling speech, always
irritated the alert Edgar; and he sighed with relief when he was rid of
the restraining influence of a nature so opposite to his own.

"So you are going to Atheling, Father?" he said. "How?"

"As quick and quiet as I can. I shall take the mail-coach to York, or
further; and then trot home on as good a nag as I can hire."

In this way he reached Atheling the third day afterwards, but without any
of the usual _éclat_ and bustle of his arrival. Kate had gone to bed;
Mrs. Atheling was about to lock the big front door, when he opened it.
She let the candlestick in her hand fall when she saw him enter, crying,--

"John! Dear John! How you did frighten me! I _am_ glad to see you."

"I'll believe it, Maude, without burning the house for an illumination.
My word! I am tired. I have trotted a hack horse near forty miles

Then she forgot everything but the Squire's refreshment and comfort;
and the house was roused, and Kitty came downstairs again, and for an
hour there was at least the semblance of rejoicing. But Mrs. Atheling
was not deceived. She saw her lord was depressed and anxious; and she
was sure the Reform Bill had finally passed; and after a little while
she ventured to say so.

"No, it has not passed," answered the Squire; "it has got to its worst
bit, that's all. After Easter the Lords will muster in all their power,
and either throw it out, or change and cripple it so much that it will be

"Now, then, John, what do you think, _really_?"

"I think, really, that we land-owners are all of us between the devil
and the deep sea. If the Bill passes, away go the Corn Laws; and then how
are we to make our money out of the land? If it does not pass, we are in
for a civil war and a Commonwealth, and no Cromwell to lead and guide
it. It is a bad look-out."

"But it might be worse. We haven't had any cholera here. We must trust
in God, John."

"It is easy to trust in God when you don't see the doings of the devil.
You wouldn't be so cheerful, Maude, if you had lived in the sight of his
handiwork, as I have for months. I think surely God has given England
into his power, as he did the good man of Uz."

"Well, then, it was only for a season, and a seven-fold blessing after
it. It is wonderful how well your men have behaved; they haven't taken
a bit of advantage of your absence. That is another good thing."

"I am glad to hear that. I will see them, man by man, before I go back
to London."

The villagers, however, sent a deputation as soon as they heard of
the Squire's arrival, asking him to come down to Atheling Green, and
tell them something about Reform. And he was pleased at the request,
and went down, and found they had made a temporary platform out of two
horse-blocks for him; and there he stood, his fine, imposing, sturdy
figure thrown clearly into relief by the sunny spring atmosphere. And
it was good to listen to his strong, sympathetic voice, for it had the
ring of truth in all its inflections, as he said,--

"Men! Englishmen! Citizens of no mean country! you have asked me to
explain to you what this Reform business means. You know well I will tell
you no lies. It will give lots of working-men votes that never hoped for
a vote; and so it is like enough working-men will be able to send to
Parliament members who will fight for their interests. Maybe that is
in your favour. It will open all our ports to foreign wheat and corn.
You will get American wheat, and Russian wheat, and French wheat--"

"We won't eat French wheat," said Adam Sedbergh.

"And then, wheat will be so cheap that it will not pay English
land-owners to sow it. Will that help you any?"

"We would rather grow our own wheat."

"To be sure. Reform will, happen, give you shorter hours of work."

"That would be good, Master," said the blacksmith.

"It will depend on what you do with the extra hours of leisure."

"We can play skittles, and cricket, and have a bit of wrestling."

"Or sit in the public house, and drink more beer. I don't think
your wives will like that. Besides, if you work less time won't you
get less wage? Do you think I am going to pay for twelve hours' work
and get ten? Would you? Will the mill-owners run factories for the fun
of running them? Would you? And they say they hardly pay with twelve
hours' work. Men, I tell you truly, I know no more than the babe
unborn what Reform will bring us. It may be better times; it may be
ruin. But I can say one thing, sure and certain, you will get more
trouble than you bargain for if you take to rioting about it. Your
grandfathers and your fathers fought this question; and they left it
to you to quarrel over. Very well, as long as you keep your quarrel
in the Parliament Houses, I want you to have fair play. But if ever
you should forget that there is the great Common Law behind all of us,
rich and poor, and think to right yourselves with fire and blood, then
I--your true friend--would be the first to answer you with cannon,
and turn my scythes and shares into swords against you. Wait patiently a
bit longer. In a few more weeks I do verily believe you will have
Reform, and then I hope, in my soul, you will be pleased with your
bargain. I don't think, as far as I am concerned, Reform will change me
or my ways one particle."

"We don't want you changed, Squire; you are good enough as you are."

"I'm glad you think so, very glad. Now here is Atheling and Belward
meadows and corn-fields. We can raise our wheat and cattle and wool, and
carry on our farms--you and I together, for I could not do without you;
and if I do right by you is there any reason to want better than right?
And if I do not do right, then shout 'Reform,' and come and tell me
what you want, and we will pass our own Reform Bill. Will that suit you?"

And they answered him with cheers, and he sent them into the Atheling
Arms for a good dinner, and then rode slowly home. But a great sadness
came over him, and he said to himself:

"It is not capital; it is not labour; it is not land: it is a bit of
human kindness and human relations that lie at the root of all Reform.
Maude says true enough, that we don't know the people, and don't feel
for them, and don't care for them. A word of reason, a word of truth
and trust and of mutual good-will, and how pleased them poor fellows
were! Reform has nothing on earth to do with Toryism or Whigism. God
bless my soul! what kind of a head must the man have that could think
so? _I begin to see_--_I begin to see!_"



The three weeks' recess was full of grave anxiety; and the Squire had
many fears they were to be the last weeks of peace and home before civil
war called him to fulfil the promise he had made to his working-men. The
Birmingham Political Union declared that if there was any further
delay after Easter, two hundred thousand men would go forth from their
shops and forges, and encamp in the London squares, till they knew the
reason why the Reform Bill was not passed. The Scots Greys, who were
quartered at Birmingham, had been employed the previous Sabbath in
grinding their swords; and it was asserted that the Duke of Wellington
stood pledged to the Government to quiet the country in ten days. These
facts sufficiently indicated to the Squire the temper of the people; and
he set himself, as far as he could, to take all the sweetness out of his
home life possible. The memory of it might have to comfort him for many

With his daughter always by his side, he rode up and down the lands
he loved; unconsciously giving directions that might be serviceable
if he had to go to a stormier field than the House of Commons. To
Mrs. Atheling he hardly suggested the possibility; for if he did,
she always answered cheerfully, "Nonsense, John! The Bill _will_ pass;
and if it does not pass, Englishmen have more sense than they had in
the days of Cromwell. They aren't going to kill one another for an Act
of Parliament."

But to Kate, as they rode and walked, he could worry and grumble
comfortably. She was always ready to sympathise with his fears, and to
encourage and suggest any possible hope of peace and better days. To see
her bright face answering his every thought filled the father's heart
with a joy that was complete.

"Bless thy dear soul!" he would frequently say to her. "God's best
gift to a man is a daughter like thee. Sons are well enough to carry on
the name and the land, and bring honour to the family; but the man God
loves isn't left without a daughter to sweeten his days and keep his
heart fresh and tender. Kitty! Kitty, how I do love thee!" And Kitty
knew how to answer such true and noble affection; for,--

    "Down the gulf of his condoled necessities,
    She cast her best: she flung herself."

Oh, sweet domestic love! Surely _it is_ the spiritual world, the abiding
kingdom of heaven, not far from any one of us.

With a heavy heart the Squire went back to London. Mrs. Atheling took
his gloom for a good sign. "Your father is always what the Scotch call
'fay' before trouble," she said to Kate. "The day your sister Edith
died his ways made me angry. You would have thought some great joy had
come to Atheling. He said he was sure Edith was going to live; and I
knew she was going to die. I am glad he has gone to London sighing and
shaking his head; it is a deal better sign than if he had gone laughing
and shaking his bridle. He will meet Edgar in London, and Edgar won't
let him look forward to trouble."

But the Squire found Edgar was not in London when he arrived there; and
Piers was as silent and as gloomy a companion as a worrying man could
desire. He came to dine with his friend, and he listened to all his
doleful prognostications; but his interest was forced and languid. For he
also had lost the convictions that made the contest possible to him,
and there was at the bottom of all his reasoning that little doubt as to
the justice of his cause which likewise infected the Squire's more
pronounced opinions.

They were sitting one evening, after dinner, almost silent, the Squire
smoking, Piers apparently reading the _Times_, when Edgar, with an almost
boyish demonstrativeness, entered the room. He drew a chair between
them, and sat down, saying, "I have just returned from the great Newhall
Hill meeting. Father, think of two hundred thousand men gathered there
for one united purpose."

"I hope I have a few better thoughts to keep me busy, Edgar."

Piers looked up with interest. "It must have been an exciting hour or
two," he said.

"I hardly knew whether I was in the body or out of the body," answered
Edgar. "For a little while, at least, I was not conscious of the flesh.
I had a taste of how the work of eternity may be done with the soul."

"The _Times_ admits the two hundred thousand," said Piers, "and also
that it was a remarkably orderly meeting. Who opened it? Was it Mr.

"The meeting was opened by the singing of a hymn. There were nine
stanzas in it, and every one was sung with the most enthusiastic feeling.
I remember only the opening lines:

    "'Over mountain, over plain,
        Echoing wide from sea to sea,
    Peals--and shall not peal in vain--
        The trumpet call of Liberty!'

But can you imagine what a majestic volume of sonorous melody came from
those two hundred thousand hearts? It was heard for miles. The majority
of the singers believed, with all their souls, that it was heard in

"Well, I never before heard of singing a hymn to open a political
meeting," said the Squire. "It does not seem natural."

"But, Father, you are used to political meetings opened by prayer, for
the House has its chaplain. The Rev. Hugh Hutton prayed after the hymn."

"I never heard of the Rev. Hugh Hutton."

"I dare say not, Father. He is an Unitarian minister; for it is only
the Unitarians that will pray with, or pray for, Radicals. I should
not quite say that. There is a Roman Catholic priest who is a member
of the Birmingham Union,--a splendid-looking man, a fine orator, and
full of the noblest public spirit; but a Birmingham meeting would never
think of asking him to pray. They would not believe a Catholic could
get a blessing down from heaven if he tried."[3]

[Footnote 3: This intolerance, general and common in the England of that
day, is now happily much mitigated.]

"What of O'Connell?" said the Squire; "he interests me most."

"O'Connell outdid himself. About four hundred women in one body had
been allowed to stand near the platform, and the moment his eyes
rested on them his quick instinct decided the opening sentence of his
address. He bowed to them, and said, 'Surrounded as I am by the fair,
the good, and the gentle.' They cheered at these words; and then the
men behind them cheered, and the crowds behind cheered, because the
crowds before cheered; and then he launched into such an arraignment
of the English Government as human words never before compassed. And
in it he was guilty of one delightful bull. It was in this way. Among
other grave charges, he referred to the fact that births had decreased
in Dublin five thousand every year for the last four years, and then
passionately exclaimed, 'I charge the British Government with the
murder of those twenty thousand infants!' and really, for a few
moments, the audience did not see the delightful absurdity."

"Twenty thousand infants who were never born," laughed the Squire.
"That is worthy of O'Connell. It is worthy of Ireland."

"And did he really manage that immense crowd?" asked Piers. "I see
the _Times_ gives him this credit."

"Sir Bulwer Lytton in a few lines has painted him for all generations at
this meeting. Listen!" and Edgar took out of his pocket a slip of paper,
and read them:--

    "'Once to my sight the giant thus was given--
    Walled by wide air, and roofed by boundless heaven;
    Methought, no clarion could have sent its sound
    Even to the centre of the hosts around.
    And as I thought, rose the sonorous swell
    As from some church tower swings the silver bell.
    Aloft and clear, from airy tide to tide,
    It glided easy as a bird may glide,
    To the last verge of that vast audience.'"

"After O'Connell, who would try to manage such a crowd?" asked Piers.

"They behaved splendidly whoever spoke; and finally Mr. Salt stood
forward, and, uncovering his head, bid them all uncover, and raise their
right hands to heaven while they repeated, after him, the comprehensive
obligation which had been given in printed form to all of them:

    "'_With unbroken faith, through every peril, through every
    privation, we here devote ourselves, and our children, to our
    country's cause!_'

And while those two hundred thousand men were taking that oath together,
I find the House of Lords was going into Committee on the Reform Bill.
This time it _must_ pass."

"It will _not_ pass," said Piers, "without the most extreme measures
are resorted to."

"You mean that the King will be compelled to create as many new peers as
will carry it through the House of Lords."

"Yes; but can the King be 'compelled'?"

"He will find that out."

"Now, Edgar, that is as far as I am going to listen."

Then Piers put down his paper, and said, "The House was in session, and
would the Squire go down to it?" And the Squire said, "No. If there
is to be any 'compelling' of His Majesty, I will keep out of it."

The stress of this compulsion came the very next day. Lord Lyndhurst
began the usual policy by proposing important clauses of the Bill
should be postponed; and the Cabinet at once decided to ask the King
to create more peers. Sydney Smith had written to Lady Grey that he
was, "For forty, in order to make sure;" but the number was not
stipulated. The King promptly refused. The Reform Ministry tendered
their resignation, and it was accepted. For a whole week the nation
was left to its fears, its anger, and its despair. It was, however,
almost insanely active. In Manchester twenty-five thousand people, in
the space of three hours, signed a petition to the King, telling him in
it that "the whole North of England was in a state of indignation
impossible to be described." Meanwhile, the Duke of Wellington had
failed to form a Cabinet, and Peel had refused; and the King was
compelled to recall Lord Grey to power, and to consent to any measures
necessary to pass the Reform Bill. It was evident, even to royalty,
that it had at length become--The Bill or The Crown. For His Majesty was
now aware that he was denounced from one end of England to the other;
and several painful experiences convinced him that his carriage could
not appear in London without being surrounded by an indignant, hooting,
shrieking crowd.

Yet it was in a very wrathful mood he sent for Grey and Brougham, so
wrathful that he kept them standing during the whole audience, although
this attitude was contrary to usage. "My people are gone mad," he
said, "and must be humoured like mad people. They will have Reform.
Very well. I give you my royal assent to create a sufficient number of
new peers to carry Reform through the House of Lords. It is an insult to
my loyal and sensible peers; but they will excuse the circumstances
that force me to such a measure." His manner was extremely sullen,
and became indignantly so when Lord Brougham requested this permission
to be given them in the King's handwriting. The request was, however,
necessary, and was reluctantly granted.

With the King's concession, the great struggle virtually ended. For
the creation of new peers was not necessary. A private message from the
King to the House of Lords effected what the long-continued protestations
and entreaties of the whole nation had failed to effect. Led by the
Duke of Wellington, those Lords who were determined _not_ to vote for
Reform left the House until the Bill was passed; and thus a decided
majority for its success was assured. They felt it to be better for
their order to retire to their castles, than to suffer the "swamping
of the House of Lords" by a force of new peers pledged to Reform,
and sure to control all their future deliberations. Consequently, in
about two weeks, the famous Bill was triumphantly carried by a majority
of eighty-four; and three days afterwards it received the royal assent.

The long struggle was over; and the tremendous strain on the feelings
of the nation relieved itself by an universal and unbounded rejoicing.
All night long, the church bells answered one another from city to city,
and from hamlet to hamlet. It was said to be impossible to escape, from
one end of the country to the other, the _tin_-_tan_-_tabula_ of their
jubilation. Illuminations must have made the Island at night a blaze of
light; the people went about singing and congratulating each other; and
for a few hours the tie of humanity was a tie of brotherhood, even when
men and women were perfect strangers.

The Duke of Richmoor retired with the majority of his peers, and shut
himself up in his Yorkshire Castle, a victim to the most absurd but
yet the most sincere despondency. The Squire applied for the Chiltern
Hundreds, and returned to Atheling as soon as possible. Edgar remained
in the House until its dissolution in August. As for Piers, he had
taken the turn of affairs with a composure that had produced decided
differences between the Duke and himself; and he lingered in London
until he heard of the Squire's departure for the North. Then he sought
him with a definite purpose. "Squire," he said, "may I go back to
Exham in your company?"

"I'll be glad if you do, Piers," was the answer.

The young man laid his hand on the Squire's hand, and looked at him
steadily and entreatingly. "Squire, I am going away from England. Let me
see Kate before I go."

"You are asking me to break my word, Piers."

"The law of kindness may sometimes be greater than the law of truth;
the greatest of these is charity--is love. I love her so! I love her so
that I am only half alive without her. I do entreat you to have pity on
me--on us both! She loves me!" and Piers pleaded until the Squire's
eyes were full of tears. He could not resist words so hot from a true
and loving heart; and he finally said,--

"It may be that my word, and my pride in my word, are of less
consequence than the trouble of two suffering human hearts; Piers,
right or wrong, you may see Kitty. I am not sure I am doing right, but
I will risk the uncertainty--this time."

However, if the Squire had any qualms of conscience on the subject,
they were driven away by Kitty's gratitude and delight. He arrived at
Atheling about the noon hour, and Kitty was the first to see and to
welcome him. She had been gathering cherries, and was coming through the
garden with her basket full of the crimson drupes, when he entered the
gates. She set the fruit on the ground, and ran to meet him, and took
him proudly in to her mother, and fussed over his many little comforts to
his heart's content and delight.

Nothing was said about Piers until after dinner, which was hurried
forward at the Squire's request; but afterwards, when he sat at the open
casement smoking, he called Kate to him. He took her on his knee and
whispered, "Kate, there is somebody coming this afternoon."

"Yes," she said, "we have sent word to Annie. She will be here."

"I was not thinking of Annie. I was thinking of thee, my little maid.
There is somebody coming to see _thee_."

"You can't mean Piers? Oh, Father, do you mean Piers?"

"I do."

Then she laid her cheek against his cheek. She kissed him over and over,
answering in low, soft speech, "Oh, my good Father! Oh, my dear Father!
Oh, Father, how I love you!"

"Well, Kitty," he answered, "thou dost not throw thy love away. I love
thee, God knows it. Now run upstairs and don thy prettiest frock."

"White or blue, Father?"

"Well, Kitty," he answered, with a thoughtful smile, "I should
say white, and a red rose or two to match thy cheeks, and a few
forget-me-nots to match thy eyes. Bless my heart, Kitty! thou art lovely
enough any way. Stay with me."

"No, Father, I will go away and come again still lovelier;" and she
sped like a bird upstairs. "It may be all wrong," muttered the Squire;
"but if it is, then I must say, wrong can make itself very agreeable."


"_Piers is coming!_" That was the song in Kitty's heart, the refrain
to which her hands and feet kept busy until she stood before her glass
lovelier than words can paint, her exquisite form robed in white lawn,
her cheeks as fresh and blooming as the roses at her girdle, her eyes
as blue as the forget-me-nots in her hair, her whole heart in every
movement, glance, and word, thrilling with the delight of expectation,
and shining with the joy of loving.

So Piers found her in the garden watching for his approach. And on
this happy afternoon, Nature was in a charming mood; she had made the
garden a Paradise for their meeting. The birds sang softly in the green
trees above them; the flowers perfumed the warm air they breathed; and
an atmosphere of inexpressible serenity encompassed them. After such
long absence, oh, how heavenly was this interview without fear, or
secrecy, or self-reproach, or suspicion of wrong-doing! How heavenly was
the long, sweet afternoon, and the social pleasure of the tea hour,
and the soft starlight night under the drooping gold of the laburnums
and the fragrant clusters of the damask roses! Even parting under such
circumstances was robbed of its sting; it was only "such sweet sorrow."
It was glorified by its trust and hope, and was without the shadow of

Kitty came to her father when it was over; and her eyes were shining,
and there was a little sob in her heart; but she said only happy words.
With her arms around his neck she whispered, "Thank you, dear!" And
he answered, "Thou art gladly welcome! Right or wrong, thou art welcome,
Kitty. My dear little Kitty! He will come back; I know he will. A girl
that puts honour and duty before love, crowns them with love in the
end--always so, dear. That _is sure_. When will he be back?"

"When the Duke and Duchess want him more than they want their own way.
He says disputing will do harm, and not good; but that if a difference
is left to the heart, the heart in the long run will get the best of
the argument. I am sure he is right. Father, he is going to send you
and mother long letters, and so I shall know where he is; and with the
joy of this meeting to keep in my memory, I am not going to fret and be

"That is right. That is the way to take a disappointment. Good things
are worth waiting for, eh, Kitty?"

"And we shall have so much to interest us, Father. There is Edgar's
marriage coming; and it would not do to have two weddings in one year,
would it? Father, you like Piers? I am sure you do."

"I would not have let him put a foot in Atheling to-day if I had not
liked him. He has been very good company for me in London, very good
company indeed--thoughtful and respectful. Yes, I like Piers."

"Because--now listen, Father--because, much as I love Piers, I would
not be his wife for all England if you and mother did not like him."

"Bless my heart, Kitty! Is not that saying a deal?"

"No. It would be no more than justice. If you should force on me a
husband whom I despised or disliked, would I not think it very wicked
and cruel? Then would it not be just as wicked and cruel if I should
force on you a son-in-law whom you despised and disliked? There is not
one law of kindness for the parents, and another law, less kind, for
the daughter, is there?"

"Thou art quite right, Kitty. The laws of the Home and the Family are
_equal_ laws. God bless thee for a good child."

And, oh, how sweet were Kitty's slumbers that night! It is out of
earth's delightful things we form our visions of the world to come; and
Kate understood, because of her own pure, true, hopeful love, how "God
is love," and how, therefore, He would deny her any good thing.

So the summer went its way, peacefully and happily. In the last days of
August, Edgar was married with great pomp and splendour; and afterwards
the gates of Gisbourne stood wide-open, and there were many signs and
promises of wonderful improvements and innovations. For the young
man was a born leader and organiser. He loved to control, and soon
devised means to secure what was so necessary to his happiness. The
Curzons had made their money in manufactures; and Annie approved of
such use of money. So very soon, at the upper end of Gisbourne, a great
mill, and a fine new village of cottages for its hands, arose as if by
magic,--a village that was to example and carry out all the ideas of

"Edgar is making a lot of trouble ready for himself," said the Squire
to his wife; "but Edgar can't live without a fight on hand. I'll
warrant that he gets more fighting than he bargains for; a few hundreds
of those Lancashire and Yorkshire operatives aren't as easy to manage
as he seems to think. They have 'reformed' their lawgivers; and they
are bound to 'reform' their masters next."

The Squire had said little about this new influx into his peaceful
neighbourhood, but it had grieved his very soul; and his wife wondered at
his reticence, and one day she told him so.

"Well, Maude," he answered, "when Edgar was one of my household, I had
the right to say this and that about his words and ways; but Edgar is now
Squire, and married man, and Member of Parliament. He is a Reformer too,
and bound to carry out his ideas; and, I dare say, his wife keeps the
bit in his mouth hard enough, without me pulling on it too. I have taken
notice, Maude, that these sweet little women are often very masterful."

"I am sure his grandfather Belward would never have suffered that mill
chimney in his sight for any money."

"Perhaps he could not have helped it."

"Thou knowest different. My father always made everything go as he
wanted it. The Belwards know no other road but their own way."

"I should think thou needest not tell me that. I have been learning it
for a quarter of a century."

"Now, John! When I changed my name, I changed my way also. I have been
Atheling, and gone Atheling, ever since I was thy wife."

"Pretty nearly, Maude. But Edgar's little, innocent-faced, gentle wife
will lead Edgar, Curzon way. She has done it already. Fancy an Atheling,
land lords for a thousand years, turning into a loom lord. Maude, it
hurts me; but then, it is a bit of Reform, I suppose."

For all this interior dissatisfaction, the Squire and his son were good
friends and neighbours; and, in a kind of a way, the father approved
the changes made around him. They came gradually, and he did not have
to swallow the whole dose at once. Besides he had his daughter. And
Kitty never put him behind Gisbourne or any other cause. They were
constant companions. They threw their lines in the trout streams together
through the summer mornings; and in the winter, she was with him in
every hunting field. About the house, he heard her light foot and her
happy voice; and in the evenings, she read the papers to him, and helped
forward his grumble at Peel, or his anger at Cobbett.

At not very long intervals there came letters to the Squire, or to
Mrs. Atheling, which made sunshine in the house for many days
afterwards,--letters from Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington,
New Orleans, and finally from an outlandish place called Texas. Here
Piers seemed to have found the life he had been unconsciously
longing for. "The people were fighting," he said, "for Liberty: a
handful of Americans against the whole power of Mexico; fighting, not
in words--he was weary to death of words--but with the clang of iron on
iron, and the clash of steel against steel, as in the old world
battles." And he filled pages with glowing encomiums of General
Houston, and Colonels Bowie and Crockett, and their wonderful courage and
deeds. "And, oh, what a Paradise the land was! What sunshine! What
moonshine! What wealth of every good thing necessary for human

When such letters as these arrived, it was holiday at Atheling; it
was holiday in every heart there; and they were read, and re-read, and
discussed, till their far-away, wild life became part and parcel of
the calm, homely existence of this insular English manor. So the years
went by; and Kate grew to a glorious womanhood. All the promise of her
beauteous girlhood was amply redeemed. She was the pride of her county,
and the joy of all the hearts that knew her. And if she had hours of
restlessness and doubt, or any fears for Piers's safety, no one was
made unhappy by them. She never spoke of Piers but with hope, and with
the certainty of his return. She declared she was "glad that he should
have the experience of such a glorious warfare, one in which he had
made noble friends, and done valiant deeds. Her lover was growing in
such a struggle to his full stature." And, undoubtedly, the habit of
talking hopefully induces the habit of feeling hopefully; so there were
no signs of the love-lorn maiden about Kate Atheling, nor any fears
for her final happiness in Atheling Manor House.

The fears and doubts and wretchedness were all in the gloomy castle of
Richmoor, where the Duke and Duchess lived only to bewail the dangers
of the country, and their deprivation of their son's society,--a
calamity they attributed also to Reform. Else, why would Piers have
gone straight to a wild land where outlawed men were also fighting
against legitimate authority.

One evening, nearly four years after Piers had left England, the Duke
was crossing Belward Bents, and he met the Squire and his daughter,
leisurely riding together in the summer gloaming. He touched his hat, and
said, "Good-evening, Miss Atheling! Good-evening, Squire!" And the
Squire responded cheerfully, and Kate gave him a ravishing smile,--for
he was the father of Piers, accordingly she already loved him. There
was nothing further said, but each was affected by the interview; the
Duke especially so. When he reached his castle he found the Duchess
walking softly up and down the dim drawing-room, and she was weeping. His
heart ached for her. He said tenderly, as he took her hand,--

"Is it Piers, Julia?"

"I am dying to see him," she answered, "to hear him speak, to have
him come in and out as he used to do. I want to feel the clasp of his
hand, and the touch of his lips. Oh, Richard, Richard, bring back my boy!
A word from you will do it."

"My dear Julia, I have just met Squire Atheling and his daughter.
The girl has grown to a wonder of beauty. She is marvellous; I simply
never saw such a face. Last week I watched her in the hunting field
at Ashley. She rode like an Amazon; she was peerless among all the
beauties there. I begin to understand that Piers, having loved her, could
love no other woman; and I think we might learn to love her for Piers's
sake. What do you say, my dear? The house is terribly lonely. I miss
my son in business matters continually; and if he does not marry, the
children of my brother Henry come after him. He is in constant danger; he
is in a land where he must go armed day and night. Think of our son
living in a place like that! And his last letters have had such a tone
of home-sickness in them. Shall I see Squire Atheling, and ask him for
his daughter?"

"Let him come and see you."

"He will never do it."

"Then see him, Richard. Anything, anything, that will give Piers back
to me."

The next day the Duke was at Atheling, and what took place at that
interview, the Squire never quite divulged, even to his wife. "It was
very humbling to him," he said, "and I am not the man to brag about
it." To Kate nothing whatever was said. "Who knows just where Piers
is? and who can tell what might happen before he learns of the change
that has taken place?" asked the Squire. "Why should we toss Kitty's
mind hither and thither till Piers is here to quiet it?"

In fact the Squire's idea was far truer than he had any conception
of. Piers was actually in London when the Duke's fatherly letter sent
to recall his self-banished son left for Texas. Indeed he was on his way
to Richmoor the very day that the letter was written. He came to it one
afternoon just before dinner. The Duchess was dressed and waiting for
the Duke and the daily ceremony of the hour. She stood at the window,
looking into the dripping garden, but really seeing nothing, not even
the plashed roses before her eyes. Her thoughts were in a country far
off; and she was wondering how long it would take Piers to answer their
loving letter. The door opened softly. She supposed it was the Duke, and
said, fretfully, "This climate is detestable, Duke. It has rained for
a week."

"_Mother! Mother! Oh, my dear Mother!_"

Then, with a cry of joy that rung through the lofty room, she turned,
and was immediately folded in the arms she longed for. And before her
rapture had time to express itself, the Duke came in and shared it.
They were not an emotional family; and high culture had relegated any
expression of feeling far below the tide of their daily life; but, for
once, Nature had her way with the usually undemonstrative woman. She
wept, and laughed, and talked, and exclaimed as no one had ever seen
or heard her since the days of her early girlhood.

In the happy privacy of the evening hours, Piers told them over again
the wild, exciting story he had been living; and the Duke acknowledged
that to have aided in any measure such an heroic struggle was an event to
dignify life. "But now, Piers," he said, "now you will remain in your
own home. If you still wish to marry Miss Atheling, your mother and I
are pleased that you should do so. We will express this pleasure as
soon as you desire us. I wrote you to this effect; but you cannot
have received my letter, since it only left for Texas yesterday."

"I am glad I have not received it," answered Piers. "I came home at
the call of my mother. It is true. I was sitting one night thinking
of many things. It was long past midnight, but the moonlight was so
clear I had been reading by it, and the mocking birds were thrilling
the air, far and wide, with melody. But far clearer, far sweeter, far
more pervading, I heard my mother's voice calling me. And I immediately
answered, 'I am coming, Mother!' Here I am. What must I do, now and
forever, to please you?"

And she said, "Stay near me. Marry Miss Atheling, if you wish. I will
love her for your sake."

And Piers kissed his answer on her lips, and then put his hand in his
father's hand. It was but a simple act; but it promised all that
fatherly affection could ask, and all that filial affection could give.

Who that has seen in England a sunny morning after a long rain-storm
can ever forget the ineffable sweetness and freshness of the woods and
hills and fields? The world seemed as if it was just made over when Piers
left Richmoor for Atheling. A thousand vagrant perfumes from the spruce
and fir woods, from the moors and fields and gardens, wandered over the
earth. A gentle west wind was blowing; the sense of rejoicing was in
every living thing. The Squire and Kate had been early abroad. They
had had a long gallop, and were coming slowly through Atheling lane,
talking of Piers, though both of them believed Piers to be thousands of
miles away. They were just at the spot where he had passed them that
miserable night when his cry of "_Kate! Kate! Kate!_" had nearly
broken the girl's heart for awhile. She never saw the place without
remembering her lover, and sending her thoughts to find him out, wherever
he might be. And thus, at this place, there was always a little silence;
and the Squire comprehended, and respected the circumstance.

This morning the silence, usually so perfect, was broken by the sound
of an approaching horseman; but neither the Squire nor Kate turned. They
simply withdrew to their side of the road, and went leisurely forward.

"_Kate! Kate! Kate!_"

The same words, but how different! They were full of impatient joy, of
triumphant hope and love. Both father and daughter faced round in the
moment, and then they saw Piers coming like the wind towards them. It was
a miracle. It was such a moment as could not come twice in any life-time.
It was such a meeting as defies the power of words; because our diviner
part has emotions that we have not yet got the speech and language to

Imagine the joy in Atheling Manor House that night! The Squire had to
go apart for a little while; and tears of delight were in the good
mother's eyes as she took out her beautiful Derby china for the
welcoming feast. As for Kate and Piers, they were at last in earth's
Paradise. Their lives had suddenly come to flower; and there was no
canker in any of the blossoms. They had waited their full hour. And if
the angels in heaven rejoice over a sinner repenting, how much more
must they rejoice in our happiness, and sympathise in our innocent love!
Surely the guardian angels of Piers and Kate were satisfied. Their
dear charges had shown a noble restraint, and were now reaping the
joy of it. Do angels talk in heaven of what happens among the sons and
daughters of men whom they are sent to minister unto, to guide, and to
guard? If so, they must have talked of these lovers, so dutiful and
so true, and rejoiced in the joy of their renewed espousals.

Their marriage quickly followed. In a few weeks Piers had made Exham
Hall a palace of splendour and beauty for his bride, and Kate's wedding
garments were all ready. And far and wide there was a most unusual
interest taken in these lovers, so that all the great county families
desired and sought for invitations to the marriage ceremony, and the
little church of Atheling could hardly contain the guests. Even to this
day it is remembered that nearly one hundred gentlemen of the North
Riding escorted the bride from Atheling to Exham.

But at last every social duty had been fulfilled, and they sat alone in
the gloaming, with their great love, and their great joy. And as they
spoke of the days when this love first began, Kate reminded Piers of the
swing in the laurel walk, and her girlish rhyming,--

    "It may so happen, it may so fall,
    That I shall be Lady of Exham Hall."

And Piers drew her beautiful head closer to his own, and added,--

    "Weary wishing, and waiting past,
    _Lady of Exham Hall_ at last!"



After twenty years have passed away, it is safe to ask if events have
been all that they promised to be; and one morning in August of 1857,
it was twenty years since Kate Atheling became Lady Exham. She was
sitting at a table writing letters to her two eldest sons, who were with
their tutor in the then little known Hebrides. Lord Exham was busy
with his mail. They were in a splendid room, opening upon a lawn, soft
and green beyond description; and the August sunshine and the August
lilies filled it with warmth and fragrance. Lady Exham was even more
beautiful than on her wedding day. Time had matured without as yet
touching her wonderful loveliness, and motherhood had crowned it with
a tender and bewitching nobility. She had on a gown of lawn and lace,
white as the flowers that hung in clusters from the Worcester vase at
her side. Now and then Piers lifted his head and watched her for a
moment; and then, with the faint, happy smile of a heart full and at
ease, he opened another letter or paper. Suddenly he became a little
excited. "Why, Kate," he said, "here is my speech on the blessings
which Reform has brought to England. I did not expect such a thing."

"Read it to me, Piers."

"It is entirely too long; although I only reviewed some of the notable
works that followed Reform."

"Such as--"

"Well, the abolition of both black and white slavery; the breaking
up of the gigantic monopoly of the East India Company, and the throwing
open of our ports to the merchants of the world; the inauguration of
a system of national education; the reform of our cruel criminal code;
the abolition of the press gang, and of chimney sweeping by little
children, and such brutalities; the postal reform; and the spread of
such good, cheap literature as the _Penny Magazine_ and _Chambers's
Magazine_. My dear Kate, it would require a book to tell all that the
Reform Bill has done for England. Think of the misery of that last two
years' struggle, and look at our happy country to-day."

"Prosperous, but not happy, Piers. How can we be happy when, all over
the land, mothers are weeping because their children are not. If this
awful Sepoy rebellion was only over; then!"

"Yes," answered Piers; "if it was only over! Surely there never was
a war so full of strange, unnatural cruelties. I wonder where Cecil and
Annabel are."

"Wherever they are, I am sure both of them will be in the way of honour
and duty."

There was a pause, and then Piers asked, "To whom are you writing, dear

"To Dick and John. They do not want to return to their studies this
winter; they wish to travel in Italy."

"Nonsense! They must go through college before they travel. Tell them

The Duke had entered as Piers was speaking, and he listened to his
remark. Then, even as he stooped to kiss Kate, he contradicted it. "I
don't think so, Piers," he said decisively. "Let the boys go. Give
them their own way a little. I do not like to see such spirited youths
snubbed for a trifle."

"But this is not a trifle, Father."

"Yes, it is."

"You insisted on my following the usual plan of college first, and
travel afterwards."

"That was before the days of Reform. The boys are my grandsons. I think
I ought to decide on a question of this kind. What do you say, my dear?"
and he turned his kindly face, with its crown of snowy hair, to Kate.

"It is to be as you say, Father," she answered. "Is there any Indian

"Alas! Alas!" he answered, becoming suddenly very sorrowful, "there
is calamitous news,--the fort in which Colonel North was shut up, has
fallen; and Cecil and Annabel are dead."

"Oh, not massacred! Do not tell us _that_!" cried Kate, covering her
ears with her hands.

"Not quite as bad. A Sepoy who was Cecil's orderly, and much attached
to him, has been permitted to bring us the terrible news, with some
valuable gems and papers which Annabel confided to him. He told me
that Cecil held out wonderfully; but it was impossible to send him help.
Their food and ammunition were gone; and the troops, who were mainly
Sepoys, were ready to open the gates to the first band of rebels that
approached. One morning, just at daybreak, Cecil knew the hour had
come. Annabel was asleep; but he awakened her. She had been expecting the
call for many days; and, when Cecil spoke, she knew it was death. But
she rose smiling, and answered, 'I am ready, Love.' He held her close
to his breast, and they comforted and strengthened one another until
the tramp of the brutes entering the court was heard. Then Annabel
closed her eyes, and Cecil sent a merciful bullet through the brave
heart that had shared with him, for twenty-five years, every trial and
danger. Her last words were, 'Come quickly, Cecil,' and he followed
her in an instant. The man says he hid their bodies, and they were not
mutilated. But the fort was blown up and burned; and, in this case, the
fiery solution was the best."

"And her children?" whispered Kate.

"The boys are at Rugby. The little girl died some weeks ago."

The Duke was much affected. He had loved Annabel truly, and her tragic
death powerfully moved him. "The Duchess," he said, "had wept herself
ill; and he had promised her to return quickly." But as he went away,
he turned to charge Piers and Kate not to disappoint his grandsons.
"They are such good boys," he added; "and it is not a great matter
to let them go to Italy, if they want to--only send Stanhope with them."

No further objection was then made. Kate had learned that it is folly
to oppose things yet far away, and which are subject to a thousand
unforeseen influences. When the time for decision came, Dick and John
might have changed their wishes. So she only smiled a present assent,
and then let her thoughts fly to the lonely fort where Cecil and Annabel
had suffered and conquered the last great enemy. For a few minutes,
Piers was occupied in the same manner; and when he spoke, it was in the
soft, reminiscent voice which memory--especially sad memory--uses.

"It is strange, Kate," he said, "but I remember Annabel predicting
this end for herself. We were sitting in the white-and-gold parlour
in the London House, where I had found her playing with the cat in a
very merry mood. Suddenly she imagined the cat had scratched her, and
she spread out her little brown hand, and looked for the wound. There
was none visible; but she pointed to a certain spot at the base of her
finger, and said, '>Look, Piers. There is the sign of my doom,--my
death-token. I shall perish in fire and blood.' Then she laughed and
quickly changed the subject, and I did not think it worth pursuing.
Yet it was in her mind, for a few minutes afterwards, she opened her
hand again, held it to the light, and added, 'An old Hindoo priest
told me this. He said our death-warrant was written on our palms, and we
brought it into life with us.'"

"You should have contradicted that, Piers."

"I did. I told her, our death-warrant was in the Hand of Him with whom
alone are the issues of life and death."

"She was haunted by the prophecy," said Kate. "She often spoke of it.
Oh, Piers, how merciful is the veil that hides our days to come!"

"I feel wretched. Let us go to Atheling; it will do us good."

"It is very warm yet, Piers."

"Never mind, I want to see the children. The house is too still. They
have been at Atheling for three days."

"We promised them a week. Harold will expect the week; and Edith and
Maude will rebel at any shorter time."

"At any rate let us go and see them."

"Shall we ride there?"

"Let us rather take a carriage. One of the three may possibly be willing
to come back with us."

Near the gates of Atheling they met the Squire and his grandson Harold.
They had been fishing. "The dew was on the grass when we went away;
and Harold has been into the water after the trout. We are both a bit
wet," said the Squire; "but our baskets are full." And then Harold
leaped into the carriage beside his father and mother, and proudly
exhibited his speckled beauties.

Mrs. Atheling had heard their approach, and she was at the open door
to meet them. Very little change had taken place in her. Her face was
a trifle older, but it was finer and tenderer; and her smile was as
sweet and ready, and her manner as gracious--though perhaps a shade
quieter than in the days when we first met her. Her granddaughter Edith,
a girl of eight years, stood at her side; and Maude, a charming babe of
four, clung to her black-silk apron, and half-hid her pretty face in its
sombre folds. To her mother, Kate was still Kate; and to Kate, mother was
still mother. They went into the house together, little Maude making
a link between them, and Edith holding her mother's hand. But, in the
slight confusion following their arrival, the children all disappeared.

"They were helping Bradley to make tarts," said Mrs. Atheling, "when
I called them, and they have gone back to their pastry and jam. Let them
alone. Dear me! I remember how proud I was when I first cut pastry
round the patty pans with my thumb," and Mrs. Atheling looked at Kate,
who smiled and nodded at her own similar memory.

They were soon seated in the large parlour, where all the windows were
open, and a faint little breeze stirring the cherry leaves round them.
Then the Squire began to talk of the Indian news; and Piers told, with
a pitiful pathos, the last tragic act in Cecil's and Annabel's love
and life. And when he had finished the narration, greatly to every
one's amazement, the Squire rose to his feet, and, lifting his eyes
heavenward, said solemnly,--

"I give hearty thanks for their death, so noble and so worthy of their
faith and their race. I give hearty thanks because God, knowing their
hearts and their love, committed unto them the dismissing of their own
souls from the wanton cruelty of incarnate devils. I give hearty thanks
for Love triumphant over Death, and for that faith in our immortality
which could command an immediate re-union, 'Come quickly, Cecil!'

"There is nothing to cry about," he added, as he resumed his seat.
"Death must come to all of us. It came mercifully to these two. It did
not separate them; they went together. Somewhere in God's Universe they
are now, without doubt, doing His Will together. Let us give thanks for

After a little while, Kate and her mother went away. They had many things
to talk over about which masculine opinions were not necessary, nor
even desirable. And the Squire and Piers had, in a certain way, a similar
confidence. Indeed the Squire told Piers many things he would not have
told any one else,--little wrongs and worries not worth complaining
about to his wife, and perhaps about which he was not very certain of
her sympathy. But with Piers, these crept into his conversation, and were
talked away, or at least considerably lessened, by his son-in-law's
patient interest.

This morning their conversation had an unconscious tone of gratified
prophecy in it. "Edgar is in a lot of trouble," he said; "but then
he seems to enjoy it. His hands gathered in the mill-yard yesterday
and gave him what they call, 'a bit of their mind.' And their 'mind'
isn't what you and I would call a civil one. Luke Staley, a big dyer
from Oldham, got beyond bearing, and told Edgar, if he didn't do
thus and so, he would be made to. And Edgar can be very provoking. He
didn't tell me what he said; but I have no doubt it was a few of the
strongest words he could pick out. And Luke Staley, not having quite such
a big private stock as Edgar, doubled his fist, to make the shortage
good, almost in Edgar's face; and there would have, maybe, been a few
blows, if Edgar had not taken very strong measures at once,--that is,
Piers, he knocked the fellow down as flat as a pancake. And then all
was so still that, Edgar said, the very leaves rustling seemed noisy; and
he told them in his masterful way, they could have five minutes to get
back to their looms. And if they were not back in five minutes, he
promised them he would dump the fires and lock the gates, and they
could go about their business."

"And they went to their looms, of course?"

"To be sure they did. More than that, Luke Staley picked himself up,
and went civilly to Edgar and said, 'That was a good knock-down. I'm
beat this time, Master;' and he offered his hand, blue and black with
dyes, and Edgar took it. My word! how his grandfather Belward would have
enjoyed that scene. I am sorry he is not alive this day. He missed a
deal by dying before Reform. Edgar and he together could keep a thousand
men at their looms--and set the price, too."

"What did the men want?"

"A bit of Reform, of course,--more wage and less work. I am not much
put out of the way now, Piers, with the mill. I get a lot of pleasure
out of it, one road or another. Did I ever tell you about the Excursion
Edgar gave them last week?"

"I have not heard anything about it."

"Well, you see, Edgar sent all his hands and their wives and sweethearts
to the seaside, and gave them a good dinner; and they had a band of
music to play for them, and a little steamer to give them a sail; and
they came home at midnight, singing and in high good humour. Edgar
thought he had pleased them. Not a bit of it! Two nights after they
held a meeting in that Mechanics Hall Mrs. Atheling built for them. What
for? To talk over the jaunt, and try and find out, '_What Master
Atheling was up to_.' You see they were sure he had a selfish motive of
some kind."

"I don't believe he had a single selfish motive; he is not a selfish
man," said Piers.

"I wouldn't swear to his motives, Piers. Between you and me, he wants
to go to Parliament again."

"He ought to be there; it is his native heath, in a manner."

"Well, as I said, one way or another, I get a lot of pleasure out of
these men. There is a truce on now between them and Edgar; but, in the
main, it is a lively truce."

"Edgar seems to enjoy the conditions, also, Father."

"Well, he ought to have a bit of something that pleases him. He has a
deal of contrary things to fight. There is his eldest son."


"Yes, Augustus."

"What has Augustus done?"

"He will paint pictures and make little figures, and waste his time
about such things as no Atheling in this world ever bothered his head
about,--unless he wanted his likeness painted. The lad does wonders
with his colours and brushes, and I'll allow that. He brought me a
bit of canvas with that corner by the fir woods on it, and you would
have thought you could pull the grass and drink the water. But I did not
think it right to praise him much. I said, 'Very good, Augustus, but
what will you make by this?'"


"Well, Piers, the lad talked about his ideals, and said Art was its
own reward, and a lot of rubbishy nonsense. But I never expected much
from a boy called Augustus. That was his mother's whim; no Atheling
was ever called such a name before. He wants to go to Italy, and his
father wants him in the mill. Edgar is finding a few things out now he
didn't believe in when he was twenty years old. The point of view is
everything, Piers. Edgar looks at things as a father looks at them now;
then, he had an idea that fathers knew next to nothing. Augustus is no
worse than he was. Maybe, he will come to looms yet; he is just like
the Curzons, and they were loom lovers. Now Cecil, his second boy, has
far better notions. He likes a rod, and a horse, and a gun; and he
thinks a gamekeeper has the best position in the world."

"Mrs. Atheling sets us all an example. She is always doing something
for the people."

"They don't thank her for it. She brings lecturers, and expects them
to go and hear them; and the men would rather be in the cricket field.
She has classes of all kinds for the women and girls; and they don't
want her interfering in their ways and their houses. I'll tell you
what it is, Piers, you cannot write Reform upon flesh and blood as
easy as you can write it upon paper. It will take a few generations
to erase the old marks, and put the new marks on."

"Still Reform has been a great blessing. You know that, Father."

"Publicly, I know it, Piers. Privately, I keep my own ideas. But there
is Kate calling us, and I see the carriage is waiting. Thank God, Reform
has nothing to do with homes. Wives and children are always the same.
We don't want them changed, even for the better."

"You do not mean that?"

"Yes, I do," said the Squire, positively. "My wife's faults are very
dear to me. Do you think I would like to miss her bits of tempers, and
her unreasonableness? Even when she tries to get the better of me, I like
it. I wouldn't have her perfect, not if I could."

Then Piers called for his son; but Harold could not be found. The Squire
laughed. "He has run away," he said. "The boy wants a holiday. I'll
take good care of him. He isn't doing nothing; he is learning to catch a
trout. Many a very clever man can't catch a trout." Then Piers asked
his little daughters to come home with him; and Edith hid herself behind
the ample skirts of her grandfather's coat, and Maude lifted her arms
to her grandmother, and snuggled herself into her bosom.


"Come, Piers, we shall have to go home alone," Kate said.

"You have Katherine at home," said the Squire.

And then Kate laughed. "Why, Father," she said, "you speak as if
Katherine was more than we ought to expect. Surely we may have one of
our six children. The Duke thinks he has whole and sole right in Dick
and John; and you have Harold and Edith and Maude."

"And you have Katherine," reiterated the Squire.

When they got back to Exham Hall, the little Lady Katherine was in
the drawing-room to meet them. She was the eldest daughter of the
house, a fair girl of fifteen with her father's refined face and rather
melancholy manner. Piers delighted in her; and there was a sympathy
between them that needed no words. She had a singular love for music,
though from what ancestor it had come no one could tell; and it was
her usual custom after dinner to open the door a little between the
drawing-room and music-room, and play her various studies, while her
father and mother mused, and talked, and listened.

This evening Piers lit his cigar, and Kate and he walked in the garden.
It was warm, and still, and full of moonshine; and the music rose and
fell to their soft reminiscent talk of the many interests that had
filled their lives for the past twenty golden years. And when they were
wearied a little, they came back to the drawing-room and were quiet. For
Katherine was striking the first notes of a little melody that always
charmed them; and as they listened, her girlish voice lifted the song,
and the tender words floated in to them, and sunk into their hearts, and
became a prayer of thanksgiving.

    "We have lived and loved together,
      Through many changing years;
    We have shared each other's gladness,
      And wept each other's tears."

And while Kate's face illuminated the words, Piers leaned forward, and
took both her hands in his, and whispered with far tenderer, truer love
than in the old days of his first wooing.

And if any thought of The Other One entered his mind at this hour, it
came with a thanksgiving for a life nobly redeemed by a pure, unselfish
love, and a death which was at once sacrificial and sacramental.

  Transcriber's Note:

  Spelling and punctuation inaccuracies were silently corrected.
  Archaic and variable spelling is preserved.
  Author's punctuation style is preserved.
  Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).
  The Table of Contents lists Chapter Sixteenth starting on Page 341.
  The physical page is actually Page 340. It has been left as printed.

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